Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Newlywed Nuggets: Home Freshness

Authors are supposed to write about what interests them. Right?

Would I be too weird to admit that I LIKE homemaking? That I enjoy cleaning, cooking, organizing, and decorating? I figure some of you must enjoy it too. That's why you clicked on this post, right?

So today I'm delving into all I've learned about home freshness. I've only had my own place(s) for one year, but it's amazing how much you can learn in that amount of time.

Now, I currently live in an apartment. I LOVE our apartment. It's so pretty. But let's be honest - apartments mean older carpet, limited windows, and trapped odors due to location and lack of air flow. 

And here in TN, it's waaaaaaaay more difficult to keep the home smelling fresh than when I was in NM. Now, I LOVE TN. Just like I LOVE NM. But there are differences and it's okay to realize that different places require different techniques for freshness. Here, there is a lot of humidity, you have to keep your windows and doors shut if you want to keep the bugs out, and there aren't a whole lot of breezes. It's the price you pay for lots of rain, flowers, greenery, and water, right?! 

So here are some of the things I've learned as a newlywed about keeping our lovey little apartment smelling fresh!


Closets are hard. They're small, dark spaces full of shoes.

Lavender sachets didn't work for me. So I made hanging freshners to go in between every few layers of hang-up clothes!

I cut the sheets in half, taped them to coat hangers, and hung them between my clothes. Pretty cool, huh?

Also, for my t-shirt box and camisole basket, I folded tissue paper, spritzed it with my signature perfume, and slid it at the bottom of the piles. 


I recently discovered wool balls. They are so fun! Not only do they cut down on expenses (you don't have to buy dryer sheets and the balls improve air circulation, which cuts down on drying time), but you can customize their scent!

I am currently scenting them with lavender oil. Mind you, I use the cheaper versions of EOs when it comes to things like laundry. I can't afford expensive stuff just for my wool balls. But I do love how I can scent the balls anyway I choose! I'm hoping to try cedarwood or other natural insect repellents on outdoor clothing when summer rolls around. 


Please allow me just a moment to say that I despise carpet. We had a bug problem when we first moved here (fleas -- something I am NOT used to!) and it was then that I realize how hard carpet is to keep clean! When we go house-hunting, one with limited carpet is definitely high on the priority list!

I don't have time to carpet clean every week, but, around here, making sure bug eggs are killed and removed is so important. Lots of bugs, from bed bugs to fleas, have a vicious life cycle that make them very hard to get rid of. I went through about 6 weeks of misery when we went through our flea battle and I've vowed NEVER again if I can possibly prevent it!


So... I spread a mixture of baking soda and lavender oil on my floors and allow them to sit for about 30 minutes to an hour before I vacuum. When I'm striving to kill bugs, I add tea tree oil (if using, please be careful! Tea tree can be toxic if mishandled.) 

It was actually desperation that led me to the discovery that this works. We had just moved here and didn't have many cleaning supplies, or a carpet cleaner. But I had tea tree oil. And baking soda. Shortly after I used it on my carpets, we discovered dead bugs. Maybe it was coincidence, but I don't think so. I've since used it many times to help kill bugs. 

But, whether you use this to kill bugs or not, it definitely freshens up the room for a loooooong time! It lasts longer than store-bought room sprays.

Linen Spray

Again, I use lavender and water in a spray bottle. The scent lasts forever! It lasts much longer than store-bought linen spray. And it's natural and it helps you sleep really, really well!

I like to use scents that help with sleeping, obviously, but I may try another scent sometime. Maybe tangerine in the summer?

Wall Flowers

I love Bath and Body Works' wall flowers! If you catch their sales, you can usually get them for $3 each. When you walk into a room, you get hit by lovely waft of scented air. And you can change them out for each season or for whatever theme you want to give the room.

Right now, I have watermelon lemonade in my living room. I LOVE it. It's such a happy scent to walk in the door to.

Eliminating Bad Odors

Food smells tend to get stuck in an apartment -- especially ours, when we can't open windows too often 'cause of rain or bugs or heat. I've discovered that Pine Sol is the best way to disinfect and remove food smells. You DO get a pine scent that lasts for about half an hour, then is gone -- along with all offensive scents.

It's the best way to clean trash cans and mop, too. 

By the way, I do NOT recommend essential oils or vinegar for disinfection purposes in the kitchen or bathroom. Based on research, I do not believe vinegar actually kill germs and only some essential oils do. Do research carefully before using "all-natural" cleaners that may not actually kill harmful germs. 


I like to do this around the holidays, but I'm not allowed to do it very often because *cough, cough* a certain hubby says it used too much electricity. But have y'all ever boiled cinnamon, orange peel, vanilla, and water on the stove? It's an amazing scent!!! My whole apartment smells good when I've done it. 

Too much work?

Does all of this sound like a lot? Guess that tells you how very finicky my little nose is! Hahah! Just ask my husband -- I can smell offensive or pleasing odors from a mile away. We clean a lot, y'all. 

What are your favorite freshness tips? Have you tried any of the above? Share in the comments!
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Monday, February 20, 2017

Visit to NM

We had a blast on our mini-trip to NM! If you follow me on Instagram and FB, you've already seen a lot of photos, but here is the compilation for those of you who are into reading this blog.

Our baby stayed with his TN grandparents, who so sweetly took care of him and sent me adorable updates. I missed him, but I know he had an amazing time with them! 

We took the traditional airport selfie. Have I mentioned how much I HATE flying?! I always get patted down, security makes me nervous, the motion makes me sick, and I don't know why I trick myself into trying out the airline coffee. I swear they just color the warm water with brown markers. 

But...it is the fastest way to travel when you've got 1400 miles to go. So I deal with it all.

It was so lovely to see everyone. We had such a warm welcome! Happy sigh. There is nothing that says home quite so much as being picked up by your family. 

We were reunited with the Blodgetts (Lydia and Nick) on Sunday. And I got to hold Rachael during Sunday School! Not gonna lie. Who could concentrate on Sunday School when you're holding your niece for the first time in six months!?

A family reunited. 

It snowed on Monday, which made me happy, happy, happy! I had been praying for snow! We have not seen any here in TN. Just seeing all the white and feeling the cold was so refreshing! 

A dear friend from church was in town the same time as us (how fun is that?!) and we went out to breakfast with her. 

Monday was our first anniversary, so we celebrated by going to the same restaurant we went to after our wedding! They even gave us the same booth and we had the same food. We were able to go to our same hotel and very same room, too!

Pardon all the baby photos... Never mind. I love all the baby photos!!!

We had a lovely girl's day out shopping! Man, I was exhausted at the end of the day! Hahahah! But I got the booties of my heart's desire for only $10.

The guys went shooting while we shopped. I take it they had fun.

Saying goodbye was so hard!!!

Goodbye, beautiful New Mexico! Until next time!

What Have You Been Up To Lately?

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

In Which I Have Been Reading

What do y'all know?! I actually got some reading time in during layovers and on the planes during my trip to NM. (Blog post coming soon about that.) Here are my two reviews of the books I finished. 

The Ringmaster's WifeThe Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Best for 16+


Words almost fail to express just how delightfully perfect this book was. Peppered with historical detail and rich descriptions that never felt wordy or boring, this is far from your typical, cliched work of romance and history. Instead, it is alive, a page-turner, warm, and vibrant. Nothing about this title felt cliched, overused, or typical for its genre. It was sparkling fresh, as bright and vivid as a circus parade itself.

From the synopsis: In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confi nes of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World’s Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny—a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her arranged marriage. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund’s path crosses with Mable’s and the Ringlings’ glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, choosing instead the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers’ circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster’s Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the Greatest Show on Earth!

I'm afraid to write, lest I give away the beautiful details and facts about this story that make it the charming work that it is. Is it enough for me to simply say READ IT?! I was teary, on the edge of my seat, anxious, and cheering by turns. It had all the trimmings of a good read and all the historical accuracy to satisfy even the sternest of historians. I am looking forward to reading more by Kristy and am glad I discovered her.

Recommended to historical fiction fans, history buffs, clean romance lovers, and all those who would love a peep behind the scenes of circus life.

View all my reviews

Unwritten MelodyUnwritten Melody by Tessa Emily Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Best for 13+

To say that I was blown away by this book is an understatement. I had heard great things about Tessa's books, but I was not prepared for one that showed both such literary skill and a keen understanding of human nature-one that was totally beyond the author's years. Some sections and quotes were absolutely inspiring and reminded me of questions and situations that even older people experience-not just teens. True love is tested.

From the synopsis: Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

Cassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small town Willow Creek, SC hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyr-ics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder—did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday, or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

I really, really enjoyed this book. Both James and Cassie were likable, understandable, and completely real. The setting of the book felt real. Descriptions were weaved easily into the story, transporting me into the world of the characters without feeling weighed down by detail. I knew the characters, understood them, felt for them, laughed aloud, and cried for them. The latter was on a plane, and I hope my fellow passengers understood my trauma of being swept away by the beautiful story of James and Cassie.

I will definitely be recommending this to my teenager friends and all those who love a sweet, thought-provoking story.

View all my reviews

What Have Y'all Been Reading?
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Monday, February 13, 2017

Dear Samuel: One Beautiful Year

Dear Samuel,

One year. 

It's kind of incredible, when you think about it.

One year married. A year of mind-blowing joys, trials, fun, and overwhelming blessings from God. One year as your wife. 

That first moment. The moment when we were officially married. Our photographer asked us how we felt. I just remember joy as I sank into your arms and savored our first private (well, mostly) kiss as your wife. 

Our wedding was fun, but I'll never forget how absolutely fantastic it was to do our private photo shoot at Albuquerque Uptown. You were so happy--your eyes never stopped twinkling with that oh-so-special twinkle I fell so deeply in love with. 

Kissing you. If for no other reason, I am SO glad we saved our first kiss for marriage. Kissing you over and over for our photo shoot was absolutely fantastic. 

Pretending we knew how to dance, twirl, and dip for the photographer was so special and hilarious. We really do need to learn how to dance with each other.

The way I felt wearing your coat is how I've felt every minute of our marriage: cherished. Enveloped by your love and protected by your strength. 

I didn't know when we rushed into Starbucks to grab mugs off the shelf, snap a photo, and run out laughing to make our dinner reservation on time that you'd make me French Press coffee every morning from then on. But you have. And your coffee somehow always tastes sweeter, stronger, and richer than any other brew. Perhaps it's because it's made with love. 

I'll never forget all the fun we had on our honeymoon. Thank you for making it a trip full of amazing memories we will always cherish. 

Thank you for putting up with my crazy ideas and buying me an alligator head. Thank you for sharing my passion for history and visiting the Alamo on our honeymoon. 

Thank you for making me laugh every step of the way. 

Words fail to describe how proud I was of you during our month long stay in the Philippines two weeks after our honeymoon. 

The way you taught the small Bible studies, the fun you had teaching the children and showing them magic tricks, the way you preached as the guest speaker at the school graduation and at Easter -- I was so proud of you each and every time. You are the best preacher I know. 

Yeah, I was scared to death each time we got on the roads, but you always protected me, always looked out for me, always took care of me when I was sick or nervous to sing/speak, or overwhelmed by what I saw in the Philippines. 

I'll never forget the fun we had on the island, playing in the beautiful white sand, finding those adorable crabs, and picking up shells. I was scared the entire boat ride over, but had the time of your life and really inspired me to have fun.

The way you teach kids and the fun you have with them is something I so love. The kids at VBS during the summer of 2016 loved your ASL lessons - and I did too!

My (our) first car from you. Hard to believe we've had it for over six months now!

Your ability to have fun wherever you are makes me laugh. I'll never forget your first carousal ride. Leave it to you to make a face like that...

Thank you for the way you make me laugh. Thank you for the good times we have exploring God's beautiful gift of nature. Thank you for pushing me to try new things. 

Coffee. Our relationship and coffee. Seriously. But, hey. It's no wonder I like coffee so much. You and coffee are alike - hot, rich, dark, and strong. 

All the fun with had on our photo shoot with Bethany Studios still makes me smile. You're so stinking cute. I just can't get over it. 

Your good looks inspire me. Man, I'm going to have to keep putting you on book covers! It's the surest way to become a New York Times bestseller, right? Wink, wink. 

No joke. It is. 

I respect and love you for your hard work at the Chattanooga Rescue Mission! From your preaching to your mentoring to your great work ethic to your yummy meals - I am just so proud of you. Thank you for having the courage to follow God's call to Tennessee. I was and am so honored to follow you. You put God first and He is your priority before anything else. 

Christmas. Oh, Christmas. Our first one married. You made it so breathtakingly beautiful. Even when it wasn't all fun and games because I was so busy and so sick, you took care of me, made me slow down, gave me chances to enjoy every bit of that wonderful season. The romantic way you took me downtown just to look at the boats and park lit up was so special. I'll never forget that walk in the frosty air and the wonder of the season together!

Our third year to build a gingerbread house together. It was a bit smaller this year than last, but it was so much fun! 

You prayed for my voice and my health when I was not doing so well around cantata time - and you even jumped aboard my crazy idea to get a photo in the radio booth! I'll always treasure this photo and remember WARM 88.5 FM.

Cuddle. It's what we do best. And I hope it always stays that way. 

There were some incredible tough times and situations last year - times when I literally told God I could not take anymore, that I was too weak to handle the trials. You were there, loving me, as we held each other together. 

You courageously answered God's call and followed His leading -- and it has been NOTHING but blessing upon blessing ever since. You've protected our marriage, been an amazing provider, and your spiritual leadership inspires me to keep pressing onward. Thank you for taking me to an amazing church and for demonstrating every single day what it is to be an upright man of God. Waiting for you -- for the right man God had for me -- was so worth it. I am a cherished lady. 

I love you, hunkules -- forever and always. You are my best friend. On to the next fifty plus years of marriage!

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