school house

The End of Schoolhouse Dreams

We have packed up nearly all of our belongings and as of last Friday, we are officially residents of TN.  It has been bittersweet to say goodbye and now we are saying goodbye to our home for the past 2.5 years.

It’s funny to think about now, but when we moved in, we thought we may be here ten years or more.  We had so many big plans for this place and we only got to see about 60% of them through.  But I’m confident her new homeowners will be able to carry on what we’ve started.

I took a lot of pride in our ol’ schoolhouse, especially since we fixed it up so much and did a lot of the work ourselves (albeit during one of the busiest seasons of our lives).  I kind of liked living in something unconventional (thank you, HGTV, for making me feel like a Homecoming queen for once).

And I liked that everyone in town knew where we lived by description alone.

We will miss the land, space, and freedom.  We will miss it terribly.  Our backyard was dreamy, especially on a summer evening with sheets flapping on the clothesline and the crickets humming in the field, and the air thick with the smell of our overripe garden tomatoes.

I’ll miss the sounds of the neighbor’s cows and chickens, looking out my window and seeing the horses, and the many beautiful sunsets we witnessed here.  I will not miss the snow.

Bea learned to walk here.  Both of the girls spent many hours outside on the play set, imaginations as open as the field next to us.  MG grew up here.  She may even have a few lingering memories from this house.  I hope she remembers the kittens and her room and not the months she spent sick.

We brought Sib home here too.

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(drone shots courtesy of our friend, Brad J. Ward)

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On the flipside, we had some hard times here as well.  A new job AND a new baby in one year was rough (apparently we didn’t learn our lesson though!).  N started his doctoral program which took so, so much free time.  I started and ended Sweet Mama Makes.

Fixer uppers are always hard to live in when you are renovating; they’re also always more expensive than you bargain for.  I wouldn’t say I’m strong in the patience department, and sometimes it was hard to wait until the right time to start a project; which meant living with the vision burning on you until then.  (Instead of feeling happy and excited for friends who are buying fixer uppers, I feel a sense of dread for them now :-0).  We had fantastic neighbors surrounding us, who really helped us out with a lot of our new/old home ownership problems, but we also had an “anonymous” neighbor write us a nasty letter about the way we kept our house, including that it was a “mess to look at”.  Even though I tried to shrug it off, it really hurt my feelings and some of that pain still remains when I think about how much it set me back from completely investing in this community.

But we did our best with the canvas we had and I think we did a good job.  I found a lot of pride in living here and I’m pretty proud of the way it turned out.  A little blood, a lot of sweat, and many, many tears later and now it’s time to move on.

Dwell in peace, little schoolhouse, and may your 3-foot-thick brick walls stand for another 120 years.


A 2014 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas from the Midwestern cornfields!

(Photo cred: Kimmy Howard Photography)

We hope this holiday season finds you happy and healthy.

We’ve had some big changes in our lives this year, including our view.

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The cornfields haven’t worn on us yet and we still find our new small town life kind of charming.  We’ve joined a church, converted all of our shopping/dining/doctors to local places and we even have changed the pronunciation of our town to match how the locals say it (emphasis on the second syllable).


Even though it hasn’t been quite a year yet, we’ve seen four seasons in our house (summer was our favorite) so it feels like we’ve been here long enough to call it home.  Our project list is still rather long but we feel pretty proud of all the work we’ve put into it so far (including, dormers, painted 75%, water filtration, fireplace, new carpet, stair runner, & outdoor playset).  And before this year’s out we are looking forward to new windows and N putting up built-in bookshelves.

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N loves to work in the little “workshop corner” of the garage when he has the time (in between doctoral work and actual work…).  He has made a few things for our house including a chicken coop (which we hope to fill in the spring…) and has also helped make quite a few plaques for my business venture.

My little Etsy shop kept me quite busy these last few weeks (especially as the holidays were approaching) but I have truly enjoyed the creative outlet.  Right now though, I’ve closed up for a few weeks as a break (both physically and mentally) was truly needed.

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It’s no secret that this year has been a challenge for us as well. MG’s endured a long sickness this summer that turned into a severe intolerance for dairy (and a few other trigger foods, but dairy being the main culprit).  Seeing her so sick (and not having any answers for a while) brought me to tears and really scared me.  I’m thankful to have a diagnosis now (gastroparesis) but I still get sad for her that she isn’t able to enjoy her old favorites (cheese and ice cream) and that she isn’t able to have a “normal” relationship with food.


Often when I found myself discouraged, I would look out our bedroom window and think “how could anybody be sad when this is their view?”  Even in the trials we have so much to be thankful for.

God’s blessings have been very evident to our family this year and I hope to yours as well,




{In case you missed it, here some of the previous house updates we’ve done.}

The weather is beautiful here today.  Seventy-five, sunny, and partly breezy.  More early than late fall.  We ran out early this morning and finished our Monday errands and then ate lunch and did schoolwork (sidewalk chalk alphabet of course) outside.



It was heavenly.  I’m trying really hard not to let my mind believe what my body is telling me…that spring is around the corner.  But I’m not trying too hard, because I am of the opinion that a little ignorance never hurt anybody.

IMG_2549 Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset IMG_2479 IMG_2544 (a few other fall pics snapped this week)

N was on fall break this past week and we took advantage of his time at home to get some house work accomplished.  One of our awesome sitters (holla for living in a small town in between two Christian universities) came over on Thursday and then Grandma came over on Friday, freeing up even more of our time to work.

And on that note, we put the finishing touches on the powder room!  The first room in the house to be completely d-o-n-e (for now :))!

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(The paint color is Old Navy by Benjamin Moore.  Light fixtures are from Lowe’s.  Mirror is antique.  Shelves are made by Nate.  Illustrations on wall are from artist Mari Kloeppel)

Also, we had our fireplace installed this weekend(!!!!!!!!)  I am so incredibly excited to have a fireplace; I’ve been dreaming about one for the past 8 years.


It’s about 85% finished so more pics to come.

We’ve moved upstairs and started work in the hallway.  We didn’t have ANY hallways in our last house so I’ve had fun dreaming up possibilities for this little space.


After the stairs are finished being painted (no they won’t stay both grey and white–just grey–this was just N’s genius way of painting them while we were still able to use them) we will lay down a runner.bDSC_0056 bDSC_0049

We hung a “hometown” gallery wall in the hallway.  You can purchase some art like this for yourself in my shop 🙂


(the pink barn and field are well-known landmarks near where we fell in love <3)


N started tearing up the hallway carpeting and I think we will lay down a herringbone patterned wood floor…ideally made from an old, dead tree we cut down in the yard.  Wouldn’t that be amazing if it worked??

Next up: the wall of books to go in the “library”, painting the upstairs, and a fun little project I am working on for the upstairs hallway.

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Stay tuned!!


School House Dreams, Take 4

take 1, 2, & 3

When we first walked in the door of our now school house, we immediately fell in love with the first thing that caught our eyes….

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the very tall ceilings, accented by the transom windows, and a small nook of a space that used to be the girls’ cloak closet.  (the boys had a separate closet which they transformed into a powder room).

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We’ve got big plans for you, little space.


School House Dreams, Take 2

This is a continued series about my love found in the small details of our house.

Last week it was the circular driveway, this week, the brick sidewalk.

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I have no idea where this brick came from (wish I had asked the previous owners), but it is intricately detailed, old, and has a sheen to it.  Some pieces are cracked, others chipped but they are still so tightly wedged into the ground that they form the perfect path to lead one in and out of the house.


School House Dreams Series, take 1

I mentioned last week that I wanted to highlight some of my favorite features of our house.  I think the love for one’s house is in the details: this niche or this corner or that backyard hideaway.  I wanted to make a capsule, of sorts, to help me remember the details that make this house our home.

The first one that comes to mind is the circular driveway.  I fell in love with the driveway upon first sight of it.  Most of the day, some part of it is flanked in shade by the large and ancient tree at its perimeter.


I have first view of anyone who pulls up to the house (a luxury I always missed at our last house)


One of my favorite “visitors”

And seeing as how we don’t exactly live in a neighborhood, it affords plenty of parking when we have gatherings.

Schoolhouse dreams.



Gosh, I guess it’s been since May when I last blogged some of our home improvements.  We worked really hard this summer and crossed quite a few more off of our list.  Though our list is still quite long, I’m starting to feel really good about the amount we’ve accomplished and what we have left to tackle.  I guess you could say the light is visible at the end of the tunnel.

When we first moved in, I worked like a maniac.  Then I hit a lull and lost my passion and drive for a bit.  I started to get bogged down with all that I wanted to do but couldn’t clear my vision enough to decide where to go next.  N helped me through it.  July was another month of hard work and I think August was the turning point where I started to feel very accomplished.  Here are some things we’ve done since May:

-dormers This was one of the first things on our to-do list and we were itching to start them.  It took about three weeks start to finish (but boy were those three long weeks.  The Amish crews started promptly at 7:30am and by start I mean they were pounding on the walls (to our bedrooms) or climbing through the gaping holes in our bedrooms.)  We also had roofing crews and interior crews to live with but I kept telling myself, “this will be worth it!”  And it was/is!  We have so much natural light pouring into these rooms now.


Here is the girls’ bedroom before, ours had the exact same set-up with only a skylight for natural light.  (get a load of that wallpaper and carpet too!)IMG_8427

End of day 1!  Good thing it didn’t rain!IMG_8460 IMG_8462 IMG_8467

Collage of progress pics and one from the outside

We also painted both bedrooms and added new carpet to them


Styling the girls’ room is far down on my list right now, but it looks so much better with the new paint, carpet, and windows!

-blinds  The house came with lace curtains that did not afford any privacy and at the same time obscured the view (I mean we practically bought the house for the view).  We decided to have roller blinds installed instead and I am VERY happy with this choice.  I love that we can completely hide them when we want to see our view or we can customize the length depending on the height of the sun.  I love how the color adds a bit of dimension to the walls as well


osmosis  We had our well water extensively tested and it came back completely healthy.  However, the taste was not one I wanted to get used to.  We added in a reverse osmosis system to our sink and refrigerator.  I love the taste and am so happy with this choice!!

-paint (doors, trim, etc) No inch of the downstairs has been left untouched by a brush.  The upstairs still remains to be painted but all of our initial focus has been on the down.  I burned through quite a few This American Life episodes while painting trim/doors and can still recall some of the more impactful episodes as I am looking at different parts of the house.


Our powder room went from beige to Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy.  Dramatic difference!

-living room ceiling  The living room ceiling was covered by a particle-board type wainscotting that didn’t look professionally installed.  N ripped all of this down and whitewashed the weathered boards underneath.  I like this look so much better!


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Progression pic, you can see the particle board, boards underneath, and whitewash

hang pictures  Hanging pictures was, admittedly, one of the hardest things for me.  I drug my feet over it.  N really had to talk me into it.  I definitely wanted to wait until we had the walls painted but even after that I was having a hard time committing.  It was really hard to reconcile decorating this house with all of the things meant for another house.  But I truly think this was a turning point for me.  Once the walls started to come alive, it no longer felt like our house was in a constant state of undone.  The vision finally started to take place and I found my motivation to continue.

Some of the artwork included is by my mom, myself, Brad Johnston, and my great Uncle Les

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-art cabinet  Love this beauty that got left behind.  Right now its full of the girls’ art supplies.  I couldn’t bring myself to chalk paint it as I had done the other two pieces of furniture but instead tried a gel stain and updated hardware.  Love the finished product!


sold the hot tub/other for the sake of the fireplace  We’ve been going “gazelle intense” (thank you, Dave Ramsey) for the sake of the fireplace makeover (the next big thing on our list) and selling everything we aren’t madly in love with.  The hot tub was a nice little perk for our house but ultimately one we never really used to it’s full extent nor cared about all that much.  Selling it (and a few other things) brought us very close to our fireplace goal.  No regrets!

Still a few more things on our list and I am excited to tackle them one by one.  I’m sure things will slow down a bit as we regroup our time and money but I feel great about the point we’ve made it to thus far!

I also thought it would be fun to start another mini-series (can you tell I like these??) that would highlight small details of the house that I love or have grown to appreciate.  While certainly far from flawless, this house is not lacking in character.  I’d love to capture the things about it that make it unique, starting next week.  Stay tuned.



One of the things we wanted to add to our new house was a playset for the girls.  This house doesn’t have a playground within strolling distance like our last two 🙁 🙁 and I knew having a hang out in the back yard would be a useful addition for many summers to come!


I began scoping out our options on Craigslist, convinced we could beat the price of conventional play grounds as long as we were willing to put in a few blood, sweat, and tears (we were.  we just didn’t realize how much blood, sweat, and tears would be required).  I spent a few days playing the CL game….frantically emailing/texting, waiting in line, bidding and negotiating.  It was only a matter of time before we found one that really struck our interest, was within our driving range, and priced just right.  We won the bid and made plans to pick it up a few weekends ago.


We knew this was going to be a big project but we had no idea how to quantify it.  We both thought N would have to disassemble the entire thing and then carefully attempt to reassemble it at our house.  Thankfully it came apart in only three manageable sections but that meant two, hour and a half trips out there, two different size trailers, and some much needed help from both our neighbors and some boys from the college.

After a long day of driving and hauling, N made it home for a quick bite of dinner before bee-lining it to the yard to put it in place before losing the remaining daylight.  He had three boys on hand to help him and the first thing they did was get the trailer stuck in a muddy ditch in our front yard.  Next thing we knew, one of our neighbors was driving his tractor over in a, “hey it looks like you might need some help” kind of way and rescuing them from the ditch.  He stayed to see the entire project through and even brought over some new hooks for our swing.  Meanwhile, I got a phone call from our other neighbor saying, “hey, do y’all need some help?”  (think we must have looked a little pathetic??!!).  “I was driving by and couldn’t stop in the moment but I’d be happy to run over now!” Just a few minutes later they victoriously finished the set with just enough daylight for MG to get a few celebratory slides in before bed.


N and I were almost brought to tears by the willingness of our little community to help.  This has definitely been a season of reliance on others.  We’ve had to suck in our pride a little bit and accept help, advice, and even shelter from our friends and family.  In some cases we’ve had NOTHING to offer in return. Literally nothing other than a sincere thank you.  I don’t know how much longer this season will last but I am feeling myself being changed through it.  For that, I guess, I am grateful.


Window Shopping

A lot of my “free time” these days has been spent browsing the Internet for house ideas.  We have a bit more space to decorate in this house and a totally different aesthetic to go along with it.  I envision the rustic/vintage/antique theme that is so popular right now, with a bit of farmhouse, industrial, and Anthropologie mixed in.  Make sense?  As you can see I am all over the place right now! I’m definitely trying to pace myself as I figure out what exactly I’m looking for, what I can DIY vs. buy, and what I want to buy thrifted vs. new.

On a quest for light fixtures, I discovered Schoolhouse Electric.  Not only do they have period style lights they also have a full set of home decor.  If you culled West Elm, Restoration Hardware, and Anthropologie for all of their industrial home goods, this would be it. And the name alone . . . Could it be anymore perfect?

Here are some of my favorites:


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I think I have a thing for cage-y lights                                          (all images sourced from here)



schoolhouse furniture copy

(all images sourced from here)

Their furniture costs an arm and a leg (hahaha). . . but seriously, look at that blue velvet couch and that credenza (swoon)


schoolhouse quirky copy

(all images sourced from here)

The metal baskets, the house number sign with a built in planter, that drafting chair (don’t you think it would be perfect in my art room?). . . love!


schoolhouse quirky 2 copy


(all images sourced from here)

The cafeteria tray that doubles as a desk organizer??  The clock that says schoolhouse. . . these are my two favorites that I may just have to splurge on.

So where do you go to window shop?




We’ve been in the house for about three weeks now and I’m slowly but surely beginning to cross stuff off of my to-do list.  On that list for some time had been to paint our piano and a few other pieces of furniture.

I began doing some research online and discovered chalk paint (not to be confused with chalkBOARD paint…).  It is a type of paint often used to paint furniture because it is low maintenance (no prep work) and it is easy to distress.  It’s also a little pricy, but I was able to find this great tutorial and ended up making my own.  It worked great!


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For our piano makeover, I chose Fresh Mint by Benjamin Moore

One of the best things about buying a “used” house is the treasures that are left behind or negotiated into the buying process.  This hutch is one of those pieces and was originally a reddish/brown color.



I used Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy for this one and found the wallpaper (used to cover the back) from a retro site on Etsy.  The knobs are Anthropologie.




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(also wanting to add some hooks across the open front to hang the glass tea cups from)

I still have one more piece I am looking to re-do…just need to decide on a color!

Hoping to share more updates soon!


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