Pine Cone Christmas Decorations

When I got into some mild form of trouble as a teen that didn’t constitute a full “grounded” sentence, my parents would love to send me out in the yard to go pick up the pine cones. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, pine trees are plentiful. Add that tidbit, plus the fact that my parents “yard” consisted of an acre of land…this was quite the task.

Our little family traveled from St. Peters, Missouri, back to my parents home on the Mississippi Coast last week for Thanksgiving and one of my “to-do’s” was to pick up pine cones. It’s funny, this time I was pretty excited about my little treasures. Coberly even helped!


Now, what to do with these beauties? My home is in the midst of it’s Christmas decor transition and I’ve got my sights set on a few pine cone craft options to warm up my spaces.

Pine Cone Ornaments from Shanty2 Chic


Pine Cone Candle Jars from Crafts by Amanda


Coke Crate Pine Cones by Organized Clutter

coke crate pine cones

Wooden Box Centerpiece from Fern Creek Cottage

table centerpiece box

Antler and Pine Cone Basket from Savvy Southern Style (thankfully, my hunter can provide the antlers)

antlers and pine cones

I’ll be sure to share the results!

Banana Nut Mini Muffins

This last week is on the books as a “sick” one for our family. Of course it started with a nasty stomach bug baby girl brought home from school, traveled to both Ryan and myself, and progressed to a few not so fun cases of pink eye. Did my “to-do” list get done? Nope. Did I have to take days off of work? Yep. Am I behind? You betcha’. But these are life’s little problems. Perspective is always best when you feel a pity party coming on. It takes a whole half a second for me to realize a week of sickness is nothing compared to real problems.

All that being said, I promised Ryan some banana bread about five days ago and I’m finally making it happen. I love putting rotten bananas to good use. These banana nut mini muffins will lighten our spirits and make the whole home smell amazing.

I’m no Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker, but I can follow a recipe. My favorite way to find a fool-proof recipe is to search for one that has thousands of positive reviews and is practical…this is one of those recipes.

banana nut ingredients

I’ve tweaked it slightly according to my preference and other user comments. For instance, the addition of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, exchange of brown sugar, and this time I added walnuts. I also completely skipped the crumb topping and the banana nut muffins are still delicious. My final ingredients list came out to this:

banana nut recipe

The prep time is 10-15 tops with a cook time of 12-15 minutes for my mini muffin pans. From the batter, I got 38 mini muffins which means each little muffin is only 65 calories (Carb 10/Fat 2/Protein 1).

banana nut

DIY Indoor Planter Pots

“Are you feeling ok?” is the first thing Ryan said to me when he came home and saw that I purchased indoor plants. In my quest to be more intentional in my home, one of my self-imposed tasks was to bring green inside. This would be the first time I tried to keep a plant alive in ten years – because I’ve always said, “It’s not my thing.”

So I’m starting small. Did a quick google search for indoor plants that were hard to kill and found “The 15 easiest indoor house plants that won’t die on you.” Went to Ann’s Garden and Greenhouse and found a $3.00 Jade Plant…seemed like a budget appropriate risk. On my way out, I picked up this little fern guy too.

jade and fern

I turned an old candle into a pot for the jade.

jade planter

jade planter 2

And come to find out, Ryan collected a number of planter pots at the new project house. A little bit of paint and tape spruced up an old planter pot into something that will breathe some life into my office.

chalkboard planter


I also wanted an herb in my kitchen. I love cooking with Rosemary and Walmart had them right there in the produce section. Again, a $3.00 risk worth taking. Found this tin at an antique store – and it fits perfect in my kitchen window.


A few little projects that make a huge difference. Now just to keep them alive.

Picking Paint Color, Tile, & Countertops

Walking into a new project that we’ve gutted always allows me to see the space with fresh eyes. My favorite place to start rebuilding is the kitchen. At the Sturm house, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where we all touch base after we’ve finished a long day. The concoctions can warm cold skin, fill hungry bellies and fix a lot of life’s problems. I want homebuyers to be able to see themselves doing similar things in this space.

It’s always tricky with rehabs because I do not know my buyer. We walk a fine line of remaining neutral while still incorporating special touches that conjure up warm feelings of home.

For the Janis Ann Gem, we knocked out the wall separating living/dining area to the kitchen. It immediately opened the space and allows the rooms to breathe.


During my design process I scour magazines, Pinterest, and take countless trips to Home Depot. I need to make the most of this space on a budget and that always takes work. The first decision was easy – hardwood floors throughout. We haven’t found the product yet, but we know this is a must.

For paint color, I fell in love with this one:

silver strandSherwin Williams Silver Strand SW 7057

The front windows bring in light changes that keep the color versatile. In the morning it’s a cool gray, but by the afternoon, it’s warmed up to show it’s brown undertones.

I love these cabinets, but not the color. We’re going to lighten the whole room up with a simple paint job. This color isn’t stark white, but nice and clean:

IMG_4129white dove
Benjamin Moore White Dove OC-17

After going back and forth on backsplash, I’ve decided to go with the white subway tile. The space needs to remain as open and airy as possible.

I’m still on the hunt for the countertops. I love these options:

countertop3 countertop2 countertop1

Plus, we’re installing a beautiful island with a wooden top that will balance the whole kitchen out More updates to come as we make improvements.

How To Clean Clutter

With fresh motivation to be more intentional and focus on my home, what I really want to do is decorate all the spaces that I’ve left lonely for the past two years. But that’s not what I need to do. What I need to do is the less fun of those options…clearing the clutter.

As a kid, when my grandma or mom would tell me to clean my room – my sister and I (shared room) would fill every extra nook and cranny with junk. Fill the closet, close the door! Push it under the bed, the dust ruffle will hide it! As I grow older, my bad habit is starting to annoy me. I know the mess is there…waiting…and it’s driving me crazy. Plus, it’s always a song and dance when I have guests over and I’m trying to hide my secret, “No!! Wait!! I’ll put your coat up, thanks!”

This past weekend when my friends from North Carolina were visiting, I couldn’t find a washcloth in my linen closet. It was there, I knew it, but the disorderly mess left it hidden. On top of that, I was trying to block all eyes from seeing the crazed disorder behind the doors. So today, instead of decorating my master, I’m tackling one item on this list I’ve been ignoring.

First up, the linen closet. Above are the before photos, don’t judge me.

First step for me is always clearing everything out – EVERYTHING. I divide all my stuff into three initial piles:

  • Keep
  • Toss
  • Undecided

This is supposed to be fast! I never think about any item for more than a minute. If you have to think about it, put it in the undecided pile.

After everything is in a pile, it’s time to tackle the undecideds. Be objective – do you really use it? Could someone else use it more? Decide what you want to keep and give away (new pile).

Throw your toss pile out! That leaves you with the Keep pile and the Give Away pile. Go ahead and put your Give Away stuff in a bag and put it in the trunk of your car. The first step took me 25 minutes.

Second step is group together all your like items in your keep pile. For my linen closet it’s bed linens, towels, extra toiletries, medicine, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies. If it doesn’t fit in any of those categories, it probably belongs elsewhere in my home. For instance, I found some laundry stain removers (laundry room) and play jewelry (Coberly Nicole’s room).

Now that I’ve got all my items grouped together I can see how much space each needs and try to coordinate what containers will work. I’m doing this reorganization without spending any money, so these will have to do.


Last step is to put it all away. Here is my finished result! Does it look like a magazine? Nope. But it’s realistic and cost me nothing.


Let’s start with the top shelfI keep the toilet paper in the package until it’s opened. Once it’s opened, I take it out because the shredded plastic is an eyesore. Same thing with the paper towels. I also decided to keep my extra pillows on the top shelf where they had room to breathe – finally found a use for that linen bag.

Shelf TwoLet’s see those washcloths disappear now! I put all my washcloths in the basket because I find trying to keep a folded stack from tipping over is impossible. Next the hand towels and then the regular towels. I kept the folded edge facing forward to keep it looking clean.

Shelf ThreeEvery time I look for a new sheet I find myself unfolding them and searching for that silly tag. A solution: separate them on the shelf. I am keeping the full and queen sheets in different stacks.

What about those fitted sheets? Here’s the thing – I’ve watched the instructional videos on how to fold fitted sheets. I’ve followed Martha step-by-step to no avail. I’ve come to terms with the fact this is something I am not going to master, nor do I care. For this linen closet, they’ll stay semi-folded (ok, maybe rolled) in a nice basket so it doesn’t look like a disaster. Also separated by size.


Shelf FourI grouped all the extra toiletries into an open basket (for easy access). I placed all the medicine in a closed container (for safe storage from the little).

FloorMy extra cosmetics went in a nice box on the left and my cleaning caddy with all my supplies went on the right.

Last but not least, labels. Not only does it make it look organized, but it serves as a reminder for everyone else in the house to try and put things back in their place (including myself).


All in all, I would say this took me 1:20 (I spent some extra time to clean out the medicine cabinet contents). I can’t commit this kind of time every day – any busy mom knows that. I’ll make it my goal to do it once a week until I get my “problem areas” under control. I’m not striving for perfection, but I am striving to value the things I have while letting go of things I do not need.

Focusing on the Home

One thing I have never seemed to lack is ambition. I’ve always had the desire to set new goals, achieve them, and keep moving – always wanting more. In a culture that honors the climb, it’s easy to find pride in this trait, but recently I feel God compelling me to slow down. Not just to slow down, but to focus on my home.

Looking back now, I can see He was creating this path – this isn’t a bucket of cold water over my head, it’s been in the making for a decade. Ten years ago, I went on a date and when Ryan (now my husband) asked me where I wanted to be in five years, I promptly gave him my career path. When he answered the question, his focus was on family. I knew when I married Ryan that I was in for a crazy ride, but looking back – I could never predict how much my perspective would change.

Two years into my “career plans” in North Carolina, I realized that Ryan was right – I was chasing the wrong thing. We took a huge leap of faith, moved back to his hometown outside of St. Louis, and set our sights on renovating homes full time. I would keep a steady job for support as Ryan built our family business. Instead of career being first, we would put our family first and make our passion our work.

In 2014, our little girl, Coberly Nicole entered the world. Twelve weeks later I had to leave my baby from 6:30 a.m. until 5:45 p.m. so I could commute to an office. I was devastated and knew something had to change. I prayed hard and fervently searched for alternatives. Six weeks later God answered my call. I secured a job to work from home. Yes, Coberly still goes to daycare, but the days are so much shorter and I found balance. It was the first career move I made without a promotion. It was a completely lateral move, but I didn’t care because the benefit of balance made it worth it. Oh how I have changed.

Then came temptation: a promotion. I wanted it and I wanted it bad. In the end, we couldn’t make it work and I was disappointed. That got me thinking, “Why did I want it?” I couldn’t answer the question.

That was a few weeks ago. Over the last week, I feel as though I’m being pulled back. I know my focus needs to be with Muddy River Homes, but that’s not all – I’m feeling pulled to step into my role as homemaker. If you would have used the word “homemaker” in front of me a decade ago, it’s possible I would have stepped up on a pedestal and given you a lecture on equality. But today, I feel like I could own that word with pride.

Will I quit my job? No. But I do feel called once again to slow down, refocus and be intentional in my home and with my family. I’m going to take my drive and plug it in to things that matter. With Coberly Nicole and baby girl number two on the way, my home matters. Giving Ryan support as he works to build our family business matters. Keeping God at the forefront as our family grows is what matters. A promotion? My version of “career?” It doesn’t matter. I know it’s counter-cultural, but I trust that God is leading our family somewhere great.

The Right Place at the Right Time

Shopping for the next project is always an exciting time at Muddy River Homes.

Ryan always brings home the smell of “foreclosure” after a long day of house shopping. It could be a home with mold, pet odor, or even squatters – he’s never shy about checking every room and basement, so the smell tends to stick.

Given the competitive market in the St. Louis area, sometimes the shopping takes longer than we’d like – but sometimes, you’re just in the right place at the right time. That’s how it worked for us on the Janis Ann Gem. The home was left to deteriorate in this great little neighborhood right next to the St. Peters golf course. After the homeowner passed, a distant family member handled the trust and the home sat vacant for three years. When the time came for sale, they just wanted it gone.

These are my favorite homes. At some point this home was full of life, family, and love. The neighbors knew each other by name and shared years worth of stories. With some hard work and design insight, Ryan and I are going to restore this home and make it one of the best in the neighborhood. Then comes the best part. Someone, some couple, or some family is going to fill the beautiful space. They’re going to walk through and imagine where they can cook dinner and enjoy food with friends. They’re going to see themselves relaxing and breathing easy in their master suite. They’re going to find their new home, their new neighborhood, and their new community.


Within the first week of our arrival, Ryan made a few friends. When we started painting the outside of the home, Ryan made lots of friends. The pinkish hue (understandably) ran its course and it was time for a new look. He’s now the most popular guy in the neighborhood.

I’m thankful that God led us to this project. With our last home taking longer in the renovation stage than planned and our second little girl on the way, we both needed the satisfaction of diving in to our next project. We’re excited about this restoration and bringing life back into the Janis Ann Gem.