Fall is in the air here in Columbia, and so this weekend I set to work on our sorely-neglected back porch. I swept and scrubbed the dirt-coated floor and wiped down the dresser and hauled the table and chairs out to the yard to hose them off.

Now that we’re keeping our windows and back door open to let in the breeze I wanted to make the porch a place where we can eat dinner or sit with a cup of tea. But I didn’t want to spend a dime. So I did what The Nester recommends and “shopped my house.” This means, rather than running out and buying stuff, you think of new ways to use what you already have. I remembered an extra rug rolled up under our bed and moved the gray metal shelf (which I’ve never really loved) out of the dining room.



This week I painted a whole stack of old dark picture frames white to brighten them up and framed the cover of a magazine. I have a very small assortment of plants, but you have no idea what a victory it is that I’ve kept them alive for several months. I can’t wait to grow my collection.



David and I painted the dresser at our last house with dreams of one day having a screened back porch for it. I found this tray in our attic in a random box of India stuff, and made up a little jar of shells from vacation last week.

And there you have it. A whole extra room, for free. It’s my happy place.



master bedroom progress.

A part of me doesn’t want to show you our master bedroom yet, because there’s so much more to do. I want it to look perfect first. But let’s face it: which of us has a room in our home that looks perfect? Right now I’m in the mode of learning to appreciate not-perfect.

Also at this very moment, our back yard looks like this:


Both David and I are tense from hearing 100-foot pines felled just feet from our house all day long (in case you were wondering, the garden beds were crushed by lunch time), and I personally have been terrified someone would tumble to their death in our back yard. But we’re excited about finally getting trees removed and I’ll post photos when it’s all done. In the meantime, let’s look at something more soothing, shall we?

Like our new bedroom:



And the reason I wanted to share it with you now is because even with lots of details to add it already makes us so very happy. The gold chair was given to us by our friends Lucas and Carrie and we fight over who gets to sit there with a cup of coffee and Bible early in the morning.

If you’re wondering about the string lights, David will tell you I have an obsession with string lights. I daydream of putting them in every room of the house and outside as well: they’re quirky and casual and homey. I like that you can see this little reading nook from our living room, and I think the gold chair and lights make it so welcoming.

We haven’t decided what to hang over our dresser, but it should be something colorful.


Our house was listed as a two-bedroom because this additional room (maybe originally a porch?) doesn’t have a closet. So we’ve always know we’d add a wardrobe if it became a bedroom. We got these units from Ikea last month and they provide the perfect amount of storage, especially with the baskets. We wanted to go with something very neutral because eventually we plan to add a master suite onto our house and this room will become a kids’ room.


The photos don’t do it justice, but even with darker walls, our new room feels so bright with its three windows. I discovered this shade of gray at our friend Weston’s house and we absolutely love it.


We’ll eventually trim the edge of the brick wall and like I said, add a baseboard, but even now it feels so much more crisp and clean with white paint. One day I’ll re-paint the crown molding and window trim to match the wall color. Sigh. Baby steps.

I’ve wanted to get a duvet for our bed for years, and we finally did it. This one is from Ikea. Bed, side tables, lamps, basket, and rug are from India. For all the hassle it was, I’ll forever be grateful that we shipped our South Asia furniture back. It makes my heart happy to have it here in our Columbia home.

Full disclosure: here’s a shot of behind our bedroom door:


We’ve talked about what to do with that external door (which is sealed shut) but haven’t come to any conclusions). And David is going to drill a hole in the back of my wardrobe to run the electric cables through to tuck them away. I’m using the two shelves in my wardrobe for office supplies and paperwork.

We’ve had a desk of some sort our whole married life, and I finally came to the conclusion this summer that we never, ever use it. I always bring my stack of papers and bills to the dining table and blog posts are written on the sofa (right now) or at a coffee shop and the desk just ends up gathering clutter. So this little corner of the bedroom is now our home office.

Here are a couple before shots of the room:




And now . . .



This is the first time we’ve actually invested in making our bedroom look inviting. We love it!

house progress.

We’ve been homeowners for four months now and since our house is very clean this week I think it’s time for an updated photo tour. Without further ado, I give you our living room progress:

In the beginning:



First month:

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We haven’t made any big changes to the living room, just filled out the space a little more. The first time we saw this house I wasn’t sure what we’d do with such a long living room (in the original house the space where we have our bookcases was the dining area), but now I love it. That extra nook is almost always filled with legos or other toy creations: it’s so nice that the room is big enough for the kids to have a play area, but we can keep the seating uncluttered.



We’re being very cautious about hanging anything on the walls, trying to take our time and make sure we know what we want. Sometimes it feels hard to wait but we’ve changed our minds so many times already that it makes sense. I found that big painting at a yard sale, not sure where it will end up, but I like it by the front door for now.




After several years we became a normal American family and got a TV: Happy birthday, David (just in time for college football season of course). My favorite addition to the room is that second pine bookcase but I was also very happy to switch out our loved-but-dust-filled India rug for a cleaner version (that was, ironically, made in India).


And the kitchen/dining room . . .

In the beginning:

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First month:














Our former dining room set was very bulky without providing a lot of seating, so we sold it on Craigslist before we moved and replaced it with this set. We’ve been able to easily fit ten people around the table yet it’s still a good size for our small-ish dining room (and to be perfectly honest, even with that great homeschooling room, most of our school day happens right here).

The biggest change to the dining room and kitchen is organization. The day we got another bookcase for the living room and I was able take all of those books out of the hutch was a happy day. However in case you haven’t noticed I must have books in every room of the house, so I used the space at the bottom of the shelf for the kids’ books. It makes my heart happy to see one of them plopped on the floor absorbed in a book as I cook dinner.

And finally, the back porch . . .

In the beginning:



First month:




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The screened back porch was one of the selling points of the house for us. It’s a work in progress: I want to get some potted plants out there and we’re having a friend wire the electrical so we can have lighting — twinkle lights on the ceiling, perhaps? We tried to hang a ceiling fan but the tin roof is way too low. Thankfully these October days have been so beautiful we haven’t needed a fan at all. David and I painted that dresser back before we moved and I love the pop of color. The porch is my favorite spot to take a book and afternoon cup of tea.

Thank you for being excited about the house with us. It means so much. We love our house. Of course my mind is usually spinning with new ideas of projects I want to do, but I also love it right now, just the way it is. I’m so, so grateful to God for giving us a home we want to spend time in and making memories in. I’m grateful to be enjoying our first fall as homeowners. It’s just the right fit.

school room.

One of the most heart-breaking things about leaving South Asia was giving up our beloved Richmond Town flat, and with that, our homeschooling room. After the decision to homeschool, we moved David’s office into our bedroom, and I worked for weeks picking out a school table and curtains and a reading corner, setting everything up for the kids and me to have an inspiring place to learn.

And then, just when it was perfect, three weeks into our school year, everything unraveled. I wasn’t able to get out of bed most days to homeschool Judah and Amie. I had to quit my Hindi studies.

And that’s when we knew something had to change.

It’s strange, I’ll always associate our start of homeschooling with the unraveling of our South Asia life — although it began long before.

Of course there were lots of reasons to be sad in those surreal days when I hurriedly crammed things into our requisite eight suitcases, wondering if I’d ever see our flat again, but the main thing I remember is standing in our three-week-old, peaceful, light-filled homeschooling room and crying.

It felt like a death.

And yet here we are, a year and some change later, and God has given me another school room.



I love this room, our home’s third “bedroom,” which you can see from the exposed brick wall is an addition. It’s right off the living room, which is perfect for drifting in to play or do art work and yet still feel part of the action of the house.



I’ve tried for years to keep my desk in our bedroom, but realized that just doesn’t work. The desk pretty much permanently stays piled with papers and other miscellaneous items (of course like any good blogger I removed them for this photo shoot), and that’s not the most relaxing thing to look at as you’re drifting off to sleep at night.

So now the desk is in its rightful place, in the school room, and I love it. I also love our new tacky gray filing cabinet which to me signifies settling down. Our entire married life, we’ve carried all our files from home to home in a black plastic file box. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to spend an afternoon purging and organizing our paperwork and filing it in a real, stationary filing cabinet.



Of course I know that you don’t need a school room to successfully do homeschooling. Learning can just as easily happen spread out at the kitchen table, or curled up on the sofa, and we frequently incorporate those spots into our school day. But for some reason, having an inspiring space dedicated to homeschooling helps me take it more seriously.




My goal with each of the rooms in our house is to make them a place I actually want to spend time in. And since our school room is finished I’ve found myself heading in there in the mornings with my Bible and hot tea, or during afternoon naps (a.k.a. “play time” since the kids don’t nap anymore), which is my time to catch up on details and do school planning.



In short, this school room is one of God’s real, personal gifts to me. Maybe it seems silly, but to be in here and soak in sunlight from the three windows, gaze at the walls filled with my kids’ art work, sit at the table and work on math with Judah, feels like a redemption.

This room doesn’t take the place of our other one. It doesn’t mean I never get sad for our flat or wonder what life would be like if I’d gotten better and we’d stayed in South Asia.

But it does make me so happy. It’s a daily reminder that God hears the cries of my heart and that He brings new life.