Killer b. Holiday Gift Guide

Happy Holiday season everyone! It may come as no surprise that this year, I’m focusing on hand making as many gifts as possible for the loved ones in my life. I get a little overwhelmed by the whole shop! shop! shop! mentality, so I’m slowing down and really thinking about what people will appreciate. And while every gift won’t be hand made, I’m focusing on small local businesses, sustainability, and personalization. So, let’s get to it!


Cast Iron Cookware


I’m trying to move toward chemical-free cooking and phasing out my nonstick pans. Bonus points if they’re thrifted and I’m giving someone’s castoffs a new life. I’ve even searched how to reseason them so they’re ready for use!

Reusable Kitchen Gear


I bought a few of these NeatOs reusable snack and sandwich bags, and would love to have some gallon sized ones as well. I’m also looking for reusable baking mats so I can stop wasting aluminum foil.

Canning Supplies


I’ve been growing my very first garden, and am really excited to start storing my own fresh produce! I already have a water bath kit, but a copper pot for making jams and jellies would be great. And one can never say no to canning jars!



A Holstar Beer Holster


My husband loves him some beer, and holsters. He’s also a huge fan of the Chive so I had it personalized and stamped with KCCO in kelly green.

KitchenAid Sausage Attachment

Screen shot 2013-11-28 at 3.14.42 PM

Lately the Mr. has been processing his own meats, and we have a freezer full of wild venison and pork. Yum! He’s been interested in trying out sausage, and the meat grinder attachment worked so well that I’m excited for him to receive this one!

A Straight Razor


These straight razors are so beautiful, and he’s been really interested in straight shaving. I’m a bit nervous to try and pick something for him since I’ve read that there are different options based on preference. But I think a gift card to a shaving store would be a good solution!




I mentioned above that my husband is an avid hunter, and a good pair of binoculars can be crucial. Not only that, it’s great for watching wildlife in the off season.


Photo Fleece Blanket from Shutterfly

I saw these and knew they would be perfect for all the grandparents. Who wouldn’t like to snuggle up with their favorite kiddos whenever they can?

Homemade Ornaments


I never had much luck with the salt dough recipe, but this cornstarch and baking soda clay recipe works great for handprints and stamped letters. We’re going to make a big batch for all the Christmas trees in the family.


Donations to Charities


My father is a Vietnam veteran, so I’m making a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, who help injured veterans with rehabilitation and reintroduction into homeland life. Heifer International is also a great organization, they bring aid to communities by teaching them husbandry and farming.


Homemade Play Dough


My daughter LIVES for this stuff, but tends to go through it so quickly because she smooshes all the colors together and leaves it out to dry. So instead of buying the packaged stuff, I’m making her a batch of her very own custom dough!

Outdoor Cedar Teepee


How amazing would it be to have your very own play house shaped like a teepee? I’m planning to build ours without the base using cedar fence posts and pickets so it’s lasting yet chemical-free so it won’t leech into my garden.


Play Table

modern end play table and stools

I spoiled the surprise a bit by setting it out early, but I built my girls a modern style play table and stools that also works as an end table for our couch. It’s a big hit! We’ve already had tons of Play-Doh dates and tea parties here.

Fabric Memory Game


I saw these fun little games and decided to make my own using some fabric scraps. It’s a great stocking stuffer! And if you’re not great at sewing, you could repurpose a deck of playing cards with some pretty scrap paper or family photos and mod podge it on.

Are you making gifts this holiday season? What are you making?



Modern End Play Table and Stools: A How-To

modern end play table and stools


I love building. I love being able to express my creativity in a functional way. The best part is when I can combine multiple functions into one piece of furniture. And this one? This one is amazing in its simplicity.




We recently needed to pass on the trundle daybed that my parents loaned us to my sister, and decided that a sleeper sofa was a better option for our office/guest/play room. The added space left me the perfect spot to build a little table. One that’s great to set a drink or a snack. And while my style tends to be very rustic and primitive, this time I really wanted a clean, modern look to match the lines of the sofa.



Not only is it lovely, it’s so easy to build! That’s the best kind, right? Well, what if it also has another function? Like a spot for my little misses to have tea parties and serve up delectables from their play kitchen nearby?




And not only that, but the stools would be a great height for growing kids, but still sturdy and big enough for mamas and daddies too?



Yup. This table takes the cake. Oh, and did I mention you can build it for less than $50? True story. It’s always a bonus when an affordable project looks like a million bucks. So, how easy is this to build? Try 15 minutes and a few basic tools. Here’s what I did:

– 1/2 sheet 3/4″ birch PureBond plywood, cut into 15.5″ strips
– 3 sets of L brackets (to add stability)
– 1 1/4″ screws
– edge banding (optional)

Cut List:
– 1 @ 34″ (table top)
– 2 @ 17″ (table sides)
– 2 @ 12″ (stool tops)
– 4 @ 12″ x 7 3/4″ (stool sides)


Assemble the table by drilling pocket holes into one end of each table leg, attach to table top with pocket hole screws and glue. Repeat for stool legs into stool tops. Add L brackets into each corner for added stability and to reduce wobble. That’s it! You’re done. Sand and finish as desired.



It’s always amazing for me to see a simple stack of cut lumber made over into something beautiful and functional. And what parent doesn’t love a piece of multi-functional furniture? Plus one that’s kid-friendly and not garishly bright or plastic? Plus, the PureBond is formaldehyde free (try finding that in the mountain of pressed-“wood” junk at the big box stores), sustainably harvested and made from hard woods. That’s the kind of materials I want around my kids! And that’s why I love building for myself 🙂



And have I mentioned a few (dozen) times how gorgeous PureBond looks stained?





I believe lustrous would be the right word.

I was able to use the leftover strips from my Schoolhouse Desk Bases, but one sheet of plywood would be enough to make two tables. You can even increase the height of both table and stools if your couch arms are taller than mine. My total cost for supplies (factoring in the half sheet of plywood, edge banding, stain, sealer and brackets) was just under $50. Not bad for a perfectly-sized and styled dual-purpose table! Not bad at all.




Knocked Off: Schoolhouse Desk Bases with D Lawless Hardware


Hey guys! Now that I’ve settled more into new parenthood of two (little Caroline arrived late September to join big sister Charlie) I’ve been filling in those rare double nap times with some building. One thing in particular? Updating our desk bases! See, I started out with these vintage end tables:




I really liked the look, and that I found a fun and unusual way to repurpose these vintage tables. The problem? Well, they weren’t as functional as I would like. I couldn’t store things below the two tables on the ends, and there were cords tangled up behind the center table. Plus, the protruding bases actually acted as a nice little ladder for Charlie to climb up and onto the desk. Which meant a terrified mama and some broken containers. As you can also see, it was tough to clean beneath them because of those lower supports. So, as sad as I was, it was time to replace them with something else. And as soon as I saw the Schoolhouse Desk collection from Ana that Jamie of That’s My Letter built, I knew it was the one!



Putting the tables together was a lot of fun and really quick. I had two sheets of 3/4″ birch

Knocked Off: Tall Rustic Secretary

rustic tall secretary

My laundry room may hold the record for most changes in a year. The last time I talked about it, it looked like this:


I had just finished my pedestals and built a quickie shelf to stash my laundry soaps and hide the litterbox. We had our chest freezer shoved into the space left over. Not the worst setup ever, but not really the best either. Then at the September market I found this beauty:

chicken nesting box shelves

An old chicken nesting box. I decided to use it as decorative shelving. Originally I wanted some nice cabinets up here, but it would be pretty useless as I couldn’t reach anything in them without a ladder. And I’d still have to climb over the washer and dryer. So, I had my husband hang them up on the wall using a 2×6 as a cleat. He drilled it into the studs, then drilled the box onto the lumber so I could have it flush to the wall. I would have done it myself but he was a bit leery of me lifting over 50 pounds while full term pregnant. I guess I had to agree!




Once I had the box up there, I didn’t really like the freezer and shelf. In fact, I wanted a nice old Hoosier hutch, but we are pretty tight on our budget at the end of the year. So, what to do? Raid the barn! My dad had a 20 foot 2×12 and a few three foot 2×12 scraps, so I decided to use them to make a rustic reclaimed version of this Ana White Secretary.



While I really love this clean, painted version, I didn’t have the thinner lumber and trim available. But I’m still a big fan of my sturdy and free secretary!

rustic tall secretary

I even had to add a nod to the loose chicken theme we had going on with the nesting box by bringing my metal rooster in from the front porch.



The top isn’t too different from the original design. The thicker lumber mimics the look of the trim on the original.


Those mail slots are already really handy. I’m not very organized with my mail, so it’s nice to have a way to divide up what needs to be paid, what needs to be filed, catalogs, and what needs to be recycled. It also gives me a place to display our photo albums without Charlie getting into them and throwing them around. Which is one of her favorite things.



I made the door out of two old fence pickets (the same ones I used on my fireplace) and planked two of them together. The handle is one I had purchased for our barn door at our old house to use on the interior but couldn’t because of the placement near the wall. Do you see the hinges at the bottom? I didn’t have any euro ones available so I found a couple of small hinges that matched in my dad’s hinge bucket (seriously, he keeps everything!) and attached it to the 3/4″ edge of the wood and the shelf. It lets it flip open fully.


Here is where I hide the cat food, candle wax, and laundry detergent. I plan to add a latch to keep little hands out because she has already discovered the fun bottles.


Instead of making doors for the bottom, I added in an extra shelf and hid it all with a curtain. Why?


To hide that pesky litterbox! Our cat has no problem sneaking by and doing her business. In fact, I think she kind of enjoys the thrill of pushing it aside. She likes to hide in there and jump out at me when I’m doing the laundry. Cats are weird.


Now our freezer sits on the opposite wall, sad and lonely. I’m not sure if I’ll do anything over here in the near future or not. Depending on our homesteading ambitions we may upgrade to a full size freezer instead of the smaller chest freezer. We’ve nearly filled it up already with two deer and stored breastmilk. How’s that for a combination?! Oh, and I also took the door off to make room for the freezer. I think eventually I’ll either add a sliding door or leave it open. Not sure yet. And to child-proof my incredibly heavy secretary (which I built and moved into place all by my lonesome, I’m proud to add) I’m adding a six inch L bracket that will screw into the top of the piece and into a wall stud with 2″ screws. It won’t be going anywhere!

So there you have it. My third update on a room in the house we moved into only 10 months ago. I clearly have a problem with indecisiveness!


San Bernard Landscaping: The Back Yard

tilson san bernard back yard

So we’ve talked about the front yard, let’s check out what’s around back! The crushed granite path winds all around the house.


back yard garden

The back yard is pretty heavy on grass. I wasn’t too keen on it at first, but now I’m really enjoying it. We have three large dogs that appreciate a big space to run, and it’s a great change from the dirt patch it was. One thing I was certain I wanted was a large space to build a raised bed garden. I had three beds on the opposite side of the house for my sprint/summer garden, and I learned quickly that was a bad plan. It was a bit too shaded for veggies, and I ran out of space quickly. So I had Debbie block off a large chunk in the sunniest spot of the yard for a garden. I chose to fill it with the granite so I wouldn’t have to battle grass or weeds growing between beds. I used what we already had available, but the plan is to have 4 tall troughs (for veggies that need a bit of shade for part of the day), 4 short troughs, and 4 long cinder block beds. You can see 1 and a quarter of the cinder block beds now. So far it’s just the right size for my fall/winter plans, but I’m looking forward to saving up for more beds and dirt come spring.



Following the path and looking to the right of the garden we have a nice green spot where our septic tank hides, and some shade trees.


back yard path

Now we’re headed toward the patio!


reclaimed brick patio

The porch and patio were DIY projects. It’s a little wavy because we used sand we had leftover on the property instead of polymetric sand you’re supposed to use, but I still really like it. It’s a great spot for entertaining. Plus, I love that it’s nearly all made from reclaimed materials (the sand and gravel base were already here, and I found the bricks on Craigslist. Story is they’re from a century old torn down schoolhouse, all stamped with CRISP. I’m going to choose to believe that since we had to load and unload and move all 1700 by hand, while I was six months pregnant.) The only new material was the edging.


pier one papasan swing


Just off the patio is a small seating area. We planned to build a swing and arbor, but then my mom offered us this amazing Pier 1 egg chair swing that she was tired of having in her yard. Um, YES PLEASE! This swing is amazing, and has become my favorite spot in the yard. The arms have a built-in pocket for books and a cup holder. Score.


saltbox chicken coop

Even our chicken has a sweet setup now! We built this Saltbox Chicken Coop and Planter in the spring, and now it has an official home in the yard. Our lone surviving chicken is appreciating it immensely. We’ll see how she feels when we bring home a few new friends next spring and her McMansion gets a little more crowded.



Here’s the new full view of the back of our house. There’s a new crepe myrtle to balance our original tree to the right of the patio, and Jacob got a nice new firepit for Father’s Day that we plan on breaking in this weekend. I considered moving all the kid items like the water table, swing and slide for photos but it’s a part of our lives right now so why not include it?


san bernard porch


This back porch is what sold us on the house plan. We love it. Jacob built the railing and stairs himself and we recently had it all stained and sealed. He also wired in some outdoor lights on the top beam to light up the patio at night. I think he needs a few more clamps to straighten out that wobbly pvc though!




So that’s it folks! The end of our grand landscaping tour. I’ll make a fun before and after post to illustrate what an astounding difference professional landscaping made. It really did make it look like a whole new house!

San Bernard Landscaping: The Front Yard

San Bernard Tilson Home

A few weeks ago, I shared that we were tearing up our DIY landscaping and hiring the pros to take over our yard. I called Debbie with Sagebrush Landscaping. She works in the Austin and Hill Country areas, and actually did my parents’ landscaping when they built their home 15 years ago. After two weeks of work (the rain slowed them down or it would have been finished sooner) the last of the sod was laid down the day I went into labor with Caroline. So please excuse the long delay, I’ve been just a bit preoccupied! But today we had some fantastic weather and decent enough light, so I hopped outside to take a few photos of the new front yard.

San Bernard Front Yard

Here’s the view showing the full exterior of the house and our fenced area. We changed up the house plan slightly by taking out the half garage space and moving the doors from facing the interior of the yard so they now face front.



One of the first additions was a walkway from the drive to the front door. It’s so nice! Our garage tends to get full of projects and well, junk, so it’s easy to hop out and walk right to the door. We couldn’t add any plants to this area as we have cows grazing here, but the river rock fills in the space along with a large rock we removed from the foundation area prior to building our home. We have quite a few of these boulders in the yard now.


San Bernard Front Gate


My dad and neighbor built our fence, and the gate is made from some salvaged fencing we found on the property. We just sprayed it with some bronze paint and added a rustic fence post to the top to keep the gate posts straight. Then we hung a couple of old lanterns from the barn for decor.


Tilson San Bernard Landscaping

When we had our consultation with Debbie, I emphasized that we wanted a drought hardy design. I hated the idea of dumping a ton of water into grass. While we still ended up with a lot of grass sod, the front is mainly made up of crushed granite, river rocks, and native plants in mulched beds.



One way to keep from depleting our well water was to have a couple of rain water barrels beneath our gutters. This one barrel serves to water all the plants in the front beds.




To keep the entry pretty, we decided to go with rain chains instead of down spouts. We also hired to have the cedar treated and sealed so it would keep it’s signature reddish tone instead of graying out and cracking over time.



Now the cedar blends in with the front door tones, as well as the copper chains and the rock. Basically we just kept everything in the brown family 😉



To the left of the porch we have a couple of beds, some river rock to prevent wash out, and a crushed granite pathway that leads all the way around to our back patio. I love that they used the leftover rock from our exterior to build the raised beds and a bench. We already spend our mornings out here.


Sagebrush Landscaping on the San Bernard

I had to put my iron stegosaurus in the front bed. He just makes me smile. The built-in bench is the perfect spot to snuggle the baby with a cup of coffee while Charlie throws rocks around.



I was really happy that Debbie was willing to work with some of the plants I already had. These two apple trees in the front survived a brutal summer, and are just now starting to show life again. I’m really looking forward to watching them grow and eating delicious homegrown apples one day!



The biggest transformation has been the play area of the yard. This is where the sod begins. Debbie chose Celebration Sod, which is very drought tolerant and requires little water. Luckily we had quite a bit of rain this October and it’s saved me from having to water the grass so much. It’s already begun to establish and green up. Before, this was just a scraggle of dirt and weeds. Now, it’s a lush expanse of space for our kids to run and play. We had this section fenced off to keep the dogs and chicken away. It’s nice to know we’ll have a spot free of poop, digging, and destruction. And with small kids running around, our dogs can get a bit rough so this will help keep everyone safe.



With a two year old and a newborn, we haven’t gotten started on any large play structures just yet. So far we brought down a small castle from my mom’s house and a wagon that I plan to make into a kid’s garden for Charlie with some succulents. Later I’d like to build a swing set and perhaps a fort or play house.



We also have the tire swing Jacob made for Charlie’s second birthday present. It’s a pretty big hit. Charlie even put the chicken in there. If you look a bit closer you can see the pathway and mulched bed on the side of the house. I like that it helps our cheap little plastic hut that houses our water softener look more intentional and like it belongs. Before it just looked sad and lonely. All the trees keep this area very well shaded, which is so nice in the hot summers. We’ll still be able to come out and play knowing we’ll have some shade and a nice breeze.



And that’s it for the front yard! I know, it’s a lot of photos. But I’m just so over-the-moon about how well it turned out. Debbie did such a fantastic job with the design, and her crew was great. I’m eager to get the back yard cleaned up to take more photos and share them with you!








DIY a Professional Style Gallery Enlargement for $50

Professional Style Gallery Enlargement

When Charlie was a baby, I had a good friend of mine take her newborn photos. I loved them so much that I ordered some very large gallery prints to fill up the tall walls in my living room. Well, we’ve since moved, and I hung the prints with room to spare since we were planning another addition to the family. Now that Caroline has made her debut (and had the most amazing newborn photos thanks to my old classmate Jennifer Polson Photography) it was time to add to the collection! I couldn’t afford to spend the hundreds of dollars the originals cost, so I decided to try my hand at DIY-ing it. And I have to say, the result is beautiful!


Lovely, yes? Here’s how you can make your own 20″x30″ enlargement for less than $50.


Step 1 – Print your photo


I chose to print my poster-size photo by uploading to and had same day pick up at my local store. It was $23.99, and you can always find good coupons at There are office supply stores that offer good black and white enlargements for under $10, but I wanted something a little bit fancier.


Step 2 – Foam Board Backing


Hobby Lobby sells foam board in 20×30 for less than $3. It’s perfectly sized to the Walgreens print, which worked for me because I didn’t have to worry about trying to cut it to size and getting the lines straight.


Step 3 – Putting the two together


I sprayed the board with adhesive, then laid it on top of my face-down poster so everything would be flat without wrinkles. Then I flipped it over and smoothed it down with my hands. Perfect! Just like the fancy prints.


Step 4 – Buy the metal frame


I know what you’re thinking: Big prints mean big, expensive frames, right? WRONG! Hobby Lobby sells the metal frame components to assemble yourself. I bought one 20″ pack of 2, and a 30″ pack of two along with the hardware. They’re $10 per pack, and you can probably pick them up on a half off day, or use a coupon for an even more affordable project. The directions are a bit confusing, so hopefully this helps.


Grab an angle with screws and one without. Place them so the A and B face each other, and slide them into both ends of one shorter piece. Tighten the screws on both ends of the shorter piece.



Next slide them into the two longer pieces and tighten the screws. Make sure they are right angles.




Once your three sides are assembled, slide in your foam board with the photo facing down.


Slide the final short piece onto the longer pieces and tighten the screws. Your frame is assembled!


Next you’ll want to pop on the springs so the board sits flush to the front of the frame.


I spaced all 7 around the frame as evenly as possible.


Lastly you can add the included hangers. Just slide them in and tighten the screws. Your frame is ready to hang!



I left space to add one more 20×30 enlargement. I’d like to get a photo of both girls together, or perhaps the whole family. Then our gallery wall will be complete! And now that I know it only costs about $25 to update the photo, it will be easy to change out the photos as we grow as a family. I love that they make such a big visual impact, and I can admire my sweet girls even when they’re not at home. Or just lounging around on the couch 😉




Antique Window Photo Display

antique window photo display


Back when I was working on the nursery, I found this beautiful old window frame at an antique store for a steal. So when I received Caroline’s adorable newborn photos from Jennifer Polson Photography I knew exactly what to do with them!



They were absolutely perfect for this display! And it was really pretty easy to do.




I started out by printing my photos. The window pane openings were 10″ x 12″, so I had to print my photos at 11″ x 14″ at Walgreens with the intent to cut them down to size.




I measured each pane and marked where to cut. I just cut on the lines with some scissors.




I tried a couple of different methods to keep the photos in place, but as the frame was pretty fragile I couldn’t use staples or push pins. I decided to go with simple masking tape since I want to be able to change them out in the future. The frame still had indentations for the panes, so I just set the photos in place and taped them down.




That was it! Really easy right? Just cutting and taping!




It looks so cute up on the wall! I also found an old photo frame in my parents’ attic (they seriously are hoarders, they never toss anything) and used that for my favorite image from the shoot.



Want a closer look?

Jennifer Polson Newborn Photography


Jennifer Polson Photography

So much CUTE! A little deer hunting theme for her daddy. Or Katniss if you’re a Hunger Games fan.




I also updated my photo ladder with a couple more newborn photos and some we’ve taken in the past three weeks. It’s been so much fun making the nursery more personal. Caroline is such a little cutie pie!




House Tour Update: The Master Suite

San Bernard Master Bedroom


Toward the end of my pregnancy, I had a mad fit of nesting. I wanted every project in the house “finished” before the baby came home. With a due date of October 7th, I was striving to hit an October 1st deadline as that marked one year from the start of the house. I have a couple of things I’d still like to do in the master suite, but for the most part, I’m at my “phase 1” finishing point. Let’s take a look!

Master Bedroom

What We Did:

Barn Wood Accent Wall for the Fireplace

Rustic Wood and Stone Fireplace


What is it when one area of your home is seeing improvement that makes you feel the urge to spruce up everything else? With our landscaping already looking so fabulous, I was staring at the plain drywall on the upper half of the fireplace dreaming of something better.



See what I mean? Just kind of bland. Plus I hated those outlets with a passion. Why would you stick the phone jack right there? Or perhaps place the plug on the side of the wall instead of front and center? I don’t know. As my mom would say, “A man designed this.” Or just somebody not nearly as nitpicky as she is 😉 When I woke up Friday and saw the rain pouring down, I was bummed out that it meant we wouldn’t have landscaping work done that day. We’d only made it to the dirt spreading phase and were supposed to see gravel, mulch and plants. Instead of pouting, I got to work! I had a wild hair to try the barn wood look.

When to Call in the Pros for Landscaping: The Before



Well guys, we did it. We decided to throw in the towel when it comes to landscaping. I posted these photos a few weeks back when we finished our brick patio, and it’s only gotten progressively worse. Our “yard” consisted of weeds, dirt, and fire ants. The larger I became in this pregnancy, the less energy I had for working out in the heat! Our rock beds were exploding in weeds, the rock path was washing out, and my poor poor bushes were being squished by our dogs cooling themselves in the only shaded area in the front. Lazy bums.



It wasn’t the worst yard ever seen, but it was looking pretty sad. And to be honest, we had no clue what we were doing! We looked into the possibility of adding faux turf, but that was going to be $6-10K for a small patch installed ourselves. So, we called Debbie at Sagebrush Landscaping to get a quote. What’s funny is I had done quite a bit of research to find landscapers who do natural xeriscaping to cut down on water consumption (the Hill Country is near a record drought) and after weighing all my options and looking at portfolio photos I chose Debbie. I found out after our consultation that she was the one who did my parent’s landscaping 15 years ago! That alone vetted her for me, since I love their yard and how grown in it looks now.

And so, we pulled up all the rocks, moved the beds, and got ready for our landscaping transformation!




We had given it the good ol’ college try, and sadly it just wasn’t enough to do justice to our house. And yes, we are also gussying up that gate and fence contraption.



Debbie came out yesterday to give me a basic idea of her plan (we had verbally discussed it prior) and painted out some lines where the new beds and path will be. There won’t be any grass in the front, just some planted beds, gravel, a mortared walkway to the door and a path that winds around to the back patio.




This nice shady grove of trees will be a play area for Charlie and her soon-to-be little sister.



I am SO ready for this part! Right now it’s very uncomfortable to go outside and play surrounded by sticker burrs and dirt. I’m so ready for some mulch and gravel and GRASS! The drought-resistant kind, of course. And the best part here is that we’re installing a fence and gate to keep the dogs out. They tend to destroy things. Like my bushes.




Rounding the bend from the front of the house is our side yard, which will be mostly grass with a very large gravel patch to house my raised beds. Hooray! My summer garden was relatively successful (I was drowning in zucchini and butternut squash) so I’m excited to make even more progress at growing our own food.




This scraggly section will be filled in partially with grass and mostly with beds around the trees and a nice seating area in the gap between those two trees there.




We’re also ditching these cinder block beds (I’ve transplanted my summer yellow squash and hope it makes it!) and getting another tree and some prettier beds around the patio.




Lastly, this area will also have some beds around the trees and filled in with grass.


So that’s it! The crew showed up yesterday to scrape the topsoil off the yard and dropped off dirt this morning. They’re making surprisingly quick headway and I’m told they should be finished Friday or Monday at the latest!! We are SO excited to get to finally use our outdoor space to its full potential. Plus it will be exciting to see our brick patio look more aged and built-in and less um, shoddy. GOODBYE WEEDS! I can’t wait to share the afters with you!


Caroline’s Closet Organization for $50



One of the very last projects we needed to complete before baby Caroline comes (I’m full term today! Yay!) was to build her closet organizers. I had been putting it off for far too long, and with a $50 Home Depot gift card burning a hole in my pocket I knew it was time to get planning. At first I had wanted to do the exact same setup as Charlie’s closet:



Two rods with a long shelf above and slim shelves on the sides. We’d have to do it in stages as the lumber for Charlie’s closet cost more than $50. Then I started browsing Pinterest and saw this closet from Around the Farmhouse Table



Perfect! So I cleared out the closet, and this is what we had to work with:



The small issue was the angle in the corner. Great for interest, but that meant our shelves couldn’t be wider than a 1×10 board.



After unloading the closet, I broke out the tape and started configuring and taking measurements. Oh, and my helper decided to sort through some baby supplies.



Here’s what we decided on for supplies:

San Bernard Pantry: Cedar and Vintage



A comment recently reminded me that I’ve never shared the pantry portion of our kitchen! When I posted about our Hand Built Vintage Country Kitchen, I left out the pantry as we hadn’t started on it yet. For an idea of the floorplan (we reversed ours, but the layout is the same) we have a large walk-in pantry situated between our range and the dining table. Let’s get started with the fantastic door, shall we?


I found this old screen door at the Wimberley Market Days and fell in love. It was a bit shorter and wider than the pantry opening, so I made some alterations to make it fit. To fill in the space at the top I created a Faux Transom Window with cedar, plexiglass and painted hot glue. I was loath to cut down the door in any way, so instead of hanging it inside the opening with a traditional jamb, we simply used three gate hinges to install it.



For the closure, I used a catch most often seen in bathroom stalls. I installed it upright to fit on the edge of the door. It’s not necessary, it just allows me to “lock” the door so my toddler can’t sneak in and throw stuff around.



I had a problem with the hinge tension, the door would stay open instead of flush to the trim. Oddly my dad had this screen door closing hardware in his shop, so I gratefully appropriated it and had Jacob climb the ladder to install it. I like that it makes that traditional screen door creak when it opens, and luckily it doesn’t crash closed.



Now let’s take a look inside! To the left of the entry I had some wall space and decided to whip up a spice rack and foil-holder a la Shanty 2 Chic.

Back Porch Progress

One of my projects this summer has been to take our back porch from a collection of hodge podge items and turn it into an inviting, usable space. It all began with the modern porch railing, rolling gate, and taking a reclaimed live-edge slab to use as a bar area.



We took the rustic tractor stools from the kitchen island to use out here as they’re weatherproof, and replaced the smooth short trunks with some taller mesquite trunks to raise them to bar height. The two on the end are stationary, while the two in the corner spin 360 degrees. They’re fun, and perfect for out here.



That odd little stand next to the door? That’s an outdoor light and fan. Our ceilings are much too high for a ceiling fan to be of much use, so this stand does a great job keeping the bugs away and adding a breeze on humid nights. We used to have a mini fridge here, but a friend of mine asked to borrow it for a while and since we weren’t using it I gladly gave it a new temporary home until we should need it. The fan is a great boon here in Central Texas.



Across the way we set up a seating area. The benches are from Garden Ridge, and the trellis rug is an outdoor rug from Lowes. We built the reclaimed coffee table from old dimensional lumber. Oh, and the “end table”? I made it by saving the old stumps from the tractor stools and using construction adhesive to secure flat limestone rocks on the top that I found in the yard!



I added a fragrant citronella to help discourage any mosquitoes. It may just be the drought here, but we’ve hardly had any this season. Or perhaps I’m just used to the clogged air of bugs from our old Lake Jackson stomping grounds and don’t know what to do with only the errant skeeter!



I couldn’t find any cushions to fit the longer bench, so I decided to just make my own from 2″x22″x22″ foam squares from Hobby Lobby inside a red duck cloth casing. For the pillows, I bought used coffee sacks from an antique store in Gruene. My mom had some old bed pillows lying around, and they were the perfect size. I chose to use the duck cloth on the back as the burlap can be a bit scratchy. That way I can have my reclaimed “pretty” side and a functional comfortable side. The Texas pillow is an outdoor pillow from Catstudio. They have tons of state and city designs. I looooove Catstudio products! I started a collection of their drinking glasses of places I’ve visited or lived. So this Texas pillow is a welcome addition to the back porch.



To the right of the couch we have a weatherproof trash can, and another stump that was a bit short to use in my “table”. Not sure what I’ll do with it yet, but it’s safe for the moment from becoming tinder. The lighted pistols were a gift, and fit in well with the rustic Western theme.

It’s so nice to have this outdoor space to hang out. I can shut the gate to corral Charlie while she plays with blocks in the mornings, and it will be fantastic to spend more time out here as the weather decides to drop out of the 100’s in the coming weeks. We still plan to add a wagon wheel chandelier that’s been in the works for oh, nearly a year now. I also broke down and called a painter to get a quote on sealing all our cedar. I’m technically not allowed to do that while pregnant, and the thought of getting up on a 20′ ladder to get those beams terrifies me anyway. I kind of have a fear of any height above three feet. Step ladders give me the heebie jeebies. Once we have our “final” porch finished I’ll be sure to update the space on our house tour post!



Flip Top Storage Coffee Table: A How-To



I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I don’t keep to a blogging schedule. I post when I get a project finished or have something interesting to share. So wouldn’t you know that after a week of not posting I finally have a really exciting plan to show you, and there’s a 24 hour internet outage in my area! Ah, well. It will be just as good today. Anyway, on to the point. A couple of weeks ago my husband told me he really needed a recliner in our living room. In fact, he’d been pushing for one for some time now. I didn’t really see the point, our couch has a chaise! But then he reminded me of all those nights he rocked Charlie to sleep when she was a newborn and that very soon we’ll have another little one to soothe. So I relented. My parents had a very nice, worn-in leather rocking recliner they weren’t using anymore, and generously gave it to us. I tied it in to the room by adding a 9×12 jute rug I scored for a song at the PB/West Elm outlet ($170 for this huge, natural fiber rug!) and it greatly increased the size of the space in front of the couch. I decided it was time to add a coffee table.

flip-top-storage-coffee-tableI had some pretty specific requirements for this table. I adored our Apothecary Trundle Table I built last year, but when Charlie was learning to walk and get on and off the couch she bumped her head countless times. Which meant requirement #1 was a soft, cushioned top. Check. Next, Charlie is now really into blocks and trains. So I needed a table with a solid surface for play. Solution? Make the top flip over!



Play surface? Check! Now where to stash all those toys?



Inside the table of course! And of course, if you don’t have young children in your house but still like the storage and the flip top, you can always just leave the flat surface for drinks and snacks.



This table is so much more affordable and durable than anything you can buy. Made from PureBond plywood (you know the kind that’s formaldehyde free and sustainably harvested in the USA?) and cedar or pine 1×2’s, this is solid wood construction. Plus it only cost $100! That’s a steal compared to furniture store prices. I picked up my plywood at Home Depot, and the very patient associate not only made all 10 cuts for me, he did it with absolute precision. I love getting plywood cut in-store since their panel saw gives accurate, straight cuts and the pieces are small enough to load into my SUV. So are you ready to see how to build your own? Here we go!

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Laundry Shelf Unit from Stud 2×4’s



The last laundry project I posted left an awkward gap between the washer/dryer and the freezer with a hideous litterbox in full view.



We have a long-term goal for the laundry room, but for now I needed something there to hide that litterbox and give me a bit of storage for soaps and scentsy waxes.




In an effort to save money and use what I had on hand, this entire small shelf unit is built out of old 2×4 studs. I put together a quick tutorial in case you’re looking for something similar, and it would actually be a very pretty unit with nicer (and straighter) boards as well as some stain.

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An Inconvenient Life

I’m going to warn you in advance that this post may sound preachy, but I really hope it doesn’t come off that way. I’ve been meaning to write it for some time now, but couldn’t organize my thoughts exactly how I wanted to say things. Please know that I do not judge anyone for living differently from how I choose to live, I simply wish to explain some changes in my (and my family’s) lifestyle in case someone else is looking to adopt some of the same practices.


Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a strong conviction to pay more attention to the things in my life. Things like food, medicine, appliances, clothing, and other “dry goods”. It has been weighing on my heart, all this stuff we preoccupy our minds with. All the commercials to buy more things, wear new clothes, get the latest gadget. I started watching documentaries and reading books about living green, growing your own food and supporting sustainable practices and production. A lot of my friends and family tease me for this new “hippie” lifestyle. But I’ve found that the more I delve into it, the more I enjoy it and find more satisfaction in my day to day life.



One big decision has been buying better food. Yes, it’s more expensive. Yes, I know that “organic” doesn’t always mean healthy. But after reading enough frightening articles about GMOs and abusing animals, I wanted to set aside a higher budget toward food and skimp on other things. For instance, we cut cable and only have local channels and Netflix. It’s inconvenient. I would love to be watching the DIY Network and HGTV, but I knew this was the best choice for my family. For starters, the tv isn’t always on so we have more quality time together. But the most important part was feeling that we prioritize putting the best possible foods into our bodies. It’s a trade, and one we are all happy to make.




One of the most rewarding aspects of the homesteading lifestyle I’m pursuing is the home garden. It’s my first garden ever, and it’s had it’s hits and misses. Zucchini has been growing like a weed! But I learned that cucumbers in the blasting Texas sun don’t last long, and neither does anything when you leave a gate open for a hungry calf to tear apart nearly all your okra and pole beans. Whoops! We also decided to give raising chickens a try. We started with four, and are down to our original one chicken. One was lost early to rough play by a very, very sad Red Heeler (it was our favorite too! An Americauna which lays blue eggs, and Juno was really upset that she killed it and hasn’t touched another chicken). Another suffered a large wound on a stick and needed to be put down. The last was the worst. Our Rhode Island Red (or Elmo Chicken, as Charlie dubbed her) had just started laying a couple of weeks prior and went into the coop to lay her afternoon egg. It broke inside her and she died. The small silver lining to all this has been exposing my daughter to the way of farm life. We were together when I found poor dead Elmo Chicken, who she pronounced went “night night”. A life lesson, that’s for sure!



Preserving this bounty has also been a new experience. Yes, I spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen blanching and packing and freezing. It would be much more convenient to simply grab a bag of frozen zucchini or okra from the store. Yet I feel that not only is it immensely satisfying to know exactly how this produce was grown (without chemicals or treated water), but that I’m learning new skills to serve both myself and my family as well as preserving a little bit of history and independence. I’m not particularly comfortable with how reliant we have become on centralized food production and enjoy knowing I can start providing for myself. Over time I would love to expand this even more and do my best to grow all the produce and meat we consume every year. That may be a pipe dream, but it’s one I feel value in pursuing.




If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll have noticed that I do my best to salvage old materials and recreate them into new things. I’ve become even more vigilant about this. It began by wanting to save money, but now I also strive to save as many resources as possible. Buying furniture is certainly simple, if expensive. Building furniture is great, especially when it’s derived from sustainably forested lumber found locally. Though I really enjoy finding old cast off materials and doing my best to make them into something unique and interesting. I may not always achieve this, but at least I saved it from clogging up another landfill.


Another new “quirk” I’m getting the side-eye for is recycling and composting, in an effort to bring our home to zero waste status. Our area does not have recycling pick up, so I sort it into large bins and take it to the local recycling cache every other Friday. I also asked my husband to screw together some old pallets lying around at my dad’s barn and make me a composting heap for our kitchen scraps and yard waste. It’s already been a huge help! It’s not a huge time suck, but I do invest about 5 hours a month into recycling and composting. We also put out two rain barrels so I can water my plants without dipping into our well water supply, from an aquifer that’s been declining over the past few years. One day I would love to get a two thousand gallon cistern, have wind energy, and go completely off the grid. Will that happen? I’m not sure, but I’m going to do my best to try.


If you have been considering taking steps to a greener lifestyle, I highly encourage you to do it. It isn’t always easy, and I get that. However, it is incredibly rewarding on a personal and global level. Every little bit helps. You’d be surprised at all the things you can recycle, and that it’s not a huge time investment. Or that you find pleasure and emotional satisfaction at keeping a garden. You can easily support local small farms by visiting a farmer’s market or local grocer. It’s worth it, I promise.


Simple 5 Room Dollhouse for $25 : A How-To



Wow, is it Friday already? This week flew by. I’ve been on a light posting schedule lately (even more than usual) since I’ve had a few minor complications with this pregnancy and have been told to take it easy for a few weeks. That’s no easy feat with a busy toddler and a serious case of nesting! So I decided to keep it simple and do a few smaller projects. Today I have a cute and super simple dollhouse I made for Charlie’s second birthday this month. It turned out super cute, and I’m really excited to share it!



It all started with the Peg People. I wanted to make a dollhouse that would fit these small peg people I painted to look like our family. Here I am (M is for Mama) in the kitchen, apparently only washing invisible dishes because we’re low on kitchen furniture at the moment.

dollhouse-diningCharlie and her Dad are hanging out in the dining room, probably starving from lack of food. I had so much fun painting our little people.



Baby Caroline (in a purple onesie) is hanging out in bed. I left her hair and eyes unpainted and the doll unsealed until we know what she’ll look like once she gets here in October.



Each room features luxurious solid wood flooring (thanks to some stain on the pine boards), painted walls (leftover house paint) and an accent wallpapered wall (raided from my mom’s scrapbook paper stash). Over time I may try to get fancier and add some paper windows or little paintings. But for my super happy almost-two-year-old, this dollhouse is the best toy ever.



I even cut up little rugs she can move from room to room from scrapbook paper. These two people are supposed to be my mom and dad, though my dad is wearing a cap, not a weird gray headband. The ball cap idea didn’t translate so well.



The supplies are minimal and the price is just right! All you need are two 1×8 boards, an optional 1/4 sheet of 1/4″ plywood and whatever you want to decorate it with, be it paint, or paper, or stain. I’ve even used diluted RIT dye for a non-toxic finish. The build took an hour from start to finish, so if you have your own little one’s birthday coming up, or are prepping for Christmas, this is a great project to tackle! Here’s the tutorial:

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Southwestern Spindle Side Tables



I’m prepping for Market Days this Saturday, and needed a few more pieces to fill up the booth. I had some 15″ wood rounds I bought from Lowe’s ages ago, hoping to use them for the Tractor Seat Stools. I didn’t need them then, but they sure are looking great now!



All it took to build this table was a 15″ round and three stair spindles. I had a large stash to pull from since a friend gave me a bunch that she found on the side of the road, I believe. I cut each spindle on a 5″ bevel on both ends, parallel, and set them for a 24″ height. Then I just countersunk holes from the top and used glue and 2″ screws to attach the legs. 20 minutes later, I had two very cute stools!



Instead of my typical staining action, I decided to get a little fun with the finish. I painted them coral and teal, thinking I was going to do a beach theme and paint a sand dollar and starfish on the tops. Then I looked at the color combo a little more closely and realized how similar it was to my Southwestern Faux Transom Window.



See what I mean? Exact match! So I decided to use that design in the center pane and give the tops a decorative look.



I really love how shapely these legs are. It makes the table a bit fancier than the rustic look I tend to favor.




I’m really excited to see how these fare in the booth! Fingers crossed they sell quickly so I can go shopping 😉