Long Hollow Baptist Life Group Christmas

We are blessed beyond measure with a kind-hearted, Jesus-loving group of friends in our Life Group at Long Hollow. We’ve been friends with some of them for nearly a decade, and they’ve walked with us through college, engagement, marriage, deployments, illness, highs, and lows. They always point us to The Lord through sound doctrine and loving kindness. 24991174_10214709606359651_4752229180655399114_nBut, in addition to all of those things, none of us take ourselves too seriously.

These friends know how to laugh, and that adds joy to our days and refreshment to our bones. 24993649_10214709606959666_9030649206177871034_nI think this “Speak Out” picture may be a better representation of us than our normal grins.

A friend for seasons of hardship, of joy, of love, and of laughter is a gift.

In the garden 

I knew I dreamt of gardening and planting things in our own soil long before we owned a home. 

But I didn’t expect to be the sort of person who dreams about getting home to the yard while on vacation. Or who runs out to the yard every day after work to inspect for new growth, leaf spot, or weeds. 

But, a year and a half of home ownership and a space to cultivate and call our own has brought unspeakable pleasures. 

I do think there are a hundred or more lessons to learn in the garden. This year, I have been learning several. I’m seeing the rewards of discipline (that daily upkeep yields so much more joy, while periods of laziness only leave me with hours of catch-up), and that mentality has carried over into other areas of my life. The patience and foresight of buying smaller things and waiting for them to mature and grow (like when I planted shrubs too close together for their mature size and had to dig them all up, or when I expected instant gratification but realized our budget meant that it would be many years before we enjoyed a full laurel hedge). The wisdom of seeking out expertise has also become apparent, because if nothing else, I’ve begun to see how little I actually know about gardening (not to mention lawn care; ours looks particularly pitiful). 

The limelights we planted last year with (with a pick axe through the hard, summer clay) have grown many feet, perhaps three feet just in a year’s time! The two nearest the bench stand even a little taller than I am. 

We laid down pine straw out back and plan to mulch with it elsewhere as well. I’ve sort of accidentally created a little, informal perennial garden that’s taken on a life of its own. I learned right away the deception of no-stake gladiolus. These things need a stake no matter what the bulb packaging promises. Phlox, echinacea, Shasta daisies, veronica, and salvia fill this space. I’d like to sow some larkspur in next year in early spring, and perhaps tucks away some dianthus in the front. The phlox and coneflowers seem to especially attract honeybees, while others are favorites of butterflies. I’ve greatly enjoyed picking all the flowers my heart desires. I fell for mini pennies right away, and I expected not to see any this year (I’ve been told hydrangeas often establish root systems the second year, and we experienced a late frost that killed off most budding leaves), but was delighted to see three flowers spring forth anyway. That spinach on the far left above, almost out of the frame, was a total failure this year. I haven’t determined why, but I’ll try again next year after more research. Our hostas and autumn ferns all returned this year, bigger than last year.I spent many hours out here digging up built-up mulch, cleaning up the edge with a spade, and ensuring the beds slope away form the house. After a recent minor operation, this was perhaps the most unwise endeavor in recent memory. These hostas, like everything near the back patio, were quite an adventure to plant due to all the gravel underground near the poured concrete sidewalk. 

If only our front yard were still this tidy; beginning in June, our river birch develops spots and constantly sheds leaves. I cannot determine if the problem is fungal or insect-related, but I hope to consult with an arborist soon. What a sweet spring of learning and dreaming in the garden. 

Updates All Over

Here’s a quick photo update of our progress on our sweet little first home. 

We are so grateful for it, love to fill it with people we love, and hope to stay here for a long time! After a year of planning, our layout is how we’d like it for a while! We have some pretty low-end furniture here mixed in with a few “grownup” pieces. I’m going to resist the urge to replace until I have peace about investing in more.I hope to enjoy our kitchen table for decades to come! This little sideboard was actually our Homegoods media stand until we mounted the TV above the fireplace his summer. I refinished our guest room dresser. This is the one we inherited from my parents who got it from my grandparents. Updated hardware and Mindful Gray by Sherwin Williams gave it a fresh look. We also finally found a mirror that’s better scaled for the piece. There’s so much painted furniture in here that I wanted to incorporate more natural wood. Nearly everything in this photo was in our apartment, and it’s all just found homes here. The side table served as my nightstand, but I only keep a Bible, commentary, and journal at my bedside, so this piece now houses our very-small collection of movies, remotes, leashes, and not much else. I’m determined not to overstuff our home. Little lambs that were found last Easter have returned. They remind me of several sweet scriptures. We love to light the lamp and copper lanterns at supper instead of the harsh overhead lighting. We’ll always prefer a soft glow after crazy days of work. I brought in the rug and side table form the living room into our bedroom. We’ve swapped our heavy curtains for sheer linen, too. 

I searched for over a year for just the right bench for the end of our bed; it needed to be wide enough to look proportionate at the foot of our king-sized bed. I have enjoyed having a landing spot for our pillows and a place to put on my shoes in the morning. It’s the little things! I printed this free botanical art from The Graphics Fairy blog! I already had the frames on hand. The euro shams are from the Southern Living collection at Dillard’s. Harley can finally get on the bed independently. Mr. S pretends to protest, but deep down, he loves this! I found the large-scale vase at a Franklin antique store and liked that this Lowe’s lamp feels somewhat symmetrical. Someday, we’d like to replace this dresser. I’d prefer natural wood in our space, and a few bottom drawers need repair. This would be perfect for a guest room, but for daily use, it may be time to upgrade this piece to something we’ll keep for many years, Lord willing. Recently, I’ve really fallen for the online store Everyday Occassions thanks to the influence of a friend whose style I admire. I was particularly excited about these labels for cleaning supplies, since I have always had a (totally silly) dislike of busy product labels. Why not have a little more joy when doing the dishes and cleaning house? 🙂 My Rosemary topiaries are still thriving in this South-facing window. I’m so pleased! 

A Few New Additions

My favorite thing to do is to have people in our home. I love to brew people coffee, make people meals, and encourage them to kick up their heels and rest!

A couple of months ago, I rearranged our living room to make room for two new chairs. 

The sofa was moved to right against the wall, and the two chairs we brought from the apartment were left in front of the patio door.The TV was hung above the fireplace. This was probably the first time I’ve truly done the opposite of what Mr. S wanted. Truthfully, neither of us are fans of this look. However, it’s a small sacrifice to make considering that this means we can welcome more people into our home.A pair of swivel gliders has arrived from Ballard Designs. The shape and function of these chairs have captured my eyes for a few years, so I was so excited to grab them while they were on sale. Our bookshelf has moved back, too. I haven’t bothered to style it.I knew I wanted everyone to have a place to set their drinks, but because of our small space, the side tables needed to be petite.

This brass side table from Urban Outfitters did the trick and on a budget. I decided to use the same table on both sides of the room to unify the mismatched pairs of chairs.This side is shaping up, and this place if finally starting to feel as homey to me as the apartment. This lovely poster from Tanmachi goods arrived this week. It brings to mind one of my favorite scriptures:

“Seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”

Bright and sweet and happy. Maybe it’s not like a designer room, but it’s certainly a lot like home. 

I’ll Drink to That!

Better health, that is!

This fall marks the beginning of something I’ve neglected for years; self care.

I am sometimes consumed with the idols of work, busyness, and people pleasing. I need to begin with that confession. 

I have neglected caring for my body and my mind these last few years. As I inch (more like race) toward thirty, I am beginning to feel that lack of care. A less trim waist is one thing, but tired eyes, an achey body, a weak immune system, and a scattered mind are not acceptable. I have too much good work to do to let my body become a hindrance.

I realize that these years before children will set a precedent for the rest of my days and the way I care for the well being of my whole future family. 

So, I have a few specific goals:

  1. Exercise moderately. 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of strengthening just three little times a week. This may seem like a small goal, but for me, it’s a far cry from where I have been
  2. Make meals at home, eating out only twice a week for any given meal. I always choose health groceries, but I always choose unhealthy options away from home. I may also have to skip eating with those who will make unhealthy choices until I have practiced self discipline, since I always fall off the wagon when others do. I will instead recommend little coffee dates, walks, and hikes. There are many reasons to get together besides food. 
  3. Sleep. 8 full hours a day. I want to go to bed in time to do that. I think a big part of this can be accomplished by simply leaving my phone on my dresser instead of scrolling through it before bed time.

So, onto the eating front for now:

I know how good fruits and veggies are so good for us, but I could always incorporate more. Especially vegetables!

Their nutritional value and lower sugar make them so healing for our bodies, but if I reach for any healthy snack on the go, it’s much more likely to be a piece of fruit than a veggie.

But you can fit the nutrients of so many veggies into a single glass by simply juicing them. 

My favorite juices  are veggie heavy with just a little fruit, but there’s no harm in easing your way in with extra fruit until your palate adjusts.Now, this is no substitute for the fiber found in whole foods, but it sure makes a nice supplement.

Look at all the gorgeous, fresh-washed produced that fit into my glass.

I can hardly wait til Mr. S is home and I can surprise him with a glass of veggie juice. He would love it!

Today

I had a quiet day of solitude, bluegrass music, hymns, hot coffee, and laundry. Between loads, here’s what I did: Reworked these shelves to include just a few decorative touches.Did some serious online shopping to prep for future guests (and switching slowly to more faux flowers for a little less maintenance in this life)Took in Brother’s girl, Remmington, for the week. Played with things that have been in storage since we moved.The rug is only gone because of the extra pet around here and my desire for easy clean up.Washed the soap dishes I hoard (I’m too ashamed to show you how much hand and bar soap I have).This.
Thanking the Lord for the blessing of peaceful days. For bills to pay and work to be done. And for the beauty to be found right here without ever leaving the comforts of home. 

Painting the Door with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Like all poor bloggers, I forgot to take a before picture. But it was BAD. The white paint was chipping off our fiber glass door in large, hard, sharp, flaky chunks.

I had been dreaming of replacing our door with a wood-and-glass entry like this: 
From farmhousetouches.com

I’m always a fan of natural wood and traditional, simple style. I’m also a big fan of natural light. Since this side of the room faces North to a covered porch, an extra window would do us good! 

However, Mr. S (wisely) has insisted that we need to protect our privacy, and that our typical, tract home neighborhood isn’t the ideal setting for a view straight through to our home.

Also, this kind of door is a real budget buster. They’re expensive! 

So I decided to go with a classic black door. 

Source: Pinterest, uploaded by another user

While I haven’t gotten around to the outside, I really felt our interior needed the contrast most of all. 

I knew I didn’t want a true black, but more of a charcoal color. 

Then, a sweet neighbor gave me her left over Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Graphite as a surprise!

I wasted no time and got my door knocked out the next morning (my birthday). It took two coats to get all-over coverage, but three to get every last stubborn corner.

 This image has only chalk paint, and you can see the door is lovely and dark, and also matte (one of my favorite qualities of chalk paint). 

As great as it looked, I knew it would get some serious wear and tear, so I needed to protect this finish to make it more durable. 

I considered using Annie Sloan clear wax, but because this door gets intensely hot from exposure to our swampy Tennessee summers, I knew I needed to go a different route. 

I chose General Finishes High Performance Water Based Topcoat in the Flat formula from Then & Again Home Marketplace, the store where I work. 

I already had used this product to reseal my kitchen table and loved it. 


Even though I was carefully to use long strokes, the top coat dried and gave the appearance of short, choppy strokes. 

I poked around online and found that the chalk paint probably is absorbing the product unevenly before it dries, resulting in this spotty look. 

However, the great news is that this unsightly layer acted as a barrier for the next two. 

Here it is after two coats. A huge improvement! The imperfections you can see are actually present in the door itself, not a result of the finishes I chose. 

The topcoat dried pretty rapidly in my house, whose thermostat I set right at 70 degrees. I turned on the overhead fan after each application, and the process flew by. 

And finished! Such a huge improvement from chippy, flaking paint, way cheaper than a new door, and some much-needed masculine contrast in this space! 

Early Fall

Fall is our favorite season.

This year, it’s far too hot this September, and Mr. S is away, but rather than pouting, I figured I’d just make believe. 
My first batch of dried limelights turned out beautifully! Next year, I hope to have plenty to share with friends. I adore them beside white pumpkins.I found this sweet orange plaid throw at Michaels while grabbing fabric for a client. I used a gift card to grab two of those sweet pumpkin pillows from Pottery Barn. I went a little crazy and even grabbed some curtains at World Market with a bit of turquoise, burnt orange, and brown in them. 
Same orange pillows as last year. I made them out of Target kitchen fabric (can’t remember now if it was a tablecloth or dish towel) when I couldn’t found an orange plaid I liked. Grabbed the gray throw from Pottery Barn, too.