Progress in our Living Room

I was shocked that last April Doug and I celebrated 3 years in our condo. Shocked! Where does the time go? We haven’t really tackled any major projects in our home since we painted our bathroom jungle green right after moving in (and then failed to post a final reveal here—fail).

Everything is changing, though.

Even though we own our space (every time I say that it sounds misleading—we like most “homeowners” are paying it off to the bank), it has always felt really “apartmenty” to me. I’m sure it’s because of the beige walls and carpet… when we bought the place, we were looking for a fixer upper, but this place was much larger, closer to my work, had new carpet and new drywall, and was the same price as many fixers. As first-time home buyers we decided to play it safe and choose something move-in ready. So, after 3 years of beige, it is finally time to take matters into my own hands. Paint all of the things!! 

Living Room
This was right after we moved in, almost 3 years ago.
Now, new paint color, new bookcase, new couch. Still very similar, though.

The first step in getting this room “right” was to paint over the builder beige. We used the same color and sheen that we did in our dining room: Benjamin Moore (Aura) in Simply White. Definitely the most expensive paint I’ve ever bought, but the coverage, richness of the white, and eggshell sheen is just perfect. Going from beige to white might seem like a lateral move, and is not that exciting in photos, but trust me when I say that our vintage and collected home furnishings pop so much better now than they did against light tan. Every color stands out and the light in the room is more pleasant. People don’t understand how much light that flat, beige paint soaks up instead of reflecting.

Since I work for a Christian school, I had the Thursday and Friday before Easter off of work! My dad came down with his power tools and he helped me panel an accent wall in the living room. Shiplap is so buzzy right now, but my condo was built in 1965: I was originally thinking to go with straight up wood paneling. After hemming and hawing, I decided to go with a more modern look and do horizontal paneling with 1/8″ spacing.

We followed this tutorial closely and the project went smoothly.

Putting up the paneling was my first time using a nail gun with pneumatic air compressor, and it ruled! The project went by so fast. Nailing each panel up by hand would have been way more tiring, way noisier, and not as precise. If you ever want to do a project like this, definitely borrow, rent, or buy a nailer. The other tool that was necessary for this was a saw. Luckily my dad brought one over for us to use (similar), but now I know what I’m putting on my Christmas wishlist.

Which black paint?

I shared the following photo on facebook and instagram, and interestingly the votes leaned heavily one way on FB and heavily the other way on IG. I chalk it up to the fact that device screens have different color profiles and nothing is quite true to life. Even more interestingly, in the month that the swatches were up, I selected neither of the crowd-preferred options. Haha!

living room inspiration

In a recent post I shared a little vision board for this room and I’ve posted it again here. I’ve got some thinking to do on the art in here– leave it as is or do a little shake up? We finally finished painting the paneling in June and I am working on another post on that, filled with glamour shots ;)

“Three Wishes” book response and July selection!

Virtual Book Club
Click for more reviews

It’s the last Wednesday of the month and you know what that means… my monthly book review! After heavy and lengthy books, the Virtual Book Club wanted something light and summery to read for June. I was grateful because although reading hard, important books, magazines, and the news is something we should all do for our own self-enrichment, sometimes an escape is necessary as well, and isn’t that what summer reads are for?

Not that Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty is all sunshine and roses. It’s actually kind of dark tempered with lots of light moments. There is a ton of slapstick humor running through the book; it lightens up the continually awful events happening to one or more characters at a time. The book contains overarching themes about sisterhood, secrets, hardships (relationships and childbearing), and what success really looks like.

The premise of the book centers around three triplet sisters in Sydney who are at different stages in their lives, despite being the same age. It takes place at Christmas, which can be a very stressful time of the year for those with complicated families. Twist: Christmas in Australia is in the middle of summer; this still qualified as our summer beach read!

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The Kettle family is complicated, but not in that way that families in books and movies always hate each other. The family was unique in that all three sisters, plus mother and father (divorced decades ago) and grandma all lived in the same city and generally all like one another. Unheard of in movies these days! The sisters are very close—a recurring theme in the book is that some characters think they are too close. When you’re a triplet, where do you draw the line between yourself and your family? Who comes first: sister or spouse/significant other?

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One of my favorite things in Three Wishes was that Moriarty included these little asides narrated by bystanders observing the Kettle family and then relaying the vignette to someone else. It reminded me of the asides interspersed throughout When Harry Met Sally. Although to us our families may seem screwed up, to others they seem sweet and normal. To me they served a dual purpose: One, don’t underestimate the struggles someone is going through just because they seem okay; and two, something that seems huge and all encompassing at the moment could blow over and isn’t really worth getting so worked up about. Perspective!

[Possible spoilers here but I’m being pretty vague] I feel that the book never really answered the “who is more important, sisters or husbands” question, but it did push each triplet sister to grow in their own way. The one with an apparently perfect life learned to ask others for help. The freespirit matured in a visible way (although, maybe she was secretly mature the whole time?) and the codependent one learned independence and self-discovery.

I wonder what I’ll learn next year? I am (gulp) creeping up on 30 this September, after all.

As always, leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon! I would love to read your take! 


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Last night we held our monthly discussion group on Facebook. I ran it (!) and we had the BEST time posting celebrities who we’d like to cast in the movie version of this book. It’s great to hear other perspectives on themes and events in a book while it’s fresh in our minds. If you’d like to join us over there (normally the last Tuesday of the month), message me on Facebook to be added.

For July, our group voted on runner-up books from the past few months. We will be reading One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul, who is a feature writer for Buzzfeed. Some reviews draw positive comparisons to Mindy Kaling (which we did as a group last September) so I am really looking forward to this collection of short stories. Please join along with me, Libby, and the rest of our group as we read together.

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” book response and June selection!

Coming off of grim dystopian novel A Handmaid’s Tale, we all decided to read something sweeter for April and May. Confession: I nominated this book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and didn’t realize how long it was (500+ pages) so we extended the book club by a month (hence no post at the end of April).

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I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn several years ago and remember being quietly moved by it. I was eager to revisit it and find out if the feeling was still true. It was.

This is Betty Smith’s first and most famous novel, largely based on her own experience growing up in a poor immigrant family, after the turn of the 20th century but before World War I. The book is written in third person but focuses mainly on the main character, Francie, and secondly on her family, the Nolans: mother Katie, father Johnny, and brother Neely. The premise of following along as an 11-to-17 year old girl grows up in desperate poverty sounds quite grim, but Francie’s rich inner world and constant childlike-but-wise observations on the world around her are constantly charming and heartwarming. In this way, we can all take a lesson from this and reflect on the beautiful in the everyday.

“Then I’ve been drunk, too,” admitted Francie.
“On beer?”
“No. Last spring, in McCarren’s Park, I saw a tulip for the first time in my life.”

The thing I liked most about the writing in this book is how often Smith would lay out the story or moment, and then at the end let us enter into the character’s reflection at the end. She would summarize dinner and the evening routine in the Nolan household, maybe one without enough food to go around, and then slip in something poignant like Katie thinking to herself, “It’s a hard and bitter world. They’ve got to live in it. Let them get hardened young to take care of themselves.” Peeking into the inner lives of the characters, even side characters from time to time, connected me more to each of them and reminds me that we all aspire to be more and we have inner lives that only some of us bring to daylight.

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As the book progresses, it does so slowly at times, and rapidly at times, just how I felt as I grew up. And, although the world in the book was 100 years ago, there are so many relatable everyday moments. There are still those universally relatable moments—sibling jealousy, the struggle of a horrible teacher, the worries about not fitting in at a new job. I’m sure I will read this again every few years to remind me that every life is a journey, even if it doesn’t seem to have a straight direction, and that I should pause and reflect on the small things in my life from time to time.

“If there was only one tree like that in the world, you would think it was beautiful. But because there are so many, you just can’t see how beautiful it really is.”

As always, leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon! I would love to read your take!


Virtual Book ClubLast night we held our monthly discussion group on facebook. I love setting aside time to hear other perspectives on themes and events in a book that was fresh in our minds. If you’d like to join us over there (normally the last Tuesday of the month), message me on facebook to be added.

For June, our group selected by vote Three Wishes by the ubiquitous Liane Moriarty. I’ve never read anything by this author but she is wildly popular, so I’m sure it will be good. Please join along with me, Libby, and the rest of our group as we read together.

Summer Forecast

Okay, so, my home isn’t new to me, but I have been putting a lot of thought into designing my spaces better. I feel that we’ve finally gotten settled, gotten to know our home, and really know what works for us. Now the fun part comes. Getting each room tweaked just so, and realizing our condo’s full potential. We are traveling a little bit in May, but in June and July I think we are going to work on home stuff a lot more than we have in the last year or so.

Living Room: The living room is humming along. We are working on a wood paneling update that I’ll share more about in a week or two. We are going black and white inspired by the interior design firm Commune’s work at the Ace Hotel LA. Here is a sneak peek and a little inspiration I am working from.

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Bedroom: The paneling has been going so well in the living room, I think we have enough leftover to do paneling in the bedroom too. I think the recurring feature will connect the rooms, but for color I am still deciding between matching the black from the living room or going with a color.

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All of this exciting redecorating on the horizon has got me thinking back to moving into our place for the first time. Making a neutral space exciting takes a little bit of skill, a little bit of luck (if you’re a bargain/thrift shopper like me) and a dose of color. I’m finally ready for phase two of decorating, but phase one is a challenge for a lot of people. I brainstormed with Casper to come up with some essentials to make a new house feel like home.

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Rug: Rugs are great because you can move them from room to room and house to house. They are a good investment and can cover up less than desirable linoleum or blah carpet.

Artwork: Like rugs above, artwork can be sentimental and move from home to home. Putting art up on the wall instantly transforms a room from a plain box into a place with warmth and dimension.

New Mattress and Pillows: Every room can do with new throw pillows, and moving is a good opportunity to trade in for a new mattress, too. If your mattress is doing okay, it’s still a good idea to get new bed pillows because… do you even remember the last time you got new bed pillows? I mean… you could get your dog a new bed too. Mosey asked me to mention that.

Paint: Confession, even when I was a renter I took the liberty of painting my space. Something about picking out the color you want to surround yourself with is liberating. We recently painted our living room from beige to white, an almost imperceptible change but the room just feels “right” now.

Lighting: I switched out my dining room light and have felt like a rockstar ever since. I think this usurps painting as the act that truly claims a space as your own. If you invest in lighting (it ain’t cheap) and put it up without zapping yourself… your house has truly become home.

Tool Kit: Trying to assemble furniture or switch out finishes can be frustrating without the right tools. I got this IKEA tool kit when I moved into my first apartment in college. I have used it countless times. It has just about anything you need to do odd jobs around the house—I can’t recommend it enough and I think everybody should have one tucked in their bottom kitchen drawer, like we do.

What do you think takes your living space from “house to home?” Having friends over is an instant fix–they call it housewarming for a reason. Baking something delicious and filling the home with the scent of that is another great idea. Share your move-in traditions, or must-haves, or best housewarming gifts in the comments!

Casper provided me with the infographic, but this is not a sponsored post. 

“The Handmaid’s Tale” book response and April selection!

I don’t know what your political affiliations are, but sometimes I feel that even as we march towards a “better” future, we are also slowly creeping towards a dystopian world. A world in which computers know more than we do, when separation anxiety from a device is real, when corporations have more rights than the workers who power them… you get the idea. So, reading dystopian novels like 1984 and Brave New World fill me with dread and at the same time fascination. The Handmaid’s Tale was a big gap in the dystopian genre that I’d always meant to fill, and now I have! It isn’t that common for the genre to have a female protagonist, and I found that it made the troubling alternate reality more personal instead of societal.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

When I picked this up, I already knew that some people had been comparing it to “America under a totally Republican-led government.” What I didn’t know was it had been written in the mid 80s as a response to the rise of the Moral Majority’s attempts to move women from the workforce back into the role of mother and homemaker. So, I suppose in some regard this comparison was intended by the author, 30 years ago? Instead, I read it through the lens of someone who has studied global politics including [the lack of] women’s rights in Saudia Arabia, and in Afghanistan under the Taliban (click if you want to be informed, and depressed). Households in these countries, recently and currently, give women little to no autonomy. They are literally treated like family property. And this isn’t the 1800s or the 1950s, this is the 2000s.

Do I ever think the US will reach the level of a totally male-led theocracy? No. Do I think there are men in power who do seek to purposely suppress the rights of women? Sure. Do I think there will be enough of them to enforce a regimented caste system among women like in this book? Of course not. Especially if we (women) and our allies keep our eyes open. I am encouraged by the January Women’s Marches. People across the US are more plugged in and involved with causes than they have been in decades, and regarding a lot of topics, too. Gender issues, minority issues, disability issues, nature and food issues, etc.

Spoilers between this photo and the next one. 

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

Aside from the current event commentary, the main question with regards to The Handmaid’s Tale is… what happens to Offred after the narration stops? I believe the answer to that question divides people into optimists and pessimists; I think the author wants it that way. First you have to think about how Offred got to the point of telling her tale at all. Increasingly audacious steps of rule-breaking:

  • Revealing to Ofglen that she is not a True Believer
  • Meeting with the Commander in private, including, gasp, reading
  • Going to Jezebel’s and getting secret information from Moira
  • Her arrangement with Serena Joy—including her continued liaisons with Nick
  • Finally, the rescue, which I believe was orchestrated by Nick

It is my hypothesis that she records her tale in a safe house, and stores the tapes in that safe house before being transported out of the country. That is what I hope happens. It is just as likely that she is apprehended on her way out of the country. I guess I’m an optimist and hope it’s the former. Many people in my discussion group wondered if she ever saw her daughter again. I guess it’s because I’m not a mother but I honestly hadn’t thought about that. What do you think?

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood book club response

The Handmaid’s Tale comes out on Hulu April 26. Netflix and Hulu have really been bringing it in regards to original programming lately. Our TV antenna picks up no channels so we depend on Hulu to watch current shows like New Girl and This Is Us. So here’s where I give you my referral code if you aren’t already a customer. If you sign up I get $10! Check out Hulu for 2 weeks free, on me! Plans start at $7.99 after 1st 2 weeks. Terms apply.

As always leave your comments below or link me to your review if you’ve already posted it on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to read your take.


Virtual Book ClubLast night we held our monthly discussion group on facebook. If you’d rather discuss our monthly reads over there (normally the last Tuesday of the month), instead of in the comment section here, message me on facebook to be added.

For April, our group sought out something “springy” and decided that growth fit the theme. We voted and selected A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am really excited to re-read this; it is one of my favorite books.  Please join along with Libby, Steph, and the rest of our group as we read together.

Using the Cross Border Xpress from San Diego to Tijuana

Hey dudes! Happy Friday!

When we went to Mexico City in December, we used the new “border terminal” that goes straight to the Tijuana airport from US soil. Many of my local San Diego friends encouraged me to write about my experience since the cheap flights out of Tijuana are very alluring. Trying something new is much easier when you know someone who’s done it. So, I wrote about my experience at-length on my newly-launched travel blog, The Voyageer.

Hop on over to my travel-only blog to get the answers to these two questions: How does CBX work? Was the hassle worth it?

Playing Favorites: Anza Borrego #ParkPride

Playing favorites… guys, it is something I am not good at. I would say I’m a person of good taste. I can definitely tell when I like something and when I do not like something. But picking a favorite   whatever  ? Not really my game.

When I was inspired by outdoor wear company Cotopaxi, whose products include jackets and hiking backpacks, to blog about my favorite park (National, State, or City park) I was at a loss. Would I write about Balboa Park here in San Diego? Mesa Verde or Garden of the Gods in Colorado? Hiking in Sedona which I just experienced for the first time last weekend? I could even mention Coronado Heights in Kansas… I think one of my favorite things about getting outside is that there are so many different climates and experiences in this wide and rough country, the United States.

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The park I am currently groovin’ on is Anza Borrego [California] State Park. Located just a hop and a skip away from San Diego, it is a great location for an easy afternoon hike (home in time for dinner) or a couple nights of camping. Desert camping is so radically unique when compared to “classic” forest/mountain camping; it can be almost like sleeping in a moonscape. It provides a great variety and is particularly good in the spring before things get too hot (as in, like, this month and April).

The cacti and drought-tolerant plants that pepper this funky desert landscape are “so in right now” and make for cool photographs—just don’t get too close! I have a coworker that swears he will never go back because he got a zillion cactus needles in the leg. I guess that would put a damper on the trip.

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As you may have heard, San Diego and the surrounding areas have gotten a historic amount of rain so far in 2017. Everyone is predicting a “superbloom” of desert flowers, so I’m sure you can guess what is on my itinerary for this upcoming Saturday: Flower scouting. I can’t wait!

Something I’ve been paying much more attention to in the past two years is making sure to get out and explore nature. Growing up in Colorado Springs, my parents were excellent at getting us out and about in the mountains and taking long road trips to see the country from the car window. Of course, there came a certain age where we were “too cool” to explore nature centers and would rather be at the mall. It’s encouraging to observe that the pendulum has swung back in the favor of authentic, outdoor experiences.

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The US National Park Service turned 100 last August, and the centennial celebration is currently underway. Doug and I have some trips planned out for this summer, including Zion National Park, so we went ahead and bought our America the Beautiful park pass. It will surely pay for itself in 2017.

If you don’t want to buy the park pass because you don’t have a ton of trips coming up, please make sure to mark down the upcoming free weekends in April: the 15/16th and 22/23. There are 10 free days in total during 2017 but four of them are coming up real quick. Time to plan a weekend to be spent outside in our beautiful country!

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To celebrate #ParkPride this season, you can get 20% off your purchase at Cotopaxi by using the coupon code REDBOOK20. It could help you upgrade or replace any of your gear or even help you start building your own gear collection. Or, if it’s a better deal for you (do a little number crunching), you can get $20 off of an order of $75+ by using clicking here. With that link I’ll get store credit too, so it’s a win-win!

I was prompted to write this post by Cotopaxi, a certified B-Corp, but it is not a sponsored post. 

I’d love to hear more about your favorite National or State Park. Please share in the comments!