Hosting 101

National Night Out is August 1.

Residents are invited to participate by hosting block parties that evening, inviting neighbors and friends to join them in the front yard or front porch and enjoy a meal together. While our family no longer lives on a traditional block, over the years, we adopted some practices that made for relatively easy hosting.

Spread the stress

My approach to hosting is all about keeping stress down and spreading out the work, so I haven’t used all my energy before the party even begins. My husband and I take a team approach towards cooking and setup. I rope in the children and emphasize that this is a family event, so all the family pitches in to help make it possible.

Our first major dinners were our corned beef and cabbage dinner on St. Patrick’s Day and our fall festival dinner. We replay the same menu and same schedule each year. Over time we added Twelfth Night and a Midsummer event as well. Our numbers range from 20-50 guests. The more routine the event, the fewer decisions, the less brain power required, the more energy conserved.

Make a prep schedule

As a young wife, I studied Real Simple Thanksgiving issues. They taught me how to plan by counting backward from the event itself.

Invitations, usually though Evite, go out two weeks before the event.

We shop four days before the event. Traditionally, we make as much as possible rather than buying ready-made food. There have been years when we asked friends to bring side dishes and other events when we provided all the food and asked friends to contribute $5 per person or $20 per family when the family has four or more people.

Food prep begins two to three days before the event. We serve homemade lemonade or apple cider at our events, water, and the usual alcoholic beverages. Lemonade, soups, salsas, cheese trays, some desserts and other refrigerated items can be put together now.

One day before the event, I set up the furniture, plan the buffet table and set out the large garbage can and ice chests. As much as I’d like everything to sit at an enormously long table with white linen, I’ve learned that people are most comfortable when they can sit where they will. My children to stack chairs from the house or garage in the dining area.

I prepare plasticware, either setting it up in a basket holder or rolling in napkins, depending on the style of the event, along with set up plates, cups and serving dishes on my kitchen counter. Because I love to arrange flowers, I also harvest flowers on this day.

The morning of the event, we finalize the table and chair placement, set out linen, arrange the flowers, double-check RSVPs and set everything up in my kitchen. We almost always host outside for the sake of breathing room.

Any cooking called for begins based on when we plan to serve the meal, counting backward and adding thirty minutes for the inevitable delays.

Two hours before the event, I set out appetizers, drinks, and flowers.

Twenty minutes before the event, I try to stop working and sit or lie on the couch for ten minutes to rejuvenate myself before the guests arrive. What’s done is done, and imperfection is allowed.

Thirty minutes before our target dinner time, we set out the platters on the buffet.

And away we go.

Hostess rules

There aren’t many personal rules I keep for myself. I try to sit and be with my guests, but I don’t pressure myself to spend long talking with every guest. Depending on the meal or number of people, that might not be possible. But I greet them and give them the rundown of where the bathroom is, boundaries for the kids, and amenities for mothers with babies. We introduce new families to long-attending families and then move on.

Hosting large events became manageable and even enjoyable when I began to tell myself, “I bring the space; they bring the fun.” I don’t have to take it upon myself to make people happy. A hospitable space, good food, music and a relaxing environment give them all they need.

I keep a mental list of what people can help with; most often, that means bringing platters back in and moving furniture back when the party ends. Because they’ve enjoyed a meal with friends and family, it has never made me feel awkward to let our guests help in this way. If I am not realistic with myself limits, I know I will burn out and no longer want to host. 

Host like yourself, not like an instagram account

National Night Out hosting is not meant to be fussy, frilly or a lot of work. But if that’s your style, go for it! Bring your family culture, personality, and style to the front yard. Deliver invitations or fliers to neighbors beforehand. Write your shopping list and prep schedule. Let go of the things that will drain you. Hold onto the things that make the event fun.

If we haven’t grown up with a hosting house or are over-influenced by social media, Hosting can be intimidating. The gift of togetherness cannot be overestimated. I’ve seen relationships grow and community connections among our regulars over the years in ways that would not have been possible without the willingness to open our home to people we may have only met in passing or possibly never met.

It’s incredible what can happen with an open heart and open door.

I hope you’ll find a way to join in.

Design Dilemma / Part 3

This is the third and final Q&A in our series of design dilemma solutions, answering a stay-at-home-mother of three’s questions.

Design Dilemma #5: I know I get too in my head. I think the absence of friends who also love design stunts my creativity because I’m not inspired. I feel like the “traditional” home style is trendy right now…I don’t want my house to look like Pinterest, so I overthink it. I also stress about making the wrong choice because money is tight. It’s like playing chess with my home, money, time and deep love for homemaking.

Pinterest board - social media can sometimes create more design dilemmas than we had before.

Because we discussed navigating the time-cost/DIY vs. hiring out debate in a previous design dilemma, today, let’s consider how we find inspiration for our homes.

The problem of social media

Increasingly social media has become a place where large companies advertise to us. Certain accounts boost their posts either through company algorithms or paid boosts. If you like looking at pretty homes, you’ll see advertising tailored to that general preference but couldn’t capture the full range of the things that could strike you as beautiful.

We’ll miss a lot of captivating accounts in our feed. The ones we see are the ones that are trending or the ones with the big dollars behind them.

Direct marketing, likes, clicks, and shares become mental clutter or noise. Viewing similar videos and photographs often shifts our unconscious perception of what is expected. Our minds want to pick up on patterns, but the patterns on social media are not patterns in the natural order. They cannot capture the complexity of time needed, the slow pacing, and the personal cost of the natural process of home design, art, or even cake decorating.

For a person looking for design inspiration, I recommend getting away from social media.

Hit the books

I love the idea you mentioned in past conversations about buying books at yard sales. Design books are abundant and can be found at yard sales, thrift stores used book stores, and, of course, the local library.

Looking at books unhindered by digital interruptions gives you the space and quiet to finally explore what appeals to you. Take some time and see what you love; you might be surprised.

The same can be said of home tours, if you can find them, or walking down the sidewalk in beautiful neighborhoods and basking in their curb appeal.

See the sights

Finding inspiration in home decorating requires the same things as finding inspiration in any creative endeavor sometimes.

We need to get away from the project itself and reset.

Look at those books or houses for the sheer pleasure of it.

Go for a walk. Walk in places where you admire the architecture, visit an art gallery or a museum. Try to find those places that look like the books you’re drawn to.

For me, that means our local historical societies.

When your cup is full of images and ideas that inspire you generally, it gets those creative juices flowing, as they say.

And then return to the project at hand

You return to your home refreshed, your creativity cup filled and ready to see it with new eyes; your brain will be prepared to connect the dots.

That doesn’t necessarily make the process of the chess game more straightforward, but it can help give you a vision of where you want to go.

Continue to try to quiet the voices of those who have an easy time or easy money. Stay focused on the project at hand. You’re decorating this home for you and your family.

You, like me, believe that a house has something of a soul of its own. Part of living in it is listening to what will fit it best and the family within it. That requires openness and observation.

Give yourself the time and space to decide. When you do that, I am confident you’ll make the right decisions.

“Falling is part of learning”

When my kids tried to teach themselves to roller skate, I told them often “Falling is part of learning”. I said it so often that they repeated it for years to come.

All decorating comes with a learning curve and a few “What was I thinking?” moments. We might think something will solve the problems only to learn it won’t. But each time we go through that, we learn lessons that make a difference. Then, when you are ready for the big remodel, if you have that in your future, you will know what you like because you went through all these little small decisions discovering that you prefer spice racks out in the open, floor-length curtains, and open shelves.

Enjoy the process. Whenever you hear that doubtful voice telling you there is only one right decision, turn away and look at those lilies of the field.

Design Dilemma Part 2

Last week we looked at a few questions from a stay-at-home mother of three in Indiana, who reached out to me with a design dilemma. Some questions are easy to answer, but over time, we often find a trend underlying what we want to know.

Design dilemma #3: How do I pick the right size rug for my living room? I thought I knew, but it’s off.

If you have multiple seating zones in your living room, the best way to determine the size of a rug is to measure the area such that either the furniture fits all its legs on the rug or each piece’s front legs on the carpet.

Another approach is to measure the square footage of the room and reduce it by a set border, say two feet from the wall. For an exceptionally large room, this may lead to a big cost jump and might end up with some awkward or unbalanced furniture placement.

They say you can layer a smaller rug over a larger one if the space you need to cover is so large that a decorative rug becomes cost-prohibitive. I understand the reasoning here, but the small rug still needs to be anchored somehow with a piece of furniture or a zone. In that case, I would rather skip the rug altogether and know it’s okay.

In contrast, I know someone who took out all her carpet and gradually placed small doormats every place she walks in her house. We need to be aware of why we want to do it before we do it and take the time to shop well and prudently with our and our family’s interests in mind rather than so-called design rules.

Wool rugs are the most expensive. Rugs can be purchased second-hand in-person or online from Etsy or new from companies like RugsUSA. It might surprise you how affordable a natural fiber like sisal, low-pile or indoor/outdoor rug is. Indoor/outdoor rugs have the added benefit of being easy to clean.

Design Dilemma #4: I’m the only one doing the work. Should I just hire someone? I save time if I do, and I save money if I do it myself. So it’s the time or money I’m stuck between.

Last week, I discussed these considerations in the cost-benefit analysis of any project’s time and financial demands. They bear repeating.

  • How much do you hate the way it looks now?
  • How much work does it take to achieve the desired outcome?
  • Can you do the work ourselves, or is it outside your skill set?
  • Do you have time to do what you know how to do or learn a new skill and complete the project?
  • How much does it cost to outsource labor? 
  • What materials are involved? Are they worth the effort of restoration?

Each project can be ranked based on the answers to these questions. Outside your skill set means it costs more in time. Depending on your circumstances, it may be worth it to pay someone to do it.

If you hate the way it is now and need it to change so you don’t groan every time you walk by, then a shortcut fix may be called for. So long as no safety questions are involved, it’s okay to plan on a shortcut while planning the whole and thorough project in the future.

The only right answer is the one that is based on the answers to the above questions and your stage of life. It doesn’t matter what so-and-so in your life says you should do. The only perfect way forward is the one that works for you/your household, your house, and the project itself.

And whether or not to hire out.

There are some jobs we can learn to do, there are some jobs that are going to be outside our skill set without extensive training or might be dangerous.

There are some jobs we’re perfectly capable of doing but don’t have the time for or that we are perfectly capable of doing but hate it to no end.

Then there are the jobs we love. For these, we don’t even ask ourselves. We know that we will do it ourselves.

Knowing that you’re the only one who will be able to do the work, it’s worth it to give all new projects to try or research the ones that would require considerable learning and see if you’re interested in learning more. We are usually capable of doing more than we realize. We only need the push to do it. 

Generational perspective

We live in a world where great-grandparents built their barns or tables, placed their plumbing, doing every scrap work themselves come hell or high water, while now many a millennial hire someone to change out a light fixture or hang a shelf.

When a person doesn’t grow up seeing their parents or grandparents that these projects or saw strict gender division in the jobs that were done, it can be hard to feel like the skills are accessible to us.

Consider the above questions. Do your research. Be prudent with the budget. And give it a go.

Design Dilemmas Part 1

A friend reached out to me with a design dilemma. In answering her, I thought it might be fun to share these questions and answers here in case other readers have similar dilemmas. She is a 30-ish mother of three young kids living in Indiana. And she loves design. Her questions have been edited for length and clarity.

Design Dilemma #1

My blue living room wall is an accent wall. I wonder if it makes the room feel dated instead of timeless, or maybe the navy blue with white trim makes it look dated.

old-fashioned television

My response: Trends come and go. The key to discerning if something makes a room feel dated is to look at the room. Look at all the details and see if they all perfectly correspond with a particular moment and time, like a movie set. That is where the dated feeling comes from.

You seem to be asking more about following a trend than how a specific color looks in a particular room. So I’d like to respond to that.

What’s in a trend?

Great design will take from an array of periods because great home design has a curated look, items collected over time that somehow fit together. The unifying factor may not be as apparent as the color scheme, metal finish or a catchy name like farmhouse chic.

While it’s true that the accent wall had quite a moment in the earlier 2000s, it can still be done without looking dated. But here’s the catch. People often painted an accent wall because they were afraid to paint the entire thing some wild, dramatic color. Four bold walls went against the grain of the longstanding minimalist trend that we are in now and have been for some time since Fixer-Upper came on the scene.

Ask yourself, why do you have the accent wall?

Was it because you thought a navy blue room would be too much? Or because you wanted to make this a focal feature and minimize the rest of the room? Those questions can help you know whether or not this is dated or part of the bigger picture of a home designed with the things you love.

Design Dilemma #2

I’ve noticed that previous owners have painted the window trim over and over. I want to paint the trim, but do I need to sand them? Is it a must to make it clean? Same with our doors. Do I need to sand them or use paint thinner? I want to make quickish updates, but it may add to the layers of paint look, but sanding will take forever.

Design Dilemma: how to strip paint

My response: Oh yes, paint over paint over paint. There comes a time when something must eventually be stripped away. Because imperfections in the paint grow with each layer, you will never get that smooth, clean look when there have been too many layers or poorly done paint jobs.

While I have yet to restore trim, Marian Parsons from the Miss Mustard Seed blog has some great advice. She writes, “You can strip off a paint finish manually (through sanding) or chemically (through strippers.)  There isn’t a right or wrong way to remove the paint. It depends on the desired end result and which kind of mess you prefer.” In a recent project, Parsons began with an orbital using finer grit (120-220) sandpaper and alternated between that and a chemical stripper. She recommended the paste stripper Ready Strip. Check out her blog for more detailed instructions and recommendations.

But your question isn’t just about how to do it, but what to do.

With wood, you can take the paint down to a preferred degree or all the way to clean wood. If you’re repainting it, you really don’t need to take it back to its tree-like state.

The same goes for the door. How bad is the paint? Can a little sanding knock it down, or do you have time to do the whole project the “right way?”

It’s all a cost-benefit analysis—cost factors in both financial and time costs. I wish I could write this as a math equation, but I studied psychology instead.

  • How much do you hate the way it looks now?
  • How much work does it take to achieve the desired outcome?
  • Can we do the work ourselves, or is it outside our skill set?
  • Do we have time to do what we know how to do/learn a new skill and do it?
  • How much does it cost to pay another person? 
  • What materials are involved, and are they worth the effort of restoration?

I cannot tell you the correct answer, but overspending on time or money will not be it. Sometimes the answer is a shortcut in the project now and patience for the long haul when there is more time and money.

No right or wrong…exactly

The critical thing to remember is that over time, there isn’t a wrong decision for these little projects because your paint can be stripped away just as quickly as the previous owners.

In a total renovation, you must make priority lists and consider these questions, ranking the projects accordingly. It’s a long and thoughtful process that will help guide you on where to save and splurge.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Where are you, Orange Pear Apple Bear?

Orange Pear Apple Bear book cover for a child

“We have ‘Orange Pear Apple Bear’!” a child shouted from behind the green easy chair where the books pile up at the foot of the little bookcase overflowing with picture books. By accident, it was not returned in the last batch of library books, despite child-driven reports to the contrary. Excitedly, I called my son over to sit and read. We sounded the words out. I explained a little, I nudged a little, I urged a little.

So, technically, he read it.

But I tried to force the moment. I grew so excited about how this was a momentous occasion with all my children that I was determined it would be so for him.

Ever been there before?

All in their own good time. Fruit, children, wildflowers. They all bloom in their own good time. And we have to wait. With bitter, gnawing patience, we have to wait.

As a mother, as a homeschooling mother, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of forgetting to give them space, to let their little personalities and brains develop according to their particular path and timeline. We want to have control. We want to make a plan. The beauty of these opportunities comes in the perennial reminder that we have less control than we imagine and oftentimes, that’s okay.

To move our bodies during this latest blistering heatwave, we made a mid-morning swim outing. That event was not the perfect success I imagined. If we finished a handful of subjects, left at 10 a.m. swam for an hour, returned at 11 a.m., ate lunch, showered, had a break, then resumed school at 1 p.m., that would work so well. But as you can see that plan with four children was doomed from the start, if only for the reason that it did not account for seat-belt buckling and transportation times.

We returned at the time when they usually sit down for their lunches and the toddler usually naps. Hungry and tired, I trudged in, while those little ones came bounding behind me, delighted with the event. It was outside my control

So then what?

I can let it rattle my bones, bug me to no end, and seethe in irritation because I came back hungry, and tired, and we still had more school work today.

Or I can let it go. Do what I need to do, in this case, eat and hydrate myself, and move on. I know to stop myself from talking too much when I’m hungry or tired, although I am not always successful.

It is amazing how the little things can irk us.

Can you identify those things that make you particularly more irritable? That is my project for the week. Tiredness, hunger, and being altogether too focused on what I want to get done later that I am impatient with what I must do now. I started to wonder if social media scrolling might be affecting me as well. Studies show, yadda yadda yadda.

I identified a lack of focus in myself, usually due to scrolling. So it’s time to work on that.

This is the project. We fall back into bad habits, realize we’ve fallen back, consider what went wrong, identify what we need, and take steps to make it better. If we are alert enough to engage in this project of growing, we circle upward along those stages of change, each time growing a little more. Little things or big things. Growth in the little things trains for will for the big things.

So onward!

After the gushing reflections on educational glories, I’m back to my humble position of knowing it is more for me to help usher the child forward than make the victory happen. I can and I will marvel at what he does, but only if I cool it enough to pay attention. Another lesson for the books.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

The things that make us Human

I felt the pain creep into my hips and back. In the afternoon, finding a quiet moment, I lay down on the wall-to-wall beige carpet in our living room prepared to pull this leg and that against my chest, so many seconds at a time, following the instructions from a physical therapist.

Right leg. Left leg. I hear a squeal behind me.

A light-weight stomping of hand after knee pitter-patters its way across the room. Before I know it, the infant has come for me. I brace myself, pull my hair into protective position and prepare to engage.

She goes first for the hair, as I anticipated. I win that round. But then, the little heathen strikes for my face. My forearms shield me. Opening my eyes, I see her press her face between my arms, seeking to worm her way through my fortress where she can lick or bite my nose or do whatever it is a ten-month-old wants to do to her mother in this vulnerable and reduced position.

She shrieks with glee.

I shriek with fright knowing I am done for.

I call for help to those idle witnesses who think, “maybe someone else will help that lady,” and watch from across the room, pretending to do their school work.

“Help me! Help me!” I cry. Now, the baby is on top of me, pressing that chubby face down into my personal bubble.

They rush to my side, finally, but it is too late. She weasels through. She slimes me.

Her droplets smear across my cheek. It is finished.

I crawl out from under her power to wipe away the aftermath of the spit-sport. Even I have my limits.

Face to face. Droplets. Close proximity. Physical contact.

We do not just miss the old way of living because we are anxious for the crisis to end, impatient to the waiting to be over, exhausted by the grip of fear, or frustrated by the yo-yo of moving tier to tier.

We want to return to normal because, in the effort to be safe, we have sacrificed good, normal things that are part of being human. Seeing each other face to face, standing in close proximity, eating together. Those uniquely human things are the building blocks of relationships. Those relationships form families and friendships. The proximity of these little societies builds community. All this is part of the core of our being human.

And we put it on hold while experts searched for answers.

But I am afraid for the future. I fear for those already struggling with depression, loneliness and isolation as Thanksgiving passes and an already chilly winter sets deeper in when we know those already prone to it are likely to experience a rougher time around “the holidays.”

I am afraid of what will happen if we do not find creative ways to reach out to each other, those we know and those we do not know, the neighbor who is my friend or the neighbor I would never know because of our differences if it weren’t for the fact that we are neighbors.

I fear we are going to lose something better than our physical health, something that was built, not just by my effort or the effort of those I am in relationship with, but built by the many persons and many relationships that collaborate to form this community.

Therefore, I want to make an extra effort to find those ways, ways that are not illegal or prohibited right now, to attempt to hold community together, to hold onto what was built before me and what I pray will come after me.

They did it with the Hughson Community Thanksgiving Dinner, feeding 570 bodies with turkey and stuffing.

They are doing it again with Christmas baskets. I cannot be one of the 12 volunteers in their reduced-size group, but I can make a flyer to promote the Toy Drive on December 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hughson United Methodist Church.

I can say to you that turning outward through service is a protective factor against depression. I can tell you that working together towards a common goal helps to heal division. I can ask you to please, even amid sheltering-in-place, following whatever protocols come out this week and next, that there are still things we can do, not just to feel normal, but to feel human again.

Stories of a Good Boss

A good boss. One might miss not notice it when you have one but without one, the difference is keenly felt. With the exception of one, I think I have been uncommonly lucky.

The Stories

Being in and out of the workforce raising my children I, perhaps, have had fewer bosses than others my age. There was my first job as a sales associate for San Joaquin Religious Goods, a Catholic bookstore now owned by Cotter Church Supplies. The manger was professional, consistent, took confidence with her employees but only about business, never her personal life. I was trained by a woman who refused to show me how to use the cash register to show the change due. Instead, I must learn to count back money. I left upon my high school graduation.

In college locally, I worked evenings at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, the after-hours shift when much of the staff has gone home but receptionists remain to usher in meeting and appointment attendees and answer phone calls. Like many church jobs, one dives right in and learns as you go, including in my case, Spanish. Supervision was hands-off and the job was low-key, low-ambition.

Transferring to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota I worked for the university catering company. There my boss was ambitious, and often frustrated by the university system. He vented his frustrations. It was a full-time coworker who trained the new hires, made the hours pleasant and built camaraderie among employees.

Another state, another job, another boss

Another boss made example of his employees and said he would be like a coach, which I think, to him meant cussing at us when he was angry and had himself to blame overbooked events.

Another state, another job, another boss, we went shopping at Williams-Sonoma and Old Town Alexandria, Virginia to welcome committees to the school and plan events. I set tables, built menus, arranged gift baskets and assembled many a cheese platter in those days.

Another state, another job, another boss and I received the best training in my life, the greatest encouragement of an employee’s rights, family balance and self-respect. Though I stopped working for the Center for Human Services four years ago, it remains part of who I am in my perception of what a business and non-profit could and should be like, how employees should be treated, what place a job has in the big scheme of things, and how good it all can be.

And now

That experience continued when I began freelancing for MidValley Publications under Wendy Krier, editor of many papers including this one. It was my first steady writing gig. Granted, I am a freelancer, but beginning this job when our family’s life was still chaotic, Wendy made allowances, making it clear that it was good that I should put family first when guilt might have tempted me otherwise. She corrected me as needed and passed on the praise when it came from people happy to see their story shared in the paper.

For a time, we met weekly to review upcoming stories, for me to ask questions, for her to share more about the newspaper business. She watched me go from rookie to published author, finding my voice and my place in the Hughson community. I watched her navigate the work of many newspapers, and ultimately find a way to pursue her dream of living somewhere green, with seasons, in Minnesota.

A Fond Farewell

So it is with bitter sweetness that I say goodbye to another great boss as Wendy moves on to her next venture to edit a small-town newspaper in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The newspaper world is layered with its roles. From stringer (me, a freelancers) to editors to sales to the man on top, the publisher. Given the nature of my work, it was to the editor I reported.

And Wendy taught me the ropes. Those individuals who initiate us into new fields, show us the way, train us to do our best in that line of work, become a part of our story in a way all those following can not. I will be holding onto those memories of Wednesday meetings filled with calendars, emails, events, laughter and (a little) gossip.

By working for this publication I learned what the town of Hughson is, the stuff its people are made of, and I learned to share their stories and celebrate their successes. Here’s to you, Wendy, my editor and friend: to your next venture and ours!

Two people with toasting with beer bottles.

Hall Bathroom Remodel Under $1500

Our bathroom was a standard, builder grade bathroom. Immediately upon moving in, we removed the enormous mirror that spanned the wall over the sink and toilet. Should a mirror really be behind a toilet? I think not.

I quickly painted one of my go-to colors, a chameleon gray-green-blue called Urban Loft (color by Valspar mixed with Clark and Kensington Paint). We replaced the mirror with World Market’s Natural Segovia Mirror.




The cultured marble countertops stayed.




The honey oak cavernous cabinet stayed. It did get a facelift in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, Florence. Amber glass knobs added panache. For the life of me, I cannot find photos of that.

Anyway, the floor was gross, the toilet was gross…it was time for a change.




From Bedrosians Showroom in Modesto, I ordered the Lido tile in Camel and Traditions Ice White subway tile with a matte finish won my heart.

An Ikea trip brought a Godmorgan two drawer vanity cabinet in dark gray, old-style Rattvican sink and Runskar faucet. We saved so much money going this route! I think the cabinet, sink and faucet came between $400 and $500 dollars. The biggest investment was the tile installation, worth it to get it right ($850, contractors vary in cost). Tile materials cost around $220. And we replaced the toilet.

My husband carefully ripped out the existing vanity and countertop without destroying the wall.




Our friend, master tile installer came and installed the tile.




Indulgently, we took the tile up the wall. I wanted a floating cabinet both for the modern sleek look and to be able to clean under with ease. A high gloss finish allows to easily clean off the toothpaste. White tile hides soap splatters.




We decided on gray grout which adds to the warmth of a generally cold environment.






I added a macrame wall hanging. We’ll frame that medicine cabinet hole interior with wood for a shelf.




A stainless steel bar finishes the Subway tile, offset in thirds to increase visual interest.




The light fixture is one we chose way back from Wayfair. I like it but not like the amber glow from the glass. I hope to switch them out. Nothing in our house is really centered. So the light if offset but with the mirror centered on the sink it is an improvement.




I have a book titled Tile Makes the Room and I absolutely believe it. There are so many layers of texture in this room. I love it. Everyone else seems to, too.





until a glass tumbler cracked the sink. To rip out, return or repair. We choose repair.


Discloser of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products or services that I have mentioned. 

How to use Holiday decorations to teach religious traditions that matter

Photos of the week…

Easter Edition

Like Christmas, Easter has its octave because a big celebration requires more than just one day of celebrating. After the octave, the Easter season lasts until Pentecost.


Last year, I planned my Easter decorations while I sat beside Peter’s hospital crib. The fulfillment was more than just some decor decisions. It was the sign of the promise that “a time would come when God would fill what he had emptied.”


Easter felt quieter this year. The emptiness of a child gone held its own against the joys of togetherness and our salvation. I felt at home in the cross. Still, I decorated. Regardless of how I feel in grief, the importance of the day remains and it is my duty to show it to my children.

I show it through bunting.


Our traditions emerge. With Dollar Tree flowers, ribbon and colored elastic from Rainbow Fabrics the children decorate their own baskets. We’ve learned tricks here and there to not destroy the baskets in the process.


Last year, the idea came to me to give them each a color to search for. The miraculous thing is these greedy little imps help each other. The fun is in finding.


Peter in his two-year-old glory is a hospital baby no more. He is part of a tribe, hunting for eggs, even if he will not eat their contents.


His two-year-old willfulness shows the strength of his health…and my patience.

God, it’s good.


Those who grieve know the grief grows quieter but does not disappear. I thought I would feel a rousing joy at Easter like I once did, but the season of life has changed. And that’s okay.

Good things run deeper than emotion. God’s grace, his faithfulness, the gift of his Son, Christ’s self-emptying for our sake to show us the way…even at the Resurrection, the scars remained.

Christ showed us the way, perfectly.

For that, I am grateful.


are you ready for spring cleaning?

Some lighter fare today while California is drenched in the pineapple express…my lawn overfloweth…

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

I do not know if I can look at spring-cleaning the same after reading “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 “Well, now that’s off our hands, we’ll start house-cleaning tomorrow, bright and early.”…

Everything in the house was moved, everything was scrubbed and scoured and polished. All the curtains were down, all the feather-beds were outdoors, airing, all the blankets and quilts were washed. From dawn to dark Almanzo was running, pumping water, fetching wood, spreading clean straw on the scrubbed floors and then helping to stretch the carpets over it, and then tacking all those edges down again.

Days and days he spent in the cellar. He helped Royal empty the vegetable-bins. They sorted out every spoiled apple and carrot and turnip, and put back the good ones into a few bins that Mother had scrubbed. They took down the other bins and stored them in the woodshed. They carried out crocks and jars and jugs, till the cellar was almost empty. Then Mother scrubbed the walls and floor. Royal poured water into pails of lime, and Almanzo stirred the lime till it stopped boiling and was whitewash. Then they whitewashed the whole cellar. That was fun…

The whole cellar was fresh and clean and snow-white when it dried…”

With the advent of warm air and sunshine, especially after a wet and oddly-chilly March, our bodies pick up on a renewed out-of-doors energy. We have been cooped up too long. The windows must be open.

With the gusts of April breeze blowing the curtains, it is time to breathe new life into a stuffy home.

We accomplish this, by moving the furniture.

Is spring cleaning your goal or just something you hear about on television and in ancient children’s books about farm life? Perhaps it is something you intend to do, but never quite get to. Perhaps you learned long ago cleaning was not your forte so you outsource the process.

Whatever your ability and time, I recommend an examination of some areas. In Hughson, April is the perfect time.

Closets: go through your closets. Do you wear everything in there? Are there pieces you hate but cannot get rid of? Put it in a bag and do not look back. Same goes for every other storage space you have. It is amazing how unnecessary or unwanted things accumulate because of limited garbage-can space. Plan to donate, mend, or sell during the City-Wide Yard Sale.


Photo by sahar kanyas on Unsplash

vacuum, shampoo, mop, whatever it takes to get those mites out. Work based on the time you have. Start from the ceiling then work your way down to the floor.


Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

change up the décor, shop your storage closets for new ideas. First, take everything down, then put it up in a new way. Switch objects from one room to another. Don’t love it? Never use it? Donate or sell at your yard sale…of give to your neighbor to sell at hers.


Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Before binging on bins at Target, start with cardboard boxes as drawer dividers and cabinet organizers. Find out what you need, how the space will work best. When you’re done, recycle your boxes at the City Wide Clean-Up day or, if they are still in good shape, post on as free moving boxes.


Photo by Kathryn Anne Casey for the Hughson Chronicle

it intimated me for so long. I cannot say I love it, but the delight in seeing something grow is restorative. If you do not love dirt, bribe an old-enough child to weed, hire a neighbor kid or a professional gardener to get you on the right track. The pleasure of walking outside and noticing a flower here or a tomato plant there helps us refocus from our busy lives to the smallness of the moment.



Make a shopping list and list of projects as you work.

You do not have to accomplish everything in one day. Make a list of what your house and family needs this spring and break it into bite-size chunks big enough to accomplish and small enough not to overwhelm.



What good is all the work if we do not take a moment to savor the goodness of life, of home, of community and the beauty of spring.