Thursday, August 27, 2015

around here

doing
- Design work! I’m planning to launch laurarennieinteriors.com in a couple of weeks, and I am bursting at the seams to share it with y’all!
- House updates. We got a gorgeous four-poster bed frame for the basement guest room! For FREE! I also sold some furniture to purchase a new desk for my new office. :) :) :) I’m going to paint this weekend while Andy is off doing fantasy football shenanigans. It’s a good thing I still have a few Undisclosed episodes to listen to!
- Reading outdoors. These crisp mornings and sunny-but-not-sweltering afternoons have been amazing. I’ve been hit with deep sorrow on an almost daily basis and getting outside always boosts my spirits. 
- Barre. What?! I tried it for the first time last week and loved it. I went back this morning and had an awesome “Center Stage” moment while doing glute bridges.

eating
- roasted petite potatoes like it’s my job
- butter lettuce. With roasted potatoes on top. :) And bacon, and fried eggs. My new favorite salad.
- honey bunches of oats with unsweetened almond milk. And roasted potatoes. (Kidding!)

watching
- Project Runway is back!!!!!!
- Playing House on USA is great. It’s our new favorite show.

reading
- I just finished “The Martian” by Andy Weir — have you read it? I have mixed feelings about the movie cast.
- “Anything” by Jennie Allen. Who gave me this book? Whoever you are, thank you.
- “The One Year Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie. I tried to start this devotional after John died, but I gave it up. Then I tried it again after Jane. I’m finally dedicated to having a morning quiet time, and this daily reading plus some Scripture has been manna to my soul.

wishing
- Doritos were vegetables
- For more crisp mornings and sunny afternoons, and that it would be Monday, because that’s when Dunkin Donuts starts selling their pumpkin coffee!!!!!!!!!

What’s going on with you? What are you reading/cooking/watching these days?

Monday, August 10, 2015

my first Stitch Fix



My friend Jackie received a gift card to Stitch Fix last Christmas and has been talking about the service ever since then. (She finally got a box last month.) I'm more likely to try something if someone else tries it first, so I followed suit and decided to give it a try for myself!

Stitch Fix is an online styling service that sends five items picked for you right to your door. (Packages are the best!) You fill out a style profile when you first sign up to let your stylist know what sizes you are and what styles of clothes you like, hate, and want to try. You pay a $20 styling fee for each fix, which is later applied as a credit if you choose to keep anything from your fix. If you keep all five items, you receive 25% off the entire purchase. Return shipping is free and easy. 

Click here if you want to try it yourself!

Stitch Fix sends the items neatly folded and wrapped along with a run-down of item names and prices and tear-off style cards that give you examples of how to wear each item. Your personal stylist will also include a note explaining why she picked each item for you. It's a really nice touch!

I knew if I took pics with my Nikon that I’d be really picky about the background and I’d want to edit them and I’d put stupid pressure on myself, so I decided to snap pics with my phone instead. I am a super awkward selfie-taker. Also, I'm clearly in a bathroom. #keepingitreal

Here we go!


Market & Spruce Sam Hi-Lo Short Sleeved Tee, Gray - $44
love this top! It fit perfectly, the hi-lo isn't too drastic and it’s incredibly soft. Unfortunately, it's a little bit sheer, and it's not quite special enough for me to spend $44. Regretfully returning!


Just Black Rogers Distressed Boyfriend Jean - $78
These fit me like skinny jeans - not at ALL like boyfriend jeans. Regardless, I liked the fit everywhere except the knee. The material was noticeably loose in the knee area, and that would be a problem for me. I also didn't love the distressed detail on the top part of the jeans. But, I was impressed that they fit well (other than the knee area), considering how hard of a time I normally have when it comes to finding pants that fit. Returning.


Market & Spruce Corinna Striped Dolman Top, Navy - $48
Stripes. Dolman Sleeves. Navy. These are a few of my favorite things. I am on the fence about this one! It’s GREAT and I’m willing to pay for it, but I have several similar tops. Update - sold this item to a girl who returned hers and regretted it. 


Levant Wavy Laser-Cut Earrings - $28
I asked for medium-sized gold earrings, and my stylist delivered. Unfortunately, the wavy texture was a bit too funky for me. Returning!


Pixley Kathy Striped Fit & Flare Dress - $68
I fell in love with this dress when I saw it on another girl's blog. I had a hunch it would fit my body type well, and I was right! It fits like a glove, and I feel great in it. I already own a 3/4-sleeve striped fit and flare dress from GAP, but I don't care... this one I'm KEEPING!!!! (Knowing the dress will be $48 with my credit made this an easy decision for me.) I may never take this dress off. 

----

I was grateful to receive lots of advice from Jackie on how to get a successful "fix." I was as specific as possible when filling out information about my body type and style preferences. I also provided my stylist with a link to a Pinterest board containing images of clothes I like. I even included a few pictures of myself.

What I didn’t like about my first Stitch Fix
I was really hoping to see a fun sleeveless top in my fix. I pinned a bunch of different ones I liked, so I was surprised not to see one. HOWEVER...

What I did like about my first Stitch Fix
I was overall thrilled with my first fix. My stylist clearly took the time to read through my notes and look at my Pinterest board. ALL of the clothing items I received were ones I had pinned! Some people don’t love their first fixes because their stylist is still getting to know them. I’m glad I took the time to give my stylist a lot of information about myself. My stylist played it safe by giving me items I specifically said I liked, and I think that was the right way to go.

This post contains referral links. If you sign up for Stitch Fix using my referral link, I will receive a $25 credit to use toward future purchases. (Please use the referral! If you accidentally skip the referral section, you can still get me the credit by sending my email address and name to the customer service email. Id love to try Stitch Fix again! Make sure to read this post about how to get your best fix.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

God’s real love in my real suffering


our precious baby John

Each night at VBS this week we’ve focused on a characteristic of God’s love: incredible, faithful, invincible, unconditional and real.

Last night the 4th and 5th grade girls in my group learned about the realness of God’s love. Both their craft-time and Bible-time teachers asked the girls if they could give examples from their own life of how we know God is real (even thought we cannot see Him). Several girls had stories to share, and they all went something like this:

My cousin’s baby had a hole in his heart but everyone prayed and now that baby is eleven.
My mom’s stepsister’s baby was sick before it was born and it was really scary but she’s okay now.
My sister’s extension umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and she almost didn’t live, but she did.

Goodness, was it ever tough to sit there and hear those stories.

When the doctor listed off everything that was wrong with John, it made sense that he would die. But I believed God could make John whole. I believed (and still believe) God could have done some crazy heavenly fetal surgery and the doctors would have been speechless, and I could have gone on to birth a healthy, living baby, and people around the world who had been praying for us would have been able to point to John as an example of God’s love. He could have healed John, but He didn’t.

When I became pregnant with Jane, I battled fear constantly and I prayed constantly. I believed God was blessing us with a life after our loss. I believed God would rejoice in giving us a healthy baby, and I prayed that He would. He could have, but He didn’t.

God didn’t show His love to me by giving me what I prayed for. The evidence of God’s real love in my life does not look like what I thought it would (but it is still there). There have been many dark days when the choice to recall to mind God’s love and goodness has felt excruciating, but I HAVE that choice because His love IS real.

"I cry out, “My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”

The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

-Lamentations 3:18-23

We need these stories of real love during real suffering.
We need to remember God’s realness isn’t only found in “success stories” and prayers answered “yes.” We can experience God’s love throughout our times of trial — not just when the trial is over.

My story is not "God is real! He healed my babies."
My story is "God is real! He is healing me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

what I buy at Costco and Trader Joe’s

I know I can’t be the only one who is curious about how other people live — whether it’s how they schedule their day, what makeup they wear, what TV shows they watch, etc. I’m sharing what I buy at Costco and Trader Joe’s because I’m hoping you’ll tell me what one (or five, or ten) thing is missing from my list that I absolutely must try.

I do most of my shopping at Giant Eagle, which is close enough to our house that I occasionally walk there. I usually go two times a week, for around 5-20 minutes of actual shopping time. I write my list according to where things are in the store. I always use a basket when I’m doing my weekly shopping. It helps me to stick to my list, and I move faster when I’m desperate to relieve my tired arm! Plus, I have enough items in my pantry and freezer that I tend to only need produce, meat and dairy products.

A sample shopping list might look like: salad, green beans, bag of baby potatoes, an onion, apples, grapes, deli meat, chicken breasts, milk, eggs, cheese.

Costco and Trader Joe’s build up my pantry and freezer.

Costco

I don’t go to Costco very often, since there are only two of us. (I’m grateful to have a free membership through my dad’s company.) I store the bulk items in our laundry room and I freeze whatever bread products we aren’t using that week. 


I mostly go for specific food items, but I occasionally browse the center area and the small kitchen appliances section. I’ve bought socks, flip flops, towels, a rice cooker, splatter screens, a beach chair...and maybe two or three times a year I’ll stock up on movie passes, toothbrushes, shampoo, and baking goods (I love their bulk spices and salt and pepper grinders.) These are the things I most consistently purchase:
  • naan
  • rotisserie chicken
  • frozen meatballs
  • paper products (tissues, TP and paper towels)
  • dog treats
  • black beans
  • tomato sauce
  • Kirkland tuna
  • rice 
  • coffee

Trader Joe’s

Our closest TJ’s is about 25 minutes away, but I’ve actually never been to it! I always go to the one in Springfield, VA, which is right by my parent’s house. I’m there every two months or so.
What else should I try? 

Friday, July 10, 2015

cabin weekend and homemade thyme rolls

Last Friday we met my parents at the cabin for the weekend. I made chicken tikka masala for dinner and we read, played Pinochle and watched “Big Hero 6.” The temperature dropped to the low sixties and we had the windows open when we went to bed. It was gloriously chilly. I woke up to the sound of rain and Andy’s soft snoring, and I burrowed back under a quilt and fell back asleep.

The cabin is my very favorite place to sleep in.

Sometimes, if you’re very good, your mom or dad will creep up the stairs and bring you a little “taster” of bacon. And if you like, you can take a mug of coffee into bed with you and spend the morning reading and staring out the window.

Once you’re finally out of bed, you can read on the screened-in porch for a bit. You can have a snack, then climb in the clawfoot tub and read some more. And if your nightmare comes true and you realize you didn’t bring enough books, you can dip into the basket of James Herriot books and old Martha Stewart Living magazines that permanently reside next to the couch.



CAN I JUST LIVE THERE, PLEASE?

As lovely as summertime is, it’s a bit sucky that I finally got over the hump of Jane’s anniversary only to face another anniversary: the death of our son, John. Two years on Monday. Blegh. It’s frustrating to be in a complete state of bliss and then suddenly crying, or simply feeling blue. A few days ago my body started freaking out. I was dry heaving, my head was killing me and the area around my incision was hurting. (It rarely ever hurts anymore.) It’s amazing how our bodies react to stress and pain.

A lesson on grief: there will, eventually, be good days. Followed by hard days. Followed by numb days.

This week has flown by. I’ve been spending hours each day working on my first paid design job (!!!), catching up on lessons and assignments for my design class and trying (but failing) to keep the house in order. I’m having one of those seasons of being completely uninspired in the kitchen, but Andy is usually able to get me out of my rut by suggesting I try to copycat a dish we’ve had at a restaurant. (Like Old Bay wings.) On Wednesday Andy cooked me up a fabulous ribeye that he seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. He remembered a restaurant we went to in Culpeper, VA, back when we thought we were going to move there. The restaurant, called “It’s About Thyme,” had rolls with...you guessed it...thyme!

how many times (get it?) am I going to write the word ‘thyme’ AHHHHH I need more coffee.

ANYWAY, long story short, I made homemade thyme rolls last night! I hardly ever bake, so I was thrilled when the rolls came out looking just like they do in the picture. They were incredible! I cut the recipe in half, because I knew we were going to eat all of the rolls that night. You can’t not eat all the bread when it’s hot out of the oven!

No-Knead Thyme Dinner Rolls from Alexandra Cooks
I served the rolls with heated up tomato and roasted red pepper soup from Trader Joe’s and a salad with goat cheese, walnuts and dried cherries. I would be perfectly content to have that meal every week!

I'm working on a post of my favorite things to buy from Trader Joe’s and Costco. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

around here

While I’ve had my fair share of hard days over the past two weeks, I’ve also made some fun memories and taken every opportunity I can to breathe deep and let myself be. To push the constant stream of “this time last year” thoughts to the back of my head and choose to focus on whatever is in front of me: a good book, a patch of sun, a furry pup, an article I need to turn in.

Two weekends ago my sisters and I tried on mom’s dresses from when she was in her late teens/early twenties. We did a little impromptu fashion show for my parents. I actually wore that dress with the animal print skirt to one of my bridal showers!



Doesn’t the pink and gold dress look so Betty Draper? I really hope I have an event I can wear that dress to someday.

I also went to yoga in the park for the first time, bought new running shoes (that I actually run in, whaaat who am I), enjoyed a sweet sibling dinner date with my brother, started an online interior design course, read two books (“The Likeness” and “The Last Letter From Your Lover”), hosted some friends for brunch, participated in a team trivia night for the first time and went on a date with my guy.

A few weeks ago I thought about throwing out all of the cards people sent after John and Jane died. I’ll never read them again, I thought. They’re just taking up space. But something made me wait. A few days ago, on the anniversary of the day I held my stillborn Janie Lou, I took out my “Jane” box and read through every single note. It was a bittersweet activity, and by the end of it I was completely wrecked from crying. I’m glad I did it, though.

This weekend we have a combined cookout with our small group and our old small group, and then Sunday we’re heading to Winchester to hang out with dear friends visiting from Florida and Andy’s family.  I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

beach trip ‘15

I broke my two-month break from fast food with breakfast from Taco Bell on our drive to the Outer Banks. And I liked it.

from Twiddy’s website
Last week we headed to Corolla, N.C. to spend the week with my family — my parents, my older sister Katie and her husband Todd, and my older brother John-Michael and his wife Sky. JM and Sky live in South Korea and we usually only see them once a year. I loved chatting on the beach with Sky and screaming “it’s a big one!” with my brother as we ducked under waves like we did when we were kids.

We also had the pups with us — our dog, Casey, and my parent’s dog, Ellie. They happily spent the week chasing sand crabs, kissing squealing children, running into the water and flopping down under the umbrella for a snooze.




My little companion. I love her so!

I re-discovered my love for tennis last week. I don’t remember playing legit tennis since I took lessons when I was twelve. Our house was steps away from a tennis court, and we all had a blast hitting around and playing doubles. We laughed over how one of our rackets is so old it was made in West Germany!

Andy told me on the drive down that he was going to take me out one evening for a date. We went to The Crafty Cow for dinner (Jeopardy was on!) and played mini golf afterwards. I’m still thinking about the loaded tots we had... they had grits on them, of all things! But they were fabulous.

I was pregnant with Jane when we were at the beach last year, and the week after our vacation was when she died. I was understandably a little nervous about how I’d do on vacation this year, considering. I set as much of my grief aside as I could and chose to focus on the many blessings I do have. Now that I’m home, much of what I pushed deep down has come up and I know I have to let myself process these feelings, as painful as they are. There really isn’t an easy time of year anymore, because every season is tied up with different emotions and memories, but summer is especially hard.

God has answered and continues to answer my prayers for moments of relief from my sorrow. I’m grateful our beach trip was one I truly enjoyed, and that the following months hold cookouts, reunions with dear friends, new design projects and lots of summer reading.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

the decision to be faithful

I’m torn between two very strong feelings: that God is calling me to shine a light on my grief (however ugly it is) and that it hurts too much to sit and dwell and reflect and re-hash.

A month or so ago I listened to a sermon by Andy Stanley, and he said something I can’t get out of my head. He said, "You have no idea what or who hangs in the balance of your decision to remain faithful when everything around you says "Be faithless." You have no idea what God might be up to through your faithfulness when everything around you says, 'There's no point...

Then, a few days ago, I listened to a sermon by my sister-in-law about God’s purpose for us and why we need to embrace the gifts He has given us. She talks about our place in the body of Christ — how we might think of our role as unimportant, but that truly the body is made stronger and better when we take our role seriously and use it to serve Christ and others. She said, "It’s the enemy’s greatest fear that you guys are walking in the plans that God has for your life.”

Do you think God might be trying to tell me something?

Part of the struggle with sharing my grief is that I don’t want to be that person who is allowed to suffer so that her suffering might be used for God’s glory. I don’t want losing two babies so I can witness to others to be God’s plan for my life. You might think that’s fair, or you might think I’m being terribly selfish or terribly un-Christian. But the thing is, now that it’s happened (my losses), I DO want to bring God glory through my suffering and how I choose to share about my grief. I just wish the losses had never happened in the first place. I wish there was some guarantee that my grief is over — that I won’t lose anything else. I thought John was it, and then I lost Jane. The fear doesn’t come from what’s already happened as much as from wondering if this is my lot. I wonder what else I will be asked to give, or how long I will be asked to wait.

I wonder what hangs in the balance of my decision to be faithful.

I wonder what being faithful is supposed to look like for me. Does it look like telling the story of my hurting, slowly healing heart, even though I desperately wish I didn’t have this story to tell? Does it look like listing out my sufferings like Paul, so I can point to the list and say, Hey, all these terrible things happened to me. Did you hear me the first time? I’ll tell you again. I suffered. I suffered. I suffered. One thing has never changed: God is present, God is good and God is working in my life.

I had a great Saturday. I started the day off with a run (!!!), attended a “packing party” where I ate delicious scones and coffee and boxed a million DVDs while chatting with a friend, snuggled my pup and read a good book on the deck. I took a fabulous shower and was excited about our plans to go out that evening with a group of friends. I started to dry my hair, and then, out of the blue, I started sobbing. Loud, gasping sobs. I grabbed a pillow and screamed into it, laying sideways across the bed and thinking, whaaaat the heck?

It’s simply always there. The cost of being sad all the time is that it’s miserable to be sad all the time. The cost of setting grief aside for a bit is that it eventually bubbles out of you and you do yourself a disservice by not letting yourself feel.

I miss them.

I gave myself five minutes to cry. Then, I pulled it together, put on my makeup and went to dinner. I had a wonderful time. I can look back on that day and think, the old Laura is coming back. I can see the “new” Laura is present in the story, too... the Laura who cries out of the blue sometimes, who misses her babies and often feels very alone. The Laura who would really like for God to send a baby to her doorstep, preferably with a note that says, John and Jane are waiting for you. Here is a little one to hold. You get to keep this one.

The Laura who never thought the decision to be faithful would look like this.

design by Mary Hairston
get the free printable HERE


Friday, May 22, 2015

Laurel’s guest room makeover

Earlier this week I headed to Bel Air, Maryland, to visit my closest friend. Laurel and I have known each other since middle school, and she is one of my greatest cheerleaders. Most recently, she has encouraged me to pursue my dream of having a side business as an interior decorator. She invited me to visit her new home and do a makeover of her guest room. How sweet is she? 

Laurel described her guest room as a bland-looking space with a hodgepodge of various pieces of furniture. I was given a budget of $225 (though she preferred I stay closer to $200) and full freedom to decorate how I liked. She already knew she wanted to reupholster the chair and asked for my help with picking a fabric. She told me she wanted the room to feel welcoming and cozy, with a place for guests to set down their bags. She also hoped to see a pop of color somewhere in the space.

Please excuse my not-so-great phone pictures. I can’t believe I forgot my DSLR! :(
Here’s what the room looked like before:




And here’s what it looked like a day later:



What a difference!

In case you can’t tell from the pictures, there is just over a foot of space on either side of the bed, and several feet of space between the end of the bed and the closet. My very first suggestion was to remove the trunk at the end of the bed. The trunk is truly great, but it was too deep for the space. While I love mixing up styles, it was too different in style from the bed. Laurel agreed that it wasn’t the best fit, but she really wanted a surface for guests to set down their things. I walked around her house to try to find a different piece of furniture. Thankfully, she had a bench that was the perfect length and depth for the foot of the bed! We swapped the trunk for the bench right away and the room already looked better. 

The pale yellow wall color is very fresh in person and I had a hunch we could make it work. Laurel can always paint in the future. The bookshelf looked a bit plain in the pictures Laurel sent me, but once I saw it in person I could see it’s a beautifully made antique piece, and the wood is too pretty to paint!

I suggested we try the following: a colorful patterned bedspread with white curtains, or colorful curtains with the existing white bedspread and a few fun accent pillows. I was originally leaning towards colorful curtains, but Laurel said she’d ideally move the white bedspread to her own bed. Our direction was decided upon pretty quickly when Laurel fell in love with a blue quilt on our first shopping trip to Target. (Funnily enough, I have the same quilt in yellow.) We found curtains we loved, but they weren’t in stock. We left Target having spent just over half of the budget (quilt, shams, accent pillow and faux plant.) I still wanted to pick up curtains, a nightstand, a lampshade and a piece of framed art, but we didn’t have a ton of money left over. I also didn’t love the accent pillow we had picked up from Target. We went to Home Goods next and I immediately spotted the PERFECT pillow. I also found a great little accent table at Home Goods. It was the right size, shape and color for the space, and it was only $40! (Accent tables at Target were $60+.) We picked up a couple baskets to try on her bookshelf and eyed the framed art section. No luck on art! We also tried Kohls for art, but again — no luck. 

We called it a day and went back to Laurel’s to have dinner. We played around with our new purchases and discovered we liked the look of the quilt without the shams. Not buying shams opened up more room in our budget, which made me very happy!

The next morning we went to a different Target and picked up the curtains we had wanted, a third storage bin for the bench, and a curtain rod and lampshade. We peeked at Ross for art, but didn’t find anything we loved. At that point getting art was last priority. We actually didn’t have room in the budget for art. We would have only picked something up to show what Laurel could do in the future. We went to Walmart for fabric and decided to see if they had better prices on a similar looking curtain rod and lampshade. They did! YAY! I also spotted an inexpensive owl vase that I thought would look great on Laurel’s bookshelf, since it’s very close in color to the blue quilt.

Back at the house, Laurel worked on installing the curtain rod while I styled the bookshelves. I used the new vase and basket along with books and and a sewing box Laurel already owned. I had brought along one of my mirrors to use in her room and offered to sell it to her at a fair price. I wish we could have hung the mirror lower, but then no one would be able to actually use it! (If you love the mirror, the T.J. Maxx in Frederick is selling that exact one for $20. Mine is from Target several years ago.)

Here are a few more pictures of the updated room:


The top print says, “Be our guest” and the second says, “Welcome, the wifi password is ...”
(The room looks blue because this photo was taken at night, when the only light was from the lamp.)

Remember, this is how it looked before: 


and now:

Those curtains! That lampshade! And that little faux plant! Eee! :)

Laurel already owned the two gray storage bins. We bought another, but accidentally grabbed the wrong size. We would have hit her max budget if we had bought the bin, though. We agreed it wasn’t necessary and she can always add one in the future.


Laurel wasn’t sure about this table when I picked it out, but she was willing to try it. I’m glad she fell in love with it, because I think it’s absolutely perfect.


The white fabric I picked for the chair has a gorgeous weave. I know white is risky for stains, but it looks awesome against the wood and Laurel can easily Scotchguard the fabric.


Notice how nice our purses look on top of the bookcase? Haha.


I adore that accent pillow. Laurel was outside of the store when I found it, and it was really fun to see the look on her face when she walked in and saw me holding it up. It was love at first sight. :)

The photos truly don’t do the room justice. It was a pleasant room to be in before, but it lacked personality. I loved how the original white bedspread brightened up the space, so I’m glad we went with white fabric for the chair and used all white pillows (as well as mostly white curtains). The gray lampshade is much fresher looking than the old one, and it adds subtle color and texture.

Laurel has a beautiful front board from an upright piano that she mentioned could be used in the room as art. I LOVE that idea! I suggest painting it white with milk paint and giving it a slightly distressed look. (Like this and this.) The color of the front board is too similar to the wall color in daylight. The little ledge could be used to lean pictures against, but I think the piece is gorgeous just the way it is.


How the budget was spent:

Target quilt - $60 (on sale)
Target curtains - $48 for 2 panels (on sale)
Home Goods accent table - $40
Walmart lampshade - $15
Walmart curtain rod - $12.50 (cheaper in store)
Walmart owl vase - $10
Target mirror - $10 (no longer sold in stores or online)
Home Goods Basket - $6
Target faux plant - $3 (from the dollar bin section!)
Walmart fabric (for chair) - $3
=$207.50

I happened to visit Laurel on her birthday. My gift to her was the white accent pillow from Home Goods. It was a good price for a large and well-made pillow. I wish I had bought one for myself!

Here’s what Laurel has to say about her room’s new look: I completely adore it! The transformation is amazing to me. It went from being very plain to inviting, fresh, and pulled-together in no time! My absolute favorite is the curtains she picked out and how she hung them. They really add interest to the room and help mask the fact that the window is off-centered. I was a little unsure of the wooden side table at first when she picked it out at Home Goods. I wasn't sure it would go well in the space, but once I saw it next to the bed, I fell in love. It's the perfect little table for that corner! Laura made the space exactly what I wanted. I can't wait to have my first guest come to stay! 

Which change or new addition do you like best? I love it all (duh), but I think the biggest wow comes from swapping out the curtain rod and curtain.

Laurel, thank you for encouraging my dream and for trusting me with your guest room!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

styling shelves: how to

This is the post several of you have asked for! Today I’m sharing five tips to get you started on styling your shelves.

1. Look for inspiration and determine your vision
Pinterest is an obvious (and great) source of inspiration. I also like to look at store catalogs, design books, interior designer blogs and magazines/online mags, such as Elle Decor, Lonny and Better Homes and Gardens. I knew very little about decorating when I got married and our first big furniture purchase (Sloane leaning shelves and desk from Crate & Barrel) overwhelmed me. I looked at the C&B catalog to see how they styled the shelves, and that’s where I stole got the idea of hanging art over the desk space.


Oh, and I totally copied someone else’s gorgeous shelves when drawing up plans for our den shelves. There’s no shame in my game!

Check out a variety of bookshelf styling ideas all in one post here.

When it comes to creating a vision, think about what you want the shelves to be used for and what you’re hoping they’ll look like. Do you want them to look airy and bright? Crowded and colorful? Do you want to display mostly decorative accents, storage solutions, books or a mix of all three? My top priorities when setting up the den shelves were displaying lots of books and my various brass decor items.


2. Gather items (keeping dimensions in mind) and start with the big stuff
It’s time to get all of your stuff together in one spot! Try going around your house and “shopping” the various rooms for items you could put on your shelves. Don’t forget to only grab items that work with the dimensions of your shelves.

Getting started can be the most overwhelming part. I recommend putting big items up first (including large storage pieces). Play around with left, right and center alignment. For my den shelves, I first put up the antelope bookends, armillary sphere, large framed picture and magnifying glass stand.

3. Add in books and smaller items
Next, add your books. There are lots of options here — stack them horizontally and vertically, lean them against something, group them by color... I recommend trying a little bit of everything! Then add in all of your smaller decorative objects. Try grouping like items together, such as a trio of bud vases or a pair of framed pictures. Make sure to put your most unique accents around eye level or slightly above.

4. Evaluate scale and finish/texture
Scale refers to the height of an object in relation to another object (or person). See the four items in the very middle of my den shelves? They all vary in height, but I have two relatively large items and two relatively small. My sketches for Jessica’s built-ins show more examples of how to use scale in design.

Aim for a variety of finishes and textures throughout your shelves. On my leaning shelves I have a leather magazine bin, a textured box, a vintage fan, white textured birds, a pitcher, a plant, a metal oversized initial, a wooden bird, silver frame and porcelain bowls. It all works because it draws from a mostly neutral color palette.

You’ll notice from looking at inspiration photos that some people totally stuff their shelves and others have a lot of white space. I personally think SOME white space is necessary, because it gives your eyes a break.

styling by Emily Henderson - photo by Ryan Liebe
I like how the white walls, white brackets and white shelves help keep the unit pictured above from being overwhelming. Notice there is a mix of tall and short items, plus a mix of finishes. I want that lamp.

5. Edit one more time!
Once you’re done, take a picture — then switch the placement of a few of your pieces. Take another picture and see which one you like better. Now take something off of the shelves, and take another picture. Go through the pictures and imagine you’re looking at them in a magazine. Which picture appeals to you the most? Sometimes simply moving (or removing) one thing will make a big difference.

I have a trio of miniature wooden bowling pins that I really wanted to display on our den shelves. I kept moving them from shelf to shelf, seeing how they looked. They’re adorable, but for some reason they didn’t look great on the shelves. Seeing the way they looked in a picture versus in person helped me make the decision to nix them completely.

If you’re still stuck, who you gonna call?

(The answer is me. Not Ghostbusters.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

styling shelves: Jessica’s built-ins

contest update -- Caitlin won! thank you for entering!

I’m excited to share with you the first post in a series I’ll be doing on styling shelves! To kick off the series, we’re going to peek into the home of my friend Jessica. Jessica lives in a ranch-style home in Suffolk, Virginia, and has a gorgeous wall of built-ins in her family room. She sweetly asked for my advice on how I’d decorate them, and out of her request a blog series was born!

Here are those swoon-worthy built-ins:


The cabinets are being used to store DVDs, games and toys, and it’s time the upper shelves got put to work, too! She wants to use the built-ins as a space to display family photos, books and decorative accents, and would love to see some nods to Scotland, where she and Matt spent their honeymoon. She describes her decorating style as “relaxed, warm, lived-in coastal cottage.” Her favorite colors are earth tones. 

As much as I love a great vase or kooky decor item, I wanted to make sure I was also bringing in some pieces that will have a practical purpose. Baskets and boxes can store small toys, crayons, handwritten notes, loose photos, stamps and envelopes... the list goes on. I also imagined that some of the shelves could display pretty dining pieces, like a serving platter, cutting board or set of glasses. Below I share some of my favorite finds -- but as much as I love them, I see them more as a jumping-off point. I’m all about finding a bargain or waiting for a sale, and I tend to space out my “big” purchases. It’s worth looking at the home section of Goodwill, Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Michaels, Hobby Lobby... even Craigslist!


clockwise from top left: Scoop Ball Set (hide the ball in a cabinet) - $39.95 / Infusions Decanter - $1.97 / Amuse Serve Board - $19.95 / Kiwi Bird - $29.95 / Mini Heirloom Watering Can - $18 / Nate Berkus Snail Placecard Holder set (just for decoration) - $7.99 / Asst. of Three Essential Book Boxes, Navy - $29 / Whale Bookends - $45 / Mae Bud Vases - $5.97-7.97 ($20.91 for the set) / Blackwash Rattan Bin - $25 / Chalkboard - $12.99 / 4 inch Terra Cotta Clay Pot - $0.78 each (plus $0.77 for saucer) / Terra Cotta Vases (set of 4) - $27.99 / Rope Lantern - $15 / Navy Bisgo Marten Paper Drawers - $26.99 / Gold Quatrefoil Hurricane - $19.96 (but I found it at Marshalls for $12.99!) / Yuzu and Sea Salt Mason Soy candle - $14.49 (or buy pillar candle for hurricane - p.s. I have this candle and it’s amazing) / Clarus House Box - $34.97 / Blair Tall Vase - $6.97 / Glasgow Heart Print - $18 / Leone Blue Pitcher - $6.97 / Wood houses - $6.97-11.97 ($28.91 for the set)

Other potential items, not pictured: metal sphere, artisan botanical object, and of course, Jessica will want to find frames she likes to display family picks. For grouped frames, I’d suggest thin black frames with a white mat. For single frames to display throughout the shelves, she could do something that would give more of a statement, like this. I also bought Jessica two bowls — one brass, and one amber glass. They’re perfect for placing on top of a stack of books. (Also, I’d pick one of the two sets of bud vases pictured above. I chose to work with the set of four when I drew out plans.)

My top picks: Everything! But if I had to choose only three things, I’d go with the whale bookends, gold snails and the set of wooden houses. That kiwi bird is rather fabulous, too.

Please excuse my smudge-y and terrible drawn ideas for how Jess could style her shelves. I’m no artist! Also, I apparently don’t know how to properly scan paper. This is my first time doing this, people. Let’s play the game “guess what decor item Laura was trying to draw.” Try not to look at my watering cans and whales too closely. :)

Option one:


Whoops, I forgot the snails! I’d put them on the far left, second shelf up, in front of the vase. I put the set of wooden houses on the shelf above the entry. The far right top shelf decor item is an imagined low basket with bowl fillers, like theseHere’s a DIY for those triangle bookends. The two rectangles on the middle far left shelf are the rattan baskets. This option doesn’t have the kiwi bird, and has a potted plant on the bottom middle shelf.

Option 2:

For this option, I have a set of decorative plates on display above the entry. I have the snails (terribly drawn, lol) in front of the set of three plants.

Phew! Are you still here? I had so much fun with this project, and I can’t wait to get started on my next one! Jessica, thank you so much for encouraging my love for decorating and for giving me the opportunity to play with your built-ins.

Fun news: I’m doing a giveaway for a free design consultation! We will discuss a room or area in your house that you’re struggling to decorate, and we can communicate through Skype, e-mail...however you want! I can offer you the same service I gave Jessica, or tailor my service to your needs.

To enter: leave a comment below or on Facebook and include the phrase “I want to win!” Contest ends Friday, May 8th at midnight.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Laura’s chicken over rice and beans

There are two types of cooks: those who prefer to follow a recipe, and those who like to wing it. I prefer to wing it — which is probably why I prefer cooking over baking. (I can never keep track of how many cups or tablespoons I’ve put into the mixing bowl!)

This meal isn’t very original, but it’s good. Really, that’s all that matters! As with most of my recipes, you can make substitutions or additions to suit your preferences. Use pinto beans, shrimp or steak, whatever veggies you want...this is one of those fabulous meals that comes together with only a few staple ingredients.

The other night I was looking through our almost-bare fridge and trying to figure out how to pull a complete meal together from the various odds and ends. I ended up with this dish, which I knew we’d enjoy because we love all of the ingredients and flavors. Andy liked it so much that he requested I make it once a week! 

I use a rice cooker and cook my beans and rice together. I use 2.5 cups of water in the rice cooker and use the “quick rice” setting, which took about 45 minutes. If you don’t have a rice cooker, use whatever method you like to cook the rice and beans. I would suggest quick rice in the microwave and heating up the beans after! 

To reheat leftovers, sprinkle some water over the dish to add moisture to the rice. Heat the meal in a covered skillet over medium heat for about five minutes, or in a covered bowl in the microwave for about two minutes.

Laura’s chicken over rice and beans
makes 4 servings
inactive time is based on method of cooking
active time, including prep, is around 20 minutes
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 chicken boiullon cube or “better than bouillon” equivalent 
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 or one whole bell pepper, diced (any variety will do)
  • 2 chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces (if the breasts are really large, use one and a half.)
  • ½ tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, DIVIDED
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • optional: 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1. Cook the rice and beans. If cooking them together in a rice cooker, add the bouillon, ½ tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper and cilantro. If cooking separately, cook the RICE with the bouillon, salt and pepper and cook the BEANS with ½ tsp garlic powder. Add the cilantro after rice and beans are done (if cooking separately).

2. While the rice and beans are cooking, heat a TBSP of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and pepper and let them cook, stirring occasionally.

3. While the onion and pepper is cooking, season your chicken pieces with the onion powder, remaining garlic powder, cumin and a dash of salt and pepper.

4. Scoot the onion and pepper pieces to the edges of the skillet. Add the chicken pieces to the skillet and let them cook for two minutes, then turn the pieces and let them cook for another minute or two. Use a spatula to split the chicken pieces into smaller chunks if desired. If the chicken breaks apart easily, it’s done.

5. Serve the rice and beans mixed together on a plate or low bowl. Top the rice and beans with the chicken, onion and pepper mixture.

Monday, April 20, 2015

out and about in Frederick

It hit me last week as I was pulling flannel sheets off of our guest bed that we hadn’t had an overnight visitor since November! It felt so good to get the house ready for a guest, considering I haven’t hosted much in the past nine months.

Holly came up from Harrisonburg on Thursday night (bearing donuts from Strite’s, bless her heart) and we immediately fell into our pattern of non-stop chatter and laughter. And EATING. I am beyond thrilled that our baby friendship in Harrisonburg has weathered my move to Frederick. Holly and her husband and their two friends are opening a brewery in Winchester called Winchester Brew Works. I’m so excited for them!

I purposefully invited Holly to come up this past weekend so I could take her to Chartreuse & Co, a monthly tag sale set up in six buildings filled with antique/vintage (or faux-antique) goodies. I knew it would be a great place for brewery decor inspiration.

the second floor of the main barn at Chartreuse & Co 
I wanted these SO MUCH
We spent hours exploring the various buildings before heading downtown for lunch. I went to The Wine Kitchen a few weeks ago with my friend Sarah and loved it, and I knew Holly would enjoy it, too. We split the house made pappardelle starter and the mussels starter and each got our own Mexican BLT sandwich. We chowed DOWN. We should have split the BLT, but we were both doing the prix fixe menu. Everything was phenomenal, and it was nice to just sit and take our time with lunch. The stand-out dish was the mussels, which were cooked in a crazy delicious Thai-style broth. I asked the waitress for the ingredients (like I did with our favorite blue cheese sauce) because I’m dying to make them at home. Recipe to come!

The fabulous Holly w/ her wine flight! I had their yummy “Gossamer” cocktail. 
our starters
my Mexican BLT and the mussel broth
It was a beautiful day to walk around. One thing I love about living here is that we have a great downtown! We went to Relish, The Smokestack Studios, Treaty General Store, Retro Metro, Velvet Lounge, Tiara Day, Simply Beautiful Boutique, Firestone’s Market on Market, Hunting Creek Outfitters, and Muse. We skipped a lot of shops on Patrick Street because we were exhausted! I drove Holly through Shab Row and Baker Park and then we went home and put our feet up for a bit. We ended the night with Sardi’s Peruvian chicken and rented “Big Eyes” on Redbox.

Holly left after a breakfast of bacon, eggs and donuts, and I immediately swore to start eating better and went for a run. :) Let me know if you’ve tried any new healthful recipes lately!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

filled with sorrow, or expectant joy?

I wonder what the disciples thought on the second day. They had just witnessed the wrongful accusation and brutal death of their close friend and precious Savior. He had told them He would rise again. In fact, enough people had heard talk of Jesus rising on the third day that Pilate ordered Jesus' tomb to be reinforced so the disciples couldn’t scam everyone by stealing the body and claiming the empty tomb as proof of a resurrection.

I wonder if the disciples were filled with sorrow, or filled with expectant joy. 

I wonder if they experienced both of those feelings. The battle between soul-crushing reality and soul-saving promises. 

Did the disciples feel defeated by Christ’s death? Did they feel let down? How could they... knowing He would rise again?

I feel defeated. I feel let down. I find myself in this place of second-day-ness, of knowing the glory is coming but feeling the weight of grief. 

That confusion between I know You are good
and
...how is this good?

Habakkuk, the Old Testament prophet, felt that confusion. He longed for justice to be brought to the land of Judah. He pressed God to take immediate action. He asked, do I have to wait forever? God replied, "If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” God’s plan for justice, and the timing of it, didn’t make sense to Habakkuk. But he resolved to wait.

"I will wait...
17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!"


I see how this waiting — this waiting that I hate so much — I see how it’s sanctifying me. I see how this waiting has led to blessed conversations, to new perspectives, to the opportunity to encourage and affirm. I see how this desert place has made my soul thirst for God. 

Oh, but this waiting is hard.
Oh, but remember! Glory is coming.

----

Thank you to my friends Shannon and Rachel for encouraging me to write this post. Shannon re-blogged a post she previously wrote called "Easter Saturday," and when I read it this morning I thought I couldn’t possibly add anything (which is why my timing on publishing this post is rather late). Shannon’s post is simply beautiful. You need to read it. My favorite line is, "I still find myself in the middle place where reality and expectation collide, where life experience and future hope aren’t always woven together as seamlessly as I would like them to be.” And then the ending -- I love that ending.

If you’re waiting (or if you just want to hear a lovely song), give this a listen. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

den: the shelves are DONE!

Today I’ll share my favorite part of our updated den — our DIY shelving unit! Please excuse all of the crazy shadows in the pictures. See, I had beautiful naturally lit photographs, but when I went to post them I realized I didn’t have any art in two of the frames. Then a few episodes of Arrested Development and a big bowl of pork ragu happened, and all of a sudden it was dark out!

Worth it.

The biggest transformation in the room was going from this:


To this:


I had the best time putting up several of the books and decorative objects I’ve collected over the years. Really, the hardest part of the styling process was choosing to say "no” to a bunch of my favorite objects in order to keep the shelves from looking cluttered.

I don’t mind the way the top shelf looks with the left side being blank, but I’m going to try putting a vine-y plant up there. I spent TWO HOURS in Michaels the other day looking at artificial plants! My mom saved the day by offering to give me an offshoot of her Philodendron.


I was originally planning to use my agate bookends on this bottom shelf, but my colorful books distracted from the agate and they got sort of lost in all the color. I picked up 4” clamps for $8 each at Home Depot and voilà!


These hanging frames at World Market caught my eye and I knew they’d be perfect for this spot. The art is a page from a book of quotes that I tore out and cut in half. I originally bought a beautiful faux mother of pearl box for the shelves, but I ended up having the same problem with the box that I had had with the agate bookends. It was really hard for me to return it (I’m still having second thoughts), but the basket I replaced it with was much cheaper and is less distracting. 


I had a mini freak-out when I saw this brass stand magnifier at an antique mall in Georgia. It is one of my very favorite things. The large piece of art is my “big” souvenir from my Europe trip. It’s a pen and ink of Salzburg, Vienna, with gorgeous watercolor detail. It happened to fit perfectly in an empty frame and mat that my parents had given me on one of my many “Becker basement shopping sprees.” (The bell was also taken from their basement. Thanks, mom and dad!)

The picture in my prism frame is cut from a postcard I bought at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. 


For $6, you too can have a ridiculous looking eyeglass holder that will make you smile.


Believe it or not, I’ve been keeping my eye out for a trophy cup for nearly a year now. This cup, from one of my favorite shops, is the perfect size and it has a gorgeous patina. 

There you have it! I am loving these shelves. I didn’t enjoy spending time in the den for a long time because of how cluttered it was. Now it’s a lovely space that I look forward to cozying up in.

Come on over! :)



Sources:
Trunk – from my childhood
Shelving unit materials – Home Depot
C-clamp bookends – Home Depot
Trophy cup – The Cottage in Dayton, VA
Rhinoceros – Kohls
Vintage camera – thrifted
Armillery sphere – gifted (World Market)
Hanging frames – World Market 
Rectangular basket – Michaels 
Prism frame – Retro Metro (also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and CB2)
Brass bell – gifted 
Salzburg print – gallery in Salzburg, Austria
Mat and frame around Salzburg print – gifted
Magnifying glass holder – Canton Street Antique Market in Roswell, GA
Eyeglass holder – World Market 
Brass antelope bookends – from grandmother
Gold clock – awarded to Andy from Kellogg’s!
Vintage set of “works of” books – from grandmother