Back to School Basics

Having a math teacher husband is nice for many reasons. Number one: he does math so I don’t have to (he tries to make me solve whatever problem we’re talking about first, but when I fail he doesn’t say much). Number two: he gets summers off, which means lots of time to do lots of stuff! When Grant gets summers off, it means I get summers off too (to a certain extent; I still have my business and transcriptions, but I also get to travel and play!).

I can’t believe those blessed two and a half months have already come to a close. Much of our summer break was spent fixing up the house – which, thank goodness, we are finally moved into. We wanted to get the bulk of the big stuff done before school started up again – finishing the basement, scraping ceilings, painting, and new floors – so now we’ve just got some minor things to finish up, and we can do all of those things while living in it.

I’ll be sad to no longer have my husband around all day, helping with the house repairs and whatnot, but reality had to come sooner or later. Happy first week back to school, honey!

Here are some fantastic products on Etsy to get you back in the mood for school, whether you’re a student, parent, teacher, or teacher’s wife. And remember, back-to-school also means it’s almost FALL! And who could possibly be sad about that??

back to school basics copy

  1. Oil Cloth Lunch Bag by Cute Bright Things, $16. I actually have this lunch box…it almost makes me wish I could go back to high school and get some good use out of it!
  2. Bunny Pencil Pouch by MosMea, $34. Because anything that combines bunnies with utility is a good thing.
  3. Driftwood Pencils by Storie Brooke, $13. Using neat pencils will definitely make note-taking more fun!
  4. Vintage Pink Glasses by Oliver and Alexa, $22. Update your eyeware this fall with these fantastic pink frames.
  5. But First, Coffee T-Shirt by Armi Tee, $18. I don’t know about you, but coffee is a must-have for me before I do anything remotely intelligent. Wear this tee with pride!
  6. Make It Happen Notebook by Gingersnap Press, $9. A cute, encouraging notebook makes taking notes a breeze!
  7. Lace Up Ankle Boots by The Drifter Leather, $121. Step up your style with these gorgeous ankle boots. Casual enough to wear everyday, but can certainly be dressed up as well.
  8. Teepee Bookend by Decorated Room, $25. I’m definitely loving these teepee bookends. Perfect for keeping all those new books from the semester in place.
  9. Constellation Planner by Ninj and Ninj, $20. Planners are essential to organization. This one is super cute.
  10. Measure Up Earrings by Super Fantastic Julie, $5. If you’re a math fanatic, these earrings are perfect! Or just wear them to impress your math teacher. 😉
  11. Turquoise Messenger Bag by Metaphor, $89. A fresh bag for a fresh year…this one really makes a statement.
  12. Secret Garden Silk Scarf by Somewhere Store, $64. As the weather gets chillier a cute scarf is necessary. The pattern on this one is gorgeous.

The Kitchen: Before and After

Grant and I have put so much work into the new house (about a month straight of hard labor!), so we are thrilled to finally – FINALLY – be at the point of moving our things in! Move-in Day is officially tomorrow, but I’ve been carting stuff over periodically for the last week to make things easier for us on the big day. It’s nice living only five miles from our new house – a big difference from the 860 miles it took last time.

So today I am going to show you one of my favorite parts of the new house – the kitchen. A big, open kitchen has always been a dream of mine. This will be the third place Grant and I have lived in since getting married; the kitchen in our first place, the tiny apartment in Gilbert, Iowa, was a tiny corner off the living room and severely lacking cupboard space. My most vivd memory of that kitchen is the light inexplicably falling on my head as I was making sweet and sour meatballs for Grant for dinner one night. The kitchen in the rental house in Dayton is a galley kitchen that was actually added on in the 1950s or so. It is lacking cupboard and counter space, though it was a bit of an upgrade from the apartment kitchen. This new kitchen – oh boy, it’s like the taj mahal of kitchens after the last two I’ve spent so much time in! It’s got lots of counter and cupboard space, is open, and even has a window over the sink.

Here are some photos of the space before I took over.


I knew immediately that the dark cabinets had to go. They clashed terribly with the countertops, and in general dark cabinets close off a room rather than open it up. Grant and I also knew we wanted to get rid of that awful linoleum floor and add a little bit of detail to the walls.


The color I chose for the cabinets actually came about by accident. I was planning on doing a subtle sage color, but on a fateful trip to Home Depot I found a gallon of Oops paint that I couldn’t resist buying (it was only $9, after all). As it was the first gallon of paint I bought for the new house, it was the first color I tested on the cabinets and I immediately fell in love. I love how vibrant they turned out, and how much interest they add to an otherwise plain kitchen.


The wall treatment is a stencil from Royal Design Studio. Stenciling is actually a lot easier than one might think. Though the height of that triangle space gave me some trouble in spots, I was able to continue the pattern through the whole area. The entire project took about six hours or so.


When it comes to decorating kitchens I have always loved the idea of including cookbooks in view. Luckily, I had plenty of space in my open cabinets for a couple stacks of cookbooks. (I elected to leave off the doors of three of the cabinets because Grant is opposed to cabinet doors. My stipulation was that the dishes inside them must be pretty and must never be a mess). I lined the space above my cabinets with fun items I’ve collected over the years, some vintage, some not, all deserving of a spot in view. Finally, a couple plants adorn the shelving unit by the sink because I believe that every proper kitchen should have at least one living plant.


I can’t wait to start baking in this kitchen! Wish us luck on Moving Day. 😀

Read This: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”


As with any highly anticipated sequel, there are people out there who say that Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee’s surprising second to To Kill A Mockingbird, does not live up to expectations. I, however, disagree. This book did not disappoint, in spite of the intense adoration I’ve had for To Kill a Mockingbird since high school. Though GSAW is different than I maybe expected, and has some hard moments and a rather large dose of reality, the book really did capture the spirit of it’s predecessor, just in a more adult and mature sort of way.


Jean Louise Finch (Scout) is back in Maycomb, Alabama to visit her father. She now lives in New York City and has a career – as you could have guessed from her early years depicted in TKAM, she is a very independent woman. Though she’s a big city woman now, going back to Maycomb is still like going back home – except this time she starts to notice how things are changing, and she doesn’t like it.

While focusing on her adult life, there are many new anecdotes from Jean Louise’s childhood which are charming as ever. In this way, it was almost like reading TKAM afresh, but with adult eyes. In this novel she is the woman Atticus raised her, but her hardheadedness proves to be problematic in the end. She sees the world a certain way, and when she realizes that those she loves may not see it the same way as she does, she starts to question everything she knows. The main conflict in the novel revolves around civil rights – Jean Louise, of course, believes in absolute equality among men (she is Atticus’s daughter, after all, and who was he but the man who defended a black man on a charge of rape and got him acquitted?), but she comes to find out that Henry Clinton, her long time friend and current suitor, her uncle Jack, and even her father have the stereotypical Southern beliefs that she was raised (or so she thought) to despise.

“Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.”

Go Set a Watchman was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird, but when Harper Lee sent it to the publishers they suggested she pull a narrative from those childhood anecdotes and write a book set in that more innocent time. I think in many ways TKAM is a far more enduring classic (which is why it has remained popular for over fifty years, and why this new novel of Lee’s was so highly anticipated from the earlier novel’s fans), but Go Set a Watchman is a nice companion to the novel, and when reading it with TKAM in mind it is quite charming and pleasurable. I will concede that on its own, GSAW may not be a fantastic novel – most of the assertions, claims, and credibility come from knowing the characters in TKAM and thus had you not read it before digging into GSAW, the book would probably fall flat.


For those who tout this novel, however, as a failed comment on race or even racist are looking at the story completely wrong. One must remember while reading it that it was written in the fifties – the way of thinking at that time was completely different from our thinking now. The novel is not supposed to be focused on segregation, the NAACP, and white supremacy, but rather on the relationship between father and daughter, and how this can change from childhood to adulthood. The thing to take away from GSAW is not that Atticus is a hateful bigot, but that Jean Louise, who had been blinded to her father’s true character by his seeming lack of error as she grew up, loves her father despite the fact that they now seem to have opposing views of the world.

So all in all, I recommend this novel if you’re a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you’re not a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, shame on you and go read it again. If you’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird, BOO on you, go back to school, and get some culture. 🙂


Mini Lemon Fig Cakes

I LOVE figs. It’s getting to be that time of year again where figs glorify the food blogs and show their face on all the cooking shows. Which obviously makes my fig obsession even more problematic. With any luck, Grant and I will get a container or two in our Bountiful Basket on a good week – I can’t seem to find them in the grocery stores around here.

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With all the house fixing recently, I haven’t gotten to do a lot of things I normally enjoy (e.g. bake, read, make art, etc.) so I was really glad to get the excuse to bake something when we got figs and lemons in our basket last week. I mean, no, you don’t have to bake something in order to consume figs, but they make such delectable confections that how could I not??

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These little cakes are slightly sweet but not overpowering. Lucky for you (and me, and baby in me), I didn’t use any processed sugars but rather agave nectar, which is always a nice alternative for baking. Likewise, there’s whole wheat flour in there, greek yogurt, and very little fat. It’s always nice eating something delicious that doesn’t make you feel guilty for scarfing down more than one. In fact, I call these cakes, but they would be perfectly acceptable for breakfast as well as dessert. Your pick.

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Mosey thought they smelled so good that she tried to sneak a taste while I was photographing them. Luckily I caught her before any damage was done! Bunnies can have figs, but they aren’t supposed to eat wheat products. Or sugar. Sorry, Bun.


Mini Lemon Fig Cakes


1/2 pound fresh black mission figs
Zest and juice of 2 small lemon
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 tbsp canola oil
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine agave nectar, greek yogurt, canola oil, vanilla, eggs, and lemon juice. Stir until well combined, and then add to the dry mixture.
  3. Mix ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix. Squish three of the figs until it forms a paste and then fold into the batter along with the lemon zest.
  4. Slice the remaining figs into four sections each (making your slices long, not quartered). Spray a muffin tin with oil and fill with batter about half way full. Place one fig slice on top of each cup, pressing slightly (but not too hard! You’ll want to see them once the cakes have been baked). If desired, sprinkle with a little sugar.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a fork comes out clean. Makes about 16 mini cakes.


Where I’ve Been Lately, Part 3: A New House (Which Means Renovating)

A couple days after we got home from Texas, Grant and I closed on our house (after months of waiting, it seemed). Yep, that’s right – we’re homeowners! The new place is a little duplex in the town of Ranchester, five miles from where we are currently. The high school where Grant teaches is in Dayton, so he’ll have a bit more of a commute than he did last year (which was like, two minutes across the street), but the middle school where he coaches football is in Ranchester just a block or two away from our new house.


The house isn’t much and it needs work, but it sure is nice to call something our own. We’ve already put about a million hours into it and have much more to do, but we plan to move in in the next couple of weeks. Luckily for you, I’ll have lots of DIY projects from this venture, and I will be posting lots of pictures!


For those of you who are curious, here are some of the projects I’ve been busy with (and some of these you may see as tutorials on here eventually):

  • Painting every single surface. What a job.
  • Stenciling, stenciling, and more stenciling. I’m doing a wall in the nursery, some spots in the kitchen, and the basement floors (which are cement that I’ve painted over)
  • Painting the stairs (trying to figure out if I want to do some element of design on the backs)
  • Crafting a frame for a plain bathroom mirror
  • Reinventing some boring white shelves that came with the house

Grant and I have already scraped all the popcorn ceilings, done some drywall work in the basement, torn up the carpet and will be installing wood floors asap. That’s a lot of long days!

Being a homeowner is lots and lots and lots of work, but we just keep telling ourselves that all of the grunting, exhaustion, and filthiness will be worth it in the end!


Where I’ve Been Lately, Part 2: Texas and a Gender Reveal Party

At the end of June, Grant and I moseyed down to Texas to visit my family where we had a Gender Reveal Party!

gender reveal display

When we got to Texas, the ultrasound techs at my dad’s office gave me an ultrasound. It was fun to see the baby again (first time since my very first ultrasound at 8 weeks where you can’t see much), and interesting to guess what the ladies weren’t telling any of us…aka, the gender! I could have sworn it was going to be a girl based on one of their reactions…

US image, exam type "Obstetrics", preset "General"
US image, exam type “Obstetrics”, preset “General”

None of us knew going into the party. The ultrasound tech simply wrote the answer down and delivered it to our cake lady, who baked the cake based on what the answer was. 

When people arrived at the party they were instructed to take a bow based on their vote: a pink one for a girl or a blue one for a boy. The majority of people surprisingly picked boy. I adamantly stood by my guess even though everyone said I was wrong.

The party was sprinkle themed and the cake was absolutely fabulous. No one could wait for us to cut into it.

gender reveal cake

And the color inside was………..

gender reveal boy


gender reveal cake and us


It was SO much fun cutting into the cake. Even though I was rooting for a girl at the time, I cannot be more excited.

gender reveal fam

It was great getting to share this experience with my family. So glad the timing worked out just perfectly for us to do it!

Where I’ve Been Lately, Part 1: NYC

Hey guys! I’ve been itching to get blogging again for the past several weeks, but my summer has been soooo busy that I’ve hardly had time to browse Pinterest, let alone sit down and write something interesting up! Let me take you back to the beginning of summer, where things first started getting crazy.

nyc skyline

In June, I had the pleasure of visiting New York City with my mom and sister for a week. My sister is actually in the process of moving up there now, to become a famous graphic designer at Pratt Institute. We journeyed to the big city together in pursuit of an apartment for her and to get a feel for the place where she was going to live.

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I think the most striking thing about New York for me was all of the colors. Every street was brimming with it – in the form of graffiti or flowers or even architecture. There was so much to look at that by the end of the week I had a crick in my neck from all the staring upward.


I was thrilled to get to visit the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn while there. It’s one of the most renowned craft fairs in the country, so obviously I’ve been dying for a chance to go. There were so many artists and makers there, and so much inspiration to glean from them.

We also toured an amazing chocolate factory, Mast Brothers Chocolate, and got to eat a TON of samples. Yummmmm.

Even just wandering the streets, though, was fun, and experiencing the subway for the first time, and being a part of the bustle of the city’s night life. It was exhilarating.

me n sis nyc

I’ll tell you what – NYC is literally the exact opposite of Dayton, Wyoming. People everywhere, and within the first twenty minutes of being there (after seeing more people than I do in probably an entire month here) I was overwhelmed. At first I thought I wasn’t really going to like the city, but by the end of the week I had experienced some its charm, some of its intrigue, and I could understand why someone with an artistic nature would love to live there. Here’s to Mickey (my sister) – I hope New York is everything you’re dreaming it to be!

statue of lib

Crafting With Nature: DIY Antler Wall Hanging


So I don’t know about you, but recycling nature is sort of my jam. God made everything perfect, and when things die or are discarded it just seems like such a waste to let them disappear into the ether. That’s why I use twigs from my backyard for hanging wall flags and autumn leaves for gift tags and dried flowers for center pieces (and etc. etc.).


In Wyoming, the deer are plentiful and I’ve been dying for an antler ever since we moved here. The possibilities for the things are endless. Just for your peace of mind, acquiring antlers does not require the death of the deer. Every season the male deer sheds his antlers and grows new ones (hence the rack size), so finding antler sheds is merely a part of the natural occurrence of things. The other day I was happy to finally find one in a friend’s yard, so I took it home with great dreams of craftiness. We’ll be moving into our new house soon and I can’t wait to hang it on the wall.


This antler wall hanging is SUPER EASY. The hardest part about it is actually finding the antler, so good luck and I hope it goes well. Other than that, all you will need is acrylic paint, some masking tape, varnish, and string for hanging it.

First step is to put masking tape around where you want your first color block to be. You can also simply freehand it if you’re more comfortable with that.


If you are using masking tape to paint, let each color block dry before painting the next color block. Don’t worry – acrylic paint doesn’t take too long to dry. If you are doing freehand, you can do them all at the same time. Paint a few different layers for a nice, opaque look. Let it dry completely.


After the paint has dried, paint it over with varnish. I used glossy varnish because I like the shiny look. You can also use matte varnish. After the varnish has dried (a couple hours), tie some twine around the ends of your antler and VOILA! easy wall hanging that looks super cute on your wall.

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Believe it or not, you can drop up to a hundred bucks on painted antlers on Etsy. So that’s always an option if you love this decor idea, but I would suggest (if you are able) to find your own antler. It’s at essentially no cost to you and makes a really fun and relaxing craft after a busy day at work.

Shed hunting is huge in this part of Wyoming, but there are certain times when it’s best to go. In the early spring right when the wildlife refuges open up again for the season (near us, Amsden and Kerns) people will skip work and school so they can hunt all day for sheds. Most of these people are looking for more valuable sheds like elk and big whitetail antlers (if found in a set, these can be worth hundreds without alteration), but I’m sure the little ones are plentiful as well.

Before Grant and I move away, if we ever do, I want to learn how to be an expert shed hunter. It takes a bit of knowledge about the behavior of the animals – what types of landscape they like to frequent, etc. – and it can takes years to become really profitable at it. But it seems like a fun little hobby, especially if I can paint the end results!


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and if you’re lucky I hope you’ll find your own antler to paint someday!

Happy Memorial Day and a Bump Update

Happy Memorial Day! Grant and I are driving home from a weekend well-spent in Iowa so I thought I’d take today to give you a bump update.


I don’t have much of a bump yet, and that’s okay with me. I just hit the fourteen week mark last Thursday which means – yippee! – goodbye first trimester! The first trimester is reportedly the worst of pregnancy, what with the morning sickness and constant tiredness. I am still feeling a wee bit queasy, but I cooked dinner twice last week so things are looking up!

The baby is currently the size of a lemon. He/she is wiggling toes and sucking thumbs in there. According to my pregnancy app (The Bump, in case any of you were wondering), he/she is growing at an alarming rate – doubled in size since last week and keeping it up!


In other news, Grant and I are in the process of purchasing a home. We would appreciate your prayers that everything will go smoothly from here on out, and that we will hopefully be able to move in before our summer starts getting super crazy. I am dreaming about nurseries and home-improvement projects, so moving in can’t come soon enough!

Have a great day of rest on this Memorial Day. 🙂