Our new dining room chairs

27 November 2015

I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings!! Between our birth class, visitors, travel, big work events, Articles Club, birthday parties, our church family group, and showers, November has been an exceptionally busy month. I am so grateful for a few days off work and without activities to relax a bit — and tackle a few things that have been on my to do list for weeks!

One thing I did accomplish this month, though: finally pulling the trigger on new chairs for our dining table!! It should be well known around these parts that I tend to agonize over home decor purchases, especially ones that come with a large price tag. (For proof, see here, here, and here.) Though I think I have a strong design sense, I can’t help researching every possible option, and then second guessing everything a few times just for good measure. I’ve been researching and debating options for this space for about a year now, so it definitely felt good to finally make a decision!

You can see where we started thanks to our most recent home tour:


Our former chairs were given to us for free (yay!) from a friend’s parents when we moved to North Carolina, more than six years ago. Though I liked the general shape, they were lightly dusted in glitter and fluff (the chairs had been in their craft room!) and they didn’t work super well with our wood floors. Here are a few of the things I considered as I looked for replacements:

— Between the teal upholstered bar stools close on one side and the tan sofa close on the other, there were a lot of surfaces with which to coordinate.
— I loved the idea of at least some upholstered options, but was having a really hard time getting over the idea of keeping them clean.
— I couldn’t decide whether to go with a color (probably blue or green) or something more neutral, like white. Would white chairs with a white table be too much white? Or maybe I should go with black, but would they be too dark with our floors? What if we added a rug under the table down the line?
— I loved the look of bistro chairs and thought they’d be durable and practical, but worried about their trendiness and whether I’d like them long term.
— If not a bistro style, should I go with an Eames style, a Windsor, a industrial type metal (too cold?), or a cafe chair? And should I get different accent chairs for the ends???

These thoughts and more looped through my mind for months, accompanied by some of this inspiration:









From top to bottom: Design Sponge, i suwannee, Style Me Pretty, Alice Lane Home, Scandinavian Apartment Ideas, Style at Home, La Dolce Vita, Design Sponge

When I just couldn’t seem to come to a decision after months of deliberating, I finally sent pretty much all of the above in a big messy email to my sister-in-law, pleading for help. Even just the act of writing down all of my options was helpful, and once I had her opinion, too, I felt ready to make a decision: we were going with white Windsor chairs. I did consider a few Wayfair options, many that were 50% of the price of our final decision, but in the end the reviews made me a bit nervous, as I want these chairs to last for a long, long time.

So, what did we decide on? We went with the Willa chairs in white from Crate & Barrel. I snagged them at 20% off during a dining sale (yippee!), and bought them in two installments to soften the budget blow a bit. I also had them shipped to the store, so there was no shipping cost.


We have been super happy with them so far! I think they play nicely with our antique table, and they definitely brighten the space. I also like that the set is a neutral base so that seasonal decor can be layered on top. We’re still considering adding upholstered chairs to the ends (maybe these?), but for now, I’m calling it a day.

…except, of course, that now I have my sights on a bed for our master bedroom. I currently have about 20 different styles and options pinned. Maybe you’ll hear from me in two years :)

Anyone else in my same boat with home decisions?? What do you think of this one?

Tips for shopping kids consignment sales

23 November 2015

We are in a really good place with clothes for our girl. In addition to generous piles of loaners from three sisters and a friend, we have a tub of hand-me-downs from a cousin and lots of goodies from showers. But, the clothing source that I’m most excited about and with the best long-term potential is… kids consignment sales! I’ve found some amazing pieces over the last few years but know they can be intimidating, so I thought I’d share a few tips for shopping them today!


1. Opt for church consignment sales. I may be biased, because I’ve actually only shopped at sales run by churches, but I’ve found them to be uniformly well-organized, well-run, friendly, and with high quality clothing. It’s easy to find them by Googling your town + “kids consignment sale.” If you’re in the Triangle, I love my church’s sale (which runs twice a year) as well as the Hayes-Barton sale (also twice a year). If you find a sale you like, watch out for a flyer for their next dates when you check out!

2. Go on the first day, and go early. Many consignment sales run for several days, and some mark everything down by 50% on the second day. However, I’d much rather have first pick at the goods than spend a little less money, especially because everything is already so inexpensive! Also, I’d recommend showing up at least a half hour before the sale begins — the ones I frequent always have a line waiting to get in, and again, your goal is to get first crack at things.

3. If it’s an option, volunteer. Related to point number two, if you REALLY want to get a jump on things, your best chance is by volunteering! At least at my church, if you volunteer to process clothes on the drop-off days, you have the option to buy anything you like as soon as it comes in. I’ve gotten my best pieces this way! If volunteering is not an option but you’re able to consign, that might get you access to a preview sale before the general sale.

4. Don’t just shop your current size. For the last few years, I’ve been scanning the newborn to 3T racks (even though for many of those years I wasn’t even pregnant!). Especially when your kids are younger and don’t have opinions about their clothing, it’s a great idea to stockpile pieces you love as long as you have the storage space.

5. Pull, then cull. Sales can get a little crazy, so I like to pull anything that catches my eye on an initial cruise around the floor, then find a quiet corner to sort through my armful. Usually, I’ll put back at least 3/4 of what I initially pulled, if not more. (And on that note, be polite and either re-hang your discards or hand them off to a volunteer.) If you know you’ll be a super shopper, consider bringing your own bag (like an Ikea reusable bag or a Boat and Tote) to make it easier to carry things.

6. Be picky. I, and I assume most of y’all, have the luxury of not needing to buy all of my girl’s clothing from a consignment sale. So, I’m very picky about what I buy, even though the price point is so low. I only buy things I absolutely love, and only if they’re in great shape. Sometimes I’ll leave with ten items, but sometimes with just one piece! It’s definitely quality-over-quantity for me with these sales.

Most of my experience has been in local sales, but I have started to dabble in Instagram sales, as well, so wanted to give them a brief mention! I haven’t actually bought anything as I’ve always been outbid (!), but the accounts I have my eye on are @kksisters_closet and @modernminiresale. My best tip here is to look for accounts whose style you like and whose kids are a bit older than yours!

What do y’all think? Have you shopped at consignment sales or Instagram sales for your kids? Any tips you’d add? Or, my Triangle peeps, any other sales I should know about? :)

P.S. All of the pieces above are favorites I’ve purchased from local sales! The most expensive (the green plaid and red plaid) were $4, and almost everything else was $1!!

Weekend trip to Nashville

19 November 2015

A few months ago, my younger sister made the very wise decision to move to Nashville. Wise because it’s a city sparkling with potential and wonderful career opportunities, yes, but also because it’s just a one-hour and generally cheap plane ride away from me and John! (And if we feel like staying on the ground, Asheville is only a four-hour drive away for each of us!)

Needless to say, we are looking forward to many Nashville adventures in our future! We kicked things off with an inaugural visit in September, and though the weather was generally dismal and rainy, we made the most of it and checked off several restaurants and shops from the list I’ve been growing for a few years. It was just a start, for sure, but I thought I’d share for those who might be planning a trip, as well! You’ll see we stuck fairly close to the East Nashville neighborhood, since that’s where Kim lives, and for the most part avoided downtown (too much neon).


Food favorites:

Barista Parlor: We stopped by this open air, converted transmission shop for breakfast on our first day. There are two locations — we went to the East Nashville one. The atmosphere rated high on the Hipster Meter :) We split two donuts and a biscuit sandwich, and the coffee drinkers had fancy coffee.
Marche Artisan Foods: Marche, also in East Nashville, was breakfast on day two. It’s a European-style cafe, with crepes, croissant French toast, and a croque madame on the menu (I had an egg salad sandwich). We waited for at least a half hour for a table on Saturday morning, FYI!
The Frothy Monkey: The Frothy Monkey was breakfast on day three. They have several locations throughout Nashville; we chose the Franklin one. This is another popular spot, and we probably waited about 20 minutes for our food (you order through the line). We tried an omelette, the granola parfait, and buckwheat waffles.


I Dream of Weenie: We split three chargrilled dogs at this alfresco East Nashville Volkswagon bus for lunch on day two. There’s no indoor seating, but there are picnic tables as well as picnic blankets ready for you to pull up a grassy seat! Their daily specials are super creative and delicious: we tried the Rebel Yelp (jalapeños, mustard, red onions, and Tennessee chowchow), the Guaco Taco (taco filling, shredded cheddar, sour cream, guacamole, and crushed Fritos), and the Chili Cheese (spicy chili, cheese, mustard, and onions).
Pharmacy Burger Parlor: The wait was loooooong at Pharmacy when we showed up on a Friday night, but that was likely due at least in part to the fact that it was raining, so the outdoor half of their seating was out of commission. Kim and I loved our burgers, and John loved his bratwurst (and our selections are pretty representative of the menu: burgers and German meats!). We all loved the fries. In addition to beer, they also have lots of neat old-fashioned soda options, like phosphates, rickeys, and egg creams. Almost everything, from the sausage to the condiments, is made in-house.
Five Points Pizza: Clearly, we did not go to Nashville to sample the health food! This pizza, though, was completely worth any negative health effects. It tasted like the best pizza you can get in New York. And do not skip the garlic knots! I know they are kind of a throwaway at some restaurants, but they were DELICIOUS at Five Points!


Jeni’s: We went to Jeni’s twice :) Those lucky Nashvillians — they have three locations to choose from!! I had my favorite combo (wildberry lavender + darkest chocolate) one night and split an ice cream sandwich with Kim the other.
Las Paletas: Paletas are delicious frozen treats similar to an ice pop. We tried both cream and fruit based ones, including chocolate-dipped strawberry, blueberry dark chocolate, and lime.


Other things to do and places to go:
— 12 South neighborhood: This neighborhood is definitely my favorite in Nashville! We walked the adorable streets to peep at the houses and ducked into White’s Mercantile, my favorite shop we visited. The famous Imogene + Willie is also on the main drag if you want to stop in!
Welcome Home: This little shop right around the corner from the East Nashville Jeni’s was a close runner-up to White’s! I purchased more than one Christmas present here.
— Walk the pedestrian bridge. If you have kids, there’s also a really neat park (Cumberland Park) right under the bridge with a climbing wall and playground.
— Downtown Franklin: Downtown Franklin, about half an hour outside of Nashville, is the quintessential American main street, with adorable independent shops and the best national brands, like Anthropologie. I wouldn’t recommend going on Sunday morning, like we did, or even Sunday at all, as many shops are open only in the afternoon (if they’re open at all).
— Narrows of the Harpeth: Harpeth River State Park has many trails, but we chose the Narrows, a quick out and back with a fun waterfall tunnel and a cliff overlooking a beautiful valley. Fun and easy!
Church of the City: John and I started listening to Darren Whitehead’s sermons when he was a pastor at Willow Creek, and have loved following the progress of the church he planted in Nashville. It was a dream to hear him speak in person at CotC’s Franklin campus instead of via podcast!


Things on our to do (or to eat) list for next time: Mas Tacos Por Favor, Husk, Martin’s BBQ Joint, Rose Pepper Cantina, Lockeland Table, somewhere for hot chicken, and Scarlett Scales for vintage shopping! I would also LOVE to stay in this Airbnb!


And that’s about it for our first Nashville weekend! If you’ve been before, I’d LOVE to hear what tops your list – restaurants, shops, or activities!

Minted Christmas cards + a giveaway!

16 November 2015

Update: We have a winner! Congratulations to Breanne, commenter number 47!

For as long as I can remember, Christmas cards have been a treasured part of my Decembers. I love the whole process — browsing potential designs, choosing a favorite, writing notes, receiving cards from loved ones, and displaying them in our home. I love that with so much sadness and darkness in the world, Christmas cards are a small reminder of the true light of the world. In fact, we still have Christmas 2014 cards pinned up in our kitchen because they make me so happy!

For the third year in a row we’ll be sending a Minted design, and I would love your help choosing a favorite!


1. Joy to the World Starbursts | 2. Wonder Filled | 3. More Joy | 4. Winter Brush Foil-Pressed | 5. Peaceful Pines

The wonderful Perry Vaile took a few photos of us for a Southern Weddings project earlier this year, and we’re so happy to have her talents gracing our card! The fall hues in the background lend themselves well to some of Minted’s mustard-y options this year — unexpected, but I like it!

I’m sure y’all are well aware of how amazing Minted’s offerings are. With their sophisticated design software, you can easily adjust your photo as well as the placement of all text elements, fonts, colors, and sizing. They also offer the most perfectly coordinated envelope designs, free envelope addressing, extra-thick stock, and custom card shapes!

BUT the thing I most wanted to highlight from Minted this year is their new completely custom art options! For example, send them your child’s drawing and they’ll print it either in letterpress or foil — what an amazing gift for grandparents!! I’ve said it before (here when they debuted their custom fabric), but this company continues to amaze me with their creativity and commitment to excellence. I am a forever fan for sure!


Now for the extra-fun part: I have a $200 Minted gift certificate to give away!! To enter, just comment below with either your favorite option from our Christmas card finalists, or the Minted design you’d most like to order for your family! (Or both!) I’ll randomly choose a winner next Monday! If you’re ready to get started, you can use code FOIL for a free foil upgrade or code JOY for 10% off orders of $100+.

P.S. Yes, our newsletter will be back! I’ve gotten many emails about this, so I wanted to say it here: I’m opening up three spots to design similar newsletters! $100 for a ready-to-print file, customized with your family’s stats and news. Email me at em (at) emformarvelous.com to reserve your spot or ask more questions!


Minted has graciously gifted us our Christmas cards, but I chose to write this post, and the opinions are my own! I have loved everything about Minted — especially their crowd-sourced designs — for many years, and I love sharing what they’re up to with y’all.

Our soup and pumpkins tradition

4 November 2015

Growing up, my family hosted a “scarecrow party” at our home every year. A dozen or so families joined us for a night of scarecrow assembling, chili eating, and ghost-in-the-graveyard playing (home base was always the bed of my Dad’s pick-up truck!). To me, this night was even better than Halloween.

When John and I moved into our house three years ago, I was excited to kick-off some new traditions around entertaining and hosting. Likely due to my scarecrow-making past, our first (and most successful) tradition is also fall themed: a soup and pumpkin carving night! Since we just celebrated our third annual event, I thought I’d share a few tips.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 9.30.07 PM

— Since ours is an indoor event, we’ve found that keeping the guest list to three couples works out well. That way, we can still fit everyone around the table (with extra leaves in place) for carving and eating.
— We provide two soups and guests help with the extras. This year, one brought a salad, one brought some drinks and dessert, and we added cheesy bread and more drinks.
— Since our event is on a weeknight, prep work the night before is key. John made one pot of soup and prepped ingredients for the second the night before, then heated the already-made soup in the crockpot and assembled the second on party day as soon as he got home from work.
— A few crowd-favorite soup recipes we’ve used in the past: Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeno, Award-Winning Chili, Potato Leek Soup, Tortilla Soup, and Hunter’s Minestrone.


— We try to be mindful of everyone’s time (especially since many have little ones now!) and have dinner ready to go when guests arrive (usually around 6:30). The first hour is taken up with chatting and eating, and the second with chatting and carving.
— Some couples carve one family pumpkin, and some carve two individual ones.
— I protect our table with a length of kraft paper. Pumpkin guts go in a big bucket in the middle after dinner. The only other tools required are a selection of kitchen knives for carving and writing utensils for sketching (bonus: the kraft runner doubles as a sketch pad!).
— May I suggest my Cozy Fall playlist for background music?
— Before folks leave, we take group portraits with each family’s masterpiece!

Do y’all have any hosting traditions to share? I’ve been thinking about adding a Christmas card addressing afternoon this year :)