Reupholstered Wood Frame Side Chair – Part 1

For anyone new to Flawed yet Functional, DIY and home projects are my happy place. It is therapeutic for me to paint a room. I get great satisfaction sewing a Roman shade for a window. Making wood beautiful with my own two hands is downright fun for me. It gives me great joy to make my home beautiful with my own elbow grease.

Doing and sharing these projects though are two very different things. It takes a lot of bravery to share home projects when I’m not a professional, an interior designer, or anything like that. I’m a reader and a life-long learner who likes to work with her hands. This post is me being brave. I’m not a trained in upholstery, but I like to learn and create beautiful things with my hands. I love Myquillyn’s tagline: It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s be brave together and re-upholster a chair!

Side Chair Before

Quite a few years ago, I purchased this wood side chair off Craigslist for the desk in my home office. The seat of the chair was ripped when I purchased it so the plan all along was to reupholster it at some point. Although I loved (and still do!) the mid-century modern lines of the chair, I wasn’t fond of the blond wood. After I removed all of the old upholstery, I gave it a couple coats of Minwax Special Walnut and a couple coats of polyurethane for durability.


Since I put this project off for years, I mean YEARS, and I’ve worked on this project in stages, I don’t have good photos of dismantling the chair and staining the frame.

The removal of the old upholstery and re-staining took place in early 2017, and then I let the cost of new foam for the seat allow me to procrastinate with finishing the chair. I’m really good at procrastination when I’m not feeling confident in a project. So there my chair sat for months and months while I “saved” to buy the foam and other materials for the seat of the chair.

I finally purchased the rest of the materials for the seat of the chair a couple weeks ago. The purchase only occurred because I happened to check the Jo-Ann’s coupons to find I had a 50% off one cut of fabric which included foam. Score! Guess how much it cost me? I should tell you I didn’t just buy foam. I bought the dust cover, burlap, burlap webbing, nail heads, AND the foam for $55. This chair has been sitting unfinished for over a year for just $55 (or over 7 years if you go back to the original purchase!).

I finished the chair back insert in the summer of 2017, and I failed to take any pictures to document it. So this is the starting point for finishing the chair seat. The seat of the chair only has the wooden frame, nothing else.

Reupholstered Side Chair StartI took pictures of how the chair was put together as I stripped off all the old upholstery. I followed the same pattern, method, and materials to build the new seat. I’m not an upholstery expert, so I don’t know if I’m doing this right, but I think it will turn out sturdy and comfortable. That is a good enough result for me for my first upholstery project!

Let’s jump into the project!

Trace the Shape of Chair onto the Foam

Before beginning to staple anything to the frame of the chair, get a pattern of the seat shape traced onto the foam. Lay the foam piece on the seat of the chair as snugly as possible without buckling the foam piece. Then trace around the inner side of the underside of the frame to mark the shape  to cut the foam.

Does that make sense? Kneel down and trace from the bottom of the chair. It is a little awkward, but it is a quick thing to do.

Reupholstered Side Chair Foam Fit

Cut the foam

Cut the outline you just traced using an electric knife or a serrated bread knife. Don’t try scissors or a flat knife, it will tear up the foam. If you have access to an electric knife, it will cut through the foam like butter. Please be careful not to cut yourself or your floor in the process!

Reupholstered Side Chair Cut Foam

Dry fit the foam

Before moving on to assembling the chair, put the foam into the frame of the chair to make sure it fits. Make additional adjustments as needed.

I kept my foam insert tight, but I did have a gap at the back of the chair. To fix this, I ended up cutting a thin piece of foam to fill in this gap before putting on the batting (see the Cut the Batting step below).

When I removed the original upholstery, there were large gaps between the foam and the seat frame, and these gaps were not filled with anything but air! So I don’t necessarily think every square inch of the frame needs to be filled with foam, but it seemed like the right thing to do, so I went for it.

Reupholstered Side Chair Dry Fit

Staple burlap to bottom of the chair

Now it’s time to start putting the chair back together. Start from the bottom up, except leaving the dust cover until the end just in case something needs to get removed.

Turn the chair “on its knees.” With the back facing you, tip it forward so the bottom is exposed. This makes the stapling of the burlap much easier. I used 9/16″ long staples (long!) because this layer is structural. It will partially hold the weight of the person sitting on the chair. I laid my roughly cut piece of burlap on the bottom of the chair then stapled in a north/south/east/west pattern to keep the burlap centered and taught. Continuing working around the chair bottom in this pattern (N/S/E/W) pulling the burlap taught as you go.

Chair Frame BeginReupholstered Side Chair Bottom BurlapI trimmed all the excess burlap, but an inch or so, around the chair bottom. Then I folded the burlap back over the staples (toward the middle of the chair) and stapled it again.

Reupholstered Side Chair Burlap FinishCut batting

To make a pattern for the batting, I simply laid my foam insert on top of the batting and used a permanent marker to trace around the foam leaving several inches clearance from the edge of the foam. I wanted to maintain the rough shape of the foam, but the extra inches were needed to tuck around the foam, between the foam and the frame of the seat of the chair.

Draw Batting Pattern

Put the foam into the chair and tuck the batting around it.

It is at this step I decided to fill in the small gap left between the back edge of the chair frame and the foam I originally cut. Based on how the chair was originally put together, I’m sure this gap was ok from a functional perspective, but I like everything to be as perfect as possible, so I filled this small gap with a scrap of foam.

Reupholstered Side Chair Foam + BattingAttach Jute Webbing

Next comes a tight weave of jute webbing. I attached this by securing the back side of the chair with four strips of webbing. Then I attached three strips of jute webbing to the left side of the chair. Then wove them together before fastening the opposite sides.

Jute Webbing WeaveThese next steps required both my husband and I. I did not buy the proper tool for this step nor enough jute webbing to be able to use the tool. My solution is as follows:

  1. Attach the back and left side of the chair webbing and weave the ends together. First staple 5 staggered staples into each strip ( _ – _ – _ ) then fold the end back over the staggered staples and secure it with three more staples ( _ _ _ ).
  2. Have your super strong husband pull each piece taught while you staple 5 staples into the finishing end of the strip.
  3. Staple again in a staggered pattern ( _ – _ – _ ).
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until all jute webbing strips are taut and stapled to the chair.
  5. Fold over the ends of each strip and staple three more times ( _ _ _ ).
  6. Trim excess jute webbing.

Jute Webbing Trim

The finished webbing should look like this:

Jute Webbing FinishedThose jute strips are TIGHT. Both my husband and I sat on it, and it barely gives. Looking back at the old webbing when I stripped the chair, the webbing was loose and buckled. This should make the chair much more sturdy and comfortable!

Since I’m not an upholstery expert, more of a learn-as-I-go kind of girl, why is the foam in the middle of the seat frame? Does the jute webbing defeat its purpose entirely? I couldn’t find a tutorial of my exact type of chair so I really don’t know the proper way to approach this upholstery project. Thoughts?

I must confess that I cannot believe how quickly this portion of the chair came together. Why did I procrastinate this long? We’ve had this sturdy piece of furniture, that I really love, sitting useless, half-finished in our basement for so long! I’m so glad I took the plunge to finish it now! I can be brave, and you can too!

This completes the weight-bearing portions of the seat of the chair: burlap, foam, batting, and lastly the jute webbing. With a pneumatic stapler, this comes together very quickly! If I can do scary things you can too! Stop procrastinating and start doing!

Up next: the soft and comfy part of the chair!

What are you procrastinating on lately? What scares you about starting a project? Do you find those scary items are actually no big deal once you start to tackle the project?

Wood Frame Chair Upholstery


Dovetailed Wood Trays

Or should the title read “Wood Trays with Dovetails?” Can “dovetail” be a verb? If you know, enlighten me!

Our Christmas gift to ourselves was a dovetail jig! The primary purpose was to finish our buffet which has three drawers in the middle of it. We roughly followed these plans by Ana White, but ours will look much different. We changed just about every aspect of it except that it is a long buffet with three drawers in the middle with doors/shelves on either side.

I can’t wait to show you that project! It’s been a long time in the making! In fact, we started it last January…January 2017. We’re one year in! Yikes!

We’ve learned so much about woodworking in that year though and have acquired many tools and such to complete the buffet. I’ll be showing it soon, hopefully!

The wood project today is three wood trays to hold various odds and ends in one of our kitchen cabinets. The bottom shelf of this cabinet gets crammed with this and that, things that have no real home (like the toilet paper! Ha, actually we use this for wiping noses, too cheap to buy Kleenex in this house!). It holds our vitamins, my diabetes testing supplies, the boy’s candy, and tea.

disorganized cabinetTruthfully, Dan was just looking for an area in our home that could use wood boxes. He needed to practice with the dovetail jig before tackling the buffet drawers. It is quite the machine and takes a lot of skill and practice. Even though the jig’s purpose is to make dovetailing easier, it still takes quite a bit of knowledge, planning, and careful cutting!

So Dan built three beautiful boxes to fit side-by-side in this cabinet. They are just deep enough to fit inside the face frame and wide enough to fill the shelf width with a little wiggle room in between the boxes.

raw wood trayThis is a dovetail joint, for those of you who don’t know! It is the cutouts that fit a corner of a wood box together. It is an extremely strong joint that fits together snugly. There are no nails or screws used, only a bit of wood glue. If you are looking for quality wood furniture, dovetail joints for any drawers is something to look for.

raw wood dovetailSolid wood must be used to make dovetails because plywood will splinter. How do we know this??? Of course we had to try to dovetail plywood. We have a lot on hand, and we are ones who tend to need to learn for ourselves. Our conclusion: maybe it could be done, but so much care needs to go into it, it is easier to just use solid wood, just like all the experts say. Now you know.

Dan used poplar to build these boxes, and I thought it might be fun to stain them then use the varnish oil I’ve used in other projects.

This was not the greatest decision. I thought the wood grain would pop through the stain, but it didn’t. Instead, the stain amplified every little hair of grain, resulting in a very rustic looking box.

After doing some research, we discovered that stain is only used to make “bad” wood look good (like pine) while clear coats are used to make “good” wood look all the better. Again, that’s what we’re here for, to help you not make our mistakes! Don’t stain good wood!

Here are the products I used to finish the boxes. Again, don’t stain the wood like I did! Unless this rustic look is what you’re going for, then by all means, stain away!

wood tray finishing products

Because I like to see my work progress, I took pictures each step of the way from raw wood through three coats of varnish.

tray finish progressionNotice how every little hair of grain is showing? I would have preferred just the major lines show through, but overall, I still like how the boxes look. They are just more rustic than I intended.

After sorting though all the stuff in the cabinet (and throwing some really old stuff away!), here she is with the new boxes!

organized cabinetHaha, not that much of a change, huh?

It’s hard to tell, but I did pair down the things that we weren’t using or were expired and grouped like items together.


organized vitaminsDiabetes Supplies (and hand cream and Dixie cups, apparently! One can only be so organized! Oh and that isn’t bubbles! It’s my sharps container to dispose of my lancets properly.):

diabetes testing suppliesCandy and Tea:

tea and treatsHere’s another little before and after with all three boxes together:

Wood traysThey’re such pretty little boxes! Aren’t they?

They may find a home elsewhere in the house eventually because they are too pretty to hide in a cabinet all their life!

This was a fun little practice project for us! When you tackle a DIY project do you do a smaller, test run one first? Do you go full speed ahead into the big one? We’ve done it both ways! I’d love to hear your tales below!


Chemical-Free Cleaning | Glass

As I’m sure all people do, my cleaning skills and theories have evolved over time. When I graduated from college, I was the last one to move out of our rental house. You know what that means, right? Yep, I had lots of odds and ends to move out – all the things that my roommates forgot! With that came a large number of cleaning solutions: 409, Windex, Fantastik, etc.

I used to know how long those lasted me. I’ve forgotten now, but it’s in the years range, not months.

When Dan and I moved into our first house, I began looking for ways to be more frugal and discovered homemade cleaning solutions. I found that vinegar and baking soda can clean just about anything, and they’re cheap!

The other perk is that they were chemical free. If my friend’s kids ate it, they would be just fine. No calls to poison control. No emergency room visits. I cook with these ingredients! I was still using these ingredients to clean when my kids were born. The fact that they were edible was as huge relief for me as a new mom.

Fast-forward two years, I have a 2 year old and a newborn, and I just can’t keep my house clean. I was drowning in motherhood alone, forget the housework. I can’t even tell you how long I went between cleanings for the bathroom. The whole house felt so dirty, and I was overwhelmed thinking about cleaning it. It felt like it all needed to be cleaned, all the time. I knew I could never clean all of it at once so I would procrastinate, which never solved the problem.

I had a friend in college who sold Norwex, and I was never interested. I don’t typically like network marketing products (Is that the PC term? I can never remember it!). Well, I was drowning enough summer of 2015, that I decided to give it a try. I bought my first Enviro cloth and window cloth, and I was changed.

Folks, as a skeptical, not-invested-financially, actual-user of Norwex products, I can attest that they truly do work.

The day I got my cloth I cleaned all the interior windows in my house, the face of ALL my kitchen cabinets, the stainless steel appliances, and the exterior windows on the front of my house all in one nap time. I was a crazy, cleaning machine. It was so easy, and it cleaned so well.

The best part of these cloths: they only use water. In fact, the cloths cannot be used with soap. It will ruin the cloth.

Wait, I didn’t tell you the best part yet. The other best part? They keep appliances, toilets, sinks, floors, etc. clean longer! How, you may ask? There’s no soap scum to attract more dirt. The surface is clean. Free of anything. Amazing.

These cloths revolutionized my ability to clean my house. Now I’m not a clean fanatic. Our floors are dirty, and I don’t always get to the bathrooms each week. I’m a real person too. I swear. Here’s the deal, I don’t have to try as hard to get my house clean or to keep it clean.

Today, I want to show you how it cleans glass and, for my sake, I threw in a comparison with my microfiber cloths I purchased from Costco years ago.

Norwex cloths are expensive and require some maintenance. They have to be rinsed and dried thoroughly after use to be free of bacteria, and they have to be washed a certain way to maintain their ability to clean.

The other microfiber cloths have not been cared for with such care (maybe I should have??). So I was curious if they would perform as well on clear glass using only water.

The item I chose was the clear glass pendants in my kitchen. To get a good comparison, I made sure to not clean them for 6 months (a year?). Ha, just kidding. I just don’t clean these very often, and my kitchen is well used. They were very dusty and greasy and have been so for a long time.

Dusty Glass PendantsYou may not think they look too dirty but just keep reading. You will see the difference. They were caked with greasy dust all over but especially where the globe bulges out.

My Norwex cleaning cloths: an Enviro cloth to pick up all the dust, dirt, and grime and a window cloth to dry, polish, and shine.

Norwex Enviro and Window

I decided to clean the right pendant with the Norwex cloths. First, I got the Enviro cloth wet with hot water and wiped all the dust off the pendant, inside and out. I should have taken the bulb out as it was tricky to clean the globe around it. I honestly didn’t think of this until right now as I’m typing this. Doh!

Cleaning with NorwexThen I wiped the globe dry with the window cloth. Look at that shine! Now can you see the dust??

For the other pendant, I used two cloths I bought in a microfiber multi-pack from Costco several years ago. The green one is a looser weave that I used like the Enviro cloth to pick up the dirt and grease, and the tan one is a smooth weave that I used to polish and shine like the Window cloth.

Microfiber ClothsI used the same method with these microfiber cloths. I got the green one wet with hot water and carefully wiped the globe clean inside and out, then I dried and polished with the tan cloth. Again, why didn’t I think to take the bulb out???

Clean Kitchen PendantsVoila!

The right pendant is cleaned with Norwex microfiber cloths, and the left pendant is cleaned with generic microfiber cloths. Can you tell a difference?

You might not be able to in these pictures (and truly the difference is small!), so I’ll share!

  1. The Norwex Enviro picked up dirt much easier than the generic microfiber. It was fast to clean the right pendant because the Norwex Enviro actually picked up the dirt. On the left pendant, I spent a longer time “chasing” dirt around. I did eventually get the dirt off, but it did take longer.
  2. Although both are WAY cleaner, in person the globe on the left has a slight haze to it. I think this is because the microfiber I used didn’t pick up the dirt well enough.

For me the Norwex is still the winner, but I shared this comparison to suggest something to you, my dear readers:

You don’t have to use chemicals to clean. Try using just water.

This is not a sales pitch for Norwex, though I do love it, but rather to get you thinking about how you clean your house. I’ve found using just water to be more effective, less work, and require less frequent cleaning.

We are trained to think that chemicals must be used to clean our homes. We think we need to disinfect everything, but we don’t. Killing all the germs around us actually makes us more susceptible to getting sick. Your immune system needs a challenge every now and then!

Cleaning my home is one of many areas I am more thoughtful and intentional in how I do it. I want to minimize my family’s exposure to chemicals, and yet, I want an effective cleaning regime that minimized my time and effort. Norwex cloths have done just that. Cleaning the glass in my house is just the beginning.

So even if you don’t have or don’t want to buy Norwex, pick up a microfiber cloth and try cleaning with one wet cloth and wipe it dry with another. Just use water. Leave the chemicals and soap for another day. Try it on your windows! Give it a whirl on your stainless steel appliances! You will be amazed!

Just for kicks and giggles, take a look at this picture. The two pendants are clean and the one above the sink has not been done yet. Yikes! (I did clean that one right after I took this picture. The contrast was so great, I just had to share!)

Clean Kitchen Pendants

What have you learned about cleaning over the years? Did you change your strategy or methods once kids arrived? Did they rock your cleaning schedule like they did mine??


Poplar Schoolroom Table

She’s finished! The new, larger table for our schoolroom that I mentioned in the schoolroom reveal post.

In her beautiful, raw, unfinished glory:

Unfinished Birch Table

And now after 5 coats of Varnish Oil:

Finished Preschool Table

Can you believe how the oil made the colors and grain pop?!

Dan built and designed the table himself. I am so proud of him! It turned out SO beautiful! I cannot take any credit for the craftsmanship, it was all him. I only applied the finishing oil.

He made the tabletop out of poplar 1×6 planks, and the legs and apron are made out of pine 2×4’s. He would have used poplar for the whole thing, but he thinks he’ll need to make new legs as they boys grow, so he opted for the cheaper pine.

The pine legs are definitely not as beautiful as the poplar top. I may paint the legs further down the line. I’m going to keep it as is for now and let it grow on me.

I used Tried & True Varnish Oil to finish the table. It was originally purchased to finish our wood cutting boards, and I love how it brings out the grain and beauty of the wood without the plastic-y layer that polyurethane leaves. I am slightly concerned about not having that protective barrier on a child’s table. If it doesn’t hold up very well, I can just sand it and stain or paint it. I’ll update if it doesn’t hold up to 2 and 4 year old abuse. 🙂

Wood Oil

The coats are applied VERY thin so this itty bitty can goes a long way. The first coat goes on pretty splotchy, but that evens out with each progressive coat. I applied a very thin layer using a piece of cheesecloth, then after letting it sit for 5 minutes, I went back over the wood with a dry, clean cheesecloth to pick up any excess oil. After that dried, I buffed it with a #0000 steel wool pad and then with another clean, dry cheese cloth to bring out the shine.

Varnish Oil Coats

I’m not 100% sure I applied my coats thin enough. There is a slight tackiness to the tabletop. I’m going to buff it again and hope that takes any residue off.

The reason why we built this new table is our Ikea LACK table was too short for the chairs I purchased. I had researched how high a table should be based on chair height (This pdf  is very helpful.), and I knew the LACK was an inch or so shorter than recommended. I just didn’t realize how much difference an inch can make! The boys struggled to get their legs under the table, and when they did, they were stuck, usually falling over to try to get out from under the table.

Knowing that, we tried to be careful when planning the dimensions of this table. The school chairs are 13″ tall, so the height of the table should be about 21″. Ours is 22 1/2″ tall. We had some confusion about how incorporate the height of the apron. We ended up adding 1″ so that their legs wouldn’t be pinched by the apron. Their legs definitely aren’t pinched, but the overall height is a touch tall.

The tabletop dimensions are 21″ deep by 46″ long. We wanted enough space for the boys to sit on opposite sides of the table but offset so they don’t bump each other with their books/paper/whatnot. Bumping into each other’s work is problem #1 with the LACK table. The tightness of the depth of the table causes arguments on a daily basis.

Here it is in our new and improved schoolroom:

School room birch table

There is now plenty of room for the boys and their work. They both gave it a test coloring run as soon as they saw it set up. She’s beautiful and functional!

Finished Birch Table

We chose poplar for the tabletop because we love the color variation in the wood grain. The Varnish Oil really helps to draw out the color change too. So pretty!

Birch TabletopAlthough I wasn’t planning to do school the afternoon I set it up, Jackson was so excited that we threw in a quick lesson during naptime. We’ve also had many more impromptu coloring sessions just to use this new table!

Any furniture builders out there? Thoughts on varnish oil vs. polyurethane? Do you like the look of wood or would you prefer a painted table top?

Christmas in a Jar

A Quick, Easy Christmas Gift | Mason Jar Potpourri

Don’t we all have people in our lives that we want to give a small, meaningful gift to at Christmastime? Those people who maybe serve us in some way (mailman, trash collector, newspaper deliverer, etc.) or maybe have spoken into our lives recently (Bible study leader, childcare worker, administrative assistant). We want them to know they are seen and appreciated, right?

But…we all have a budget to keep. Here’s an idea that won’t break the bank!

I was wracking my brain for ideas to give to the ladies in my small group. I wanted it to be cute, functional, and let them know I was thinking about them. My lovely sister suggested these Christmas in a Jar potpourri gifts. How lovely are they?!? Kelli even includes the printable for the top of the jar! Go download it! I did!Christmas PotpourriNow since I can’t quite to anything exactly right, you’ll notice I do not have rosemary sprigs in my jars. I forgot to buy it. Kelli’s instructions say you can use Fraser Fir sprigs too. While I’m a little skeptical, I hope it works! We just happened to cut down a Fraser Fir for our house this year. I did a little bottom-of-the-tree-trimming 2 minutes before putting these together.

I used a canning funnel to help pour the mulling spices and cranberries in the jar, tossed in a few Fraser Fir sprigs, then plunked the orange on top. Done. I think it took 3 minutes to fill all 9 jars.

Then I cut out the top labels and my instruction label, which took so much longer than filling the jars! I need to work on my scissor skills with my preschooler. 🙂 I finished it off by tying on the instructions with a curling ribbon.

Christmas Potpourri Jar

A little run-down on the the cost of this gift, just in case you are curious:

  • I purchased this package of mulling spices. I bought this package because it is the best value. It is 16 ounces for less than $10.
  • I purchased a new case of pint size mason jars from our local supermarket for $9.
  • I bought the clementine sized oranges for about $2.50. I bought a 3 pound bag, and I only used 9 oranges. I’m estimating they weighed about 1.5 pounds, not sure I’m right.
  • I bought the cranberries from Aldi for $1.
  • I purchased glittery curling ribbon from the dollar store to tie on my instructions for $1.
  • I used Kelli’s printable on the top of my jars. Free!

The grand total for this gift was $23.50, and I made 9 jars, so $2.60 per jar!

Christmas in a Jar

Do you have any small, meaningful gifts to share? What do you buy for those special people in you life without breaking the bank?


Holiday Host Tips | How to Plan and Execute a Holiday Meal On Your Own

Pulling off a holiday meal for extended family takes practice. Thanksgiving this year was my most successful to date. I prepared all the items I planned (with only 1 bomb!), and they were all served at the appropriate temperature! This is no small feat, in my opinion.

I can remember my first holiday in my first house. I had my whole extended family there to help. We were using 2 microwaves, the stove and the oven, and yet somehow, not everything was hot at meal time.

The difference then versus now was a good plan. Back then, I remembering handing a recipe card and ingredients to my sister-in-law and asking her to make it using the microwave in the laundry room. Not ideal instructions nor location for cooking! Poor delegation, Emily!

I’m much more organized and prepared now (although still much to learn!), so I will share my schedule in the hopes of making your holiday meal more successful than some of mine have been.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start (name that tune!)…

Research and select menu

In this post, I discussed my Thanksgiving meal plan. I have dietary restrictions (gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free) so finding recipes took some time. I primary use Pinterest to find recipes, and you can find my ideas for my Thanksgiving menu here.

I look for recipes to follow a well rounded meal. Well, actually, I look for recipes that mimic how my mom makes Thanksgiving dinner. Those foods you grow up eating for a holiday always stick out as the best, right?

My menu would look something like this:

  1. Appetizers – I wasn’t looking for anything specific, but 3 easy recipes for hand-held/finger-food.
  2. Dinner
    1. Meat and gravy – Dan was handling this, so I didn’t actually plan anything for this.
    2. Potato – My diet is limited to sweet potatoes so that helped limit my search!
    3. Green Vegetable – Any would do, but I was partial to green bean casserole which did end up winning!
    4. Bread/Roll – Tricky, tricky with the gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free restriction!
    5. Sweet/Fruit – This category is a stretch. I was looking for fruit salad, cranberry sauce, any sort of sweet-fruit-like concoction.
  3. Dessert – Again, not looking for anything specific, and i ended up making 3 of the 5+ recipes I liked.
Grocery List and Shopping

I am a firm believer in menu planning and making a list before heading to the grocery store any time of the year. However, I can’t emphasize enough how much you need to carefully make a list if the entire holiday meal is on your shoulders.

Plan. Plan. Plan. Write. It. Down.

I don’t use a fancy app for my grocery lists. I just use a Google Sheet with a tab for each store. I regularly shop at Aldi, Meijer, and Costco with occasional stops at Harvest Health (local health store). My shopping list Sheet has 4 tabs, one for each store.

Are you ready for my crazy method?

Go through each recipe and type each item needed on the appropriate store’s tab.

Earth shattering, right??

I know it isn’t, but sometimes I just need to hear the simple things. Oh right, that’s how I would make sure I don’t miss any item.

When I need onions, I put “onions” on the list then start a count in the next column. I doubt I will only need 1 onion or even 1 bag on onions. So I keep a running tally of onions as I go through all of my recipes. Then when I get to the store, I know I need at least 14 onions. Then I can decide to buy individually or in bulk. I use this method for any commonly used item (garlic, potatoes, eggs, etc.).

Yes, I needed 14 onions! I was shopping for the entire time family was in town though, not just Thanksgiving. Want some other fun facts? I needed 17 sweet potatoes, 74 eggs, and 9 apples.

preparation the Day before the holiday

The day before the holiday is the “get as much as you can get done DONE” day.

I started with the vegetable dishes and appetizers that would keep well or reheat well the next day. The pumpkin spice dip, maple bacon pecans, and cranberry sauce were very simple to whip up then stored in the fridge (pumpkin spice dip and cranberry) and counter (pecans). I also had the sweet potato mash doing its thing in the slow cooker while I tackled all these recipes. These were done by the end of the night, cooled, covered, then put in the garage.

The cranberry sauce was made early too because I used it in the Cranberry Cookie Crumb Bars. Make sure to think about the order you make things in your prep day! It will be so much easier when cooking if you take a moment to sit down and write a timeline of all you need to make and the ideal order to make each item.

The next items I tackled the day before were the desserts as those keep very well; although, I did hesitate because some gluten-free flours spoil quickly. I ended up making my desserts Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, wrapping tightly in plastic wrap, and storing in the garage (outside was refrigerator temperature here in Michigan!). Every dish was still fresh the next day, and even still fresh 3 days later as we nibbled on leftovers. (I’m eating pumpkin pie as I write this, 4 days after I baked it!)

To tally that up, I made 7 (rather 6.5, the sweet potatoes weren’t all the way finished) of the 13 dishes I had planned. While Wednesday ended very successfully, I didn’t get the paleo cornbread recipe made which I thought might mean it wouldn’t get done on Thursday. I had to let it go. Even if I don’t get to the paleo cornbread stuffing, the meal will still be enjoyed.

The Big Day

It’s the big day! The holiday you’ve planned so much for is here! What should you do first??

First, don’t sleep in. Yes, it’s a holiday, but if you want it to be successful (meaning stress-free for you and therefore your guests), you need to be on your A-game.

Second, make a cup of coffee then make two lists:

  1. The list of dishes still to be made in the most efficient order you can think
  2. The “oven schedule” – This list states the time, temp, and dish that needs to be reheated before the main event. Ideally, everything is finished and hot at the same time!

Third, get to work (with a good attitude!). This is where I have gotten burned in the past. I let the joy of cooking leave my kitchen. I got stressed. So my kids got stressed. Then my husband gets stressed, and before you know it, the whole household is angry and bitter. This is not how to have a good holiday!

I know you know this, but I say this to remind myself, the host sets the tone. If the host is happy and relaxed, so will the rest of the family/guests. On busy days like this, I start my day asking God to multiply my time and efforts that I may accomplish all He wants for me that day. Guess what? He hasn’t failed my request, and I’ve prayed this prayer many times.

I wish I had kept my handwritten timeline of 1) and 2) above. Because it really wasn’t too daunting or long.

List of Things to Make:

  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Paleo Stuffing
  • Coconut Flour Biscuits
  • Topping for the sweet potatoes

Oven Schedule

  • 4:00 – turn slower cooker on low and top sweet potatoes with pecans
  • 4:45 – Bake stuffing for 30-40 at 350°
  • 5:00 – Bake green beans for 20-30 minutes at 350°
  • Meanwhile Dan was carving the turkey and making gravy on the stove-top

I only had 2 casserole dishes in the oven at the same time! Thanks to the slow cooker, big green egg, stove-top, and oven; we had 5 hot dishes ready and piping hot at the same time with no overcooking! Other than our grill, we have a very typical kitchen: no fancy huge range, no double ovens. We cooked this delicious meal in the kitchen you have in your home + a grill (which you just might have!).

As I reread my thoughts, it all boils down to a plan:

  • Research and Select the Menu
  • Grocery List and Shopping
  • Preparation Day
  • The Big Day
    • “Everything Still To Be Made” List
    • The Oven Sdchedule

I did make this entire meal (except the turkey and gravy) by myself. Yes, I did have Dan home to care for the kiddos, and yes, I did spend almost all day in the kitchen. It was a labor of love that was richly rewarded both in good food and good time with family.

Was your most recent holiday meal a success? Did grumpiness take over? It has for me many times, but it can be better, you can be better!

Stress-Free Holiday Meal


Thoughts and Reflections | 5 Steps to a Use-What-You-Have Transformation

Thinking through Micah and Betsey’s office revamp, I had lots of odds and ends thoughts, ideas, musings. I’m going to wander through them in no particular order in the hopes to encourage you to love your space more and take the leap to make it work for you.

You don’t need to spend money.

We approached the home-office-with-reading-nook dilemma with a budget of $0. It’s not that we couldn’t think of ways to spend money. Au contraire, I had LOTS of ideas to add more style and function (brighter overhead light, pendants over the work space, matching desk and credenza, curtains, rugs, etc. etc.). You could spend oodles of money updating a space, all in the name of function or style. However, Micah and Betsey revamped a space to make it more functional and displaying their loves and interests all by shopping their own home. Betsey is content with the space every time she walks by. Spending money on your space will not give you more joy or make you content with your space.

You don’t have to change the quirks.

Micah and Betsey did some painting when they first moved into the house. Surprise, surprise, the colors they chose didn’t turn out the way they envisioned. This room in particular. The accent wall is the deep shade of purple that was intended.

The other three walls? They are lilac. Lavender. Periwinkle. Heather. No two ways around it, they are purple.

What were they supposed to be? Grey. Oops. I totally understand how that happened because I’ve misidentified undertones myself (lighting and other colors in the room play a role too!). I’ve cried over mis-tinted paint myself. True Story. Ask my husband. In my defense, I was pregnant and hormones were raging.

We didn’t paint this room, but we did hang art on the wall that complemented the lilac. Is it everything Betsey envisioned? No, but it isn’t an eyesore. The colors are working together not fighting each other.

You do need to invest time.

Time planning. Time mulling over your issues with the space. Time contemplating solutions to those issues. Time dedicated to doing the work.

Time. Time. Time.

A well thought out space doesn’t happen overnight with little effort. All good things take work, even $0, use-what-you-have projects.

Before you start moving furniture, buying paint, knocking out walls, take some time to ask and answer a few questions:

  1. What is the primary (and maybe secondary) purpose of the space?
  2. What is prohibiting the space from being used to its fullest potential for this purpose?
  3. What do I need (furniture, lighting, space, filing cabinets, etc.) and do I currently own an item that could fulfill this need?
  4. How could I rearrange what I have to make this space more functional?
  5. Do I need to get rid of things in the room that don’t fit the purpose of the room?

Then spend some time creating a mock-up of potential floor plans either on graph paper or use a free floor planner website (I used floorplanner.com for this project.).

You do need a buddy.

Tackling projects are so much more fun with a friend. Grab your BFF, spouse, sister-with-irrational-love-of-organizing, or whoever and have them do it with you. You will have infinitely more fun and be more likely to finish the project with an extra set of hands.

A buddy will also add an objective opinion as you sift through the accumulated stuff in a room.

  • My “Most Improved” cheerleading trophy from eighth grade? Sweetie, those days are long gone. Donate to a worthy cause or toss it.
  • My half-read books that didn’t interest me? Honey, if they didn’t keep you interested the first time you tried to read it, they never will. Find another person who might enjoy it, donate it, or toss it.
  • Wedding gifts I’ve never used (I’m looking at you ceramic canisters, glass serving plate, and cracked cake stand!) It’s been 11 years, Emily. It’s time to let go. Let’s give someone else the opportunity to use that item. Donate the usable stuff, junk the broken.

You need someone to give you these honest opinions. It is so easy to get attached to all the stuff in our house, and yet, if we can only keep the stuff we love, we will find so much more peace and contentment in our homes.

Do re-think, re-purpose, re-use

Do you have a basket you like? Put the kid toys in them!

Unused coffee table? Use it to make a functional “L” desk! Extra end table? A perfect, sturdy spot to hold the scale for your home business! (Obviously very specific to Betsey and Micah’s office, but you get the idea. This can work for any area in your home!)

Want to implement new organization in your dresser or closet that needs small boxes? (Ideally like these or these) While the store-bought boxes, do look nice and tidy like in my dresser below.

Shoe boxes work too, and they don’t cost anything! In my closet, I’ve used a combination of store-bought and regular shoe boxes to organize my clothes.

Use Shoe Boxes to Organize Your Closet

Think outside the box! I love new things as much as the next person, but I the joy and satisfaction is just as great by using what you have (and your wallet will thank you!). Think of the pat on the back you can give yourself for finding an use for an item collecting dust (Gifts from your wedding!), organizing a closet in bad need of purging (ahem, linen closet, ahem), or actually using that lovely tray someone gave you (A perfect spot for all your coffee items)! I’m speaking to myself here with examples of my own home! Purchasing another “just right” item for a project introduces “more” into your home. The items collecting dust are still collecting dust. The overflowing closet is still overflowing and may even house this “just right” item too one day. Use what you have first. The solution to your issue is probably right under your nose!

So there you have it! A brain dump straight from me to you!

I left the office project so inspired to work on various areas of my home. I cleaned out my garage before I even unpacked the car from our trip. I was motivated. I am starting on other rooms in my house too. I’ll share when I have some finished.

What are you perplexed by in your home? What would you like to change if you could? Are you working on any of these $0 transformations?

Transform Your Home