Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Maybe I meant next September ;)

When I posted that I'd be back in September, I really meant it.

But now that it is October, I clearly didn't.

If we could find a way to download my brain when I'm doing menial tasks, we'd have quite the blog.  But alas, that technology isn't available.  Well, it might be, I guess; I'm not actually interested in finding out.

We've been in the house almost 3 months now.  And it feels like home.  It feels like the place my heart has longed for over the last year - and, really, it longed for even in Ithaca when I thought I was content in my dream house.  I've learned that the place itself isn't really that important, but what is inside that makes it home.

The people, of course.  The things we need and use and love.  And, most of all, the relationships and the life that is built among those walls.

I have learned so many lessons about living intentionally, about living like Granny, about seizing the day and working hard and reaping the benefits, and of authentic relationships and true relaxation.  And all of the things that were theoretical for so long are coming to fruition in this house.

I've been so busy living this life that I (obviously) haven't written about it.  And I'm not sure when - or if - I will.  Stepping away from the Internet has been a lot more than just a refreshing pause to re-establish habits.  It's been a chance to really step into the authentic life we'd been too busy to create.

I'm not ready to say good-bye permanently to this blog, but I'm also not ready to put another timeline on when (or if) I'll write.  Now that the pressure's off, I might be inspired to write tomorrow.  But it might be next year.  Until then, all the best!

Monday, August 3, 2015

See you in September

I have so much to share about the house progress and how thrilling it is to finally be 'home' and how enjoyable and relaxing and productive our quiet evenings have been due to our Internet hiatus that I don't really know where to start.  And coupled with my recent discovery (unfortunately, after taking a bunch of great pictures!) that the camera cord has yet to be located, I'm going to call this an official blog break until we're a bit more settled.  August will still be busy with getting things set up and enjoying the rest of summer before the craziness of the fall semester, so I'm going to remove blogging from my to-do list for now - although it was already not getting done, now I don't have to feel guilty about wanting to do it and not.  I don't think that I'm ready to quit altogether, so let's meet back here in September and I'll show you lots of pretty "after" pictures :)

Until then, you can feel free to check out the "before" tour

or some of my thoughts on being a homemaker.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Passing the Time or Time Passing By?

A few weeks ago, when going through some hand-me-down craft supplies, I happened to end up with a copy of Woman's Day from July 1975.

It was so fascinating to hold a time capsule into, well, a woman's day 40 years ago.

And on some accounts, those days were just like mine - cooking (although I'm apparently lacking in the jello salad department), decorating (there were some sweet tips for "Furnishing the Multipurpose Room"), budgeting / dealing with stress / trying to find a flattering hair style.

And on other accounts, it was another reminder of how much our society has changed in a relatively short period of time.  The ads made me chuckle.  Cigarette advertising was prevalent, without so much as a blink about it being an unhealthy habit.  And there were sad reminders of what we've lost - the baseline assumptions about the sanctity of marriage in the heart-warming reflection by one young wife would be laughed off the page in today's hook-up culture.

But by far the biggest shocker was the first article touted on the front cover: "PRETTY SUMMER FASHIONS" ...not surprising, but keep reading... "To Knit, Crochet, and Sew."

There were pages of pages of projects - to knit, crochet, and sew - and we're not talking a 15 minute glue-gun craft that might grace a page of a modern magazine.  They're presenting full-length crochet swim cover-ups, the kind of project you or I may think of starting now in hopes of being done by next summer.  Or perhaps the one after that.

Apparently, in 1975, magazine publishers could assume that the average woman could knit, crochet, or sew AND that she had time to do so.

Historically, people have had "pastimes" - you know, activities like crafts and jigsaw puzzles and sitting around singing hymns - because they literally needed to pass the time.  To our ears, so overwhelmed by the cacophony of modern life, the idea that someone could need to save themselves from staring at the walls evening after evening is crazy.  After all, we can't even find time to look at the walls or notice and evict the family of spiders who have claimed the corner real-estate.  The thought of staring at the wall for 30 seconds sounds luxurious, and a whole quiet evening laughably unattainable.

In a society where "checking email quick" is code for "see you in 30 minutes when I return from this Facebook rabbit hole," we never have to pass the time.  It's passing us.  How many days have you looked up from your phone or computer or TV to see the clock and be shocked by the minutes and - be honest, hours - that have slipped right by?  How many evenings have your to-dos sat undone and your pastimes left untouched?

It's a delicate balance beam we walk in this brave new world of technology.  So many connections, benefits, and useful pieces of information, but at what cost?  Our busy, connected, informed lives whiz right by without any time to sit and enjoy, or to recharge.

So tonight, my (ironic Internet) soapbox is to ask each of you: are you passing your time or is it passing you by?  And, is that how you want to live your life?

Simplify.  Disconnect.  Live intentionally and purposefully.


To this end, Justin and I are really excited about our adventure in the new house - we're intentionally delaying our Internet installation.  We don't have a set time to sign-up.  It can't be too long, or the grandmothers will revolt for re-institution of Skype dates, but we're going to have some blissfully quiet and undistracted evenings.  I suspect we'll need to pass the time (ha, with unpacking boxes, probably), and I look forward to the board games and chats on the back porch and the projects I find in hand to fill those evenings.

More importantly than those weeks of forced disconnect, I'm excited about the new habits we'll form, hopefully habits that will last once we're reconnected.  I've recently been reading Gretchen Rubin's "Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives" and was very convinced of the idea that this move (or any other change, like a new job, etc) can be a starting point for new habits.  This forced removal of the temptation to be constantly online isn't the only thing I'll be tackling - we've made a point already (amidst boxes galore) to focus on some of the things that need to be in place to contribute to the simple and functional home of our dreams (for example, we're training Anna (and ourselves!) to always put everything back in its place as soon as we're done using it).

And, don't you worry, I can still blog without Internet at home.  Our house is a short walk to Justin's (well-wired!) campus, and I have daydreams of slipping out to the coffee shop here and there to catch up on a little blogging.  As always, stay tuned :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A little better, eh?

I'm really just in this for the before-and-after pictures, you know :)

(Look out, couch (and random displaced faux flowers), I'm coming for you next!)

Since March (and, more accurately, in the last few weeks), we have:

- Removed kitchen wallpaper
- Removed stairwell/hallway wallpaper
- Replaced all outlets & switches in the house
- Hung, finished, and painted new drywall ceiling in the den
- Painted all of the trim in the house
- Painted 6 rooms (kitchen, living, dining, den, 2 bedrooms) and the stairwell/hallway
- Ripped out 6 rooms worth of carpeting
- Removed the built in desk in the den
- Removed window coverings

And, of course, had the new carpeting and hardwood floors installed (upstairs and downstairs, respectively).

I'm excited (ok, honestly, giddy!) about the progress to date.  But don't worry, we've left plenty of projects (besides just unpacking!):

I'll try to keep you updated with more pictures, but be forewarned about the sappiness that might come next week when we finally get to be ... HOME!  For good!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Quick Takes: Edition 15

So, ya know, sometimes you wait a few months between posts, and sometimes you wait...a few hours?!  It's just that Julia woke up with a terrible belly ache a little while ago, and I finally got her settled on the couch next to me and now I'm afraid to move (her or me!), and...have computer, will blog.


I finally realized that I could/should do more than just link to new posts on my blog Facebook page (partially because it's something I can access from my mildly intelligent phone).  So if you're in to some behind the scenes Finding Former Glory fun, click like over HERE on my page!


If you have been following along on Facebook, then you saw this picture:

Justin ripped out the upstairs carpets (in preparation for the new carpets) and found beautiful oak hardwoods.  Figures that the downstairs (where we're installing hardwood) only had plywood under the carpet.

There ended up being a little "what 'wood' you do" debate on Facebook regarding whether or not we should try to cancel our carpet order and stick with these floors.  The overwhelming majority votes to keep the hardwood, which part of me would love to do, but we have decided that carpeting is just best for us right now in the babies-rolling-around-on-floors stage of life.  As Justin pointed out, we still own these floors, and we can always take the carpets out someday and refinish the floors.  (Consolation for those who were on team hardwood - the bedrooms aren't in as good a shape as the halls, there would have been a lot of work to clean them up.  Plus - downstairs will be wood!)


Have I mentioned how ready I am for a normal routine?!  I've been grateful for help with the girls (thanks to Justin's mom this week!) while we work on the house, but as much as I felt I needed a break after this crazy semester, I'm not emotionally used to being away from them, and as much as I love painting and renovating I'm ready to get back to cooking and cleaning on a (semi-)regular basis. I guess it's a good reminder that - despite the frustrations - I am truly grateful that I'm able to spend my days at home.  All of the experiences of this month and really this whole last year will make settling into the house so much sweeter.


Oh!  I have had a lot of fun answering your questions on painting and "How does one create an orderly home for one's family without neglecting said family?" so hit me with your other renovation/homemaking/motherhood post topics and I'll try to get something together :)


I'm fading fast (and sweet Julie seems ready to head to her crib) so I'm going to make these last few super quick with a cell phone photo dump of the cutest little renovation assistant you've ever seen.  These were pre-carpet removal - the girls haven't been at the house since they were removed and won't be back until the new carpet is down (uncovered tack strips - aka, lots and lots of nails) are a toddler disaster waiting to happen.

If you're looking for more coherence, check out my post from earlier:


Anna "paints"


Anna does drywall

I reserve my happy dance for after drywall is finished, 
but I don't rock the tool belt quite like she does, either ;)

Linking up with Kelly.  Goodnight!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

10 Tips for Choosing Paint Colors for your Home

It's that time, ladies and gentlemen!  I've finally put away the drywall sanding block, and today my cart at Lowe's looked like this:

Having bit the bullet on the entire downstairs color palette today, I felt inspired to share a few tips today for choosing paint colors.  Let's call it installment one of my promised paint tutorial.

1) Bring lots of paint chips home.  They're free, the lighting at the store is weird, and Pinterest has lots of crafty ideas for the leftover cards.  It's best to have lots of options- and you might be surprised by what you like in your space!  The more light/neutral your color, the more important it is to compare a lot, because...

2) Everything has an undertone.  Take tans for example.  At first glance, they probably look tan, tan, and tan.  But, hold them up together and you'll start to notice that one is a yellow-tan, one is a pink-tan, and one is a green-tan.  The undertones are a lot more apparent when the color covers more than 2 square inches, so pay careful attention.  This is easiest to do if you...

3) Look up and down the swatch.  Looking at the deeper/darker colors towards the bottom of a swatch can help to give you a sense of the undertones.  I'm of the opinion that you should like all of the colors on the card you're using, even if you don't think they'd work for your space (again, because they're really versions of the same one you're picking).  And while you're moving up and down the swatch...

4) Don't be afraid of intense colors.  Don't assume you should use the lightest swatch on every card.  Especially if the space is well-lit and if the ceiling and trim is white, you can go with the bold colors you really like.  Choosing something "moody" (i.e., with some gray or tan undertones, as opposed to a true primary color) can keep it from looking juvenile.  Just make sure you...

5) Coordinate your rooms.  Don't be afraid of the bold colors you like, but DO be afraid of all the random colors you like!  Your rooms are a connected part of a whole, so don't turn them into bright stand alone areas that make the whole house feel like a disjointed kaleidoscope.  You can also try to chose colors that have the same undertones (see above).  One way to keep things synchronized is to...

6) Chose an inspiration piece for your whole house palette.  It can be difficult to chose colors to coordinate if you don't have a starting point.  Chose a piece of fabric, or a pillow, or furniture, or some artwork that you really love (and that isn't monochromatic) and make sure that all of your paint selections match it.  Mine is this blanket.  And in addition to paying attention to that inspiration, also...

7) Pay attention to your house's style.  Not every color or palettes - no matter how much you like them - will be right for every space.  Especially be cautious of using trendy or pure bright colors in an older homes.  And be mindful that you...

8) Don't paint yourself into a decor corner.  Unless you have a budget for all new furnishings, don't paint your rooms in a scheme that won't coordinate with your existing furniture, art, and accessories.  If you are waiting to update your furniture but don't have the budget right now, stick with some neutral colors that work with your existing things and can also work with future purchases.  Either way...

9) Ignore the color names.  It's fun to read all of the color names (and to think that someone's job is to create them!) but when it comes to choosing your paint, they're irrelevant.  Take, for instance, our new carpet.  We selected it at one shop, and discovered that the name was, charmingly "Teacake."  When we compared prices at another location, we found that the company has different names for the same product line when it's sold by different distributors (crazy practice, but let's not go there).  At that shop, our same carpet was called (ick) "Cobweb."  Go with what you like to see - the name isn't going to be printed on the walls but the color sure will!

And above all, remember:

10) Go with your gut feelings on what you like.  You can see all the inspiration pictures (and read all of the *ahem* wisdom about picking colors!) that you like, but ultimately you have to go with what you and your family love, and what makes you happy to live in your space.  Most importantly, don't let analysis paralysis keep you from painting your rooms.  If you've been itching to repaint, you'll like whatever you chose more than you like whatever happens to be there now!  If you've narrowed your selection to just two or three and it feels like you can't possibly chose between them because they're just too similar - just pick one!  If you can't figure out which is better, chances are they're not different enough to make a big difference in how your room looks.  Make a selection and get thee to the paint counter!

Happy painting :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making a Home without Neglecting your Family {part 1}

A few days ago, a dear friend (fellow homemaker, and mother to three cute little boys ages 4 and under) sent me a message saying "Blog request: How does one create an orderly home for one's family without neglecting said family?"  I thought this was an excellent topic on the heels of my posts about creating a simple and intentional home environment.  Although blogging probably shouldn't be at the top of my list right now (we've got 5 rooms to strip of carpet, 6 to paint, and one drywall ceiling to finish before the carpet installers come next Monday), I'm allowing myself the opportunity to take a little mental break and spend a little time writing and share some of my thoughts on this topic.

(For those of you still holding out for the long-awaited painting post, I'm still working on it, I promise!  And, just think of how much more wisdom I'll have to offer after this week ;))

So, how DO you make a home for your family without neglecting said family?

I think the first - and very important - point to make is that making (or creating, as my friend put it)  home is much different than maintaining a home.  When you're in a state of disarray or a season of craziness, it's hard to imagine that you will ever reach a point of normalcy or stability, or that cleaning the playroom will ever be less than a two-hour archaeological dig.  It IS unrealistic in a messy and cluttered and overwhelming house (or construction site!) to think that you can do all of the necessary housework and simultaneously provide for all of the needs of the numerous tiny residents.  But don't throw in the towel yet.  Making a home can be a shorter, more intense period and a time of development of priorities, family routines, etc that can make way for an environment that is far more easily maintained.  I genuinely think it's possible to reach a state where at least the basic homemaking tasks can be completed without overwhelming yourself or neglecting any children.

For us, right now, that means that Justin and I are employing several mother's helpers and have strategically scheduled visits from both grandmas so that the girls are in good hands while we focus on the house.  I have also allowed a lot of other things to slide (the extent of home cooking I've done in the last 10 days was one omelet) so that we can focus right now on getting the house ready to move in.  It is essential for us that I play a period of Bob Vila so that I can be Betty Crocker this fall and beyond.

Of course, home"making" might not mean physically hanging ceilings for everyone ;)  I think it's totally reasonable, however, to spend some dedicated time doing some serious purging and organizing, or even just to spend some time making a list of what you want your home and family life to look like and writing some goals of how to reach that ideal.  A temporary neglecting of basic chores (or outsourcing of childcare) can be vital to reaching a place where you can maintain both house and family.

Once all possessions have a place and some basic routines are established, the actual cleaning is much easier - and possible with little kids.  If all you have to do to clean the sink is clean it (aka, spray it down and wipe) and not move 6 bath toys, a melted make-up sample, and the missing sippy cup off of the bathroom counter, that can be reasonably accomplished while you're waiting for the toddler to finish up on the potty.  Vacuuming is a quick job if there aren't toys in the way.  You can keep up with emptying the dishwasher every morning if putting things in cupboards doesn't start 4 different avalanches.

There will still be messes and spills and deviations from the daily plan (we're talking toddlers, after all), and with a bunch of littles underfoot it is still unlikely that you can ever reach a pristine or perfectly run household.  However, I've heard time and time again from friends and bloggers that the season of all littles (meaning, only having kids in preschool or younger) is very difficult but that there is a light at the end of the tunnel once one or two kids are able to reliably pick up their toys and help out with some basic chores, or at the very least wipe their own bottoms and put on their own shoes.  In that sense, too, I think that you can consider the season of young motherhood as a period of homemaking that is setting the foundation for the home and family life you want to have.  Cliche as it is, the days now are long, but the years are short.  Hard work now in creating routines and expectations will mean a lot for how your household will run when everyone is in elementary school or junior and high school.

I'm going to do the reasonable thing and pause here so that I can get some sleep, but I jotted down a list of 8 tips for maintaining a home without neglecting your family and I'll pop back in with that (and the painting post!) when I can.  Until then, I'd love to hear your thoughts - leave me some comments :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Eyes on the prize

You know what makes my heart happy?

To look out my kitchen window and see this:

I often take laundry to hang out at the new house when we're working there all day since I don't have the luxury (or a normally functioning dryer...) here at the house-sitting house.  And when I look up from peeling wallpaper or sanding spackle or (finally!) rolling on paint, to see the laundry billowing in the breeze (and my family picnicking on the porch), I get such a sense of joy welling up inside of me, and a gratitude that so very soon the simple pleasures of life in this charming little house will be mine everyday. 

Despite having known since February that this will be our house, my heart is still catching up to my brain, and I've been increasingly finding myself sobbing tears of joy (totally unhelpful when I'm trying to paint something) at the realization that we're actually going to live at the new house, that we actually will have our dishes in the cupboards and clothes in the closets, and at the end of the day we don't have to turn out the lights and drive away.  

There's a palpable longing from all four of us to just be home.  

I don't want to sound ungrateful for the blessing it has been to house sit this year.  It was a wonderful situation for us having moved to a new area, and in retrospect, I'd still chose this again - but more in the way that you chose going to the dentist than you chose spending time with friends.  I've learned a lot and grown a lot, but I'll be completely honest and say that I'm very glad it's almost over.

There have been a lot of little (first world!) annoyances, like the aforementioned dryer that needs three cycles to dry anything, and the size of the house that makes it impossible to find anything the toddler has touched, and the dog hair.  Oh, the dog hair.  It's an amazing house (and dog), really, and perfect for the family who lives here normally.  We're just not that family, and learning our own wants and needs in our living space has been very instructive.  

Most of all, the challenge of this year has been feeling perpetually in transition.  I looked back in my blog archives tonight and realized that one year ago, I had already put a significant portion of my belongings in boxes (many of which are still in box purgatory in the basement).  It's weary-ing to think that we have a long month of renovations to juggle, another packing of the truck, another unloading of the truck.  And - *duh* moment - I realized today that nothing will magically get into drawers or closets once we arrive.

These days have been physically and emotionally and mentally tiring - I've been doing more physical labor than normal, plus juggling a whole lot of details about floor colors and prices and the latest plan for the family room ceiling, all while worrying that this (necessary) month of craziness will permanently ruin the girls, or at least their nap schedules.

I crave normal, routine, home.

It seems impossibly far, and yet delightfully close.

And isn't that the human condition, really?  Our hearts were built yearning for something more, restless always until they rest in Him.  We instinctively know and desire that there is something - some place - beyond this messy, imperfect world where we long to be home.

If there's anything that Justin and I have learned in this year, it's that longing for a place of comfort and familiarity - and the realization that it will never entirely be fulfilled in this life, no matter how perfect the paint colors or how plushy the carpet (and, believe me, it's plushy, we ordered it today!)  There will always be (metaphoric and literal) stink bugs and dog hair and annoying dryers because life isn't perfect and because we have lessons to learn as we muddle through.  But someday, someday God willing, the brilliant beauty of Heaven will fulfill us at last.

Eyes on the prize.  Eyes on the prize.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


I am trying to come up with coherent sentences to bring you up to date since we last chatted house progress.  But, exhausted brain. 

So much list crossing, so little blogging.  

Yes, that's the (wall-paper free!) kitchen! (!!!!)  Stop what you're doing and do a little happy dance for me!  Or a happy conk on your pillow, that's how I'm going to celebrate the accomplishments of this week ;) Goodnight!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fewer decisions, fuller joy {5 Favorite books for simple & intentional living}

So, as we're moving merrily along with our selections in flooring for the new house (we've successfully narrowed it down to a very manageable number of decisions, mostly minor, like which of the 50 shades of gray tan we'd like out of the brand of carpet we selected).

Sorry, Julia, that's about as much of that one as we could afford...
But, even with those (major) decisions under our belts, I've still found with a discernible undercurrent of feeling overwhelmed.  Overall, (thanks be to God) life is very good.  I really have no reason to complain but yet I have this nagging sense of stress.  As I sat and reflected last night, I came to realize that I just feel so cluttered - both homes, all of our possessions, and even mentally.  So many things to think, to do, to see, to deal with, to clean, to move, and to keep out of the baby's increasingly accurate roll & reach pattern.

Clutter.  Ultimately, so much stuff (physical and otherwise) is clamoring for our attention that we find ourselves spinning as the roads diverge in the yellow wood - but here, not two roads, but a seemingly infinite number of choices of what to do, where to put things, what to eat, what to wear, and what to read.  I'm using the royal "we" because I know I'm not the only one feeling lost in the sea of daily choices.

My situation is amplified right now because of the renovations and the juggling of the two houses, but I know even in "normal" times, modern life has an exceptional number of choices.  And so many choices - embodied by the 10 housekeeping chores (only one of which can be reasonably completed in a nap time), by the carpet strewn with toys (most of which you're not exactly sure where to keep), and the exploding Pinterest boards (many of which you'll never complete, even though you just keep pinning) - make the day seem almost claustrophobic.  And the necessity of too many decisions short-circuits our brain and we end up doing nothing.  We turn to the Internet as a distraction from the disorder, feeding our mental clutter and inhibiting our ability to control the physical mess that's encroaching from all sides.

I know I've been harping on this simplicity thing, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that our culture is building a world that is quickly becoming suffocating, and if we don't stop the madness, well, no one will.  The craziness of the world is intruding in our homes, stealing peace and joy from the place that should be our family haven.

I think that if we can find a way to put some of ordinary life on autopilot, we can be fully present in the extraordinary.

The extraordinary here, of course, isn't a trip to Paris, but the belly laugh from the toddler and the chunky rolls on the baby's leg and the fuzzy caterpillar crawling across the porch while you sit and read for a quiet minute.

Fewer decisions about when and how to do things, where to store things, and less to think about in general: less physical clutter, less schedule clutter, less mental clutter means that our days can be more intentional, more productive, and more joyful.  A simpler lifestyle means that we have room to breathe - room to enjoy the extraordinary, even the beauty of the mundane.

If you, like me, want to make a change and need some wisdom on where to start, I highly recommend the following books:

(1) Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids  (Kim John Payne & Lisa M. Ross)

I am only one chapter in to this book, but am so incredibly impressed by the observations and suggestions (just in the introduction!) that I am confident that I should recommend it for all parents.  I list it first because I think it's the most important reminder - this simple living thing isn't just for pretty pictures of all-white kitchens.  It's the foundation for our children's understanding of the world, and if they grow up in cluttered chaos, that can't bode well for their emotional health as they grow.

(2) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  (Marie Kondo)

This Japanese cleaning consultant has some very poignant observations and an extremely useful process for purging - I had to wade through some ideology with which I didn't quite agree, but overall her ideas and tips are well worth the read.  (And you will be SHOCKED by how many items you find yourself dropping off at the Goodwill).

(3) A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul (Holly Pierlot) 

This has more to do with the simplicity and intentionality of schedule and time, but I think that reducing that type of clutter is just as important as physical clutter.

(4) Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living (Tsh Oxenrider)

This is equal parts "why" and "how" in terms of intentional, simple living.  More in my post HERE.

(5) Anything written before (or written about times before) the Internet.

I think our modern age is such an anomaly in terms of information overload that it can be really inspiring and didactic to read something written about/during times that were - by default - less cluttered (at least in terms of mental clutter, and often in terms of physical clutter, as well).

As a bonus, I'll give a nod again to my friend Rachel's book Minimize the Mess: A Mother's Guide to Simplifying Your Home  and I'm linking up with her today for 5 Favorites!

What are your favorite resources for simplifying?  I'd love to hear what you think about these books...and others that you have to recommend!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Decisions, decisions

You're probably expecting more in the way of progress pictures by now, but the reality is that there has not been a whole lot of photograph-able progress at the house since the great wallpaper success.

For one thing, I'm seeing just how much slower things are going to take now that we have "helpers" - and not necessarily because they are underfoot while we're trying to do things (although that can also be tricky) but because they need a lot better in terms of sleep schedules and nutrition than what we were able to survive on during our first renovations.  I also haven't fit in the 30-minute round trip drives over to the house as much as I expected when I'm barely hanging on in upkeep with our current house sitting house (4,000 square feet, 5 bathrooms, and a large shedding dog, argh!) 

BUT the other thing that has been taking the time (and is largely invisible) is the enormous number of decisions we need to make.

We're currently in the midst of flooring research, which - alone - has hundreds of options.  We're probably going with hardwood downstairs, but there's also that wood-look tile that someone mentioned.  And then there's engineered wood and solid hardwood.  And a bazillion (I counted ;) ) color options.  And board widths.  And whether we're installing it or having professionals handle it.  And where we're buying it.  etc, etc, ETC!

And, of course, how it fits in to the timeline, budget, and aesthetic of all of the other details of the house.

Phew.  I don't mean to complain, because really this is a dream come true to get to decorate our little dream house.  I guess I'm just surprised at how different this feels from the last house, where I made design choices almost impulsively, or at least without the belaboring of options I find to be overwhelming this time around.

People often commented on our lack of fear in diving in to renovations in Ithaca with lots of enthusiasm and little (or no) knowledge or experience.  I always laugh and say that we weren't afraid because literally anything we did was going to be better than it was.

I wasn't afraid of messing things up, so I could jump right in.  Now that we have a house with a much nicer starting place (and a potential residence time that far exceeds that of house #1) a fear of failure (or just the wrong decision) has put a damper on my renovation enthusiasm.  BUT, I'm trying to remember to "never let the perfect be the enemy of the good" (longer post percolating on that topic) and remember that I never regretted any of my gut-reaction decisions about colors or finishes in Ithaca.

Maybe soon we'll have something to show for all of the thinking ;)


Congratulations to Ruth Anne who won the giveaway of Minimize the Mess by Rachel Kratz.  Ruth Anne, watch for an email from Rachel!  And to everyone else, remember that Rachel's book is available for purchase here and on Amazon.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Simple Home: Have Your Cake and Eat it Too {with giveaway!}

Maybe you've heard the catchy little phrase:

"Good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids"

Maybe you're remembering hearing when I quoted it in a post two years ago.

At first glance, it's a pat on the back and an encouragement for those incredibly hard days when you somehow find yourself with 5 minutes before dinner and choose to damn the mess and sit down to eat the plastic food so lovingly prepared by the 2 year old "restaurant lady."  At the heart, it is a reminder about our priorities as mothers.  And, just to be clear, I'd rather have happy kids in a mess than screams and sobs amidst a page from a decor magazine.

But here's the thing (I always have a thing in these posts, you know?): all of the kids in Better Homes and Gardens are smiling.  What about having the cake and eating it, too?

I know, I know, that's so trite.  They probably took hundreds of photos for the magazine, and there's a chance that the one that made the page is the only one where little Johnny isn't pulling little Susie's hair.  I don't actually think that those picture-perfect rooms make for angelic smiling children (but then again, it might make me smile for a few minutes to walk into a space like that, huh?)

However, there is something about that sticky floors quote that just doesn't sit right with me.  It just seems so flippant to dismiss all of home management for the happiness of kids.  I start to get visions of a spoiled Veruca Salt (ala Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) riding a magical carousel over a garbage dump that was once the living room.

Ultimately, I think the quote is true for small moments but not for the big picture.  In the instant when you're in the middle of scrubbing the bathroom floor but the baby starts screaming in her crib, having woken early from her nap, yes, chose the baby over the spotless floor.  And abandon the laundry folding for the toddler who has stubbed her toe.  Or the vacuuming for a sick child who just wants to be held.

You're probably thinking (because I am also thinking) that, therefore, in the course of a day, nothing will get done but loving and comforting and, well, making happy.  There are days (and seasons of survival mode) when that is true.  But we cannot lose sight of the forest for the trees (how many cliche's can she fit in one post?!) and focus exclusively on the short-term, emergency type needs of our families.

I really do think that our environment affects our moods and our outlook.  Think about a spa - a cluttered reception area would turn away a lot of clients who came in for their relaxing and peaceful afternoon.

I literally breathe easier looking at the second picture than the first (and this is just a tiny example of a 5 minute tidy in the kitchen!):

It affects us as adults to be living in a constant state of clutter and mess.  We are more overwhelmed - by the mountain of obvious undone tasks, by the panic of not knowing where the water bill is that is probably due this week, and by the unpleasantness of not having a clear space to rest our eyes.  I think it is foolish to assume that this same stress doesn't affect our children.  If nothing else - if, say, they're personally unaffected by the clutter and not being able to find their favorite toys - it affects them in that the adults in their lives are constantly responding to them from a place of stress.

So we've established that you can't do it all, and yet you need to do it all.  Where does that leave us besides despair?

The key is - we can't do it all the way things are now.  We can't keep up with everything with over-packed closets and overflowing cabinets.  We can't win against the clutter monster, the verifiable beast threatening to permanently overtake any surface the second after we turn our backs.

But it IS possible to reach a state where things are more manageable, and where the whole family is happier - both in the moment when you're able to abandon the tidying to give a cuddle - and in the long term from having an environment that exudes peace instead of stress.  Yes, it will never be perfect.  And there will be stages when it is impossible to do anything but sit on the couch with a nursing baby and watch the dishes pile up.  Maybe the oven will always be dirty.  But the point is that the baseline of your home can be better than it is now.

And that is why today I'd like to introduce you to my friend Rachel from Efficient Momma.  She has two young children (very close in age to each of mine), so she is no stranger to the frustrations of young motherhood or the speed at which toddlers can make a mess.  However, she has discovered some key successes in simplifying her home and possessions, and has written an ebook to share all of her secrets with us!

Minimize the Mess: A Mother's Guide to Simplifying Your Home

I have to admit that when Rachel first asked me to review her book, I was skeptical that it would have that much to offer for me, given that I'm in the midst of a big organization/simplification kick.  Was there anything new about purging unnecessary belongings that wasn't covered in the New York Times Best-seller that I just read?  

It turns out that Rachel had me hooked in the introduction.  It was refreshing to hear the voice of a mother in my shoes, rather than a fancy organizational guru.  Rachel is honest and real (see again, no promises that everything will be perfect, just that they'll be refreshingly better than they are now), and her ideas and tips are practical and do-able.  She offers poignant questions to ask yourself as you consider keeping or donating items, as well as ideas for ways to make improvements on a small budget.  And, perhaps best of all, she has prepared a master checklist that you can download to help guide you through the process.

Rachel's book is a great resource for anyone who wants to declutter and reclaim a manageable home, but I especially recommend it if you're feeling overwhelmed and just don't know where to start.

You can buy the ebook on Amazon or on Rachel's blog HERE.  It's only $2.99 and you can get 25% off on sales through her blog until May 22 with the code launch .  And, *drumroll*, she's offering a free copy to one of my readers!  Use the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win a PDF copy of Minimize the Mess by Rachel Kratz.  Good luck!

I received a free copy of Minimize the Mess in return for my review, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What took me so long?! (Procrastination Analysis, Part 3)

I have this little problem where I tend to put things off.  Take, for instance, that I started writing this "Procrastination Analysis" series last February.  As in, the one in 2014.

As I discussed in Part 1, sometimes the procrastination is not so much me putting things off as my inability to set reasonable expectations (i.e., there are only 24 hours in a day, and there are certain things that just can't be accomplished while serving as the primary caregiver to two small children).

And then there was Part 2, the lamentation/confession of the ridiculous amount of productivity the Internet sucks from our lives.

But there are other reasons that projects sit on the back burner for *ahem* months - and I thought that identifying why I put things off might help me tackle the lingering to-dos in a more reasonable timeline.  Some of these are probably somewhat universal, while others might be weird Emily-quirks.  Regardless, I hope that reading this you get some inspiration to tackle some of the things you've been meaning to do :)  Photo documentation provided by my hall-of-fame of projects that I spent exponentially more time wanting to do than actually just getting 'em done.

Barrier #1: I have to make a decision

Big picture, I am a very decisive person (some, ahem, may call that "opinionated"). 
College, job searches, which house to buy...I knew what I wanted.

But which 18 spices were going to get a permanent location on my rack, that held me up for months.

Free printable labels!
Barrier #2: I am afraid I'll ruin it
(or that it won't turn out how I envision)

An extraneous nail hole isn't exactly "ruining" the wall, but analysis paralysis on exactly where to hang a something resulted in me having pictures leaning against the walls (under where they were meant to hang) for weeks on end.

(Let's not talk about how long it took me to decide WHICH waterfall pictures to print.  And which size.  Before we got to the where-to-hang dilemma).
Barrier #3: I'm afraid to waste materials

e.g., I want to make a dress for Anna, but the fabric I have in mind is one of my favorites from my stash.  That's gonna add a few months to the process, because what if I make a mistake and the fabric is wasted?!

Bought that fabric for the bathroom before we closed on the house.  Became the shower curtain 18 months later.
Barrier #4: I have to make trips up/downstairs

File this under perhaps the most ridiculous of the reasons, but I have noticed that if materials I need for something are on different floors of the house, that's going to hold up progress significantly.  And if a 2nd floor project needs something from the basement?  Yeah, just forget it.

And, that is why this empty electric box was without a cover for 6+ months after Justin moved the switch to the other side of the door)
Barrier #5: I'm not sure exactly how to do it
(or it's something I haven't done before)

I suppose this is really a permutation of #1 (decisions).  It comes into play most often when I'm sewing something that doesn't have a pattern, or if I'm planning to modify an idea I've seen.  If I have to put pencil to paper and figure something out, I'll stay away for far longer than if the steps are all spelled out for me.

I've decided it's a family tradition to have a stocking for your SECOND Christmas (even though I had the fabric for the entire family before Anna's first.  Julia's still needs done).
What's the real issue?  Aside from a little bit of laziness in #4 (although in my defense, if the girls are both awake, going up and downstairs for things is a legitimate procrastination reason, as there's no such thing as "just running down to grab something quick)" I think mostly I'm afraid - afraid of failure, afraid of the unknown, afraid of unsatisfactory results.

The kicker, though, is that in all of these examples (and many, many more that I was finding in my photo archives) I was over-the-moon with the results and kicking myself for not just doing it sooner. In some cases, things turned out better than I even imagined.  Sometimes, they turned out worse than I imagined.  But you know what?  Even if it wasn't perfect, I was happier with it done than on my to-do list.

What is holding you back?

I was inspired to finally polish off this post today after I {is it superfluous to say, FINALLY!} spent, oh, less than an hour making a little zippered bag to store one of Anna's little puzzle toys.  I bought the fabric in August.  I have been constantly annoyed by the migration of the pieces since then.  But, see numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5.

That little success (coupled with the amazing AMAZING fact that Julia now goes to bed at the same time as Anna) has lit a fire under me for completing some more projects!  And, therefore I'm just going to go ahead and *ahem* procrastinate on the painting post I promised...but it's coming, Kathy!  ;)

Friday, May 8, 2015

On Purpose and Passion: Ye ol' Blog

For most of its existence, I have felt that this blog has had an identity crisis.  I don't think I was ever sure of my goals - I was straddling the line of just being a convenient place to simultaneously update my dad, Justin's grandma, and 15 different friends with pictures of the house and the girls while also trying to be more than a wall-flower in the online community of Catholic moms which provided me so much during the isolating period of young motherhood.

It's felt weird at times to issue a one-size-fits-all announcement about, well, whatever I'm saying at the moment.  But what I've been so pleasantly surprised by is how my random ramblings have resonated with friends from different stages of my life.  The "me too" feeling is so powerful and affirming, and I've been excited when I've had the chance to share that with a high school classmate or a work colleague who has found herself in a similar place of frustration at wondering if toddler and tornado have some etymological connection.

I've managed to collect a few (very few) readers over the years, including some new friends who, oddly enough, I've never actually met.  And while I welcome the random stranger (of the non-creepy variety) who happens upon this blog, this happily will never be the best, brightest, or biggest blog you'll come across as you click your way through an evening.  

Primarily, dear friends and family, this is for you.  

First and foremost, I hope to be the update, a collection of memories and pictures that, well, are as much for me as for you (and many that would not have otherwise been captured were it not for the nagging "hey, you should blog about this" voice in the back of my head).  As you've grown to be accustomed, it will come it fits and starts, long periods of drought followed by excited and potentially very random updates.  I'm growing more and more content to let it be what it will be, here when I want it and still waiting when I don't.  

I've also found that - purely by having been the first to experience home-ownership and motherhood (and not by any actual verifiable expertise) - I have managed to establish myself in certain circles of my friends as the one who knows about renovation and about diapering a newborn.  So I hope to also be the encouragement, the "me too," and "you've gotta try this" from a friend that you trust over the 4.5-star Amazon review, a few friendly tips and recommendations against the cacophony of the Internet-at-large.  


So although a Pinterest search could bring you 100s of painting tutorials from (actual) experts, I'll (hopefully) be sharing my Beginner's Guide to Painting next week at the request of one of my dearest and longest friends.  

And if you've ever wondered why you traded your heels and important meetings for a life with, read this beautiful and encouraging article I came across tonight: When Satan Tells You You're Too Good for Motherhood.


Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for being you!  xoxo

Friday, May 1, 2015

The sweet smell of progress

If you follow the blog on Facebook, you may have noticed that when I include links to new posts, it will show the blog title and automatically chooses the first picture from the post.  From this, I have learned that I have a penchant for including totally unrelated ideas and images as introductions (case in point, last weeks' "Everything I've Ever Wanted" with the current eye-sore that is my kitchen wall, which caused one friend to ask if I might need a renovation intervention.)

Fair warning, today is one of those random intro days.

Anyway, back in high school, one of my best friends and I (hi, Kari!), probably fresh out of a psychology lecture about the strength of memories associated with smells, decided to train ourselves to remember certain quintessential high school moments.  We trekked to the mall, picked out our (new) favorite Bath & Body Works lotions, and (this sounds all sounds so ridiculous now to type it out) methodically would use the lotion whenever we were thinking about getting ready for prom.  And the thing is, it worked REALLY well.  One waft of "Moonlit Path" and I am instantly transported back to the excitement of prom (and ohmygoshcanyoubelieveRyanaskedmetogowithhim?!)

It is unfortunate that I don't have easy access to a prom photo to enhance this post.  (Shockingly, those are not on the short list of things that didn't go to storage this year).

But, scent recognition.

Fabric softener will henceforth take me immediately to the kitchen at the new house, to the girls giggling together in the pack and play (we'll choose to remember that super sweet moment rather than the less picturesque peeling-wallpaper-with-toddler-underfoot afternoons).  It turns out that good ol' Downy (or actually, the store brand) works far better than the stuff they sell at Lowes that is designed to remove wallpaper.  File that little bit of information away, and hope you'll never have to use it.  Because even the "ease" of removing it with the softener is not exactly "easy."

Which is, you can imagine, why I was jumping up and down (yes, literally) last week when this happened:


and the painstakingly slow process of removing the wallpaper (and sometimes the paint underneath) in the kitchen had me awfully overwhelmed thinking about this:

But.  BUT!  (Happy dance here).  The wallpaper is 99% off the stairwell & upstairs hallway.  (Wish we could say the same about the kitchen!)

Two friends offered to come over to help out, and we had reached the point where all that remained in the kitchen required a ladder, and we only have one.  I said, "well, I guess you can try on the stairwell if you really want to," which was met with the (glorious) sound of a full sheet of wallpaper coming off - cleanly, without fabric softener, without water, without a scraper, and without damaging the wall.

We got really excited and told the kids that they were allowed to start ripping, too.

I mostly jumped up and down and repeated "I am so excited!" and took blurry cell-phone pictures for this post. but did pull a sheet or two down for the pure satisfaction.

So easy a two-year old can do it:

So, so exciting.

This accomplishment was a major morale booster in thinking that we can accomplish a reasonable amount of my elaborate to-do list before we move in July.  

You know what else is a major morale booster?  JUSTIN BEING DONE WITH CLASSES!  A few more days of finals/grading, and he is mine, all mine for the summer.  After a semester of 80+ hour work-weeks and little girls asking "is Daddy going to come visit today?" this summer is going to be so, so good.  And wall-paper free.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Everything I've ever wanted

So, house status is solidly in the "it looks (much!) worse before it looks better" stage.  (Don't ever be fooled by the magic of the Internet that makes it seem like "before" goes to "after" in just one tidy snap of a finger.)

Much worse.  But since frequent postings of wallpaper peeling progress would be the Internet equivalent of watching paint dry, I'll switch gears to mom-blog and share some pictures of our lovely little afternoon picnic.  But not before I assure you that the fruit basket border is NOT staying; I just hadn't found the ladder yet at the point of this photo.

It was one of those days, weather wise, where everything seems absolutely perfect.  When I took this shot, I announced that it captured "everything I have ever wanted."  I think it felt all the more sweet because I have recently been doing a lot of thinking and reading about intentional living, and have been keeping a running list of the things that I want my life and our home to be like.  One of the recurring themes is simple joys, the carefree time spent together sharing the beautiful gifts we've been given.  

 I consider our lives at a bit of a crossroads, moving from a (haphazardly utilized and pretty overwhelming) temporary housing situation to our little dream house that very well may be the address where I receive mail from my grand kids.  The transition is a good chance for me to reflect on what I really want and make the space and our routines and decisions reflect that, but the exercise has been so fruitful that I recommend it to everyone, even if you're not in the midst of a huge change.

I kept a notepad on the kitchen counter for a few days with the header "I want our lives/home to be..." and jotted down random ideas as I thought of them.  I found Tsh Oxenrider's books to be inspiring and practical - check out Notes from a Blue Bike and Organized Simplicity.  The theme and content of the two is similar, but the former reads more like a memoir and the latter more like a manual.

Off the soapbox and on to more pictures:

Family photos are exponentially harder with the addition of each child.  These are my two favorites from the series.  Three out of four are smiling.  And the toddler is holding her nose.

Aaand, totally accidental, but perfect hand position from Anna.  

What is your perfect Saturday?  I hope you enjoyed some of it today :)