Dining Table Centerpiece

Help! What are your thoughts on an everyday centerpiece for a dining table?


Unlike a lot of homes, we do not have an eat-in kitchen, so when it is too cold or rainy to eat on our covered porch, we eat most of our meals at our table in the dining room. Because of this and the fact that we are not fancy people, our dining room isn't very formal. Depending on the season or when the mood strikes, I change out our placements every few months. Right now, we're using these round water hyacinth placemats, which I love because they are so classic, versatile, and easy to dress up or down.

Especially during this time of year, I struggle with whether to have a centerpiece and if so, what I should use. I think the table looks bare without a little something in the middle. Starting in September, I normally have pretty bowl of fresh apples from the farmers' market, which is simple and practical, and through the holidays, I tend to rotate through several festive centerpieces. Otherwise, I normally use a vase of fresh flowers. However, because of the scale of the table and room, I tend to gravitate towards more substantial arrangements, which can get a little expensive. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject - Do dining room tables need a centerpiece for everyday meals? Are fake floral arrangements tacky? Do you have any suggestions for centerpieces that are not flowers?


Kitchen Renovation

In January and February, we tackled our kitchen makeover. While the kitchen was in decent shape and functional, we knew that we wanted to make some changes to it when we moved in. Doing a complete gut job was out of the budget, so here's what we decided to do:

  1. Paint cabinets (professional spray paint)
  2. Replace tile backsplash
  3. Replace countertops
  4. Replace sink
  5. Replace hardware
  6. Replace lighting over the island and add undermount kitchen lights
  7. Paint kitchen walls

I wrote more about the process of the renovation while we were in the thick of it here, so I'll just share the before and after photos today. From start to finish, the renovation took about 7-8 weeks, but the space was unusable for only about two weeks. While we didn't do a full renovation, I think the kitchen and first floor living spaces were completely transformed. Our downstairs has great natural light, and the renovated kitchen makes it even brighter. 





The biggest design decision was whether to go with granite or marble counters, and we love the Carrara marble in our master bath. However, it can be difficult to maintain and keep clean, and since I tend to make a mess when I cook and kids will be in the picture soon, we ultimately decided on granite. We selected a granite called White Ice, and we found it locally at Stone Gallery. If you're in Central Kentucky, I highly recommend Stone Gallery. We looked several places and have worked with others in the past, and they were easy to work with and had competitive pricing.

My goal for the tile was to not clash with the off-white cabinets, pick up a color in the granite, and still keep the kitchen light and airy. We settled on this tile. I went to several tile shops in the area, and barring super expensive tile that was handmade in Spain, it was surprisingly difficult to find a tile this color. It only came in the 8 x 4 inch size, and I was a little worried it would be too big for a subway tile. However, now that it is in the space, I don't think the size is too overpowering.

We added under cabinet lights, and some cheap ones from the hardware store did the trick. To replace the modern pendant light fixtures over the island, we went with these lantern style fixtures in the antique silver leaf. I found them at Joss & Main, Birch Lane, and Wayfair, and they changed prices at each site frequently. If you are interested in ordering a light fixture from any of these sites, be sure to check them all for the lowest price before placing your order. 

We kept our Dash and Ablert runner between the sink and island. We've had this rug for several years. If it gets dirty, I just throw it in the washing machine, and it looks as good as new. While that may not be the manufacturer's official care instructions, I've never had any issues with it tearing up in the washing machine or dryer.

Our breakfast bar is about standard table height, and because of a window, we can't make it higher. When we moved in, we just used a couple of extra chairs from our dining room table since we knew we'd eventually want something to match the space after we finished the renovations. We went with the Cadence Chair in rustic grey. I like that the style of these chairs doesn't look out of place at a breakfast bar, and they were available in standard chair height.

If you are local and interested in who we used for painting, tiling, etc., I'm happy to share our sources. We had a good experience with everyone we used for the project.


Pregnancy Essentials

Even though it doesn't feel like it some days, I know I won't be pregnant forever, so I've tried to limit purchasing too many pregnancy or maternity items. My poor co-workers see me in the same rotation of outfits each week, but I just hate to spend a lot of money on clothes that I will only wear for a few months. That being said, there are a few purchases that have been totally worth it!

Me doing Prenatal yoga in the third Trimester (Photo by  Tim Chow )

Me doing Prenatal yoga in the third Trimester (Photo by Tim Chow)

  1. Maternity Pajamas - Since most of my pajamas are loose, I naively thought I could wear my normal pajamas throughout my pregnancy. Wrong! I splurged on some Lake maternity and nursing PJs and wear them every.single.night. I have some of these in non-maternity sizes, and they were my favorite pajamas before I got pregnant too. Considering how uncomfortable I feel most of the time, they were worth every penny.
  2. Sulfur Soap - At the start of the second trimester, I started feeling like myself again, but I developed the worst hormonal acne. I tried every pregnancy-safe treatment, and after nothing worked, my doctor suggested a nighttime regimen with sulfur soap. I use an Olay Clarisonic-knockoff brush to wash my face with the soap, rinse, and then apply more sulfur soap and leave it on for about 10 minutes like a mask before I rinse it again. While my acne hasn't cleared up 100%, it has majorly improved.
  3. Prenatal Yoga - I've been going to prenatal yoga at least once a week since about 20 weeks. It is so nice to be in a small group with other pregnant ladies, so we can chat about our experiences. It has helped me feel better physically and mentally, and it has reduced my back pain. I've loved going to Babymoon in Lexington for prenatal yoga.
  4. Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter - I use this every morning and night, and it feels really soothing. I've noticed extra dry patches on my arms and legs since becoming pregnant, and I use this on those areas too since it thicker than my normal lotion.
  5. Acupuncture - For the past couple of years, I've seen an acupuncturist for various reasons. During pregnancy, she has been able to help with general discomfort, skincare, and sleeping issues. Maybe it's a placebo effect, but in my experience, acupuncture really works. If you're local to Lexington and interested, here is where I go. If I go past my due date, I'm planning to give her a call, so she can hit all of my induction points. I could go on an on about acupuncture, but I'll spare you.

Mamas, what were your pregnancy essentials?


Cumberland Island Babymoon

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I think the best decision we've made during this pregnancy was the decision to take a babymoon. With a lot of family commitments and hectic spring work schedules, we had a window of a few days in mid-February to take a short trip. With my dad being really sick right now and Jay having a couple of major trials during March and April, I felt a little guilty about planning this trip. However, it was worth it to step away from our normal routine (which hasn't been so normal recently) for a few days and spend some uninterrupted time together. 

We had a few items on our wish list for the trip - 

  1. Somewhere warm-ish
  2. Short travel time and minimal or no time change
  3. Relaxing location but options for outdoor activities
  4. Near the ocean

We settled on Cumberland Island, Georgia, and it was the PERFECT choice for our babymoon!

We lucked out that the temperatures were about 10 degrees warmer than the average for February, so while it wasn't hot, it got into the 70s every day we were there. We were outside about 75% of the time, and it felt great outside.

Cumberland Island Beach.JPG

The Jacksonville Airport is only about an hour away from the ferry that leaves from Fernandina Beach to runs to Cumberland Island, so we were able to easily fly from Lexington and rent a cheap rental car to drive to the ferry. The cost of a rental car was about the same as it would be to take an Uber each way, and it was nice to have the flexibility of driving ourselves and making a couple of stops on our way there and back.

Our last few vacations have been in more mountainous areas and very active (as in we averaged about 10 miles of hiking each day). While we didn't want to go just lay by the beach for a few days, we wanted a location where we had the option to lounge around but also be moderately active. Neither of us is good at sitting still for long periods of time. 

This is the "Highway" on the island. There are very few cars on the island, but you can see lots of bike tracks.

This is the "Highway" on the island. There are very few cars on the island, but you can see lots of bike tracks.


Cumberland Island checked all of the boxes on our wishlist. It is a National Seashore and is only accessible by a ferry. There are several camping options on the island, but there is only one hotel - the Greyfield Inn. Camping is definitely not my forte, so we opted for the Greyfield Inn. It is an all-inclusive inn (there are no other restaurants on the island). The accommodations were timeless, and the staff's attention to detail was impeccable. There are no TVs or wifi, and that alone allowed us to completely disconnect. It was elegant without being stuffy.

We spent three full days on the island, but we could have easily stayed for a fourth day and still found plenty to do. Since it is secluded and has limited activities, three days was a good amount of time to disconnect from reality, explore everything we wanted to see, and feel recharged upon leaving.

The Dungeness Ruins are a short 3-mile bike ride from the inn.

The Dungeness Ruins are a short 3-mile bike ride from the inn.

The inn offers various cultural and naturalist tours of the island, and we took a couple of those. We also rode bikes to different sites on the island. Some of the more notable sites within biking distance to the inn are the Plum Orchard Mansion and the Dungeness Ruins. On our bike rides, we saw tons of wildlife - wild pigs, horses, armadillos, alligators, eagles, and deer. We filled in our remaining time with hikes, more bike rides, kayak trips, walks on the beach, and a few hours of reading on the beach or front porch.

We also ate - a lot! The meals were not what I expected of an all-inclusive. The food was very fresh with mostly sustainable and organic ingredients, and the menus were varied each day. Dinner in particular was an experience since guests share communal tables and are served an appetizer, entree, and dessert. It is book-ended by happy hour hors d'oeuvres and post-dinner coffee and tea. The staff was very accommodating of any dietary restrictions or preferences. One of our favorite dining experiences was the Saturday evening oyster roast where we shucked fresh oysters right off of the grill, and the staff even made sure there were plenty of well-done ones, so I could eat them too. 

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I'm already thinking about the next time we can return!


Favorite Pregnancy Books

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn't really know what to do with myself. As someone who likes to be prepared and avoid procrastination, the first few weeks of pregnancy are tough. There are so many risks during the first couple of months, and I didn't want to get ahead of myself until I was fairly confident that I would have a healthy pregnancy. I used the time to read up on the months ahead. These were the books I found most helpful.

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  1. Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy - This book was both informative and humorous (as in laugh out loud funny). I read this book within the first week of having a positive pregnancy test. It was the perfect first read because it gets into the nitty-gritty, non-medical aspects of pregnancy but is lighthearted enough to not completely freak out a fragile, newly pregnant mama. When I started cracking up in laughter at part of the book and then immediately started sobbing, it confirmed my pregnancy test. The tears lasted for a solid 10 minutes, and I was grateful nobody was home except for the dog, who didn’t seem concerned about the outburst.

  2. What to Expect When You're Expecting - This is the most comprehensive guide to explaining symptoms and the baby's development on my list, and it breaks down pregnancy month by month. There are also “For Dad” tips sprinkled throughout, and I conveniently leave those pages open for Jay to see, especially ones like “be patient when your partner is cranky” and “help out with more household chores.” While I've skimmed the entire book, I'm reading each chapter month by month because there are a LOT of details. I wish they would redesign the cover to something a little less loud, but you know what they say about judging a book by its cover.

  3. Bringing up Bebe - Written by Pamela Druckerman, an American journalist, who delivers and raises three children in Paris, this book provided a perspective into French parenting. It explains the French healthcare and childcare systems, but it also gives insight into how French parenting techniques lead to kids sleeping through the night, having adventurous tastes, and directing themselves in play. There are definitely some techniques I plan to use, and it was interesting to think about the cultural and behavioral differences between American and French families. 

  4. Expecting Better - Being pregnant for the first time, I wasn't sure what pregnancy "rules" I needed to follow. I'd heard that I should avoid cheese and lunch meat, give up my morning cup of coffee, and avoid taking medicine. Luckily my doctor is pretty laid back and gave me a fairly short list of off-limit items and recommendations. However, I didn't want to do anything that might cause harm. This book is written by an economist who digs deep into conventional pregnancy wisdom and uses evidence-based research to break down the real risks of "off limit" items and different medical tests and practices. While it wasn't the most fun book to read, it did put me at ease. Essentially, you can continue drinking your morning coffee, but don't smoke or do drugs.

Let's be honest, you can read hundreds of pregnancy and child-rearing books, and learn something new with each one. There were a couple more books that I read and still more that were recommended to me, but I honestly got burnt out on reading pregnancy books. After reading these and talking with my doctor, my mom, and girlfriends, I feel like I have a good handle on what's to come. I do have a two more books that I plan to read in my third trimester to prepare for the first few months of motherhood. These come highly recommended by some of my girlfriends. 

On Becoming Baby Wise

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

Do you have any pregnancy or parenting books that are must-reads?