Staving Artist, a Favorite Local Business + a giveaway

This post was made possible thanks to the generosity of Staving Artist, a local, family owned business that specializes in woodworking with reclaimed products. Photos are by LYNDSI Photography.

Our love of the Staving Artist started with a wedding gift. Formed from the metal that once wrapped around a wine barrel, were the letters Esh, our last name. It was thoughtful and unique, a piece that quickly became a favorite decor item of mine. I asked the giver about the gift; she said a friend of hers custom made it.

About a year later at a local arts festival, as Herm and I were strolling along, we saw a booth with items all made from the wood of old wine barrels, and similar to our sign, there were other things made from metal wine barrel hoops as well. One that stood out to me was the distinctive 'Y' shape of Keuka Lake, the lake we can see from our deck. 

We stopped to chat with the man running the stand, and found out, yes, he was the one who made our sign. The 'Y' made its way home with us -- it's a shape locals know well, and one out-of-town-ers think is simply my take on abstract art. 

Herm found out Dan, the man who is the artist behind the pieces we have, had a Facebook page. He followed along there, and for several years, around Christmastime, would contact Dan in order to purchase a few gifts, mostly small tables made from reclaimed barrels, for people he'd done business with during the year. One of those tables, though, managed to escape the gifting process, and now resides with us. Always a conversation piece because of how unique it is.

Dan, and his fiance, Rachel, opened a storefront along Main Street in Penn Yan. While they no longer make custom names from the metal hoops like the one we were gifted on our wedding day, their product line has exploded, ranging from bottle openers and serving trays to bar stools (I wouldn't hate to have two of these for our deck. Herm, are you reading this?) and wine racks.

If you'd like something customized, the staves are a great option. We've got one that reads 'Esh Estate'. Our place was pretty much a dump when we purchased it, but Herm always referred to it as our estate, making it sound more regal than it is. Slowly, with a lot of love and a bit of hard work (or maybe a lot of hard work and a bit of love?) our place is turning into that estate we've been dreaming about.

With an Anthropologie vibe to it, every time I go in their small shop, I leave feeling inspired. (And wishing for more.) 

Recently I've gotten to know Rachel as a friend. So when she approached me about possibly collaborating on a project, immediately I knew my answer was 100%, YES! I love Staving Artist, the ten plus items I have from their shop is proof. And I'm guessing that you might like them too.

Rachel brought a whole bunch of their products over to my house, and for the better part of a day, she and I, along with our friend Lyndsi of LYNDSI Photography, styled the products to photograph for their website. It was such fun, not to mention creatively invigorating as well.

As part of the collaboration, Staving Artist generously offered one of their 1/2 Barrel Head Demi Lune Tables for a giveaway on my Instagram account. I don't want you to miss out on a chance to win! So make sure you take a few minutes to enter. The steps are simple, and everything you need to know, you'll find here

In the mean time, you can learn more about Staving Artist and see what they have to offer on their website. Also, be sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook! If you're ever in the Finger Lakes region, visit the shop at 109 Main Street, Penn Yan, NY. You won't regret it!


Running Naked

Photo obviously NOT from today.

I was stepping out of the shower this afternoon, hair dripping wet, and the house entirely too quiet, when I heard my son yell, "Mom, I got the mail for you!" before slamming the front door and heading back, full tilt, into the afternoon drizzle.

In a year or two, words like that, I suspect, will fill me with gratitude and pride. Today it wasn't pride that I felt; it was sudden panic and dread.

I am twenty-seven weeks pregnant. In my current state, energy seems to come and go. When I feel high from it, I seize the opportunity, bulling my way through to-do lists. Because more often than not, I don't feel that high, and simply keeping everyone fed and clothed is a feat worthy of reward. 

Clean bedrooms
Sweep + mop floors
Wash windows

My to-do list was fairly simple and straightforward. Once I got started though, I caught a gust of fortitude, determined to spring clean both bedrooms before the mornings end. I washed down the walls and trim, scrubbed window panes, mopped underneath the beds, shook out rugs.  Snowballing my way through that list, crossing off even more than I had originally added. By lunchtime I had only to sweep and mop the floors in our main living area, then I was going to call it a day -- fully planning to prop my feet after putting both kids down for naps. They'd sleep for hours, I just knew it.

You would think I would know by now that sleeping for hours, especially when I really want them to, is never the case. 

Minutes before Brooklyn finally settled, Carson made his escape. He has learned that if he is neither seen nor heard during Brooklyn's nap time, he isn't forced into a quiet time. He had donned boots and a coat and was out in the rainy weather, tousling his dogs.

In the midst of mopping the last section of floor, he came in, eager to help. Though I wasn't so eager for help, I begrudgingly handed him the mop. How will I ever get him to help with things later on in life, if I don't let him help out now? 

Once the floor was dry, I put all the furniture back in place and decided to run the vacuum over the living room rug one final time. That was my first mistake. Blurry eyed and hair a mess, Brooklyn traipsed out of her room, obviously not ready to be awake, though awake nonetheless. It was entirely my fault.

Sighing, I carried Brooklyn over to the dining room table, where I hoped she'd readily join Carson and his array of play-dough, colors muddled from being mixed. So much for my quiet, peaceful, prop-your-feet sort of afternoon.

The water in the kettle was near boiling. Even if my feet weren't going to be propped, I was still fully intending to enjoy an iced coffee, the reward of my labor. It wasn't going to be just any iced coffee. It was going to have Kahlua in it. (The alcohol content was hardly noticeable, I promise. But please, don't go telling my midwife.) This was maybe my second mistake. My mom had given this Kahlua to me well before Christmas. I'm not sure if I used it more than a time or two since. I poured a small amount into my cup, before placing the bottle back into the fridge. I don't know exactly what happened next. All I know is the bottle broke, sticky liquid pouring from the fridge door, down onto the freshly mopped floor. I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. While I was cleaning up that mess, one of my two kids dumped a glass of milk, simultaneously spilling off the bar stool himself. Nobody was hurt, though by now I was beginning to feel ruffled. 

I slurped my coffee while, yet again, mopping the floor. Nothing savored. Exhausted, this weary mom headed for the shower. By now both kids were playing together back in their bedroom, so obviously I sneaked away, unannounced.  

This was my third and most drastic mistake.

Now it's back to where this story began. I turned off the shower water, and heard my four year old yelling that he brought in the mail. 

We live in the country, and our driveway is, I'm guessing, 600 feet long. This meant that he went all the way out to the road to retrieve the mail, and where ever he goes, his sister is sure to follow.

So it was, like I said, with sudden panic and dread, that I hurriedly wrapped my wet body in a towel, its length hardly covering my swollen middle, and rushed toward the door. On the entryway bench sat a few pieces of mail, and with it, a snail. 

I shoved open the front door, and looked left... there, six hundred feet, though it might as well have been six hundred miles, away was my little Brooklyn. On the side of the road. By herself. 

I screamed. It was all I could do, before taking off in a record breaking sprint, toward that child who, unbeknownst to her, was facing sudden death. I did have the wherewithal to grab a winter coat before racing out the door. If I lost my towel along the way, at least the upper half of my naked body would be somewhat covered. 

Brooklyn heard the scream and took my panic for play. A game of tag? She bolted for the middle of the road, laughing as she ran. 

Barefoot, nearly naked and heaving for breath, I grabbed her arm and, not so gently, drug her to safety. Moments later an SUV went by.

Carson had caught up to me now, and as we headed back in the lane -- that walk of naked shame where I realized what a sight I must be -- I painted the worst possible scenarios in their young minds. Bloody mental images of child-pancakes, smashed onto the road by a speeding car. And I told them of the horrors that would befall their young rear-ends should they ever wander to the road alone again and make it back alive.

I didn't go alone, Carson said, Brooklyn was with me. And besides, why are you barefoot? 


(If you enjoyed this story which is, unfortunately, completely true, perhaps you'd like this one as well.)


Three Reasons We Choose to Make Vacation a Priority

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Cascais, Portugal

San Francisco, California

Sintra, Portugal

Paris, France

Rome, Italy

Our love story began the very weekend I met Herm for the first time. It wasn't love at first sight, but I remember in the midst of conversation, as we sat near one another at the wedding reception of a mutual friend, a thought popped in my head, seemingly out of no where.

He is the man I am going to marry. 

I had already decided, after being in several relationships that didn't work out, that I wouldn't be romantically involved with anyone again until I was emotionally mature enough to handle it -- say twenty-five perhaps. 

The thought caught me off guard. Herm seemed nice enough, and he did have blue-grey eyes that made it pretty hard to focus on anything else. But I was nineteen, and twenty-five wasn't exactly just around the bend.

We had a lot of things in common, a love to travel being one of them. We compared notes about countries we visited and placed we hoped to one day see. He told me that Venice, Italy, was a dream destination for him. I mentioned I want to go back to Dubai, UAE, again, because with how amazing the airport itself was, I know the city has to be even more showy. Highest on my bucket list, though, would be Istanbul, Turkey. 

A few short months after that conversation we began a relationship, and thirteen months after meeting, we were married. 

I still remember so vividly on my wedding day someone telling me that now I'd have to settle down. I was a married woman after all, and my days of regularly roaming the world would come to an end. Enjoy the honeymoon! It might be the last trip in quite a while.

What that person forgot to consider was that I was marrying a man who loved traveling as much, if not more, than I do. Our days of traveling alone were over, our chance to adventure together was just beginning.


In the five and a half years since our wedding, we've taken quite a few trips together, some fairly local, others across the country and half way around the world. 

Often friends and acquaintances ask about our trips. Not nearly everyone understands why we would prioritize vacationing, since it is quite costly.  And even more people seem aghast at the thought of traveling across the world with young kids. Wouldn't it make more sense to wait until they are old enough to remember this once-in-a-lifetime trip? Wouldn't it make traveling easier?

I guess the answer to both of those questions could be yes, depending on how you look at it.

I will admit, because of Herm's business and the amount of supplies and inventory purchased, we are able to quickly accumulate airline miles and hotel stays we earn from our credit card points. Those points toward airline tickets and hotel rooms have played a huge part in us being able to afford the luxury of taking our family on many vacations. But I know that even without those points we would still find a way to travel, to getaway and spend time together as a family. Even on a much smaller scale, that time together, doing something we love as a family, is essential.


So, to answer that question I've been asked quite often... We Choose to Make Vacation a Priority Because:

1. Making Memories Together Helps Create a Strong Bond
One of the things I have noticed about families that seem to have a close bond is that they've created memories together. That doesn't happen by accident. Life can so easily get in the way, each of us falling into our normal rhythms and routines, that we forget to be intentional about building relationships with the ones we love most. It doesn't have to happen through vacationing, but since traveling is something Herm and I absolutely love, and something our kids are quickly becoming fond of as well, it's where we have decided to be especially intentional about creating memories. 

2. It Broadens Your World View
In addition to creating memories and valuing time spent together as a family, I also believe that traveling (especially when visiting other countries and cultures) creates a broader world view. I want my children to be immersed in worlds much different than their own. I want them to appreciate the many ways people live across the globe. I want them to see the value and beauty in diversity and be able to celebrate that. I want them pushed outside of their comfort zones, immersed in cultures where it seems nearly impossible to communicate because of a lack of common language and have to figure it out. I want them to know what it feels like to be an "outsider". For me personally, living aboard and traveling to many countries where it was obvious that I was a foreigner, has taught me how to be more sensitive to those around me in my own community who might also feel like an outsider.

3. This World is a Masterpiece Waiting to be Explored
And finally (although, I probably could go on and on) this world is an absolutely amazing and breath-taking masterpiece created by the Master Artist. That, in and of itself, is reason enough to buy a ticket somewhere new and do a bit of exploring. Traveling has a way of making me realize how great and amazing yet small and connected this world and its people are.

I love visiting new places, meeting new people, and seeing how history can come alive, all from roaming the globe. As I wander, this world never loses its wonder. Traveling with kids, experiencing it from their perspective, has only made that feeling greater.

I feel it's worth the investment now to travel as a family, even when our kids might only remember the trips from photos. For us, we know it won't be a once-in-a-lifetime trip because we do plan to keep on exploring. It's a lot of extra work, but it's worth it. I promise. If you don't have the means to travel half way around the world, start where you can. Explore your neighborhood, your state, your country.

Creating memories and being intentional to build close relationships now, when my kids are young, is my way of sowing into what I want our relationships to look like when they leave home. Traveling together, I hope, will only increase that bond.

Do you vacation as a family? I'd love to hear your thoughts!




Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

Recently, while visiting my sister and her husband in their Lancaster City home, I was handed this book and told to borrow it. It took me almost an entire week before I cracked the spine and began to read, but once I started it was only a matter of days before I had finished the last paragraph and told my cousin, who was over for the evening, that she too, needed to borrow it.

After unexpectedly losing her husband, author, Sheryl Sandberg, was fearful that she and her children would never be able to find true joy again, but instead live with constant trauma and grief.  Sheryl's close community of family and friends surrounded her with support, and with time she did begin to experience joy again, along with a new and deeper appreciation for life. In the book, Sheryl shares journal entries which describe the intense grief and isolation she felt after her husband's death. But the book goes beyond Sheryl's loss to share a broad range of traumatic experiences --job losses, death of loved ones, sexual assault, abuse, illness, violence, war-- and the stories of how people have overcome, persevered, and rediscovered joy.

The book brought me to tears a time or two, as what Sheryl shared about walking through grief felt all too familiar and fresh. But it was excellent, and I highly, highly recommend that everyone read it, whether or not they've lost loved ones or have dealt with personal trauma of any kind. If for nothing else, read it to know better how to respond to others who are currently facing adversity.


The scalp massage brush I recently purchased (here is a similar one). Pregnancy is a weird and wonderful thing. It's weird in the sense that anything and everything can be a symptom of it. Almost immediately after finding out I was pregnant, my skin suddenly became extremely dry and breakouts popped up, scattering rampantly, as if my face was a canvas for a game of connect the dots. Along with the dry face, my scalp was itchy, my hair constantly carrying its own version of freshly fallen snow. I tried oiling my scalp and rinsing with vinegar. Neither option worked. So one evening I stopped at Sally Beauty and picked up a scalp brush. Within two days the dry, itching scalp was no longer a problem. My hair feels healthy and clean again... Now if only I could find a remedy that easy for my face!

I am also absolutely loving this necklace, which my sister gifted me for my birthday. It's from the brand Dear Mushka. Each piece of their jewelry is reflective of scripture and comes paired with a corresponding verse card. My necklace corresponds with Colossians 4:6, which states "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."


About our upcoming winter vacation. We are doing a repeat of our vacation last year. For those who might not know, every year in February we head NORTH for a few days. Yeah, everyone looks at us with that confused expression you are wearing right now. The whole point is to slow down and spend time together as a family before the spring rush with Herm's work happens. Being snowed in somewhere is a great way to force or encourage rest. We take a stack of books and movies along, as well as all our snow gear, because what is winter without sledding? 

The first year we did this we went to Lake Placid, but every year since we've ventured into Canada, first to Montreal, Quebec, and the next year to Quebec City, Quebec.

We loved Quebec City so much, we decided to go back. We are renting the same AirBnB again. In less than two weeks we will be heading north. I cannot wait!

Thinking About

How impractical it is to have carpet in vehicles and how ironic it is when people talk about the dangers of social media in an Instagram or Facebook post.

Listening To

So many things! Recently Herm did some renovations to his office. After the work was done, the whole room was coated in an extremely fine, but thick layer of dust. I spent several hours one Saturday cleaning it... It was the sort of dust that resettles once you think the place is clean, immediately looking like is needs cleaned again. Anyhow, eventually it looked presentable. That evening, aching and tired, I walk through the kitchen for a glass of water, and that's when I notice his gift setting on the counter -- an Altec Lansing bluetooth speaker, along with a note of appreciation for the time I spent cleaning. I married a man who notices and appreciates the little things. And needless to day, I am loving that speaker. It's podcasts and music and music and podcasts daily around here.


My children become the best of friends. A few weeks ago we dealt with an entire week of sickness. It was miserable. As soon as Carson was over the flu, Brooklyn got it, but hers came with a vengeance that left us all feeling a bit miserable and weary. We survived, and a I daresay, we are better for it, because the very next week Carson and Brooklyn started playing well together. No longer do I feel like I need to be a constant referee, intervening and making calls. Every day they surprise me, playing together for hours on end. I think maybe it took a week of sickness for Carson to realize how much he really does like spending time with his little sis. It feels like we are starting a new, fresh chapter, and I think it's absolutely wonderful.  

Now it's your turn to share if you'd like. I'd love to hear what you are currently reading, loving, dreaming, thinking about, listening to, or watching. Feel free to drop a comment!


Things I Never Told You

I had to blow dust off this blog before sitting down to write. 

In my head I've got a lot of dreams of what this little space could become, but somehow my priorities aren't aligning with my dreams right now. The lack of activity here as proven that.

Nonetheless, I am still hanging on to those dreams. In the same way I still consider myself a runner, even though my days of training for races and regularly running three miles before 6 am have all but vanished (okay, completely vanished),  I still consider myself a writer; albeit, one who rarely writes.

I won't allow myself to believe that becoming a mom has stolen that part of who I am. We all make time for what we have chosen to make time for. I could list many excuses, some of them completely valid, as to why I haven't shown up more, but the point is, if I wanted to write bad enough, I would have. 

Discussing my lack of ambition lately isn't why I am here. I'm simply going to update you with some of what has been happening in my life the past while, and from there hope that I begin to show up more often again, so that we don't have to dig into the archives of life to get started the next time.

Now, on to the Things I Never Told You...

1. Italy. Been There, Done That. 

To celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary this past September, we traveled to Italy, kids in tow, and did a bit of sight seeing. We had layovers in both Paris and Amsterdam, so we took advantage of that as well by spending a day exploring each of those cities. 

Tucked into a notebook, I have a list of over 30 blog post ideas. In the mix are posts I'd like to write about our trip, including detailed ones on Traveling with Kids, How to Backpack for Twelve Days with a Family of Four, Why We Invest in Vacation, and so on. In the probable chance that those posts never see the light of day, enjoy a few photos...

2. We are Having Another Baby!

If I were to list some of the excuses I've come up with whenever Herm asks why I haven't been writing more (he brings this up frequently, he is my biggest encourage-er when it comes to this blog) the little child I am growing would be one of them. It worked well for the first trimester, when I was exhausted in the afternoon and took naps when the kids did, and again at night, when I tucked myself in immediately after bedtime prayers with Carson and Brooklyn. The second trimester is a different story. That excuse is no longer valid.

About the baby! goodness, I let myself trail off on that one: I am almost 18 weeks along, which means I am due the beginning of July. We don't know the gender. We don't know if we will choose to find out the gender. We haven't discussed, in detail, names yet. And along with that, we will take any and all suggestions at this point. Naming a child keeps getting harder and harder with every pregnancy. This might have to be the last.

3. NYC at Christmastime is Magical and Overrated.

My mom and dad graciously watched the kids for a weekend so that Herm and I could enjoy a quick getaway to New York City. We went right before Christmas. It was beautiful and cold and extremely overrun with people wanting to see the tree at Rockefeller. We had fun, but both agreed we enjoy smaller cities much, much better. 

I guess this will do it for now, until next time....