Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Our wall-to-wall bookshelves

I was reminded after posting this on instagram that I've never shared our bookshelves here on the blog! This is one of my favorite spots in our entire house! Caleb designed and built these wall-to-wall bookshelves for our front living room. He built them to fit perfectly against the wall that you see when you enter the room, and I love the impact that they make! They're screwed to the wall so they're perfectly safe, but he also made it so that we can remove them and take them with us, if we ever end up moving.

We only have about three of the sections filled up so far, but I like that we have plenty of room to grow our collection. We are a family that loves books, so we need a lot of space to store them all!

It makes me so happy to see our gorgeous shelves and all of our books every time I walk by this room! Caleb did such an excellent job with every detail, and they are exactly what I envisioned for this space!

Monday, May 23, 2016

How I find time to read

After starting my monthly series about the books I'm reading, I received several comments and questions about how I find time to read so many books. I will say that this season of my life has been the one where I've had the most time to read! I am a stay-at-home mom (I work only 3-6 hours per week from home), I have just one child, and that child still naps twice a day! It's a unique combination that allows me extra time here and there during the week that I can spend reading if I'm caught up on everything else. I know it's not something that will last, so I am enjoying it while I can! That being said, here are a few tips that might help you spend more time reading.

Keep a to-read list // I've found that if I keep a running list of books that I want to read, whether they're new releases by my favorite authors or books that have been recommended to me, I end up making more time to read because I'm anxious to get to the next book on my list! I currently have 14 books on my nightstand and 8 e-books in my Kindle app, so those piles definitely keep me busy reading!

Read every day // I'm a firm believer that you will make time for what's important to you. If you truly want to read, you can find some chunk of time in your day, no matter how small it may be, to read. I read every single night when I get in bed, something that I've been doing for pretty much my whole life. Sometimes it's only 10 minutes before I start falling asleep, but if it's a particularly gripping book, it may be an hour! This means that even if I have a crazy busy week or we're traveling or have house guests, I can easily read at least a book or two a week.

Join or start a book club // If you love reading but never seem to get around to it, it might help if you join a book club so you have an external obligation of sorts to read (and finish!) a book. Similarly, check books out from the library. If you hate paying overdue fees like I do and the book you're really enjoying is due in a couple of days, you might make a little more time to read so you can hurry up and finish it before it's due.

Read more than one book at a time // This might drive some people crazy, but I really enjoy reading a couple books of different genres at the same time. Typically this means that I'm reading a fun novel, a Christian living/thought book, and maybe a parenting or psychology book. Those are the genres that I tend to read the most anyway, and I've found that if I'm reading the Christian living book after my morning devotions, reading a couple of chapters from the parenting book at some point during the week, and reading a novel every night when I get in bed, I'm spending more time reading and finishing more books than I realize.

(image from here)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Current Skin Care Routine

Do you switch up your skin care routine, or are you dedicated to the same products year after year? While I am pretty loyal to many products and keep my tried-and-true on hand, I enjoy trying new products and switching up my routine. Here's my current skin care routine:

1 // using this face wash every morning when I get up. I won it in an Instagram giveaway, and I'm so glad I did! It's all-natural (and handmade too!), and it feels so good. It's really moisturizing, so for the first time in my life I'm not having to wear any kind of day cream as a moisturizer!

2 // using this body butter for extra hydration all over. It's nothing special--I got it as a sample in the mail and you can find it at Walmart--but I love the coconut scent, and it's really hydrating.

3 // using this scrub to exfoliate my face every night in the shower. It's the one product that I've used every day for about 15 years, and I can't move away from it. My face feels so smooth afterwards!

4 // using this cleansing gel every night in the shower to cleanse after exfoliating. With the humidity of summer I can actually use a gel face wash rather than a creamy one, something I can never do in the winter. This is really cleansing, and I'm a big fan of the anti-aging element.

5 // using this face cream before bed. It's a bit of a thicker cream which helps holds in moisture on my face all night long.

6 // using this body cream on my hands every night when I get in bed. The eucalyptus scent is supposed to be calming, and I've found that it is! I've been using this every night when I get in bed since Madeleine was born, and it's definitely become part of my nighttime routine.

Monday, May 16, 2016

How to make strawberry jam

Making homemade strawberry jam is a little spring tradition I've had going for the past six years. We absolutely love it, and I usually make a lot because I don't like the taste of store-bought jam anymore (even when I was hugely pregnant last year I managed to crank out 5 batches!). Homemade jam is one of those things that sounds hard/annoying/intimidating, but this recipe is not! No sterilizing of jars is required! With the right tools and a good system, it is really easy (though a bit time consuming). I use my sister Lauren's recipe (also the recipe inside of the Sure-Jell package), which is below along with my tips.

Strawberry Jam
2 pints strawberries (we get ours from the local berry patch)
4 cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin (near the jello + pudding in the grocery store)
3/4 cup water

Rinse and hull the strawberries. I use this strawberry huller which is a huge time-saver! Place hulled strawberries in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher. It's best to use a potato masher instead of a food processor, because you don't want the fruit to be puréed.

Measure exactly 2 cups of the crushed strawberries and put into a large bowl. Add exactly 4 cups of sugar. Stir to combine and let it sit for 10 minutes.

While the berries and sugar are sitting, add 3/4 cup of water to a small saucepan. Add in the bag of fruit pectin and stir to combine. Cook on high heat, stirring constantly, until it boils. Once it boils, stir and cook for 1 more minute. Remove it from the heat and add it to the fruit mixture. Stir together for about 3 minutes, until all of the sugar dissolves.

Divide the mixture into clean jars (no need to sterilize!). These Ball mason jars are the ones that I always use. They are pint-sized, freezer safe, and wide mouth, which helps keep things a little less messy. I highly recommend getting a canning funnel as well! You do not want this sticky jam mixture getting all over your jars or your countertops. Pour the mixture into the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top so it can expand in the freezer. Tightly screw the lids onto the jars and let them sit on the counter for 24 hours. Store jam in freezer for up to a year. Thaw jam in fridge when you're ready to eat it. This recipe will fill 3 pint-sized jars.

Also, if math isn't your thing, there are 8 pints in a gallon. So, if you pick a gallon of strawberries at the berry patch, you can make 4 batches of the above recipe, which will fill 12 of these Ball mason jars (which is one pack).

Friday, May 13, 2016

9 favorite Instagram accounts

This past week my sister and I were chatting about Instagram and how fascinating we find it. It's by far my most-used social media platform. Since I've got Instagram on my mind, here are 9 accounts that are favorites of mine: 

@jlgarvin // This is a pretty lifestyle account with a good balance of family pictures, home spaces, plus nicely styled everyday things. It's an inspiring account that I really enjoy looking at.

@alexa_moyer // Alexa lives in NYC, and her pictures remind me of why I love that city so much! This is a beautiful lifestyle account that I absolutely love.

@laurenwasher // Lauren is my sister but I also really love her Instagram! Her five kids are pretty adorable (I'm only slightly biased), and she posts such real, raw pictures of life, both the joys + the challenges. She also has an amazing way with words, and I'm constantly learning from the truth she shares.

@anna_winchell // I've been following Anna's Instagram + blog for years, and I just love her! She has such an eye for a good shot, and she shares lots of pictures from all of her travels which I love. She also is just the happiest, don't you think?

@amandarydell // I really appreciate following highly curated accounts, because I love the pretty pictures and am inspired by the styling. I love the white space + pretty, softer colors that Amanda always posts. Plus she scores some pretty amazing vintage/thrift finds that are fun to see.

@mrsjuliejones // These are the pictures that I always want to jump right into, because Julie frequently posts about food that looks amazing, a good book I want to read, or a place I'd like to visit. Plus girl has even more striped shirts than I do. Always pretty pictures to see here!

@thepinkdiary // This is obviously another highly curated feed, and I love all of the intentional white space. Everything is always beautifully styled, and I love seeing pretty pictures like these as I scroll through my feed!

@alexbyersays // Love seeing pictures of Boston and Alex's life there. She's a hardcore runner, which is super inspiring. Also this spring she has posted some gorgeous shots of flowers, which just so happen to be my love language.

@ali_vinciguerra // When I first started blogging years ago, one of the blogs I regularly read was Alison's. Her Instagram account is a fun look at motherhood, and I love how she decorates her home! A fun + pretty account to follow.

So tell me, which Instagram accounts are your favorites? Do you like a heavily curated account or prefer to follow just friends + family?

P.S. If we haven't found each other on Instagram yet, you can find me here!

(all images are from the Instagram accounts mentioned)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Do or don't: False Eyelashes

Have you ever worn false eyelashes? I never had until The Big Fake Wedding a couple of months ago. I was excited that the makeup artist wanted to put them on, because I knew it was something I would never attempt on my own. I have to say that I loved how they looked - I mean, look at how long and perfectly even those lashes are (after 12+ hours of wear!)! What I didn't love was the process of her applying them. I kept wanting to blink at the wrong times, and it felt so weird to have something resting on my eyelid/lash area. I did eventually get used to the feeling, which was good because it was a long day! I was nervous to take them off, because I was afraid of ripping off my own lashes! It took a good 5 minutes of gently scrubbing with my makeup remover wipe before the lashes started to peel away.

My take: yes, I loved how they looked, and it was fun for something different! However, I can't imagine that I will have too many opportunities in my daily life where I need to have really killer eyelashes. I don't think it's worth all of the fuss of the application and removal.

What do you think? Are false lashes a part of your makeup routine? Do you apply them yourself?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Pound cake is one of those desserts that's often overlooked, but I don't think it should be. It's a cinch to throw together and the ingredients are basic, but when a pound cake is done right, it's absolutely delicious. This is my go-to pound cake recipe. It turns out every time, and we absolutely love it. It's great on its own but this time of year we also like to top it with fresh strawberries.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating 5-7 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating only until yellow yolk disappears after each addition. Quickly beat in vanilla.

Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add to butter mixture in thirds, beating at low speed only until blended after each addition. Pour batter into pan. Gently tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.

Fill a 2-cup ovenproof measuring cup or small baking pan with water, and place it in the oven on the rack below the tube pan.

Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.

source: recipe from The Southern Living Community Cookbook