We Bought a Farmhouse

stories of renovation, home decor inspiration & sprinkles of country life

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Finding The Good in an Exceptionally Bad Year (& 2021 Plans - Sort Of)

I try really hard to live my life with the philosophy that every day is a gift. Tomorrow is never promised, and life is short are overused cliches, but it doesn’t make them any less true. Like most people, with each year we grow older, we start to realize the things we haven’t yet done, and life becomes a race against time. And of course, 2020 was going to be my year for accomplishing a few big goals, which ultimately ended in disappointment.

Many of us feel stuck because we don’t know how long this will last, when we can safely see family again, start to travel, etc. Everything is unknown, and even with the arrival of the vaccine, we can’t plan, we can’t move forward, we've been told that things will start to get worse before they getter (again), and that’s a weird and scary feeling. 

This year, compounded with feelings of being stuck and not reaching our goals, we were also faced with even bigger issues of fighting for human rights, and public health under attack/made into a political issue when hundreds of thousands of lives were at stake. That, alone, affected my mental health in a very bad way, and I know I’m not the only one.

Suffice to say, this year has been draining. And it makes it hard to see anything but grief, sadness and frustration.

Master Bedroom Christmas Update

For about a year, I’ve been contemplating updating our master bedroom a bit. This was the first room in our house that we completely redid, which included installing a floor (because there was only subfloor when we moved in), updating the ceiling, painting the walls and installing two new windows after covering up a patio door that led out to, well, a big fall down one story and into our deck. You can read all about that here and here. My design taste has shifted a bit since we did this room about five years ago, and I was ready to bring it up to speed with the rest of our house. Before the weather got really cold, I decided I wanted to knock this project out, and we just finished the last few updates in time for the Christmas season kick-off. So, I just decided to go right into a Christmas update, too.

Gift Guide 2020: Shop Small & Local | Upstate NY and New England Edition

It's important to shop small every year, but this year in particular, small business are struggling more than ever in the midst of the pandemic. There are so many shops and boutiques that are based right here in Upstate NY or New England that I love to support and shop from regularly. It's been a few years since I've posted a local gift guide because I tend to repeat a lot of the same things every year, but I thought now was a great year to highlight them once again. Some are old favorites, some are new discoveries, and some are shops that catch my eye every time I come across them, and have had them on my wishlist for years. I hope this inspires you to look around at your local business this year before clicking that "Add To Cart" button on Amazon.

1. Sugarfoot Upstate Sweatshirt. I received this as a gift from my mom one year for my birthday, and it's one of my favorite sweatshirts I own. I wear it all the time, and it's incredibly high-quality, comfy and cozy. I own a M, and it's a slightly oversized fit. The designer also has sweatshirts dedicated to other towns in Upstate NY, so if you're shopping for someone that lives in this area, or just loves Upstate, this is a great site to browse through. If you live in the Finger Lakes region, Skaneateles 300 carries a selection of these in their store. 

2. Hamilton & Adams Upstate & Chill Collection. Another Upstate-themed boutique! They have a shop right in Kingston, but I mostly shop from them online. They've trademarked their "Upstate & Chill" slogan, which I love so much, and they offer it in a few designs for t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and mugs. But, their website has a lot more to offer as well, including a nicely-curated collection of brands, some of which are also based in the Northeast. Definitely worth a visit to their store if you're local, or at least, pop on over to their site to look around.

3. KJP McCallister Sweater. If you're on Instagram and haven't come across images from the Rhode Island-based KJP, I'd be shocked. Photos from the husband and wife duo have been re-grammed by top accounts on the platform, and their images from their New England/Americana lifestyle are unforgettable in the best possible way. They have their own brand of clothing and accessories, and every year, I contemplate buying the McCallister sweater for Christmas. I haven't pulled the trigger just yet, but I will one day because Josh and I are huge fans of Home Alone. Reviews online speak of the high-quality of their merchandise, and I believe most everything is made right in New England. 

4. PCB Home Customized Pillows. I originally found this shop on Etsy, and I was delighted to see that they were based in NJ. They've since developed their own website with a beautiful display of farmhouse and shabby chic-inspired textiles and home goods. I especially love their customization options. I ordered a pillow from them and customized my font and text, and it came out beautifully. They offer custom options for tea towels and some other items as well. For something completely customized, their prices are very fair, and their website design system makes it so easy to do.

5. S. Lynch Knitwear Dorset Hat. I bought this a month or two ago as a little gift to myself after having it on my Etsy wishlist for a few years. And I'm so in love with it. Named after a town in VT we love to visit, the little pine tree design couldn't be more perfect for winter. The quality is spectacular and it feels like something I bought in a high-end boutique. If you know someone who would wear this little knit hat well, I can't recommend it enough as the perfect gift. And, if you're local to Kennebunkport, Day Trip Society carries a small selection of her knits for instant gratification.

6. Organic Bath Co. Drenched Body Butter. I feel like a broken record with this one because I've been using it and recommending it for years, but it's still a favorite. I love all of Organic Bath Co.'s products, but this one especially is always the one I recommend you start with. It would be a great addition to a little "cozy-themed" gift basket with some slippers or a bottle of wine (because let's face it, we'll be doing a lot of staying in this winter in particular). This is also a female, black-owned, New England-based company, and the owner, Gianne, is a delight to follow on social media. And good news, they just started their Black Friday weekend sale, which is 25% off the entire website. They only do this once a year, so now is the time to stock up. 

7. Local Flower Farmer CSA. We all know the importance of farmers, and flower farmers are no exception. This year, I was so happy to have found a flower farmer close to me, and started to buy bouquets of local flowers from her as much as I could. Many flower farmers offer CSA's, which would be a great gift to give someone who loves flowers because they would have a whole season of bouquets to look forward to. Local flower farmers are great because often, the bouquets offer different blooms than you're used to seeing in your local chain grocery store. Many of those stores will source their flowers from outside the country, and you'll see one too many gerbera daisy or tea rose in, let's face it, kind of generic bouquets. Local farmers grow and harvest so many different kinds of blooms that'll offer a much more unique bouquet for you to admire on your table.

8. Purple Rose Home. I featured one of the knit blankets offered on their site, but I wanted to include pretty much everything. Based in MA, this shop has a great online site, and also a brick and mortar store in Northborough. Owned by a mother and daughter team, they have a really nicely curated selection of farmhouse-inspired home decor pieces. They also have a strong/interactive presence on Instagram where they'll showcase their products more to show you different angles of the items, and are great at answering questions. I haven't yet been to their store, and I always mean to stop on our way home from the Cape, but I can't wait until I get to go someday. For now, their online shop is perfect for someone who loves little Farmhouse touches in their home.

9. Follain. I've been shopping at the Boston-based Follain shops for years, and they've since expanded into other other states. Their Beacon Hill shop is my favorite place to go in all of Boston, and it's always such a treat to pop in and browse. But, luckily for everyone not local to Boston, they have an awesome website. They specialize in green skincare, cosmetics and bath/body care, and I don't think I have ever bought something here that I didn't like. They now also have their own Follain-branded line of products, and I've purchased a few and have loved them (their eye cream is awesome, by the way, if you're looking for one - and I'm not an eye cream kind of person). Bonus, they also carry a small selection of Organic Bath Co. products if you want to kill two birds with one stone.

10. Farmhouse Pottery. I usually always have something from Farmhouse Pottery on my Christmas list and eventually, I hope all my bakers and mixing bowls are from them. These pieces are heirloom-quality, and handmade right in VT. The aesthetic appeals to me because everything is clean and simple (which is how I want our kitchen to be) and they just have some absolutely gorgeous pieces. I especially love the batter bowl (pictured), and this year, have their oversized soup mugs on my list. If these pieces would work for someone on your list, I can't recommend them enough. They also offer workshop sessions, where you can have your turn at one of their wheels in their VT studio, which Josh got me one year for Christmas, and it was one of my favorite gifts from him. In light of COVID, I doubt these sessions are currently be offered, but something to keep in mind once the world is back to normal.


Photography sessions. I plan to do a whole post soon about why working with local photographers during travel or any other time that's not a special occasion is so empowering and important. But for now, let's talk about how this could be a great gift idea for someone (or an entire family). Often, people forget local artists when it comes to shopping small, and photographers this year especially are struggling with all their cancelled weddings. I'm a firm believer in documenting your life and not needing a reason to celebrate who you are as a person or family at any given moment. Having professional and high-quality photos done with your family, group of friends, extended family, pets, your travels, or just you in your favorite place, is not something most people will buy for themselves. Giving the gift of a family session, or any kind of session, is a way to support your local artists. I have so much more to say on this, so stay tuned sometime next year for why this is so important to me. 

Whenever in doubt, gift cards to local restaurants or breweries/distilleries are a great option. For the people on our list who have everything, Josh and I often rely on this option because, let's be honest, who doesn't love a free meal on someone else's dime? It's universal to love food, and if you know of someone's favorite local restaurant, a gift card to cover the cost of a dinner is such a great gift. Josh and I actually love receiving these because we love our date nights, even if they're inside our living room these days. I know some of our local restaurants have already been impacted by the pandemic, so anything we can do to keep them going strong is a great step in the right direction. Local breweries and distilleries are also great places to buy gift cards, or growlers and such, for someone who has everything and doesn't ever want anything. I mean, we're all kind of drinking more these day, amiright? :) And also, they'll continue to stay essential if we all get locked down again, so you know they'll definitely get used.

Local bookstores are always fighting with Amazon to stay afloat, so if you have a bookstore in your town, or nearby, get your books from them. Josh and I love shopping at bookstores when we travel and supporting the local shops. Every trip we take, we'll pop into the bookstore, buy something, and then write inside the cover the month/year and the town we got it, so we preserve the memory of that day and trip. You can do the same for Christmas each year. In fact, we always try to gift each other books for Christmas every year as well.

What are your favorite local shops you want people to support this year? Let me know in the comments!

Our Farmhouse Living Room/TV Room Reveal

Oh man, you guys, just saying this makes me so happy: Our TV room is officially 100% done.

This was a tough one, and we really weren't expecting that for whatever reason. We always know to anticipate set backs, of course, and usually tack on an extra 3 months of time to any deadline we set for ourselves, but we seemed to have a lot more unexpected things pop up than normal in this room. Thankfully, nothing major went wrong, and the last few months, we hammered quite a bit out and were really cruising along, which helped a lot. But somewhere in the middle, we ran into a lot of delays. Our fireplace was probably the biggest issue, and installing the french doors was also a lot more time-consuming than we thought. But, it's done now, and because of all that, we're even more proud and appreciative of the project, and really thankful that everything turned out exactly how we wanted it.

Our Farmhouse Pantry Renovation: Before & After

Oh, hi. Remember us? It's been a minute since we last popped on for an update. We've been hard at work on the house, but we had one teeny little project that has kind of held us up for months. I'm happy to say, it's finally done!

So friends, this was the little project that could. We started to renovate our kitchen pantry right after we finished our master bathroom in September because we thought it would be a nice, easy-breezy room we could get done in a couple of months. We thought it was more than realistic to have it done by Thanksgiving last year, and we were so excited at the possibility of having it complete right before baking season began. Oh, we'll just rip all the walls down in a day, take a week or so to install new drywall and electrical, and in a little over a month we should have this thing done in time for Thanksgiving! It's funny to think how wrong we were! 

The biggest delay was actually beyond our control. The sawmill we used to have all our wood pieces cut for our custom shelving just ran into delay after delay after delay. We called in our order about a month before Thanksgiving, they said it would all be ready in a week or so, and we got it on March 31st of the following year. It was crazy, and unfortunately, we're just limited on places in our area where we can order custom wood pieces. On top of that, we ran into a lot of design issues because of the slanted ceiling, and our attempt to squeeze way too many things in here. But, in the end, we ended up getting almost everything we wanted for our pantry, and it's finally done. About six months late, but it's done.

This Year's Big Project: Plans For Our Living Room Spaces

It's the New Year, which means it's time for another huge house project. We changed our minds so many times on what we wanted to tackle next. Now that the two bathrooms and the one guest room are done, which were always our biggest priorities, everything else seemed to have the same sense of urgency. In October, we were so certain we were going to tackle our remaining two bedrooms next, one of which serves as Josh's home office. But while arranging our downstairs living spaces this past Christmas to prep them for our trees, it hit me that it was time to start renovating these spaces so that we could get them exactly how we wanted for the next  holiday season. Josh agreed because we spend most of our time downstairs in our living room, and we had kinda, sorta started them already, but never finished.

Allow me to explain.

Basically, we have two living rooms, and we spend most of our time in the one that overlooks our backyard. Here's a little (also, horrible) diagram on the layout:

Top 10 (And A Half) Moments From 2018

While the end of the New Year doesn't always spark renewed motivation for me to set goals or revamp my life in anyway, it's hard to not reminisce about our accomplishments, favorite little everyday moments and adventures taken. Every year we spend in this house, we think back a lot more during this time of the year because we usually take some time to do a whole lot of nothing, and look back on the projects we've finished. This also got me thinking about all the little moments that had huge impacts, how lucky we are that we've gotten to travel more as of late, and how great life really is - every single day. Looking back on 2018, I put together a list of my top 10 memories; well, more like 10 and a half, which I'll explain later. I always try to find something good in every day, even the very worst of days, so it goes without saying that coming home to Josh and the doggies every day after work is always a favorite memory. But these are definitely the rest of the standouts from the past year.