18 Months with Vi

I can’t believe I’m typing these words, but my baby girl is officially 18 months old!

A full year and a half with Vi in our lives and I honestly can’t imagine our family without her. In honor of this milestone, I wanted to write up a little post all about her and this stage of her life.

In many ways, she is very much like her brother was at this age but one huge difference jumps out right away: she is CHATTY! When LJ was 18 months old, he actually started speech therapy because he was only saying “mama,” and even that word was pretty inconsistent. Vi on the other hand, has too many words to count. Mama, daddy, no, cereal, yes, this, do that, Macie, ears, nose, hat, eyes, applesauce, bounce house, pickles, moon, bible, milk, play doh, socks, shoes, boob (lol), sleep, bye bye . . . the list goes on! She is really good about communicating her wants and needs and it’s very rare that we don’t understand what she wants.

She wants to do everything LJ does. She wants to play with the toys he plays with, she wants to do the activities he’s doing, she wants to eat the same snack he picks. If she sees him to something, you can bet that she is going to want to do it too! They are usually very sweet (I love when they want to watch TV and “nuggle,” as Vi says, under a blanket!) and generally play together well.

Vi is still breastfeeding before naps and bedtime and shows no signs of wanting to quit. I figured we would be done around the same time I quit with LJ (he was 13 months and uninterested in continuing) but she has been very insistent with continuing despite my dwindling supply. At this point, I’m 100% ready to quit whenever she is.

One reason I’m surprised she still wants to breastfeed so often is that she LOVEs food. It seems like she’s constantly eating or asking for a snack. She will eat anything that is put in front of her and definitely out-eats her picky older brother (he prefers to graze). Vi can handle an adult-size portion and generally cleans her plate regardless of what we had for dinner. Right now she particularly loves applesauce, broccoli, sausage, cottage cheese, and pickles. She’s always a complete mess by the end of a meal but she’s always a happy camper with a full belly!

She loves to read books! She will sit on my lap and flip through pages on her own, which makes my little book-loving heart so happy! She also likes to sit by herself, either on her glider or the floor, and flip through pages.

She especially loves a book my sister and brother-in-law gifted her for Christmas. It’s one of those books that is personalized and has her name throughout – I think she really loves hearing her name! She requests it almost every time before nap and bedtime and often insists on holding it while breastfeeding and then taking it into the crib with her to sleep. (The picture below is an accurate representation of any given day – she loves taking a ton of things with her into her crib!)

I think we’re finally starting to get our of her I-only-want-mama stage, which has been sweet but also exhausting for me. She LOVES her daddy and lights up with pure glee when he comes home. She has just started to give hugs with a little squeeze and it is the cutest thing. Last night he put her to bed with zero fuss from her and it was such a nice break for me! I’m hoping she allows him to do it more often.

Vi loves to be outside and doesn’t seem to care that it’s currently freezing outside. She constantly requests to go outside and if she sees someone put a coat on, she’s immediately requesting her own coat/hat/shoes to go with them. On days we actually go outside, she loves to swing or drag around a snow shovel.

Right now her most-requested indoor activities are bath time, play doh, bounce house, and getting out games from the cabinet. She loves to help feed the dogs and can now push her helper tower around the kitchen to get her own snack (she loves to eat apples out of our fruit bowl). She is a busy bee and keeps me on my toes as she gets into everything in our house!

Vi can be stubborn and definitely lets us know when she is unhappy she’s not getting what she wants, but she’s also sweet and spunky. We love her so much and are so excited to continue to watch her grow!

I love you, my sweet V!

A Weekend Day in the Life {2.13.21}

I’ve done several “Day in the Life” posts in the past and even though they are always really long posts full of mostly blurry pictures, they are my absolute favorite ones to look back on. Each one feels like a tiny time capsule and serves as a reminder of what a regular day looked like in a particular stage of our life. I haven’t done one since last March so it was definitely time for another!

A couple notes about this day. In the past I’ve always documented a weekday, so this time I decided to document a weekend day and chose a random Saturday. This Saturday felt particularly relaxing because I was able to go grocery shopping on Wednesday this week and I just finished up the dining room renovation so I’m currently not working on a home project. I also included a few bonus pictures of our Sunday at the end of this post because Sunday was Valentine’s Day and I wanted to include a few shots of our special holiday festivities. (Edit: I got a great reader suggestion to include my kids’ ages for these posts – LJ is 3 years 2 months, Vi is 17 months).

Saturday, February 13 2021
For the past several months, Justin and I have taken turns with who gets up with the kids on weekend days so the other person can sleep a bit longer. I offered to get up with them on Saturday, and Vi woke up around 6:50 am with LJ following shortly after.

I had made some hardboiled eggs earlier in the week, so LJ helped me crack and peel them for breakfast. He loves to do things independently so I try to step back and let him do things his own way, even if it’s messy.

While they ate breakfast, I started a load of laundry. At this point in our lives, I’m probably averaging 2 loads of laundry each week which isn’t bad. One benefit of all the time spent at home is there aren’t a lot of outfit changes. Plus LJ is in a stage of never wanting to change his clothes so unless we’re going somewhere or his clothes are actually dirty, we let that argument go. At least it means less laundry!

I snuck upstairs to let the dogs out of our bedroom to go outside and Vi helped me feed them – she loves helping with this daily chore.

After breakfast, I took the kids downstairs to play in the basement. A few weeks ago we purchased a bounce house for them and it has been a HUGE hit.

I really wanted to come up with something for the kids to do that would help them get some energy out and have fun without leaving the house (on top of the pandemic, there’s currently several inches of snow on the ground outside and the “high” temps are in the teens!) and this purchase has absolutely been 100% worth the investment.

Justin joined us around 8 am – he enjoyed waking up at his own pace, getting to eat breakfast without anyone stealing his food, and reading his devotions in peace. He took over with the kids in the basement so I could go upstairs and have a little time to myself. The kids love special time with daddy!

First things first, I went upstairs and got ready. Even when I’m not going anywhere, I like to at least put on a touch of makeup to make myself feel put together for the day.

I’m part of a bible study reading Genesis this year, so I read the day’s passage and answered our study questions.

Then I treated myself to a little reading time with a cozy blanket and candle burning. I’ve been so busy with home projects lately that it’s been a long time since I’ve just sat and enjoyed a book in the morning so this truly felt like a luxury!

I did a few quick updates on my Instagram stories and then Justin and the kids came upstairs and I headed downstairs for a workout. I did a 30 minute ride with Cody – he just has the best music to ride to and this one was a fun pop playlist.

I came upstairs to move the laundry over to the dryer and get lunch ready and came upon the sweetest little scene of Justin reading a book with the kids.

Justin was on call for his job this weekend and had to head in to work for about an hour so I took over and got lunch around for the kids. This is a typical scene for us at lunch – half the breakfast dishes are still out, there’s food everywhere, and it’s all a bit of a mess. Someday we’ll have things a little more organized but for now, this is our life.

After lunch, I let the kids watch a show (right now LJ is very into the movie Wall-E, or as he calls it “the robot with the trash”) while I cleaned up the kitchen and washed dishes. During this time I also sent video messages back and forth to one of my friends discussing all our thoughts on the book Majesty (love you Denay!) Marco Polo has been such a blessing for keeping in touch with friends near and far.

At 1:00 I headed upstairs to put Vi down for a nap. Vi has just recently become interested in having us read books to her before naps and she always wants to read this personalized book my sister bought her for Christmas.

She still wants to breastfeed before sleeping and always insists on holding her books (she calls them ‘bibles’) and all her dolls. It’s quite the crowd!

She also wants to take everything into the crib. Today she also insisted on taking three of LJ’s little farm animals with her. Bless her sweet little heart.

After Vi is down, it’s LJ’s turn. He sometimes naps, sometimes doesn’t, so last week I started a “quiet time box” with a few small trinkets that he can play with quietly in his room if he doesn’t want to sleep. His routine is read two books (often choosing the picture searches in his Highlights magazine), sing two songs, and then snuggle with his four puppies and Edgar the elephant. He’s my routine lover!

He also has spent the last several months sleeping on the floor, entirely by choice. We’ve tried everything we can think of to get him to sleep on his bed, but he insists on the floor. He won’t even let us put blankets down first and wants to sleep on the carpet! At this point, we just let him have the independence to decide and let it go.

Once I finished his routine and left his room, I headed into our bedroom to fold the laundry and put everything except the kids’ things away.

Normally, nap times are when I try to get all the things done. But I had already finished laundry and dishes, and I’m currently in between home projects, so today was a real treat where I got to snuggle up on the couch with Macie and read some MORE! What a day!

Justin came home during the kids’ naps and headed out to his woodshop. Woodworking is one of his hobbies and he’s been wanting to make a little stand for the dog bowls and has been working on that in his free time lately.

Vi was the first one up after taking a nice long nap.

Justin came inside around the time Vi woke up and LJ woke up (he actually napped!) shortly after. Justin and LJ hung out downstairs while Vi and I hung out in her room. She wanted to sit and read her books – a girl after my own heart!

It lasted until LJ came to join us and then things got a *bit* rowdier.

During this pandemic we’ve been trying to order out from local restaurants at least 2-3 times a month, so tonight we ordered from one of our favorite places. Justin and LJ had a special adventure to go get the food – LJ was SO excited for a trip with daddy!

Vi was very upset about being left behind and kept wanting to put her hat and socks on to go too. The only way I could distract her was with the thing she loves almost as much as going outside – bath time!

The boys returned with food – burgers for mommy and daddy and chicken nuggets and fries for the kids. Levi was very proud that he got to use his “big muscles” to help daddy carry the bag of food.

After dinner we four played in the playroom together until our food had digested a bit and then . . .

. . . we finished the day with a special treat of ice cream.

My dad was babysitting for my niece this weekend while my mom was out of town visiting my sister, so we video chatted with dad while eating ice cream.

Vi didn’t want to get back in her clothes after her bath and we were cracking up over the fact that she was just sitting there in a diaper and backwards hat.

Then after she ate it all and there was just a little melted ice cream left in the bowl, she lifted it up to drink every last drop! Like I said before, girl after my own heart haha.

After ice cream we got in our jammies and watched a little more Wall-E, then put the kids down around 8:00 pm.

Justin and I talked about playing a game after the kids went down, but we ended up just lounging on the couch talking about lots of different things and looking through old videos of when our kids were younger. It was a nice low key evening hanging out together – I’m forever grateful for this Valentine of mine.

Bonus – Valentines’ Day Activities

The next day was Valentines’ Day and it was my turn to sleep in. I went downstairs around 8:30 and Justin had to head into work for a couple hours. The kids and I spent the morning doing a few little Valentines’ activities!

First up, we used a large piece of packaging paper that came in a recent delivery to create a Valentine message for Justin. I had the kids lay down with their arms spread out in a big hug and traced their outlines. I wrote “We love you this much!” and they had fun coloring the paper.

LJ then helped me tape it to the wall in our dining room. It may not be a glamorous Valentine but this was a labor of love and the kids were really proud and excited for daddy to come home and see it!

Next up, Valentines cookies! I just got a simple little kit of pre-cut cookies from the store for the kids to make. Vi is upset because she kept trying to eat the dough and wouldn’t follow what we were doing with pressing them on the cookie sheet so she wasn’t allowed to keep helping with that step. I thought about leaving off this picture, but you know what, this is just what life looks like sometimes.

While the cookies baked, we made frosting! I always try to let the kids help as much as they are able and they both enjoyed this part.

We played for a bit until the cookies were cool enough to decorate. There was a lot of sampling going on haha but eventually we got the cookies frosted. LJ enjoyed choosing sprinkles for each cookie.

So proud of his hard work!

The kids were so excited to show Justin all their surprises when he got home and we enjoyed eating cookies before watching our online church service.

The rest of the day was pretty low key but it was fun to have those few little activities to make the holiday feel special!

I think I’m going to try doing these posts a little more frequently in the future. The kids just grow and change so much these days! To read previous Day in the Life posts, you can find them all here:

November 16, 2018

July 9, 2019

January 14, 2020

March 26, 2020

A Modern Traditional Light for the Dining Room

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post with all the progress we had made so far in our dining room renovation. Even though I was so pleased with the progress, there was still one thing that to me, stuck out like a sore thumb: the overheard light!

One of the items on my 21 for 2021 goal list is to replace the “boob lights” in our house (any rounded flush mount lights with a center knob to keep the fixture attached). To me these flush mounts feel pretty basic and dated and I was more than ready to see this one go. I think good lighting can make such a great statement in a room, and in this stage of life with two toddlers, it’s also a way to have some design impact in a room without putting something breakable within my kids’ reach. Win win!

Aesthetics aside, the previous flush mount was also problematic because even with new lightbulbs and the dimmer switch turned on full power, the room always felt too dim. Our dining room is large and our table seats up to 10-12 people, so we wanted a light fixture that could pull some weight and provide a lot of light.

Our new fixture arrived yesterday and Justin and I spent last night installing this brass beauty!

We’ve tripled the amount of brightness and it is definitely noticeable! Justin even commented that we’ll probably rarely have the dimmer switch on full power now because with all these bulbs it is almost too much light. I will say, this light did not come with well-written instructions and the included screws were not the right size to attach to the box in the ceiling, so it is probably not a good choice to DIY if you’ve never installed a light by yourself before. I was very thankful that Justin had experience installing several different lights previously because we had to mostly figure this one out ourselves (and even so it took him a while to figure this one out). Just wanted to be upfront in case you want this light in your own home; it might be a good one to hire out installation to a licensed electrician!

I spent so many evenings searching for the perfect light fixture for the space. I had to consider several factors: I wanted something substantial so the light wouldn’t feel dwarfed by a long table, but the light couldn’t be too wide or taller guests might hit their head on it when standing up (this eliminated a lot of larger chandeliers). We needed multiple bulbs, which eliminated most pendant options. The dining room is open to the kitchen so I needed to consider the fact that I’m most likely going to use globe lights above the kitchen island – I wanted the lights in the two spaces to coordinate without matching. I also wanted something that felt traditional, but not too formal, and also updated, but not too modern. Haha! Overall, it was a tough list of criteria to meet. After countless hours of searching, I finally came across this light and it felt like the Goldilocks choice – finally just right!

One of my favorite things about this light is how its looks change depending on the angle you’re looking at it. From the view from the kitchen (see above), it looks like three even rows of lights but from the view in the room (see below), it looks like a staggered chandelier. I also love the rounded edges that soften all the rectangular features. The candle-style chandelier feels somewhat traditional, but the offset lights and clean lines keep it modern at the same time. To me it feels like the perfect blend!

Last night after we finished installing, Justin made the comment that he couldn’t wait for game nights now. That comment made me so happy because my goal with these renovations is always to make our house feel like a home – one that is cozy, warm, and inviting. I want to have people over for dinner and linger around the table. I want to gather with friends, plenty of snacks and a stack of fun board games. I want this space to be somewhere we want to be, and I love that he is excited to spend time here now!

HouseTour2020-28

The light was the last thing we needed to finish this phase of the dining room renovation. I’m on the hunt for a credenza to place along the windowless wall, but I know that the search for the right one might take a while and I’m in no rush. For now, I’m really happy with the transformation this room has had!

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster

Trim Color: Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray

Window Color: Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black

Curtains (color: wild rose)

Curtain Rod

Hinged Curtain Rod Connectors

Chandelier

Light Bulbs

One Year Later: What We Love, Regret, and Still Plan to Do in our Guest Suite

When we first moved in to this house, one of our top priorities was to update the guest suite in our basement. We love to host and frequently have overnight guests so we wanted to have a nice, comfortable space for them to stay. This coming Sunday will mark one year since I revealed our completed guest bathroom renovation (you can find that reveal post, along with all the sources, here), and two weeks after that I revealed the adjoining guest bedroom renovation (reveal post with sources here).

This was the first major renovation we’ve ever done, and it was the first, and still only, time we’ve worked with a contractor. We learned so much through this project and while we haven’t had nearly as many guests as we thought we would (definitely did not predict a global pandemic coming less than one month after we finished the room!), I thought it would be fun to look back on that project and talk about what we still love, what we wish we had done differently, and what we want to do!

As a reminder, here’s what both rooms looked like pre-renovation!

20191028_125657-1
20191028_125741-1

What We Love

Honestly, I love 98% of the decisions we made with these two rooms! The biggest change we made was adding a window to make a legal bedroom and that was a no-brainer that we are so happy with. The addition of natural light makes a huge difference!

The updated baseboards, chunky door trim, and board and batten on the foundation walls in both rooms all bring some much needed interest and character and I still adore all those added details.

I’m thrilled that we turned the built-in TV nook into a linen cabinet with doors (see more of that process here). It added so much functional storage and I love that the accent color (Sherwin Williams Oyster Bay) makes it a special feature.

The choice to forgo a dresser and instead use a narrow console table as a vanity was also the right decision – guests don’t need all the storage in a dresser and this provides a functional use for what was otherwise a pretty awkward slanted wall.

We also added heaters to both the bathroom and bedroom (there was previously no heat source in either!) My mother-in-law suggested just adding radiant cove heaters to a few of the walls and this was a good choice. They provide a nice heat for our guests and are tucked up near the ceiling and blend in fairly discreetly.

In the bathroom, I love almost everything we did. I love all the fixtures, the color choices, the different tiles, and the mixing of matte black and nickel finishes. I’m glad we saved money by reusing the same vanity with additional trim on the bottom and sides to make it fit the space perfectly.

I especially love the custom vanity top and undermount sink!

We have absolutely no regrets over the decision to expand the shower into the dead space we found behind the wall – it is so much more spacious now! And the double niche is so handy for our guests to keep their toiletries!

What I Wish I Had Done Differently

My biggest regret with this whole project is the top of the bench in the shower. I’ve talked about this before, but I didn’t plan all our materials in advance so when our tile guy presented an option that he thought would work for the top of the bench, I felt pressured to agree to it even though I didn’t love it. I’ve regretted this decision ever since. The tile he presented wasn’t even big enough to go wall to wall, so there is a grout line right down the middle. Not only do I not love the tile itself, but I really hate that grout line.

I was afraid to speak up and say no to that tile for a variety of reasons. I didn’t know where to go to source other tile options, I didn’t know how long it would take to order something else, I was afraid of going even more over budget, I didn’t want to be a problem client who delayed a project or was being difficult, I still hadn’t decided on a vanity top so I didn’t know what would match that . . . the list goes on. I wish I had just spoken up and said “thank you, but that’s not what I had envisioned. How can I go about finding other options?”

On that note, I wish we had relied less on our contractor and done more of the work ourselves. In the end, our contractor did a great job, but this was his side job that he fit in during evenings and some weekends and there were many moments I was itching to just jump in and do things myself so the project could keep moving. There’s also a LOT of communication that has to happen with a contractor and there were a few things that had to be re-done because they weren’t quite what we wanted the first time. That being said, working with a contractor made Justin and I realize that while we need someone else for major things like changing plumbing, moving electrical, knocking out and moving walls, etc., there are many things we can do ourselves. Our experience here actually propelled us into all our future DIY projects, which have saved us lots of money and ensured things happened just like we wanted. So maybe it’s a good thing we had this experience first to show us all the ways we could do things differently in the future!

What We Still Want to Do

I still want to replace the overhead boob light (if you know, you know) in the bedroom. I didn’t do this the first time around because we were already way over budget. Plus, the light box is off-centered in the room and the current light blends in well enough with the ceiling that it’s not very obvious. It will take the right kind of light to work and not make things look weird and off-kilter but I’m up for the challenge!

The carpet in here and throughout the rest of the basement is old, bubbling up in places, and has lots of discolorations and signs of wear so it definitely needs to be replaced. I also want to re-address the walls. I didn’t include the paint color as something I technically regret, because the white is honestly fine. At the time it felt fresh and clean; however, now it’s feeling boring and pretty uninspiring. I still love the contrast trim but I want to add wallpaper to all the walls (something a bit more understated than the previous wallpaper haha!) I’ve ordered a few samples and I’ve been having fun dreaming of different options for this room.

Lastly, down the road I’d love to have someone else come and re-do the shower bench top to something I actually like. I don’t know what that will involve or how difficult it would be, but I want to at least look into it and see what my options are (which I should’ve done in the first place!) It stinks to want to replace something that we spent money on to install, but I think it would be worth it.

Overall, we’re still really really happy with this space and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to have a lot more guests come visit in 2021!

How We DIYed our Dining Room Window Trim

A few weeks ago, I shared the plans for some updates to our dining room and ever since then we’ve been slowly making progress. One of the things I was most excited to do was highlight the gorgeous view outside by updating the windows! I love the look of a nice chunky trim so we decided to take off the previous window casing and replace with thicker trim that would really draw your eyes to the outside. We finished this project last week and today I’m sharing all the details of exactly how we changed the window trim from this:

to this!

I mean, can you even!? In addition to new window trim, we also painted all the baseboards and finished painting the ceiling. All that contributes to this feeling like a brand new room and we’re not even finished yet!

DIY WINDOW TRIM

Materials

-pre-primed pine trim in the following sizes (we got ours at Menards):

  • 3 1/4″ wide x 1/2″ thick
  • 1 1/4″ wide x 1/2″ thick
  • 7/8″ wide x 3/8″ thick

-nail gun and nails (we used 1.5″ nails)

-level

-measuring tape

-crowbar

-miter saw

-Drydex

-stud finder

-silicone caulk

This project is an example of a lot of prep work making the job itself go easier. Justin and I first measured all the windows and determined what type of board and lengths of each board we would need for all the sides. Then we calculated how we could buy lumber in the most effective way. For example, if we needed two pieces of the same width but different lengths, say 58″ and 62″, we could buy one piece of trim in a 10′ length and cut it in two rather than buy two smaller pieces. This prep work took some time but helped us get exactly what we needed in the quickest, most cost-effective (and least wasteful) way.

Once we got home with all our supplies, Justin used a small crowbar to carefully rip off all the previous casing from around the windows. We saved the casing as scrap wood in our barn – you never know when we’ll want it for a future project!

With the casing off, I took the time to first paint the edges of the window itself. Since the trim was going to be a different color than the window, it was easier to paint the window first without needing to tape anything off. I used one coat of my favorite primer and then two coats of Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black in Satin.

I also painted all the wood for the trim beforehand (again, easier to paint separately and avoid having to tape). I used a foam roller to apply two coats of Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray to all the trim pieces and let them dry overnight.

We started with the 3 1/4″ wide trim to make the sides of each window. Justin measured from top corner to bottom corner of the window and used the miter saw to cut each board to length. (And yes, he definitely should have been wearing safety goggles!)

He then used a level to make sure each piece was framing the window straight and nailed it into place using a nail gun and 1.5″ nails.

He then repeated the same process for the trim on the other side of the window.

Next, he measured the distance from the left outside edge of the new trim to the right outside edge of the other side of the window and cut another piece of 3 1/4″ wide trim to length. He checked levelness again, then used his nail gun to install this piece on top of the window.

Next he measured from outside corner to outside corner on the bottom, added two inches for overhang (one extra inch to each side), and used his miter saw to cut a piece of the 1 1/4″ trim to length.

We used this piece to create a small windowsill ledge by installing the narrow side flush to the wall so it would stick out past the width of the other boards. We checked with a measuring tape to make sure it had the same amount of overhang on each side.

Justin positioned his nail gun on the bottom of the board to nail this piece up into the window side trim.

Next, we took the 7/8″ wide piece of trim and cut it to length for each side and the top. Justin repeated the same method he used for installing the wider pieces of trim: measuring top edge to bottom edge and cutting and installing each side piece, then measuring from outside edge to outside edge of the newest side trim and cutting and installing the top piece. As he did with the windowsill trim, these thin pieces were installed with the narrow side against the wall so the wider side would stick out perpendicular from the wall and create a little lip around the trim. He used his nail gun to nail each one from the outside edge into the already installed trim.

Here’s what everything looked after installation:

The last piece was another 3 1/4″ wide piece going underneath the windowsill. Justin measured the length of the windowsill trim, subtracted one inch (so it would be wider than the side trim pieces but shorter than the windowsill – just our preference for looks!) and cut it to length.

We have kids and dogs who hold and/or push down on the windowsill when looking out the window, so we wanted to make sure the bottom pieces were as secure as possible. Justin used a stud finder to locate studs in the wall so he could nail into them whenever possible.

Once the bottom board was installed, Justin also put a few nails from the top of the thinner windowsill piece down into the bottom board.

At this point, it was time to fill in all the nail holes. I applied a small amount of Drydex nail hole filler to each hole with my finger.

This product turns from pink to white as it dries. See how around the edges it’s already starting to change colors?

Once the edges had dried, but before the entire amount had dried, I gently took my finger and lightly sanded off the excess product. Then once it dried fully, I painted over it with the trim color.

There were a few places where the wall wasn’t quite flush and the trim had a gap between wall and trim. I ran a thin bead of caulk along those edges and smoothed it out with my finger. I then went over all the trim and touched up paint over all the dried Drydex and any other area that needed it. Then we were done!

I’m absolutely thrilled with how the trim turned out. The windows look totally different than before and really do make the view the star of the show. It helps that right now outside we have a snowy winter wonderland!

After all the touch up paint had time to dry, we hung curtain rods and used hinged connectors to give the look of a bay window curtain rod, then hung these curtains in wild rose to finish them off. I just love the new look so much!

I was finally able to decide on a new light fixture and it should arrive later this week. Eventually I plan to have a credenza and some artwork on the windowless wall but for now, I’m so pleased with the transformation of this room!

Sources:

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster (satin finish)

Ceiling: Sherwin Williams Alabaster (flat finish)

Contrast Trim: Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray

Windows: Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black

Curtains (wild rose color)

Curtain Rod

Curtain Rod Hinged Connector

Everything else is either old, thrifted, or sold out!

January 2021 Book Reviews

I have to start this month off with a confession: I did not read all the books pictured here.

Each month I like to have a picture of all the books I read, but occasionally, books aren’t able to be renewed and I have to send them back to the library before the month is over. When that happens, I have to guess at which books I’ll be able to finish by the end of the month. Usually it’s not too hard because I know what I can finish in x number of days, but this month was extra hard because one book was due January 4. Only four days into the month and I had to guess what I’d be able to finish over the next 27 days. I took a guess that I’d be able to make it through five books, but I was wrong. I only made it through four of these – read on to see what I was able to read and what is now first on my list for February!

American Royals by Katharine McGee

When the Founding Fathers created America’s government post-Revolutionary War, they purposely chose not to establish another monarchy. But…what if they would have? This young adult novel imagines a present-day America ruled by a monarchy and follows the lives of four young women deeply entrenched in it: Beatrice, in line to be the first female monarch, her younger sister Samantha, Samantha’s best friend Nina, and socialite Daphne.

I started this book several months ago but once I realized it was a series I decided to stop and pick it back up once the second book was out. I had the feeling it was going to be a binge-worthy read and I’d want to dive right in to the next book. And boy, was I right! This book sucked me right in and I loved it. It’s got an interesting premise with fun story lines and lots of juicy drama. Chapters alternative points of view between the four main characters; each girl has her own struggles and growing pains with her romantic relationship(s) and role within the monarchy. As each girls works to come into her own, I found myself rooting for (almost) everyone. It definitely falls in the young adult category but I still found it to be a really addictive read and absolutely flew through it! It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger so I was excited to dive right on in to the next book . . .

Majesty by Katharine McGee

. . .which I unfortunately did not enjoy. Ugh!

This book picks up right where things left off and follows the same four women, but any preconceived notions I had of where each story was going to go were quickly shattered. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say it felt almost jarring to have every storyline go in a completely different direction than I imagined. I was invested in the first book’s stories and did not enjoy the abrupt changes of plot. That being said, of the four girls and their stories, I ended up loving the direction that one of them took and eventually came to terms with another one. So, I enjoyed two out of four ha!

I will say, these books are both very long (400+ pages!) and reading them back to back was a long stretch of reading. 800 pages of drama is a lot and I found myself much less interested in the second book than the first. Maybe I shouldn’t have read them back to back? Maybe I should have just ended things after I loved the first book? I definitely recommend the first one, but I’m really on the fence with the second one. It brought back feelings of reading The Royal We – I love love loved the first book and then hated the direction the second book (The Heir Affair) took. Maybe this is just a sign that I shouldn’t read the second books in drama-filled young royal fiction? I don’t know. If you’ve read both books, I’d love to know your thoughts!

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

If You Want to Make God Laugh by [Bianca Marais]

It’s 1994 in newly post-apartheid South Africa. Teenage Zodwa is about to give birth to a baby while living in a squatter camp with her dying mother. Meanwhile, middle-aged Ruth, a famous former stripper, and Delilah, an excommunicated nun working in an orphanage, both face personal crises that draw them back to their rural hometown. Soon, the three women’s lives become connected in ways that none of them could predict.

I recently joined a book club and this was the first book the group chose. It was an excellent choice and led to some great discussion! I need to include the disclaimer that this book is not for the faint of heart and contains some pretty heavy issues including rape, attempted suicide, domestic abuse, and racially-motivated violence. That being said, it’s an incredibly well written book and I couldn’t put it down. The short chapters and alternating points of view kept the book moving quickly, despite some of the heavy content. The characters are so complex; they are grappling with their own flaws and past mistakes but they all also have redemptive qualities that make the reader want to root for them. With each revelation a character made about her past, it just layered more richness to the story. This was a very thought-provoking novel that will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend (with the caveat of possible triggers in the darker content previously mentioned).

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

“At some point, being a fulfilled adult means taking responsibility for the course of your own life and accepting the fact that now you’re in charge of your choices.”

Despite her training as a therapist, Lori struggles to come to terms with a shocking breakup and decides to seek out therapy for herself. This nonfiction book chronicles both her experiences with a variety of her personal patients as well as her sessions with her own therapist and feels part-memoir, part look into the lives of others (or at least as close as you can get while still honoring patient privacy). I found it to be a really interesting look at the variety of reasons that people seek therapy and the transformations that can happen when we work to better understand ourselves: our histories, our motivations, our goals/hopes/dreams for the present and future. I had to place a sticky note in several different places so I could go back later and reflect more on a profound revelation or a simple truth that resonated with me. I was actually less interested in Lori’s personal therapy journey and more interested in the stories of her clients – it was fascinating to see how each person changed and how my perceptions and assumptions about them also changed as they became more vulnerable and revealed more about their histories. Overall this was a really interesting read and I’d recommend it!

If you’ve been keeping track, you know that means I did not get to All the Ways We Said Goodbye so that is first up for my February reads! Beatriz Williams is one of my absolute favorite authors so I have high hopes for it!

A Simple DIY Shelf for the Playroom Kitchen

Today I’m sharing a quick, easy, and cute DIY project Justin and I completed over the weekend: a little shelf for our kids’ play kitchen!

Way back at the start of this pandemic, Justin and I had a DIY Date Night where we spent an evening creating simple book ledges for the little play space under our stairs. We had a lot of fun working together and the shelves turned out great! I’ve been wanting to find another quick and simple project for another date night and after finishing up the play kitchen project, I realized a little kitchen shelf to complete the space would be the perfect idea. Justin and I work together on lots of larger DIY projects, but sometimes it’s nice to just have a small project we can do in a day. This project was just right for a DIY date!

Materials

-two boards approximately 2-3 inches in width; cut to desired length (+ save approximately 4 inches of excess)

-1/2 inch dowel rod

-S hooks

-wood glue

-DryDex nail hole filler

-drill or drill press with 1/2 inch drill bit

-nail gun

-clamps

-paint or stain if desired (I used Sherwin Williams Dot to Dot) and paint brush

-spray paint or Rub n Buff if desired

-we used a miter saw for our cuts, but there are other saws that would work too

Process

I was hoping to find a couple 1x3s but a quick search in Justin’s scrap wood collection led us to find these pieces. I have no idea what they were originally from, but the rounded side on each of them made them the perfect choice for shelves! One is approximately 2 3/4″ wide and one is approximately 2 1/4″ wide. We used the wider one for the top shelf and the narrower one for the back.

I had decided on a length of 22″ so we measured and marked each one and I cut them to length with a miter saw.

Next, we used some of the excess wood that was just cut off the ends to cut down two small squares to fit in the 90 degree corner the shelves made.

I used a straight edge to draw a line from corner to corner and Justin used that guideline to carefully cut each block into a triangle.

We decided to use a 1/2″ dowel rod to run between the two triangles. Justin marked the center of each triangle (making sure they were symmetrical) and set up his drill press with a 1/2″ bit.

This is a picture of him setting up the drill press – to actually create the holes we had to tag team because the triangles were so small. He held the triangle in place while I actually operated the drill press. We worked very slowly and carefully to make sure his fingers were all out of the way of the drill bit. Teamwork!

Now that everything was cut to size, it was time to paint! I chose to use the same paint we used for the play kitchen (Sherwin Williams Dot to Dot) because we already had it and it would match well. Before that, everything got a layer of primer since the wood had a shiny finish and the paint needed something to stick to.

I wanted to use gold S hooks but couldn’t find any in the store so we bought these silver ones to start. I first tried to change the finish to gold using Rub n Buff in antique gold. This product is described as a wax metallic paste and it changes the finish of an object when you rub it on. It worked like a charm on the dowel rod! Unfortunately, even after allowing dry time, it rubbed right off these metal hooks.

I did a little googling and found that other DIYers had success with first spray painting and then rubbing it on, so I tried that next. I spray painted the hooks gold (using my favorite Rustoleum spray paint in Satin Bronze) and let them dry.

Then I tried the Rub n Buff again and this time, it worked! I rubbed it on with my fingers and used a paper towel to very lightly buff it until smooth. The one on the top right was just Rub n Buff, the other three were spray paint then Rub n Buff. Can you see the difference?

Once everything dried, it was time to assemble. Justin used a nail gun to attach the two shelf boards together at a 90 degree angle.

We eyeballed about how long we wanted the dowel rod to be – since the triangles weren’t going to sit flush with the end, we had some flexibility with length. Then we used a bit of wood glue to secure one end of the dowel rod into the hole we drilled in the triangle.

The S hooks had the right size curve to slide onto the dowel rod, but did not have a wide enough gap to “hook” on and off. In other words, once they slid on, there was no coming off! This is actually a bonus for us because it means our kids can’t unhook them when playing. We slid three hooks on first and then used wood glue to secure the other end of the dowel rod into the second triangle.

Once both triangles were on, we applied wood glue to the two sides that would sit against the shelf.

We measured placement to make sure everything was centered, then clamped the triangles down and allowed it to dry like that overnight. The next morning, Justin added a small nail from the top of the shelf into the back of each triangle for an extra secure hold.

The next morning I used a small amount of DryDex to fill all the nail holes. This product is super easy to use – I squeeze a bit onto my finger, smooth it over the nail hole, and once it dries a bit (it starts to turn white as it dries!) I gently sand off the excess with my finger. So simple! Once the patched areas were dry I touched up everything with paint.

We located a stud in the wall and Justin used his nail gun to nail the shelf directly into the stud. He also added extra nails on either end so the shelf is secure. I used a bit more Drydex to patch these nail holes, painted over then, and the shelf was done!

I’m really pleased with how the shelf turned out! The top shelf holds a few play food items, some artwork made by my sister (check our her studio here!) and an old baking powder can with the label removed as a utensil crock.

I hung a couple items from this pot and pan set as well as a little fruit and veggie drawstring bag (PlanToys has theeee cutest play food sets!)

This was such a fun little date for Justin and I and our kids already love the addition to their kitchen area. I’m thankful for the memories made while creating this shelf and I forsee more DIY date nights in our future!

Sources

DIY Play Kitchen

Plan Toys Food and Beverage Set

Plan Toys Veggie Set

Pots and Pans Set

Artwork: JBeck Studio

Wall Color: Benjamin Moore Greyhound

Shelf Color: Sherwin Williams Dot to Dot

Plans for a Long-Overdue Dining Room Update!

One of my goals for 2021 was to paint the main areas of our house (kitchen, dining room, entryway/foyer, hallway, and living room) and if you follow me on Instagram, you know I’ve already started tackling this project! I decided to start with our dining room, which has remained virtually untouched renovation-wise since the day we moved in. As soon as paint started to transform the look of the room, my wheels started turning for a phase one renovation of the space! I thought it would be fun to take some time today and share what I’m thinking and some of the plans for the space.

Here’s what the dining room looked like to begin with:

HouseTour2020-28

Pretty uninspiring, huh? The first step was patching over the many holes, dings, nicks, and scuffs along the walls, then covering them with a coat of my favorite primer and two coats of Sherwin Williams Alabaster in an eggshell finish. Here’s what it looks like now:

The soft, slightly creamy white feels like a breath of fresh air after almost two years of dingy brown walls and already the room feels so different. I’m excited to give this neglected room some additional, and much needed, TLC!

I love the the idea of mood boards and I think they can be so helpful in visualizing a space, but this busy mama just never has the time to sit down and create one! For me, Pinterest boards quickly and easily give me direction and corral all my ideas and vision into one space. Here’s what my dining room “mood board” currently looks like:

While Justin and I both agree that we would LOVE to update the flooring, we’re holding off for now. The kitchen, pantry, dining room, entryway, powder room, and laundry room all have the same flooring, and they’re connected in a way that isn’t conducive to changing the flooring unless you are going to do it for everything. We know that in a few years we’re planning to change the layout of our kitchen, so it makes sense to hold off on flooring until then. That means the baseboards also stay for now (I’m slowly swapping out the narrow baseboards in our house for a chunky 5 inch version) so I’m just going to paint them in a contrast color. I’m leaning towards using a soft greige like Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray. I am going to also update the window trim, probably giving it the same look as our home office windows, and paint it the same contrast color as the baseboards.

Once all that is completed, the fun will really start! The star of the room is actually not in the room at all: it’s the outdoors! The windows are the biggest statement in the room and they draw your eye outside to all the woods surrounding our house. It’s a fabulous view no matter the season and I’m going to add some window treatments to complement and highlight it.

Just look at the beautiful snow-covered trees that were outside in December!

The windows are large so I need pretty substantial, long curtain rods. I like the simplicity of these matte black ones! The walls come together at unusual angles so I’m also ordering two of these hinged curtain rod connectors to create one continuous curtain rod. As for curtains, I want to use them as a way to create a little drama and add some much needed color to the room – I’ve been debating between this soft rose color and this deep merlot color. I ordered a panel of each so I can see them in person before making my final decision but either way I’m excited for the texture that the velvet will bring to the space!

Since the windows are going to be the focal point, I’m keeping the rest of the room fairly simple. We’ll update the light fixture – I’m currently debating the simple elegance of this brass chandelier vs. the casual vibe of this modern bamboo pendant. I also want to add some artwork and center a large credenza along the window-less wall.

I’m loving the look of credenzas with reeded details but they are $$$$$ so I’m kicking around a few ideas for a possible DIY version…stay tuned for that!

The table and chairs are a big TBD. They are hand-me-downs and while they’ve served us well for the past 7.5 years of marriage, we’re not crazy about the look of them and we’re definitely ready for a change. That being said, this table extends to fit 14 people (!!) which is amazing for our large dining room, and as you can imagine, finding a replacement that is equally as expansive is incredibly expensive. I’m so afraid of dropping a ton of money on a new dining table only to find it clashes with our flooring when we finally update that. Yikes! So, we might keep what we’ve got for now, or we might find an inexpensive secondhand option that is more our style. We’ll see!

All in all, I think this will be a fairly budget-friendly makeover and will definitely tide us over until we’re able to do bigger changes like the flooring and table. Now that I’ve got a pretty clear vision moving forward, I’m excited to start ordering things and pulling this room together. I’ll definitely be sharing more of the day-by-day progress on my Instagram account (@simplifythechaos) so be sure to follow along there if you want more frequent updates!

Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you purchase something through an Amazon link I provided, I may earn a small commission. None of my recommendations or decisions are based on any commission I might receive from your purchases, but are all things I’ve either bought myself or am planning to buy. The decision to buy something is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy one through the link I provide is completely up to you. Thank you!

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!

20 for 2020 + 21 for 2021

Today is the final day of 2020. I think I speak for all of us when I say WHAT. A. YEAR. Looking back on my goals for 2020, it’s almost comical to see how I had absolutely NO idea what was in store for us. Obviously, many of my goals had to be adjusted or removed altogether, but it’s also nice to look back and see what all we did get done. We made it through a year unlike any other and while it was full of many many challenges, it was also full of joy. We still experienced fun, laughter, love, and accomplishment even in the midst of lots of difficulties and unknowns. It’s definitely a year I will never forget!

You can read my initial post about my plans for this year here. Let’s dive in and see how reality matched up with my goals for this year!

1 – Plan a dreamy office/reading room. DONE! And I could not love it more. You can check out the reveal post here

2- Select pictures for family photo albums. Ugh. This one and the next one were repeats from my list from 2019 and once again they did not get completed. Honestly, it’s intimidating to tackle such a large project and I need a big amount of time to complete it, so maybe for 2021 I need to break it down into even smaller, more manageable chunks.

3  – Create family photo albums Nope 😦

4 – Update the Simplify the Chaos website Done! All the homepage’s menu tabs have been updated and I’ve been able to keep up with updating them as I add posts and projects. I feel like this makes the navigation on my blog much smoother and I’m happy with accomplishing this one.

5 – Replace basement carpet. We looked at samples, got a quote for new carpet, and were discussing a plan to save up for it, but then the pandemic hit. With no one coming over to our house and other, more pressing home projects popping up (like our A/C system dying in June), this item got intentionally removed from the list. We’ll address it someday, but it’s not a priority right now.

One thing we DID do in the basement was sell Justin’s recliner from college. That was on my 2019 list and it sure felt good to finally cross it off! 😉

20200708_112255
One last rock for old times sake 😉

6 – Update book recommendations list. Done! You can check out the updated post of my top book recommendations here.

7 – Get a dip manicure. Done! I had a girls night out with a few friends and one of our stops was the nail salon. This manicure was unlike any I’ve ever had before – I loved the feel of the powder! It was like sinking into the softest sand.

It did almost have a fake quality to it – there was so much on my nails that it looked like a bubble sitting on top (as if I had a fake nail pressed on). I’m not sure if I loved that look? I think part of the reason was because my nails weren’t very long, so I’d be interested to try it again with longer nails.  It was also a little weird to type on my computer because my nails were so much thicker than normal! It lasted for weeks, which I loved, but I did not like that I had to go back into the salon to have it removed – it made the manicure feel both low and high maintenance at the same time.

8 – Invest in footwear with a purpose. This didn’t happen this year, mostly because I was leaving my house so rarely that new shoes didn’t really make sense. I’m including this on my list for next year though!

9 – Try at least 5 brand new (to me) foods. Done! I tried a new Mexican street food dish at a local food truck, the special sauce burger as recommended at a local restaurant (normally I go boring and don’t get new sauces), and my friend Amber made us a dinner from a Jerusalem cookbook where I tried three new dishes, all of which were delicious!

10 – Set up a 529 for Vi. Done!

11 – Read 60 books. Done! I was able to read 64 books this year and you can access all the reviews for each book on my ‘Bookworm‘ tab.

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12 – Take a continuing education class. This one got eliminated from my list after I discovered that in Indiana, there is no penalty for letting your teaching license expire. Should I decide to go back to teaching in five years, I’ll simply need to meet the same requirements that I would’ve had to meet to keep my license current.  I may as well wait until I know that I want to go back to teaching before investing the time and money in keeping my teaching license current. So this was one I was happy to just remove from my to-do list for now.

13 – Host a big summer party. The pandemic prevented us from the big summer bash we hoped for, but we were still able to have a smaller scale outdoor gathering. My immediate family tries to get together every summer on a Saturday. It’s an all-day event we’ve started calling the Washerdrum (because the first year, my brother-in-law discovered an actual washing machine drum in a remote corner of the pond!) While it was just my parents, my two sisters, and one brother-in-law this time, we enjoyed a gorgeous day outside grilling and swimming and that felt like a huge win for 2020!

14 – Update Vi’s room. Done! I did a very simple scalloped accent wall and added a little gallery wall of artwork and now it feels fresh and fun and just right for our baby girl.

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15 – Plan a family staycation. Done! We explored a new-to-us park and playground downtown and checked out a local food truck.

16 – Take LJ to swimming lessons. This one didn’t happen because again, pandemic, but I am making it a top priority for 2021!

17 – Create something. This was a really vague goal of mine at the beginning of the year, but I do feel like I have been able to stretch some creative muscles, particularly with home projects. Things like our using date night to build DIY shelves, making over an old dresser, tricking out the Secret Nook, renovating the basement kitchen (especially painting the tile floors and counter top!), and designing and building a play kitchen for our kids have been a fun way for me to channel creativity while staying home.

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18 – Have professional family photos taken. Done! We had a photographer come out to our house in August for Vi’s one-year-old photo shoot and we’re so thrilled to have a few wonderful family photos. LJ putting his arm around Vi was totally unprompted and the sweetest thing ever!

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Photo Credit: Natalie Joy Photography

19 – Actually use my InstantPot. You would think this would have been an easy thing to do with all this time at home, but apparently that is not the case haha. I still need to use this!

20 – Host at least 4 game nights. We have had immediate family (my parents once, my sisters together once, and my sister and brother-in-law once) come to our house and played games each time. It’s not really what I envisioned with this goal, but with 2020, we’ll take what we can get! I’m also very thankful for technology and our ability to play virtual games with our larger families and our small group while staying safer at home this year. I’m hopeful that by the end of 2021 we’ll be able to have more friends and family over for more game nights!

And now, let’s look ahead at my goals for 2021!

21 for 2021

1- Get involved with our church’s foster care ministry. Foster care is something that has been on my heart for years and I really want to get involved in a meaningful way with helping to support our church’s ministry and those who foster children.

2- Sort through 2013 pictures and create 2013 family album. I’m narrowing this goal down to just one year – the first year we were married. I think that’s manageable and hopefully I can get through this task finally!

3- Register for Be The Match registry. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time!

4- Take LJ to swimming lessons.

5- Invest in footwear with a purpose.

6- Continue to “level up” small areas of our house. There are many areas of our house that I’ve worked on already but I want to go back through and add a few new elements to (a lamp and ottoman to my reading corner in the office, a new light in the playroom, a different full length mirror in the guest room, etc).

7- Exercise at least 3 times a week. I used to be so consistent with exercise, but this past year has been tough and I haven’t prioritized movement and myself as much as I should. I’m committing to moving much more in 2021!

8- Give our bedroom some TLC. All we have done to our main bedroom since moving in is install a new ceiling fan and paint the walls white. It’s boring and uninspiring, plus it’s time upgrade some things like our mattress and linens. It probably won’t be a full blown renovation, but our room definitely needs some attention and I’m already deep in the planning stages!

9- Commit to less screen time. 2020 had lots of staying at home and scrolling, and I absolutely want to cut back on that and be more present with my family.

10- Learn how to use at least two new tools. I want to be a more active part of the building processes in our DIYs!

11- Paint the main floor of our house. It’s all brown and it’s time for a new look!

12-Invest in a good night cream and eye cream. I’ve slowly been upgrading skin care as I find products that I love. This year I want to focus on finding a good quality night cream and eye cream (so my skin can rejuvenate as I sleep on our new mattress haha!)

13- Explore three new-to-us places in our surrounding area. While I hope 2021 is better than 2020, I don’t anticipate big vacations quite yet. I still want to take some day trips to local parks, trails, and local (preferably outdoor) attractions and would love to find some new places!

14- Build planter boxes for our patio.

15- Create/enjoy a new family tradition. This year we poured some hot chocolate and drove around to look at lights – I can definitely see that becoming a yearly tradition! I’d love to keep finding small things that can become “our” family’s traditions.

16- Organize our utility room. The small room in between our garage and basement living area is in desperate need of organization!

17- Replace the boob lights in our house. If you know, you know.

18- Wake up before kids to have quiet time to start the day. I’m a morning person, and now that our kids are sleeping in a little more and I’m not up at 5 am to breastfeed, I want to wake up early to do my devotions, eat my breakfast, and start the day with a little quiet time. I think this will go a long way in making my days feel less chaotic.

19-Swap out our living room throw pillow cases. Our pillow cases are in rough shape and I want to actually take time this year to replace them.

20- Support small businesses as much as possible. Whenever purchases need to be made, I really want to try to support small businesses (bonus if they’re local) as much as I can.

21-Set aside one date night each week. Even if it’s just a basement couch date watching a movie, I want to carve out intentional time regularly to connect with Justin and not focus on kids/house/work/adulting.

Happy New Year!