Book Review: Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home

Book Review: Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home

Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy HomeI thoroughly enjoyed Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home by Maxwell Ryan & Janel Laban. I was actually surprised at how quickly I devoured such a thick book!

The photographs by Melanie Acevedo are stunning and the topics really applied to me, engaging me and pushing me to read just one more page before setting the book down. Once I could tear myself away, it was an easy book to come back to again and again. As I read through the ideas and tips and browsed the photographs, I was able to think about what I liked and what drew me in, what might work in my own home and how I could apply the suggestions with my own twist.

I loved pages sprinkled throughout that offered very practical advice on things like organizing as well as the more whimsical treasure trove of decorating ideas. I would recommend this book to anyone with a space to make a home — whether it’s an apartment, a small home like mine or a grand house. There’s something for everyone and it’s really all about making your house your home.

Read more about Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home here. Or take a sneak peak at the inside of this beautiful book!

I received a complimentary copy of Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home from Blogging for Books, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

Book Review: Novel Interiors

Book Review: Novel Interiors

Novel Interiors The first time I heard about this book, I was instantly intrigued. Interior design and literature all wrapped up in one high quality book? It had my name written all over it!

When I received the book in the mail, I immediately settled down in the living room with a cup of hot tea and perused the pages. I was enchanted.

I had been concerned that the book would be too theme-y. I didn’t want something instructing me on how to create a Little Women-themed room or even a Jane Austen-themed room. I’m not much into themes. I wanted something more subtle, more mature, more nuanced. This book did not disappoint.

Novel Interiors

My favorite section was easily “Shall I Put the Kettle On?”, which features elements inspired by Sense and Sensibility, Little Women and other favorite novels of mine. The book pointed out small ways to create the cottage feel that Jane Austen describes or the very homey feeling of Plumfield House. Books scattered about, worn rugs and well-loved furniture. It inspired me to remember that beauty is not necessarily in the new, perfectly pristine furniture and decor that comes from the store, but from the way a room makes you feel — at ease, comfortable, snug. This is my dream for my house.

My next favorite was probably “Living au Natural”, which focused more on American literature, like Willa Cather and Henry David Thoreau. The chapter details the use of wood furniture and natural fibers, bringing the outdoors in with plants and florals. Truly though, any literature lover could glean wisdom and inspiration from each and every chapter presented in Novel Interiors.

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent curled up in front of the fire, sipping tea, and being inspired by the thoughtful nuances of this book. The photographs are superb and the quality of the book truly stunning. I will keep this on my coffee table for years to come.

Take a look inside the book!

I received a complimentary copy of Novel Interiors from Blogging for Books, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are solely mine.

The good/The bad

The good/The bad

While I’m working on getting some more six month photos of the house, here’s a quick update:

The good:
My sister-in-law and her littlest came to stay for a night. Just one night, but it was wonderful to open our new home to family. It’s what we dreamed about when we first began looking for a home. No worries over the half-renovated mess in the kitchen — hospitality doesn’t require perfection. Oh, and we received the new chairs for our living room, looking forward to getting the room just how we want it.

New chairs

The bad:
Yet again, we hit a water issue recently. The breaker on our water heater kept flipping and leaving us with freezing water. After a few cold showers, I couldn’t take it anymore and we got a new breaker (after all, we already got a new water heater). Surprisingly, such a simple thing seemed to fix the problem. Yay for no more cold showers!

The ugly:
Um, the kitchen. It’s a mess. Enough said.

Current kitchen

The lovely:
The front porch. Oh, it still needs a coat of paint on the railings and the front door is still Williamsburg Blue, but it’s featuring a pretty red rocking chair and some budding mums as well as a few fun colored pumpkins and gourds from Trader Joes. My own little welcome to fall. Plus, my anniversary bouquet from Husband…

Anniversary flowers



I ate my breakfast at a table this morning.

For most, this wouldn’t be noteworthy, but we have been living in a state of perpetual renovations for two months now. We LOVE our home, and the work we’re doing to it. But the whole not-having-a-table thing was getting old. (Just like the living-out-of-boxes thing and the well-water-isn’t-safe-to-drink thing.)

I have my brother and his family to thank for the newfound normalcy. They are coming to visit in less than a week (yikes!), so I knew it was high time I do something about the livability of our house. I managed to finish painting the guest room (and stuff all of the unpacked boxes into the study) over the weekend. Then it was time to clear out the laundry/pantry of stuff and move our food (which has been residing on the kitchen floor and in the dining room) to where it is supposed to be. I shifted the workstation with all our paint supplies and tools out to the garage, instead of the dining room table, which definitely makes more sense.

I even hung some curtain rods, set up a few tables, rehung now painted doors, covered all the open outlets, and put out some freshly laundered tablecloths. The transformation — in feel, not so much physicality — is amazing. It’s like a real home. I knew it existed under all the clutter, and I love it.

No more tripping over half done projects, paint cans and cardboard boxes. At least for now.

Of course, the study is atrocious, but we’ll just close the door and pretend it doesn’t exist for the moment. And I’ll delight in eating each and every breakfast at a real table.

I’ll be back at it Memorial Day weekend, but I’m going to bask in the glow of the freshly painted/cleared/organized rooms I have before jumping back into the fray.

Meanwhile, a few recent photos of life…

Master bedroom progressFresh and clean.


Water trough

CuddlesSunday morning cuddles. Apparently this is the face I make while being licked by the dog. And blurry is the norm when it comes to photographing this wiggler.

A total messThe bathroom is still in shambles.

HelpingGinger “helping” me paint.

It doesn’t “feel” like Christmas

It doesn’t “feel” like Christmas

Despite our efforts to celebrate, it doesn’t feel much like Christmas around here. And there are so many things that contribute to that…Michael’s passing, Husband’s crazy work schedule, warm Southern weather, and work. Instead of sipping hot cocoa and cozying up in front of a warm fire, I’m writing about child slavery, trafficking, abuse and war crimes. It’s enough to get anybody down. But no amount of grief staves off Christmas and it is coming full force.

One thing that I’ve determined for this holiday season is to give myself grace…

While we don’t always feel like celebrating right now, it is important to us on many levels–important to recognize the gift of our Lord’s birth, important to continue living (really living) in spite of our loss, and important to honor those we have lost by never taking for granted those we still have with us. So we will celebrate this season, but we will do it in simplicity and with a focus on the true reason we celebrate this season.

To make things a little easier on myself this year, I’m mostly using the decorations I already have, and even at that I have left those less important to me wrapped up for another year. We did celebrate our tradition of cutting our own tree and we made our gingerbread house, but I’ll only be baking ONE kind of Christmas cookie, not ten. And I’ll only be using lights that actually work, instead of spending hours fixing those that don’t.

Searching for the perfect tree

This is our third Christmas since we married in 2010, and each year I have desired to display a crèche (nativity) among my other decorations–a reminder that Christmas isn’t all about the wrapping paper and lights and wreaths, but about a sacred, holy and glorious birth. But I didn’t want to just buy any old crèche, I wanted a beautiful one–one that reflects my belief that Christ’s birth was a beautiful gift from God. This year, even though money is tight, I knew that I needed this reminder to help me celebrate the season, so I pulled together coupon codes and sales and shipping deals and purchased this lovely scene that now graces my mantel.

I received free tickets to the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s performance of The Messiah, and (although I’ve seen it many times before) it spoke to me in a whole new way this year. The reminder that it isn’t about Santa Clause, or even snow, but about our Savior–and that is something I can celebrate no matter how difficult life gets. Because His birth, His life, His death and resurrection–they are all part of a bigger plan to redeem this broken world. And I cannot wait for the day He returns to complete His good work on earth.

Meanwhile, I think this self-enforced simplicity is not only good for this time in our lives, when we are short on both emotional and physical energy, but also as we head into the future. Every year, our lives become more and more complicated. I have been making a concerted effort to simplify things this year, and I believe I’ve done pretty well! This is one more way to take care of ourselves and intentionally create the life we desire to have, all the while remembering that it is Christ we live for, and not ourselves.

So while the impetus is so grievously sad, we can create a blessing out of our current state.

So in the theme of keeping it simple, here’s a peek at the little touches we’ve added to our home this holiday…

Christmas ornaments

Christmas decorations

Ginger with her Christmas penguin

Decorating the tree with R

Christmas stockings

Ballet shoes ornament

Lighting up the Christmas tree



Even Husband agrees that it is time for the “Great Transition” (ie. putting away Spring/Summer clothes and bedding and replacing with Fall/Winter clothes and bedding). Husband is usually much more practical about these things (which is a little odd, because in other respects I am far more practical), but he recently requested that we make the Great Transition. (Must be all that cool, fresh air from the open windows!)

It’s not a simple chore, but I have much of it down to a specific routine that works. To give you a little before and after, this is what our bedroom looks like for the Spring and Summer:

Our bed in summer.

Headboard–Curious Cargo; Bedspread–Bon Ton; Pillows–various; Lamps–Ollie’s; Art–P. Graham Dunn

(Just as an aside, did I ever share the oh-so-perfectly coordinating lamps we got at Ollie’s for a steal? They aren’t what we want in the long run, but they are great for now. Take a look:

Bedside lamp.

So goes with our bedspread, right?)

But all of that bedding and oh-so-many pillows went into these bags to be stored in our cedar closet upstairs.

Bags of bedding for storage.

Then, out came our Fall/Winter bedding and pillows…

Our winter bedding.

Heated Mattress Pad–JCPenney; Down Comforter–JCPenney; Duvet Cover–TJ Maxx; Pillows–TJ Maxx and various thrift stores

It might seem like the opposite of simplifying to have to change all of this out every six months or so, but honestly it makes my life easier. We have a nice, light-weight comforter for Spring and Summer and for Fall and Winter we have a heated mattress pad and a down comforter. By switching them out, it not only helps freshen up the room for a new season, but it also helps keep our more expensive items from over-use and therefore, they don’t wear out as quickly. (But mostly, it’s just fun.)

I have a feeling there will be even more transition in our home as it morphs from Summer to Fall, but this is always the first major step.

A real bargain

A real bargain

Last weekend, Husband and I were out doing a little shopping Sunday afternoon when we decided to pop into TJ Maxx for a quick gander.

Granted, TJ Maxx is a great discount store, but we are seriously pinching pennies here, so we head straight to the clearance racks in the back corners of the store. There were hunt through all sorts of products that we would never purchase in search of a true gem–a hunt that is often well rewarded.

Lamp with missing wing nut.This time, we came across this reading lamp, and lamps are something Husband and I desperately need. Floor lamps are especially cost prohibitive for us so we own a grand total of one (and that one was purchased at a thrift store and bequeathed to us by a relative). Add to that we love reading lamps (seriously, I am a writer). This one was a lovely piece–thin and narrow so it won’t take up much space and a dark, brushed nickel finish that could go in most any room. Plus, it’s a little industrial-looking and I know I like to mix decor schemes…

We checked the price tag, originally $99 marked down to $35. We carefully inspected the piece to find out why it was placed on clearance and discovered a missing wing nut.

Ralph Lauren Lamp

A wing nut reduces the price by $64? Sounds good to us!

We snatched that baby up and headed to Home Depot, where we were able to get 4 of the appropriate size wing nut for $1.50, bringing our grand total to $36.50.

Our new Ralph Lauren lamp.

Oh, and did I mention that this was a Ralph Lauren reading lamp?

Reading lamp from Ralph Lauren via TJ Maxx.

And did I mention that when I looked it up online, I got a price of $1,140!!!

So maybe it was last year’s model or something, I don’t know. But it looks to me like we saved a whopping $1,103.50!

PS. If you’re looking for something similar, check out this one at Ikea!

A quick fix

A quick fix

While Husband and I dream of someday owning a house, for now we are in an incredibly awesome renting situation…a 5 bedroom, 1940’s custom built farm house in the country, and, most surprising of all, at an affordable price.

Our house

The fact is that we would totally buy this house if we could, however, it has already been promised to a family member of our landlords’ (yes, that’s plural–there are 5 of them).

So while we try to patiently wait for the right time to purchase our own home (remember that whole rhythm thing?), and while we purpose to enjoy the house we have for the time being, we are slowly but surely making purchases and improvements that we will be able to move with us when the time comes.

For instance, last winter, we bought a leather loveseat at a liquidation sale of a discount furniture store’s seconds location (talk about getting a deal!). Every month or so we make a few improvements, sometimes just a little purchase from Pier 1’s clearance rack, or, like this week, mounting a surfboard on the wall…

Understand that I’m not just married to a chef, but a surfing chef. And one who has definite opinions about decor. Since we hardly use the second floor of this house (except for guests), I thought I’d let Husband do whatever he wanted with the stairwell…

My little project this week is the shower caddy–simple, I know, but it will bring me so much pleasure to have it finished.

We registered for this “brushed nickel” shower caddy when we got married because I was just so excited to have found one that wasn’t white or chrome. The first 8 months we owned it, we were living in a fully furnished beach house and had it in storage, which means that this has been used for exactly one year. But it was already super rusted and getting icky orange/brown gunk on our toiletry bottles and running down the shower wall.

Rusty shower caddy

This photo was actually taken after we used steel wool to take off the worst of the rust.

After using steel wool on the rust, we laid it on newspapers outside and took a simple can of “paint and primer in one” Rustoleum (antique copper color) to it.

Rustoleum paint

At first, the paint struggled to stick to the caddy evenly:

Painting shower caddy

But after a few days and a few coats of paint, it was looking quite nice. We brought it into the mud room to cure and lose the paint fumes before adding it back to our bathroom.

Just in time for our string of out-of-town summer guests (oh, the perks of living at the beach…).

Finished shower caddy

Oh, and don’t mind the lovely flower-power laminate in the shower…actually, it’s in the entire bathroom–walls, ceiling, everything. But, the house we’re in right now is a rental, so there’s not much we can do about it.

Dresses and decor

Dresses and decor

My sister-in-law’s friend has been going through her late parents’ home, sorting and selling items as she prepares the house for sale. A few weeks ago, Husband and I brought home a chair, jewelry armoire, two side tables and a mirror. When we were there, I saw a lovely painting of a young woman sitting at a piano. The best part is that her dress looks strikingly similar to my wedding gown, even down to the light blue color and almost off-the-shoulders straps.

Just this past weekend I received a cryptic phone call from my sister-in-law saying that she had found a “surprise” for me and would pass it off to Husband next time she saw him.

Last night Husband brought home the painting!

Dresses and decor

Although the gold frame isn’t really my taste, I went ahead and hung it in the dining room. Sometime this spring I’ll have a painting day and work on the frame, along with the jewelry armoire and mirror. But for now, this graceful young lady graces our dining room.