It’s Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so I’m not one to rush Christmas shopping, decor or celebrating.

But now, the second weekend in December, it really is starting to look and feel a lot like Christmas. Last night, I got to see In a DC Minute‘s beautiful Fox Cross Farm decorated in Christmas glory. Afterwards, I joined Shannon and Morgan for a night of baking cookies and Christmas movies.

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It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Decor

Today, the Bills are on TV, playing in an actual snowstorm while flurries go past our kitchen window. My cinnamon tea is hot and dinner is in the Crock-Pot. (If this post didn’t sound just like my mom in the first few paragraphs, it now sounds as if she’s writing my blogs.)

With the general cheer of this weekend, I wanted to share how Cody and I are getting our little home ready for our first Christmas here. Last Saturday, we found a beautiful tree at Jurek Plantations. We both brought our favorite ornaments from home before finding a few store-bought additions.

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Decor

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It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Decor

In other spaces, we switched out throw pillows and added twinkling lights, pine boughs, a framed thank you card Paige made a few years ago, Willow Tree angels and a few handmade decorations from Filomena’s Favorites in Medina. I’ll definitely be shopping some post-holiday sales to pick up a few more items to decorate with next year!

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It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Decor

The Perfect Farmhouse Table for Your Tiny Apartment Kitchen

When Cody and I moved into our apartment, we realized the 5 person dining table from his great grandpa wasn’t going to fit in our eat-in kitchen. And neither was anything we could buy for a reasonable price. So we made our own, without too many missteps.

Keep scrolling for our entire shopping and cut lists!

This project took us the better part of 3 weeks, but it could easily be finished in a weekend if you don’t have as many distractions as we did. I wasn’t planning on posting about this project, so I don’t have step-by-step photos – but it turned out too good not to share! I love how simple it is, which makes it easy to decorate no matter the season.

Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

As always, measure twice and cut once! We found that after cutting our five short pieces for the table top, the width was slightly more than what we estimated; it all depends on the cut of the boards. After cutting and sanding everything individually, we assembled the legs, aprons and support bar. The apron is set in a quarter inch from the outside of the legs. We measured at both the top and the bottom of the apron, then put on wood glue before attaching the pieces with screws.

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Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

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Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

For the top, we assembled everything on the ground before attaching that to the base. Once everything was together, we sanded the top again to knock down some of the less than perfect seams. We could have planed either the pieces individually or the table top as a whole, but that would have slowed us down even more, so we chose to love the imperfections on the top.

If you have the space, it would be easier to stain and paint before attaching the two pieces, but we did not do this. Painter’s tape worked just fine to keep the stain and paint separate.

We chose a dark wood stain for the table top, to make up for the fact that we used pine (which was wayyy less expensive than hardwood) and painted the legs a creamy white.

To get the finished look, we used just 1 coat of Minwax’s Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Espresso 273 and 3 coats of Mixwax’s water based Polycrylic protective finish. The only downside is that this finish is not super heat-resistant. For the legs, I used this tutorial on color washing with Behr’s Heavy Cream. It’s very easy and takes almost no paint, which is nice.

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Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

Eventually, I’d like to find chairs that are a little more farmhouse style, but we’re using the chairs from Cody’s grandpa’s table and they work just fine!

Shopping List

2 4″x4″x8′ fir boards
2 1″x8″x8′ pine boards
2 1″x4″x6′ pine boards
8 oz Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish
8 oz Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain
8 oz Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior Matte
Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Kit
Kreg 100 Count 1-1/4 inch Screws
4 oz Elmer’s Carpenter Wood Glue
Paintbrush
Fine Sandpaper (for between coats of Polycrylic)

Materials We Already Had

5″ Orbital Sander
5″ Orbital Sandpaper (a medium grit works fine)

Cut List

For the Top

5 21.75″ from the 1x8s (Four of these will come from 1 board and 1 from the 2nd board)
2 36.25″ from the 1x8s (This may change slightly, depending on the exact width of your 1x8s.)

For the Aprons and Support

4 26.25″ from the 1x6s
1 31.25 from the 1x6s

For the Legs

4 identical cuts from the 4x4s (The height will depend on what chairs you’re using; it really doesn’t matter as long as they’re all the same!)

My Fall Favorites: Essentials for Making the Most of Autumn

It’s officially autumn and even though it’s still warm in the afternoon, the mornings have been cool and foggy. Fall is my favorite season and October is my favorite month. I make the the most of fall with mums in every shade of yellow, red and purple, apple pie and cable knits. And yes, that is a pumpkin spice latte in my coffee cup.

These are my favorite fall accessories:

1. L.L. Bean Boots
Breaking out my fall shoes is an occasion worth celebrating, and no pair of boots makes me happier than my Bean Boots. They’re so comfy and my favorite fuzzy socks fit inside! I’ve also found that some of my favorite fall activities take place in my Bean Boots. Cue the cool weather hikes, fall festivals and weekend camping trips.

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2. Columbia Thermal Crew Socks
I love thermal socks and wear them the majority of the year. These are by far my favorites: they don’t fall down, the aren’t too fluffy and they keep my feer super warm. Bonus: I found these socks at TJ Maxx for less than they’re listed online on Columbia’s website.

3. Mums
This one is pretty self explanatory. What’s not to love about mums at the entrance of every store and on every porch in every fall color.

My Fall Favorites and Autumn Essentials

4. Yankee Candle Spiced Pumpkin Car Jar
I *highly* recommend investing in a fall-scented Car Jar. After my car is sitting in the sun all day, I open the door and it honestly smells like I’m pulling pumpkin cookies out of the oven. Who doesn’t need that after a long day at the office?

5. Artisan de Luxe Nell Throw
I almost bought this for myself last week at Home Goods, and, in a testament to how well my mom knows my style, she bought it for me for my birthday this week. The rich texture compliments our worn leather couch and natural throw pillows really well and I’m excited to curl up in it as the weather gets cooler.

My Fall Favorites and Autumn Essentials

6. Nanny’s Apple Pie
My grandma was a fantastic baker, and nothing was more impressive than her Thanksgiving staple, apple pie. My aunt is continuing the apple pie tradition. If I’m the one making, I’m more of an apple crisp kind of baker, but nothing is quite the same as a flaky crust and perfectly layered apple slices.

7. Homemade Concord Grape Jelly
This is probably a weird addition to a fall favorites list for those of you who don’t look forward to picking grapes off the vine in September every year. My dad’s uncle’s vineyard looked (and tasted) delicious when we visited last month; there’s nothing better than concords warmed by the sun on a fall day. And of course, there’s nothing to do with the pounds of grapes we picked but to make jelly!

My Fall Favorites and Autumn Essentials
Also, how cute is this apple hand towel my grandma embroidered?

8. Mossimo Supply Co. Cable Knit Cocoon Cardigan
If it was in my budget, I’d buy this sweater in every color. It’s so warm and cozy, and it comes in the best fall colors. The cable knit adds a little extra texture that makes this sweater perfect for throwing over a summer tank and calling it fall, which is my favorite kind of fashion.

9. Falling Leaves
Autumn is synonymous with gorgeous foliage. I spent countless hours pressing fall leaves in phone books as a kid, and did it again last fall for my holiday gift tags. No matter how old I get, there is such thrill in finding an unblemished red leaf on the ground.

This Dance Is For Me + My Favorite Improv Songs

The first time I was asked to improvise was in a ballet class freshman year of college. I was already out of my element, a communications major in my second semester in a room filled with sophomore musical theater and acting majors. Sometimes remembering a barre warmup in front of them was more than I could handle.

My dance background in ballet, jazz and tap didn’t include any improv, so this request to just move with new music was scary. Terrifying even.

I always loved moving around to the music on the radio. I have a hard time listening to music at work because I’m constantly bobbing up and down, choreographing in my head to whatever song is on. That choreography got in the way when I tried to improv. Instead of letting go, I tried to remember every move I made, in case it turned out “good.”

By the next time I was asked to improv, I had declared my dance minor, was a junior, was used to dancing without the mirrors and even liked end-of-class partner massages. It turns out I really enjoyed improvising once the awkward factor was out of the way.

Improv Playlist | Succulents and Sunnies

The ability to move without caring what you look like or what other people think is a true skill, one that took a long time for me to develop. These days, the ease of improv – you don’t need a ballet barre or big space or the perfect song – makes it the form of dance I do most. Sneaking into the group exercise room between spin class and kickboxing at the gym for a little movement is my happy time in my post-college world. Who cares about the woman doing core or the guys jumping rope? This dance is for me.

If you’re looking for a few songs to get up and move around to, these are some of my favorites:

9 Must Haves for a Day at the Beach

Summer is short in Buffalo, so when sunny days come your way, you take advantage of them. This means always being ready to throw a few essentials into your backpack and head to the beach! These are my 9 favorite beach day essentials:

1. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen: This is my favorite sunscreen. It works, it doesn’t feel slimy and it doesn’t bother my skin. It is more expensive than your average Coppertone, but worth it! The bottles are also small enough to be TSA carry-on approved.

2. Old Navy Flip Flops: These flip flops are perfect for hot sand, rocky beaches, rinsing feet off, running to the bathroom and just about every other beach day errand. Plus, you can buy a pair for $2.50, or stock up during the $1 flip flop sale mid-summer.
Summer Beach Day Essentials | Succulents and Sunnies
3. Black Sea Followband: Wearing jewelry at the beach is dangerous – you’re asking for earrings lost to the waves and funky tan lines. However, I like accessorize just a little bit by adding this bracelet to my beach day outfit.

4. Lush Breath of Fresh Air Toner: I included this toner in my winner essentials list as well. It’s perfect for refreshing sun-drenched skin and wiping off layers of sunscreen before heading to the ice cream stand once the sun goes down.

5. Nalgene Water Bottle: Staying hydrated on the beach is hard, so a giant water bottle is a must-have. I love that plastic doesn’t sweat as much as metal water bottles and the top is big enough to fit ice cubes in.

6. Bubbles: Mom got me bubbles for Easter, and they’re a fun addition to beach day activities. Plus, they look great in pictures.
Beach Day Summer Essentials | Succulents and Sunnies
7. Knockaround Mai Tais: Knockarounds are just about everyone’s favorite beach accessory. They’re tough to break, cheap and available with polarized lenses. Plus, their new frame designs are flattering for smaller faces (like mine ✋) so you don’t have to sacrifice fashion for function.

8. Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray: Buffalo might not have any salt water nearby, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rock surfer girl hair. This makes wet hair look textured and helps it dry into a uniform wave.

9. A Good Magazine: If I’m spending a week on the beach (and a few hours in a plane to get there), a new book is a great accessory. If I’m visiting the local lake for an afternoon, a magazine is a better bet. I love Real Simple, Cosmo and Magnolia Journal!

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse

“I’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” – Ronald Reagan

These words are incredibly true, and have been since my first horseback riding lesson at age 9. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed a recent increase in the number of horse pictures. There’s kind of a lot of them. The last year, I’ve been back at the barn and it feels good.

There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as a couple of hours at the barn; not necessarily riding – sometimes that goes pretty badly – but brushing, bathing, grazing and feeding endless carrots. These hours are special and after 4 horseless years, I’m still feeling extra thankful I get to have them.

This year, I’m spending those hours with Johny. He’s possibly the happiest, sweetest, cuddliest lesson horse on the planet. Johny was the first horse I showed, and while we were never going to win a class, we both learned a lot about working as a team.

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse | Succulents and Sunnies | Niagara County 4H Show

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse | Succulents and Sunnies | Niagara County 4H Show

Last weekend, Johny and I broke out the hoof polish and saddle soap for an open show. After we both got over a little bit of nerves, we had so much fun! Horse shows are kind of like dance recitals. Practice is fun, but also hard. When you get to a show, all dolled up, you do your best, but it’s not the place to make any big changes. You just get to ride and hope nothing too terrible happens. And nothing did – we couldn’t ask for anything more!

Thanks to our personal show photographer Katheryn Krawczyk for the pictures!

Love Ya Like a Sister

My sister and I are close, bonded by our love of cute coffee shops, affinity for new adventures and the misery of both not understanding what your parents are talking about and simultaneously becoming them. Despite this, Paige and I haven’t lived under the same roof in years. Some of that time, we were both in Ithaca, meeting up for Saturday morning coffee dates when we were both free. Others, we were hours apart, one of us home and the other in Ithaca.

Cody and his siblings are incredibly close, and when Cody’s brother moved to Rochester last month, we knew that we’d be gathering often, thankfully only a few Thruway exits apart. This weekend we celebrated the first of many “Siblings’ Weekend,” full of family updates, breweries, boating and ice cream sundaes.

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

While Cody’s sister and his brother’s girlfriend aren’t my sisters, they do a pretty good job of filling in when Paige hasn’t been home in a while. This weekend, my heart was so full of love and laughter, fueled by a sunset boat ride, flatbread pizzas on the patio, trail mix and Impractical Jokers. Many thanks to Patrick and Shannon for making this weekend happen. Can’t wait for next time!