Monday, August 24, 2015

The First Sightings of Fall

With back to school underway and the month of August almost up, I feel like I'm getting the first glimpse into fall.

Each year, there are a few things that really get me into the autumn spirit. 

1) First and foremost is the return of football season. Unfolding my Cowboys flag and proudly hanging it in front of the house, lets me know fall is in the air. 

2) My September Southern Living arrives. Each September, they have a stunning  apple treat on the front cover. I just love apples (they remind me of my mom and childhood), so this issue in particular, inspires me to grab my apron and head to the kitchen.  

3) Pumpkin spice everything. Yep, you knew this was gonna make the list. This year though, I want to challenge myself to actually make my own pumpkin spice treats- coffee syrup (pictured above), muffins, breads, donut holes, etc. There's just nothing better than homemade. 

4) Pulling out my cute fall clothes. Boots, scarves, skinny jeans, goldenrod, maroon, and deep purple colored tops. I just love the colors of fall when it comes to fashion. By this time of year, I am all too happy to put away the bathing suits and swim coverups. 

5) Fall candles. Apple candles, pumpkin candles, spice candles, you name it, I want it. I stock up at the Yankee Candle Outlet in the summer for wonderful scents to last me through the end of the year. 

What are some of your fun, fall rituals? Is it making a much-loved fall dinner that makes you feel like autumn? Chicken chili anyone? Or is it prepping for game day? Or maybe just a wonderful seasonal cup of coffee. 

Here's to a great start of fall 2015! 

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I heart BirchBox

I am just about to hit my one year with BirchBox, and I LOVE IT! Last October, I saw someone on Instagram post a cute photo of their box, and I was hooked.

In a nutshell, BirchBox is a monthly subscription box for all different sorts of beauty items. Make-up, skin care, hair styling products, and everything in-between, all for just $10 a month!

The products (you get about 5 per month) always feel luxurious and never like too-small trial sizes. Some items I've even used over the course of 6 months! You can download their app and preview your monthly box a few days before it arrives. I love it! It feels new and exciting when I see all my products in the app, and then actually experience them once I get them in the mail. 

I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but each month I find myself getting really excited for my monthly box. Over the past year, I've found myself taking more risks with make-up, trying new products, and taking risks.

Without BirchBox, I probably wouldn't have discovered how fun lipstick is! I loved one of the lipsticks they sent me so much, I ordered a trio set soon after! 

This summer, a few of the girls at work have started their own subscriptions to BirchBox, so that has been super fun. We've all been enjoying trading stories of how we use the different products- what works, what doesn't work, etc. It's made it even more exciting for me, to see them light up about getting their monthly box. 

Overall, BirchBox has been a fun way to treat myself each month. I get awesome hair, make-up, and beauty products delivered right to my door, without having to shop around. I really think it's a fun indulgence for new-moms, workin' ladies, and everyone in-between!

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Vintage Inspired Style

A few weeks ago, I shared on Instagram that I went to a sidewalk sale at a local vintage resale store. I found some pretty cute things, and have been loving wearing them to work or to church, or just out in general. I feel like I have style!

My friend who tipped me off to the sidewalk sale, also gave me some style tips for rocking vintage pieces. Sometimes those funky pieces can feel like you're wearing a costume. One of her biggest tips was to shorten the hem lines of the dresses. Boy, was she right!

I compared the vintage dresses with some current sundresses I had, and the hem line was way different! Thankfully, I was able to hem them all, no problem. Because I'm short, longer hems can really weigh me down, and make me look even shorter.

My girlfriend also tipped me off that large, chunky, platform wedges would really look cute with these vintage dresses. I have to say, I definitely agree! The wedges give me height and make me look polished overall.

I've gone back one other time to the vintage resale clothing store, and have found some fun pieces! A purple velvet fringe vest- umm yes! A peasant top, and this kimono-style dress (below).

Goes perfect with my fringe boots, yes? Still thinking through how I can pull off the purple velvet fringe vest, but I'll be sure to keep you posted!

It's been super fun looking around for unique clothing and style items for my wardrobe. I can't wait for stores to start carrying vintage-style pieces for fall!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Reading Recommendations

Nothing beats a fun summer book, right? I've been reading a lot this summer so far (anything to beat this Florida heat!), so I wanted to share with you some fabulous summer reading recommendations.

I'm definitely no YA book blogger (trust me- there's tons of better reviewers out there than me), but here are just a few I've personally read over the past month or so. Hope you like!

The Selection, by Kiera Cass
Book 1 of 3 (The Selection Series)

"For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined."

What I loved about this book: 
Me and the other ladies at work totally got hooked on this series! I loved seeing the heroine, America, grow up and mature over the series of the three books. She just had a caring heart for so many people throughout the whole story, and wasn't afraid to back down on her values. Although the love triangle can get a little bit annoying, most of that went away with book 3. Some of the girls at work thought they saw some plot points coming, but there were moments where I was both surprised and thrilled with the direction the author took.
Overall: Super fun to read! Very girly, yet still thrilling and exciting!

The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson
Book 1 of 3 (The Remnant Chronicles)

"A princess must find her place in a reborn world. She flees on her wedding day. She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.  She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father. She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love."

What I loved about this book: 
I just absolutely loved the character development in this book, their interactions, timing, and witty banter. The characters were just entertaining. The author switches the point of view in various chapters, so sometimes you would be reading the heroine's thoughts, other times the assassin's thoughts, and then it would switch to the prince. That definitely kept me on my toes! From a romance perspective, this wasn't the steamiest book, but it did have that element of a love triangle. Towards the end of the book, with the last few chapters, I could totally see the author setting up this book for the next one in the series, The Heart of Betrayal, which is comes out next week! Can someone say cliff-hanger?!
Overall: Enthralling! Loved that there was a bit of mystery and magic in this book. Characters seem solid, mature, and well developed.

Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier
Book 1 of 3 (Precious Stone Trilogy)

"Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust."

What I loved about this book: 
I love, love, love time travel books. That's a big element in a lot of adult romance novels, which is more my wheel-house, so I was super intrigued by this book. However, instead of travelling back in time and staying there, the Ruby Red series has Gwyneth and Gideon jumping back and forth between the past and present. They used their time-travelling abilities to uncover secrets and discover how to close the loop of the time travel gene. I loved each of the three books in this series. Book 1 was great because it introduced the characters, and you can see Gwyneth and Gideon start crushing on each other. Book 2 was just absolutely entertaining. You can anticipate the author setting up some of the mysteries for Book 3. And then in Book 3, the author lets you think you know what's going on, but you have no idea! Total shocker in the end!
Overall: Just a really fun read. Loved that there was no love triangle- just one guy and one girl. Loved how the whole story played out. Bonus- they made movies from these books in Germany. Watch them with the English dubs. Adorable!

The Shattered Court, by M. J. Scott
Book 1 of ? (The Four Arts #1)

"The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power."

What I loved about this book: 
Ok, for all the description about "witches", this didn't feel like a super nerdy sci-fi book. It had the magic element, but it wasn't too overpowering for those of us who don't normally read in that vein. Also, this is not a YA book. Sorry! It does have adult scenes, so just fyi. It's a recently released book (April 2015), so there's not much info out there on how many books will be in this series.
Out of all the books on this page, this one was the most dark and adult. I loved the hero, Cameron's, devotion for Sophia. You can tell he cares for her deeply, and I can't wait to see more of that play out in the next book. The author does a great job of creating this whole new world and city of Anglion- it's very intricate and unique. I never felt like I knew what was coming with this book, and her details and descriptions were totally captivating.
Overall: Totally worth picking this one up! I just loved everything about this book- start to finish!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Furniture Finds - Before & After Photos

Around Easter weekend (early April) I found these two furniture pieces left for nothing on the side of the road. One of our neighbors was cleaning things out and just didn't want them anymore. Fortunately for me, she let me take them! I shared some of that experience here.

I've been busy the past few weeks refinishing them and giving them a new life. It was a TON of work, but I think they turned out great!

What do you think?

I painted this piece a slate blue using chalk paint, and distressed it some before sealing. 

We replaced the backing with white bead board, and created two new shelves using stained wood. 

Because all the drawer hardware wasn't there, I had to replace all the pulls. I went with a country-style drawer bin pull. For the secretary knob, unfortunately we couldn't save the lock and lock set. I choose a chunky crystal knob for a girly look. 

And lastly, we feathered in a piece of wood on the bottom left of the trimming that was missing. (See before photo for the missing piece.)

With this 1950's ladies dresser, it was looking really rough. 
Most of it was in parts when I first saw it, so it took a bit of imagination to work on this one. 

After doing research, I realized I wanted to keep that same light cream color for the base of the dresser. I made it my own by staining the wood on top a dark espresso color. 

I kept all the original hardware, just stripped away layers of old gold paint. 

I just absolutely love this piece now. 
Every time I walk past it in our guest bedroom, I am just in awe of the detail and craftsmanship from the '50's. It feels feminine and new now. Gorgeous! 

How do you think they turned out? What would you like to see me refinish next?

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Our Master Bath Remodel: Before & After

This master bathroom has undergone such a transformation, that even two months later, it's still a bit of a shock.

If anything in the house needed to get done, it was this room! We are so grateful to God for providing the means to fix our bathroom. The mold and moisture was so bad, we stopped using it about a month before demo. You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Over the years, I tried to do a couple quick fixes, including removing the shower door and painting. I also revamped the cabinets, like you see in the rest of the house.

Here's two shots of the bathroom right before we moved all our stuff out for demo. 
Ugly and ugly.

The shower is absolutely disgusting. 
There were more close- up photos that made it look worse, 
but I can't even post those for you, it's that bad.

Let's get into some demo photos...

They removed that old shower tile in like 30 mins. It felt so rewarding seeing that go!

Removing the old floor tile, however, did not go as quickly. 
The concrete and grout they used, was on really thick! It took several different jackhammers to remove! 
And then, they found old vinyl flooring underneath! 

Here we are making some progress! Wohoo! 
The floor tile is down and the shower wall tile is coming together nicely! 


After close to a week, we finally had a beautiful working bathroom!

Things I've learned from Bathroom Remodels:

  • Be willing to be flexible. So many components didn't pan out like I had hoped they would during this process. From little things like shower fixtures not fitting with piping, to workers working here on the weekends, my motto was "just go with it". The biggest change was that this master shower was supposed to be a large soaking tub, not a shower stall. (If you want more on that story, ask me in person- it's a heart breaker.)
  • Decide on your design ideas well ahead of time, and don't budge! I had been dreaming and researching ideas for years, before we were ever at a place to have the work done. Once the money was ready, I was ready with my ideas too! Oh, and don't let anyone talk you into something else. The tile guys hated the blue paint in both bathrooms, and very much told me so!
  • Take turns with your spouse with overseeing the work. Being cooped up in the house with workers is just flat-out not fun. It's stressful, it's loud, it's dusty, and they ask you questions every half hour. My advice would be to switch off days, on who's being the contractor for the project and staying home that time. 
  • Remove everything and anything yourself. The more demo you can do on your own, the better. I would only recommend this if you've done it yourself before, or are just feeling really confident. My thoughts on this stem from just knowing that workman want to do the job they were paid for, quickly. They will re-tile over old flooring (especially vinyl) all day long. They're not going to take the time to make sure the sub-floor is as smooth as you would. It's not their house.
  • And... just know that you will be the one "finishing". This part I didn't realize, and was pretty shocked after the fact. I think I mentioned this in my kitchen posting, but basically, just know that there will be other fixes you have to do on your own once the major project is done. Touch up painting from where the wall was nicked, buying new items that got ruined in the process (shower caddy, etc), all those little "edits" will be on you. The biggest fix we had to do after the fact, was adjust the new glass shower door in the master. The workman hung it at an angle, in an effort to quickly finish up and leave for the day. I could have lived with it, or what we did, was take the time to adjust over and over again until it was level. Thank goodness my husband is a patient man! 

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