The Fat Hydrangea

Sara Michelle - Cleveland, Ohio

The DEEPER Reasons Why Modern Farmhouses are So Appealing

Sara Michelle B.Comment

Obviously modern farmhouses are all the rage right now! Who doesn't love beautiful white painted houses, shiplap, barn metal pendant light fixtures, weathered wood, rustic furnishings, and barn doors? From a style perspective, there is a lot to love. However, I've been thinking a lot about it and I think the appeal of these homes - for me at least -  goes well beyond the particular style elements, and actually reflects my deeper desire for a certain quality of life.


Here are 4 elements of the farmhouse lifestyle that I think subconsciously may also be driving us in our desire to capture the farmhouse design style in our homes: 

  1. A Simpler Life
    • When I think about life on a farm, I think about a quieter, simpler, unplugged life. A place where time moves a little slower and you live a little more in the moment. Away from the hustle bustle, the commute, the noise, and the rat race. Away from the computer screen, a life all but removed from social media, and a place where evenings are spent watching sunsets instead of watching TV. Less consumerism, less commercialism. I think of white space, fresh air, and nature. There isn't anything flashy about it and it isn't a place where you are trying to impress anybody.  It isn't over the top, but it is everything you need. It is a well loved, functional, lived-in HOME. 
  2. A Sense of Feeling Closer to Nature
    • When I think about life on a farm, I think about being connected to nature every day. Up with the sunrise and outdoors getting work done. Growing gardens and harvesting the fields. Caring for, feeding, raising and loving on animals. Dirt beneath your fingertips and sun on your face. Wild flowers, farmer tans, and fresh air. Laundry drying in the breeze. Eating food that has been grown, picked and washed with your own two hands. Less processing, less packaging. A true appreciation of the seasons. Sunsets on the porch and stars in the night sky.  The sounds of crickets and the glow of lightening bugs. 
  3. A Strong Work Ethic & Sense of Pride
    • When I think about life on a farm, I think of HARD WORK. The kind of work that is demanding and yet rewarding. The kind of hard work that leaves you exhausted and yet fulfilled. The kind of hard work that may not make you a millionaire but makes you feel rich and fulfilled, nonetheless. Hands on, minds engaged kind of work. The kind of work you are proud of. The kind of hard work that allows you to fall sound asleep at night! 
  4. A Connection to History
    • When I think about life on a farm, I think about early America and amber waves of grain. I think about my Grandma Eva and Grandpa Lynn, and how they raised my dad and his four siblings on a small family farm in Wisconsin. I think of antiques and family heirlooms. I think of repurposing things on hand to make them more functional or more beautiful. I think of restoring and appreciating treasures from long ago instead of buying something new.  I think of flea markets and farmers markets and strong communities. 

My thought is that maybe by capturing some of this farmhouse design style within our homes, we are actually trying to tap into the essence of all of these great elements that are historically associated with a farmhouse lifestyle. I know I personally am drawn to both aspects - there is both aesthetic and emotional appeal!  While I'm a true city/suburb girl at heart and will probably never actually live on a farm, I know I want to incorporate elements of both the design and the lifestyle in my family's everyday experience. 


What do you say? Do think there is a deeper connection, or do you think the appeal is mostly aesthetic?

Tell Me What You Think
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Our 9-Year Anniversary and the Story of our Double Booked Wedding

PersonalSara Michelle B.5 Comments

Today Evan and I celebrate NINE years of marriage! In some ways it feels like yesterday, and in some ways it feels like we were babies at the time! One thing is for sure, through all of the ups and downs, challenges and opportunities, there is still no one else I'd rather have by side! We're certainly not perfect but we do love each other and our family immensely and what more could you really ask for?! (Sorry, getting all sentimental here! Blame the third trimester pregnancy hormones!)


We got engaged in June of 2007. We booked our venue the WEEK we got engaged, which was about 15 months before our wedding. The site was a beautiful golf club near where we lived, had a bright beautiful ballroom with dozens of windows overlooking a beautiful golf course, was brand new, and absolutely our taste. We had numerous meetings with the venue and every detail was planned well in advance of our wedding day. (I am super Type-A and made SURE of all of that!)


SO, imagine my surprise when ONE MONTH before our wedding, I'm sitting at a conference for work and have 5-missed calls and multiple voicemails from the wedding planner at our venue requesting that I call her immediately. I call her back, and she tells me that we have a little problem, and that they accidentally double booked our wedding day. Say what??? 

More specifically, she told me that our contract had the correct date, but that there was another couple who had a contract for August 2nd who apparently THOUGHT their date was August 16th, and had everything else booked and planned for that date.

At first, she started off thoughtfully telling us the situation and inquiring if we'd be interested in moving to August 2nd (Which was a firm no, considering 95% of our guests were coming from out of town and it was weeks away at this point!) I basically told her that while I was really sorry about the situation, as long as our contract was not the one in question, I really didn't see what else we could do! 

WELL FRIENDS, this is where it got ugly. The phone calls kept coming and it went from the "thoughtful" inquisition to really pushing us hard to try to change our date or venue. Apparently the other bride told the venue she was completely unwilling to budge on anything. To this day, I still don't quite understand how she got away with that considering her contract was the one that was wrong? You never know. 

We consulted a lawyer at this point and he basically told us that it doesn't necessarily matter that our contract was right . We can't FORCE the venue to host our event that day, we can only sue them for damages if they break our contract. I certainly did not like THAT answer considering we had planning and dreaming about this day for over a year (heck, for my whole life!), and like I mentioned, all of our family and friends (over 300 people!) were coming into town for the day. This news and this entire situation was NOT fun. My stress level was off-the-freaking-charts.

After a week of intense phone calls and in person meetings with the venue,  it became obvious the problem wasn't going away and we were going to have to do something. We also decided we didn't want the negative energy around our wedding for a minute longer. At the end of it all, this day is about our marriage, saying our vows before God,  and celebrating with people that we love, and we didn't want anything - ANYTHING - to cast a dark shadow over that! At our core, we are both optimistic people and problem solvers so we decided to try our best to evaluate our options and see what we could potentially work out so EVERYONE could be happy. 


We knew changing the date wasn't an option, so that idea came off the table immediately. We also looked at a few other venues that were open that day, but in the middle of August all the beautiful places we would have seriously considered were already booked. We tried REALLY hard to consider some available venues with an open mind, but they just didn't feel like us at all and truthfully would have felt like a huge let down had we had to change to one of those sites. At this point, we felt really defeated! 

Then, during a round table meeting between my family and the venue, someone had the idea to actually host BOTH weddings at the golf club! They only have one ballroom, which was our original plan, and what the other bride INSISTED she still have. However, they also had a back patio with a restaurant and bar area. Once we started talking, we brainstormed that they could close the entire club for the day, give the other couple the side entrance to the club and give us the main entrance, lobby, and outdoor area for our wedding. On top of that, they would bring in three tents to shelter the area from the weather (my main concern!) 

We started getting excited and getting creative! The patio overlooks a beautiful golf course, so we decided to make that the backdrop of the head table. The patio also had the most gorgeous hanging baskets ever, so we redid our centerpieces and florals to work with what they already had on site. The baskets were insanely beautiful and it literally saved us thousands of dollars! And then my dad, the ultimate business man, also negotiated a very nice discount on the overall cost of our wedding due to the ordeal they put us through. (We may have come up with an agreeable solution at the end of the day, but it was a truly painful process that I wouldn't wish on anyone!) Let's just say between the flowers and the discount, we were able to divert a lot of our wedding budget to paying off our student loans - another amazing thing that came out of this ordeal!


Come August 16th, we ended up with the most beautiful day EVER! The temperature was in the mid-70s, and the day was sunny and perfect. The tents looked absolutely amazing and the setting was 100000x more beautiful than the wedding I originally envisioned! Not to mention, most of our guests didn't even notice there was another wedding going on at the golf club - we never saw them! (As opposed to them looking out the ballroom windows and seeing our tents and our party!)

It all worked out so well. The day was beautiful, the site was beautiful, and we made beautiful memories! It seriously ended up being everything I could have ever dreamed of, and more. 

It just goes to show you that sometimes the bumps in the road can actually bring you closer and bring you to something better than you could have planned for yourself. Just be open minded, be creative, be nice, and I think good things will ultimately come your way! 

That's our story and we all lived happily ever after ;) 

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Family Room Makeover Phase II: New IKEA EKTORP Sectional Couch

Family RoomSara Michelle B.3 Comments

If you read this post, you will know that Evan and I are on a mission to transform our living room into a space we love and utilize.

One of the issues I mentioned is how LONG and narrow the space is, followed by another issue that the openings are in weird spaces and therefore making furniture configuration a bit of a challenge for two reasons: 

1) Typically I would like the couch centered across from the mantle and the TV, but the way the openings align, to have the couch against the wall puts it about 4 feet off center from the TV. Hate it!

2) We tried floating it in the middle of the room, but the room is so narrow that then it just feels like you have no where to move around in the room. Hate it! 

Thankfully we thought of a great solution - to get a sectional couch! We can push it up against the wall so we can  easily see the TV, while the extending leg provides visual weight and additional seating without taking up too much walking space. (Of course, the other side of the room will need something to balance it out... but that is a topic for the next phase/post!) 

After weighing numerous options, we decided to go with the Ikea Ektorp sectional for several reasons. 1) Washable slipcover 2) Great price 3) Lots of good reviews from other friends/blogers.  While it may not be 100% my dream couch, we decided it was perfect for this phase in our life when our kids beat up EVERYTHING! We are so incredibly hard on stuff and the washable slipcovers and price were huge selling points. 

We ended up choosing the Nordvalla Dark Gray Slipcover. I really wanted white in terms of aesthetic appeal, but completely Evan put his foot down on that idea! He basically said it was him or a white couch, and I had to choose. So obviously, I chose the gray and my husband ;)

Here are my thoughts on the couch after having it for almost 8-months now:

1) SO GLAD we went with something affordable. The kids jump on it 24/7, it is the basis for numerous forts on a weekly basis, and it has been the recipient of more spills and sticky handprints than I can count. 
2) Going along with the above, SO GLAD we got washable slipcovers. I wash them. A lot. Also, I hate washing them. It is a PITA! Tip: Don't wash more than a few at once! It is so hard to figure out where they go because some of the cushions are like 99% similar but just different enough that you'll have wrestled it onto the cushion only to realize it doesn't fit, and lose your mind. Matching the covers to the cushions is like doing a master jigsaw puzzle if you try to do it all at once!
3) SO GLAD we got the gray. The hubs was right on this one! Even with washing the slipcovers, it hasn't been that easy to get all the stains out and I am GOOD at getting stains out of things. I think the white would have driven me crazy! 
4) I typically like really deep sofas. This one is NOT deep, but we got the matching ottoman so we can pull it right up to the couch and extend the seating/leg area when we are cuddled up and reading or watching a movie. Such a good decision - love this ottoman! Worth the $149!

Overall, super happy with the decision to get this couch even if it isn't my all time dream couch! Lord knows we are getting our money's worth out of it! It is cute, comfortable, and most importantly, functional. 


Good reviews aside, this room and the couch are still missing something.

#1: There is way too much gray going on in this room. I need to break it up with new paint, throw pillows, or SOMETHING.  There is not enough contrast, yet none of it matches so it just feels like a sea of gray. Not working for me! It drives me crazy actually! 

#2: The room still needs something to balance it on the other side. Right now we have a super old chair-and-a-half that has seen better days, has NEVER been comfortable, and doesn't match the room at all. I can't wait to get rid of it and replace it with something else! In fact, I just put the order in for that "something else" else last week! That will be my next post :)

Anyway, phase II complete! Stay tuned for more!


Third Floor Budget Bathroom Renovation

Sara Michelle B.Comment

We recently had a huge flood in our house, in the form our third floor bathwater flowing down the drain, bubbling out of the trap, and completely flooding our bathroom floor! Thankfully we were able to catch it and clean it up immediately, but fixing it is a decent sized plumbing job to remove the ancient trap and replace the piping with something more modern and up to code. In the process we also discovered that the linoleum floors (probably installed in the 60s or 70s) were laid directly over the hardwood floors and were not providing much protection from water. SO, we ripped it all up to fix it all up! 

While we were at it, we also ripped up the carpeting on the stairs, which believe me, had seen way better days!

Here's the catch. Right now our house appraised at the very top of the market for our area, and there isn't much more room - if any - to really add significant value to our home for which we'd end up seeing a return on our investment. While we aren't going to skim on the quality of the plumbing work, obviously,  we also want to do this project in as budget friendly manner as possible! We want to make it pretty and functional, but not break the bank. In some ways it is discouraging because I have a vision of this room in my mind where we go all out and make tons of changes to make it AMAZING! But that is not the version you will see here! This is more about getting bang for your buck! 

So what is the plan? 

  • Fix all the plumbing issues 
  • Lay a water proof foundation above the wood floors, below the tile
  • Tile the room
  • Install a new toilet 
  • Install new plumbing fixtures
  • Install new baseboard
  • Install new carpeting on the stairs
  • Refinish all of the doors
  • Put in new light fixtures in the bathroom, hallway, and bedroom

In my DREAM renovation of this space we'd totally reconfigure the bathroom, get rid of the small sink and add a large vanity, add a shower, and add tons of beautiful moulding along the stairs. However, we priced what it would be to reconfigure the bathroom and it just doesn't make sense given the market we live in and the fact we don't see ourselves in this house forever. Boo. Oh well, we'll still make it awesome for what it is! 

And did I mention we need to have this ALL 100% done in 9-weeks before the baby comes and my mom stays up here while she comes to help? Look for a lot of updates, SOON! :)