Monday, December 31, 2012


I guess it's pretty normal to get to this point in the year and reflect on the past twelve months. I feel like the greeting card thing to do is to reminisce about all of the wonderful things that have happened. To list them one by one. And I want to tell you that this has been a year full of adventure, but the truth is that this year has completely exhausted me. This year hurt.

But still, I'm so thankful that it makes my heart swell.

My marriage is as strong as its ever been. The Navy threw us into a bit of a fight or flight situation, you know? But we fought hard and we're better for it. My little boy is healthy and happy and even though I look back on many days in 2012 and feel like I'm looking through a foggy glass, I can always see him and his sweet smile with complete clarity.

And through every high and low, every dark day and bright morning, I can see how closely God walked with us through all of it - whether I acknowledged him or not.

I'm still letting myself think through this all because I know there was a lot of good buried under the hard. But in many ways, I'm ready to put 2012 behind me. I want to take the happy memories and the lessons learned and store it up. I want to shed the rest and move on. With deployment on the horizon, I know that 2013 will be a beast of its own, but if God has used 2012 to teach me anything it's that we've totally got this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

home for christmas

Jack, Rudy and I got to my parents' house around 8pm on Saturday after a long day of driving that went so much better than I expected. Since then, we've been spoiled rotten by way of good cooking and quality time with some of our favorites.

My better half is en route as we speak and we'll be spending the next week with friends and family. After a difficult month, this is what my heart needed. And after the unbelievable events that took place in Newtown on Friday (something I'm still processing, through many questions and tears) I'm acutely aware of how precious this time is.

So I'm holding these moments close, soaking it all up and praying for peace that only a Savior can bring.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

our favorite ornaments

Every year, I underestimate the amount of time it takes to decorate the Christmas tree. We always end up reminiscing over our ornaments - both the ones we brought from our families' trees when we got married and the ones we've collected since then - and it turns into a late-night affair. Usually with James Taylor singing Christmas tunes in the background and hot tea or cider in a mug nearby. I love it.

This year, Andrew suggested that I highlight some of our favorites that we've acquired over the last four years. We try to get ornaments for each other every year and we like to grab one as a souvenir when we travel, so it's a fun walk down memory lane when we open up that tub.

Here are some of our top picks, in no particular order...

Andrew gave me this ornament the first Christmas we were married. He saw me noticing it at The Christmas Show in Charlotte one weekend and he secretly went back to buy it for me when I wasn't looking.

Another one from my sweetie. This was the ornament he got me last Christmas, when we welcomed Jack to our nest.

Speaking of Jack, that picture is from the day he was born - waaaahhh! Andrew's parents picked up this ornament from Cracker Barrel when they went to dinner with my family after leaving the hospital. They slipped that picture in and gave it to us last Christmas.

My mom made this dove out of our wedding program. So sweet.

It's no secret that I left part of my heart in Charleston. A sweet family at our church gave us this ornament when we left to remind us of our friends in Summerville and to let us know that their doors are always open to us. One day, friends! We'll be back!

One of my favorite pictures from our wedding. I put copies into frames for both of our moms the Christmas after we were married and I kept one for our own tree.

We picked this up from the holiday market at Grand Central Station when we went to NYC two years ago. I loved everything about that trip and get all sentimental when I see this ornament.

Another from a favorite trip. We went to Disney World two weeks before Andrew left for OCS. I cried outside Cinderella's castle on the last day because I knew that going home meant he was leaving me soon after. Other than that, it was a nice trip ;)

One of many cross-stitched Christmon ornaments that my Nanny Johnson gave us. These seem to be the ones that Jack is most infatuated with this year. I keep finding them in many places other than the tree.

This was one of the ornaments that my mom passed on to me. I love it because my little brother was obsessed with it and  I can always hear 3-year-old Tyler saying, "Mom, looook. Ain't that cuuuute?'

Andrew's mom gave us this for our first Christmas together. It's a real egg shell! I love how dainty and pretty it is.

This was the first ornament we bought Jack - Santa on a boat, a nod to the coastal town he was born in.

I'm looking forward to having a tree chock-full of ornaments in 20 years. It'll take days to decorate! ;)

What about you? Do you change up your ornaments every year or dust off the same ones each time? Any favorites?

Monday, December 10, 2012

decking our halls

Want to see a little glimpse into our home at Christmastime? Come on in...

My grandmother sent this to Jack after reading this. Now he has his very own Baby Jesus to play with. And by play with, I mean sit in the cup holder of his high chair while he eats breakfast.

Our angel family. My mom and I made these out of paper towels, styrofoam cups and watered down glue.

Cutest salt and pepper shakers ever, right?

I've been trying to get in the Christmas spirit, though not having my honey around makes it harder. But the beautiful tree helps, along with Christmas tunes on Pandora and Jack's jingle jammies.

 Yes. Those definitely help a lot.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

a few kitchen follow-ups: butcher-block counters, $50 backsplash and (not) diy-ing it

This is wordy. You've been warned.


 After I shared my beautiful! new! kitchen! I had a few people comment and email me with some questions, so I thought I'd lay it all out here in case there were other inquiring minds. And if you're wondering about anything else, don't hesitate to ask! 

1. What did (and didn't) you DIY?

This was honestly the biggest question that we wrestled with, but ultimately it came down to maintaining realistic expectations. If Andrew had a normal job where he was home at a decent time every night and had every weekend off, we probably would have tackled the whole thing ourselves. But when we looked at the calendar, there were only a handful of days where he might be able to work on the kitchen before deployment and then he'd be gone for 6+ months. It just made sense to hire it out. There were a few things that we crossed off the contractor's list (I don't need to pay someone $450 to install hardware on the cabinets) but they did most everything else, with the exception of the back splash. A few things we learned/observed:
  • We saved a lot of money by doing the demo ourselves. It was stressful and not very fun, but we knocked it out (pun intended) in a weekend and saved a couple thousand dollars in the process.
  • The counters probably would have been pretty easy to measure and install, as long as you have the right power tools (i.e. table and miter saws).
  • Read over the contract line by line! $450 for hardware installation is ridiculous, considering it took us a total of 30 minutes to drill the holes and install it ourselves. And we're saving around $500 by installing the molding. Things are still slightly unfinished, but it was worth it to us to save that money.
  • Trying to DIY the cabinets would have been a nightmare. Maybe if we would have considered it if we had more time or we weren't working on our primary kitchen, but the amount of precision required really made us thankful that we hired out the help. And we chose a contractor who had experience with IKEA cabinets before, so they knew exactly what they were doing + how to modify the parts to give us a more custom look. For example, they were able to modify some cabinets to give us open shelving and another narrow cabinet for cutting boards on the left side of the stove and microwave to maximize what would have been wasted space.

2. How did you install the back splash?

I mentioned that it was a $50 back splash, including paint. And I love it! I think it's perfect for the kitchen. We bought two sheets of primed bead board paneling, cut it to size and used a brad nailer to install it. You could also use liquid nails, but the brads worked so well that we didn't feel like we needed that. We used a jigsaw to cut holes for the outlets, although Andrew said a simple box cutter would have worked just as well if the blade was sharp enough.

Once Andrew cut the pieces, I painted them before I put it up so I didn't have to get between the counters and cabinets with a roller later. I just touched it up with a brush after it was nailed down. We used quarter round to finish it off - on the bottom where the back splash meets the counter and in one section by the window where the top wasn't hidden by cabinets.

There were a few places where you could sea the seam between two cut pieces and there was a gap between the quarter round and the back splash in some spots, but I just used some standard paintable caulk to fill it in and then painted over it. That worked really well to hide some of the imperfections. And this tutorial was helpful while we were educating ourselves beforehand.

My mother-in-law took a pottery class a few months ago and made that for me. Isn't it beautiful?

3. How do you like the counter tops?

LOVE. I think they're beautiful and perfect for the house and the look we were going for. We went with the NUMERAR Oak from IKEA and used several coats of Watco Butcher Block to seal it. I didn't want to stain it unless I could find a food-safe stain (which I couldn't) and even though several sources recommended Waterlox to be extra, extra sure that it's waterproof, they won't even sell it in Connecticut because the VOCs are so high. Yikes. Plus you have to wait 24 hours between each coat AND it takes a week to fully cure. We didn't have that kind of time, so we went with Watco. In the end, I love how it brought out the richness of the wood and it's working very well.

Full disclosure: I probably wouldn't pick butcher block for my entire kitchen in my forever home. Even though the seal is working just as it should and any water beads up on the surface, I still feel like I need to wipe up any water right away just in case. And even though any scratches can just be sanded out and re-oiled, I don't like that it's not as durable as some of the other options. For this kitchen, it's perfect because it's beautiful and it was super affordable. But even though I'm probably being overly cautious and it would hold up just fine, I want to be able to sit glasses on the counter after clearing the dining room table without worrying about whether or not it's going to leave a ring. I just don't want to think about it, you know? So there's that.

4. How do you like the IKEA cabinets?

This is short and easy: they're my favorite part of the kitchen. The functionality of them, the cleverness of the design that leads to more storage, the look, the price. I love it all. If we ever re-do another kitchen, our first stop will be IKEA.
I think that's it! Phew. Are you still here? Any other questions?

The feedback from you guys was great - I wish I could have all of you here to drink some coffee with me while we stare at my cabinets :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

christmas magic

I sort of knew that I was going to love Christmas this year. We were at Lowes in early November when they had some decorations up and when we walked past the lighted Christmas trees, Jack pointed with his teeny little index finger and said, "oohhh" with the sweetest inflection you can imagine.

He was seeing it for the first time and I kind of felt like I was, too.


He's been good about not messing with the tree at home. There are a few ornaments that he especially likes - A Winnie the Pooh book that opens and closes, the stuffed rabbit that we picked out for Rudy and the Christmon ornaments that my Nanny Johnson made. He's not rough with any of them, he just likes to sit in front of the tree and gently touch them, then he slowly scoots away and goes about his business.

This afternoon, I asked him if he wanted to look at some books and he sorted through his collection until he found The Polar Express and he brought it to me. I'd like to say that we snuggled up on the couch to read, but he's too busy for that. I read while he continued to play, looking up occasionally and coming close only when we got to the page with the wolves, where he always likes to touch each one.

I love seeing him soak this all up for the first time - admiring the ornaments, talking to the nutcracker, asking to read one of my favorite Christmas stories - and it makes me excited to see how differently he reacts each year. It makes me excited to involve him more and do more with him and see more with him. It makes me excited for him to know what it's really all about.

I always though the cheesiest statement of all was one that had anything to do with "seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child" but now I totally get it. And it's kind of the best thing ever.

Monday, December 3, 2012

the hard days

Today was one of those days that made me want to run for the hills. It made me have a great deal of respect for single parents. It made me wish that being in the Navy didn't mean being one. It made me pray, pretty much all day long - for my attitude, for patience, for Jack to stop screaming, for him to take the nap that I knew he needed.

He wasn't being that difficult, but sometimes there are things on your list that don't mesh well with toddlers and today was one of those days. The kind of day where you leave Target with a quivering lip, just hoping you can hold on long enough to get to the car and have a good feel-sorry-for-yourself cry.

After his non-nap and my time on the couch to get it together, we went down to the park. God must know what sunshine and pretty days and the sea do for my soul, because it was 60 degrees and sunny on a day that should have been 45 and damp. I didn't care about the dirt or the sand, because bath time would soon follow. A dear friend met us there and we got lost in conversation about kid stuff and husband stuff and which shows are good to put in your Netflix queue.

I spent a good deal of the day feeling frustrated and impatient and then feeling guilty because I was frustrated and impatient. The cry of mothers everywhere, right? He's a good kid. A sweet kid. I feel thankful every day to have him. He fell asleep in my arms at 5:02pm (no nap, remember?) and I prayed for the rest and healing I need tonight to be better tomorrow. I'm thankful for new mercies in the morning. And I'm thankful that this boy will have the same look of love and delight on his face when he reaches his chubby little hands up for me tomorrow morning as he did today. And yesterday and the morning before.

I'm thankful for morning.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

overheard on a saturday morning

"Don't put the lamb in your mouth."

"Let's be gentle with that shepherd."

"Leave Mary on the table."

"Don't put that donkey in my coffee!"


Needless to say, Mary and Joseph have left the coffee table in search of higher ground.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Christmastime is here. We squeezed as much Christmas spirit as possible into this past weekend since Andrew had to leave soon after Thanksgiving. I sent him off with Christmas tunes on his iPod and pictures of the tree to look at before bed each night. It's a little depressing if I think about that for too long, so let's move on.

Jack has been a bit of a daddy's boy lately. He all but leaps out of my arms when Andrew comes into the room and the other day he sat outside the bathroom door the entire time Andrew was in the shower. He just stared up at the door and waited patiently for him to open it again. Yes, it was as cute as it sounds. He's his daddy's biggest fan and I love that.

 So there was this time when I was doing too much. I pushed myself all day, mostly on house chores and projects, but I was on the go all day long. I felt run down in a big way. Now, my friends, I'm afraid the pendulum has swung in the other direction. I'm embracing this season of rest and down time and relaxed expectations. It feels good.

 It's cold, y'all. We broke out the puffy coats and toboggans this week and it's sort of hilarious how much Jack likes his winter hat. He would wear it all day long if I let him.

Thanks to you fine people, I've kept my mailman busy this week! It's been so fun to have a reason to make something pretty.

I'm going to go heat up a brownie now, scoop on some ice cream and tune into the Hallmark Channel where I'm sure I'll find a mega cheesy Christmas movie that will suck me in in no less than 5 minutes. Tis the season, you know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

my beautiful new kitchen!

I finally got around to taking pictures of our (mostly) finished kitchen and I figured I'd show you before it gets all Christmas-y up in here. But before we get started, let's just take a look at what we had when we got here:

It was teeny. There was no counter space. There were green counter tops. And now...NOW!

Can you believe it? 

The storage! The counter space! The pretty glass-front cabinets!

There are still a few things to do, like add crown molding to finish off the space between the cabinets and the ceiling. I also want to make a window treatment and whiten the grout. New floors aren't in the budget, but I can at least brighten them up a bit. So far, we're loving the butcher block counters. I think they're beautiful and they're holding up very well. And the IKEA cabinets are great. They're so well-made and functional. I would absolutely recommend them.

For the back splash, we spent a total of $50. Beadboard, baby! We just cut the pre-primed paneling to size and painted it in Valspar's Carolina Inn Club Aqua. I love it because it reminds me of Chapel Hill and because it's exactly the color I had in my mind. It's like a smoky blue-green. Perfect.

I'm not lying when I say that I fix my coffee in the morning and just stand there, looking around and smiling. I love it.

Can you believe how far we've come?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

small business saturday // marvelous prints

It's officially the Christmas season, y'all. I have to admit that I was more excited about Jack seeing our decorated tree when he woke up this morning than I am about Christmas morning. He loves to point and ooohhh and aahhh at it, so I have a feeling that this might be my favorite Christmas yet.

But enough about that. I never showed you my Christmas cards! I didn't design very many this year because I was more focused on the blank sets, thank yous, etc. but I really love the ones I do have.

All of the Christmas cards are 4.5x6.25 and are flat, not folded. Just write a little greeting at the bottom and pop them in the mail!

I think these are pretty fun. I actually just dropped an order of these off at a stationery and gift shop in Mystic, so we'll see what the Christmas shoppers think :)

And the designs (for example, the lights in the one above) are cut out of heavy card stock and glued down with a thin, acid-free adhesive that keeps the paper from bubbling up. It's clean and crisp when it dries.

This one is my favorite:

I like that it steps away from the traditional red and green with a little bit of navy. It's also my favorite, favorite Christmas song.

While Etsy seems to be a difficult place to stand out, just because there are so many options, I've had some really neat opportunities with local shops and organizations. I'm still learning a lot and I have some things in mind for next year that I'm really excited about.

In the meantime, want to do a little shopping? Use the code THANKFUL25 from now until Wednesday to get 25% off of your order. And if you order two or more things from the shop, I'll throw in a little extra surprise :)

Head on over to the Etsy shop to get those stocking stuffers crossed off your list. Happy shopping!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...