Had to Have It, But Didn't Really Need It

In August, we moved into a new house and completely re-did the kitchen. It's so wonderful. I love it. Half the time I'm in there I'm saying to myself - I can't believe this is my kitchen! 

There are still some finishing touches that need to be done, hardware on the drawers and cabinets and the cabinetry needs to be finished above the refrigerator. But who are we kidding, I'm married to a builder which means we will probably get to it in 5 years. The cobbler's children have no shoes!

We intentionally left the cabinets above the fridge undone because we thought we would be buying a new refrigerator, preferably stainless steal. I actually thought we would buy one before we moved in the house. I felt like I had to have a new refrigerator because the black one that came with the house just would not do.... from a decorative standpoint. I thought it was a deal breaker, a non negotiable expense. Because what's the point of having a brand new kitchen and an old, black fridge?

Well, for three reasons:
It is in perfectly good condition.
We already own it.
We maxed out our renovation budget before we got to the fridge purchase.

So we put it off. And over time, the ol' black fridge has grown on me. What I thought I had to a have, a stainless steel new-to-me fridge, is really no longer necessary. In fact, I like the imperfectness of it. My house does not need to be perfect.We are a real family, not one in a magazine.

This whole thing has been a good reminder in contentment, in waiting, and in making do...because what we have is more than fine.

Also, it is a reminder that in most cases what I think is a need is really a want.

In the same vein, I thought this blog post was so refreshing...
Five Ways to Be More Content This Holiday Season by Life as Mom


My New Coat + I'm So Over Buying Expensive Clothes

photo credit: Stephen Small

Over the past couple of years I have searched high and low for a wool coat that could be dressed up or down. I was thinking Boden or J.Crew. But in the end, I picked up this super affordable pea coat from Old Navy. I bought it during a SALE for about $35. And my mom actually paid for it!

It's a polyester wool blend. I'm thrilled with it.

Over and over, I have debated...do I buy nicer, more expensive clothes or do I stick with Old Navy and Gap?

I'm coming out of a phase when I thought buying more expensive clothes might be the way to go. My thought was they would be higher quality and last longer. I was thinking with cost per wear I'd come out better, financially....and I'd like my clothes more.

But in my recent experience, even the nicer, more costly clothing I've bought has left me totally disappointed. This past summer, I splurged on some shirts from Anthropolgie and they held up pitifully. I was even careful to wash them exactly according to directions.

I also had a bad experience with a pair of Paige Jeans. They were fabulous when I bought them. I went as long as I could without washing, but eventually had to. I washed and dried them exactly as directed. They puckered in several places and stretched out. They are dead to me now. Y'all, they did not hold up for even three months!

What I've discovered is just because I'm paying more it does not guarantee higher quality. So, I'm trying to become a student of quality regardless of price or brand.

I'm back to (mostly) shopping at Old Navy, Gap, Ann Taylor Loft, and Target. In a way, I'm relieved that I have come full circle and can shop at these less expensive stores without feeling like I'm missing out on all these amazing high quality clothes that will last a decade.

I've decided that if I'm going to put a lot of money towards something, I say spend it on shoes! Shoes tend to fair better when it comes to getting what you paid for and they can really pull an outfit together.


For almost a year I have adopted the "ten" item wardrobe concept, having fewer clothes that I love and wearing them over and over and over. One of my favorite blogs is Jennifer Scott's, The Daily Connoisseur. She has a great video series about about creating a ten item wardrobe.

I particularly enjoyed this video about how she takes care of her clothes.


Another one of my favorite finds this season, also from Old Navy, this cream colored open cardigan.


What about you? Do you find it worth it to by expensive clothes? Or do you do just as well with Old Navy, Gap, and Loft?


Perfect Pork Chop Marinade

When it comes to trying new recipes, I find so few that are keepers. This five ingredient pork chop marinade is one of those rare exceptions. It has found a permanent spot in our regular meal rotation because it is so easy AND delicious.

recipe adapted from Passionate Penny Pincher:

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons garlic powder or onion powder
4-6 bone in pork chops

Mix first four ingredients together and pour over pork chops.

Once the pork chops have soaked in the marinade for a few hours, remove them from the juices and place on a foil lined cookie sheet. I find that cooked soy sauce is so hard to scrub off dishes, so lining with foil is a big help with clean up. Bake in the oven on 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on thickness.

I like to serve these with a green vegetable and baked sweet potatoes. It makes for a really simple, but flavorful meal.

Another thing I like to do with this meal is buy a bunch of pork chops from Costco, divide them up into Ziploc bags, double the marinade, and freeze. Then on a busy day all you have to do is pull them out of the freezer and bake.


Another recipe, Easy Bacon Wrapped Chicken


Easy, Cheap Way to Hang Kids' Artwork


Last week was long, busy, and packed with so many details. By Friday I wanted to do something fun and creative, a non-chore. But I only had a tiny amount of time (and money).

I wanted to do something with this bare, brick wall in our family room. This corner is the perfect place for this children's desk and two little chairs. The desk belonged to my grandfather when he was a little boy, and it is my favorite piece of furniture ever! Often, we let the kids eat here and many times the desk serves as the check out counter when they are playing store.


I have been debating about what sort of artwork to put on this wall. I originally wanted a huge black and white photograph of my kids. Like this. But I don't have the right photo. And then there's the cost of the frame.

Also, since it's brick, drilling a hole for a frame is tricky.

Then I had this other idea.... A friend of mine, who has a gorgeous home, hung a bunch of her children's artwork in her entryway using this putty. $3 at CVS.

I knew this idea would be perfect for this corner! $3 and I had my creative, minimal time required "project" on a Friday afternoon.

My daughter helped me decide on the placement of the pictures. We were thrilled to see these works of art go up on display.

I love that this project has a big impact and was so inexpensive. Also, I can rotate out the artwork as new stuff comes in.

The putty works great for securing frames on the wall so they will hang straight. Perfect for wall galleries

Also, Sorting Kids Artwork, To Keep or Throw Away?


Simple Salad My Kids Like

For about a week surrounding Halloween my kids were on a strict diet of hotdogs and candy. I had to get something green back in their diet!

One afternoon I got them good and hungry then I served this simple salad before dinner. They ate it up. Even my (almost) two year old like it.

Romaine lettuce
Briannas' Real French Vinaigrette dressing
lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

I've served it a second time since and it was again a hit. 


In the warmer months, I love a big ol' salad for lunch. But now that its cooler, I like soup.


Inspiring Resources for Reading to Your Children


We have been reading the Little House series to our five year old, Stephen. By the way, these are great books for BOYS! There is so much adventure and danger. Pa is always making his own bullets, braving the bitter cold winters, and coming face to face with wild animals.

Stephen is loving this series. In fact, we all are.

I have always wanted to instill good reading habits in my children. I have tried to make reading a normal, expected, and enjoyable part of our day.

That being said, I have found it painfully challenging to establish a culture of reading in our home. Part of this is my firstborn's disposition. I don't even believe in A.D.D. But if I did, he has it. In reality, he is just a normal, especially active five year old boy, a delight!


Also adding to the challenge is that my children are so close in age, and we are still very much in the little years. As soon as somebody sits down happily with mommy and a book, another child is pouring a gallon of milk on the kitchen floor.

And then there is my own laziness. 

Excuses. I have so many.

But as much as I could resolve and with the help of my husband we have stayed committed to reading. Keep on keepin' on has been my motto. It is wonderful to finally begin to enjoy the fruits of our labor and actually enjoy reading books to our children. I'm loving this new phase of chapter books.

One of the ways I've stayed inspired during the difficult times is I try surround myself with reading success stories, reminding me why it is so beneficial to read aloud to children

When nobody will sit and read with me, when the phone rings as soon as we get into the story, when restless toddlers fight over who will sit in my lap....when I'm generally discouraged, I look for a book, a blog post, a podcast or a story to encouraged me in reading.

Here's some of the resources that have inspired me recently.... and not so recently:

The Read Aloud Handbook
Honey for a Child's Heart

Inspiration for Reading Aloud to Your Children
How Reading Aloud is Like Comfort Food

Series I'm really looking forward to:
The Chronicles of Narnia
Winnie the Pooh
Harry Potter
Anne of Green Gables

Audio Resources:
(Even though my children are a little too young for audio books, I'm a huge fan, and I look forward to putting them to good use eventually.)
Loyal Books

How incredible is Ben Carson's story! He was dirt poor, raised by a single mother with no more than a third grade education. She made Ben and his brother read, requiring two book reports a week. As you all know, he grows up to be one of the most renowned neurosurgeons in the world. I love how simple his mother's method was....she just made him do it. 

I'm curious. How much time do you spend reading to your children?

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