Kitchen Re-Organization

I have not been very attentive to recording our projects around the house over the last couple of months, but I am excited to share our kitchen reorganization project.  I did not bother to take any “before” pictures for this one, because I figure everyone knows what a cluttered kitchen looks like!

When I moved into the house last fall, I didn’t spend much time finding meaningful places for my dishes, glassware, cooking tools, etc.  Compared to my last apartment, I had plenty of space so I didn’t worry too much about using the space efficiently. Once Daniel’s belongings and wedding gifts arrived this summer, it was quickly a cluttered mess!  Without a pantry, we had food items spread over several cabinets, and kitchen items jammed in every corner. We also multiple versions of several items- the mugs I liked to use vs. Daniel; three different partially complete sets of pots and pans; various kitchen applications rarely used (e.g. partially broken crockpot, a George Foreman grill that always seemed impossible to clean).  So, it was time to start fresh.

Before & After. We moved the brooms to the utility room, to make room for a pantry.

Daniel kicked off the project last weekend by building shelves in the broom closet so that we could finally have a dedicated pantry.  This allowed us to sort our food goods and neatly contain them in their own separate area of the kitchen.

It’s still crowded, but I can assure you- it was much worse before!
Getting the blender off the counter & into the cabinet was a game changer! We love having our travel mugs ready to go, as well as our “every day” dishes.

This weekend, we loosely followed the Mari Kondo method to tackle the rest of the kitchen goods.  Section by section, we emptied the cabinets and only returned the items we truly love and actually use.  We parted ways with miss-matched mugs, the set of dishes I bought when I first lived on my own, and baking pans I never actually used.  By the end of the afternoon, we had compiled quite the haul for goodwill. Even better, now it’s easy to access the things we use day to day and my nicer set of dishes and entertaining platters are all tucked away in the dining room cabinet.

Finally, a kitchen with clear counters!

For the first time in months, I came downstairs this morning to clean, empty cabinets!  It was wonderful! I enjoyed my moment of zen, only to hear Daniel say “But doesn’t it look too empty, like a rental unit or something?”  Oh, Lord how he tests me!

Our Ballroom Dancing Retreat

From the Zillow Listing- Our master bedroom before any updates
Daniel and I chose not to live together before we were married.  Which meant when I moved to the house the master bedroom was ALL mine.  Even knowing Daniel would soon move into the house, I still managed to fill both closets and claim “my side” of the bed.  The room was truly one of the few “blank slates” in the house- the previous owners threw on a coat of flat white paint (seeming to sell the house).  If we had a longer engagement I probably would have turned the room into a girly paradise filled with mementos from my travels abroad.  But, alas, I saved this room makeover for once we were married.


I truly wanted to make our bedroom a retreat- someplace cozy, filled with pictures, with a quite corner to read a book or drink coffee.  Daniel easily wins the award for being the most easy-going person and I certainly can be quite particular and vocal.  Therefore, I felt like it was reasonable to respect Daniel’s main wishes for the room: keep the bed in its current position (for feng shui purposes), no white furniture, and no color schemes featuring pink.

the starting selections.

You probably are sensing that I love neutral color schemes, with touches of color, but a beige bedroom seemed too boring.  We settled on green and had fun picking our favorites.  The winner was Valspar’s Ballroom Dancing, such a fitting name after our sprint to learn basic ballroom dancing before our wedding.

We purchased IKEA nightstands off Nextdoor earlier this year, and decided to purchase matching dressers.  I love the styling of the Hemnes line- a touch of modernity without clashing with my more traditional style. God bless Daniel for having the patience to assemble IKEA furniture- no amount of curse words could have gotten me through that task 😉

We finished the room with a few other additions- a pair of lights my parents were no longer using, a carpet we bought from Nextdoor, and a sitting chair from Wayfair.  We styled the room with pictures from our engagement and wedding, as well as a Brian Andreas print which previously hung in my office, and a watercolor my dad gave me as a souvenir from Russia.

With busy lives, it is so nice to come home to a space that feels like a retreat.

“I don’t know who we’ll become in the days ahead. I only know the quiet voice in my heart that says we’ll become it together.” -Brian Andreas

Hope you love it too!

Kari vs. Carrie

This year I set the New Year’s resolution to write more, which is partially why I started this blog.  Now that 2018 is nearing its end, I’m starting to realize that while I have written a lot this year, most of it was not what I envisioned.  Instead of sitting at my laptop collecting my thoughts à la Carrie Bradshaw style, I spent a lot of time writing progress notes at work, writing emails to wedding vendors, writing thank you notes to thoughtful friends and family, and writing job applications.  Not exactly the “fun” writing I imagined.

The last couple of months I have fallen into this trap of feeling “not good enough”– as a WRITER, as a wife, as a homeowner, as a new employee, and as a friend.  Seeing the trap for what it is (what Brene Brown calls a “shame spiral”) is half the battle.  To that end, I am trying to be patient with myself and be more discerning of my time.  Inspired by the Konmari method, I am trying to keep the things in my life that bring joy, and part with some of the things that do not.  Lately, that has looked like skipping the gym to make time for a walk outside or saying no to social plans to make time to unwind.

 I have really fallen for the Powhite Park in the last month- just a quick walk feels like a total escape. 

I am also trying to give myself a little credit- the big year of change is almost over, and I made it!  Never again will I get engaged, buy a house, get married, quit my job, and change work specialties within one year!  Good thing I love Daniel and our house very much, and I am finally building some traction with my new job– these seem to make the growing pains feel worthwhile.  I can only hope that 2019 will be blissfully boring.

With that quite long introduction, I would like to share pictures of our guest bedroom!  This room has been “done” for a while, but I just never got around to sharing it here.

I painted the three floral canvases in high school- it nice to find a home for them.

The guest bedroom came together fairly easily soon after we moved.  In a happy accident, we discovered one of my old bedding sets matched the paint we used in the dining room, so we settled on a teal and white color scheme with pops of coral and yellow.  Since Daniel veto’ed my white furniture for our bedroom, I used my old dresser and nightstand here.  I rounded out the room with a chair that used to be in the living room and some Nextdoor furniture finds (another table and carpet).  My parents gifted us with a bed frame and mirror they no longer needed after downsizing.  Easy as that!

Since I reference Sex and the City, I can’t resist the opportunity to share this oldy, but goody!




Finished Living Room

The living room truly has been “finished” for awhile, but I procrastinated on posting, since it’s been rather cluttered with misc. items.  I had last week off work, so for the first time in awhile, it’s all clean & tidy!  I think the living room has been the most dramatic before/ after and perhaps takes home the prize for best place to read a book or enjoy a conversation.

Let’s look at the before pictures (pulled from the Zillow listing):

So as you can see, the room is a sized fairly generously, but the wood floors were in awful condition (lots of scratches and paint drips) and the paint choices were horrendous.  The lime green accent wall even had the trim painted to match.  The three other walls (and ceiling!) were painted sky blue.

Even in it’s “before” condition- this room had many features which attracted us.  We loved the light let in by the large windows (which too were in awful shape- original to the 1965 house).  We also loved that there was a separate den downstairs, so that we could have a living room without a television–a place to read, chat, play guitar, and entertain.

The transformation 

Before I moved in, I hired contractors to sand/ refinish the hardwood floors in the house.  That alone made a big difference.  Within the first month of living at Greenvale, Daniel and my dad painted the room (& ceiling!).  We chose a warm greige, called “free reign” and painted the trim white.  The paint alone made a huge impact on the room– it went from seizure inducing to calm & cozy.  The other reason I love the color is that it takes on purple and brown hues depending on the time of day and subsequent lighting.

In terms of furnishings, we mostly up-cycled furniture from my apartment.  My sister generously gifted us their sofa & love seat and my parents gave us the desk in the corner.  We original bought the beige club chairs from Costco to use by the fireplace downstairs.  However, when we were quoted a $2,000 price tag to update, we decided we didn’t need to sit by the fireplace after all (at least not now!).   It’s also nice to comfortably seat a large group.

We have enjoyed adding more pieces as we stumble upon them– my favorite recent find was the blue & white ottoman, purchased at the Habitat Restore in Charleston, SC.

There you have it- the room that finishes the “adult floor” as Daniel likes to call it.  Thanks for stopping by!



Bittersweet Endings

The thing about work, is that it takes a lot of our time, and as a social worker it also takes a lot of my “heart space.”  An artist I love, Mari Andrew, often posts an illustration of her “heart” as she prepares for the upcoming month.  The simple illustrations touch upon those basic parts of the human experience– What do we hold closest to us?  What makes us excited?  What triggers our feelings (good and bad) and how big a space do they hold for us?

September Heart by Mari Andrew

Today, I facilitated my last group with adolescents (maybe ever, but at least for awhile) as I prepared to start a new job in October.   For the last three years (with the exception of the occasional vacation), I have spend 4-7pm each Tuesday with a room of teenagers grappling with substance use as well as challenges related to their friends, families, mental health, schools, and/or probation officers.  At times it has felt like the longest three hours of my week, and yet at times it felt like the highlight of my week.

I had no idea when I started working with teenagers three years ago,that I would have to work on healing MY inner 16 year old.  Working with teens and their families has brought light to the challenges I faced back then.  It brought me back the terrifying place of not knowing myself and not knowing if I was pretty-enough/ smart-enough/ liked-enough.  Seeing teens in conflict with their parents, gave me insight to what a moody kid I used to be.  To be fair, I still AM moody (probably thanks to my strong family history of mental illness!), but at least my coping skills are far more sophisticated now.  In many ways, working with teens helped me close my life chapter as (what psychologists now call) an emerging adult and feel equipped and empowered to simply be myself.

Joining the lives of various teens over the last three years has truly been an honor.  I have gotten a brief opportunity to once again know what’s “cool”–although quite frankly I miss the mark most of the time.  I have gotten to watch young men and women truly find themselves– and their place in the world.  On the other hand, I have also watched teens crash and burn, which at times was funny and more often was sad.  Perhaps best yet, I have gotten the best possible crash course in parenting which hopefully will come in handy one day.

Kyng Suite

I have been excited to share before and after pictures of the Kyng Suite (formally known as the tree room) since before our wedding, but alas life has been busy.  The room was renamed in honor of its first guest, Will “Kyng Crab” Gilrain.  Second to the living room, this bedroom has probably been our biggest transformation.  I can’t wait to share it with you!

Let’s start with the before pictures (pulled from the Zillow listing).  

The last owners LOVED a good accent wall, and apparently also loved an accent CLOSET. Yes friends, look closely and you will see a bright orange closet. Oy vey!

It is easy to see how this room earned the nickname “tree room,” huh?  The previous owners had two young children, and this obviously was their nursery.  I am certain this room was hand-painted with love, but painting over the neon lime green was anything BUT a labor of love.  Many f-bombs went into its new sunny appearance.

You would not believe the number of coats of paint primer it took to cover the raised surfaces of the tree leaves.  You also might not believe how many coats of paint it takes to cover lime green!  Fortunately this was the last “neon” room in the house, so our future paint projects should be less challenging.  In the two weeks leading up to our wedding, I was going crazy making last-minute arrangements with wedding vendors and poor Daniel was staying up late painting this room to get our house “picture ready” so I could take my bridal portraits at home.  I’m still not sure who got the “worse deal” in that scenario.

P.s. this is EASILY my favorite bridal portrait from our wedding day.  I had the BEST bridal party and I cannot recommend the addition of a bridesman.  Brett was a trooper.

My girls, Brett & I on my wedding day. Thanks to Caiti Garter Photography for capturing the love!

But alas, back to the Kyng Suite.  We fully intend that this room will eventually become our nursery, so we picked a sunny yellow called “spun honey”– perfect for a baby girl or boy.  For now, it serves as a second guest room.  Honestly the foam mattress is so comfortable, it’s my favorite escape when I’m feeling sick or having a sleepless night.  If you are in the mattress market, I don’t think the price/ comfort level can be beat with the Zinus Memory Foam 10 Inch Green Tea Mattress, Twin.  

Aside from purchasing a mattress and bed frame (Nextdoor for the win!), we mostly just recycled art and miscellaneous furniture to fill the space.  It was nice to find a home for my “Kari Chest” that my grandparents gave me when I was a little girl and find a home a few art prints that just didn’t quite fit with any of our finished rooms thus far.

The only project left in this room for now will be replacing the closet doors, but those can wait until we have another Lowes coupon 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you love the space!



Stairway To Heaven

Of course I have not fact-checked this, but I would say 50% of the time Daniel picks up his guitar he starts playing “Stairway To Heaven.”  So, the song seemed like an appropriate title for our new staircase gallery wall.

We were a bit home-bound this weekend- I got a heavy dose of poison ivy last weekend and on Friday, I finally caved and went to the doctor for some relief.  I am finally a bit less itchy, but have felt so WEIRD on the steroids that it just seemed easier to lay low this weekend.  But, of course you probably know that I am entirely too restless to just read a book or binge of netflix (although I did a bit of each this weekend).

It was fun finding a way to incorporate our attire from the our wedding day.

Hence, I enlisted Daniel to help me build a gallery wall for our staircase.  I purchased several frames to use at our wedding, that mostly have been sitting in a box collecting dust.  We decided to embrace the new house/ newly wed vibes and make a wedding-themed gallery wall.  I love that we got to incorporate a few wedding gifts (shout out to my friend Lindsey and Daniel’s family friend Therese!).  I was also excited to incorporate Daniel’s boutonniere with a scrap of the hem of my wedding dress in a shadow box.

Among the family pictures taken on our wedding day, I love that we re-purposed pictures of our parents on their wedding day as well as both sets of my grandparents on their wedding days.  Two months into our marriage,  it still feels pretty easy.  When the road gets harder, it will nice to be reminded of the long marriages that came before us.

Of course we ended up with one empty space. We figured our save-the-date could be a placeholder until we pick up another frame. Funny story, it was like $2 more to get an extra 150 save-the-dates so we will be using them for random lists until at least our 5th anniversary 🙂

Let There Be Light

I have thought about blog posts a lot lately (in between client sessions, in the shower, driving to work), but as you may have noticed I have been quiet on here.  Married life is busy! I find I have less time to myself than before, and when opportunities present themselves I am often working in the garden, reading (I really enjoyed  Crazy Rich Asians), or watching my “girl shows” as Daniel likes to say (after the wedding I binge-watched all four seasons of Amazon’s series  Mozart in the Jungle”). 

However, despite the radio silence on here, Daniel and I have been getting stuff done around the house.  We made the goal to have our house “picture ready” for the wedding since I took my bridal “getting ready” pictures at home.  It was stressful, but before the wedding we finished two guest bedrooms and the entire first floor.  I will post those rooms when I have better lighting for pictures.  There’s definitely some dramatic “before & after pictures to come!

Melissa and I at her Aunt Jeannette’s house in Nelson County.

Yesterday, I was in Nelson County celebrating my friend Melissa’s bridal shower and got to squeeze in a visit with my brother’s family (side note: when do you switch from saying “couple” vs. “family”?  I think “family” is fair game once there’s at least a pet in the mix, therefore now that Brett and Emily have a dog they can be the “Evans Family.”  All and all, it was a lovely day.

My new “niece” Lucy.

I got home a little after ten, used the restroom and realized the master bath was BRIGHT. Unusually bright, and sure enough it was because Daniel replaced the light fixtures in both the master and guest bathroom upstairs.

The new fixture in the Master bathroom.

I think the new fixture brightens up the bathroom without totally clashing, buying us time before a big bathroom overhaul.

Previously, the master bath had an updated light fixture that simply was not our taste (and clashed with the still 1965 original bath) and the guest bath had the original florescent fixture that was just all-around awful. I suppose eight-months into our adventures in home ownership, Daniel has found a way to merge the vibe of our 1960s tri-level with my farmhouse/ french country style.

The new fixture in the guest bathroom upstairs. 

However, with updated light fixtures, the flaws of both bathrooms are all the more visible.  We will continue to debate how much we want to accomplish short-term vs. long-term.  How much we will DIY vs. utilize contractors… I am skeptical that Daniel and I have the tools and time to demo. and re-tile both bathrooms.

The laminate counters in both bathrooms are in horrendous shape– tons of stains that no amount of scrubbing will remove.

This sink (and the matching tub) inspired the guest bathroom’s nickname “Pink Tub Paradise.”


I suppose I better not leave for a long weekend anytime soon, Daniel might go rogue and start demo without me!






The Inspiration for Our Summer Wedding

We received our wedding pictures from Caiti Garter Photography last week, and we have had so much fun reminiscing about our wedding day.  Just like everyone says, the whole thing went by in a blur!  I’m just glad I remembered to eat my FULL slice of wedding cake.  As the bride AND wedding planner, I want to walk you through the inspiration and details that made our wedding our BEST DAY EVER.  If that’s not your thing, just scroll for the beautiful pictures taken by Caiti Garter Photography.

The Church:

For Daniel and I it was easy to pick Sacred Heart Church in Richmond as our wedding ceremony site as it is our current church home.  We started going to church there as a couple approximately 1.5 years ago and received great support from the congregation during our engagement.  With the church’s population being 70+ percent Latino, we had the honor of being the first English-speaking wedding in 10 + years!  What an honor (and interesting challenge at times!).  Our pastor made our nuptial mass so special, highlighting words we each wrote about the other person and our Catholic faiths.

The Reception Site:

You might remember that Daniel and I purchased the first home we toured with a realtor.  Well, we also booked the first wedding venue we toured!  We fell in love with the setting of Pocahontas State Park, just south of the city, nestled among tall trees and winding gravel paths.  It prompted memories of driving up my grandparent’s long country driveway in Upstate New York and family camping trips as a kid.  The architecture of the Swift Creek Banquet Hall truly sealed our enthusiasm—it had that rustic chic vibe that I love about the Farmhouse movement.  We also loved the idea of picking a wedding reception site that we can visit in the future—I imagine many trips to park when we have a family of our own.

The Reception Vibe:

We were truly blessed that my parents wanted to host a reception, while still allowing us a lot of freedom to plan our ultimate party.  For me, it was important to a reception that felt like a true representation of us as a couple—casually elegant, with excellent food and drinks and non-pretentious music.  I loved the juxtaposition of the exposed wood beams and gold china plates.  We wanted to include nods to some of our favorite dates: listening to live bluegrass music, eating delicious food at Comfort, and exploring the outdoors.  Let’s go into some of the details that helped this vision come to life.

The Food:

If you ask me the food is usually one of my favorite parts of a wedding.  We loved working with Louis of Garnish Catering to create a menu of classic Southern comfort dishes.  We stumbled upon the menu by thinking of giving our out-of-town families a taste of our city.  I think I will always long for the beef short ribs at our wedding—they were amazing! If I could eat our wedding dinner once a week for the rest of my life, I would happily do so!

The Flowers:

I worked with Victoria Zachary of Flowers by Victoria out of Flowerama to create romantic bouquets for the myself and my bridesmaids.  Victoria executed my vision of white roses, heavy greenery, and accents of soft pinks and blues.  When I asked to find a way to include touches of gold, she had the brilliant idea to spray paint magnolia leaves and eucalypts.  She carried these themes into a delicate basket of flowers for the church and beautiful pew floral arrangements.

Due to the distance between the church and reception site, and my personal belief that most wedding expenses are totally unnecessary, I decided to order flowers from Trader Joe’s and create my own table centerpieces.  The day before the wedding, my mom picked up the flowers and friend Melissa and sister-in-law Emily created lovely arrangements for the table centerpieces.  They did a great job! We got about 15 arrangements for the cost of 2 traditional arrangements.

The Cake:

People who know me, know that I LOVE cake.  My criteria for the wedding cake were simple: must taste fantastic and be decorated with fun whimsical touches.  We decided to play up the outdoor setting and choose a birch tree cake design.  I absolutely love the love bird cake toppers I purchased off Etsy. I asked to repeat several roses from my bouquet to tie the theme together.

The Band:

Early in the planning process my parents insisted we HAD to have a live band, as opposed to a DJ.  I am so glad they insisted.  It was so fun having live music—of course people who enjoy dancing danced and the people who don’t got to enjoy watching the musicians.  We booked Gallatin Canyon through Sam Hill Entertainment and they did not disappoint!  They learned a Head and Heart Song for our first dance (Let’s be Still) and Tom Petty’s Wildflowers for the Father-Daughter dance.  We loved jamming to bluegrass and classic rock covers.

There you have it.  Our summer wedding- a tribute to our love of God, each other, and sweet Virginia.

Our Honeymoon

Waiting to board at Dulles Airport

On our Scandinavian honeymoon, we walked 77 miles, touched down in four countries (Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium), took five boat rides (including the ferries in/ out of Denmark/ Germany) and made countless memories together! While it was not a restful honeymoon, it was the first time in a LONG time that we spent a week together without the hassles of our jobs, projects around the house, wedding planning and everything else. We complement each other well as travel partners. Daniel is excellent at navigating unknown places and deciphering train schedules, whereas I like to think I’m pretty good at packing and repacking suitcases and reminding us to drink water and eat treats .  Driving home from the airport, Daniel said “I think we picked the right honeymoon for us” and I had to agree!

Nyhayn, Copenhagen. We enjoyed taking a boat tour through the canals.

The famous gate of Lubeck, Germany. Sadly the majority of the other city gates were torn down, as they were thought to be an outdated look!

Lubeck, Germany

 The Itinerary:

We departed from Washington DC on June 29 and had a quick stopover in the suburbs of Munich before heading to Copenhagen.  We spent four nights Copenhagen, staying just around the corner from the historic town hall, Tivoli, and Christiansborg Palace.  Then, we took a bus ride (with a ferry service) to Lübeck, Germany on July 4 and spent three nights in Lübeck, staying in Old town near St. Mary’s church.   On July 7 we took a ride back to Copenhagen, followed by a train into Malmö, Sweden for dinner.  On July 8 we departed home from Copenhagen with a brief layover in Brussels, making it back to Richmond around dinnertime (or midnight as it felt for us jet-lagged folk!).  It felt like a nice mix of big-city and small-town offerings.

The highlights:

At Frederiksborg Palace, easily my favorite castle of the city. The gardens were lovely as well. After touring several U.S. mansions (Biltmore and the mansions at Newport, RI), seeing these castles offers many “oh, that’s what they were emulating!” moments.

Inside the Round Tower at Copenhagen, I loved this art exhibit. It featured adult artists with disabilities, and was refreshingly current.

Obligatory picture with the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen was lovely, the people where friendly, the weather by freak chance was insanely beautiful (low 80s with no humidity), and there was so much to do. The best/ weirdest part was that most attractions where nearly empty. Several times we were the only people exploring a part of a castle or touring a gallery room.   For me, it felt like our private city retreat. I hope to go back to Copenhagen at some point- there’s certainly more to discover, and its refreshingly totally different than a U.S. city.

We loved the architecture in Lubeck, it was hard to STOP taking pictures!

Inside St. Mary’s church in Lubeck. I loved the simple style of the many floral arrangements in churches there.

Lübeck was added to the itinerary after hearing how expensive a week in Scandinavia can be, and I am glad we did.  The city came into importance  during the Hanseatic trading period due to its role in trading salt to Scandinavia (remember they REALLy like pickled herring). Today its Old Town still feels like a medieval city, with its winding roads, networks of courtyards, and collection of historic churches, shops, and restaurants.  We enjoyed the slower pace of a smaller city.  For much of the time we were left to draw our own conclusions about the city and its sites as much of the information was just in German.

Daytrip to Hamburg, another former Hanseatic trading port.

This church was neither rebuilt nor demolished after WWII bombing, it evokes a powerful reminder of the pain of war.

From Lübeck we enjoyed taking a day trip to Hamburg. It was fun to explore a bigger German city (in fact it’s the second largest city in Germany); but we were both glad we chose to stay in a smaller town for our stay.

Walking through Malmo during sunset (at 10pm!)

We tried local beers in every city, and this Swedish beer did not disappoint!

When we got back to Copenhagen we made the impulsive decision to head to Malmö, Sweden for dinner, since when else would we have the chance to take a 30-minute train ride and end up in another country. I heard that Malmö was more similar to Denmark than the rest of Sweden, but I was pleasantly surprised that it had a different feeling than Copenhagen. We enjoyed wandering around the old town and stumbling upon a lovely town square lined with restaurants. We had a delightful Italian dinner (since Scandinavian seafood is not my thing) and got to watch Croatia beat Russia in the world cup quarter finals. It was odd seeing so many people cheer for Russia!  We got back to our hotel around midnight and awoke just before 4am to catch our flights home. That alarm was certainly unwelcome at the time, but I’m so glad we got to have a memorable last night of our honeymoon.

Thank you for reading and for all the social media “likes” from the pictures we already shared.

Taking the ferry back to Germany, just look at that beautiful Scandinavian sun- we totally had the perfect weather!

With love,