Category Archives: The Villa

My hands bear the proof

Christopher has had a lot on his plate lately so I decided to show him some love in a very tangible way. We have a normal size front yard, but a huge backyard. And since it’s summer our grass needs to be mowed every week. Which is very time consuming and in the 100 degree heat – exhausting as well. Christopher enjoys yard work so for the 8 years we’ve been married – he’s always done all the mowing. And I’ve happily let him. Which means that it has been at least a decade since I used a lawn mower at all (when I was in college and mowed a yard or two for some elderly people). But I purposed in my heart that I would do this for him. So on Wednesday morning, I did.


It’s hard to tell the actual size here, but our backyard is massive. Do you see Oreo and Christopher in the corner of the yard? See how far away they are? Also, this is the majority of the backyard, but my phone couldn’t capture it all. There’s more on both sides of the frame.

mowing1.png{a still of me mowing the front yard from our security camera}

It took me three hours (twice as long as it takes him), but I got it done. I was a nasty, sweaty mess by the end of it, but I got it done. Our push mower’s “self propelled” feature doesn’t work, but I got it done. Two days later I still can hardly lift my arms above my head, but I got it done. I have blisters on my hands, but I got it done.

mowing{yes, that is a princess bandaid – don’t judge}

And when he came home on Wednesday night and saw it all – every minute, every ache, and every pain was worth it. 🙂

As a side note, I totally skipped the gym that day and yet I felt like I got a full body work out and my Fitbit logged just under 10k steps that morning alone. So you know, I think it was okay to have my first gym skip day of the year. 😉 I was so glad to be able to bless him this way and show him a tangible “I love you”. But I did point out to him that it would probably be another 8 years of marriage before I mowed again. 😉

Dear Christopher, I love you for always. This week my hands bear the proof. 🙂

When was the last time you mowed a lawn? Anyone do so regularly?

Love Rach


And we’re back to lately posts, ha! It’s 100 degrees here right now so I keep thinking the photography business will soon slow down dramatically. Instead I keep having people book July sessions which is awesome for business! But, you know, hot. So we’re attempting to beat (some of) the heat by having early morning sessions. Tomorrow I have a 7:45am session and on Friday a 7am one. On the bright side – I’m an early riser – so this is no biggie for me. Hopefully the kiddos (and their parents) will be bright eyed and bushy tailed! 🙂

post gym selfie{awkward post-gym selfie from today – I was trying to not look bald by turning my head, but now it just looks weird. Obviously I need to work on my selfie game, haha!}

One thing I’ve been really proud of myself for during this busy photography season has been prioritizing time at the gym. I really enjoy working out and I feel great all day when I kick off my morning at the gym. The only times when I don’t go regularly are during photography busy seasons (spring-early summer and then fall-Christmas). So after this past fall/Holiday season when I was crazy busy and missed a TON of gym days, I decided not to let that happen again. So while I’m not present here as much as I’d like, I am still getting in that much needed gym time. Thanks for hanging with me while things are busy. 🙂

spraying the ceiling.jpg

Ever since our A/C leaked through our ceiling three weeks ago we’ve been attempting to repair the damaged ceiling. We’ve tried two fixes and both haven’t matched the texture that is already on the ceiling. Which required RE-scraping the ceiling. Yuck! So last night we pulled out the big guns and rented a ceiling texture sprayer to fix it. Thankfully the third time was the charm and the ceiling looks way better now!

from 2004

This deserves more than just a passing mention, but since blogging has taken a backseat lately, I don’t want this week to pass without me at least acknowledging this. A friend of ours from college passed away very suddenly this week. I remember when his wife and I were freshman and we were having a slumber party and giggling together about these super cute boys we were dating and how we both thought that they just might be the ones we would marry. We were right. And now, at a ridiculously young age, he is gone. My heart just breaks for her and their young son. Please take a moment to pause and say a prayer for them. Hug those you love a little tighter today.


Speaking of those I love… these two hooligans have kept me busy this summer. It’s so nice to spend some quality time with them without having to worry about school or schedules. And if you missed last week’s post about them, check it out here. These two are so near and dear to my heart. 🙂

world relief

Christopher and I recently began volunteering with World Relief here in Memphis. We are volunteering with a refugee family from Syria who are just absolutely precious. We don’t know all of their story yet, but I am already so amazed by their resiliency and eagerness to adapt to life here. I’m not sure how many stories or photos I’ll be able to share here due to privacy, but this is what we’re doing on Monday nights now.

I know this post is such a mix of lighthearted and heavy things, but I suppose that’s life. I may not be blogging like normal right now, but there are definitely some things I want recorded to look back on. Thanks for hanging with me, friends.

Love Rach

Turns out not all dogs know how to swim (and other weekend happenings)

Thursday night we discovered that our upstairs A/C was leaking through our ceiling. We immediately shut off the unit and first thing Friday morning called our home warranty people. The earliest they could send someone out would be Tuesday. You guys, the heat index in Memphis has been 100+ all week (one day it was 118!). This is not the time for us to lose air conditioning for (a minimum of) five days. So my very handy husband got busy Googling. Between that and texting a friend who knows more about this stuff than we do, he felt pretty good about fixing this himself. And sure enough… he did!

ac leak.jpg{in that middle photo, Oreo is barking at the ceiling because he hated hearing the leaking sound}

The leak is fixed, the A/C unit is back on and running again, and currently we’re letting the ceiling finish drying out (we have a high powered blower that’s been blowing on it for 2 days) before we go about fixing the damage. I’m so glad he was able to fix this over the weekend so we have the A/C back! Definitely a huge blessing. It’s times like these that I’m reminded how grateful I am that he’s so handy with house stuff!

poolside sushi.jpg

Since it has been so hot lately, this weekend was the perfect pool weekend! We even got carry out sushi from our favorite spot and ate by the pool. We swam and played and soaked up the sun (while reading up on the Greece portion of our Europe trip – so exciting!). Considering all the hard work we were doing at home (to fix the A/C issues) this was an awesome way to spend the hottest parts of both Saturday and Sunday!

oreo at the pool.jpg

Oreo came with us to the pool on Sunday afternoon and it was the best thing ever! Our dog haaaaates water. I can’t even tell you how much he despises being wet. He fell in a lake once and I think that really scared him so he has hated water ever since. Bath time is just horrible for him. Anyway, after a LOT of coaxing (using a toy he REALLY wanted) we convinced him to get in the pool. Before yesterday I thought that all dogs instinctively knew how to swim, but it turns out that our pup needed a little help. He started thrashing around and SINKING when he first got in. So Christopher put his hand under Oreo’s belly to support him in the water so his legs could kick smoothly (like you do with little kids when teaching them to swim) and then walked around the pool with him so Oreo could learn the motions of swimming. It was the most precious thing. And hilarious as well. Once Oreo got the hang of it and could swim on his own, he actually seemed to enjoy chasing the ball around the pool (or maybe he really hated that game, but was just SUPER determined to get the ball, ha!).  Anyway, it was pretty much the best Father’s Day ever (I told Christopher he was getting lots of quality time with his “son” because we are so those pet owners who refer to ourselves as “mom & dad” to our dog).

So despite the initial scare of potentially terrible A/C problems, it turned into a pretty awesome weekend. Christopher feels super accomplished (as he should!). He fixed our A/C, started fixing the ceiling (as much as he can so far), and he taught our dog to swim! 🙂

Have you ever had an A/C leak like that? (if so, any advice on repairing the ceiling? we will be researching that this week)

If you have a pet does he or she like water?

Love Rach

The Kitchen Nook: Before & After

Tomorrow will mark 6 years since we bought our house. That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere since I was a little girl so you better believe I’ve grown to love this place we call home. So in honor of 6 years in this house, I thought I’d finally share all the work we’ve done in the little nook area of our kitchen! 🙂

2010 (1)

This is what our kitchen looked like in April of 2010 when we bought the house. Did I mention we bought a foreclosure? It was in pitiful shape and we spent 5 weeks renovating it before we moved in. We had help from friends and family (and Youtube and Google), but no contractors or professionals. And of course we continued to work on the house long after we moved in. It was a long process, but so worth it! If you want to see a short video showing some of the before & afters in the house, you can check out last year’s post right here.

2010 (2)

This is the “after” from 2010 when we completed the kitchen. We knew eventually we wanted to do more in here, but we just needed it to be functional for the time. Well that “time” turned out to be for the next six years, ha! 😉

kitchen nook after2.jpg

And this is my kitchen now as of April 2016! The old table is gone and in its place is a new cabinet giving extra storage and more counter top space! And across from it is our little bar & bar stools so we don’t have to give up our breakfast eating area. 🙂

before and after2.jpg

So before & after of the left side of the kitchen. You can see that the table is gone and in its place are beautiful new cabinets and more counter top space!

before and after

And the kitchen from the other side. You can see the counter top to the left as well as a great view of the new bar & bar stools!

kitchen nook after5.jpg

You guys, my husband BUILT this. Everything new here, he built. Cabinets, counter top, bar, bar stools – all custom built. I helped with the sanding, staining, and painting, but he did all the precision work. He is SO talented!

kitchen nook after6.jpg

This wall is a lot of what slowed us down in the process. Originally this was going to be a cut-out into the dining room, but after looking into it further, we realized that we couldn’t put a hole here due to the way the wall is built on the other side (sorry Joanna Gaines, we tried!). So then we thought that we would put up shelves. So Christopher built shelves and we didn’t like them here. So those went into the dining room (which by the way, I will need to show you later because they look GREAT in there!). Which led to much Pinterest searching. Which led to putting up a big mirror which looks perfect in here! It was our final touch and we finished it just a couple of weeks ago. 🙂

quiet time

One of my favorite things about this remodel (besides the fact that it looks better and is more functional), is that it gives me a beautiful place to have quiet time. I love sitting at this bar in the morning and spending some time with Jesus. {for those curious: I love the She Reads Truth devos as well as this Common Prayer book that Shane Claiborne put together – I start my mornings with both along with some prayer journaling 🙂 }

kitchen nook after.jpg

If you’d like to read back on posts about this kitchen project that you may have missed, you can find them here:

Kitchen Sneak Peak (we have cabinets!)
Kitchen Renovation: We Have Counter Tops
Kitchen Project: The Cooking Tribute Collage (we changed from calling it a “renovation” to “project” around this time because we realized that we couldn’t tear down the wall we originally intended to thereby making this a lot less of a renovation and more of just a remodel. 😉 )
Kitchen Project: We Have a Bar & Bar Stools

Now… on to the next project! 🙂

Love Rach

Kitchen Project: We have a Bar & Bar Stools!

The bar stools are complete! Which means that after we put in shelves and decorate them, we will finally be done with this little kitchen make over!

bar & bar stools

Last year when we decided to re-do our kitchen, we knew we wanted to add a bar and bar stools to this side of the kitchen. We wanted it a little taller than average which meant we had trouble finding exactly what we wanted in a store. So Christopher built it. And again when it came to the bar stools, we had trouble finding ones that we just really loved. So they got added to Christopher’s build list. 😉 And as of this past weekend we finally stained, painted, and polyurethaned them.

bar stool

We went two-toned because we wanted to pull in the ebony from our appliances in the kitchen as well as the espresso from the bar, cabinets, and counter top. These bar stools are based on this pattern from Ana White (lots of things in our house are actually based on plans we found on her site!). Ours are a lot more modern looking than her vintage ones and they are taller as well (we wanted a tall bar and tall bar stools), but otherwise they are very similar! The bar itself is based on one I saw at a Starbucks and loved. So we took a few pictures on our cellphone and Christopher recreated it for me at home. He’s pretty awesome like that. 😉

bar & bar stools 2.jpg

The view of the bar from the side as you first walk into our kitchen. I love that this table is by the window. There is SO much light that comes in and it is just such a happy place.

We used to have a table in our kitchen, but it took up SO much space. So we got rid of it and added more cabinets and counter top space where it had been. While we normally eat in the dining room, we wanted to have an option for eating in the kitchen as well. So Christopher built us a place for that. It’s the perfect breakfast spot. 🙂

Do you typically eat in the kitchen, dining room, living room or somewhere else? We normally eat in the kitchen or dining room, but on Friday nights we totally eat pizza on the couch in the living room while watching a movie. 🙂

Love Rach

Kitchen Project: The Cooking Tribute Collage

We have a new decorative sort of addition to our kitchen! Look above those new counter tops to that pretty black & white collage hanging on the wall…

Cooking Collage (1).JPG

Ever since we decided to re-do this part of our kitchen, we knew we needed to do something with the old intercom system in the house because it is uuuugly. See below:

Cooking Collage (6).JPG

We thought about taking it out and plastering over the wall, but then we remembered the fun times of using it when our friend Tony lived with us. So we thought maybe we would just cover it up and keep it for some day later if we’re still in this house when we have older kids. But covering it up means building some sort of three dimensional box and then putting something cool on the other side. So Christopher built us a box:

Cooking Collage (8).JPG

And I decided to make it a collage in honor of both of our moms who taught us how to cook. I got this idea from my own mom who actually made a collage for me of my grandmother (another HUGE influence in my early learning about cooking). So this one of our moms hangs just below the one of my grandmother.

Cooking Collage (9).JPG

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that my dad can grill out with the best of them. And his smoked BBQ is incredible. And my grandfather also influenced my cooking and eating habits quite a bit (especially with mixing cereals & molasses and butter). So there were men in my life who cooked as well. But most of my cooking influence came from my mom and grandmother and most of Christopher’s from his mom. So on this wall we honor the women who taught us a love of cooking. 🙂

Cooking Collage (4).JPG

I’m sure you can guess this, but those are recipes written by each of our moms. The Crock Pot Mac & Cheese is from my mom and is one of our friends’ most requested thing we bring to parties because it’s such a huge hit. 🙂

before and after collage.jpg

It looks SO much better! And if/when we decide to use the intercom system again, the collage box easily slides off. 🙂

before and after collage2.jpg

HUGE improvement, right?! I love it so much! 🙂

Do you have anything on your walls that you’d rather cover up than totally remove? Have you come up with any ingenious ways to hide it?

If you like to cook, who or what was your greatest cooking influence? 

Love Rach

Kitchen Renovation: We have counter tops!

Four months ago I shared with you guys the progress we were making in our kitchen renovation. We thought that we were nearly done with it at the time, but got held up with counter tops.

countertops (1)Check out my makeshift plywood “counter top” that I had for far too long while we tried to decide what we wanted to do for permanent counter tops.

You see, we have Corian counter tops and when we added the extra cabinet space we found a perfect match to the Corian we already had. “Hooray!” we thought. Except not really. Because we couldn’t find anyone who would sell just a small slab of it to us. We kept calling around for scraps, but no one had a small piece. And we didn’t want to buy an enormous slab of Corian when we only need a small part of it. So my carpenter husband built a counter top instead. I was a little unsure of how I would feel about two different surfaces side by side in the kitchen, but for the massive cost difference ($800+ vs $70), I was willing to at least give it a try.

countertops (2)

You guys,  I love it. Maybe because the rustic wood look is so in right now. But somehow it works. It’s not quite as bright as it appears in the photos here (see the first photo up there with my makeshift counter top for a better idea of the actual color). It’s a dark espresso color that perfectly matches the other cabinets in our kitchen. I took these shots this morning when the sunlight was streaming in so it makes them look brighter than they really are.

countertops (4)

Side by side. I was worried that it would really bother me to have such different colors (one so light and one so dark) and different textures (wood & Corian), but I really do love it. And the good news is that if I ever decide that I don’t love it anymore, we can easily remove it and replace the counter tops with something different.

countertops (3).JPG

Christopher really loves the wood counter top. He actually suggested that it be wood long before we knew that continuing our Corian wasn’t going to be a good option. He thought the two toned look would be cool. I took a bit of convincing, but now that we have them, I am smitten!

We’ve actually had counter tops for a couple of months now, but I kept waiting to update you guys until we had the rest of the kitchen complete. But then the holidays and Christopher’s crazy work schedule hit. So I think I’ll just keep updating you guys in pieces as it comes together! We’re hoping to get a bit more done this weekend! 🙂

Would you try two-toned surfaces in your kitchen? If it weren’t for the $800 that it saved us, I never would have even considered it. But I love it now (partially because my husband hand-crafted it and partially because it just really does look cool)! 🙂

Love Rach