TGIF, amirite? This is actually a very special Friday because it is the last working day before Nick’s annual week-long vacation. I get almost as excited about his vacations as he does because whether I’m working or at home having another parent around makes everything so much easier. I hereby declare that a week off from work for him equals a week off from changing diapers for me!

Vacation or not, Friday is my favorite day for always. Such optimism, such hope! I hope you each have a wonderful weekend and that great things lie ahead for you!

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Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and college years I was perpetually messy. My room was always cluttered, my car was piled high with trash, and most of my clothes spent more time in a pile on the floor than they did in my closet. Something happened when Nick and I moved in together–I felt like we were playing house and suddenly I was motivated to be tidy. I worked hard to drop my old habits and started putting forth a big effort to pick up after myself. After a few years it felt mostly effortless to be reasonably neat (though I still struggled with dusting and scrubbing and all those other little tasks that nobody likes to do). I was confident that having a child wouldn’t change that–how hard can it be to pick up after a tiny human?

When Jack was still not walking at 18 months lots of people told me to be thankful because he’d be so much harder to keep up with. I disagreed, seeing as he could crawl faster than most kids his age could walk. It’s not like he’ll take off running one day, I thought. And while I was right in that regard, what I failed to take into account was his new ability to pick things up and carry them places. Like this empty snack cup he brought from the kitchen to the office (on opposite ends of the house).

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I am absolutely exhausted by the task of picking up after him every day, so I just don’t. What’s the point? He’s just going to drag it all out again the next day (by the way, I picked up the night before these photos were taken, so the mess you see is what he created in less than a day). I never, ever thought I would say that! I figured I would just teach him to pick up the mess from one activity before moving on to the next, but A) he flits from one “activity” to the next like an oversized bird, and B) I ain’t got time for all that.

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Maybe as he gets older I’ll get better about teaching him to pick up after himself, but for now I’m choosing to accept that this season of my life is defined by chaos. It’s definitely been an adjustment to learn to be cool with stepping over books and toys strewn about, but it’s certainly not inconvenient enough to motivate me to spend my precious time picking up after he’s in bed for the night. Maybe this is why I love being in the kitchen so much lately–it’s the only space I have any control over! He can’t reach the counters and most of the cabinets are childproofed. But for the rest of the house, it’s like that saying: cleaning the house while children are growing is like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing.

I’ve been really dragging my feet on refinishing Jack’s new bed. After I realized that sanding it all down to bare wood was going to be unreasonably time consuming I thought that gel stain might be the answer, but I couldn’t find any at Lowe’s and it wasn’t available for free shipping on Amazon. I had read that General Finishes was a respected brand so I visited their website and learned that I could pick some up locally at a wood furniture store (All Wood Furniture on Airline if you’re around here). It was $25 for the quart which is about how much I would have paid online with shipping, but I got to pat myself on the back for supporting a local business.

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The consistency is even thicker than paint. I dare say it could be mistaken for chocolate pudding if it weren’t for the smell.

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I decided to test it out on an inconspicuous area before committing to a big project. I pulled aside one of the rails intending to do just a small area on the inside, but a little went such a long way and it went on so easily that I went ahead and did the entire piece. Here it is compared to another rail. This is without doing ANYTHING to prep, not even a light sanding–the instructions do recommend roughing it up a bit,  but I didn’t. I just brushed on a very, very thin coat with a brush and stood back in amazement.

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Y’all. It’s only going to take me one coat and no sanding to refinish the entire thing. I’m stoked! I tried it out on one of the guard rails that I got partway through stripping and although it did turn out significantly darker the splotchiness is not a big issue like I thought it might be. I can totally live with that, especially since there are four guard rails and I can’t see myself ever using more than two at a time.

I’m hoping to refinish both beds this weekend (if you remember we got them as a pair, but I think we’ll only be using one for now). My plan is to set them both up in the backyard so that I can access all sides without having to flip pieces over while they’re still drying. I’m concerned about where to go from there, though. It says that it needs 14 days to cure–does that mean that it can’t come back into the house for two weeks? It’s times like this I really wish I had a garage.

ALSO, today is the last day to enter the GIVEAWAY for an item of your choosing from Sprigs Jewelry and Accessories! Click here to enter! And if you don’t win you can use code LIVINGWELL10 to get 10% off through Mother’s Day, May 11. Happy Wednesday, my friends!

Yesterday I posted 25 Styling Tips for a Beautiful and Functional Kitchen and today I’m back to share how I’ve applied some of these tips in my own home. I don’t have many of the high end appliances and features that you see in magazines, but I do have a space that makes me happy and because I’ve set it up thoughtfully it’s very easy to work in.

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My dishwasher detergent is in a glass canister, my dish soap is in a cruet meant for olive oil, a bar of hand soap is in a dish on the windowsill, and an absorbent towel in a favorite color hangs from an inexpensive holder on the cabinet below. I’ve got a small collection of bud vases on display (handy for any pretty flowers I may collect outside), a couple of plants, and a metallic pear I got ages ago for a few bucks. The curtain adds fun color and pattern to a largely neutral space.

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I use the peninsula immediately adjacent to this area for food prep so the corner is prime real estate. I keep apples and bananas out in a platter (though the fruit flies are killing me lately!). Next to that sits a knife block and stand mixer. All of my baking supplies and mixer accessories are stored in the cabinet above.

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Over here I’ve got a memo board, stemware, and paper towels taking advantage of vertical space and on the counter a pretty silver tray groups raisins, almonds, tea, sugar, oatmeal, and a pretty candle. I keep a glass bowl out to collect corks and a couple of handy supplies like a corkscrew, bottle opener, matches, and more tea are in the drawer below.

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Grouping these items together on a tray helps it look less cluttered and adds a decorative element as well. I love love love vintage silver, but the same effect could be achieved with a shallow basket or any kind of tray that suits your fancy.

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The eye prefers odd numbers and symmetry but careful disregard for these rules can be fun. Make a list of your favorite colors and textures and find ways to work them in. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars at Anthro, Pottery Barn, or even Target. Most of what you see in these photos has either been collected over the years from various secondhand sources or picked up inexpensively at closeout stores like Marshall’s or Stein Mart (sadly we have no HomeGoods here, but that’s a good option as well). I know that my kitchen would look so much better with a new stove, but I’m not letting the ugliness of the old one stop me from decorating around it. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got!

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The narrow black tray came from Ikea several years ago and I think is intended for candles but it’s perfect for keeping some things handy near the stove. The four taller items looked weird by themselves so I added a vintage sugar bowl with a small preserved plant inside (that’s what I like to call plants that I’ve killed but that still look okay). The bowl serves no functional purpose here but it made the grouping odd-numbered and thus instantly improved the aesthetics. My cast iron skillet stays out all the time, mostly because it’s so freaking heavy. The silver platter was gifted to Nick’s great-grandfather upon his retirement from the jewelry store where he worked for 65 years.

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This side of the stove has been switched up a few times as I try to figure out what works best. I used to have all of my measuring cups and spoons in a plastic bin in the pantry but I started getting annoyed that the bin was in the way of the food. I just got this woven flatware caddy and it’s perfect for hiding these things in plain sight. I looked for a pretty glass measuring cup for liquids but couldn’t find one that I liked enough to leave sitting out, so the ugly plastic one I’ve had for years has been relocated to a cabinet near the sink. I was surprised to find that that’s actually a much more convenient home for it! All of my cooking utensils are gathered in a cylindrical container on the counter–it’s intended to be a lantern for candles but, you know, whatever. This move freed up the drawer below to store potholders and trivets.

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My mother in law gave me these sweet measuring cups and spoons with birds on the handles for my birthday. I love seeing the little birdies peeking out from the top of the basket. Also, most of us can’t afford to buy fresh flowers all the time but clippings from the great outdoors can be just as pretty. These buds feel fancy despite that fact that they were 100% free and are sitting in a shot glass.

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This is not the kind of thing that I’d suggest doing all at once. Take some time to think about how you use your kitchen. What do you need stored where? What would be best kept behind closed doors and what would be better kept in plain view? And what is taking up space that you don’t really need? Then find creative ways to make it work and keep your eyes peeled for items that can serve as attractive storage containers or decor. You might be surprised by how many beautiful things you already have!

If you’re new here and want to see more here are links to several posts about the progress of my kitchen:

My Big Plans for a Small Kitchen Makeover
Beadboard Backsplash Complete!
DIY Lined Cafe Curtains
DIY Wood & Metal Kitchen Shelves, Part 1
DIY Wood & Metal Kitchen Shelves, Part 2
DIY Etched Glass Dish Soap Dispenser
Organized Baking Cabinet with Hooks
DIY Pantry Doors Part 1
DIY Pantry Doors Part 2
Easy Pantry Shelf
New Kitchen Cabinet Hardware
How to Make Old Drawers Slide Smoothly
How I Finished the Undersides of My Cabinets
DIY Pantry Door Storage
Handed Down Silver Platter
Trial Run: Microwave in the Pantry
Styling and Organizing the Kitchen Counters
Sippy Cup and Kid Dish Storage
Another Silver Platter
New Kitchen Light