Dining Room Evolution

>> Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Another post! We got a lot of nice birthday wishes for Eloise -- thank you! But I'd also say after posting this photo, I got a ton of requests to talk more about our updates in the dining room. It's definitely been a while since I've written about what we've changed in the house. And we've changed quite a bit. So, let's get to it.

Back up for just a minute. When we moved in, the dining room looked like this:

Then we changed it to this:

And then this:

Then I decided to go full-on Joanna Gaines.

And I think we're finally done with changes.


Major changes included added the corner cabinet that I found at an antique shop. I had stalked the piece for years, and it finally went on a super sale. It's just the right height for the room. It looks built in, which I love. The room isn't huge, so it's nice to have a place to stash our nicer pieces and tablecloths.

The next step was doing a faux shiplap on the walls using plywood planks. I am actually going to do a dedicated post on how I did this because I consulted a variety of sources, and it was quite a job! I did it all myself, too. We had a guy cut the plywood into six inch planks, but I did all the measuring, nailing, and shorter cuts at home.

After the planks were up, we painted everything using White Dove from Sherwin Williams. I think it's actually a Benjamin Moore color that I had matched at our local store. I hate painting, and if I'm being totally honest -- I think we need another coat in this room. Maybe Stephen will be generous enough to do that for me this summer.

You may also notice that our dining set changed in these photos. It's the same set, but I used chalk paint to refinish the table in white and the chairs in black. I still need to give the chairs another coat and do the polyurethane. But I am really pleased with how the table turned out. I did some distressing . . . and it is holding up well so far.

My kitchen is a disaster right now, but in my post on how I did the shiplap, I'll try to snap a shot of how this room flows into the kitchen. The two spaces are nicely tied into one another now. Again -- after all these changes in the three years since we've moved into this house -- I think I'm done. I really love this room. It's my favorite in our home right now.

PS: If you want to see what our house looked like back in 2015, be sure to check out the photo tour. It's in dire need of updating, so I hope to do that soon! I cannot believe how crazy the living room looks in these photos! I also stumbled upon the tours I did of our first house. Here and here and here.

PPS: That plank wood art piece came from Home Goods several years ago. We have a similar one in our dining room. They were on the more expensive side for what I spend on art, but I think they were well worth it.


Our Week's Meal Plan

>> Monday, June 19, 2017

Do you have a favorite cookbook? I do. Well, I actually have several. I'm a big fan of the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. It's where I learned how to make anything from bagels to ciabatta to English muffins. Lately, I'm digging the Fit-It and Forget-It Vegetarian Cookbook. The recipes are really easy to make, and you can easily search by ingredient to find the ones that will use up what you have in the fridge and pantry.

Anyway, I thought I'd share my meal plan for the week. We started getting our CSA recently, so there will be a great injection of fresh, local produce into our lives. Sometimes I don't know what to do with all of it! But that's part of the fun.

I go back and forth on the going-out-to-eat line in our budget. On one hand, it's an obvious thing to cut out to save money. On the other, going to restaurants is fun. You get to try new things. How I feel about it right now -- today -- is that I'd like to save it for special events. As a result, I've been spending a bit more on our weekly groceries so I can make satisfying meals Monday through Sunday.



Roasted asparagus with BBQ tofu (from the book) sandwiches

Beans + Greens (from the book) and yogurt biscuits.


Veggie burgers with kohlrabi slaw and baked sweet potato fries.


Summer Risotto (from the book) with eggs +  sauteed Swiss chard on the side.


Homemade grilled pizza topped with whatever veggies we're in the mood for.


Coconut yellow curry tofu + veggies with 5-minute naan.


Sloppy lentil Joes with side California Salad (from the book).

Frugal tip:

I have been buying supplemental veggies in the freezer section. I sometimes even get the fancy stuff, like bags of cauliflower rice or marinated mushrooms. (And, yes, I have to go to Wegmans for this a lot of the time. Aldi doesn't have the same cool stuff you'd find at Trader Joe's. You lucky people with Trader Joe's!) While the price point may not seem smart compared to fresh in some instances, I find we actually save money having ingredients on hand that cook up fast versus submitting to takeout.

More good stuff:

What's on your menu this week?


On Influences

>> Friday, June 9, 2017

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining Ada's early kindergarten class on their field trip to the local zoo. After six weeks of almost steady rain showers, the weather has finally cleared and warmed up. I got there a bit late to accommodate Eloise's morning nap and -- after a short jog through half the park -- I finally met up with the kids at the bear exhibit.

Ada greeted me with a squeal and immediately rushed to kiss her baby sister. ("Hey, everyone! Look -- it's MY baby!") What struck me as we walked along the path gawking at peacocks, foxes, and pandas (zoos are weird for me) is that Ada's not just mine anymore. She'd often reach for the class aide's hand to show her something before looking in my direction. She'd eagerly call for her teacher to watch her to do gymnastics move on the playground after lunch as if I didn't exist. She'd even lock arms with her best friends, calling them by cute nicknames and sharing what seemed like budding personal jokes.

My first inclination was to feel slighted. After all, I had just rushed way across town only to sprint up a quarter mile hill pushing a jogging stroller (while wearing a dress!) to spend time with her. She should be looking at me, me, ME.

But I stopped myself sort of that emotion. Truth is, there are many people who are shaping the sweet girl that Ada is becoming. Long gone are those isolated infant days where it was just me . . . and her . . . for hours on end, week after week. I think back to those days often, as I'm currently in that stage with Eloise. It's hard. There's part of me that yearns to be outside this bubble. To drop my tiny one off at preschool and get some much-needed me-time. But this time is actually quite precious in how fleeting it is. I definitely see that now.

From here on out, the influences on Ada's life will only grow bigger in importance. They will help direct her interests and mold her into the woman she will one day become. They will have the power to encourage or even crush her. Stephen and I are definitely top of the list of these people -- there's no denying that. But they'll ever-increasingly be very close seconds.


I got to thinking about influences today when I stumbled upon a news report that my chorus director from grades 5 through 12 has retired this year. I've mentioned on the blog that singing, festivals, and shows were a large part of my childhood. Mrs. Smithgall was always at the center of those performances and excursions. We pecked out notes and practiced rhythms to prepare for so many different concerts.

But it was, of course, more than just that. Singing taught me discipline. Performing gave me confidence. Auditioning for things humbled me. These things still carry me through life all these years later, though now I mostly sing along with my Hamilton CD in the car.

Add to this list my favorite English teacher. She's also retiring this year. I credit Mrs. Higham with more than simply sparking my love for writing. I'll be honest, she terrified me the first year I had her. Before stepping foot into her classroom, I had never really taken my studies seriously. Something compelled me to try honors English. But I would often not read our assigned chapters. I'd expend little effort on assignments. And my teacher would not stand for that sort of nonsense.

Quickly, I cleaned up my act . . . and it carried through to the rest of my classes, too. I went from getting like a 3.2 GPA to a 4.0. I learned that writing was more than some evil punishment. Essays can actually be fun to write. Words are art as much as paintings are photographs are. And -- yup -- I decided to study it in college and make a career of it.


Then I think of Stephen. As a high school English teacher and coach for both cross country and track, he's an influence on far more lives than just the ones in our family. I don't necessarily give him that credit -- at least not like I should. We all influence people in our own ways. It's a difficult job. It sometimes requires long hours. Heck -- it's even a job we often don't realize we're doing if we haven't formalized it with a title.

I could go on, but I'll end my musings here. As I watched the footage of Mrs. Smithgall's last concert, I actually found myself feeling a bit sappy. I remembered the song the kids were singing in the finale quite well -- the "Rhythm of Life". Life surely has a rhythm of sorts, right? It's more than just a clever lyric. Our life's rhythm changes as we age. It picks up pace at times. It has wild crescendos at others. And it's definitely punctuated by the people we surround ourselves with. Take some time today, if you will, to listen back to your own mental track and pick out a few of those beats that have changed you.

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