Two Story Cottage

2015 Christmas Tour

Dear Friends,

The Christmas boxes are stacked in the garage and the house is finished.  I chose to step away and call it done despite more ideas, the desire to further tweak, and plenty of imperfection.  I’m thoroughly enjoying a festive house and I know the rest of the family is.  I love how warm and cozy things feel this time of year.


My camera battery was DOA this morning so I did my best with my ancient point and shoot. The clarity is lacking but I’m actually kind of glad it happened because I know I’m going into Christmas with a fully charged, ready to go camera.

It is only our second Christmas in this home so I was still in the mode of figuring out placement; however, I’m feeling much more settled this year.  Our tree is in the dining room and I don’t mind at all.  We can see it from outside which is nice and I’m not worrying about the kids crashing into it.


The family room is full of color and plenty of green.  Each year I get one new thing and this year it was the JOY letters from Ballard Designs.  As soon as I saw they were a Bring Home Ballard item, my decision was made.



Lacey and I had fun making the ornament garland on the mantel.   We put the ornaments on a string one by one and the garland was complete.  You can twist and turn them a bit but it is no different than stringing popcorn or beads.  I had a big 100+ box of ornaments that I bought last year at Target that gave us just enough.  I supplemented it with magnolia leaves, pinecones, and a couple of birds.

ball_ornament_garland colorful_garland ornament_garland

Our neighborhood common space is full of magnolias, so this year I used a lot of cuttings for our garlands and greenery.  Picture me sneaking around at night with my scissors and flashlight and you get the idea.

 dining_table_christmas  pine_magnolia_table



I decorated the kitchen a little more than usual.  Still no new backsplash, but check out my latest way to cover the fruit centerpiece.  Don’t you love that art piece by Salted Words?  It has really helped to change the overall feel.



Our advent trees are an important tradition.  The kids are at an age where they LOVE all of the daily Christmas things that we do.  Finding Ernie the Elf is at the top of the list of course.


This year I tried to hit most tabletops and vignette spots without it being too much.  I stuck to mostly bigger things and grouped as best as I could.  It is so easy to have so many little things and I am bothered by a lot of clutter.

birds_glass christmas_vignette foyer_christmas ornaments_brown

Not pictured -we broke tradition this year and bought a fake tree for the corner upstairs.  We will continue with our fresh tree downstairs but now the kids have a spot that is just for them.  They loaded up the tree with ornaments and it was nice to have less on our main tree. I let them have free reign with little expectation, but I find I’m enjoying it a lot more than I imagined.  The twinkling lights help so much on the dark mornings.

I’m gearing up for the next week of chaos.  We have a zillion things on the schedule with school, work, and parties before school gets out.  So far,  we haven’t been crazed but the last week before break always brings serious intensity.   After next week, we have almost a week until Christmas so it will be nice to recover a bit and enjoy the time leading up to the big day.

Are you finished decorating?  Or calling it done like I am?


Southern Christmas Inspiration

Dear Friends,

Well, it isn’t the holiday season until I’ve been to the Southern Christmas show.  Just before Thanksgiving, we had our annual girls’ outing to the biggest Christmas extravaganza around. We shopped until we dropped and by the time we left I was feeling geared up for the holiday. This was Lacey’s second year going and she was beyond excited.  She loves holidays more than anyone I know and spending time with her Aunt and Mimi is a bonus.


I took pictures of the decorator rooms and thought you’d enjoy a look.  It is amazing what these designers can do with a tiny cubicle of a space.  Kitchens, family rooms, fireplaces…check it out.








I’ve gotten most of my Christmas decor up but we won’t get our tree until this weekend.  Mr. C will probably put our lights out front as well.  Since we travel for Thanksgiving we can’t get it all done at once, but we should be set after this weekend.  I’d like time to enjoy it all, you know?  Next week, I’ll give you a holiday tour.

I hope you are enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas!



Christmas 2014

Dear Friends,

Christmas hoopla has receded and winter break is officially over.  We had a quiet but relaxing, family-filled two weeks.  It goes by in a blur and before you know it the dark-thirty alarm is blaring and lunches need packing.   The week before Christmas we were hit by a firestorm of illness (flu, stomach bug, rock on) but luckily everyone was stable by the big day.  This mom will be getting a flu shot from now on – luckily the kids were spared so maybe the vaccine is worth it.  I thought I was immune because I never seem to get it but that theory was weak unfortunately.

The positive of all of the sickness beforehand was the lack of chaos.  I was not running around doing stuff like a crazy person and yet Christmas still came.  Being forced to slow down is not fun but it provided a new perspective for sure.


It was so nice to spend more time with my niece Savannah.   We just don’t see her enough!   Auntie needs to squeeze those cheeks and the kids are always excited to shake toys in her face. We are an overwhelming bunch but she is learning to love us.   It is hard to believe she is six months already.  My sister finished her nursery this fall so I’m overdue for an update on sweet Savannah and her fun space.


Our annual Christmas brunch was a success.  Everyone fit in our dining room with zero room to spare but I’m glad to know we can host a full family affair despite the limited space.  Making a combined dining/living room was a risk but I dare say it worked out.

We did not travel at all this year which meant a lot of pajama time, especially since we had a rainy spell.  Mr. C gets cabin fever but I was fine with a toasty fire and slow days.

I hope your holiday was joy-filled and restful.  Time to get in gear for a New Year!






Wreaths From Garland

Dear Friends,

I struggled with wreaths for my new double front doors this year.  I was tempted by a few at HomeGoods, drooled over many in catalogs, and almost bought fresh boxwoods at Fresh Market.  The cost factor was a killer though.  The HomeGoods wreaths were a great bargain but weren’t exactly what I wanted and by the time you buy two you have still spent $50 on something that may not be forever.  I simply couldn’t do the catalog wreaths at $75 -100 a pop.  Maybe some day.  The boxwoods were gorgeous but $40-50 total for a throw-away.

I ended up with a lot of extra garland since we don’t have the giant staircase to decorate anymore.  I decided that maybe I could affix it to my grapevine wreaths from the fall.   I cut one long garland in half and I highly recommend wire cutters because scissors killed my hands and took forever.  It wasn’t easy and took some finagling but I used brown floral twine to wrap it around and keep it in place.




magnolia_wreath wreath_lantern

Simple, though, right?  Not perfect but you can’t tell from the street.

Garland is often less expensive than wreaths so I consider it a win.  In my case, these were free because I already had all of the supplies.  Instead of ribbon, I used socks for hanging.  I just tied them up like a bow.

It works.  I might even keep them for next year…

Merry, Merry,




Simple, Serene Christmas Tablescape

Dear Friends,

I enjoy creating a Christmas tablescape for our annual brunch.  Of course on Christmas day, there will be more people and a leaf in the table and all of the craziness but that is what the holidays are all about.  For now I can enjoy my little slice of nice when I pass by the dining room.  Sometimes in the chaotic season of programs, pageants, parades and parties you need a spot of peace and for some reason this space fills me with a nice, warm contentment.

I sneak away to the dining room for a snack or to read my book in a chair by the piano.  Nobody can find me there because it isn’t an obvious spot.  The sun shines in the windows and I bask in the room that is just how I like it.   Having a pretty tablescape to look at certainly doesn’t hurt.


I cut those branches off of our Christmas tree.  I love the smell!


The new banquette adds a dose of elegance I think.


The place cards are from the Rifle Paper Co banner that I bought for my sister’s baby shower.


That R is for Reid of course.
The ornaments at each place setting are nested in my grandmother’s crystal fruit cups.


The mix and match napkins are in mason jars.  I chose not to use the stemware this year.


I am still a fan of those pretty paper placemats.  Easy cleanup for the win.


I’m always digging out candlestick holders from our wedding a dozen years ago.


I’m still smitten with the china set I bought for Christmas a few years back.
The beaded garland was originally from Michael’s.


The runner is new.  A cheap Homegoods find!


I bought those little candle baskets a couple years ago and have found so many uses for them.


I’ve got my old Target Christmas trees on the piano.


 I stuffed a few big poinsettia stems in the big urn for an unusual mix.

I’m always tempted to run out and buy new things when decorating.  This year I intended to go on a Michael’s or Hobby Lobby run for some extras.  It turns out I had enough in my entertaining stash to make it work.   That isn’t always the case but more often than not, you have more stuff than you think. One of those valuable lessons you learn when moving.

It isn’t a perfect table.  It won’t be photographed for a magazine or win any design awards but it is a little labor of love.  A gathering spot where joy will surely reign.

Merry, merry-


Christmas in the City House

Dear Friends,

Christmas has come to the new house.  It has taken me longer than usual to decorate because it is always harder in a different home.  Some things go in the right place easily but others take longer to find their spot.  I’m calling it quits as of today.  We have a lot coming up in the next couple of weeks and I’d like to enjoy the house as is.

For the last week or so there have been boxes strewn about which reminds me too much of moving.


 I like having the extra garland from our last house.
We don’t have miles of stair rail like we did before.


The tree probably looks better now than it will with the eventual ornament overload.


Who can spot Ernie the elf?


The stockings were hung on the sideboard with care.
Our stocking hangers are a potential hazard so we wait until Christmas Eve to use them.


I went for a more retro look with this vignette.


Taking photos of mirrors is not my forte.


That wood garland is from Michael’s.  It has that nice vintage flair.


For the sake of honesty, that lovely pink label is covering up a ceiling fan.
It was showing in the mirror and dominating the picture.


I love when the light comes in the hall.  I’m thankful for a bright house.


I’ve never done much decorating in the kitchen so this was a first.


 I might have to keep that tray on the range hood.


That boxwood wreath was a gift to myself this year.  I’ve wanted one for so long!

I’ve got a dining room tour + tablescape coming up later this week.  I also want to show you my front porch and the outside lights Mr. C did.

Well, I guess I can’t put the Christmas boxes away if the tree is not decorated.  That is a slight oversight on my part.  I’ll blame it on Christmas brain.  Or the plumber that was 2 hours past his appointment window.  We got a new disposal for Christmas and guess what?  We need a new kitchen faucet.   Every, single house we have ever lived in has needed a new kitchen faucet.  I guess I should be thankful that I’m followed by a kitchen faucet curse rather than a roof curse or an appliance curse.

Merry, Merry!


P.S.  I’m joining a Christmas tour of homes with The Nester.  It has been forever since I’ve done a link-up!


Halloween Recap

Dear Friends,

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday.  It makes me feel grinchy, but I’ve just never enjoyed the chaos, the costumes, or even the candy.  I prefer my secret stash of sugar to the motherload the kids bring home.  There is also the inevitable arrival of meltdown central which is usually epic.  This year was different though.  I quietly dreaded it while trying to put on a good front. And then…

I had fun.

It was a good day.




I’m not sure if it is my kids getting older,  the lucky Friday positioning, or the new neighborhood that made this year more enjoyable.  Whatever the reason, I didn’t cringe and then at some point realized I was truly having a good time.


This Halloween was void of meltdowns and it was a smooth day.  There was silliness and a costume malfunction or two but overall I have to say I’m cured of my Halloween anxiety.  Not to say I won’t turn skeptical next October, but I’ve got hope for the years to come.




My parents stopped by to see the kids as well as Auntie Em, Andrew, and baby Savannah.  Of course, Uncle Andrew got some good pictures like the one above.  Savannah was a show stopper in her doughnut costume.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t too interested in wearing it for long but the pictures will last a lifetime.



And yes, Emily made the costume.  She is crafty like that.  After a doughnut baby shower, it really is fitting to have a doughnut costume for Halloween.  Perhaps there should be a doughnut first birthday party as well-  thankfully, she has a long time before that milestone.

I’m excited for the month of November and Thanksgiving.  Beyond that is too much to think about right now!


Chocolate Mint Bars

Dear Friends,

I rarely post recipes on here because I’m too harried when I cook.  I run around spilling things and tossing stuff together, usually with a whiny child on the floor and another doing homework. Well, the perfect opportunity arose and I thought I’d take a stab at it.

Lacey’s class has a parent get together this week and I’m in charge of the sweet treat.  I knew I wanted to make something relatively easy to eat, delicious, and aesthetically-pleasing. Honestly, I typically could care less about the looks of my food but this is one of those rare times when I’d like it to be better than barely presentable.


This is probably even fancy in my book.

Speaking of books, this recipe for chocolate mint bars came from a 30+ year old church cookbook.  My mom made these when I was younger and it was a family favorite.  Forget Pinterest – I’ve got the Presbyterians and their favorite eats.

This recipe can be made in steps.  My life is nothing but one big interruption so a recipe that can be divided and conquered at various intervals throughout the day is a total win.


1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
4 squares of bitter chocolate
4 eggs
2 c sugar
1 c flour
1 tsp vanilla

4 Tbsp butter
2 c powdered sugar
2 tsp milk (more if necessary)
few drops of mint flavoring and green food coloring

2 squares bittersweet chocolate
2 Tbsp butter

Grease and flour 15 x 11 jelly roll pan or 2 (9-inch) square pans.  Melt together butter and chocolate.  Blend together eggs and sugar and cooled chocolate mixture.  Add flour and vanilla. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Frosting: Beat together all ingredients until smooth; spread on chocolate bars and refrigerate until set.

Top: Melt together bitter chocolate and butter. Spread over frosting by dribbling on with a spoon.

Refrigerate. Cut into bars. Enjoy!



I don’t own a 15 by 11 jelly roll pan so I used an extra large Pyrex dish that is 10 by 15.  I think the idea is that you don’t want the brownie layer too thick so use a large pan or two so that it can spread out some.  Also, be conservative when using the mint.  It adds strong flavor quickly!  And that bittersweet chocolate is just about nasty by itself.  Don’t worry – it tastes delicious when all combined!  I failed to grease and flour my pan which meant I spent double the time cutting and safely removing the bars.  A plastic knife always helps but next time I will be more diligent.  Sigh.  That is what I get for trying to cut corners.


I hate to talk of holidays before Halloween even arrives, but you know this would make a darn good Christmas treat.  File that away for later next month when you have permission to think about Christmas.   You don’t have to worry about that now, okay?!



Fall Home Decor

Dear Friends,

Well, I did get that plastic bin down after all.  I had just a little fall decorating in mind but got caught up in the fun and let’s just say autumn has definitely arrived here in the city.  I didn’t spend much time on it and I didn’t buy a single new thing.  Honestly, I need to toss some old fall stuff but I tried not to wade too deep in faux pumpkin madness.  Little touches here and there and the next thing you know, it’s a cozy autumn home.


the foyer


the dining room


yes, there is a pumpkin hidden in there


family room shelf


family room shelf


family room shelf


hall table


breakfast space


with a leaf branch from a family walk over the weekend


sideboard vignette

Decorating for holidays in a new house is always an adventure.  This go around I kept the bin of stuff out for about a week and just haphazardly put things where I thought they might belong.I moved a couple of things around but didn’t overthink anything.  I find it easier to go slowly rather than try to do it all at once.

I used to dislike autumn in my home because it didn’t “match” but I’ve come around.  I actually like the bright colors but think the fall neutrals are pretty too.

Happy Fall!


P.S.  Stay tuned for a fall front door post later this week.

Easter Weekend

Dear Friends,

I think Easter might be my favorite holiday.  I like that it lacks the chaos and effort of Christmas.   Maybe that is just the sweet tea talking after 40 days of separation, but I’m still humming Easter hymns and basking in the glow of the weekend.

Saturday was actually a wash-out with hours of pouring rain but we busted out the board games and movies and cozied up for some family time.  Oh, and had at least a dozen indoor egg hunts.  I’m afraid I’m going to be finding plastic eggs for years to come.

photo 1

Easter Sunday was filled with church, extended family, music, brunch, and an afternoon nap. We also squeezed in the annual outdoor community egg hunt that had been postponed due to weather.  You can always count on crying children (not mine this time), confusion and melted chocolate.  No egg hunt is complete without a petting zoo and pony ride.



Our outfits sort-of coordinated.  I sort-of planned it.

Basically, I matched the kids outfits and then shopped our closet so that we would at least blend.

photo 2

We are all squinting because we have seen so little of the sun this year that our little mole eyes are shocked and dilated.   We are going to need a transfusion of Vitamin D or a week in paradise to recover our faculties.

I’ve enjoyed family time and spring break#2 but I’m ready for a few regular weeks of school.  Mr. Reid was in and out of the doctor’s office last week with allergy issues.   This pollen season has caused him to wheeze so we are chained to the nebulizer for the foreseeable future.   He likes to keep us on our toes for sure.

Anyone have any magic allergy solutions?

I hope you had a joyful Easter!




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