Tag Archives | Real Life

Three Things on a Thursday

Hey there!  I’ve been away for a while, but today I’m back with three things, perhaps random, but its what we’ve been up to lately…

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I was just on a quick trip with my husband, Paul to the midwest.  We were there for my cousin’s wedding, but since our 12th anniversary was a few weeks ago and my 33rd birthday was just last week we decided to make a little extra celebration out of it and stayed in Chicago a little longer just the two of us.

Cloud Gate

 

AnnSathersChicago

Our favorite thing about traveling together is food.  While we are eating a meal we are literally planning where we will eat our next meal.  And Chicago has got some great eats.  The weather was not the greatest, but we definitely got to experience why its called “the windy city.”  Check out Paul’s Instagram for more pictures.

AnnSather1

Amazing cinnamon rolls at an adorable Swedish breakfast spot

City View

Stunning sunset views from the Hancock building

Next up, we’ve been having fun taking some new pictures for HandUp Global Goods.

HandUp

This company has a special place in our hearts and I’d love for you to take some time and read about them and maybe even find a bracelet or two when you get a chance.  I’ve blogged about our photos for them before here. Creating these photos has been such a fun way for us to combine my love of design and fashion along with Paul’s skill and creativity behind the camera.

I bought some grocery store flowers and a few props and had no idea where things would end up.  We knew we wanted springy, fun, and colorful but just went from there.

HUGGflowers

HUGGphotos

Our old white Corian countertops have come in quite handy as a backdrop.

HUGGPhotos2

You can see a few more of the pictures on HUGG’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

Lastly, have you seen the new line for kids’ bedrooms at Target?  Maybe I’m late to the party here but its called Pillowfort and is so adorable.

Pillowfort

They’ve got bedding, rugs, wall decor, adorable pillows, lamps, etc. I’m researching big boy beds and bedding for my littlest (*sniff *sniff*) and am loving some of these combinations.  Anyone gotten anything from this line yet?  What are your thoughts?

I hope you’re doing well, I’ve missed you all!

xoxo

Bethany

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Spring Living Room Tour and a Paradox

I realize that I’m a decorator/stylist blogging here, and I haven’t shown you pictures of my house lately.  The thing is, it doesn’t change that often.  Maybe this is kind of a paradox in the decor blog world, but truthfully, I have some minimist tendencies and once I get a room “right” for me, I like to leave it alone.Spring Living Room_2

If you know me in real life and you’ve seen any of my closets or my garage you’re laughing at the thought of me being a minimalist, aren’t you?

But, I don’t really shop much for my home.  I mean, I did when I was first decorating each room.  But now, I like to use what I have and I don’t like bringing in anything that isn’t going to add a lot of purpose.

After coming out of a little season of some major discontent, I pulled open the shades a little higher, fluffed the pillows a little more, and started seeing things (literally and figuratively) in a whole new light.  Fluffing smushed couch cushions, bringing in some fresh greenery, and clearing out clutter can really make a world of difference in how I feel about my home.

Spring Living Room_5

I have a small assortment of pillows and covers that I change out somewhat seasonally, but really its more just about what sort of colors are “speaking” to me at the moment.  Right now, I’ve been wanting subtle neutrals, not a lot of brightness.

I changed out the coffee table books and added in a small succulent that was a gift from a sweet friend.  I’ve had it for a few months and have not killed it, so I’m calling that a success!

Spring Living Room_4

The top two little books on the coffee table are ChatBooks made from getaways Paul and I took together- one in New York City, the other in San Francisco.  I used to keep them on the shelf, but they’re so pretty and I love having them down where we can look through them now.

Spring Living Room_3

I’m still really enjoying the ottoman and side table here for early morning moments of quiet.  Of course, we use it all throughout the day, but it is totally my happy spot.

I haven’t changed or rearranged the bookshelves one bit with the exception of adding or changing out books as they are read or loaned.  These shelves are as functional as they are decorative for us and I love the practicality of them.

Spring Living Room

New around here? Check out my shelf styling tips here.

If I’m being truthful with you here, what I’ve really been wanting is a new couch.  It just isn’t in the budget right now though so instead of buying a bunch of smaller and less expensive things to fill that void, I’m making peace with waiting.  I’m working to get the “bones” of my house right and I don’t want to fill it up with things I don’t need.

Less really can be more.

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The Struggle for Contentment

Last Saturday, Paul was working and the kids and I took a long drive to visit family for an Easter celebration.  We were winding through country roads, looking out the window for cows and horses, you know, anything to keep the kids entertained.  Spotting an old farmhouse nestled in some trees on acres of beautiful land, I pointed it out to the kids.  “Check out that house, guys!”  It was a harmless gesture.  I love houses.  I love looking at houses.  I appreciate beautiful houses.  I didn’t mean anything by it.

Joanna Gaines' Farmhouse

Joanna Gaines’ Farmhouse (not the actual one we saw!)

The first words out of my oldest son’s mouth were, “No fair!”  Then my almost six year old daughter started repeating it too, “No fair, no fair, no fair!”

Whoa.

As a parent I try my hardest to hide my shock in any given distressing situation.  Overreaction, I’ve found, is a fail-safe way to ensure a behavior will repeat itself, having the exact opposite effect you’d like. So I choked back my surprise and slowly constructed my response.

These ungrateful children!  How could they?  We give them everything they could possibly need!!  And they think its not fair they don’t have an amazing huge farmhouse on twenty acres of land?  The last time I asked them to come play outside with me they were so glued to the xbox I don’t even think they heard what I said.  We just went to Disneyworld for crying out loud!!!!  How about a little gratitude for what they have instead of wishing they had something else or someone else’s life??

Oh.

Flashback to a day last week when what I didn’t have was all I could think about.  When comparing my home to someone else’s left me ungrateful and dissatisfied.  As you can imagine I was grumpy that day.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own.

Here I am, the believer, mother, and wife, the decorator & stylist, sharing with others on how to make the most of what they have, how to live a life of beauty and purpose; and yet I can fall prey to the trap of comparison.  The poison of discontent works quickly.  One minute I think I’m doing fine, the next minute I’m steeped in Instagram and Pinterest images, feeling like I don’t quite measure up.

I silently wondered as we drove on if they had learned it from me.  If they had watched their mom huff and puff in discontent with her stuff, comparing it with someone else’s.  If they had overheard the conversations about somedays and savings; about new bathrooms and new couches.  About all those things that never truly satisfy.  That are like chasing after the wind.

contentment

Don’t you love when those little children you’re raising become mirrors into your own soul?

We did have a little talk in the car that day about contentment and gratitude of course, but I was talking to myself, too.  Praying for eyes that see what’s right in front of me.

“It is better to be content with what the eyes can see than for one’s heart always to crave more.  This continual longing is futile- like chasing the wind.” Ecclesiastes 6:9 NET

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House Goals, 2016

Are you one to make New Year’s Resolutions? I admit I’m not big on them.  I stopped several years ago because I hated the let-down when I realized mid-January I wasn’t following through. I’m not a big goals person either, which sounds so weird and lazy to say out loud.

I’m more of a list maker, so I guess maybe I like to live more day to day.  That at least sounds nicer, doesn’t it? I want to embrace the now. I’m blogging and working now because its something that I enjoy now. But where will this take me in 10 years? What’s my long term business plan? I have no idea. And I’m okay with that at this point in my life.

But every year around this time, after sweeping up the Christmas tree remnants and packing up the ornaments, I get this intense desire to get my house in order. I want to clean, I want to organize.  I want to get it all straightened out. There have just been some nagging tasks that I’d really like to get to, but for whatever reason, I just haven’t. They’ve bugged me for a while and a few of them I could knock out in an hour or two.  So why haven’t I done something about them? Can anyone relate?

So now that I have this blog, this space to talk about all things house-related, I figured its a good a time to make some goals for this year in my home.

1. Kitchen Hardware

Kitchen Hardware
To start off, I’ve got a couple of spots in the kitchen where the cabinet hardware does not line up with the original holes. So we screwed in the top but not the bottom. Drives.me.nuts. Apparently its an easy fix. Why haven’t we done it? Oh… life, how it gets in the way sometimes.

2.  The Junk Drawers

Junk Drawer 1

Junk Drawer 2

I think its safe to say that these have gotten slightly out of control.  Oh and there’s a whole junk closet too that I chose not to take a picture of for your sake.  You’re welcome.

3. The Gallery Wall

Gallery Wall 1

Gallery Wall 2

Gallery Wall 3

Its been months since I hung up this gallery wall.  I’ve still got a few blank spaces as you can see.  I recently picked up a few new prints, but I need to get some mattes cut and its just going to take some figuring out.  So, that’s a goal.

4. The Bathroom

Master Bathroom

We have decided this will be the year of the master bathroom reno.  And not only that but also changing the flooring in our other two bathrooms as well.  We are still not exactly sure what’s going to happen in here and how it will end up, but I’m definitely planning & dreaming.

So how about you?  Got any house goals for the year?  Does January make you want to start fresh and get some organizing done?  Do you have any small nagging tasks that just need some attention?  I’d love to hear from you!

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On Taking Down the Tree

Taking down the Christmas tree is always bittersweet, isn’t it?  There’s a part of me that wants to unpack from our travels, clear out the clutter, purge the unnecessary, and get back into our “routine” as soon as possible.  That same routine I couldn’t wait to depart from just weeks ago.  Ironic, right?

But as soon as I start undressing the tree, removing each ornament, I’m overcome with a desire to savor, to treasure, and to remember.

I start with the simple ball ornaments.  They’re easy to find and easy to remove.  Most of mine are shatterproof, too.  They get tossed into a big plastic box that was labeled “ornements, ornements, ornements, Merry Christmas!” by an enthusiastic 7 year old.  Sometimes when I’m setting up the tree in late November, surrounded by flailing overly-excited children, I think I will leave it only with these.  They look pretty and bright. Easy to put on, easy to remove and pack away.  That would be much easier wouldn’t it?

taking down the tree 3

But I always continue.  The next layer for me are breakable ball ornaments.  I bought these because I like the color and I love how they shine.  They are more fragile, so I had hung them myself, a little higher.  This year, as I’m gently removing them one by one, my thumb goes right through one.  Just a tiny cut, no blood, and little thin shards of glass everywhere that are almost impossible to find.  Now an empty spot in the box that will remain.  I already know what it will remind of next year- the pain of an impending loss in our family.  My grandma whom we dearly love, awaiting her last breath in a hospital in another state.  That pain is much worse than my thumb and I feel the tears burn my eyes.

taking down the tree 2

The next layer of ornaments I can’t really fit into a category because they are all so different.  Every one has a memory and a meaning-  we have so many by now and we’ve only been married 11 years.  Many were given to us, some bought as souvenirs of travels or markers of big events in our lives.  “Baby’s First Christmas.”  “Our First Home.”  A framed ultrasound from 2009.  A blown glass New York City taxi.  Many were from Paul’s aunt and uncle as he was growing up, one for each year. His uncle passed away just two years ago, but his aunt continues the tradition now, one for each of the kids.   They will have their own collection of ornaments when they’re grown.  Some have their own boxes that must be carefully wrapped and returned.  Taking these down is the sweet and careful work of re-wrapping and remembering.

taking down the tree

Then there are the hand made ornaments: the pictures, the snowflakes, the preschool photos, the hot-glued reindeer.  Back when it was November, I was wondering did we really need this many?  I was in a rush to get a jump on the holiday season, get my house ready for the friends we would host, prettied up for the pictures we would take.  I just wanted to get it just right so I could enjoy it all and take it all in.  We take these down in a bit of a rush too, ready to be finished with this chore by now.  They go into a bag, stacked on top of everything else.

We remove the garland and lights, our hands pricked by the dry branches.  The once feathery cypress is now brittle and cracking, leaving evidence of Christmas past all over the floor.  I reach both hands in to steady the top while Paul unscrews the base and the fresh evergreen scent is unexpected and overwhelming.  It still smells like it did when we first put it up, even if it doesn’t feel it or look it anymore.

Now is the slow work that doesn’t end with a pretty picture.  There is no reward of cozy lights.  Only a pile of needles that blend with the toys as I reflect on the year.

taking down the tree 4

There has been simple beauty, for beauty’s sake.  There has been fragility, pain.  Maybe even a “shattering” or two.  There has been great joy and meaning.  Fulfillment and celebration.

And now, as I vacuum up the remnants of the once lucent tree, I know that there is also hope.  Because isn’t that what the New Year is for?  One of my favorite songs says about the New Year that it’s “another chance to catch a glimpse of what is coming true.”  Because He’s making all things new.  He’s already with us… Immanuel.  Its what we’ve celebrated and now cleaned up and put away.

And now, Lord, make us new.

Happy New Year.

xoxo

Bethany

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A Few Things…

First of all, thank you so much for all of you who have celebrated with me this week over the Design Mom feature!  I shared it yesterday on my Facebook page and Instagram but I wanted to mention it here as well.  Some of you are new here because of that feature and some of you may have no idea what I’m talking about…

Our home was recently featured here and I share about my philosophy on living with kids, creativity, and my job as a decorator.  Gabrielle Blair, aka Design Mom, was so kind through the whole process and y’all she is absolutely the real deal.  I’ve been following her blog so closely since I submitted my pictures for a possible feature and I have to say I’m learning a lot from her about this whole blogging thing.  She posts so regularly and I don’t even know how she does it, but she also posts so authentically and personally.  Even though she didn’t have to, I felt like she spent time reading my blog and getting to know us before featuring my home.  Anyway, the whole thing was just one big gigantic happy exciting thing.  I’d love for you to check it out- you may have seen all the pictures here before but the words I shared may be a little something different.Design Mom // The House of Figs

Next, I just wanted to briefly mention Christmas decorating! I’ll be a part of a Christmas homes tour next week that I’m very excited about so I’m saving the “glamour shots,” for that day, but I did want to share a little glimpse with you and show you one of my favorite traditions we have.

Advent

I grew up doing a weekly Advent wreath with my family and this is a tradition Paul and I have decided to continue with our own kids.  Throughout the years we’ve tried a few different things, including some short daily devotions beginning Dec 1st, but honestly those are hard for us to keep up with.  This year I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to do when a Facebook friend posted a link to this weekly Advent devotional.  Its so simple and perfect for the ages of my kids (2, 5, & 7).  There are additional activities for during the week but I think we’ll mostly be sticking to the Sunday evening devotionals.  We already had the wreath and I just set it on the table along with some candles stuck into glass candle holders.  While the candles aren’t the traditional colors, its what we already had, so I think it will work just fine.

Advent2

 Lastly, I’ve said it before, but I’m just not a big seasonal decorator.  I like to design a room well and then just leave it alone.  I don’t like to rearrange or tweak very much and I know this makes me a bit of an oddity among home-decor loving people.  But I do have to say, as far as Christmas decor goes, I think the reason is just that it stresses me out a bit.  I end up sort of feeling like I’m only doing it for the sake of other people or to create this elusive magical feeling. I find I’m more overwhelmed than joyful and more focused on all the stuff than on anything that actually matters.  A little like my new hilarious friend Gayle. Have you seen this yet?

We have been quoting and laughing about Gayle for days around here.  I mean, she’s just hilarious.  But of course the reason it’s so funny is that there’s a little piece of it that I can relate to.  This is my first Christmas having this blog and being on Instagram.  So while I am doing the usual decorating and I’ve pulled out the twinkling lights and added in a few new ornaments for the year, I want you to know that I’m doing everything I can to stay true to what I came here to do- for both beauty & purpose.  I’m taking part in this big Christmas tour of homes next week and I’m so very honored to be joining in with some blogs I absolutely love and admire and have looked up to for a long time, but I’m approaching cautiously and tenderly.  I do feel the pull toward crazy-Gayle-ness sometimes.  I feel the pull toward “I’m going to be in a big blogger tour so I need to show everyone a perfectly decorated Disney on Ice home tour!!!!”   But then I remember that you come here for a reason and I never intend to take that lightly.  I want to share with you my home and our traditions and maybe even a few ideas, but I never want to lose sight of the purpose.

Thank you so much for reading.  Hope you’re having a great week!

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Rethinking Home: Seeing with New Eyes

This is my 6th and final post in the Rethinking Home series.  You can find the rest of the series here.  Its been a fun series for me and I hope you have found some inspiration.  

I debated on titling this post “Pinterest: Friend or Frenemy”  Have you ever felt that way? We have access to so many beautiful and perfect images of homes out there that can in some ways inspire and move us to action in our own homes.  But so often (maybe more often?) they can lead us to comparison, discouragement, and flat out resentment of the homes we have.

Pinterest : Friend or Frenemy

Now don’t get me wrong I LOVE Pinterest.  I use it all the time to find inspiration for myself and clients and I love when readers pin my images for their own inspiration!  But I’ve found the secret to using it as a tool and a friend rather than a frenemy.  In photographing my own home for this blog and for instagram I’ve learned those images are not as perfect as they seem.  There’s always some lighting tricks involved, and have you noticed they never have blinds?  There is sunlight pouring in.  You can’t see a neighbor through those windows for miles, so there’s no need for privacy.

There are also never any baby gates in sight, usually no cords anywhere either.  Everything is clean and well placed.  Even if there are toys or kitchen utensils out, it is styled to be that way.

Nothing is an accident.

I fluff my pillows when my husband does photo shoots in our house.  I style my kitchen and dining room.  I want the pictures we take to tell a story, to draw in whoever sees them.  For me it’s an art form. I want to accentuate the strengths of the room and downplay the negatives.  Cropping and photoshopping takes place.  There’s lighting involved.

But the rest of the house is often a wreck.  We take down blinds.  All of the practical stuff, like the roll of paper towels, the K-cup carousel, the baby monitor, the dirty laundry, it all gets piled up just outside of the frame of the picture.

This is behind the scenes from one of our most recent photo shoots.

This is behind the scenes from one of our most recent photo shoots.

A few weeks ago I shared some new pictures of my living room that we took.  I love those pictures and I got some great feedback on them.  Shortly after that we took some new dining room pictures too. I love doing those and it’s fun for me to see the rooms I’ve designed really shine in that way.  But in all reality, it doesn’t look like that on a day to day basis.  It has the potential to look similar to that- I’d have to rearrange the pillows, clean up a few things, open up the shades, etc, but even if I cleaned it all up and snapped a few pictures of it with my iPhone, it wouldn’t have the same effect.  There’s some camera and skill behind the lens that goes in to getting those beautiful photos.

Those photos are fun to have and to look at, but they are like glamour shots.

Living Room // The House of Figs

And now when I see all those pictures on Pinterest or in magazines, I know a little bit more of the story.  I know that it isn’t quite reality.  It’s not that they’re trying to trick us or trying to make us feel bad.  We have the choice to determine how we are going to let pictures and images affect us.  Are we going to be discouraged?  Depressed?  Or can we see with new eyes, realizing that nothing is exactly as it seems?  Can we appreciate the creativity, the details, the lighting, and accept it basically as a work of art frozen in time for that moment?  A glamor shot that can inspire us with its beauty and craftsmanship?

I’ve been on Pinterest a lot lately looking at gorgeous bathroom inspiration and I’ve noticed something about all these beautiful images.

Bathrooms on Pinterest

They whet our appetites and sometimes even stir in us a longing, a desire to fulfill something we think we are missing.  Do we think we’ll always have a happy family if we had a home that looked like that?  Do I think my bathroom would always be spotless if it was designed that way? Or that we could cook healthy and delicious meals if only we had a kitchen like that?   But these are just snapshots, just images.  Just like candy.  Or just appetizers, not the full meal.  Glamour shots aren’t the full picture.  They’re fun and pretty, they make us feel glamorous, but we can’t go around holding up feathered boas and only showing people the tops of our shoulders and talk with our lips in a glossy pout all the time.

We have to live our lives.  We want the full meal.  We want the abundant life.

That means real living, digging deep, making messes, having relationships, getting in arguments, making up.  Yeah, sometimes its a delicious home cooked meal, but then there’s the clean up afterward.  We put some music on, we have a dance party, but we’re tip toeing around the legos on the floor and there’s dishes in the sink but when we have grateful hearts and new eyes we don’t care.Legos :: Rethinking Home

When we can see those photos with new eyes, we can see our own homes with new eyes.  With gratitude for what exists- we can appreciate the artistry in our own homes and in the homes of others.  We can know that here and now is reality- this is what it means to really live in a home and give life to that beautiful picture: legos, dishes, dust bunnies and all.

Dirty Dishes :: Rethinking Home

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