A 2019 Downstairs Tour (With a Side of 2018 Christmas Decor)

Hey guys!

Who would like a 2018 Christmas tour of my downstairs…in 2019? Oh, hey. I see you with your hand raised in the back row. One lonely interested person. I’ll take it.

But seriously. Christmas was less than two weeks ago (say whaa?), and it’s only January 7th, so in my current very pregnant state of doing everything 3 weeks late (not to mention having been the world’s most remiss house-blogger for the past year), this post is practically 1 week early! (Don’t argue with hugely pregnant women’s logic; you’ll get hurt).

Mostly, this is an excuse to give you the most updated version of what our downstairs looks like. So, if all of the Christmas decor bothers you, just squint really hard, and you may not notice it. You may not be able to see anything else either, but that’s the only solution I’ve got for you (see: pregnant logic), so I’m going with it.

First up, can we talk about this tree? LRM_EXPORT_3112918742040_20181212_205526339

(And how I now want to reach into this picture and straighten that basket? See? Now, you do too).

It’s a 9 foot cashmere…something-or-other–can’t remember the exact description (I tried to dig it up, but it’s sold out), but it was fancy–that was originally reeeeeaaallly expensive but which I scored for a steal on Wayfair clearance on an after Christmas special last year. It sure beats the faux pine needles off of the sad little Big Lots hand-me-down we’d been using for the last 13 years. Don’t get me wrong. Big Lots hand-me-downs are awesome. And 9 foot trees can be problematic (ask Ezra, who just about got flattened by it when it fell over as we were moving it around because his Mama’s cray and waited til AFTER we’d decorated the whole darn thing to decide that she didn’t like its location). But it was a nice change of pace. I think we’ll keep it for at least another 13 years.


And here we have a sighting as rare as the Christmas Dodo Bird: my kitchen in pristine condition. Approximately 28 minutes after I snapped this shot, Honor and Theo woke up, and I started cutting them some apple slices, which is like some of sort of siren’s call at our house because the rest of their siblings magically materialized within seconds. And 3 giant Honeycrisp apples + 7 cups of milks, 47 Legos and 3 dolls later…my kitchen was no longer pristine. Which is fine. Because it would be awfully sad to have a 12 foot island that no one ever used.  LRM_EXPORT_3418942429215_20181212_210032363

Want to know my solution for a festive feel without the alluring sparkle of shiny breakable things? (hashtag toddlers, hashtag puppy) Felt. Almost all of the ornaments on our tree are felt. Same with the pom pom garland. The Merry Christmas banner on the mantel (from West Elm after Christmas sale last year) is felt. The stockings are felt. Felt. It’s magic, yo.


Now, how to keep your crispy, dried-up, gnarly garland (that you bought/hung the day after Thanksgiving in a fit of nesting insanity) from shedding e v e r y w h e r e ? No clue. Felt is the only stroke of Christmas genius I can claim.  LRM_EXPORT_3761410803407_20181212_210614831

This is just about the only view in the house that hasn’t changed. The kids and I took down Christmas on New Year’s Eve, but I declared this a “winter scene” and forbade any touching of it. Which, of course, only made them want to touch it all the more. But my point is, it’s still there. LRM_EXPORT_3917224792879_20181212_210850645

Are you wondering how anyone manages to sit on this couch with all of those pillows there? Anyone who tries to sit on it wonders the same thing. (And then, they throw all of my pillows on the ground where Ruby attempts to rip them to shreds). LRM_EXPORT_4114113570773_20181212_211207534

Anybody remember Fiona the Doe? I think she’s had those same jingle bells on her ears for 3 years straight, so she’s pretty much straight Christmas cheer 24/7. And I still love her.  LRM_EXPORT_4403643561027_20181212_211657064

Because I always get asked by somebody no matter how many times I say it…the leather ottoman is from Restoration Hardware…originally. But I scored it secondhand for $200 (so 90% off). It’s pretty much a boat and is the best possible living room solution for our big, rambunctious family. Gorgeous, durable leather + no hard edges is a major win for us.


And again with the giant tree. Not pictured here are the presents that I actually managed to get wrapped well BEFORE Christmas Eve this year, thankyouverymuch.


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I like to call this the: I had way more sparkly trees than I realized and needed somewhere to put them all look. Also, the: that faux fur fabric has seen better days look. LRM_EXPORT_5171823726359_20181212_212945244

That basket on the floor holds all of our piano books, and it is usually overflowing with them. I’ll have you know that I leaned aaaalll the way down, and stuffed them all back in for you guys. You’re welcome. LRM_EXPORT_5320104511823_20181212_213213525



Are you tired of tree shots yet? LRM_EXPORT_5967427987305_20181212_214300849

Clearly, I do not subscribe to the clutter-free counter-top philosophy. In fact, I think I just used Christmas as an excuse to shove even more detritus atop them.  LRM_EXPORT_6081168300022_20181212_214454589

Speaking of counter-tops…a lot of people have asked how I like the concrete that we went with. The answer is: I love it! Wiiiiiittthhh some qualifiers. Despite Shaun’s having applied numerous thin coats of sealer as per manufacturing standards, it isn’t stain-free. In fact, the longer we have it, the more it stains. And I never have been able to figure out what the main culprits are. Strawberry juice? Not a problem. Mystery yellow substance that I never even saw the origin of? Refuses to come out. Oily things seem to cause the biggest problems.

And it’s not scratch-proof either. Even though we use chopping boards, there are still some little knife marks here and there, and there are some chips (thanks, in one particular instance, to a collision between a GIANT cast-iron pan and the counter edge, which never had a chance).

Still, I love that the island doesn’t have a seam and that it’s thick and sturdy and cool-to-the-touch. And I really REALLY love that, since we DIY-ed it, it was a mere fraction of the cost of any other option.

So. Yeah. I would do it again.  LRM_EXPORT_6215066521742_20181212_214708487

First time to have two full-sized Christmas trees in the house (that one was also a Wayfair after Christmas special). Watch out. Before you know it, I’ll be the lady with 12 Christmas trees in her house (no, no I won’t).  LRM_EXPORT_6372793052047_20181212_214946214

Oh! And before you ask (because someone will), I got those tablecloths for $10 (TEN!) from Anthropologie online. They were mislabeled as napkins, and I kept expecting the wrong thing to show up, but nope. $150 tablecloths (I know, ridiculous) appeared on my doorstep for 10 smackeroos. LRM_EXPORT_6490876076793_20181212_215144297


Ruby pretty much thought that I set this tree + cozy blanket situation up just for her. Not that I complained. She made a pretty cute pictures all snuggled up underneath.


I just have to take a second to crow about my two fiddles there, NEITHER of which I have managed to kill and which are, in fact, thriving and producing new leaves on the regular (It’s been 9 months since I got them; this is a big deal). My secret? Water them with ice cubes once a week. Tada! I’m an instant plant lady, right? (Joanna would be so proud).




Hope is the word I am carrying into the new year with me. Not in a this-is-my-word-for-2019 kind of way. Just as a reminder in my heart that, regardless of some hard stuff we dealt with/are dealing with as the year closed/began or how I know that life is about to get just a tick crazier with a new baby thrown into the homeschooling/life mix, my hope is in Christ alone. He is able to use the hard and the crazy to shape and grow and work in me in ways that may not always be fun at that exact moment (although, new babies are fun, as far as I’m concerned) but will ultimately be for my good and for his glory.

Do you have a “theme” for 2019? I’d love to hear it!

The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide: Books {2018}

I love to read. Always have. But I don’t read books in a conventional format as much as I’d like to these days (wonder why? hmm…). Over the last several years, though, I’ve plowed through my fair share of Audible books, and most days, I spend at least 30 minutes reading aloud to the kids. And I’m a huge sucker for books that are both engaging and beautiful. So, below you’ll find a (rather random) compilation of books that we own, books that I’ve listened to, and books that I’m buying for my children this Christmas. It’s certainly no exhaustive list, but I hope that it helps you find some new books you love for your family or loved ones.

amazon gift guide for books

First up, I thought I’d share some of the informative + pretty books that I’ve bought for the kids over the past several years. (Note: any of these books that deal with nature write from an evolutionist’s perspective, and while we learn from a creation point of view, I just use the evolutionary parts as teaching moments).

The younger kids and I have been reading through this fascinating and adorably illustrated book about bees, and I’m learning just as much as they are.

Also in this series – Trees: a Rooted History

The whole “ium” series is so well-done and beautifully illustrated!

First up, Animalium…

…then Botanicum (both of which we have).

And then these two (which we don’t own): Dinosaurium and Historium

Maps might not sound that enticing, but it includes so much more than topographical info, and as with all of these titles, the illustrations are fabulous.

50 states is such a fun and well-drawn look at some of the best quirks/interesting facts/info about–you guessed it–the 50 United States of America.

I bought all three of these Julia Rothman gems separately, but you can now buy them as a set!

Not too surprisingly, Theo is a big fan of the Big Book of Bugs.

We don’t own the the Big Book of Beasts or the Big Book of Blue yet, but they’re going on my list.

Wonder Garden is just gorgeous. The end.

Atlas of Adventures is a fun, colorful read that kids of all ages enjoy.

If you scroll down underneath Atlas of Adventures, you’ll see a lot more “Atlases” about various topics.

Another fun one with lots of versions to choose from: A Beetle is Shy

Again, scroll below the listing to see all of its counterparts.

And this series is new to me, but I’m thinking my kiddos would love it!

First, Over and Under the Snow…

and then Over and Under the Pond and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.

As far as general quality children’s literature…

What library is complete without the Madeline treasury–all in one beautiful, hardback book?

Or the complete Chronicles of Narnia?

And our latest read-aloud series was a HUGE hit (my kids are waiting for the 4th installment with bated breath). We seriously got SO much laundry folded while listening to The Green Ember…

…and Book 2 and Book 3.

I just ordered the complete Little House on the Prairie series for reading aloud (although, I’ve heard great things about the Audible version), but I strongly suspect that if Della, who is quite the little book worm, gets a hold of them, I’ll have a hard time prying them out of her cute little fingers.

This is another series that I just ordered for the younger kids. It’s supposed to whimsical, wry, and highly entertaining.

I also just ordered the  Wingfeather saga for Ezra and Simon, who get really excited about books full of adventure and mystery. It’s written by Andrew Peterson (yep, the Christian singer).

The first book in the series is On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

Scroll down under this listing for all of the rest of the books in the series.

And the 100 Cupboards series is another favorite for the boys.

The first book is 100 Cupboards.

…and you can scroll below it for the rest of the books.

I also ordered the following for Theo and Honor:

Good Night Gorilla

Yummy Yucky

The Wonky Donkey

The Pajama Zoo Parade

Hello Ninja

And now for adult books.

My favorite non-fiction book of 2018 was Educated. It’s a bit of a mind-boggling but engrossing read.

I also loved The Read-Aloud Family (which is where I discovered The Green Ember series, by the way). I really appreciate Sarah Mackenzie’s writing style (so warm, personable, and witty) and her encouragement that the simple act of reading aloud to your children can forge bonds that will stand the test of time and teenage angst.

My friend, Jennifer, recommended Love Does to me, and, while I haven’t read it yet, I’m excited to do so.

So much so that I ordered Love Does for Kids too!

Chances are, if I’m listening to a book on Audible, it’s a novel about World War II. What can I say? I’m a sucker for historical fiction, and one of the most fascinating (and horrifying) periods is WWII.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky is a work of fiction based on a real man’s life, and I listened to all 17 or so hours of it while wallpapering our dining room last winter. It definitely made a tedious task considerably more bearable (even if it does start out a little stronger than it ends).

And The Baker’s Secret just might be my favorite WWII novel of all time (although, it would be a close shave with Code Name Verity…which…I love for the superb narration almost as much as the captivating story).

The Ragged Edge of Night is another absorbing, based-on-real-life events WWII novel about a friar turned mail-order husband turned Nazi resister.

I Was Anastasia is not about WWII (the Anastasia in question bears the last name Romonav, if that clues you in), but it’s no less interesting a read, especially since it’s written in a mind-bending, end-to-the-beginning order that forces you to pay attention to the details lest you lose your place in the two overlapping narratives.

As for cookbooks, I’m not great about using them, but I (along with innumerable others) recently acquired Magnolia Table and am loving how accessible most of the recipes are.

The next two might not be as accessible (because they’re both vegetarian), but the pictures are divine, and I love the emphasis on fresh ingredients.

The Love and Lemons Cookbook is truly one of the most visually appealing ever, and, if the reviews are any indication, chock full of tastiness.

And the Forest Feast…

And the Forest Feast Gatherings book are both stuffed full of unique twists on traditionally meat-filled recipes, not to mention beautiful photography.

When it comes to decorating, I don’t “do” high-end. I’m a bargain-hunting, Goodwill-loving, collected-over-time girl down to the depths of my soul.

Which is why I love the following books for accessible, eclectic design inspo.

Cozy Minimalist Home

The Inspired Room

Domino: your guide to a stylish home

I don’t have this one yet, but it looks really fun!

I could keep going (and going), but I’d have to stop at some point, so this is as good a one as any. Hope you find something that tickles your fancy (and your brain!).

If you’re still stuck for gifts, be sure to scroll back through my last 4 posts. There’s a whole lot of Amazon Prime options at your fingerprints that will make it in plenty of time for Christmas!