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We hope everyone’s having a fantastic week so far! Last night Bonnie and her troupe came over for chicken chili (finally made the recipe – came out great!). Today is my day off for the week and hopefully I’ll be able to get the house looking upright again!

Here are some of our favorite Instagram shots from the past couple weeks.

Bonnie:

Mother’s Day weekend was wonderful! On Saturday, we went to the Strawberry Festival, where Harker got to ride the Big Boy Swing and try a Deep Fried Oreo with Grandpa! (Side note from MK: I am totally jealous that I missed this!)

 

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On Sunday, after making me breakfast, ;oD Harker decided it was time to play ball.
Batter Up
He also squeezed in a little yard work. Or rather, he watched Daddy mow the lawn from his new favorite perch!
Onward
Mary Kate:
Chris and I took a whirlwind trip to see his family up north this weekend, but first we stopped at Todd and Bonnie’s for Todd’s birthday dinner. My parents were taking a walk with Harker when we got there.
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Chris’s parents’ cat Misty has this “begging” trick that always cracks me up. It’s like she’s summoning you for a treat. I am probably the only person that thinks this is funny.
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There are so few pictures of Chris and me that I have to make sure to remember this one! We had a little family portrait session on Mother’s Day at his sister’s house. Please don’t mind my half-open eyes.
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I am such a homebody. I loved coming home on Monday to the fuzz balls. They seemed really happy to see us too. We spent all day Tuesday out in the yard with the dogs putting down mulch and detailing my Subaru. Check out those cute smiles!
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Have a great middle of the week, y’all! Do something that makes ya feel good.
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Getcha Some (Momentum, that is.)

I seriously cannot be the only person who struggles with this scenario: your to-do list is as long as you are tall, you have a very short window of time between commitments (like children, or jobs, or both) in which to complete all the items with the panache and effortless grace of Holly Golightly cum Martha Stewart.  Rather than beginning at the top of the list, and drudgingly completing whatever you might be able to squeeze in; rather than cherry picking the quickest, easiest items, or trying to triage the most incredibly urgent, I say, start with a different list.

The items below are my sure-fire activities to start productivity with positivity! Just be sure to keep them small, quick, and why don’t you add some happy tunes?

1. Make Your Bed

Seriously, could it get any easier? I adore my bed. It’s a fluffy oasis when the rest of the house is… not. It’s brightly colored, it’s soft, it’s cool. But – there is something that just wracks my nerves when this oasis is a big, fluffy mess. Maybe because it’s too tempting to climb back in…

Bed

At any rate: it’s a beautiful way to draw a line in the sand about order in your day. Go do it, right now!

2. Eat Something

Not just anything, though: eat something lively! As the saying goes, you are what you eat. If you want to be a pure ball of energy and light, that’s what you need to focus on eating.

Feeling Lively

Let Kemi Nekvapil explain more about that principal, and her overall perspective on being creative AND effective in her Big Hearted Business Inspiration Bomb video.

3. Plant Something

Along the lines of being lively above, if you want to bring life to the world around you, then do it! An herb garden is a fantastic way to do it, because it is simple, relatively cheap, and thrives on being used and abused. Oh, fresh basil, cilantro and sage. Yum!

Plant Something

We got our killer planter boxed from our friend Kathryn (Yes! That very one from the baby shower post yesterday, and who blogs over at Life Spruce!)

4. Paint Something

Now, we’re getting heavy into project/to-do list territory. There are, at any given point in space-time, at least a half-dozen places where a very simple swipe of paint (really, the lack thereof) is making me utterly batty. So, to this, I say snag that paintbrush we all keep in the fridge for “someday” and paint already!

Paint Something

NOTE: Keep this light – touchup, correction and the like. Do not tackle a whole room on a whim! Or at least, don’t say I told you to, unless it turns out really well. Then send me before and afters and thank me for being such a great life coach!)

5.  Pay It Forward

Leave something you don’t need on your curb and post a curb-alert on craigslist. Take a load of gently worn business clothing or baby items to the local women’s shelter. Drop off a bag of cat food or towels at your municipality’s Humane Society. You’ll be clearing out clutter that you don’t need, and reminded of just how good you have it – and that is some serious positive momentum!

Baby Showerin’ Time!

Howdy y’all and happy Monday!

Last weekend I had the honor of hosting a baby shower for my friend, Kathryn. She and I have been friends since the 5th grade (my mom was her teacher, too!) and although we went different ways after high school for a few years – we are now neighbors and have been super close since I moved back to our hometown a 2.5 years ago. I’m not an overly gushy kind of gal most of the time, but her friendship is one of my most cherished relationships. She is like a sister to me (awwww …)

The shower was just fantastic! It went off so well and everyone seemed to enjoy everything. There were about 10 of us in all, mainly Kathryn’s close girlfriends, our moms, and her aunt. She’s a lucky girl and gets to have another shower in a couple weeks with all of her family and friends, so it was nice to keep things a little more intimate.

I didn’t really have a specific “theme” in mind – more just some buzzwords – southern, wildflowers, chic, cute, unique, interactive.

All in all, I am really thrilled with how it came out. From the beginning I knew I wanted to do a sit down lunch, rather than just having a buffet and having us eat while milling around. I wanted us to be able to have conversation as a whole group ….. and I wanted to make these really cute menus.

Most of what I did was handmade by me and a friend who came to visit that I wrangled into being crafty with me (thanks, Kells!) – so that just added more meaning to the day. Kathryn’s mom is a phenomenal baker, cook, general food extraordinare who provided a beautiful and delicious cake and some chicken salad and cucumber sandwiches. Really, I shouldn’t say “some sandwiches.” That should read, “Enough to feed an army.”

It was a really lovely day spent with some of Kathryn (and my!) favorite people. We are all so excited for Kathryn and Ben as they meet their little girl in a few weeks and settle into their life of 3. I am personally excited for baby snuggles. Our little Harker is so on the move these days and I miss those snuggles!

Here are some of my favorite pictures and memories from the day ….

Head of the table for K!

Head of the table for K!

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Our craft for the afternoon! Everyone left their thumbprint as a "firefly" and hopefully Kathryn can find somewhere for this in her nursery!

Our craft for the afternoon! Everyone left their thumbprint as a “firefly” and hopefully Kathryn can find somewhere for this in her nursery! Harker even dropped in and left his little thumbprint.

Bad photo, but I am so proud of this garland! Hot glue, twine, and strips of paper.

Bad photo, but I am so proud of this garland! Hot glue, twine, and strips of paper.

I broke my printer making these menus, but it was SO WORTH IT! I love them to pieces.

I broke my printer making these menus, but it was SO WORTH IT! I love them to pieces.

Wedding china, y'all! First time I've been able to use it!

Wedding china, y’all! First time I’ve been able to use it!

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So. Much. Food. Pesto pasta salad, ham biscuits, chicken salad sandwiches, and cucumber sandwiches. Don’t ask me how many biscuits I ate.

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Strawberry pretzel salad, y’all!
Those little mason jars were everywhere with just a few stems in each.

2 most important beverages in life: sangria and sweet tea

2 most important beverages in life: sangria and sweet tea. Our friend Kendra made fruit kebobs with mint and an amazing dip!

The Baby Jeopardy game came out so well. It was a lot of fun.

The Baby Jeopardy game came out so well. It was a lot of fun.

We made candles for little favors to take home. They came out so well - after some trial and error!

We made candles for little favors to take home. They came out so well – after some trial and error!

Cheesin' in up

Cheesin’ in up

Our mama-to-be getting ready to cut into her cake

Our mama-to-be getting ready to cut into her cake

This photo perfectly captures our friendship (Thanks Mama Layne for capturing this)

This photo perfectly captures our friendship (Thanks Mama Layne for capturing this)

Again .... so us

Again …. so us

Putting this shower together was a lot of fun and I’m glad I was able to share it with everyone! Now all there’s left to do is wait to meet this little girl who is already so very special.

xo, Mary Kate

Friday Fun – Details Forthcoming

Bonnie here, and I’m getting your weekend started with a really tasty cop-out: Not Quite Nigella’s Easy Individual Beef Wellingtons. I’m whipping them up right now for my husband’s birthday dinner using ground beef instead of filet, but I’ve made her duxelles before and they are divine. 

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A quick shout out today to the man who brought MK and I together – Happy Birthday, Todd! You are an incredible husband, father, son and teacher. I am so incredibly lucky to share a life with you, and here’s to many, many more wonderful years together!

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A quick shout out today to the man who brought MK and I together – Happy Birthday, Todd! You are an incredible husband, father, son and teacher. I am so incredibly lucky to share a life with you, and here’s to many, many more wonderful years together!

On Living in the Woods

I grew up in a neighborhood that was right on the edge of backwoods and a quaint country area. Anyone who knows me knows how much I loved that place – that house, those woods, and that way of life. Looking back on it now, we weren’t that far away from civilization, but growing up on Hickory Winds Court with the farm and fields behind my house made me feel like it was just my little family and me out there.

The driveway of the house I grew up in. I'd still live out there if I could.

The driveway of the house I grew up in. I’d still live out there if I could.

Chris and I love the mountains, the woods, the quiet of nothing but trees around us. We spend as much time as we can out there. It’s what brings us together, makes us each whole. When we first started dating, the days we weren’t managing that pizza restaurant were spent on the New River, the Appalachian Trail, or on top of Brush Mountain. Those days are my very favorite days of my life so far. Whenever he and I start to feel that disconnect from the unusual life that we lead, we head up to the mountains, unplug, and remember who we really are. In the spring and summer you can bet that we plan camping trips for each time he’s home from a trip.

Chris on top of Kelly's Knob near Blacksburg. Our first backpacking trip together with sweet Sammie. Crazy long, but one of my favorite memories.

Chris on top of Kelly’s Knob near Blacksburg. Our first backpacking trip together with sweet Sammie. Crazy long, but one of my favorite memories.

We bought our first home just over a year ago, and it is the perfect house for us. Big enough for us to grow into, but not so large that I feel it’s unnecessary. It’s new(ish), but I’ve been working to make our home feel collected, lived in, and really reflect who we are. I love every single thing about our house.

Our home this winter. Makes my heart smile.

Our home this winter. Makes my heart smile.

We looked at houses out in the middle of nowhere, but nothing was in our budget and securing farmland loans wasn’t a possibility for us. So, we live in a neighborhood. A really lovely, cute, small neighborhood with wonderful neighbors for friends and it’s an area that will be great for raising kids. I have no regrets.

But … I constantly struggle with the path not taken. What if we had waited? What if we had found that perfect dream house where we could live forever, raise our kids from the moment they were born, have rescue dogs run around on acres of land, and grow old – all in the same place. What an idyllic notion. One that I think approximately 1% of the population gets to experience.

When I pull into my driveway each day I know that I am truly home. It is where my husband is, where my dogs look through the storm door to greet me. It’s where I play with my nephew in the yard, read on the porch, and catch up with my neighbors. I’m no more than a phone call away from anyone that needs me and I can get where I need to be. Right now, in this season of my life, it’s the perfect place to be.

Sam waiting at the door for something exciting to happen.

Sam waiting at the door for something exciting to happen.

That being said, I know that one day the call of the woods will be too much for either of us to ignore. That simple life with less trips into town, less distraction – that is the life I really, truly crave. I’ve told Chris so many times, “I wish I could take our home and just put it on a patch of land with no one around us.” He agrees.

But, for now, while we continue with the beginning of our life together and think about starting a family one day, I can take those ideals and those desires of living in the woods and put them into practice with the life that I do have.

Sam on our most recent camping trip. Girlfriend loves the woods.

Sam on our most recent camping trip. Girlfriend loves the woods.

I don’t like having rules for myself as an adult, but I definitely need them. Some days I say that I won’t open my Macbook or check my phone a thousand times a minute. When Chris and I go out to dinner, we leave our phones in the car. I try to reuse what we have, instead of running to Target or Lowe’s for every little thing we might need (I fail at this miserably). Being at home is my very favorite place to be. Living in the woods is a commitment to a lifestyle that isn’t very popular right now. For Chris and I, though, I know that one day it will be where we end up, a little more off the grid, back to the basics, and a more organic way of life. For now, I love where we are at and all the things were are able to do. But, I so look forward to the future and allow myself a little bit of time to daydream about what life holds for us.

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xo, Mary Kate

P.S. if you look at my “Dreams” pinboard on Pinterest you’ll find everything that I daydream about. It looks like a fantastic life to me.

P.P.S. image source

Mid-week Round Up!

Hi there! Here’s what MK and I are up to when we aren’t blogging, teaching, or otherwise being fabulous:

From MK:

This picture was inspiration for the menus at the baby shower I held last weekend. More details to come next week!

This looks like heaven. Corgis? Beach? 140+ corgis?

I’m trying a white chicken chili recipe tonight. I’ll let you know how this recipe comes out. Looks delicious to me! Gluten free to boot!


My favorite shirts. I already have the “Blue Ridge” one, but this Appalachia one is en route to my house! The Old Try, ftw!

 

Bonnie:

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Todd and I are constantly challenging one another on the Disney themed quizzes, but the trivia games on Sporcle are addictive regardless of your interest or expertise!

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Better Homes & Gardens has long been a reliable source for style advice, but it was somehow only last year that I took a second glance at the other part of their name. This morning, I just finished the garden that BHG planned for me using the Garden Plan Finder, and I am super pleased! (Pictures to come as soon as the sun cooperates!)

Tonight, we’re having one of our favorite meals – chicken fried rice from Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats! Always yummy, and delightfully easy!

What are you up to this week, dear reader?

Vision Quest

The show Happy Endings is one of my favorites – check out reruns on ABC.com. Apparently, it’s in danger of getting the axe based on traditional statistical television viewing analyses (I don’t know either), but here’s a fantastic article that describes how it’s different from the other six attractive friends in an urban setting sitcoms that have sprung up since the success of Friends.

One character (Jane Kirkovich) is super organized and intentional about every. single. thing. she. does. She’s always trying to get her friends to be the same way (last week she tried to make over the friendly slob, Max). In the episode that inspired my post today, she tries to help Penny decide to happen to life, instead of having life happen to her.

So, it’s a silly sitcom, but I watched it at a time in my own life when I was trying to articulate just that idea. Thanks to Pinterest, I was quickly and easily able to assemble my own vision board of sorts. I named it “The Jane,” in honor of the character who inspired me.

Most of my own board appears to have become positivity central (Sidebar: does anyone else have Pinterest load only random parts of their boards occasionally?). I have also pinned visualizations I particularly liked that indicated, for me, what home is about, or career ideas, along with some very special role models. A few of the highlights that are cooperating at this time:

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The key component of an effective vision board is that it gives you a visual shorthand to feel inspired. Not in the way that window shopping or Pinterest does – this is not about having a to-do list. This is about feeling out what your life looks like when the to-do list becomes a been-done list.

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Animal Lovin’ Beauty Products

As I get more into my adult years, I hear more and more negative news and appalling information. Sometimes I don’t feel like there’s much I can do about it, but when I can change what I am doing, then I feel that I’m making a small difference in some way.

One of my big “things” is animal cruelty prevention and appropriate treatment of animals – pets, wild, any type of furry friend. I was a vegetarian for a couple of years and now and again I think about going back. I preach about “adopting, not shopping.” But, I just felt called to do something more. Something proactive. Please don’t think that I’m some sort of extremist like those crazies at PETA – I just have a deep love and appreciation for how animals enrich our lives. And, I feel a responsibility to be an advocate for pets without one.

Before I did my research, I thought that animal testing was a thing of the past, but I was way off base with that assumption. From my cleaning products to my make-up, it seemed that almost everything mainstream and affordable was tested on animals.

I spent a few weeks researching what the differences were between designations of “cruelty free” vs. “no animal testing” and figuring what I could afford to do. The distinction isn’t always clear but generally the “cruelty free” designation is reserved for products with no ingredients that were tested on animals as well as the final product. A labeling of “not tested on animals” means only that the final product was not tested on animals and is much more common. For me, I made a personal choice to commit to using cruelty-free products whenever I can. But, using products that aren’t tested on animals also makes a difference!

There are two different logos that I look for. Each represents some type of animal friendly product, but don’t mean the exact same thing.

The first is the “Leaping Bunny” logo.

leaping bunny

This logo means that the product has been made without any animal testing, but it could still include animal products. Basically, it’s not a vegan choice. This is the more common logo, obviously, since it’s more difficult to eliminate all animal products.

The second logo is what I refer to as the “Cruelty Free Bunny.” He’s a cute little guy, but not as common to spot.

crueltyfreelogo

This logo is part of a PETA program for companies that have committed to no animal testing and do not use animal products in their beauty products.

Not all animal friendly products have these logos, so if you are looking for something that is cruelty free, look for wording on the bottle as well!

There was no way I could change over all my make-up at one time or all my cleaning products. I decided that as things ran out, I would make a conscious, animal-friendly choice in replacing it. Eventually, I made a list of affordable brands for all products that I wanted to replace and kept it in my wallet so I could look for it at drugstores, grocers, etc. I have been replacing products over the past year and while not everything I’ve replaced has been cruelty-free (for example, I can’t find a good shampoo that I like and I haven’t had to replace my huge bottle of lotion yet), I think I’ve made some great progress.

Today I want to share with y’all some of my cruelty-free beauty products that are fairly easy to find and won’t cost you your entire grocery budget for a tube of chapstick.

1. ELF products

This line is carried at most Targets and can also be found in their online shop. I like using this cheeeeap make-up for eyeshadows and other “fun” makeup. It’s cheap, I can play around with colors, and if something doesn’t work it’s no big. I don’t use things like their foundation, but I love this tone correcting powder.

2. Mary Kay

I’ve read mixed reviews that question if Mary Kay is really cruelty free, but after reading probably too much about it, I feel confident that they are. The debate is that their product is now being sold in China and they have a policy that all products be tested on animals. This article from Mary Kay just made me feel that they really are committed to continuing their no animal testing policy.

Everything I buy from Mary Kay I love. I do prefer their liquid foundation to the mineral, but I think that is just a personal preference. While their products are a bit expensive compared to Cover Girl – I think the quality more than makes up for it. I regularly use their foundation, blush, eyeshadow, and lipstick. My family and friends all rave about their skincare products, too. We can be a tough crowd when it comes to looking good, so that’s a pretty good plug for Mary Kay!

3. Toms of Maine

Toms of Maine was one of the first companies to take on creating products that are cruelty-free. Out of all the products I use, these are the ones I have the most confidence in. Their deodorant and toothpaste are easy to find at the grocery stores around here.

4. Bath and Body Works

Most of the products at Bath and Body Works are cruelty-free. I’ll be real with y’all – I don’t double check before I buy my particular body wash or lotion, I just get what I want and trust that the company is staying true to their word. This Fresh Picked Tangerines line is probably my favorite thing ever. I got Chris body wash from their men’s line and he uses it, so I’ll take that as he likes it.

A LOT of the more high-end make-up brands like Smashbox, Tarte, and Urban Decay really promote that they are cruelty-free. If you’ve got the money, I’ve heard nothing but good things about their make-up! I am always tempted by this palette every time I walk into Ulta, but so far, I’ve resisted.

There are definitely some beauty products that I have not yet transferred over to the cruelty-free side. Lord, how many types can I type “cruelty-free”?

I have very sensitive skin and I’m hesitant to buy anything other than what I’ve found to work and most cruelty-free facial cleansers are more expensive. I did try a Mary Kay brand, Velocity, but it didn’t work for my skin type. I have also tried a few shampoos, but nothing that I’ve been pleased with. So, I’m still on the lookout for that and use god ole Garnier. My beauty routine is pretty simple, so most of what I use I can get from the 4 sources above, along with some random finds along the way.

I also admit guilt to sometimes impulse buying new products before checking their cruelty-free status. I bought (and love) this Texturizing Sea Salt Spray by Not Your Mother’s. (Hello! $5.99! Volume! Amazing!) Their website states that they are “in the process of registering” their products with some type of animal friendly designation. It isn’t specific, so we’ll see what happens with that. All we can do is work towards this and continue to encourage companies to commit to cruelty-free products. It looks like Not Your Mother’s has heard the consumers and is responding.

Does anyone else try to buy cruelty-free? Got any tips or hidden gems? This post has inspired me to try to corral / organize all my products in my seemingly overflowing basket on our vanity. That’s where you can find me for the next couple hours … probably covered in lots of make-up.

xo, Mary Kate

* Images from this website.

Bonnie’s 5 Favorite Spots at Home

Back Yard

This jungle-ish corner of our back yard is the first place in our home I got to really test my green thumb. It’s overstuffed with boxwoods, knockout roses, and various wild fauna.

Gallery Wall

This is the gallery wall in our dining room, over our breakfast nook. It features our parents, grandparents, Harker and us! It also features a sweet graphic that Todd gave me for Christmas last year that is going to feature heavily in a future update I’m planning…

Hark's Room

I adore sitting in Harker’s room, in his comfy glider, snuggling up with him to read, or watching him play with his Mega Blocks. This is the happiest room in the whole house!

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I adore this part of the kitchen – all of the color, the light clutter, and the easy utility.

Rose

Harker & Todd gave me six yellow rose bushes for my first Mother’s Day. I planted them along the front of the house, and they are a big part of what makes coming home so welcoming!

 

MK’s 5 Coziest Spots

Bonnie and I were talking about all the things we have in common and got onto the topic of how having a home that feels lived in and loved is important to both of us. Thus, the topic for this post and Bonnie’s corresponding one was born.

Chris and I moved into our house just over a year ago. In the 3 years before that, I had moved 7 times and never stayed in the same place for very long. The life of a college student turned newlywed pioneer, y’all. To say that I was desperate for some roots was an understatement. When you factor in that Chris travels all the time for work and it’s just me and the fuzzballs holding down the fort – well, I just spend a lot of time at my house.

In the past 14 months I feel like Chris and I have taken our house from builder basic with questionable paint colors, to something that I love coming home to every night. Even when Chris is gone, our house feels like my home and I really love that feeling. It’s not even that we’ve upgraded a thousand things or spent a lot of money on big purchases. Rather, we’ve been on the lookout for unique pieces that fit our homey, lived-in, casual-but-still-intentional style.

I’m just going to to ahead and be upfront, folks. I. suck. at. photography. I wish I could take better pictures and I want to keep practicing! But, right now I’m using the iPad and usually the cover of night to take my photos. So, it’s not a winning combination for a novice like me. I hope we see improvement as this blog goes on.

When I looked at the 5 spots I chose, I realized that I was somehow emotionally tied to all of them. There are also a lot of other fun parts of my home that I want to share, buuuuuut, the photos for those are still too embarrassing.

My dad built this table for us this past Christmas. I can see my children using this table and so many memories from meals around it.

My dad built this table for us this past Christmas. I can see my children using this table and so many memories from meals around it.

 

This is our guest room. Chris and I built the wooden headboard and I painted the word on it. The guest room is m favorite room in the house!

This is our guest room. Chris and I built the wooden headboard and I painted the word on it. The guest room is m favorite room in the house!

 

This little spot is just so quintessentially "me" A little bit of everything I love, right out where I can see it everyday

This little spot is just so quintessentially “me” A little bit of everything I love, right out where I can see it everyday

 

This little shelf has my little collection of miniatures. Kind of bizarre, but I try to find a pig from every new place that I visit. They are all housed here along with my vintage spy camera.

This little shelf has my little collection of miniatures. Kind of bizarre, but I try to find a pig from every new place that I visit. They are all housed here along with my vintage spy camera.

 

This antique tray sits on our island in the kitchen. My grandpa brought it back from England and I like playing around with the styling.

This antique tray sits on our island in the kitchen. My grandpa brought it back from England and I like playing around with the styling.

Are there spots in your home that make you smile when you see them? I love that satisfying feeling.