Using *Only* Solar Lights To Add Backyard Ambiance

Some people are surprised to hear that we illuminate our entire pool area using nothing but solar LED landscape lights. As in: the sun provides free evening ambiance with zero effort on our part. Nothing has to be plugged in. Our electric bill feels zero impact from softly illuminating this entire area of our house. So today I wanted to share the 3 solar products we use in case you want to give your own outdoor space a literal glow-up.

Technically we have a porch light and in-pool lights too, all of which use traditional electricity, but we almost never turn them on. Honestly, they’re a little blinding and we like a soft glow that doesn’t block out our view of the stars. Instead, day-to-day (or night-to-night?) we just rely on our solar-powered LED lighting for that oh so charming come-hither glow.

I used to think solar-powered landscape lighting was a lackluster substitute for traditional, wired landscape lights (which, btw, we found very easy to install ourselves at our last house). But now we’re huge fans of solar lights, and I’ll tell you why.

Why We Love Using Solar Lights

One common reason for using solar lights is to avoid the wiring necessary for plug-in or electric-powered lights. And honestly, that’s one of the reasons we initially used them here – almost as a placeholder until we had time to install a more permanent lighting plan.

But since adding them, we’ve discovered there are TONS of pros to relying on solar lighting in your yard:

  • Easy to install: No wiring necessary! Just find a sunny spot for your solar panel.
  • Placement Flexibility: You’re not constrained by wires or proximity to a plug, put ’em anywhere!
  • Affordable: They’re not very expensive to buy and they’ll never add to your
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How We Upgraded A Utility Closet By Adding Tons Of Functional Storage

Today we’re talking about the stock market! Just kidding. Exactly as the title suggests, we’re going to show you how we earned some really useful extra storage in our new kitchen by upgrading a formerly VERY PACKED utility closet. It used to basically just have a water heater and an HVAC system in it without much room for anything else, and now there’s, say it with me… so much room for activities. Ok, not for like cartwheels, but significantly more room to store stuff than before. Like maybe 500% more. Really.

Two Toned Ikea Kitchen Cabinets With Stainless Appliances

If you watched our drawer-by-drawer kitchen organization video, you already got a peek at what we have going on in there, but today we’re sharing all the angles, and explaining how we were able to take this closet from “mostly water heater” to “so much everything else.”

Small Utility Closet Organized With Cube Storage And Open Shelving

The Utility Closet Before

We don’t have a lot of “before” photos of this closet because it was absolutely nothing to write home about. In a smaller house like ours, you need a spot for the ugly stuff like the HVAC system and the water heater and this closet was it. The photo below was taken right after we moved in. The HVAC system is to the right of that doorframe (the black tubes lead to it) and although this closet is pretty deep (it goes all the way under the stairs), the water heater completely blocked more than half of the closet that continues to the left of the doorframe.

Before Photo Of Utility Closet With Large Water Heater Tank

This is an example of an extremely random pile of stuff we stored in there on that random patch of floor space between the water heater and the HVAC system in our first few days of living here. I think it was mostly bins of Christmas stuff and miscellaneous items

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Our Favorite Toilet (Yes, We Have A Favorite)

You know you’ve left your mark on the world when people quote you in the pages of Time magazine or you get interviewed by Oprah. But what does it mean if one of your top google results is “young house love toilet” (true story)? And up until now, searching that term on our blog didn’t really lead you anywhere helpful (Sherry talks a lot about our favorite toilet mostly on IG Stories). So if that’s the rabbit hole that led you to our blog and you typed in those infamous words, this post will now have you and all of your toilet-related queries covered.

Modern bathroom with white wall graphic tile and stylish toilet

Our favorite toilet is the Kohler Memoirs Elongated Toilet (sometimes also called the Memoirs Stately Elongated). It has been our go-to place to go for 7 years now, ever since installing it in our last home’s powder room. It’s comfortable, good looking, and – for lack of a better phrase – has always gotten the job done.

Powder room with sink on legs and traditional Kohler Memoirs Toilet

Why Is It Our Favorite Toilet?

The main selling feature to us was the slightly “fancier” design, specifically the classic crown molding-like detail around the top of the tank and similar flourish around the base. Out of all of the toilets out there, we thought it would be the perfect complement to the traditional style of our previous Richmond, Virginia home. So we bought one for our downstairs bathroom and one for our ensuite bathroom upstairs.

Kohler Memoirs Stately Toilet Detail In Traditional Bathroom with Wall Molding

But we’ve also bought one more recently for our more modern beachy-feeling home in Florida and it works just as nicely. More “modern-looking” toilets are likely to be simpler and therefore, to us, have a tendency to look more basic – like the kind you might find in a retail setting or a fast-casual restaurant. Just sort of… bulbous

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How To Build Easy, Chunky Wood Nightstands

For the first time in our lives, after four decades of living on this planet, we’ve upgraded to a king sized bed! We’ll get more into whys and hows in an upcoming post (it’s both bigger and significantly lower) and we see the obvious irony of owning a bigger bed in our smaller house – but let’s just summarize it as: “the things we do for our dog.”

You’ve also probably heard this before, but sometimes the way to feel like you’re living large in a smaller space is with fewer larger furniture pieces (as opposed to a bunch of small dollhouse-scaled furnishings). There’s such a luxury to having a nice long 90″ sofa upstairs, a big 72″ table that seats up to 8 people in the kitchen, and truly, it has been glorious to have such a giant bed. Like, two people who never cared about a king bed now actively wax poetic about it every day, and our entire family regularly piles in to read or hang out on lazy weekends.

The upgrade did come with one tradeout. Upgrading to a larger bed meant we had to swap our larger side tables out for smaller ones that *perfectly* fit the space.

Thankfully we don’t really store very much in our side tables (as long as there’s room for a lamp, some books, and a glass of water we’re good). So yeah, maximizing the size of the thing you actively relax on and sleep on was a fair trade for minimizing our side tables.

And today, we’re sharing how we whipped up these custom nightstands (you can make them any size you’d like to fit your room like a glove!) with a somewhat unusual material. Nope, it’s not scrap wood or two-by-fours (or pallets – remember all those

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How I Packed Light For My Weeklong Trip To France

Walking onto the plane carrying just a duffel and a purse for 7 days in two different areas of France (and a stop in Germany!) was my goal. And here I am standing at the airport, right after John dropped me off and took this shot. Yup. Just a purse and a duffel. I did it (with space to spare!).

And because I’m nothing if not a minimal wardrobe hype woman (more on that here), please allow me to sensually tip your head back and shout directly into your mouth: “knowing how to maximize your options without dragging your entire closet with you is a real actual life hack.” So read on to see how you can get the most out of packing this way (it was my first trip to Europe – so I definitely didn’t want to forget anything!). And if you already pack with a similar mindset (I certainly didn’t invent it)… welcome to the club 😉

Not only does packing light mean there’s nothing you have to check and worry about getting lost in transit, you also don’t usually have to gate-check a small duffel like this on a packed flight (those carry-on-sized rolling suitcases tend to get gate-checked a lot more when a flight is full, which means more waiting when you land).

Quick note: you can absolutely use this packing method & put your own spin on the looks, so please don’t think this is me telling you to pack these specific things. I’m just sharing what my brain does to get a whole lotta flexibility out of a relatively small number of pieces (all of which I wear – nothing goes into the suitcase and rides around the world & comes home unworn). This is more of an “intentional” packing approach than

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