Replacing paper towels

24 February 2015

For several years, I’ve wanted to cut down on our paper towel use and introduce cloth dish towels to our kitchen. I wanted to do this for environmental reasons (my understanding is that cloth is better than paper!) as well as for financial – we were going through a lot of paper towels! We probably used about one roll every week and a half. At about $2 per roll, that’s almost $200 per year.

However, my husband, the chef in our family and the main paper towel consumer, was not on board. Since he does the majority of cooking, I wanted to respect his preference. Earlier this year, however, it occurred to me that even if he wasn’t interested in using cloth towels, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t. (Don’t ask me why it took me so long to figure this out.) I spent $25 at Target for 20 dish cloths and a little plastic bin. The dish cloths got folded and stacked on a cake plate next to our paper towel roll, and the bin went next door for the dirties (so we didn’t have to trek to the laundry room after every use).


Friends, this system is working better than I ever dreamed! I’m glad that we still have paper towels available, because cloth isn’t perfect for everything (I prefer to clean up cat vomit with something disposable!). But just the presence of the cloth towels has cut down both of our paper towel consumption to almost nothing – in the two months we’ve had cloth available, we’ve probably used about a roll of paper towels.


A few other items:

— We’re not doing any additional laundry – we just throw the dish towels in with our once a week sheets-and-towels load. We were already doing this with cleaning rags, and they’re so small they don’t make much difference!
— We started with 20 bar cloths/dish towels. As we became more used to having the cloths available, we started to go through them faster, so we just added five more to the collection a few days ago. I think adding five more (to get us to 30) will be the perfect amount to get us through a week.

This situation was a great reminder of the old adage – the only person you can change is yourself. Or my personal favorite, Be the change you wish to see in the house. We spent so long at a standstill, with him stubbornly on the paper towel side and me stubbornly on the cloth side. In the end, we ended up gladly on the same side because no one was being forced to change. I know I’ll be reminding myself of this lesson in the future :)

Have you tried to reduce paper towels in your house?

Cafe curtain inspiration for the dining room

18 February 2015

I say “dining room” lightly, because as you know, our downstairs is pretty much one big open space!


We are situated VERY close to our neighbors, so window treatments have to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. Our house came with nice blinds, and we usually keep them all the way down for privacy reasons. I don’t mind the look of them, but I would love to be able to keep them up to allow more light in! To do that, however, we need to add something into the mix – and that’s where cafe curtains come in. Though I don’t always love the look of them (they can look a little country), I think they are the perfect solution for this spot.


Cafe curtains would allow us to keep the blinds completely rolled up and let lots of sun in through the top half of the windows, but our neighbors would only be able to see the tops of our heads when the curtains were closed. Sounds good! Here are a few images that have been inspiring me…





Better Homes & Gardens, Anne Decker Architects, Proverbs 31 Girl, unknown

I also found this little video, which has some helpful hanging tips! I think the key to making this type of curtain look less country is to use rings instead of a rod-pocket or tab style.

Now, my decisions:

1. Inside mount or outside mount for the hardware? I think this one is made for me – with the way our windows are built, I think it has to be outside mount. I am eying this set, but I might be able to find something similar for less at Home Depot/Lowes.

2. Curtain color? I want something very light and airy, so there are pretty much two options with our house’s palette: white or pale blue. I am not feeling a pattern right next to the table, unless someone would like to try and convince me otherwise :)

The plan is to buy fabric and either use the no-sew iron-on adhesive technique I’ve used before, or ship the fabric to my sister and see if she’ll sew a few hems for me on her sewing machine!

Anyone have any experience with cafe curtains?
Or privacy from close neighbors? :)

Fruit of the spirit: joy

16 February 2015

This year, instead of setting traditional goals, I am examining and practicing a fruit of the spirit each month. I explain more here!


When I think about joy, the first thing that comes to mind is gratitude. I think gratitude is the “secret” to a joyful life, because the only possible outflow from gratitude is joy. When I am grateful, I am joyful. When I am grateful, I see the abundance in everything around me. I see that I have more than enough!

For the last few weeks, I have been keeping an impromptu gratitude journal. To be honest, while I am trying to embrace the whimsy of writing down whatever I happen to be most grateful for at the moment, sometimes it feels a bit aimless. There are so many HUGE things I have to be grateful for that I feel like I need to write all those down first! As in…

1) My health
1a) Health of husband
1b) Health of family
1c) Health of friends
1d) Health of cats

…and on and on. As a side note, the whimsy has led to some random recordings – why am I thinking about Free Cone Day in the middle of February?? (April 14, FYI!)


So, has cultivating gratitude helped me to be more joyful? Yes, I think so! However, even though many of the things I have written down are not materialistic, almost all of them are circumstantial, and I think that’s not telling the full story. Life Church’s current sermon series is called “God Never Said That,” and I happened to listen to the most recent one as I was mulling over all of these thoughts. In it, Craig debunks the myth that “God wants you happy.” The sermon is definitely worth listening to, but for our purposes, here’s the gist:

— God delights in our happiness, like any good father.
— However, He doesn’t want us to pursue happiness, He wants us to pursue Him.
— The world’s definition of happiness is: better possessions + peaceful circumstances + thrilling experiences + the right relationship + perfect appearances.
— God does not want us to be happy when our happiness is based only on the things of this world.

My husband brings me great joy. My cats bring me joy. Maine brings me joy. My bed brings me joy. But I believe that they bring me joy because they are a hint, a reflection, a reminder of the joy that is God’s love for me. For me, the most profound part of Craig’s sermon was his reminder that we need to lower our expectations of earth, because earth is not meant to be fully satisfying. Things here can bring us great joy, but they’re still only an echo.


A few more things I’m doing to cultivate joy:
— Letting positive, joyful people influence me instead of cynical or pessimistic people
— Being truly grateful not only for the good things in my life, but expressing my gratitude to the one who gave them to me
— Being present and ENJOYING the things, and especially people, He has given me. The more I tune in to the wonder of my life and the world around me, the more joyful I become!

Friends, out of every personality trait, I would wager that joy is the most intoxicating. People are downright intrigued by those who exude joy, because it’s something we all want more of. Be one of those people! Let your joy pour out of you!! In the meantime, I would love to hear: how do you cultivate a joyful life?

P.S. Fruit of the spirit: love

We are going to France!!

12 February 2015

It’s official: we have booked our tickets to France!! After discussing this trip for two and a half years, and dreaming of it for even longer, I almost can’t believe it’s actually happening. But it is, and plans are moving fast!

Well, plans are moving fast now. I promised myself I wouldn’t get excited until we had actually booked our plane tickets, so in January, John began searching. Depending on the day, he found fares from Raleigh to Charles de Gaulle that ranged from $2,800-$3,400 for two. Did your eyes just bug out? Yeah, mine, too. Having never bought international plane tickets before, we thought that seemed expensive, but weren’t really sure what was reasonable, so we hesitated over pulling the trigger. While we waffled, I ended up reaching out to a friend who had recently flown to Europe to ask what they paid, and once I heard $2,900 from her, I felt better. Side note: financial transparency among friends is so valuable!! John headed back to the travel sites (Hipmunk is his favorite), and lo and behold, we somehow ended up paying $2,300!

Once our flights were settled, we quickly booked our accommodations in Paris (an Airbnb in the 15th arrondisement) and in Provence. But there’s still so much to do! We’ve been poring over travel sites and magazines and soaking everything in. I love the photos on the Haven in Paris blog:










I can’t stand it!! So good. We’ll be there for 8 days and 8 nights in June, traveling between Paris, Provence, and the Cote d’Azur. I’d love to hear your recommendations!