What I’m Reading – Spring 2017 + February Snow Days

Every quarter I enjoy putting together a book list for myself. It helps motivate me more than anything because, after all, I am a total list-maker by nature. It’s how I accomplish the stuff of life. I have recently started using the Goodreads app. I have no idea how I didn’t know about it before now!!! It’s an incredible app for organizing book lists (what you’ve read, what you’re reading, and what you want to read). You can view what friends are reading and look at reviews and suggestions.

This past quarter, I read None Like Him, The Best Yes, Humble Roots, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family and got through most of The Whole-Brained Child. I would give five stars to None Like Him, Humble Roots, and Parenting…! I would give three stars to The Best Yes and The Whole-Brained Child. It seemed like everyone was reading The Best Yes so I wanted to see what the hype was all about. I had to force myself to finish it and was less than impressed. Not a bad book, but not my favorite. The Whole-Brained Child has a lot of really great research and helpful ideas about a child’s brain development and how it affects behavior. It was interesting but started to bore me quickly, most likely because I’m not the most scientifically-minded person! I didn’t want to waste my time finishing it because there are so many other books I want to get to!

I’m a pinch late (ok a couple months late) posting my books for this quarter. My goal is to finish the following titles by May 1.

This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live (by Melody Warnick)

Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids (by Jack Klumpenhower)

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (by Timothy Keller)

A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World (by Katelyn Beaty)

What are you reading? I would love to add to my growing Goodreads list!


Now for a completely and utterly unrelated topic – my daughter and a couple of snow days this week! She has recently become obsessed with snow. She BEGS me to take her outside the minute she sees the snow covering the ground. She runs to her room to find her gloves, hat, boots, etc. And to think she used to be terrified of the stuff! She’s turning into a true Utah girl already! I snapped some photos of her playing yesterday and haaaaad to share! Y’all. She’s just too cute.

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Sugar + Spice + Everything Nice

It’s been a while since I’ve pulled out my camera just to take photos of my daughter. Valentine’s Day was the perfect excuse to dress up my little doll baby and talk her into taking some photos. It didn’t take much convincing because we did the photos at a local farm and she knows photos at the farm mean cows, chickens, geese, pigs, horses, and roosters are just around the corner!

Hold on! Here comes a whoooole lotta photos of the cutest 21-month old ever.

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styling notes

dress: Old Navy

boots: H&M

headband: Everly Avenue

Homeowners (Round Two)!

I’m thrilled to tell you that we closed on our first Utah home yesterday! I’m here to tell you a little about the process and about the home we found!

We started the search for our first home (in Oregon) with the idea of finding a fixer upper. But after some investors out-bid us on the one we wanted we ended up finding a brand new home on the cutest street in the perfect area and fell in love. A brand new home wasn’t what we were looking for but it ended up being the best thing for us at the time. We lived there for a little over four years before moving to Utah this past September. We sold our Oregon home after two days on the market (!!!) and made a good bit of equity on the sale. We purchased at the market’s low point and sold at the height of the summer seller’s market! We never thought we’d be making much of a profit on a brand new home, but God (of course) knew exactly what we needed.

Utah’s housing market is quite a bit more expensive than Oregon. And way more expensive than South Carolina (where I grew up). The homes in Salt Lake City start off very old, very small, and very expensive in the center of downtown and as you move out from the city, they get a bit newer, a bit bigger, and a bit cheaper. Since moving here we have rented a home about 20 minutes south of the city center. We love the area and really had the desire to stay close by. But we didn’t want to lock ourselves into one area, so we looked at homes all over. The house hunt in Oregon ended when we saw “the one” (so perfect, so cute, so right) so I wondered if having that same expectation in a more expensive market was even appropriate. Going into the search process I was feeling less emotionally driven and more calculated about the whole thing. We knew our budget would be stretched. We knew we wouldn’t get everything we wanted. We knew the word “compromise” would come up frequently. We knew it could possibly mean a very small home on a very busy street.

We looked at about ten properties in person before finding the one we loved. Kya and I often met up with our realtor while Daniel was at work so I saw more homes than he did. I became quickly discouraged when I saw what we could afford. We looked at quite a few homes downtown and nothing decent was in our price range. We saw one very small, completely dumpy house (with old charm and good bones) for $300,000 and couldn’t even process how someone could be selling it for so much! It needed a good $100,000 in renovations so it was quickly off our radar. After seeing that home, I felt more drawn to look in the area where we currently rent because I knew we could get more for our money. We just weren’t seeing many properties in our price range in the area we wanted.

A few weeks later, after seeing several more disappointing properties, I opened up the realty app on my phone before falling asleep one night and saw a property that looked promising. I immediately texted our realtor and asked if we could see it the next morning. Kya and I met her the next day to see the house. Before I even walked into the home I told our realtor that I knew I wanted to put an offer on this one. I could just tell it was going to be good and far better than anything we had seen. Walking through the home confirmed my initial feelings and I immediately called my husband to try to convince him that we should make an offer before he even saw the house in person. He decided he would go see it after work and then we could make a decision. He was excited (maybe not quite as excited as me, but that’s normal, haha) and we put in an offer the next day. Our offer was promptly accepted as is (which surprised us)! We got the inspection done a few days later and nothing alarming came up and things continued to progress.

Ok, now a little about the house itself. It was built in 1960 and was actually flipped right before we bought it. Now you know how quick, contractor-type flips usually go – they do just enough work to sell it fast. This home is way better than anything we saw in SLC in our price range. Much of the home does not match our specific design tastes and it needs some work but it’s absolutely livable. It’s 1,700 square feet and has three bedrooms and three baths (two full and one three-quarter). It is a split-level home with a half set of stairs going up to the bedrooms and a half set of stairs going to the basement. The basement has a laundry room/bathroom and then one large room (with full-height ceilings and a lot of windows).

Right away, we plan to turn the basement into a fourth bedroom and an office. I’m soooo excited that we’ll have a designated office space. It’s something we haven’t had since our first year of marriage. We are also going to replace all of the home’s windows right away. There are 16 windows total and many are odd/custom sizes (which really adds to the charm of the home). I’m hoping the budget allows for black windows (fingers crossed)! If you’ve never seen black windows, do a quick search for an idea of what it looks like. STUNNING in my opinion. Another project right away is painting the entire home. I have narrowed down my colors and just need to get in the home and do some sampling before I decide for sure.

Our goal is to stay true to era of the home as we renovate, work on projects, and decorate. Up until recently, we have both been drawn to more traditional + rustic + shabby chic design elements. But we feel ourselves gravitating toward more mid-century + rustic + industrial combinations recently, especially since finding this home. We can’t possibly change our entire design style (which we don’t want to do anyways) but we’d love to hone it and allow it to morph a bit. Today I purchased new living room furniture (at a steal!) to reflect this aesthetic. Paint colors are one area where we want to branch out a bit. Every house we’ve lived in has had tan walls and while it’s not a bad look at all, I’m over it. I’d like to go lighter and brighter in some areas and take risks with some deeply saturated colors in other areas.

I’m thankful to have an incredibly handy husband. He is actually a very skilled craftsman. Down the road a bit we plan to gut and reconfigure the kitchen. Because Daniel is a custom cabinetry engineer and builder, we can design and build our kitchen from the ground up ourselves at quite a cost reduction. I can’t wait for the day when my custom kitchen dreams will come true! It will probably be a little wait, so until then I’ll definitely enjoy the kitchen we have! It has plenty of storage, a new backsplash, new countertops, and new appliances. The cabinets are original and a little wonky in places but overall they’re in great shape.

Once the weather warms up we will enjoy working on the outside of our home. It has a decent size backyard but it’s very plain and nondescript. An outbuilding needs to be torn down, the patio cover needs to be replaced, we need to purchase patio furniture, and I would love to have Daniel build me some raised garden beds like he did at our last home. The landscaping also needs some love.

Fixing up a home has been a dream of ours since early in our marriage. It’s finally going to happen – some right away and some over time! I truly cannot wait to get started.

Now I’m going to share a WHOLE lot of before photos of our home. They aren’t the best photos but they’ll do the job. As we work on projects, I’ll post updates and more photos!

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 ^ Kya’s Bedroom ^

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^ Kya’s Bedroom ^

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^ Kya’s Bedroom ^

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^ Extra Bedroom ^

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^ Master Bedroom ^

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^ Master Bedroom ^

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^ Master Bathroom ^

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^ Master Bathroom ^

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^ Master Bathroom ^

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^ Upstairs Hallway ^

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^ Hall Bathroom ^

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^ Hall Bathroom ^

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^ Living Room ^

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^ Eat-In Kitchen ^

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^ Kitchen ^

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^ Kitchen + Dining ^

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^ Kitchen ^

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^ More Kitchen ^

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^ Basement ^

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^ Basement Bath + Laundry ^

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^ Basement ^

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^ Basement ^

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^ Outside (obviously) – there is a large garage attached to the left ^

A Creative Outlet + Why I Love Having One

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I’ve never had career goals or one specific interest that consumed me. I’ve had many interests and I love pursuing them all a little bit at a time. Photography, design, cooking, organizing, reading, writing, and mentoring are among my favorites. I have always considered myself a bit of a renaissance woman and I don’t consider myself an expert in any one area. I love engaging with a variety of subjects and experiences. Until recently, I had never been draw to more fully explore the possibilities of expanding one area.

I got married in the winter of 2010 and worked outside the home for four years before we had our first child in the spring of 2015. I was cut out for that office job with my organizational, writing, and people skills and because I had held several similar jobs previously. As much as I enjoyed using those gifts, there was still a side of me that still felt hidden. A creative side.

When I considered creative people, I thought of artists, graphic designers, crafters, DIYers, musicians, interior designers, and full-blown professional photographers. And while I fit into a few of those categories (musician, quazi-DIYer, with a little interior design education) I still wouldn’t have described myself as “creative.” I’ve played piano and violin since early elementary school but never rose to the top of my peers. During the first few years of marriage, I consistently worked on DIY projects but if I’m honest, most of those projects were inspired from Pinterest or blogs and left me realizing that my DIY skills were lackluster. I studied interior design in college (as my minor) but even as I was taking classes I quickly realized that while yes, I loved it and had a bit of a knack for it, I was not as passionate or skilled at it as my college counterparts (though my passion for it has grown since having my own homes).

Fast forward to the fall of 2013. I began to realize that my long-time interest in photography could be more than an interest if I would be brave enough to spend real money on a real camera. In high school and college, I had a few digital point and shoot cameras (all Canon). I was familiar with the brand so I made a quick decision on Black Friday 2013 to order a DSLR (Canon Rebel) from Amazon. It came a couple days later on very snowy day. I furiously tore into the box and couldn’t wait to get started.

I quickly realized that photography was an interest I wanted to more fully pursue. Over the last two years, I’ve slowly progressed through much research, a lot of trial and error, and a little formal education. People have been gracious to hire me, allowing me to get more experience and invest more into my little business. I created a Simple account for my business where I saved my photo session money and then invested back into my skill by enrolling in a class, purchasing software and equipment, and eventually upgrading to a Canon 6D.

The creative outlet of photography has been a lifeline to me during this last year and a half of motherhood. The way it has filled me is surprising. As my young self looked to the life ahead, I imagined that marriage and motherhood in and of themselves would be all I ever wanted to do. I absolutely LOVE being a wife, mom, and homemaker. Those roles bring me incredible joy. But one draw of photography is that it’s completely unrelated to errands and cooking and housework and diapers. Being a mom to a toddler keeps me quite busy, but it’s not full-blown crazy most of the time. Photography fills in those “fringe hours” of my long days at home and makes me a better time manager. It gives my husband more one-on-one time with our daughter on the weekend and provides me with little respites of time away from it all.

Photography fulfills my God-given drive to create, or in reality, to simply unveil the beauty of His created world. Because we are each made in the image of God and because He is good and gracious, we are each allowed to participate in life as mini “creators.” I’m grateful for the ability to capture life and love through the lens of my camera. I have no idea where or how far it will take me, but I’m content to faithfully use it, let it grow, and help me reflect my creative God.

Toddler Stocking Stuffer Guide

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My friend Jenny and I have teamed up to share our toddler stocking stuffer picks for 2016! We have three kids between the two of us, ages 1-3, so these ideas reflect that range. We hope these ideas inspire you as you search for those last-minute gifts!


Jenny’s Picks

Toddler Unisex Tube Socks

These are insanely cute! And who doesn’t love some baby knee chub hanging over knee socks?! I got the six-pack and I’m going to use a couple pairs as gifts for others, wrapped in a hair bow.

Augie and Lola Reusable Bag

I was able to get these for a steal on Cyber Monday for $4 each, so I grabbed several! The patterns are SO fun. And my kids eat snacks ALL. THE. TIME. so I like that I can mix up the variety by throwing different things in these cute little bags. I know you can also find them on Amazon Prime (different brands, of course) if you are in a pinch and need some quick shipping!

Little Poppy Co Christmas Classic Bow

This is another STEAL I snatched up for Black Friday! I was able to get it for only $2 so I added on a couple extras for gifts! If you are on Instagram or Etsy, I am sure you can find unique little bows in all sorts of price ranges!

Crazy Crayons Eco Stars

I love that these are simple and pretty and actually really practical for toddlers. I think my kids will love coloring with these. For my one year old, this would be a little easier to grasp than normal-sized crayons.

Lacing Toys

I found mine in the bargain bins at Target for $3, but I’ve linked to something similar.


Kellie’s Picks

My First Brain Quest

Kya is a very fast learner so I had in mind some type of flashcard set for her for Christmas. While searching Amazon, I came across this and thought it would be perfect and would challenge her mentally!

Shorven Baby Knee High Socks

I have seen these type of knee socks for a while but had never seen the kitten or owl ones! How cute are they?!

Sweet n Swag Leather Hair Bows

We’re a little bow-obsessed over here so I knew a few would go in Kya’s stocking. I ordered three from Sweet n Swag on Cyber Monday so I got an extra good deal. I fell in love with these leather bows!

Along with the above items I purchased a classic box of animal crackers at Target for $1 as well as some fruit snack pouches. These items are very inexpensive, help fill up the stocking, and will get an easily-pleased toddler quite excited!


We are both so excited about Christmas, especially with toddlers in our homes! What are your favorite toddler stocking stuffers? We would love to hear from you!

A White Thanksgiving

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Since we officially celebrated Thanksgiving last week, we spent Thanksgiving Day differently this year. I started off by sleeping in until 7:30! Daniel got up with Kya and let me sleep. She is an early riser (usually between 5:00-5:30, sometimes 6:00) so 7:30 feels great. We then got ready and headed to the center of downtown SLC to fill our bellies with brunch at the Oasis Cafe. I highly recommend it! It’s a pleasant environment with great food and large portions!

Then we headed to Park City. The historic downtown area is about 40 minutes from SLC. Not much was open, but we had fun driving through the snow and looking at the beautiful mountains. We stopped along the side of the road to take a photo for our Christmas cards. I brought my tripod for this purpose but realized once we were getting set up that I was missing the little piece that attaches the camera to the tripod. We improvised and I carefully placed my camera on a wide, metal pole on a sidewalk while we took a few steps into a flat area surrounded by snow-laden trees.  Kya wasn’t very happy with the snow or the cold. We didn’t realize how chilly it would be in the middle of the day. It was 25 degrees in the early afternoon! We froze our tails off snagging a few photos then loaded back into the car to see if we could find an open coffee shop for a warm beverage. Thankfully, Park City’s Starbucks was open and bustling with people who needed relief from the cold. We ordered a venti Chai Tea Latte to share and got Kya her first cake pop. She was a huge fan! Who wouldn’t be?! We warmed up then headed back home.

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After arriving home, I decided to get Kya suited up in her puffy snow gear and boots. We went outside for a few minutes to see how she would react to the snow. She was not too excited about playing, but she did eat some snow. We ate leftovers for dinner, put Kya to bed, and watched a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie. Our Thanksgiving was so different, but very fun and relaxing!

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Our Thanksgiving Menu

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We celebrated Thanksgiving one week early this year. My parents were in town from the east coast so we thought we would do our full Thanksgiving meal while they were here! We are not exactly sure what we’ll do on Thanksgiving Day but we’re looking into a day trip of some sort. As much fun and as delicious as Thanksgiving dinner was, I don’t want to prepare it twice in one week’s time. 🙂 We’re changing things up this year!

Having our meal prepared early allows me to share the recipes I used with you all before it’s time for you to finalize those Thanksgiving grocery lists!

THANKSGIVING MENU


Sage + Butter Roasted Turkey w/Gravy

I shared this turkey recipe previously on my blog, so you might recognize it. My brother taught me this method over FaceTime a couple years ago. I wrote everything down right away and recorded it on my blog so I would never forget the details! Several friends have since followed this method and love it as much as we do! It takes a little planning (because a brine is involved) but it’s not difficult! You won’t be disappointed!

Sweet Potato Casserole

I used Joanna Gaines’ sweet potato casserole recipe from issue 1 of The Magnolia Journal. If you don’t own a copy, go find one! They are available at a variety of retailers. I wanted a copy the week it came out and had to visit four stores to find one because they were flying off the shelves so fast! I’m sure by now newsstands are well stocked. I know for a fact that Barnes and Noble and Walmart sell the magazine. It’s a gorgeous publication and totally worth the $8.00. My mom purchased a 2017 subscription for me and I can’t wait for the next issue!

Ok, back to the casserole. The most genius part of this take on sweet potato casserole is the cinnamon graham cracker/marshmallow topping. Oh man. So good! The only changes I would make to the recipe are these: Instead of using a potato masher, use a hand mixer. It makes the potatoes more creamy. Also, I like my sweet potato casseroles really sweet. This recipe didn’t call for brown sugar. I would stir some in along with the other mix-ins and maybe even sprinkle a bit on top before baking. Mmmm.

Green Bean Casserole 

I also followed Joanna Gaines’ green bean casserole recipe from Magnolia Journal. I have previously used a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that I love, but thought I’d try something new. This one is more involved than a standard throw-together green bean casserole, but not too hard if you’re comfortable in the kitchen. It’s a from-scratch recipe meaning you will use fresh beans, make your own mushroom cream sauce, and even fry up your own crunchy onion topping! It’s so worth the extra effort!

Macaroni + Cheese 

This recipe came from my cousin. My mom got the recipe from her at Thanksgiving dinner one year and then shared it with me. I absolutely love it and it’s incredibly easy! I’ve tweaked the recipe a little bit to make it my own. I make it all year around!

2 cups cavatappi noodles (you can also use traditional macaroni noodles but I’m a huge fan of cavatappi!)

4 eggs, beaten

3 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp. salt

black pepper, to taste

4 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook noodles in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain cooked noodles. Beat together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour half of the noodles into a greased 9 x 13 dish and add half of the cheese. Repeat layers. Pour milk/egg mixture over the layers. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the eggs are fully set.

Dinner Rolls

I didn’t go fancy this time. Daniel picked up rolls from the store on the way home from work. 🙂 But I do love a good homemade roll. I would love to know your favorite bread machine roll recipe!

Cranberry Sauce

Again, not complicated. I reached for the Ocean Spray whole cranberry version. 🙂

Pie (OF COURSE!)

Everyone has his or her favorite Thanksgiving pie recipes that shouldn’t be messed with! This year, my mom made a homemade pumpkin pie. It was delicious! But one of my all-time favorite pie recipes is my mom’s Sour Cream Apple Pie. It’s so easy. You can even cheat and use a frozen pie crust if you want to (shhh, I won’t tell)!


Maybe one of more of these recipe ideas will help as you plan your Thanksgiving meal! They’re all great, but if I could recommend just one it would be the turkey! BEST. TURKEY. EVER.

Happy Thanksgiving!