It's the time of year when I start combing through my “must read” list getting ready to curl up next to the fire with a great novel. As an avid reader and author I’m a bit addicted to books. I must credit my Grandma, Mo who bought me my first series of Little House on the Prairie books, and all the babysitting gigs allowing me to fund the purchase of the entire series of Sweet Valley High books. Mostly, the credit goes to my high school English teacher, Ms. Reidler for helping encourage my love for reading. She made me work hard to find the meaning behind the words. That was a priceless gift.
I remember being shocked when I once read that 40% of college grads never read a book after graduation. I vowed to pass on my love of reading to my children. I made it my personal mission to create an environment filled with books. An experience that cultivated comfort and created an escape for them.
From the time the kids were in the womb I was reading to them. Pajama Time-Sandra Boynton, 10 Little Lady bugs-Melanie Gerth, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear- Martin/Caryle were some of our all time favorites. To make that reading time special we had many spaces dedicated as reading sanctuaries. Some formally, most created on the fly using our imaginations but all of them created a feeling. A feeling they sought out, a quiet place to snuggle. The kids taught me the perfect reading nook need only 3 simple elements, good lighting, a cozy setting and lots and lots of books. How much easier can decorating be.
In hopes that this sparks fun and creative family time for you that ignites the desire to pick up a book and relax, here are some of our favorites ideas.
To my dismay the love of reading seems to be more of chore than a treat as our children have entered their teens. In the age of snap this, insta that, and the Fortnite phenomenon the struggle is real. So, when we built our Iowa home I envisioned a huge daybed built underneath our stairs. Imagine an oversized down mattress, lots of fun pillows and bright colors. Dave built the piece to with built in storage perfect for games, books and blankets. It’s more of a hidden retreat and great for naps too! Most of all, it’s a great escape for our teens. A place of quiet and peace where we find them often. So, by now you are saying okay. You created the environment now what!
Good news! A study by Pew Research uncovered that 74% of people surveyed have read a book in some format in the last 12 months. I share this because I’ve accepted that reading is reading. In any form. Being a good example and reading yourself is a great start. For elementary kiddos we can thank the school system for making reading a part of their nightly homework which helps us as parents set expectations that parallel assignments at home and through summer months.
When your kids get older, it is harder and what I learned worked best for our kids was providing a variety of ways to promote reading. For example, we travel a lot and I always have an audio book queued for our trips. This is a cool way to engage and interact with kids, you have a captive audience. My kids ALWAYS have their electronics with them but oddly (chuckle) those books aren’t attached to their hips! So, I encourage my kids to download books…pretty much whenever they want. It’s something I’m willing to pay for without question but there are also so many free ebooks available it’s a wash. I don’t read the newspaper or even watch the news. I gave it up years ago. But my kids are on top of all the current events. Statistics from Pew also showed that teens are more likely to read the news than we are. Case in point our tribe. It’s like a ritual, Dave buys the Sunday paper and donuts for the kids, we have brunch, read and read some more….okay there may be a little football in the mix too.
Whether it’s a book, a magazine, a white paper, the newspaper….Reading is Reading! We want to hear from you! What ideas do you have to encourage your kids to read?
Our Fall Family Favorites
Paper Towns by John Green
Holes by Louis Sachar
Prisoner B-3087 by Gruener, Alan and Gruener
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
The Giver by Lois Lowry
(And yes, this is a recommendation from our 14 year old) How to Live in a Car, Van or RV—And Get out of Debt, Travel and Find Freedom by Robert Wells
Dave and I’s Picks
The Mulligan and The Crooked Number by Nathan Jorgenson
Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly
The Lake House by Kate Morton ( a great audio option)
Any novel by Gill Paul (Historical Fiction) Another Woman’s Husband and No Place for a Lady are two of my favorites
The Hideaway by Lauren Dent
First Women by Kate Anderson Brower
Low Country Stranger by Ashley Farley
As always, if you want to learn more or have questions we love to hear from you. Add your comments here, text, email or send us a message on facebook. Make today a great one!
Its Back to School Time… Every year as summer comes to a close I hear rumblings from parents, myself included, uttering comments such as, “I think it is time for school to start” accompanied by the “you know what I’m talking about” look.
Shortly thereafter the Schrads’ find ourselves in this vortex of things to do. School physicals, shopping, meet the teacher, and the list goes on. Just when we think we have checked off everything on our list, WHOMP! Head slap! Something sneaks up that we completely forgot. Sound familiar?
I found myself wondering why it feels like this EVERY year. Perhaps we are in denial that summer flew by once again at warp speed and we are desperately trying to capture one more day of fun? Quite possibly it is the fear of losing the freedom to spend our days as a family on our terms? Filling our calendars with only activities, vacations and parties we plan…well, for the most part. And then it dawned on me!
On a recent summer morning before the kids had stirred my girl friend and I spent 2 glorious hours on the deck casually drinking coffee without it getting cold or left in the microwave while we tended to one of the “Mommy, Mama, Moooommm” requests. Just she and I catching up. We laughed, we cried, and shared all that has been happening in our lives. TWO hours before jumping into mom and work mode.
And that was my “Aha” moment. As parents we need to carve out time for ourselves! And, I know I need to practice what I preach. I have awesome intentions but when my internal clock goes off at 0500, I’m compelled to catapult out of bed and start checking off my mental checklist. Because quite frankly its quiet and “I am woman.. hear me roar” at that time in the morning. Inevitably, just when I feel accomplished and have time for that first cup of coffee, my kids are up and ready for my undivided attention. And I give that to them. But wouldn’t I be a better mom, more focused and attentive if I just took 20 minutes to enjoy the morning air and my cup of coffee lost in my own thoughts, not lists? Absolutely! And I’m positive that as school gets underway I’ll be more calm, relaxed and ready to solve those last minute morning emergencies more efficiently. I’m giving myself 20 minutes.
Into our second cup of coffee we launched into the excitement and fears our kids have about starting school. Between us we have 7 kids, so the range of emotions and feelings were abundant. We shared stories of planning for the school year. Clothes shopping with two teen girls (God really does give us patience and understanding when needed), a very comical backpack debacle and finally, we as parents trying to gain a semblance of organization as we start the new year and our own fears about our kids next new beginning.
I discovered we all have some version of anxiety. How we cope with it is unique to each of us. But the truth is, we all have it. As the old saying goes if you are afraid of the dark, turn on the light. Maybe, taking 20 minutes for ourselves before the day gets underway is the adult version of that.
We would love to hear about your experiences. Shoot us a comment, an email or even a text! Make today a great one.
…And we are in full sweet corn mode. Sweet corn is an almost nightly summer treat at our house. We love trying sweet corn from around the state and decided WE WANT MORE and we want it all year long.
Canning wasn’t in the cards so we opted for a simpler approach at preserving those golden kernels and enlisted the pro I know, my mother in law, Donita. Freezing corn has been a long time family affair. An entire day with all hands on deck was spent “putting up” corn for their family of 8 each summer. Her simple recipe is a great way to reserve those yummy kernels to be used in any recipe you wish throughout the year. And as you can see, Dave is a pro. In full disclosure this day in the kitchen was all about my husband. I served as his sous chef and official gopher.
Simple Freezer Corn
Husk and clean corn
Blanch corn on the cob (about 6 minutes)
Cool in ice water bath
Cut kernels from the cob (we opt for an electric knife)
Bag 2C or 3C servings into freezer bags
Flatten bags and freeze
Heat and Eat Freezer Corn
If you want a quick ready to serve option (my favorite) try this method
Cut the kernels from the cobs before cooking.
In a large stock pot add:
12 c corn
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 sticks of butter
Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, let cool, bag and freeze.
Corn Cob Jelly
12 large ears of corn with kernels removed
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
Add cobs to 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil for 30 minutes
Remove the cobs and strain with a cheesecloth or strainer. You can opt to leave the bits if you wish.
Measure the remaining liquid
Return liquid to a large pot.
Stir in lemon juice and pectin. (Add a dab of butter to prevent foaming)
Bring to a boil.
Add sugar cup per cup to match the measure of your corn liquid. Stir to dissolve sugar.
Bring pot to a rolling boil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Ladle hot corn cob jelly into hot jars. Adjust lids and bands.
Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes
I can promise you it really does taste like honey! Now that you have all this deliciousness on hand. What to do? What to do? The possibilities are endless but here are just of our family favorites.
As always we love to hear your ideas, so please share them with us. We are always looking for a new recipe, a new idea, or just a shout out to say “Hi”.
Airbnb has taught us a LOT. Explore some fantastic tips on how to save time and stress less when hosting your next guests.
The Iowa State Fair, Adel Sweet Corn Festival, our many bike trails, and RAGBRAI which means more summer guests looking for our hospitality. While the anticipation of connecting with friends and family is exciting, we can’t ignore the pressure we put on ourselves to make a guests stays memorable.
When we began to Airbnb our home, Harmony Retreat in Springfield, NE and later added Harmony Bungalow in Adel, IA and Harmony Hall also in Adel, (yep! That’s right, we even airbnb our event venue for overnight indoor “camping” or “glamping” nights) I realized a few time savers and tricks that eased the anxiety of turning our home in just a few short hours for new visitors. We went from aching backs and sometimes panic to creating a simple system that makes hosting fun and stress free.
RELAX! It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s true, people notice certain things when they enter your home. It isn’t the shiny kitchen you painstakingly spent hours cleaning. It’s not the vacuum lines that look like you hired a professional. And I’m sorry it isn’t the dust-bunny free ceiling fans your guests’ anticipated arrival may, or may not have prompted. Although, if you’ve checked that box give your self a high-five!
Guests’ want a clean home and you expect to give that to them. But what they notice is the comfort of your home, the feeling that welcome’s them and says, “This is your home too. Snuggle in and relax” Invest your time adding little touches. Floral arrangements, extra throw pillows and varied light sources create a comfortable environment.
As a frequent traveler & early riser panic sets in when I’m trying to get my first coffee fix of the day on the road. Followed closely by internet access. As a welcome gift to our guests’ we created a hospitality cart complete with a Keurig and all the fixings, bottled water, a few favorite snacks, reading material, and Wi-Fi instructions. This one by Craftaholics Anonymous is totes adorbs…just add some coffee!!
Create a cute display of extra toiletries in the bathroom. Restock as they are used.
Cut down on laundry by using disposable wipes like Clorox Clean Ups, to clean counters and baths.
The goal is to create efficiencies in hosting so that you are in a mindset to relax and enjoy the special people in your lives! Happy Hosting!
We would love to hear your ideas. Please share them here or on our Facebook page @harmonyhomes14.
“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me”. Ahhh! The words of Lee Greenwood get me every time. The 4th of July is one of our favorite holidays at Restoration Harmony and decorating for the holiday gives us the chance to show our patriotism and how much we LOVE AMERICA and all of those heroes who have fought for our country and each of us. It is also time for us to gather with family, host a grill out, eat, drink and enjoy fireworks and all things SUMMER…think watermelon, corn on the cob and a big ol burger! YUM! If you are planning a 4th of July bash I’m SERIOUSLY going to make it easy for you with these simple DIY décor ideas, and red, white and blue themed apps and drinks. Enjoy!
Okay so how adorable are these? Our girls LOVE to dip chocolate strawberries, add a touch of sugar sprinkles and voila! You look like a pro and your guests will gobble them up.
Try tying scraps of fabric on strings for a banner or on Christmas twinkle lights for a fun centerpiece or accent . These doilies by Creative Itch boutique are so easy too and a fun project for you or the kids.
You don’t have to be a professional to restyle your home. Jump start your summer refresh without breaking the bank with these helpful hints.
As spring turns to summer we get the itch to refresh our homes. And, we know you get all itchy too, as requests for us to redesign and restyle your homes increase in May and June. It goes something like this.
Shop your home. It’s free! Pilfer from other rooms in your home. If you have a lot of energy, completely empty the room, leaving only foundational pieces. Then slowly gather furnishings and décor that work with your master plan. Repurpose with what you already have. That serving tray taking up space in your pantry, placed atop your coffee table with a few vases filled with greenery, is a great example.
Set a budget and shop for pieces that will create a layered look. Varied textures and textiles create warmth and help ground a room. Don’t be afraid to mix metals, woods, plants, and fabrics. Hanging macramé planters, along with wall art and pillows seems to be popping up everywhere. Who knew they would make a comeback? Add galvanized photo frames, a favorite heirloom coffee table, cream accent lamps and accessories next to a well-used leather sofa tricks the eye into focusing on the contrasting hues instead of that sofa you used to loathe. Image by Birch Lane
Lighten your bedding. Buy a duvet cover in a light color to replace your current comforter. Add pops of color with throw pillows for a crisp look.
Speaking of pillows, don’t ditch your old throw pillows. Search for vibrant pillow covers instead.
Add an accent wall. Contrasting hues draw the eye to a focal point. Accents walls distract from imperfections and highlight your home’s best features. Paint is always an easy solution. But what about shiplap and barn wood on the wall? Both are hot trends right now. LVT (luxury vinyl tile) found in most box stores, comes in thousands of styles, is inexpensive and relatively easy to install, even on a wall! Check out this example from Wayfair.
Consider updating cabinet hardware & outdated fixtures in your kitchen and bathrooms.
As you embark on your summer edits, consider the words of Salvador Dali: “Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it”. Instead, have fun and resist overthinking. Shop yard sales, thrift shops, auctions, and local retailers for fun and unique finds. The hunt for that perfect finds can be just as enjoyable as the end results.
Need some more inspiration? Check out some of our work.
A Dream Design Challenge
In every home we do, we fall in love with certain aspects of our renovations. Our entire family agreed this beauty was one we could all just snuggle into and be perfectly happy. All four kiddos even claimed their own room! It was a design dream come true. We hope you stop back and check out our Devonshire story on one of our next blogs.
Go ahead, take a peek at one of our most fav home designs. And stay tuned for some great blog posts featuring before photos of this and other renovations.
I love designing nursery’s. Maybe it’s because my kids are all ALMOST teens? Maybe I just love the warmth in creating a space that is home to many first memories for parents and those chubby cheeked babies.
Hands down this nursery was my FAVORITE! I wanted to share the low down on this room because it’s easy to go crazy designing a nursery. It’s an exciting time and you want everything perfect for your new bundle of joy. But honestly, you don’t have to spend a lot to make something special for you and your bambino.
The previous owners of our last renovation, excited to move to their new home with fresh new furnishings left many pieces behind. Of course, when asked if that was ok, I said “ABSOLUTELY”, having no plan on what to do with any of it but not passing up an opportunity to try.
I wanted a fresh new look but was struggling on committing to a theme. Until I started digging through a bunch of prints left behind in storage I stumbled across these gems. I have to admit, they were destined for Goodwill until I took a second look and realized the 3 lovelies in the prints were all babies! And my theme was set in motion.
Some spray paint and a little CERAMCOAT paint I had on hand is all it took to really bring out the beauty in these prints. The images just pop now!
The crib was also left behind and the best part, it’s light and easy to move—great for future staging projects!
I set out to find some fun accessories without breaking the bank. The crib skirt by LIZ & ROO was a little more than I wanted to spend but I resolved its neutrality and future use to justify the $99 tag.
The rug, OH how I wish you could touch it…this WAYFAIR find is sooo dreamy! After I discovered the end tables, trunk and lamp all FREE left in the house and perfect for the Out of Africa theme I knew I had to have the rug!
Y’all know I love me some HOBBY LOBBY and again they didn’t disappoint. I found the rest of the wall art on clearance with an additional 50% off. My total cost, $20…SCORE!
The biggest project but not an expensive one I had yet to tackle. I had this vision of mosquito netting…a necessity in the African Outback…and started getting creative.
My daughter Demi and I decided a hula hoop would make the perfect frame. I wrapped it in white duct tape I had at home, grabbed 4 sheers for next to nothing at WALMART, added some gray ribbon I had, clipped the hula hoop, threaded the panels, and duct taped it back together. I finished it off with some tulle attached to the hula hoop and a silver ring to hang it. The coolest part…it took me only an hour to complete! Total cost if you were to purchase all materials about $40.00.
To complete the room my mom painted the rocker left at the house. (Side note, my mom paints almost all our pieces with oil based paint, it lasts and doesn’t chip!) I found a burlap canvas I had in my art sanctuary and added the saying to it. The rhino I had from a previous room I did and that cute little smooshie stuffed elephant I scored on Amazon. If you like the paint color it’s Sherwin Williams Steamed Milk. I use it in a lot of nursery’s very neutral and warm.
I know…I got lucky with a lot of free finds but I’m telling you once you decide on a theme start searching you will stumble on deals and be so excited. Ask friends, if you want something specific. I’m a huge fan of using Facebook to find what you want either from friends or on marketplace.
Are you doing a “safari” room? We would love to see your photos! Please share them with us here or on our Facebook Page @restorationharmony14 Have fun and happy designing!
If you are like me you have tote after tote of holiday decorations. I’ve hauled at least 10 totes through 6 moves and I needed to take control and liquidated. I still have all those sentimental ornaments EVERY one of my kiddos ornaments carefully stored and labeled, but I have resolved that I DON’T need to display all those gems-that is just exhausting! Instead, the kids pick out their favorites while we listen to Christmas music and reminisce about where they got them, who gave them to them and their memories of Christmas’ past. Here are a few tips on how I stay organized and repurpose my decorations for a fresh, new look each year.
Organize and Save Time and Money
I have a little obsession about designing my tree’s each year. It’s kinda like Christmas for me to open each tote and start planning. I organize my decorations by color. The first tip is FREE. Simply by taking the time to pack up your décor by color allows you to start planning your tree and where you might want or need to supplement for next year…or what to shop for during after Christmas sales. Hobby Lobby and Target are two of my favorites and I often grab deals at 75% off! I simply check out what colors I may need more of or want to add before I shop and then put them in each tote by color theme when I get home. My own little Christmas gift to myself for the coming year.
This year, I had not only the two trees in our city home to decorate but we also have one at our acreage, an office tree and I decided to stage our latest flip house for Christmas too. By the way, the house sold in 10 days and I am confident the timing and cozy holiday decor helped in selling it so quickly. There is just something so powerful in the spirit of Christmas.
Avoid the VOID!
Take a look at these trees. For our flip house I pulled in the turquoise, red and silver from each of my totes. There isn’t anything worse than a bare tree and I’ve found that feather boas remedy the empty tree dilemma. They are super inexpensive, easy to find and you don’t need many. Oriental Trading and Hobby Lobby have a great selection. In tree 2, I used burlap rolls of ribbon I had leftover from our wedding reception. It can’t get any easier than tucking large ribbon throughout the tree. Easy Peasy!
Another favorite filler are poinsettia’s. They come in fabulous colors. I found Walmart has a clip on version in so many colors and I scooped up dozens last year on clearance. However, if you need them now and fast try the Hobby Lobby floral department where they sell large stems with 8-10 poinsettia’s per stem. I buy them during the 50% off sale and use my wire cutters to cut each one from the stem and tuck them in throughout the tree. VOILA! problemo solved.
Transform your current décor into holiday features.
I love apothecary pieces and have them throughout our homes. Think beyond Christmas specific pieces and incorporate what you already have. It saves money and storage space. I used stems I purchased this year, with what I had to create this display that coordinates with our tree. You can also “Wrap” your throw pillows? Simply take ribbon and tie a bow just like you would a package. It adds instant holiday cheer. I did add a few new pillows from Hobby Lobby and Target this year because… well.. I just haven’t found a pillow I don’t like, and they are sooo inexpensive and add so much to a room. Consider Wayfair throw pillow covers to save even more money and space.
Wrap it UP!
I have to admit, before I plan my theme for the season I check out what I have for wrapping paper. Seriously, this is the primary driver for creating my theme. Because I carefully add colors to my “totes” I always have something that will work. I find wrapping to match the tree just extends the theme, looks awesome and those pretty packages become decor all on their own.
It may seem as though I have a warehouse of holiday totes somewhere hidden away, but by organizing and planning from year to year I still have the same 10 totes I’ve always used, and pilfer from them for almost every holiday throughout the year.
Happy Decorating and Happy Holidays!
Angela and Dave Schrad
DIY to décor, get inspired by their ideas, resources and projects.