Fireplaces are Cozy!

This is the first house that I have lived in, ever, that has had a working wood fireplace. It’s awesome! I remember looking at a friend’s picture of her living room years ago and thinking, what is it about her room that looks so inviting and cozy? Turns out, it’s a fireplace with an awesome fire blazing away! :) There have been a bunch of nights this winter that we have put the kids in bed, lit a fire and enjoyed the flames.

I have a bunch more pictures just like that, but I’ll spare you for now. I was loving the fires, and a fire has a timeless, classic feel to it. But the fireplace, in its entirety, was feeling neither timeless nor classic. It was looking tired and dated.

Here’s that fireplace wall in its originalest original state.

So, yeah. It’s pretty, but nothing about it makes you go “oh, that’s really beautiful.” And the tones of the mantel just don’t go with the tones of the brick, or anything else, really.

In the last few weeks of my pregnancy, and the first few weeks after Declan was born, I logged a lot of hours just sitting on my couch, looking at this wall and planning. There was just so much brassy glossiness going on here, and I knew I could tone it all down so that it all played nicely together. We started with those doors on the fireplace. They were not a good look, so my plan was to remove the insert and paint the whole thing in high heat flat black paint to make the whole thing recede.

But here’s the thing – once we removed it, we discovered that underneath that ugly door contraption was a really pretty brick arch! And right then and there we decided that the arch was in and the doors were out. We found a pretty fire screen on Craigslist for $20 and voila! – we were set.

By the way, the corners of the arch were really sooty from buildup over the years where smoke sneaked out of the fireplace doors. I googled a few different ways to remove the soot from the bricks, but what ended up working really well was actually oven cleaner! I just sprayed it right on the bricks, and then brushed it off with a stiff bristled brush. I think it took two or three applications, so I just left the windows open and worked on it throughout the day when the kids were elsewhere.

Next up I turned my attention to the mantel. I was willing to pull the whole thing down and start fresh with something more modern, but first I wanted to try my hand at refinishing it and seeing if I could make it into something we loved.

I started by sanding down the whole thing to mostly bare wood. I intentionally did a really rough sand, focusing on taking off the majority of the polyurethane that was on there, but leaving it in spots so that the wood would take the stain differently.


See how I left parts with a lot more stain and poly, and others I sanded right down to the bare wood? Lover thought I was crazy, but he trusted my vision. :)

Then I used a sales flyer to protect the bricks from the stain, which was a good call because I got stain all over the painted wall to the right there. Luckily a fresh coat of paint covered that all up. Next I stained the entire mantel in a medium, warm brown tone. I think I used English Chestnut as my stain color for this project.

I lived with that color for a couple of days while I thought about what to do next. My inspiration for this project were all of the weathered wood fences in our neighborhood that I would look at while we walked to the park. They end up with the most interesting highlights and shaded points due to all of the wind, sun and rain exposure.

So then I went back over the mantel with an ebony stain. I used this one very sparingly though, and I approached it like I used to do pencil drawings as a teenager – thinking about where the shadows would be and rubbing the dark stain into those areas.

I went over the whole thing with one coat of poly, just to protect the finish and make it a little easier to dust. I still wanted that matte, worn look to it, which is why I just did one coat.

The results were even better than I had hoped for. The deep, inky stain on the mantel gave the whole thing some presence and heft without overpowering the wall. It blends nicely with the dark fireplace screen and contrasts with the lighter toned brick.

In the end, I am super pleased with how this turned out. This whole wall is a lot more cohesive and visually appealing than it used to be. And we did it for the cost of a couple of cans of stain, some oven cleaner and a new fireplace screen so that is awesome too. It’s taking some getting used to have such a shallow mantel, our mantel at Wendhurst was over two feet deep in sections, so I’m learning all about scale and proportions in this house. I love getting the chance to tackle new challenges and learn new techniques. And then curl up on the couch with Lover and watch a fire dance away in my fireplace. Life is good!

Posted in 2016, before and after | Leave a comment

A New Look for the Loveseat

So, remember how we had a little loveseat in the living room and I mentioned that we would be revamping it? We found it for $20.00 at my favorite place ever, Unique Thrift Store. This store is less than a mile from our house, and it’s seriously an area where I have to exercise a lot of self control. You never know what will pop up here, the place is huge, the prices are great and on Thursdays everything is 25% off. This place is basically my kryptonite.

This loveseat was one of our great finds there. We needed something smaller in scale for our living room, which is on the smaller side. It’s a cozy little room and we didn’t want to cram it full of furniture. So when we spied this little gem we snatched it up, and let it air out in the gargage for a bit. When you buy second hand upholstered furniture, it’s always a good idea to let it cool its jets somewhere like a garage or a covered porch for a bit, just to make sure there are no unpleasant surprises.

Just to remind you, this is what the loveseat looked like upon purchase.

It had great bones and was in really good condition, just a little dirty and obviously didn’t match our decor. But it served us well for a few months while it looked like this, providing comfy seating  and a slim footprint.

Then my brothers called to let me know that they were coming into town for Thanksgiving, and that lit a fire under my buns. I wanted a comfy and pretty place to relax while they were in town.

So I took a trip down to the huge fabric store in Littleton, which is basically the most dangerous place ever. I don’t even like to sew that much, but there is something about a store stuffed full of awesome fabrics that makes me want to buy yards upon yards upon yards of all different kinds of fabrics. It’s kind of overwhelming with the amount of choices they have, so to narrow it down, I headed to their upholstery clearance section. And then I told myself that I only had this trip to choose, and I could only choose from this one section. Before long I found a nice heavyweight golden yellow fabric and I promptly purchased five yards.

As a side note, I can oftentimes really struggle on making decisions on this kind of thing. I want my projects to look nice, and I don’t like changing things all the time. When I do something creative, and I like it, I like it for a long time. So I want to be sure I’m making the right decision, and I can waffle for a really long time! Something that is helping me in this area is giving myself two limitations; a budget, and one other restriction. In this case it was that I had to pick something at that store, in that section, that evening. Then I make the best decision I can within those parameters.

Reupholstering this guy was pretty straight forward. I ripped off all the old fabric trying to preserve it as much as possible so that I could use it as a pattern  on my new fabric. That worked out great, and made this whole process a lot easier. This isn’t a reupholstery tutorial, there are lots of great ones out there. Google is your friend. But I’ll just share a couple tips that I picked up along the way.

  1. Purchase upholstery needles and upholstery strength thread for your sewing machine. I have a regular, average person sewing machine. But purchasing the heavier thread and more robust needles meant that I only went through two needles for this project, and the thread held up to all of the weird yanking and contorting I had to do. Also, an upholstery staple remover works SO well. Get one.
  2. Pay attention to your nap. This is the direction that the fibers lay in your fabric. You know how you can rub your hand on a pair of corduroy pants and make a pattern? That’s nap. Some fabrics don’t have a nap, but if yours does, like mine, make sure all your pieces are cut from the same direction so it all lays down nicely.
  3. If you are refinishing any wooden parts on the piece of furniture, do that while the piece is nekkid. Then you won’t have to be as careful staining and varnishing.
  4. GET A COMPRESSOR. Seriously, we have an air compressor now, and purchased an air gun with staples for this project. So loud, but so worth it. Everything is super secure and it took us about an hour and a half to staple everything together once I had sewn all the pieces and lined everything up on the loveseat.
  5. Take pictures as you disassemble the piece of furniture to use as a reference when you are putting everything back together and use a sharpie to label the pieces on the backside as you take them off.

It looks pretty good, no? I really like the detail that came out on the legs once I sanded them down and stained them. It’s really pretty and adds a lot of character and warmth to the piece. I hemmed and hawed for a while about the best way to finish those arm/leg pieces where the fabric meets the wood, but in the end I just purchased some brown satin cording and hot glued it in place. It looks really good and makes everything look a lot more polished. And don’t you love those pillows? Unique, again. :) I told you. They were about $10 for the pair, and I washed them, pulled out the old stuffing and restuffed them with feather inserts from IKEA. The thing I love about feather inserts is that, although they get squashed down easily, one quick swing and swat and they are plumped back up and ready to go. If only we could do that with our bodies, right? I’ll have to try stuffing myself with down and ask Lover for a swat.

I took those pictures in our freshly painted bonus room so you could get a good look at it since it sits directly in front of a window. Here it is in place so you can see it in context. I love how this room has great neutral bones and then flirts with color. It’s all starting to come together and I really like it.


Posted in 2016, before and after | Leave a comment

Spray Paint fixes everything

First impressions, while they may not be everything, are really quite important. And the first impression that you used to have of our home was a bit lackluster. There was nothing really wrong, but there was nothing really right either. Maybe even a bit unwelcoming, with the prickly overgrown bushes, an aluminum screen door that screeched and slammed, and some seen better days lighting.

So this was the state of things last year. Most of the grass you see in the above photo didn’t survive the summer last year, so it’s come back even patchier. I’m in the process of designing a perennial drought resistant garden for our front yard, since the grass doesn’t grow well, and the yard is on such a slope that mowing is a pain. I’m thinking a few little stone paths, a little sitting area so we can watch the kids play, and lots of pretty plants and grasses. That will all come in time. This year we are just trying to get things cleaned up and looking like someone cares!

Our mailbox, sitting at the front of our property, was looking a bit forlorn and neglected. When the previous owners moved out they scraped their name off of the box, which made it look even less attractive.

The kids were really interested in my process when I told them I would be painting the mailbox. They were super careful not to touch it while it was drying, and asked me several times why I was covering up the post. I just sprayed it right in place, and it came out quite well if I do say so myself. :) While I was at it, I put a new coat of stain on the post. I have a big can of a generic stain, and so I just used some of that to freshen things up.

It looks better, don’t you think? I did this after Declan was born, and so far it’s held up well. I’m not a fan of that gray aluminum look, so this darker paint made things a lot nicer in my opinion. While I was at it that day, I also took down our house numbers and sprayed them in the darker paint. They look fresh and new, and are much easier to read from the street now. We also removed the railing on the steps and sprayed that with a fresh coat of paint as well.

I really, really wanted to find a new light for the front door that had some personality to it. I looked all through the typical sources, Home Depot, Lowes, the usual, and found a few that I liked but none that I loved. But then I discovered that Target is carrying a line of outdoor lights this year, and they are super affordable! I ordered the Bel Air wall light, and I love it. It’s less than $20, super fun looking and I even installed it myself. That said, I also ordered two of the other lights for the garage, and they both arrived broken. I then exchanged those lights in the store for two others, and the two new lights were also broken! So the quality on this lighting line seems to be hit or miss. But – the front door has a new light now and I love it!

We also removed the screen door entirely, patched and painted the holes and installed a new door handle and a deadbolt. I ordered the entry set from eBay, and it was one of those instances where you pay about 25% of the price but gain 125% of the headache. :) The door is super thick, so drilling through took forever, the deadbolt guide we bought broke, and then the lock arrived with the wrong set of keys so it was inoperable. It’s one of the new Smartkey technologies so we were able to have it easily rekeyed (for free!), but it was still a pain. The lengths I will go to in order to get the look I want at a price point I’m willing to pay!

With a new door mat that is the right size, the front entrance looks like a million bucks! Or, at least, a million times better than it did before! :) I love that carving on the front door, and it was such a shame before to have it covered up underneath that aluminum monstrosity. And the new light complements our vintage glass sidelights, which are starting to grow on me. They give our house a lot of character.

Things are looking a lot better as we head into spring and summer. Last year we pulled out a bunch of bushes and put down some mulch, and transplanted a bunch of hens and chicks (plants) from the back yard. Lots of them survived the winter so things are starting to look a lot more welcoming out here. Little by little we will get there!


Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment

Explore Colorado {Comanche Grasslands & Abandoned Towns}

One of the areas that I wanted to explore while we were near La Junta was the Comanche National Grasslands. I had read that it was a really cool remote area with canyons to explore and even some fossilized dinosaur footprints and cave paintings and such. It sounded promising, so one of the mornings we headed out from our hotel and drove due south.

We drove for a long time, and after spotting a sign saying we were headed the right way, we drove for even longer. The view out of our window looked like this:

Seriously, that’s all there was to see. Pretty soon the only signs of civilization were the ranch fences along the road, and the occasional windmill over a cattle watering hole. We followed signs towards somewhere called Vogel Canyon, and after driving for about 30 minutes on a gravel road, we “arrived”. It looked like this:

Basically it was an outhouse, a hill of gravel and a sign that said “Vogel Canyon, 38 miles ahead. “Ahead” was a trail, not a road, and was only accessible by foot, horseback or 4×4. We followed signs to another canyon, Picketwire Canyon, and, same thing. Sign, outhouse and faint “trail” stretching miles into the wilderness. In case you had forgotten, we have a 4yr old, a 2yr old and a baby, and none of them particularly enjoy 30+ mile hikes. So we continued on, safely tucked away in our van.

I realize this sounds like a really boring day. I think the kids were a little bored, but they mostly munched on snacks and took turns sleeping while we drove around. It was the most remote place I have ever been to in my life. For as far as you could see, in any direction, there was absolutely no sign of civilization. Sometimes you would pass a watering hole, and the ubiquitous barbed wire fences always ran along the road beside us. Other than that… nothing. Not a cowboy, cow, or really even birds in sight. Just some scrubby cactus and dried grasses. Even in the remote areas of Spain that we explored, there was always some little town tucked into a valley, with the telltale spire of the Catholic church rising above the town. Here, nothing.

Eventually we decided that this would be a place to explore in the summertime, in about ten years. :) Maybe we will come back some day with the kids and bring some horses to ride those long trails for us. It was really beautiful in a wild, empty, unsettling kind of way. We found a county road that headed back towards civilization, and made quick work of leaving this empty country.

Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play…

On one of the roads we took heading out of the grasslands, there were electrical poles all along the road. On almost every pole, a hawk was perched and would take off when we drove by. It was so beautiful, and really neat to see all of these huge birds flying right alongside our van.

So, after admitting that the grasslands were a bust, we decided that the next best thing would be exploring the towns along Route 350. The first town we hit was Delhi. I took some pictures. Observe.

Thriving, right? :) That was literally the only building in the “town”. We drove past a sign that said “Delhi”. Stopped at this abandoned general store and explored for a bit, and then drove past another sign that said “leaving Delhi.” I absolutely love exploring old rundown places, so I was in seventh heaven.

Somewhere along the way in my childhood of reading books like the Chronicles of Narnia and the Secret Garden, I developed a lifelong crush on old, abandoned buildings and gardens. Seriously, how can you not be enthralled by worlds accessed through a wardrobe after exploring an old house full of mysterious rooms, or a forgotten garden hidden away from everyone?

When we lived in Spain, about thirty minutes outside the city there was an abandoned farm that we would frequent. The house was an old brick house that was slowly being overgrown with vines and trees, and the roof had fallen in years ago. Around the house were a bunch of huge fig trees, almond trees and a few beehives. We would pick fresh figs, gather almonds and I would daydream about what stories that house could tell. I would explore little bits of the house and even found some little broken dishes in a corner once. It was such a beautiful, mysterious place.

So this little trip was just my kind of adventure. After we finished exploring Delhi, we hopped back on the road and continued on down Route 350, until we got to a sign that said “wildlife area 18 miles ahead.” Well you know we were all about that, so we made a sharp right turn and headed off on another gravel road.

Pretty soon, we started thinking that we were lost. The road was literally winding through someone’s ranch. But every time we started to think “we must be lost, we should turn around” We would see another little sign “wildlife area 10 miles ahead”. So we carried on, driving past this nice rancher’s house, barns, cattle pens and even saw some cowboys riding around. The cows were quite ambivalent towards us.

Then, after about 17.5 miles, there was a barbed wire fence across the “road” we were on. There were no more signs or anything, so we started to turn around. Just at that moment, a big truck pulled up and a couple of guys got out and started opening the fence. Apparently, when you want to go through, you just open up the fence, drive through and close it behind you! We asked them about the wildlife area, and they told us they go hunting up there all the time. They cautioned us to be careful though, as apparently it’s really easy to get lost up there.

We finally found the actual wildlife area, but again, our little minivan is not exactly designed to handle terrain like that. That place was…rustic. And, sadly, we did not see any wildlife. But, it was still a super fun adventure! : )

The “town” of Tyrone, Co. Perfectly bathed in the light of the setting sun.

We finally headed home, tired out, out of gas and full of our adventures. It was a great little vacation, and so fun to explore a new part of the country. Here’s to many more adventures!

Posted in 2015, explore colorado | Leave a comment

Explore CO {La Junta & Rocky Ford}

We spent some time exploring the little towns of La Junta and Rocky Ford while we were down in the southern part of the state. They are both sleepy towns with not a whole lot going on. I think they were even quieter than usual as lots of the still-in-business shops were closed for the holiday week. Maybe they were all up in the mountains skiing?

La Junta had a really beautiful post office building. You know I have a thing for really impressive architecture, so I took some time to admire this beauty. The Post office kind of reminded me of something you might see in Spain, especially with that tile roof and those arched doorways.

Did you know that it’s prohibited to take pictures inside of a US Post Office? Me either. Just for the record, those last two pictures are NOT taken inside of a post office. But, if they were, aren’t those PO Boxes really cool? I’d love to figure out a way to incorporate that in my house.

Back in Rochester, down by the lake, there is a post office that has been closed for a long time. It’s a very old building and I always wondered about what was inside. Maybe there are rows and rows of these pretty brass post office boxes just languishing away inside? I love the idea of hidden treasures. But then again, it would probably just be a dirty place filled with cobwebs and mouse turds. Anywho!

The kids had a good time in La Junta since there was hardly anyone on the streets. They could run around and be crazy without tripping little old ladies. :) They had a blast with some icicles on the sidewalk and balancing along a brick wall. That was always one of my favorite things to do as kid, walk along a wall. I was pretty good at it too!

Rocky Ford was even sleepier. :) We didn’t spend much time here, since there wasn’t a whole lot to see or even much open. We did check out an antique co-op kind of store, and found that little gem below from our good old Rochester NY! I’m thinking we’ll need to come back here sometime when it’s warmer though, because apparently Rocky Ford is the Sweet Melon Capital? Of… Colorado? The World? It was unclear to us.

It was a shame that this movie theater is no longer in business. I think those neon signs would look awesome all lit up at night. I loved the street signs too, and spent quite a while trying to figure out where I could use an awesome vintage enameled sign for Main St. Maybe in our hallway? It gets a lot of traffic. :)

Those were our adventures exploring the sleepy little towns we came across on our vacation. I always loving capturing a place through the lens of my camera. I love finding those little nuggets of beauty tucked away in a dilapidated town! Tune in tomorrow for the last installment, where we completely left civilization!

Posted in 2015, explore colorado | Leave a comment

Exploring Southern Colorado {Bent’s Old Fort}

Over Christmas break we took a little vacation down to southern Colorado. Lover and I have gone on all different sorts of vacations, but our favorite kind by far is picking an area that is not “touristy” per se and spending a few days just exploring everything that catches our interest. We stayed in La Junta and told the kids we were going on an adventure.

The kids crack me up. They spent the majority of the first day asking to go home. Then they realized that this adventure thing meant a hotel with a pool, so they spent the next day asking to go back to the hotel. Then on the third day they finally settled into adventuring, and seemed to really catch the spirit of what we were doing. They would ask “mom, are we still a-venturing?”

Thursday morning after we got home and unpacked, they commandeered the suitcases, stuffed them full of their footie pajamas and special toys, and wheeled their bags downstairs to the “hotel”. They proceeded to play “adventure” for the next two days. Silly monsters!

One of the gems we found on our trip was Bent’s Old Fort. It’s about 15 minutes from La Junta and it sounded pretty fun.  The fort is a recreation of the fort that stood here in the 1840s. The fort was a huge trading post on the border of the Arkansas River, and was reconstructed in the 1970s.

The best part by far of the fort is that basically every nook and cranny is open to the public. This isn’t one of those places where 90% of the building is roped off with velvet cords.  You can wander through all the rooms, ring the bell in the bell tower, hang out with the livestock that are just roaming the grounds and chat with the reenactors that are extremely knowledgeable about the fort and its history. It only costs $3 per adult (I’m pretty sure the kids were free) and you can stay as long as you want. We were the only ones there for most of our visit. Granted it was winter and quite chilly, but it was still a super fun little hidden treasure to explore.

That’s a big huge buffalo hide press there in the middle of the fort. They would package up those hides and ship them back east for all the civilized folk. The fort’s animals just kind of roam the grounds – the oxen and donkeys were just hanging out in the grasses right outside the fort’s entrance. One of the reenactors also works part of the year as a ranger at Yellowstone, and we enjoyed chatting with him about the best time to visit the park. He told us to look him up if we make it there this summer! One of the other fort actors was working the forge, and gifted us the iron hook he was making. Everyone was extremely friendly and happy to give us the best experience possible while we were there.

The fort is about three hours from Aurora, so it’s a bit too far to just visit on a whim. But the next time we are down in the southern part of CO, we’ll be visiting again. It was definitely worth it!


Posted in 2015, explore colorado | Leave a comment

Colorful Bunkbeds for the Kiddos

I’ve come to realize that I really, really like bright, colorful rooms for kids. While typically I am totally a neutrals girl, with the occasional brave foray into blue, my kids’ rooms are extremely colorful. Just like them, I think. I mean, have you met Javi, Keilana and Declan?

The three of them are pretty much the biggest personalities you ever did meet. It’s fitting that their rooms are reflections of that. When I made Javi’s nursery I surprised myself by picking out such happy colors, and Keilana’s room, although neutral in the background, was full of hot pink and saturated turquoise. Their shared room at the apartment had started to follow that trend even though we were only there for seven months. And their shared room here at Amherst is more of the same – slowly morphing into a bright and happy place that is a reflection of them.

You’ve seen the wall o’ mountains that we added to their room last summer. Now, with the addition of some fire engine red bunkbeds, the big pieces in the room are falling into place.

Lover had been jonesing to get the kids bunkbeds for a while. I was resistant for two reasons – one, safety, and two, have you ever tried to make a top bunk bed? It’s like a horrible, sweaty workout that no one wanted to happen. But Lover successfully wore me down, I mean, convinced me, that space wise it made sense and the kids would love it. Plus he promised to always be the one that changes the sheets on that top bunk. :)

We are kinda the champions of buying second hand, but after months of looking for a nice metal set of bunkbeds and coming up emptyhanded, we finally started looking for new options. In the end, we purchased the Eclipse Twin over Full set from Walmart. I begged, pleaded and batted my eyelashes to get the red ones. I had my heart set on colorful beds for this room, and I successfully argued that the difference in price was less than the cost to us of painting them ourselves.

So we purchased them and had them shipped to the store to save on shipping costs. The short version of this story is that ordering site-to-store from Walmart is an exercise in patience. Prepare to spend a lot of time waiting. Like, a lot. :) But, all is well that ends well, and eventually we were on our way home.

Assembly was straightforward and the construction of these beds is really good. This is something I was concerned about because I have little adventure seekers for children who think that it is a good idea to climb and jump and invent terrifying games where you jump off of the top bunk onto the mattress below and give mom a heart attack. :) So yes, it’s all very solid. Which is a good thing, because this happens on a daily basis around here.

Our fun canvas painting ended up on the smaller wall, and the kids love seeing themselves up there. Although they have informed me that there needs to be a picture of Declan up there with them. The curtains are just simple blackout curtains, also from Walmart, on IKEA rods. The lamp is a $6 one from IKEA, and it’s not the first one we’ve had in here. We need to put an overhead light in here so that the floor lamp can go somewhere else and live a happy and safe life.

My mom makes each of the kids a quilt and they are spectacular. I love them so much. Javi’s is a pennant quilt, and Keilana’s is a pattern that I found on Pinterest. The quilts are such a labor of love, especially since I tend to pick out difficult patterns with zillions of little triangles and then say “mom, will you make this?” Mom just brought Declan’s quilt a few weeks ago and it’s really beautiful. I help here and there, but the majority of the work is all mom.

You may be cute, but you’ll never be KK with adorable pigtails, sitting on a handmade quilt cute. We keep the kids room pretty sparse since it “seems” to help them sleep better without all of the distraction of  toys and such. And it helps me keep my sanity since an uncluttered room cleans up much faster than a room full of a bunch of stuff. There are still a few little details I want to add in here, but I’m trying to let that happen organically over time.

One of the ways we keep life simple is we don’t make beds. At least, not in the traditional sense. I spread out their quilts for these pictures, but in reality we just put the kids in cozy footie pajamas and cover them in their quilts at night. In the morning we fold up the quilts and put them next to their pillows. It’s simple and easy, and it eliminates a lot of unnecessary stress these days. Who knows, maybe that will change in the future, or maybe they will grow up and tell their friends about how they never got to have a “real bed” with sheets and proper comforters. :)

Either way, the kids’ room is turning out to be a really fun and happy space. They love playing in there and they even occasionally do some sleeping in there. Here’s to more sleeping!


Posted in 2016 | 2 Comments

Keilana Kids Around Vol. 1

I’m trying to ease into my week, after the crazy two weeks we just had. We drove cross country because Lover’s grandpa passed away, and spent two weeks with family. We had an awesome time, but after 50 hours stuck in a van with three little ones, I am giving us all a couple days of grace to get back to normal life. I’m working on a couple of meatier posts, one about our travels over the Christmas break, and the other about some things God is teaching me, but they’re not quite ready yet.

So in the meantime, here are some of our favorite quips from our resident sass expert, Keilana. :)

“Mommy, I yike your arm.” 


“Mommy, take off my jacket. But not off my ‘nana (banana). My ‘nana no have a jacket!”


“Hooway! I found a coiny!”


Me: “KK, we have to go home now.”
Keilana: “But I want to see the monkeys!”
Me: I know, but it’s late, and mommy’s tired.”
Keilana: “Maybe we can go really fast, and just see one?”


Everybody clap your hands! Oh. On a cheeseburger.”


KK: “Mommy, can I get down?”
Me: “Peanut, can you drink some more milk first? You need to grow some more”
-drinks milk-
KK: “Me not bigger yet!”


To Poppa: “Ow! You have ouchy cheeks!”


Screaming hysterically: “Hep me tak off dis Javi jacket, so me won’t be a boy!”

Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment

Life Round These Here Parts 12.9.15

I keep beginning blog posts in my head, but I never seem to find the time to actually sit down and write them out. Life has been very full lately, not acually busy but just full. We are finding our rhythm as a family of five, working on some house projects, investing in our people here – it’s all good and right and fills our time.


My stateside brothers flew out to spend Thanksgiving with us. It was a fast and furious weekend filled with trips to the airport, many games of Catan, birthday celebrations and way, way too much food. We took my brother Jon, the hunter and animal lover to our favorite little hidden gem, the Arsenal Refuge, and saw some amazing bucks and got the closest we’ve ever been to the buffalo. Observe.

Jon’s birthday was the 28th, and then Javi turned four on the 29th. Here is where I am supposed to go off on a sappy diatribe of “how has it been four years, and why is my little baby growing up?” Instead, I’ll say that four years was a big milestone for me. Lover and I spent four years together kidless before we decided to take the leap of faith into parenthood, and with Javi turning four we’ve now spent as much time together as parents as we did as young marrieds. That milestone seems to have flipped a switch in my brain, and I am just feeling a lot more centered and calm about the whole parenthood thing.

He picked out the colors of his cake himself and was so excited to help make it and decorate it. When asked what he wanted for his birthday meal, he declared “Apples, cheeseburgers and Toritos.” So that is what we had. It was delicious. :) He is very happy to finally be 4, and is already talking about his next birthday when he will turn 5. In his words, he’s “almost 5.”

It really was great to see Dan and Jon and be all together. (Ben, Eva and Steph, we missed you guys!) I’m really proud of the men that my brothers have become, even if they do seem to have quite the affinity for Under Armour. I’m sad they live so far away, but it’s fun to go visit and have them fly in for special occasions!

These two have been into all sorts of shenanigans lately. There are pen marks all over my couch arms, unidentifiable substances on my windows, and everyone seems to have forgotten how to sleep at night. But – they are the best 4 yr old and 2 yr old a girl could ask for.  They seem to have come out of a particularly rough patch in their relationship and are now even more best of friends. Peanut is old enough to really play together and the creative, imaginative games they come up with make me smile on a daily basis.

My little guy is all sorts of sweetness, even when he is not sleeping because of teeth. He just turned 5 months and he is just a delight to be around. Happy, giggly, loves to snuggle – this boy is a keeper. He loves his big brother Javi like no one else. Lover and I often ask ourselves why Javi seems to be everyone’s favorite. Both Declan and Keilana love him to death. I guess that’s what happens when you have an awesome older brother.


Christmas is only a few weeks away, but I’m still not feeling the Christmas spirit. To be clear, I’m not feeling the endless to do lists, holiday craziness and overwhelming decorating. I seem to still be stuck in Thanksgiving. I woke up Thanksgiving morning just overcome with the ways that God has blessed me. A husband who loves me unconditionally, three beautiful, healthy, growing children who love their mama, warmth and safety and all of my needs, and most of my wants. A God who loves me fiercely, gives me the strength to face each day, and is transforming me from the inside out.

The hustle and bustle of the season is just not working for me this year so instead I am taking it slow, meditating on the amazing changes that happened when Christ was born as a baby, and trying to teach my kids a little bit about that. We’ll still set up our tree and open presents and all, but we’re taking it really slow. Because the Earth waited four thousand years for its Messiah, so why can’t I take a few extra days to contemplate His coming?

I’m not sure I’ll be back to post again before Christmas, so if I’m not, Merry Christmas!


P.S. A few people have mentioned problems viewing the images in my posts lately. I tried something different today, so will you let me know if you’re still having trouble seeing the pictures? Thanks!


Posted in 2015 | 3 Comments

Two Months Later

Surprising even myself, I am back in a timely manner to chat about the progress we’ve made thus far on the living room. The thing is, I suffer from a pretty severe condition called Project ADD, which basically means at any given time I have a thousand ideas for improving our home, and can be found working on between three and twenty seven of them at a time. For example, right now I’m itching to switch out the knobs on the kitchen cabinets, replace a light fixture in the hall, paint the ceiling in the basement and overhaul the bathroom in the basement. However, this causes me quite a bit of stress from the constant chaos in my brain as well as in my house, so I am really trying to get a handle on this.

Which means that currently I am working on projects only for the living room. Okay, and also painting the entry and hallway. But in my defense, those spaces are all open to each other, so once you start painting, you pretty much HAVE to keep painting or it looks stupid. So! The living room. So far we have installed a new ceiling fan, painted the walls, made curtains, made and hung two shelves and refinished the mantel. Actually, typing that, I’m pretty impressed with what we’ve accomplished in a couple of months. Go us! :) Last I showed you, the living room looked like this,

Here’s that same view (mostly) today.


It’s getting there, right? The cute kid makes it a lot more fun too :) First up, let’s chat about that ceiling fan. I found a guy selling a really nice Hunter ceiling fan on Craigslist for $20. It was in basically brand new condition, and he wanted next to nothing for it. The kicker? This fan hung from a much higher ceiling, so the down rod was about three feet long. When we held it up to the ceiling, the fan was just about even with that ottoman beneath it. So… no? I was confident we could purchase a really short down rod, which is why we bought the fan in the first place. But it turns out that you can only purchase 6″ or 12″ down rods from Home Depot (still too long) or you can also order a 2.5 inch rod from Hunter. The kicker is that they charge you $3o for the part. So my super thrifty but still awesome ceiling fan was now going to cost quite a bit more. And honestly, for $50 we could just find another used fan on CL without all the trouble of switching down rods and assembly and yada yada. But – I was thinking ahead when I married a genius nine years ago, because I knew that someday, I would buy a ceiling fan with this problem, and I would need a genius to come up with a better solution. And of course he did! Turns out those down rods are a standard pipe size, and lo and behold Home Depot sells them in 2.5 lengths with both ends threaded, for like $2. Assembling and installing the fan was kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the box for reference, but, again, genius. I just stood there and handed him tools and a variety of screws. Voila!


We painted the walls in here with our neutral gray as with the rest of the house. It goes nicely with the tan brick on the fireplace, and is a nice simple background for everything else we’re adding into the room. I’ve found that this color looks a little cold and sterile on its own, but once it’s paired with nice bright white trim, some warm wood tones and some color of any kind it is perfect.

I hemmed and hawed about curtains in here, trying to find ones that I really liked that were somewhat interesting. Some simple white curtains would have looked nice in here, but I was trying to be a bit more creative, especially since I am leaning towards making that loveseat a lot more neutral. But I was also trying not to break the bank on curtains or fabric – which is easier to do than you might think. This is a super big window, and even though I didn’t plan on closing the curtains that often, I still wanted the ability to close them whenever I wanted.

Is anyone else liking Target’s Threshold line as much as I am? I feel like it is really channeling my style. Because clearly Target takes its style cues from little ol’ me. :) Anyways, I picked up two of these tablecloths for the express purpose of making them into curtains. They were $18.99 a piece, so that’s about $8.25/yard. In other words, a very nice price for that much fabric. It’s a nice heavyweight cotton too.

Sewing is not my favorite activity, but curtains are pretty much a no brainer – especially from tablecloths that are already hemmed! I folded one end down about two inches, ran a seam to hold it in place and bam! Curtains! It took longer to thread the curtain onto the rod than it did to run a seam. No joke.

The packaging was another piece of the fabric with a little button holding it all together. It makes a great tieback, or also works well as a crown if you are a little Princess Peanut.

Also, can we talk about curtain rods for a minute? Big ones that are not ugly are super expensive. When we lived at Wendhurst I came across a chunky, pretty curtain rod for our bedroom that extended to 120 inches for $10. I did not realize at the time what a steal that was. I went with an IKEA rod for now, because they cost next to nothing, while I decide if it’s worth trading our kid’s college savings for a curtain rod in a living room. It totally is, right? The finials are totes boring, so when I found some cool mercury glass ones at the thrift store, you know I was all over switching those out, right?


Better. I’ll talk about the shelves in a post of the their own, because they are actually quite fun to make. But for now, let’s admire the amazing styling that I did for all your viewing pleasure. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you pin it. You know you want to.


In all seriousness though, They’re looking really good, and they’re extremely handy. My thought it to use the shelves as a spot for library books, plants, remote controls and picture frames. So basically things that little fingers shouldn’t be touching. Then the side tables stay clear and childproofed. I’m still debating if that top shelf is hung too high, but I’m waiting to get the other two made and hung and then I’ll make a final decision.


The mantel got a facelift, and it looks soooo much better. I’ll do a post on that too to show the transformation, but let’s just say that I pretty much rock at refinishing stuff. How do you like the chalkboard art? I was going to draw something pretty, and then the kids joined me, and now it’s awesome.


So that’s what the living room looks like today. Actually, today it is significantly messier. :) We’ve made good progress, so now I just have to find the right fabric for that loveseat. It will totally be easy, right? :)


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Posted in 2015 | 1 Comment