Beach Week 2020

Beach Week 2020 is in the books!

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Justin’s parents rent a beach house in the Virginia Beach area every other year, and this year we were scheduled to go. They had booked the house back in 2019 . . . and then, the pandemic hit. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go but after closely monitoring the situation and discussing the options with our family (Justin’s parents and siblings), we all agreed to keep the vacation. I know everyone is in a different situation right now at I want to be sensitive to that – so much depends on the area you’re in (the infection rate, the current recommendations and regulations), the health needs of your family, the precautions you can still put in place, etc. We’re all just doing the best we can with the information we have. We were very familiar with the area we were traveling to and felt confident we could keep things socially distanced from those outside the family. We stayed well over six feet away from others on the beach and didn’t leave our house other than to walk across the street to the beach or go for bike rides. We either made all our meals at home or got carryout. It was definitely a little different from “normal” years, but we still had a great time and I’m very thankful we were able to go!

I really wanted to unplug a bit and focus on family time, so I didn’t have my phone on me very often. It was absolutely wonderful to just be present in a moment instead of try to document every single one. Because of this, I have a ton of memories, but not a ton of photos. Today I just wanted to share a few snippets of moments that were captured throughout the week. As you can see, it was full of lots of family time and outdoor adventures!

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Justin and I celebrated our anniversary (seven years!) on the 22nd with a kid-free date night: a bike ride to get some carry-out ice cream! SO thankful I get to do life with this man.

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The kids got really into digging in the sand and one day they dug a faux “pool” with help from Justin and his brother.  LJ and his cousin, who is only four months younger, loved playing in their mini ocean after it filled up with water from the tide.

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LJ got really into finding shells on the beach and designated mommy as his treasure-holder. There is something so sweet about being a boy mama ❤

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I am a minimalist, “let’s-take-as-little-as-possible-out-to-the-beach” kind of person, but a collapsible beach tent is absolutely worth it as something to take. It folds up small, is lightweight, and provides a shaded, sand-free area when kids need to take a break (or babies need to nap)! I got this one at Aldi two years ago and it came in so handy throughout the week both on the beach and at the pool.

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Vi got her ten month photos taken on the beach. She was such a trooper all week and loved getting to experience the sand and ocean for the first time!

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The best part of the whole week was watching my kids with their grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins. Justin’s parents and siblings all live within five minutes of one another, and it’s hard for us to be the family that lives far away, which makes trips like these even more important to us. It is so wonderful getting to see our kids develop relationships with everyone and this week of concentrated family time definitely helped them strengthen their bonds. This was the first in-person visit where LJ could say everyone’s name and associate names with faces and it was just the sweetest thing to see him make those connections. And all the cousins playing together all week was just so sweet!

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I already can’t wait until the next time we can be together!

 

One Room Challenge Week Seven: Final Details!

With just one week left in the One Room Challenge, we are down to just finishing up final details in the basement kitchen!

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One of the biggest changes this room has seen was the updated “island” (which if we’re being technicalis really a peninsula) with a butcher block counter top. Monday’s blog post was all about the process for installing and sealing the butcher block and I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out.

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As I stated in Monday’s post, even though I had hoped to also address the rest of the counter tops during this challenge, they are going to stay for now. I felt like I was trying to rush into a decision just for the sake of the ORC timeline, but choosing something I love is more important than finishing within this pre-determined window. I’m waiting on an estimate to come back for an inexpensive laminate or my other option is to paint them, but in the meantime, Justin and I both agree that with all other aspects of the kitchen improved, we don’t mind the old counter tops nearly as much (but they’re still going eventually ha!)

Another thing that got me really excited this week was the arrival of our bar stools.

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I searched and searched and searched for something that worked in this space and met all our many requirements. Justin didn’t want a back but I did, so we compromised on finding ones with a lower back. I wanted clean, simple lines with just a touch of detail: modern, yet classic. Not too bulky so we could fit three across comfortably. Oh yeah . . . and we did not want to spend $200-300+ per stool (this part was actually the hardest requirement – bar stools are so expensive!) Finally I found these and they are perfect!

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I love the thin metal frame and the simple line detail. They complement the space just right and they are pretty comfortable too! And now that we don’t have that strange extra counter running along the wall, we can fit three across instead of two which makes it more functional for entertaining. Remember when it looked like this?

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I’m so glad those days are done. 😉

Justin has been working on a lot of other little details throughout the space too. This week he finished swapping out all the old beige light switches and outlets for white ones (such a little thing, such a huge difference) and last night he was able to swap out our old sink faucet for this gorgeous matte black one.

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I also went around yesterday and touched up the painted tiles. These tiles have held up really well so far against normal foot traffic, but there were two areas that have sustained damage. The area in front of the island got nicked when we were moving the base cabinet and needed a small touch up, and then the area in front of the stove got really destroyed by the drywall guys when they moved out the stove.

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This was super frustrating because I was able to carefully move the stove back into place by myself with no damage to the floor so I feel like to men should’ve been able to do it too. Sigh.

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I ordered a set of small brushes and went around last night touching up each area and it is back to looking great!

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There are only a few items left on our to-do list in this kitchen, and most of them can be summed up in this picture:

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Just a few pieces of trim and baseboards, some touch up paint and caulk, and we’re adding a dish soap dispenser where the small spigot used to be. I also have a few pieces of artwork and decor I want to arrange and then we’ll be done with this renovation. I can hardly believe it – we are so very close!

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Next week, the ORC challenge will end and final rooms will be revealed from June 25-July 5. I will actually be on vacation with my family next week, so I will have a big final reveal post when I come back from vacation. In the meantime, you can check out other room reveals on the ORC Blog!

DIY Butcher Block Countertops

Over the weekend, Justin and I teamed up to finish a big project in the basement kitchen: our new butcher block counter top!

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And because I’m a sucker for a good before-and-after, here’s a refresher on what this looked like before we started:

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My parents took LJ for the weekend so we had lots of time to work on this project. If you caught my Week Four Renovation Update, you know that actually removing the old counters was pretty easy but we then realized the cabinets were not installed square to the wall. That would have been okay, except the pre-made counter top we bought was not quite long enough to reach one corner of the cabinet since it was angled further away from the wall. This meant we were going to have to move the old cabinets closer to the wall.

To provide more counter space, the previous owners had used a panel in front of the cabinet to make the base seem larger. We wanted to keep as much counter space as possible, so we decided to only move the cabinet enough for the counter to reach the end with a little overhang. Once we finally got the cabinet off and out of the way, Justin used an angle grinder to cut away about 1/2 inch of tile on the floor. He also sealed up the cracks that were in the concrete underneath using a silicone caulk.

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The previous owners had screwed a board directly into the concrete and then screwed the cabinet to that board to keep things super sturdy. Instead of drilling into the concrete, Justin used epoxy through the drill holes to fasten the board back to the concrete.

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This worked really well and provided a very sturdy place to attach the base cabinet. Once it was dry, we set the cabinet back on top and Justin screwed the cabinet into the board from the side of the cabinet.

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Since the cabinet didn’t actually touch the wall, we also created a small frame to connect the cabinet to the wall and provide sturdiness on the other side.

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Justin used a circular saw to cut a thin plywood panel for the front of the cabinet and attached it to the cabinets using small brad nails.

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Then it was time to finally place the counter top! We bought this one from Menard’s – we wanted the widest one because we plan to have stools for seating and treat it like an island. This was the perfect size! Justin first pre-drilled holes into the cabinet itself to make it a little easier to attach once it was on.

We set it on top and got it exactly where we wanted it, then Justin screwed the counter top directly in to the cabinet. While he did that, I painted the front panel the same color as the rest of the cabinets – HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams Rock Bottom in Satin.

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Once the counter top was on and the panel was painted, Justin got to work adding the baseboards and quarter round and I worked on sealing the counter. I wanted a really natural looking finish and decided against staining the wood first. To seal the counters, I chose a simple method with a tung oil finish. This is actually a product we’ve had for several years and since buying it, the brand has moved to Miniwax.

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After wiping down the counter with tack cloth, I used a clean cloth to apply the tung oil and rubbed it in using a circular motion. I let the first coat dry overnight, then ‘sanded’ it using super fine steel wool. I used the tack cloth to pick up all the steel wool shavings, and then repeated the process two more times. After three coats total, the counters have a gorgeous finish!

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There are a lot of different methods out there for sealing butcher block counter tops and I’m sure there are better ways to increase durability. This is not our main kitchen so these counters will not be subject to the daily grind of 3 meals a day and will instead get used when we have larger gatherings or host visitors. Because of this, I wasn’t super concerned with getting the absolute best and most durable option for sealing. I anticipate a few nicks and scratches over the years but 1) I actually like the character that brings and 2) if it doesn’t look good, the beauty of butcher block is we can sand them down and refinish them later! In our first house after getting married, our kitchen didn’t have much counter space so Justin made me a wooden island and this is the sealing process we used – it held up well through lots of baking adventures and food prep so I’m feeling confident that it will work for this counter too but again, if not, we can sand it down and try something else later.

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As for the rest of the counters, they have been one big question mark this whole project. I’m really trying to keep this renovation budget-friendly, so stone is out of the question. I’ve been debating painting the existing counters, replacing with another budget-friendly laminate, or continuing the butcher block look. Even though I’m doing this kitchen for the One Room Challenge and that ends in less than 2 weeks, I didn’t want to rush this decision. I like a good mood board or Pinterest inspiration, but I always prefer to just be in a space and get a true feel for what I want. I almost always regret making a decision  and buying something too early in the process, so I like to make decision as the space comes together. This makes for a slower, but more intentional renovation.

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I wanted to wait until the butcher block counter was installed to get a feel for what I wanted for the other counters. Once this butcher block was in place, I immediately knew I did not want to continue the butcher block with the rest. I love it as a kind of accent “island!” This leaves painting or replacing with another laminate. Because of COVID-19, everything is delayed. The paint kit I want takes at least 2 weeks to arrive and the laminate estimate is taking a couple weeks to come back (and then would take 4-5 weeks to be fabricated and ready). I found myself initially wanting to rush the process and make a decision for the sake of the ORC timeline, but honestly, that’s not the most important thing right now. I want to love the final result and if that means waiting a little longer to get it right, so be it. So for now, I’m going to wait for the laminate estimate and continue to just spend time in the space and hone my vision for it.

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I still need to run a line of clear silicone caulk around the edge of the counter by the wall, which I plan to do during nap time today, and then it will be 100% finished. After that I’ll probably spend the rest of nap time just staring at it – haha! Seriously though, it’s just so beautiful and I love when my vision for a space comes together just like I imagined! ❤

One Week Challenge Week 5 & 6: DIY Window Trim

Another week of the One Room Challenge is complete!

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIY Window Trim

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

Materials + Tools Needed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and voila!

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Racism and Encouraging Racial Equality at Home

I’ve been participating in Erika and Shay‘s monthly “Let’s Look” posts and this month’s topic was sharing how we can make sure we’re encouraging racial equality at home. I’m excited that they chose to adjust the prompt based on current events, and use this as a chance to share some of the things on my heart.

Last week started a long journey of really taking the time to listen to the voices of others, reflect on my own implicit biases, privileges, and underlying racism, and apply what I’ve learned in my own life and beyond. I realized that it is not enough to be “not racist,” but I need to actively work to be anti-racist. And I am ashamed to say that I was not previously doing this well. This past week was a much needed wake-up call and I can honestly say that it was transformative for me. I know I’m not going to do this perfectly, and I’m probably going to say or do the wrong thing some times, but I am committed to working through the discomfort because this is too important.

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Image Credit: Oh Happy Dani

Fix It: Starting with Myself

I have been sharing a lot of posts and videos that I have found to be valuable, eye-opening, and challenging on my Instagram stories. I created a highlight bubble titled “BLM” (let’s be clear: that stands for Black Lives Matter, because they absolutely DO matter) that you can click on and see everything I shared there, but if you’re not on Instagram, here are a few videos in particular that made a huge impact on me over the past week:

I believe it is extremely important to specifically seek out and listen to Black voices right now, but this video was powerful too and really made me hold up a mirror to myself.

It can be overwhelming and difficult to know what to do and where to start with all the information out there right now. This article, 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice, gives a lot of great suggestions and is a helpful place to begin. Following accounts like @theconsciouskid (parenting and education through a critical race lens) and racial justice educators like @austinchanning and @rachel.cargle has provided me with a lot of insight, perspective, and additional resources and I am learning so much.

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Image source: @theconsciouskid

And speaking of social media, I realized in looking at my feed that the VAST majority of content creators I followed were white. I saw someone someone say something like “when you are the one constantly elevated, you have no idea what the view from the other side looks like” – I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even really notice the lack of representation in what I consumed and that in itself is very telling of my privilege. I didn’t want to follow a ton of random people just for the sake of a diverse feed (plus it doesn’t help accounts to have followers who don’t interact with them), but I intentionally sought out accounts that I enjoy and want to see content from. I love following home design accounts and have started following people like @prettyrealblog, @carmeon.hamilton, @joystreetdesign, @sgardnerstyle, @grillodesigns, @homemadebycarmona, and @dwellbycheryl – not just because they are Black but because I love their style! I also appreciate the financial wisdom I’ve gained from @thebudgetnista, the encouragement given by @seekwisdompcw, the beautiful and inspirational graphics produced by @ohhappydani, and the powerful videos created by @themanacho. Diversifying my feed has been such a simple, yet powerful change to make and I’m never going back.

It’s no secret around here that I love to read, so books are another place I am focusing my energy. Back in February, I read I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness and it was just announced as the next pick for Reese’s Book Club! If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly highly recommend it. It was such a powerful, challenging memoir. I have maxed out my holds on the library wait list with titles that include White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Stamped from the Beginning, and Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. I have joined a book club group for How to Be An Anti-Racist and I’m excited for the challenge and learning that I’m sure will come from those discussions. In addition, I’m making a conscious effort to also seek out Black authors when I read fiction.

Address It: Teaching my Kids

Justin and I have had several conversations over the past week about racism, our biases and privileges, and how we can work to be better as anti-racist individuals and as parents. We want our kids to empathize with and stand up for others. We want them to work for equality and call out injustice. We want to raise our kids to appreciate diversity, to listen to the perspectives of others, and to work towards making this world a better, more equal place for everyone. And that all starts in our home.

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Image source: @southbaymommyandme

I did an inventory of LJ’s library and found that while we do have several books that include children from multiple races and ethnicities, we only have one book that has a non-white protagonist (The Snowy Day). This definitely needs to change. I’m in the process of choosing and ordering books with BIPOC protagonists and BIPOC authors to diversify his library (and I’m trying to buy them from BIPOC-owned bookstores). Same with the toys they play with – while we don’t have very many, I realized that of all the dolls or “people” toys we do have, they are almost exclusively white. We have only one black person that came in a set for LJ’s train table. I realized I have never been intentional about only getting “people” toys that look like my kids, but I also haven’t been intentional about seeking people toys that do not look like my kids. I’m going to be very intentional about diversifying their toys going forward. Same goes with our TV shows and movies – representation matters!

We live near a fairly diverse mid-sized city, but our actual home is in the surrounding country and the area is predominately white. Regardless, I am committed to making sure my children see and appreciate diversity around them. This means attending downtown events and activities where there will be many BIPOC people present, it means choosing parks and playgrounds in diverse areas, it means grocery shopping and going to library story time where I know there will be people who don’t look like us.  It takes a little more effort, but it is absolutely worth it.

I read the following analogy this week and it really stuck with me. I unfortunately can’t find where I discovered it, but it was something along the lines of: When we teach kids how to cross the street, we don’t just say “Be Safe!” and hope they know what to do. We specifically tell them exactly what they need to do: stop on the sidewalk, look both ways, hold an adult’s hand, wait for the signal, stay in the crosswalk, etc. We are repetitive and specific. The same needs to go with teaching anti-racism. We can’t just say “Be Nice!” and expect that to be enough for our kids to be anti-racist. We need to be specific and help teach our kids the types of racist behavior they may witness in the world that are not okay and that they should not condone or repeat. We need to be specific about ways for them to be an anti-racist ally and stand up for others, and those conversations can start now. Again, @theconsciouskid has been a great resource for me in this area.

Change It

My next steps look beyond our home. I cannot do everything, but I can do some things and I want to do them well. Voting. Supporting black-owned businesses. Donating to causes that align with my values and seek to make positive change in this world. Volunteering my time and resources. Continuing to have the tough conversations with my family and friends. Speaking out when I see injustice or racism.

I know there are so so many more things I can do, but I also know this journey to be anti-racist is a marathon, not a sprint. These are areas where I’m starting, not finishing.

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Image source: @ashlee_eiland

If you have additional resources that you have found helpful, I would love to hear about them!

 

May 2020 Book Reviews

Before I share today’s post, I want to share a little bit of my heart. There are many things going on in the world right now, specifically with the Black Lives Matter movement. I took last week off from posting on my blog and social media except to share resources that I found to be insightful and helpful to me personally. It was not the time for my own experiences or voice, it was the time to listen to the voices of others (I have saved it all to a highlight on my Instagram profile). I have done so much listening and reflecting and it was an eye-opening week for me to realize the many ways in which I have fallen short in incorporating Black voices into my life. Justin and I have had many conversations about how we are going to do better as individuals and as parents to be actively anti-racist. I wanted to share this because even though I’m going to resume posting about my own life, I am committed to continuing this much needed work because Black Lives absolutely Matter. ❤

When it comes to volume of reading material, May was one for the books (see what I did there? 😉 ) Thanks to the pandemic keeping me at home, unexpected delays in our basement kitchen renovation giving me more free time, a few long weekends at home, and our library keeping me supplied with ebooks for my Kindle, I read a lot of books. TWELVE to be exact! What! This is obviously much more than my typical number and this review will be a long one so let’s not waste anymore time and get right to it, shall we?

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Hope’s Crossing (Books 1-7) by RaeAnne Thayne

Hope's Crossing Collection Volume 1: An Anthology by [RaeAnne Thayne]

Back in December, I flew through this author’s Haven Point books and I would describe this as the sister series. These are very Hallmark-style romance books: quick and easy to read (I binged the series in a long weekend over Mother’s Day), no language or steamy scenes, predictable and maybe a smidge cheesy yet still romantic and sweet. These books all take place in a small Colorado town called Hope’s Crossing. I enjoy story arcs where each character has his/her own story but the stories overlap and all the characters throughout the books are connected. It just makes me feel connected to the people in this charming little town. I wanted to join the activities, eat at the Center of Hope cafe, check out the quaint bookstore, etc. I will say, I wish I had read this series first, because it was written first and some of these characters are referenced in the Haven Point series (there is crossover in several books which is fun!) but you definitely don’t have to. I think I liked the Haven Point series a little better and the writing is a little more developed but this was perfect for when I was craving some sweet, fun, lighthearted reads.

I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan

I'm Fine and Neither Are You by [Camille Pagán]

Penelope is a do-it-all mom: she is constantly juggling her job, her kids, her husband, and about a million other things. Her life seems like barely controlled chaos, especially in comparison to her best friend Jenny’s idyllic marriage, motherhood, and life. That is, until Jenny is shockingly found dead in her home and Penelope realizes her life wasn’t so perfect after all. In an effort to turn around her life and marriage, Penelope and her husband decide to make a change: they are going to make wish lists for ways they need their relationship to improve. Total honesty is the best policy…right?

I’ll be honest, I didn’t love the first part of the book. The overwhelmed, overworked martyr mom is not a story line I love and I was kind of annoyed by Penny and her woe-is-me. As I continued to read though, I started to really appreciate her character development and the whole story became more enjoyable. I genuinely wanted her and Sanjay to figure things out and succeed (side note: Sanjay eventually endeared himself to me with his requests/wishes and his own personal development). I expected a more nefarious subplot, but the book is mostly focused on Penelope’s personal growth and the way that her marriage has evolved over time. I thought it was an interesting look at the highs and lows of marriage and it gave me quite a bit to think about regarding finding balance, communicating honestly (within your marriage and also with your friends, online, etc) and prioritizing yourself as well as those you love. Overall, I enjoyed this read!

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Meet Cute by [Helena Hunting]

Kailyn is a trust lawyer assigned to help serve as conservator for an orphaned thirteen year old girl in the middle of a custody battle. The only problem is the current guardian in question is the girl’s older brother Daxton Hughes, a former child actor Kailyn went to law school with and fangirled over like crazy . . . until he betrayed her. Now she has to put aside her past hurts to make sure his sister Emme is taken care of. As Kailyn and Dax work together and get to know one another again, they realize there is a lot more to each other than they knew. This book was just the right sort of flirty, fun read that I was in the mood for. The characters are likable and easy to root for. There is just a little bit of mystery with the custody battle, but it’s not super shocking or suspenseful and the majority of the book focuses more on the dynamics between Kailyn and Dax. I did think the fact that Kailyn seemed obsessed with Dax’s show was a little extreme and a weird part of their dynamic but other than that, I liked their chemistry as they worked together to help take care of Emme (whom I also loved!) Fair warning, the book does have a decent amount of language and steam, but I thought it was an enjoyable rom-com!

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

The Mother-in-Law: A Novel by [Sally Hepworth]

After losing her own mother, Lucy had high hopes for her future mother-in-law and craves closeness with a warm, inviting motherly figure. Unfortunately for her, Diana is not what she hoped for. Their relationship is strained at best until one day, Diana is found dead in what looks to be a potential suicide. Except, some things just aren’t adding up and everyone in the family, including Lucy, has secrets. I loved this book! I expected it to be a thriller, but it was actually more of a character-driven, slow burn family drama + whodunit. The narrators and timelines switch multiple times and we see Lucy and Diana’s perspectives over the years. It is such a fascinating look at relationships and how actions and events can be interpreted two totally different ways if you don’t know the other person’s motives, thoughts, and feelings. There were multiple times that I just wanted to shake the characters and insist they talk to one another – there were so many missteps and miscommunications that could have been avoided over the years with a few honest conversations. It made me sad for the relationships that could have been, and it also made me think about the relationships I have in my own life and how important communication is. I found this to be an intriguing read and I flew through it!

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by [Christina Lauren]

A few months ago I read The Unhoneymooners from this author duo (it’s two women, Christina and Lauren) and loved it so I was excited to try another one from them. After they reconnect 10 years after initially meeting in college, Hazel finally has her chance to make Josh her best friend. Despite their differences in personality (Josh is easygoing, calm, neat, and steady while Hazel is quirky, messy, constantly in motion, and a bit of a hot mess with no filter), they do become close friends as they get to know one another. They start to set one another up on double blind dates that never seem to work out – could that be because they actually would rather be with one another?

The premise was fun, the pacing worked well, and the characters were unique and interesting, but I just felt so overwhelmed by Hazel. I feel guilty even just saying that because she is still a likable character and I know the whole point was supposed to be that she is super quirky and different and Josh accepts her just as she is, but it just felt over the top sometimes. Honestly, maybe that was the point the authors were trying to make – she’s tough to love wholeheartedly, but the right person will. 😉 I also didn’t love the ending; it felt rushed and weirdly crammed a lot of things in. Overall, it’s not going to make my rom-com Hall of Fame and I definitely prefer The Unhoneymooners, but this was still an enjoyable read.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

“In rape cases it’s strange to me when people say, Well why didn’t you fight him? If you woke up to a robber in your home, saw him taking your stuff, people wouldn’t ask, Well, why didn’t you fight him? Why didn’t you tell him no? He’s already violating an unspoken rule, why would he suddenly choose to adhere to reason? What would give you reason to think he’d stop if you told him to?”

Oh my. This was a powerful read. I remember hearing about the Brock Turner case several years ago, but I admittedly did not follow the court case closely in the news over the months and years before the verdict was reached and sentencing given. This vulnerable memoir written by Chanel, previously known in the media as assault survivor Emily Doe, was incredibly eye-opening. Not only does she give insight into so much of her own life, but she gives the reader an intimate look at the way rape victims are treated and how their court cases unfold. This is not a light read. It is heartbreaking, frustrating, and heavy. It was hard to not only see how this particular case was handled, but also to see how victims are treated in other situations in our society (she references our current administration and the Kavanaugh hearing). Even so, the book is poignant and ultimately uplifting – despite Turner’s lenient sentencing and our sense of lost justice, there was a lot of change and hope that came from this situation and specifically her victim statement (I cried!) and I commend her for sharing her story this way. Though the subject matter is difficult, her storytelling is compelling and I could not put this book down. It is an important read and I highly recommend.

You have to hold out to see how your life unfolds, because it is most likely beyond what you can imagine. It is not a question of if you will survive this, but what beautiful things await you when you do.

 

Whew! I’m definitely not going to keep up that pace of reading, but I do plan to get quite a bit of reading done over the summer. I would love to incorporate more great books written specifically by Black authors, so if you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

One Room Challenge Week Four: The Dreaded “M” word

Week Four was a bit of a beast in our basement kitchen renovation.

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On the positive side, I was able to get the walls painted. I chose Sherwin Williams Alabaster in Eggshell, the same paint that we used in our guest bedroom, and it makes the room look so much better! Unfortunately, that was about the only thing that got fully completed due to some fairly major snags we hit.

Over the weekend, we started working on the counter tops. My plan was to take off the counter top on the peninsula part of the cabinets and replace it with butcher block. It’s a bigger job so Justin was willing to help me and it went much quicker with two people addressing it!

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I’ve never really thought about how laminate counter tops are installed before, but it turns out they are fairly easy to remove. The counters were screwed directly into the cabinet, and then there were two angled ledges connecting the narrow counter on the side to the wall that were screwed into the wall through a piece of paneling. We just used a small rechargable screwdriver (without a doubt our most frequently used tool for small home projects!) and got everything unscrewed.

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Justin took a razor blade and ran it along the wall to peel off the caulk that sealed the counter to the wall. After that, it was just a matter of lifting the counter off! This was the easy part of the day.

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The first problem we ran into was discovering that the base cabinets here were not installed square. It’s barely discernible to the naked eye, but it ended up being a big problem. The butcher block counter I want comes pre-made at 36″ wide and 72″ long. From the wall to the left corner of the cabinet, 72″ will give a small overhang. From the wall to the right corner of the cabinet, 72″ doesn’t even quite reach the end of the cabinet. So frustrating!

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As you can see from the above picture, there is empty space between the cabinet and the wall. The previous owners just used a piece of paneling on the front of the cabinet to make this peninsula longer, so we decided to remove that frame and move the base cabinet a little closer to the wall so the counter top would be long enough. We won’t miss the lost inch of counter space and it will make things much easier and cheaper than buying a custom made top.

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We set off to remove the front of the cabinet’s paneling and quarter round trim. This would have needed to be done anyways because the top of the paneling got damaged in removing the cabinet – not a big deal since it’s inexpensive and easy to replace. The quarter round came off fairly easily with a crowbar. The paneling was a bear to remove because not only was it nailed to the cabinet but it was also glued and they used tons of glue! It was a frustrating and slow process but we finally got it all removed and also removed the wooden frame they had created between the wall and cabinet.

As we were doing this, I started thinking about possibly adding a thin sheet of beadboard paneling to the wall so we wouldn’t have to move the cabinet. The vertical lines would add visual interest and give us the extra space we need for the counter to at least go past the edge of the cabinet (without much overhang, but I can live with that). We also assumed that the paneling still on the wall (previously under the extra counter) was glued down and would cause some damage in removing. Beadboard might solve both problems: cover the damaged wall and make the counter tops long enough to cover the cabinets. We started to remove the paneling.

This is when things took a huge downturn.

Our assumption that the paneling was glued was correct, but it was way worse than we imagined. They used so much glue that the walls were very seriously damaged when we tried to rip it off. Huge chunks came out! And not only that, but we hit the dreaded four-letter “m” word: MOLD.

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We immediately knew that we had to pause this project and get a professional in here. We are not equipped to handle removing mold and replacing drywall and we want to make sure it is done right. We already have a call in to a professional and are waiting to hear back on a quote from him. Until then, this part of the project is on hold.

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This is definitely not the news we wanted, nor is it the progress point we wanted to be at right now. It’s discouraging and affects our timeline, but this is just the reality of renovating. We’re hopeful that we can get the drywall guy in sometime this next week to address this situation but until then, we just have to hold off on the kitchen. We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing as a family, although I did start shopping my house to test out some decor pieces for the space. If you caught my Instagram stories, you know I spent time restoring this thrifted copper planter to it’s former glory. It’s going to be a great decorative addition to the kitchen! ORC-3

While my project is on pause, I’m going to enjoy browsing the progress that other people are making on their rooms. The fun part about the One Room Challenge is so many people join and are trying to finish their own rooms – it’s so fun to watch the progress and cheer others on in their own projects. You can check out all the other rooms here. Hopefully I’ll have good news to report next week and be able to get back to work!

 

 

Macie is Seven!

Long before I was a human mama, I was a dog mama. And today, the girl who made me a dog mama turns seven.

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SEVEN!

I can’t even believe it. To celebrate, today’s post is all about my Mace Face. Macie Girl. Macie Bug. My sweet Macie!

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Before we got married, Justin and I knew we wanted a dog. When two of Justin’s good friends bred their labs and offered a puppy to us as a wedding gift (they knew we wanted a dog), we said YES. So Macie came into our lives exactly one month into our marriage and has been with us ever since.

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Macie has always been full of energy. The “puppy” phase with her lasted about 2.5 years – she was just go go go from the very start. She loves tug of war, fetch, and going for any type of run/walk/hike/outdoor adventure.

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She is also a huge lover of water. If there is a body of water around, she will happily jump right in and swim to her heart’s content. Sometimes we have to make her come out of the water and rest for a bit because I get nervous that she’ll wear herself out without realizing it – she swims so much.

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Macie definitely follows typical birth order personality types 😉 She is incredibly obedient and smart. She is a huge people-pleaser and has always worked to get approval. She is the dog we can have off leash or without the electric fence collar without worry because she will listen to us and stay where we tell her to stay. As a puppy, she crate trained like a dream and has had the run of the house since she was like 8 months old. Justin has taught her several tricks over the years and she’s done super well with them. She’s one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever met and I don’t think that’s just my parent pride speaking (although I guess it could be haha).

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You know in The Little Mermaid when Ariel sings “I want to be where the people are”? If Macie had a life mantra, that would be it. She loves people and wants to be right in the middle of the action. Wherever we are, she is there too.

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She is on the smaller side for a lab and thinks she’s a lap dog ha!

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She wants to be the first one greeting a guest at our house, she wants to sit right next to me on the couch, she wants to follow us around the house no matter if we’re going inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs – she is up for anywhere as long as there are people. If I happen to go outside without her, she protests loudly. She just wants to be around us. I was super thankful for this when Justin had to work night shifts and I was home alone. Macie would snuggle next to me on the couch and curl up next to me in bed so I didn’t feel like I was alone. And when I say snuggle, with Macie, you either get an adorable little curl up…

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…or her classic flop. It cracks me up every time!

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Macie has transitioned to her big sister roles so well.

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First, when we brought Scout home, she did a great job of adjusting to another dog being around. Macie is definitely alpha and Scout is beta and they get along so well. When we got pregnant, I wasn’t entirely sure how Macie would react to a new little human around but she adjusted like a dream. I have never once worried about her around my babies.

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She will snuggle next to them, let them crawl all over her, humor LJ as he attempts to play fetch with her – she is just a dream big sister.

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Macie meeting LJ for the first time – she was so excited!

She takes everything that LJ does in stride and just let’s him love on her and it is the sweetest relationship. They love each other!

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We absolutely adore Macie and can’t imagine life without her. Happy seventh birthday to our sweet and spunky girl!

 

One Room Challenge Week Three: The Great Cabinet Color Debate

Another week has gone by, and it’s time for another update on my basement kitchen renovation for the One Room Challenge!

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This week was finally the week to decide on a cabinet paint color. I wanted something moody and dark and I had several paint samples leftover from when we painted our guest bathroom, so I started with those. After painting swatches on the cabinets, I narrowed seven color choices down to two: Dark Pewter and Quarry Rock (both Benjamin Moore colors that I had color-matched at Lowe’s). I really liked both colors, but could not decide between the two. I threw up a poll on Instagram to see if that would help me decide, and 2/3 of voters chose Dark Pewter.

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I loved how rich and deep Dark Pewter was, but it felt too blue to me. I loved the green tones in Quarry Rock, but it wasn’t quite dark enough for me. After spending all day Friday looking at them both in different light, from different angles, Justin finally said “don’t rush this!” and encouraged me to sleep on the decision.

The next morning, I still couldn’t decide. I came to the conclusion that this either meant that I couldn’t go wrong and either color would work OR it meant neither color was The One and I should keep looking. Ultimately, I realized that I had hesitations with each color and was trying to force a decision just so I could get started painting sooner. I planned to paint as much as I could over the weekend, and while all the time spent choosing a color was delaying my plans, I also didn’t want to spend a ton of time painting only to realize the color just wasn’t right. The color samples I had were all originally chosen for a different room, so of course nothing was feeling quite right in the kitchen. I needed to look for a color based specifically on the room I was in, not just from whatever was leftover in another room.

I went back to the drawing board, except I had a fairly clear direction that I wanted: a dark, moody color that had green tones (basically, the perfect blend of Dark Pewter and Quarry Rock). I got three more samples to try out and one immediately stuck out to me – I could just feel that this was it. This was The One! I had no reservations, no hesitations, and was so glad I didn’t settle because I wholeheartedly loved…

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Rock Bottom from HGTV by Sherwin Williams.

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Top to Bottom: Dark Pewter, Quarry Rock, Rock Bottom shown with the lights on and next to the window – I tested the colors in every possible lighting situation!

Rock Bottom is the perfect blend of Dark Pewter and Quarry Rock and is just what I envisioned for the space!

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It’s dark and moody with green undertones but it doesn’t feel too green. It plays well off the existing colors in the kitchen and gives just the right amount of drama. I’m in LOVE.

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The base cabinets are all finished and I’m working my way through painting all the drawers and drawer fronts. Honestly, I hoped that by this point I would be done painting everything, but I’m so glad I didn’t let the pressure of a self-imposed timeline force me into a rushed decision. I know that I would have always been a little disappointed with either of my first two options so the extra time for deliberation and searching was totally worth finding a color I love!

Now on to the great counter top debate…stay tuned. 😉

If you want to check out other rooms that bloggers are renovating for the One Room Challenge , you can find them all here.

House Tour 2020

May 18 is an anniversary of sorts in our family: it’s been one full year since we’ve lived in our house!

I thought it would be fun to do a complete “house tour” and document what every room in our house currently looks like one year into living here. Some rooms have been completely remodeled, some have only had minor updates, and others have yet to be touched (one hasn’t even been unpacked yet).

A small disclaimer: I wanted to show what our house really looks like and how we’re using it in each stage of life, but I obviously did clean up before taking pictures. I didn’t want to make it look like a picture perfect model home because that’s not our reality, but just as I like to clean up before guests come over, I also cleaned up before virtual guests come over. 😉 That being said, I decided not to stage rooms (for example, I chose not to do things like add pillows to Vi’s crib just for the picture) since that’s not really how we live right now, so it still feels very authentic and true to our life.

My plan is to do this every year as a way to see how our home changes over time. I love seeing the evolution of a space and how the rooms in our home adjust to our growing family. Here’s what our home looks like in May 2020, one year after moving in.

Basement

Guest Room

The guest bedroom in the basement was one of my top priorities to address when we moved in. When not in a pandemic, we have overnight guests frequently (1-2x each month) and I wanted a comfortable space for them to stay. The room did not have a window and felt very dingy and dark, so we set out to add a window and make it feel light, bright, and cozy all at the same time. I would still love to swap out the overhead light and replace the carpet eventually, but I’m thrilled with this room’s transformation! Read more about this room’s renovation here.

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Guest Bathroom

The guest bathroom was the first room that we completely gutted and remodeled. New flooring, expanded tile shower, new lighting and fixtures – even though the layout didn’t change, it feels like a totally new space! You can check out more details in this blog post.

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Entertaining Space

Most of the basement is one huge open-concept living space. We bought this house with the hopes to do a lot of entertaining down here, so I’ve been putting in some effort to freshen it up. I am by no means done with this space, but a little bit of paint and removing some decorate trim has made it come a long way (blog post on our simple basement update here).

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And in the interest of full disclosure, here’s what our “entertainment center” situation currently is. I’m brainstorming alternatives to the bent folding table, but for now, it works. I know I’ll be glad to look back on this in the future when we have something different there to see how far we’ve come. 😉

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The space behind the couch will eventually have a table and chairs for hosting meals and game nights. Justin is actually in the process of making a table for this space, but until it gets finished, we keep our treadmill and the donation piles from my de-cluttering spree here (I know I said I would show our reality but I’m still cringing over showing spaces like this ha)!

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The basement kitchen is my current project for the One Room Challenge, and even though it’s in a major state of disarray, I’m very excited for the progress happening here (see my most recent update post here) – it’s going to look so good when it’s finished!

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Rounding out the open-concept space is this area to the right of the kitchen. Someday we plan to put a ping pong table here but for now, it’s a workspace for painting and storing furniture that we plan to sell.

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Mudroom

The last part of our basement is the mudroom in between the garage and the living area. As you can see, it needs work. I envision a combination workout space + some cubbies for storage eventually but for now…it’s just a bit of a catch-all (cringing again!)

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Main Floor

Laundry Room

The laundry room is really more like a laundry hallway. The washer and dryer are squeezed into a small space between the garage and a bathroom. Eventually, I would love to take out the bathroom and expand the laundry room but those plans are far down the road. Other than moving in our washer and dryer (which barely fit!) this space hasn’t been updated at all.

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Full Bathroom

Directly to the right of the laundry room is a full bathroom that we haven’t made any changes to yet. Normally, this bathroom doesn’t get used – the only exceptions are when we have many guests stay with us or in the middle of a pandemic. Since Justin works in healthcare, he uses this bathroom to shower when he comes home from work. It’s super convenient since it’s right off the garage and only used by him. As you can see, LJ and I wrote a few little notes to encourage him when he gets home. 🙂

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Powder Room

The powder room on the main floor is the only room that wasn’t painted brown when we moved in. We haven’t done anything to it yet, but it’s nice to at least have a little pop of color!

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Office

One of the rooms that got me the most excited about this house is our office, although right now it’s a disaster zone. I joke that it is our Room of Requirement because if you’re looking for something random, it’s probably in there. All of our unpacked boxes of books and decor are stored here and it’s kind of a makeshift office/extra guest room for an air mattress if needed. It doesn’t look like much right now, but I have plans to make it into a dreamy office + library – imagine those French doors opening up into floor to ceiling bookshelves and a cozy reading chair tucked in by the bay windows! I’m hoping we can start that renovation in the fall.

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The dining area off the kitchen also had a ton of potential (those windows!!), but we haven’t put any work into it yet. It currently just has a simple hand-me-down table and chairs and a few faux plants, but someday, this room is going to shine!

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The kitchen next to the dining room is another room that we haven’t put any work into. We’ve brainstormed a few ways that we’d like to change the layout a bit and update the appliances, but since that is a project that we’re several years out from, we’ll likely do a “phase one” renovation and at least update the wall color and maybe paint the cabinets.

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The previous owners used the room connected to the kitchen and living room as a dining room, but when we looked at the house I knew it would be the perfect playroom. It was the first room we updated (see that renovation post here) and I’m so glad we did because it gets used every. single. day. We still plan to update the trim and baseboards, but we’ll wait until we’re ready to do it throughout the whole first floor.

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The living room is yet another room that we have put zero effort into. We plopped down the furniture from our last house and called it good for now. Again, so much potential (more dreamy windows!) but in our life with two little ones, this casual arrangement works best for right now.

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Rounding out the main floor is the staircase off the living room (again, so much potential there!)…

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…and my favorite seven square foot space underneath! See all the details of this little nook’s transformation here.

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Top Floor

LJ’s Room

While no extensive work has been done upstairs, when I was 8 months pregnant and in full on nesting mode, we did get the bedrooms painted (they were all previously brown like the rest of the house). LJ’s room got some color-blocked walls and simple decor that feels just right for a little boy’s room.

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Vi’s Room

Vi’s room was painted white and recently got a little scalloped accent wall to make it feel more girly and fun. I also finally got some art up on the wall (notice I’m still waiting on one picture) and the room is much cozier.

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Kid’s Bathroom

The kids’ bathroom has had a very minimal amount of work – all we’ve done is take down the sliding glass shower door and replace it with a shower curtain. Other than that, we haven’t touched this room.

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Master Bedroom

All we’ve done in here so far is paint the walls, and the room is definitely lackluster. Again, so much potential here (more bay windows!) but right now it’s just simple and functional.

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Master Bathroom

The en suite bathroom has gone through a phase one renovation. We eventually want to gut it and rework the layout, but for the time being we just updated the flooring, painted the walls and vanities, and switched out some fixtures. You can read about that renovation here.

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Outdoors

The property is one of the biggest reasons we bought the house, so we’re thankful for a few outdoor lounge areas. The previous owners left a porch swing on the main level porch, which is perfect for enjoying a peaceful evening looking out over the pond. I’d love to add a few plants to this space too!

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Our walkout patio on the basement level has room for a table and chairs and I also created a little lounge space in the corner of the patio. This year I’m hoping to add a few end tables string lights, and potted plants to the space.

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That’s our home. It’s a work in progress, and we love the process of transforming it into the home of our dreams, but we’re not waiting to enjoy it until it’s “done” (I mean, is a house ever even done?) We are enjoying it every step of the way and choosing to love where we live at each stage. ❤