An Intentional Year

Have you ever had an idea and felt like the next moment you turned around someone was copying you, even stealing your idea? You think of an outfit that would be cute to wear and the next place you go, you see several people wearing it. You think of a unique baby name that is just SO original, no one else would EVER think of using it and then you meet a parent who has a new baby and there you go – there’s your original, unique name. This happens to everyone. We are all influenced by social media, name brands, television and the list goes on. It’s not surprising that our new, original, unique idea is exactly inline with well… basically everyone else’s. Which is exactly why most of us are currently filling trash bags with unwanted clutter and clothes, organizing our kitchen utensil drawers and standing all of our shirts, which are folded in thirds, up on their sides in our drawers. Thanks Marie Kondo… 

I have this hunch that our new laundry folding technique isn’t the only thing we all currently have in common. We are all feeling similar struggles, we are all trucking through similar trenches and we are climbing similar hills. For weeks (months if I am being honest) I have had the idea for this post brewing in my mind, this post about the New Year. I have struggled to find the time to get the thoughts and ideas down on paper… err my computer screen, but at last, here I go. 

Oh, time… what a double edge sword you are. Time is truly a force that can’t be reckoned with. No matter the effort, you will never outrun time. When talking about my children and time, I have often said something along the lines of “I wish there was a pause button,” “I wish they would stop getting older” or “I wish I could freeze time, right where we are.” Although I honestly have those thoughts, the truth is, I could never actually push that “pause button”… if such button happened to exist. I want to turn the page on their lives, our lives, and see what the next adventure is. In the same moment, it pains me to think about never being able to turn the pages back. Once the pages are turned, they are just that. It makes me think of a that blog post was floating around on social media a few years ago about how we only get 18 summers with our children before they are “grown.” This post does an amazing job at making you feel inspired to make the most of your children’s summers. I was on fire the summer after I read it. I was squeezing in all kinds of activities, making a summer bucket list happen, and skipping all sort of chores around the house so I could try to soak up as much “summer time” with my kids. It was a fantastic summer but the days didn’t move any slower. The pages just kept turning and I would even go as far to argue, they turned even faster. The author, Rebecca Cooper, wasn’t telling us how to make our summers last longer, she was wise enough to know that was a waste of energy, her big push to us was to make the summers count. 

So back to my New Year’s Resolution… or idea… or maybe it’s a goal? No matter what we call it, my focus for 2019 is to live, especially parent, more intentionally, purposefully and connected and I believe the key to that is the way we use our free time. Just like Cooper’s “Eighteen Summers,” I’m not here to tell you how you can get more free time but I am here to point out a few ways we can make the most out of the free time we already have – how to make it really count. I know I am not the only one hoping for this in the New Year. I have come across several social media posts where people are describing these similar feelings and hoping for a more intentional 2019 as they set new life rules for themselves. They must also be feeling the lack of quality with their free time and the burden of technology that I feel at times. 

Oh the smartphone… don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone but I’m going to be honest, most days I think it might hurt me more than it helps me. I love how efficient it has made me. I pay bills faster, I respond to emails sooner and stay more connected with friends, all because of my iPhone. Im getting more things done but Im starting to wonder at what cost – what have I given up without even realizing it? I often have to “hide” my own phone from myself. Yes, you read that correctly. I put my phone on top of the fridge a few times a week in order to get my to-do list done. I feel like a child even admitting that but it is just necessary sometimes. If I don’t hide it, I find myself spending 10 minutes here and another 10 minutes there looking at useless internet junk. I know I am not the only one… what starts as an email check, leads to a weather report check, which leads to a Pinterest check, which leads to me deciding on a new house project (that I don’t need), that then leads me to figuring up the cost of that said house project and then… wait… I don’t think I actually ever responded to that work email… and the cycle continues. A few weeks ago, my husband and I turned a show on to watch and then while it played in the background, we both stared at our phones. Once I realized what we were doing, I couldn’t help but question how we spend some of our free time. 

A few mornings a week I take my son to preschool and then take my girls to their school, which starts about 30 minutes later. I try to get some productive things done during that small window of time. I drop off recyclables, I return library books or squeeze a quick car wash in. Most often, we still make it to their school about 15 minutes before the bell rings. Sometime before Christmas, it dawned on me that most days I was pulling into the drop-off line, putting the car in park and pulling out my phone. I cringe as I type this… I get 15 uninterrupted minutes in the car with my 3 sweet girls before they part from me for hours and I was spending it on the phone. AND even worse it was usually to look at social media, where the majority of people are posting pictures of their kids. I was not talking to my kids so I could look at pictures of other people’s kids. As of the New Year, I have been putting the phone down, even turning the radio off, and enjoying more “car conversation” with my kids. Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I talked plenty before but I certainly am not upset about even more uninterrupted time with them. When they are grown and have moved out from underneath my roof, I know I won’t be saying “Man, I wish I had pinned more stuff on Pinterest.” I do have a feeling I will remember some of these car conversations though. 

I got my sister and I each a sign in December for our houses that says “Be Still.” It is to remind us to do just that – be still in the moments and soak them up. These days of young children and all the busyness that comes from that is what we wanted for so long. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in homework, work schedules, meals, bath time and bed time that you almost start to run on auto pilot. 2019 is a new start for taking each day in as it’s own page – this day, with all that it has to offer, will never come around again – surely we will miss something if we are staring at our phones. If we put down the phones, iPad, or screen of your choice and fill that time with something more meaningful, I think more quality free time will leave us with a sense of better balance. AND that’s just the start…

Tidying up our closets and getting rid of some of your junk (Thanks Marie!) is also a great start to having less “stuff” to distract your eyes and your mind. Clutter prevents my brain from settling down, which I know prevents me from enjoying family time. I am famous for saying “just a minute” for 20 minutes while the family waits on me to watch a movie. I have one of those brains that can’t relax and enjoy an activity if I see dishes in the sink, laundry that needs to be done, a rug that needs to be vacuumed… I am woking on letting some of those things go. The truth is there will always be laundry, there will always be dishes, there will always be something out of place and then there will always be some more laundry – there just seems to be so much laundry. I can’t prevent us from having dirty dishes and laundry that needs to be washed but I can get rid of toys we don’t play with, piles of old magazines, old decor I took down and never hung back up, books we read and don’t plan on reading again and don’t even get me started on DVDs. I have always loved the freeing feeling I get from donating our family’s unwanted/unneeded stuff. Continuing this, possibly simplifying the contents of my house even more, is certainly a must do. Reduce and let go in 2019 for more peaceful free time. 

Clean up your inbox. I’m famous for letting my inbox grow to an unmanageable number of emails. I certainly cannot respond to work or school emails in a timely fashion when they are hidden amongst 400 other emails. I am trying extra hard to check my inbox more frequently as well as actually deleting the read or unwanted emails. To take that a step further, I have recently taken the time to unsubscribe to emails. I have to do this a couple times a year, especially after christmas. When you order things online you often have to start with giving them your email address to set up an account and then you are on that retailer’s email list. After all the online christmas shopping I did, my inbox was way out of hand. Take a minute and scroll to the bottom of all those emails and click “unsubscribe.” DON”T WORRY you will not miss the advertisements! First of all, there is ALWAYS a sale going on. Secondly, do you really need more suggestions on things to buy? The answer is no – we are currently cleaning our closets out, not trying to add unnecessary stuff to them. Clean out your emails in 2019 so you can relax more when free time is presented. 

Read a book. I know this one sounds simple but the truth is it’s becoming something I do less and less. I read plenty – this week alone,  I have read about pesticides on our food, Costco and it’s declaration to stop selling Round Up, whether or not it’s fair that Adam Levine can perform a Super Bowl Half Time Show shirtless but a female can’t, which then lead to me reading about the infamous Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake “wardrobe malfunction” of 2004 and then I read a bunch about Sally Rides, the first American woman in space, while helping my daughter on a school project. Reading is not my issue, its just the lack of reading from an actual book. Reading a book, with it’s pages in yours hands and the lack of a bright light to stare at, just feels different. It’s relaxing in a way that reading on screen will never be. In my efforts to reduce our stuff and our budget, I rarely buy books and I have cancelled all my magazine subscriptions but now I find myself missing written text on pages. I believe a more relaxing end to the day, the kind that comes from reading a book, can lead to a better night’s sleep. A well rested night always makes me more patient and understanding with my family (and really anyone else!). Go the library, check out books, admire them on your nightstand and enjoy their content and raise the standard of your free time in 2019.

Don’t put off until tomorrow, what can be done today – easier said than done but oh so wise. I can easily put together a mental list of things I have been saying I am going to do for awhile now and yet, there those things are, still just ideas on a list. Heck this blog post alone has taken me 2 months to complete. I have pledged to make this New Year the year I quit procrastinating. In the month of December I said the phrase “I have always wanted to….” at least 3 different times and I was talking about 3 different ideas. Why not just do those things? I recently completed a project in my house that I started 4 years ago. The project was not hard and it wasn’t expensive. The next time I hear myself saying “I have always wanted to…” I am going to immediately move that item to the top of my to-do list. Checking things off my list that have been lingering around in my mind for awhile makes me feel like I deserve to sit around and enjoy free time with my family. Don’t put things off to the next day in 2019 or you may feel like you never have free time. 

Let’s write more in the New Year – the reasons why seem endless. I recently ran across some old notebooks from college. It was fun to thumb through them and read not only the notes that I had taken in class but also the doodles in the margins on my notebooks. One thing I was surprised about was my handwriting. It was by far neater than any grocery list I have recently scribbled – it made me really think about how much I currently write compared to the past. I am not sure about you but I just don’t do much pen on paper writing anymore. When my children were born, I went with journals that had just lined paper inside them instead of traditional baby books. It was an idea I stole from my mother-in-law and I love it. I love when my mother-in-law pulls out her journals for her boys (each child having their own journal) and reads parts of them to the family – I want that for my children too. The idea would certainly work better if I took the time to write in them far more than I have.

I only keep cards that have handwritten messages in them and I mean more than a sentence. What if we ditched cards all together and just did handwritten notes… don’t get me started on the price of a card. A handwritten note always means much more to the person receiving it. That amazing Facebook post for your child’s birthday – write that down in a card to them, same goes for that shout out to your significant other. In a world of digital, it will mean so much more for that special person in your life to have a tangible note written on paper to look back at in 20 years from now. Handwritten notes will become such a novelty compared the digital lives we all live. So whether it’s for better handwriting or to put more original thoughts and meaning on paper — lets start writing more in 2019 and add more meaning to your free time.

I can tell you right now I will still look at Instagram in the preschool carpool line as I wait alone to pick up my son. The next time I see a funny meme on Facebook, I will most likely repost it and tag my sister. I know for a fact, I will pin a dozen home projects on Pinterest this year (possibly this month) but I have set a goal to do all of these things a little less this year and not when I am in good company. I’m going to make an intentional effort to balance my smartphone time with plenty of face-to-face conversation with my family, hopefully read some new things, write some meaningful notes and it would be pretty amazing if I could do it all while my inbox is somewhat up to date.

If we can implement these changes, we can create quality free time – whether you have hours of it or 20 minutes a day. I have a feeling if we focus on a healthy balance to it all, the connected feeling that we desire in the New Year will follow – So heres to an intentional year for us all…

Homemade Vanilla Extract


I’m making a batch of  homemade Vanilla Extract and it is the perfect time for you to try it too! I missed doing this late summer, early fall – which is the perfect time to make some for Christmas gifts. It was on my list but it just never happened. So here I am getting it done in January but I think I prefer this timing even more.

Homemade Vanilla Extract is super easy to make and delicous to bake with. When I buy vanilla extract I always pay a few extra dollars for REAL Vanilla Extract. It smells better, taste better and only has two natural ingredients in it. Imitation Vanilla Extract has a list of stuff in it including corn syrup and caramel coloring. Real Vanilla Extract is certainly more expensive, double the price, if not triple for some brands. A cheaper alternative is to make your own. It is not only cheaper but will give you bulk volume and makes for great gifts. You can pair it with some cookie cutters and a tea towel and you have an adorable gift.

To get started, gather your supplies. You will need whole vanilla beans, your alcohol of choice, and small bottles if you choose to divide your extract up – possibly for gifting. You can use almost any alcohol you choose for vanilla extract. Most people use Vodka because of it’s neutral flavor. I have tried both Vodka and Rum and I personally prefer the Rum. In addition to Vodka and Rum, I have read people use Bourbon or even Brandy, which I think would give your Vanilla Extract a unique flavor. It’s suggested that you use a 70 proof/ 35% alcohol to 80 proof/40% alcohol – no need to spring for top choice 🙂

Vanilla Beans are available in the the spice section your grocery store. They are usually sold in packs of one or two beans. The last time I checked my local grocery store for them (well over a year ago) they were $14 for 2 beans. You can find them cheaper online though. I have ordered them from Amazon before. Vanilla Beans come in grades. Grade A is what is used for cooking. Grade B works just fine for making Vanilla Extract. I lucked out this past summer at my local Lidl’s (You need to check them out if you have not yet!!!) when I discovered they had single vanilla beans (in glass vials) for $3 a bean!! I bought six of them for homemade Vanilla 🙂

Note my BEAUTIFUL cutting board! They are handmade by a friend (Holt Wood Crafters) and are sold locally – feel free to ask me for details!

So, how many beans and how much alcohol do you need??? I’ve read several different suggested ratios of alcohol to vanilla bean for Homemade Vanilla Extract. I use about a cup of alcohol for every 3 beans (a combination of a few suggested ratios). My bottle of Rum was 375 ML (1.5 cup) so I used 4 and 1/2 beans. I saved the extra vanilla bean half in the nice glass vial it came in and will keep it for future use.

To prepare your beans to steep, cut them first in half and then lengthwise. Inside the beans you will find dark fine grit which is actually the seeds of the bean pod. The seeds are the tiny black specs you see in Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 🙂 You are going to add the split beans, gritty seeds and all, to your alcohol.

You can steep your beans in the bottle your alcohol comes in and then divide the extract into smaller bottles when it has reached its desired flavor OR you can divide your alcohol and beans up in the smaller bottles and then let them steep. Your vanilla will need to steep at least 2 months before you can use it. The longer you wait, the more flavor it has though. In the past I have divided my beans and alcohol up before steeping the beans. This time I decided to add the beans to my alcohol in the clear glass bottle it came it so I can monitor the color.



Again, you can use the extract after waiting 2 months but the extract will continue to darken for much longer than that. I plan to monitor my extract in the clear bottle until the dark amber color I desire is reached. I gave the bottle a shake right after adding the beans and you can already see the rum taking on a darker hue.


Once I am done with the steeping process, I will divide my extract amongst my smaller bottles. I got these cute 4 ounce brown glass bottles on Amazon – attach a cute label to them and you have the perfect bottle of vanilla to add to any gift.



So even though I did not get homemade Vanilla Extract made in time for christmas this past year, the batch I just made can now steep until next christmas! Imagine the robust flavor and color it will have come December.





Fall Printables – Its not too late!

AfterlightImageWhere have the days gone? That is the thought I had when I flipped my calendar from October to November. Days have been filled with work, house projects, attending and hosting events, school volunteering & lots and lots of laundry… “Fall” already seems like it is about to slip and make room for Winter and it practically just got here. I have already started Christmas shopping and I have been telling my kids it will be here before we know it. The truth is, there is still some Fall season left – lets not dismiss Thanksgiving before it even arrives! As much as I hoped to have typed this post the first week of October, it just didn’t happen BUT it is not too late for Fall Decorations, especially if you are the one hosting Thanksgiving dinner! 

Printables are an easy, cheap, and quick way of decorating! I have lots of pumpkins and fall candles around my house currently but my first bit of decorating was putting up my fall printables. I have 4 frames in my living room that hold black & white pictures of my kids most of the year but during Fall & Christmas time, I switch them out for simple printables I have downloaded and printed myself. LITERALLY, I downloaded FREE art and printed them out on my home inkjet printer… and that’s it. I even used cheap printer paper. I have taken the time to print some on nice cardstock but most are on just plain copier paper – you really can’t get much easier. Grab some old frames, buy some cheap ones or swap some framed family photos out for a fun change this fall. I promise, it is not too late! 



I will say, most printables online are a bit too “cutesy”for my taste but there are some really nicely done ones available as well, you just have to hunt a little harder for them. Here is a list of fantastic fall printables – some I have framed and some I wish I had! 

Autumn Definition

Blue Pumpkin Printable

Fall Feather Printable

Jane Austen Fall Chalkboard Printable

Fall Leaf Sketch Printable

Chalkboard Thankful Printable

Orange Pumpkin Printable

Anne of Green Gables October Printable

Give Thanks Printable

Fall is Here Printable


Print. Display. Enjoy. Happy Fall!


DIY Light Fixtures

When it comes to a piece of furniture or a rug, I purchase it intending to keep it forever – those items are investments. When it comes to smaller things, light fixtures, wall paint or art on the wall – I’m fully aware that I change them far more frequently than my husband enjoys. The way I look at it is, everyone has a thing! My husbands really cares about cars – our cars, new cars, old cars. He likes talking about them, he likes reading about them, he likes working on them. Decorating is my cars – I like talking about it. I like reading about it. I like doing it. New light fixtures, wall paint, and art on the walls are easy ways to refresh or update a house without breaking the bank. I love my house and I like to keep it looking nice. Call it a waste, call it unnecessary etc. Everyone has a thing – I don’t buy a lot of clothes, we rarely eat out, and we don’t spend a ton on traveling – keeping my house a space I like to be in is my thing.

Our house has 21 light fixtures in it. Yes, I counted… we have 21 fixtures in the part of the house that we use. (There are another 2 rooms we don’t use but that is a whole other post – seriously, I am already working on it.) I am going to be honest, we can’t buy a new light fixture every time I want to replace one. If it sounds like I am making fun of myself for how often I want to change thing like lights, I am.

I think I do a decent job coming up with creative decorating ideas. Sure, there have been a few times I have failed – I tried to stain a seagrass ottoman from Ikea once… my husband came home and asked why the ottoman looked like it had caught on fire… When you take out the occasional fail, most of the time I impress myself with how much I can do with a small budget and some elbow grease.

I love the light I made for our bedroom. We had an old brass foyer light. I honestly can’t remember where we got it from. I think it came out of a house my husband did some work in. My husbands occasionally brings home things he gets from jobs to check and see if I want it for a project first. He knows the way to my heart. This brass light he brought home reminded me so much of the light my parents had in their foyer when I was growing up – their house house was built in 1987. I removed the glass from it and spray painted the fixture with a can of dark spray paint. I used Rust-Oleum Flat Metallic Spray Paint in Burnished Amber – it is dark like oil rubbed bronze metal but has a hint of brown in it which I think gives it good texture.  I am very pleased with the results of the light. Brass is coming back in style and I actually really dig it but oil rubbed bronze was the right shade for our calm muted bedroom.



The current light in our kitchen is also one I made. It was made from a bathroom vanity light. I like the results so much that I did it a second time to make a light for our foyer. I started with a 3 bulb bathroom vanity light just like this one – the light I used for the kitchen was just like the one in the link – same brand and color, and removed the glass sconces.

This is what the light in our foyer looked like to start with.

I then removed the center bulb. The entire metal piece where the center bulb is screws completely off. You can then pull the wires out for the center bulb. Each bulb has its only wires that run from the ceiling mount to the bulb socket.


Next, I turned the two remaining metal pieces (which have plastic bulb sockets in them) so that when you mount the light, the bulbs are facing down. One side turned easily for me. The other side was screwed on very tightly. I tried very hard to get it to turn, I eventually had to ask my husband to do it and he got it to turn using pliers. If you feel like the end pieces won’t move for you, keep tying. They may be on tight but the light is assembled by screwing those end pieced on so they will move. The light I used for the kitchen was already oil rubbed bronze but I used the same Burnished Amber spray paint on the silver one for my foyer. That’s it! It is now time to just mount your light to the ceiling using the regular mounting hardware and directions that the light came with. The only thing we have left to do is touch up our ceiling where the new light has a much smaller base. Ceiling paint is now on the list!

Foyer Light

FullSizeRender 8
Kitchen Light

You now have an industrial, simple, exposed bulb fixture (which you have been seeing everywhere lately). Bathroom vanity lights aren’t too expensive and if you are like me, you might already have some lying around!

Good luck if you decide to update some of your own light fixtures! Post pictures if you do!!!





THE Farmhouse

Almost 8 years ago my husband and I, along with our 2 oldest children, moved into my DREAM house. I had pined after the idea of living in this house for years. At the time it was a cream, 100 year-old, in need of some repairs farmhouse that had been in my husband’s family for 50 years. My mother-in-law had moved into the house when she was 4 and grew up there. My husband had lived in it a couple of times growing up (his dad was a builder and they moved a lot). It’s just a good house. It’s a house with roots. It’s THE Farmhouse, as my husband’s family affectionately calls it.

The first time I saw THE farmhouse was when my husband and I were dating. I remember us driving by it and my husband casually mentioned “that’s my grandparent’s farm…”. I remember saying something along the lines of “That!? Your grandparents live there!?” Let me stop you here. I’m not sure what you are envisioning but the house was not in it’s prime when I first saw it. Hundred year old wooden farmhouses can get away from you quickly. The house certainly needed some work but it still shined. I could envision what it looked like in it’s prime and I could certainly see what it’s potential was… even with green stuff growing on the cream paint, a pile of old furniture on the rotten front porch and azalea bushes so mature they were blocking most of the large farmhouse windows.  My husband’s grandparents are ONE OF A KIND!!! Seriously, they deserve their own post detailing who they are. I will summarize them for the time being as “hard-working, God-fearing, 80 some year old, good-hearted humans who currently still farm.” They lived in THE farmhouse at the time but owned and worked on another farm also. They were for sure busy with bailing hay, feeding cows, fixing fences, repairing tractors etc. Updating THE Farmhouse was not on their “to do” list and rightfully so.

Shortly after my husband and I got married, my husband’s grandparents decided to build a smaller, brand-new house on their other farm down the road. THERE it was! We saw an opportunity to get in THE Farmhouse. Not too long after they moved, we quickly rented out our house… like really quickly. We had the idea, found renters, packed and were out in less than a month. July 2010, the week of our 4th wedding anniversary, we moved to THE Farmhouse with our 2 year old & 3 month old girls. I remember laying in bed our first night here and telling my husband “I can’t believe we actually live here!” That’s how magical I found this place and 8 years later, the feelings are only stronger.

Within the first week of living here I was on the phone with a close friend filling her in on all the craziness of moving, life with 2 kids, living out of boxes and just exactly how much work THE Farmhouse needed. She told me I should start a blog about the process of bringing a 100 year old house back to life with 2 small kids and an even smaller budget. Blogs were more rare at the time and life was busy. We were unpacking, figuring out how to rent our old house (without an agent), I was nursing one child, potty training the other and had just agreed to start watching my niece a few days a week – blogging was not as the top of my list and the idea itself exhausted me.

Fast forward 8 years later, 2 more kids, a couple of walls taken down, a wedding at THE Farmhouse and gallons and gallons of paint – I am kicking myself for not starting that blog! A digital look book for my kids. A journal of this adventure we have created. A place to share the obstacles we have faced while fixing up this house. A place to share the times we had an idea, saw it through and treasured the results. A place to hear feedback from those who have tackled that project already…


We have checked large projects off our list and added new ones just as quickly. Not all of our projects are fun (think termites…) but all have been rewarding in some way (think wood floors).

I am a wife who married a part of her that she never knew was missing, a mom of 4 children, a group exercise instructor, a certified personal trainer, a self-taught gardener, a whole food eater who LOVES a good home project and lives in a house that is 108 years old. Here is my adventure…