Four Years in Five Paragraphs

In my last post, I explained some of the reasons I left blogging four years ago and why I came back. I’m excited to jump into my new vision for this blog, but before I do that, I wanted to “catch up” on what has happened since my last post.

In 2014, we were living in West Virginia while my husband, Justin, finished school. In 2016, he graduated and we packed up our home (and our sweet dogs) and moved to Northern Indiana where Justin and I had both found jobs. We were so sad to leave our friends in WV but we have enjoyed building a new community here in the Midwest. And our dogs were thrilled that we moved to a home with a fenced in backyard!

20160605_142458.jpg
Celebrating the end of Justin’s schooling with a trip to Italy in June 2016.

In the early fall of 2016, we decided we were ready to start our family. I got pregnant and we were over the moon! Unfortunately, that pregnancy was ectopic (not inside my uterus) and ended after eight weeks. I will share more about that experience at a later date, but suffice to say it was devastating, traumatic, and a very dark time for us.

2017 was a big year for our family. We learned that we were once again expecting a baby and after a lot of prayer and weighing our options, Justin and I made the decision that I would leave teaching to become a stay at home mom. After 6 years of teaching special education, it was bittersweet to walk away from the classroom but I was very excited to be able to spend more time with our little one. Then in November 2017, our little LJ was born. He has been the sweetest gift! I have been staying home ever since and spend his nap times doing some part-time administrative work for a nutrition counseling company. It’s a good balance for me and I’m very happy with this set-up right now!

LJ Christmas 2017.png
The sweetest little blessing arrived just in time for Christmas 2017.
Family Zoo Trip August 2018.jpg
Our little family enjoying a day at the zoo in August 2018.

So in the span of four years, I went from a special education teacher in West Virginia to a stay at home mom in Indiana. While my life looks very different now, the mantra of “simplify the chaos” still resonates so strongly with me. I believe that we can so easily overstuff, overcomplicate, and overcommit our lives which leads to busyness, stress, and exhaustion. Where is the joy in that? I consider myself to be a minimal-ish mama and that has shaped so much of my family’s lifestyle and the way we strive for balance. My hope for this blog is that it becomes a place where I share bits of our life and ways that we maximize joy by simplifying the chaos that can easily crowd our days. I hope you will be able to find something here that resonates with you and helps you simplify your own chaos so you can truly enjoy whatever season of life you are in.

Take Two

Well, it’s been a hot minute. Or four years worth of minutes. 

In June 2014, I took a step back from my little blog for three major reasons. First, it takes a lot of time to maintain a blog and I was in a crazy busy season where I was working full time while my husband was in school full time and blogging was just too much to throw into the mix.  Second, I felt a little uninspired. I couldn’t channel all the ideas swirling in my head into a cohesive vision for what my blog should be. My posts started to feel random, I never really had a plan for what was next, and it just felt chaotic (exactly the opposite of what I was going for). The last reason I decided to stop was because I felt a little uneasy with drawing a line for how much to share. Our world is becoming SO interconnected through technology and I felt like many of the bloggers I followed were sharing details of their family and lives and I wasn’t comfortable doing the same.

So without really intending to, I just stopped. I didn’t realize my anniversary post would be “it” for the blog. It was summer and we took a vacation and upon returning … the blog just fell by the wayside. I kept up my Instagram account for a few more months but that gradually faded out too.

April 2015 came around and I got an email that it was time to renew my domain name. I wasn’t sure yet what I wanted to do with the blog so I just paid the fee and didn’t think about it for the rest of the year. This happened again in 2016. And 2017. And each year, I thought “you know, I’m not touching that blog anymore – why am I paying this fee? I should just give it up.” But each time, something held me back from totally letting go and I kept on paying the domain fee. Not only that, but the word “simplify” has become a bit of a mantra for me and has stuck around all these years (it was even the word I chose to practice when I took a calligraphy class a few months ago).

Simplify the Chaos - calligraphy art class

This April, that email came again and I finally spent some real time analyzing why I kept paying for something I wasn’t ever using. I told myself I needed to start seriously considering why I couldn’t seem to let this go and promised myself that by 2019 I would either be blogging again or would stop paying for the domain.

I was listening to a podcast one day (Happier with Gretchen Rubin) and it suggested a “happiness hack” of thinking back to what you enjoyed doing when you were 10 years old. The argument was that you would probably still enjoy that activity now. I thought back and two things burst into my mind: reading and writing. I loved both so much when I was 10 years old. And I realized that I still read a ton today, but I don’t write. And a little niggling thought came into my mind: this is what your blog is for.

I have spent a lot of time over the past few months dedicating real thought to what I want for this space. I feel like this time around, I know what I’m getting into a little better and have a better plan for time management and vision.  My life has changed significantly since my last post four-plus years ago and therefore this blog will look different. The month of September will have a lot of “catch-up” posts to bring you up to speed with my life but once we’re caught up, I will proceed with two blog posts a week (Tuesday/Thursday) and I plan to keep certain aspects of my family’s life private (such as full names and the specific town we live in).  I’m very excited and I hope you’ll stick around for the ride!

One Year Anniversary

I cannot believe it’s been an entire year since my wedding day!

I’ve been re-capping lots of the details of our wedding day in my Wedding Wednesday posts, and I had planned to do a post today on a few of my favorite moments from my wedding day. However, now that the day is here, all I want to do is sit on the couch with a glass of wine and a slice of our (one-year-old!) wedding cheesecake and watch a Redbox movie with my hubby.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Rothwell PhotographyPhoto shared with permission of Rothwell Photography.

Previous Wedding Wednesday Posts

Planning

Wedding Dress

Groom’s Suit

Wedding Party

Operation Honeymoon

Decorations, Part One, Part Two

Ceremony Decor

Reception Decor

Flowers

Wedding Wednesday: Flowers

Whew!

I’m smack dab in the middle of the first week of standardized testing (yay . . . not) so the past few weeks at school have been crazy with reviews/test preparation. Just need to push through SIXTEEN more days at school and I’ll be on summer vacation!

Now, on to my weekly wedding post!

Wedding Wednesday: The Flowers

I should start by saying I know absolutely nothing about flowers. I went into my first meeting with my florist equipped with some pictures from Pinterest and not much else. I couldn’t pinpoint a “vision” and I was thrilled when the florist looked at my pictures, listened to what I liked about each floral arrangement, and put together fabulous ideas for me!

Since I still know very little about flowers, I’ll just share some pictures and attempt to remember what each one was. 🙂

Let’s start with my bouquet! (Once again, all photos are courtesy of the fabulous Rothwell Photography)

yellow and green weddingBasically, my vision for the florist was “yellow and green flowers that are super fun.” Needless to say I think she nailed it! And I love the surprise pop of blue!

yellow and green wedding bouquetMy bouquet was made up of hydrangeas (my fav flower!), chrysanthemum fujis, spray roses, and hypericum berries. Probably some other stuff too but I can’t remember anymore. I loved how colorful and fun it was!

My bridesmaids had bouquets made up of different colors of hydrangeas. They had blue, yellow, green, and white — they all looked perfect!

navy, green, and yellow wedding partyAs I wrote in a previous post, a huge part of our decorations were wine bottles. I bought various flowers from my florist in bulk and stuck them in the wine bottles. Voila! Super easy and way cheaper than paying for a huge arrangement.

We did this on the stumps lining our aisles and in our centerpieces. I think it really tied everything together!

yellow and green wedding centerpieces yellow and green weddingIn addition to spider fujis to match my bouquet, we used snapdragons and baby’s breath (plus a random green I don’t remember the name of) in the bottles. We also used some Queen Anne’s Lace that I picked from a field fo’ free! Score!

yellow and green bride and groom tableMy friend arranged the flowers in the jug that sat on our table — I loved it!

And that’s it! We kept the flowers pretty simple but less is more, right?

Happy Wednesday!

***

And lastly, today’s outfit!

leopard cardigan, gray pencil skirt, black peep-toed pumpsLeopard Cardigan: Maurices (exact old; similar here and here) ~ Black cami underneath: Express (similar here) ~ Grey pencil Skirt: via Ross (similar options here, here and here) ~ Pumps: via DSW (exact old; similar here) ~ Stretch bracelets: Express (exact old; cute alternative here)

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes

Hi there!

Now that it finally feels like spring is here to STAY (mid-May and we’re just now getting to the point where we go a whole week without a night with temps below freezing!) I’ve got a fun DIY project to share!

Since Justin and I love being outdoors as much as possible and we hang out on our back deck frequently, I wanted to liven up the space with some flowers. That being said, I didn’t want to take away valuable floor space with potted plants (and, to be honest, I also don’t trust our puppies to leave potted plants alone just yet!) After brainstorming with Justin about ways to tweak window boxes to fit our needs, we decided it would just be easier (and cheaper) to just make something ourselves. I present to you:

DIY Pallet Flower BoxesNow, the directions might look a bit intimidating. Hopefully the pictures do a good job of conveying how simple this project really was! It fits right in with my requirements of easy, inexpensive, and functional!

DIY Pallet Window/Flower Box instructions

1- Get a pallet! We asked around at local businesses — several were more than willing to get rid of old pallets they had lying around. We also found some at the dumpster near Justin’s school.

2- Select the side of the pallet that you’d like to use. We actually decided to make two boxes so we used both ends of the pallet. Saw the end off to the size you want the box to be. For this step, Justin used a hand saw.DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com3- Using the remaining pallet (not the part you’re using as your flower box), remove one long board. Justin essentially just used a hammer to knock off a board running lengthwise. This will eventually form the bottom of the flower box.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com4-Before nailing the bottom board onto the flower box, seal all the wood with a sealant.  Justin went out to Lowe’s and bought a $4 aerosol can of exterior weatherproof sealant. He sprayed down every surface of the box and let it dry (he let it dry overnight but yours could be ready much sooner depending on temperature).

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com5- Once the sealant has totally dried, attach the long board you removed from the excess pallet to the bottom of your flower box. Justin used nails, but you could use screws if you’d like. He used two nails on each end and also at the post in the middle so there for a total of six nails attaching the bottom board.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comSidenote: If you’re concerned about everything lining up just right, consider taking a piece of sandpaper and running it along all the edges. We knew it was going to be outside and I was okay with a more “rustic” look so we didn’t sand it down.

6- Next, take a mesh lining (we used a cheap package of $4 fiberglass screening found at Lowe’s) and cut it to fit the inside of the box. This is to keep the potting soil from falling out of the cracks once you fill the box.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com7- Fit the mesh inside the box. At this point, you could actually attach the mesh to the box (with a staple gun or something of the like) but we did not. Once the potting soil is in the box, it will hold the mesh in place.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comThe rest of the directions will vary depending on how/where you want to hang your pallet box. We hung it from our deck railing so we needed to find sturdy hooks to hang the boxes. Since we couldn’t find any that worked, we made them!

8- We bought a $3 pack of L-shaped corner braces at Lowe’s (ours measured 2 1/2″x 5/8″) seen below.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com9- The next part is complicated. Justin measured our railing to see how wide the hook needed to be to fit over the rail and marked that spot on the corner brace.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comSee the little black mark? From the corner to the black mark is how wide our railing is. Justin needed to bend the remaining part of the brace to parallel the part sticking up in order to form a “hook.”

10- After carefully measuring, Justin then put the brace in a vice and gently hammered the brace until it was bent at the place he had marked.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comThe picture is hard to see, but the black mark is at the very top of the vice. Justin hammered down the part sticking up to parallel the part sticking towards the camera.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comFinished product!

11- Attach the hook to the pallet box. We used two hooks of the pallet box. Justin used 1/4″ screws to attach the hooks.

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comEh-hem. Please excuse the puppy photobomb.

12- At this point, all that was left to do was hang it up on the railing and add some potting soil and flowers and voila!

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.comI used a bunch of random flowers found at my local farmer’s market — I love all the vibrant colors! I’m hoping they continue to grow and fill out the box. And yes, I know our view is the best thing ever.

And that’s it! This project cost less than $15 (most of the nails and screws we already had) which was significantly less than window boxes we looked at and (in my opinion) much prettier than store-bought versions anyways! It was really pretty simple to put together and the fact that we were going for a “rustic” look made our margin for error much wider. 😉

I cannot end this post without giving a HUGE thank you to my super talented handy-man of a hubby! This project would not have happened without him — he did the bulk of the work and I’m so so pleased with how it turned out!

Have a great Tuesday!

 

Spring Break Adventures Continued

Hola!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Just finished up a taco dinner (ironically, I did not do that intentionally) and am settling down with J for our weekly Monday night ritual of watching “The Voice.” Obligatory side note: WHAT did Adam do to his hair!? That blonde needs to go. 

Vacation in Charleston

Well, it’s been officially over a month since our little vacation, so I should probably finish up that part two post I promised, huh? Let’s get right down to it!

As I said in part one of my spring break re-cap, Justin and I spent the first two days of break visiting friends in the Chapel Hill, NC area. On Sunday morning, we packed up and headed south to Charleston, SC.

Upon arriving Sunday afternoon, Justin and I were super excited about our hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn-Riverview and it was in a killer location! Our window offered a fantastic view of the Ashley River and peninsula.

The rest of Sunday and the entire day Monday was devoted to exploring the peninsula downtown. Our hotel provided a shuttle service to and from the downtown area, which was awesome since we didn’t really want to pay for parking. The shuttle dropped us off at the Historic Charleston City Market and we could easily walk to so many cool downtown places from there!

Highlights from our exploration:

Charleston CoastThis boardwalk was awesome! There were swings to relax in, and plenty of benches as well. We enjoyed just feeling the ocean breeze and gazing out into the water. We could also see Fort Sumter, which was cool since we didn’t actually have time to go out and tour it.

King StreetKing Street shopping! Justin was a real trooper and let me indulge in my window shopping habit. What a guy 🙂

Gilroy'sGilroy’s Pizza Pub. Since Justin indulged me in my shopping habit, I indulged him in his pizza habit. (Seriously, the man is a freak about pizza. He could eat it every day!) We checked out a couple different pizza places but this was by far our favorite! Delicious pizza and a really cool atmosphere. It was the perfect place to eat and watch some March Madness!

Verde VerdeSpeaking of food, my favorite place was Verde, a locally owned and operated build-your-own salad/wrap restaurant. They use super fresh veggies in all their food — my wrap was delicious! A great way to fuel up with some healthy food since vacations are typically times to over-indulge (reference above pizza picture).

Rainbow RowRainbow Row. This colorful strip of townhouses is so unique and definitely worth checking out! Plus, it’s right on the coast and within walking distance of Battery Park. We loved walking around this area — so many amazing homes to see! Like this one:

CharlestonBeautiful!

Tuesday morning we headed out early and hit up the South Carolina Aquarium. We loved checking out all the exhibits and even got to see a dive show. I have to say though, my favorite part was definitely seeing Justin attempt to hold his breath as long as a sea turtle. He didn’t quite make it 😉

20140324_102053After the aquarium, we headed to Magnolia Plantation. We toured the house, which was cool, but by far the best part for me was the gardens! Absolutely breathtaking! I loved walking all the paths and checking out the flowers and unusual plants — so much to see and it was all so beautiful!

Magnolia Plantation

Magnolia Plantation Magnolia Plantation Magnolia Plantation Magnolia PlantationIt started to rain after we had been walking around for about an hour so we headed back to our hotel and relaxed the rest of the evening.

Wednesday we had breakfast at the top of our hotel (the top floor was a hotel with a beautiful panoramic view of theHoliday Inn ViewAfter breakfast, we said goodbye to Charleston and headed back home. Seriously, this was the perfect long-weekend getaway! We had a fantastic time and will hopefully get to visit again someday!

***

Wedding Wednesday: Reception Decorations

Jambo!!

Today is the TEN YEAR anniversary of the premiere of “Mean Girls.”

Wait.

Mean Girls

WHAT!?

Yes, it’s true. Regina George came into my life ten years ago!

Regina GeorgeI seriously love this movie! My friends and I watched it at least once a week in high school — I can quote Every. Single. Line. And it makes me laugh every time I watch it! It is an absolute classic in my book! So of course, I’m celebrating it’s 10th anniversary by . . . wearing pink (because it’s Wednesday, and that’s a rule) and watching it for the trillionth time!

Because of this oh-so-fetch celebration, I’m gonna make my weekly Wednesday post nice and quick!

Wedding Wednesday

My final decoration post is about our wedding reception. We kept things nice and simple — a big white tent in the front yard of the farmhouse with a few decorations to add pops of color! Once again, all photographs are copyright the AMAZING Rothwell Photography.

First of all, MAD PROPS to my awesome hubby for creating these paper flower poms:

DIY flower pom for weddingThe boy spent hours creating 30 of these babies! Each petal was a piece of paper and you need 5 petals to make a flower, 12 flowers to make one pom. Do the math — that’s 1800 flower petals to fold!! I was so impressed with how they all turned out though. We got tons of compliments on them! All we did was hang them from fishing line across the length of the tent at varying heights (we used a hold punch and those paper reinforcer donut hole stickers to hang them).

DIY flower poms :: wedding ceremony decorationSimple and beautiful! And I love the way they pulled everything together without trying too hard.

First DanceThis was one of my favorite shots of our first dance — mostly because I love the way J and I are laughing and loving life in that moment but also because the poms look sa-weet! I absolutely love how they turned out! So proud of my crafty hubby (even if he did only do it to have an excuse to take study breaks! Haha!) See the full directions here for how to make them.

Really the only other reception decoration was the centerpieces. Each table’s set-up looked like this:

DIY wedding centerpieces :: yellow and green wine bottles and tree stumps-Square piece of green burlap

-Large stump cut to a height of about 2 inches (thanks dad!)

-five wine bottles (more on this below!)

-a few bits of moss around the stump

-one small stump with a notch cut in it for cardstock (again, thanks dad!)

-table numbers (each table had a fun fact about us corresponding to the table number i.e. Table 7 — the number of states we’ve traveled to together. It was a fun way for our guests to learn a little more about us as a couple!)

-green, yellow, and white flowers (got these in bulk from my florist. They were all the same types of flowers incorporated into my bouquet and other flower arrangements, which helped tie everything together. By buying in bulk and assembling ourselves, we saved a ton of money too! Yay!)

Justin and my table looked a little bit different. We didn’t have a bridal party table because we wanted our attendants to sit with their significant others so we had our own simple little table:

Simple bride and groom tableA nice green tinted jug with flowers and some Mr. & Mrs. stumps (made last minute with a sharpie marker and some extra little stumps!) kept things sweet and simple. We knew we wouldn’t be at the table that much anyways so why overdo it?

We hung a few strands of white Christmas lights around the tent and called it good! Easy peasy!

Wine Bottles

The wine bottles was a simple project. We collected tons of wine bottles from family, friends, restaurants (not kidding), and anywhere else I could find them. Some were already tinted green and yellowish, so we left them as is! Labels are easily removed by soaking the bottles in warm water (make sure the water inside the bottles is really warm!) and removing it with a kitchen scraper.

The bottles that were clear or a color other than green or yellow got spray painted. I used lime green, yellow, and cream (hotel vanilla, technically) spray paint. I didn’t take pictures of the process but it was super simple:

1- Lay out newspapers in a large space outside. Make sure to lay out a lot of newspapers — the spray paint goes further than you’d think!

2- Place the clean, dry bottle on the newspaper (my dad eventually crafted a bottle holder out of a block of wood and doll rods but most of the bottles were sprayed on paper).

3- Spray thin coats of paint on the bottles. I waited 30 minutes in between coats and each wine bottle got at least 3 coats.

4- Let the bottles dry for at least an hour or two, depending on the temperature of wherever you’re spraying them.

5- Smile! You’re done!

We used rubber bands to create a striped look on some of the bottles (see white bottle above). To do this, all you have to do is wrap a bunch of rubber bands in varying sizes around the bottle between steps 2 & 3. It looks better in the end if the bands are lying flat against the glass and not twisted. I cut the bands off with scissors then — do not remove the bands until the paint is completely 100% dry!

And there you have it! Super easy and it looked great! Plus now the wine bottles make great decorations around the house!

Have a great hump day! Love, me and Mrs. George 🙂

Mean Girls***

Today’s outfit. Unfortunately, there was no pink involved so I couldn’t sit with the Plastics at lunch . . .
Maxi dress & cardigan :: teacher outfit blog Dress: via Ross (no longer available) ~ Cardigan: Target (exact here) ~ Shoes: Nine West (no longer available; similar here)