a kitchen share, finally.

If you've been following Pass the Pretty or are friends with me you might have noticed awhile back that my husband and I were doing a large renovation and addition. I got my dream kitchen. Really, I did. Almost a year after completion, I still walk into it with a heart full of appreciation. In fact, I don't even remember the things I wished for but didn't get during the process. (I promise I gave up a lot of items on my list since we didn't have an unlimited budget.)

By now you might be asking, "Why in the world haven't you posted some final photos of this dream kitchen?" Well, because I'm an art director and I was waiting to capture a collection of perfect shots to share.

Perfect is the enemy of good.  - Voltaire

Here's the thing, I use our kitchen every day. And I have 7 year-old twin boys which means there's usually homework on the bar or one of the tables, a collection of Star Wars figures hanging around on the counters, Pokémon cards everywhere,  or dirty dishes that need to be cleaned up before I can get all those Pinterest-perfect photos I envisioned.

It's hard to let go of the idea of a perfect post and just share. 

Recently though, a couple of friends asked me to send them photos which got me thinking, "Enough procrastination already." So here you have it—our new kitchen designed for friends, family and plenty of life. 

deSouza Kitchen / PassThePretty.com
deSouza Kitchen / PassThePretty.com

Architect: Betsy Pogue   Builder: Thomas Tims & Co.    Cabinets: Barker Cabinets     Garage door: Crawford Doors of Nashville

The pendant lights came from ReFresh Home in Franklin, TN

The pendant lights came from ReFresh Home in Franklin, TN

Katie Bean deSouza / PassThePretty.com

One of the questions we get asked most is do we open the garage door much? Absolutely. We actually had a couple of unusually warm spells this winter and enjoyed Thanksgiving, numerous Christmas parties, and weekend gatherings with an open door. I will say that last summer, when we were able to open the door, we did have a slight problem with flies, but we're working on some solutions for that before this summer hits.  

This is what makes my heart the happiest.  Friends gathered in the kitchen, garage door open, kids and dogs playing out under the twinkle of globe lights. Y'all just don't know how grateful I feel (especially after living without a kitchen for more than 5 months). 

This is what makes my heart the happiest.  Friends gathered in the kitchen, garage door open, kids and dogs playing out under the twinkle of globe lights. Y'all just don't know how grateful I feel (especially after living without a kitchen for more than 5 months). 

My dog kept walking through while I was trying to get pictures. (She doesn't like to be left out.) So here's Addie, also enjoying the kitchen. 

My dog kept walking through while I was trying to get pictures. (She doesn't like to be left out.) So here's Addie, also enjoying the kitchen. 

I'm putting together another Q & A type post for some friends who are beginning the building / renovation process. Meanwhile, if you're starting your own renovation, addition or home build and want to ask me questions, please leave a comment below. I'm always happy to share! 

love letters

I don’t remember my first childhood crush (there were so many), but I do remember the first time I heard a Pablo Neruda poem:

August 7, 2004
East Lansing, Michigan

I was sitting next to my brand-new husband in the MSU Alumni Chapel watching two of our dear friends tie the knot. It was a lovely, quiet, hold-your-breath kind of moment as the minister opened his book and began to read: 

“I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz or arrow of carnations that propagate fire. I love you as one loves certain obscure things, secretly, between the shadow and the soul…” 

One verse in, I began digging around in my purse for a pencil. When I looked the poem up later, I found that Sonnet XVII is even more beautiful in its original Spanish. 

And so my love affair with Pablo Neruda’s writings began.  

Eleven years, two kids and four houses later, that love has come full circle, right back to the words that started it all. 

I’ve been searching more than three years for just-the-right thing to put above our bed. 

Something lovely, but not too sappy. 
Something meaningful but not contrived. 
Something my husband won’t roll his eyes at. 

Then, one evening as I was rereading the closing lines of Sonnet XVII for the hundredth time, it hit me: What better words than these to sleep under every night? 

I’d just fallen head over heels for this sign at Katie’s place and reached out to the local artists at House of Belonging to ask if they did custom pieces. Six weeks later, their answer showed up on my doorstep, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Much like true love, it was well worth the wait. 

(Note: The English translations for this poem vary. As a writer, I picked the one I felt was most true to the original words — and that sounded the prettiest.)

 

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Posted on February 12, 2016 and filed under local love, home.

simple winter decor

I love to decorate for the holidays but, honestly, the pressure of getting it all taken down the week after Christmas keeps me from doing more. 

This year, I decided to go with more of a simple winter decor. Which mainly means I’m replacing red and green with gold, white, and natural materials like winter greenery, wood, rope and twine. It also means the week after Christmas I’ll only take down the Christmas tree and our stockings.  

I should probably mention that I love deer decor, as you may notice by the antlers on the table, the white deer heads in the living room and the plaid deer in the kitchen. Other people walk into our home around Christmas and think the deer are part of our holiday decor. At our house the deer stick around all year—although the plaid flannel guy will migrate to the guest room by early spring. FYI: He's from target. (Everyone always asks about him.)

I added lace and twine to mason jars to use as vases for my grandmother's 90 birthday celebration back in February. I found myself using them year round for flowers or pens and now for candy canes. 

I added lace and twine to mason jars to use as vases for my grandmother's 90 birthday celebration back in February. I found myself using them year round for flowers or pens and now for candy canes. 

Using rope instead of red ribbon and neutral planters means I won't feel bad about leaving the greenery up into January. The tiny trees are rosemary trees, which I've been cutting for all our holiday recipes. 

Using rope instead of red ribbon and neutral planters means I won't feel bad about leaving the greenery up into January. The tiny trees are rosemary trees, which I've been cutting for all our holiday recipes. 

Honestly, the natural and neutral materials really fit my style more than shiny red bows, sit-around Santas and red ball wreaths. In the past, I let tradition take over and rushed to put up what I already had, then rushed to take it all down. This year, I put a little more intention behind my decor and I will let some of it settle in for winter.  

  

Posted on December 20, 2015 and filed under home.

a morning at the natchez trace cottage

Write a book,
run a half marathon,
plant a vegetable garden,
become a child advocate for CASA— 
all things I’ve told myself I’m going to do when the boys “get a little older.” 

After spending a morning with Megan Helton though, I’m tempted to take a more short-term look at my list. This talented artist is a mama of three kids, ages four and under. She’s also a proud owner of the Natchez Trace Cottage—a charming 1950s vacation home that she and her husband Alex recently renovated (and decorated) from the floorboards up. 

Photo credit to the talented Amy Dixon of Showcase Photographers

Photo credit to the talented Amy Dixon of Showcase Photographers

I met Megan out there last week for a sneak peek of the place. Located less than half an hour from the neon glow of downtown Nashville, this two-bedroom rental cottage is tucked into the quiet Tennessee hills just a couple of miles from the Natchez Trace Parkway. Better yet, it’s also just down the road from the Loveless Cafe and their famous biscuits. 

“Want to drive the truck?” Megan asks as soon as I pull in the driveway. 

Ten minutes and one very bumpy ride later, we’re standing on a ridge looking out over the twenty acres that Megan and Alex now call their own. Megan buzzes with energy as she points out where they’re planning to build their family home, a few of her favorite trees, the pumpkins her boys used for target practice and, yes, the cottage far below.

We head back down the mountain for a tour of the real star of the property. 

By the time she unlocks the door, Megan’s told me about how she started toying with the idea of renovating (while on bedrest), how she and Alex found the cottage (right after after her hip surgery) and the discoveries they made once they started working on it (when her youngest was eight months old).

We step inside and I immediately like the home almost as much as I do its owner. From the original hardwoods and crystal doorknobs, to an oversized metal light fixture and rich wood countertops in the kitchen—the cottage is a perfect blend of Southern charm and modern-day taste. 

Photo credit to the talented Amy Dixon of Showcase Photographers

Photo credit to the talented Amy Dixon of Showcase Photographers

Photo credit to the talented Amy Dixon of Showcase Photographers

Photo credit to the talented Amy Dixon of Showcase Photographers

Good looks aren’t the only thing this place has going for it though. Everywhere you turn there’s a story to be told. 

That giant rooster painting in the living room? It’s signed by Megan. 

The tiny succulent on the nightstand? It’s sitting in one of the many old malt liquor cans found in the attic. 

Look closely at the book pages covering the vintage diner bench in the game area and you’ll find a map of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Even the quilts on the beds are heirlooms, handed down by Alex’s grandmother.

Photo credit to the talented Amy Dixon of Showcase Photographers

Photo credit to the talented Amy Dixon of Showcase Photographers

The stories go on and on. Unfortunately, my morning can’t. As we walk out to the driveway, I not-so-subtly invite myself back for another visit. 

“Sure!” Megan says. “Bring your boys. Our kids would have a great time with each other.” 

And just like that I’m reminded (not for the first time this morning) that the best way to do life is to hold your babies with one hand and seize the day with the other. 

Click here to learn more about the Natchez Trace Cottage, or to book a stay for yourself or some other very lucky guests. 

Posted on December 17, 2015 and filed under adventure.

a girl, a truck and a cottage

I’ve always wanted an old pickup truck. In fact, a couple of months ago as we were driving to Shindig, I almost convinced Katie to go in on one with me. Faded green with a handwritten “For Sale” sign in the window, it called to us from the side of a two-lane road somewhere between here and Muscle Shoals. Fortunately, smarter minds (Katie’s) prevailed and we kept on trucking — in my minivan. 

Fast forward to a few days later when Megan Helton posted this beauty on Instagram: 

 

I’ve been following Megan for awhile in that friend-of-a-friend sort of way. She’s a talented artist with a wicked sense of social media humor, three adorable kiddos and, yes, the truck of my dreams. So I reached out to her and we started chatting a bit more. Turns out, this multitasking mama is also the owner of the Natchez Trace Cottage — a charming country house which she and her husband Alex completely refinished and have just opened up to Nashville’s luckiest visitors. 

When Megan started talking about shiplap and paving stones, I knew I had to see the place for myself. So, next week, Katie and I will once again pile into my trusty minivan and take a much shorter road trip to tour this local gem. We can’t wait to share it with you. 

Until then, go ahead and mark your calendars for their December 12 Natchez Trace Cottage Holiday Open House (10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at 8963 Highway 100). They’ll have plenty of local treats, loads of good company and a pickup truck to die for. 

Posted on December 3, 2015 .

advent - a more intentional holiday season

Every December "the most wonderful time of the year" quickly turns into "the crazy busiest season of all." A couple of years ago I wrote myself a post-Christmas note reminding myself how it feels to be overbooked and overwhelmed around the holidays. In my own words: "I feel like I missed Christmas." The note focused on how disappointed I am when my actions and priorities don't match up. I attached the note to a calendar alert for the following year and now I reread it every year around this time.

Since I wrote that note I’ve made some pretty big life changes, and I’ve done a little better. But I still find myself over scheduling work projects while saying yes to every holiday event in sight.  

In recent weeks, I’ve had some physical and emotional setbacks, involving scheduling a surgery. I guess you could say I'm now physically forced to postpone projects, cancel travel plans and say no to new work projects. 

Instead of dwelling on what I’m not getting to do, I’m trying to focus on the positives. I found this Advent Study Guide at She Reads Truth and I’m excited to start this daily celebration of the season. I’m looking forward to replacing some of the hustle and bustle with intentional quiet time leading up to Christmas. 

Not everyone is going to have such a clear sign to slow down. So, I'm sharing mine in hopes that it will encourage you to decide how you can be more intentional this holiday before the season consumes you. 

If you want to follow along with the She Reads Truth Advent you can order it here or follow it via the website or SRT app. 

Posted on November 25, 2015 and filed under home.

lessons from halloween past

When Halloween comes around I can’t help but think about the Halloween that I was sick. I was about 6 or 7 years old and Halloween was kind of a big deal in my world. Like most kids, I enjoyed dressing up, going from house to house and the mountains of candy. The candy would usually put me to bed with a stomach ache the first night and fed my sugar addiction for the next week or so. This particular year I didn’t even partake in the candy. I was just sick. It was a virus so bad, I couldn’t even hold a little sliver of an ice chip in my stomach. I cried when I had to stay home from school that day because I knew the rules at my house were “too sick for school, too sick for after-school fun”.  

I also knew that Halloween only comes around ONCE a year. Seriously. This was not one of those Sunday Halloweens where maybe some neighborhoods trick or treat on another night. There was no second chance. I would have to wait til the following year to trick or treat. Another THREE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIVE DAYS. I was heartbroken to say the least. Finally, late that night when I was crying again because I couldn’t go trick or treating my mom said, “Katie, please stop crying. I will take you trick or treating next week, after you are well.”

I’m sure in that very moment my mom was thinking “Did I really just tell her I would take her trick or treating in November? Why would I do that?”

I will say that I was a very persistent kid and I’m sure that I only calmed down at that time because I knew that if my mom said we were going trick or treating that I would keep reminding her 'til it actually happened.

A couple days later, I was feeling better. Good enough to go trick or treating. So, on a cool November evening my mom rushed home from work, called a couple of her friends and said “Listen, we have to come trick or treating today. Yep, today. We don’t really expect halloween candy but if you can scrounge up something to give Katie that would be really great. See you in a little while.” I put on my Raggedy Ann costume and my mom applied the make up and we were out the door. 

I think that was the only year that I got money, tic-tacs and fruit put in my little orange plastic pumpkin. Each visit lasted a little longer than the normal 20 seconds because we only visited our really good friends and there was no need to rush off to the next house. The good candy wasn’t about to be gone, it had been gone for a week.

So, I didn’t get mountains of candy and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I got a great lesson in motherhood. Because, that is what great moms do. They try to cure heartbreak whenever they can even if it means taking their kid trick or treating on a day other than Halloween.

A couple years ago, I wrote a note to my mom saying thanks for taking me on a late trick or treating trip and she said she always knew it didn’t compare to the real thing, but that was the best she could do. Now, I think of that trip fondly and realize it was even better because unusual experiences make longer lasting memories. 

Posted on October 30, 2015 and filed under ramblings.

backyard lobster boil

As a last hurrah to summer, we recently threw a backyard lobster boil with some close friends. If you're intimidated by cooking lobster, let me tell you it's super easy and really fun. This was our first time and I was a little nervous, but for us, it involved more socializing and drinking wine than prepping and cooking. The really good news? The clean up is also fast and easy. Everyone had such a good time that I think we'll make it an annual event. 

WHAT YOU NEED:

1. A large pot (we used a turkey fryer)

2. Live lobsters 

3. Veggies: potatoes, artichokes, corn on the cob

4. Whole garlic

5. Onion

6. Old Bay® seasoning

7. White wine

8. Lemons

9. A timer

 

We ordered five medium lobsters from here, and they traveled from Portland, Maine, to Franklin, Tennessee, in less than 24 hours. 

We ordered five medium lobsters from here, and they traveled from Portland, Maine, to Franklin, Tennessee, in less than 24 hours. 

Prep and cut the vegetables

  1. Prep veggies ahead of time: cut garlic, onions, lemons, artichokes
  2. Put garlic, onions, white wine and Old Bay in water in a stock pot and bring to a boil
  3. Put in potatoes and artichokes and wait 8 minutes
  4. Put in lobster and wait 3 minutes
  5. Put in corn and wait 3 minutes
  6. Drain and serve the mix straight on the table
  7. Use remaining broth to boil claims until they start popping open (We probably could have boiled everything at once but we weren't sure about timing.)
As an experiment, my husband took a couple of lobsters and artichokes out of the boil a little early and put them on our Green Egg® to add a little smoky taste. 

As an experiment, my husband took a couple of lobsters and artichokes out of the boil a little early and put them on our Green Egg® to add a little smoky taste. 

If you look in the upper right corner of this photo you'll notice our little friend Hunt's apple sauce bowl and sippy cup - I just love it. 

If you look in the upper right corner of this photo you'll notice our little friend Hunt's apple sauce bowl and sippy cup - I just love it. 

This is the part where I ask you not to judge me for letting our kids play with the lobsters right before we cooked them. One of my boys ask if he could have a pet lobster. I think it was a joke. Well, I hope it was a joke. No one should own a pet that wants to hurt you—or that makes my mouth water. 

If you're lucky enough to have any lobster meat left over, I highly recommend that you make a lobster roll for lunch the next day. 


Posted on September 17, 2015 and filed under table.

eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

 

As I stood in Dillard's and tried to lay out my rationale for why we should register for 10 cloth napkins when we had only registered for 8 place settings (not to mention our hand-me-down dining room table only sat six), I realized making decisions with the person you love isn’t as much fun as you would think—even when you're spending other people’s money. 

I also realized I was insanely jealous of those brides who had fiancees that followed them around with the little scanner gun and just scanned and entered a number without questioning why someone would want a couple extra cloth napkins. In case they get stained…that’s why. 

So, a couple weeks before we got married my now husband and I declared never to build a house. Only one rationale point was needed: too many decisions.

In the past thirteen years together we’ve bought 2 houses, renovated bathrooms (even in a house that only had one bathroom), painted, installed new floors, landscaped, built patios and, most recently, built a 460 square-foot addition while also renovating  70% of our house. We still aren’t up for building a house but, with all those decisions under our belts, we've found a couple of decision-making techniques that work for us, without having to resort to eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

Here are a couple of those techniques with examples of how we've used them:

 

Pick Your Battles Approach - We are both firm believers in this approach which involves handing over the decision for something that's really important to the other person. One of my top picks was the kitchen ceiling. I wanted a white plank board cathedral ceiling. My husband wanted can lighting. Due to budget, building permits and strict city codes we couldn’t have both. Aias knew the ceiling was important to me and compromised on the lighting. Later on, it was easier for me to compromise in other areas because I won the grand prize of a white wood ceiling.

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Budget Conscious Approach - When we were presented with the option of a beautiful dark bronze metal roof versus a regular ole brown shingle roof, both of us preferred the metal roof. Unfortunately, the price difference was about $4k. Knowing that $4k could pay for our industrial range, stainless steel hood and farmhouse sink made it easy to go with the cheaper option. We also use the Budget Conscious Approach when neither of us have much of an opinion on something. 

 

Process of Elimination Approach - You could argue that no one “wins” with this approach, but no one is stuck with something they hate either. This is always our go-to exercise when picking paint. We each bring a number of swatches that we like best—usually about four. So we have around eight swatches that we tape to the wall. We then take turns removing our least favorite. Sure, your favorite might be eliminated, but you learn to move on and have a new favorite. When the clutter of options gets narrowed to the top two or three, we can usually agree on one pretty easily. (I also might do a quick Pinterest search for the top two to see examples of rooms painted in that color. )


This last one isn't necessarily an approach, but it's a great rule that also made this whole process easier. 

No turning back—unless you despise it. - Because my husband was traveling a good bit during the renovation there were some decisions that fell on me and / or our contractor. These decisions were the quick-turn-around kinds—like where to put a light switch when the electrician was standing there ready to install it. I made the rule early on that if a decision was made while Aias was gone, he had to really hate it for us to turn back and make a change. 


We use these techniques for home projects but these same approaches can spill over to other areas of life too. 

Posted on September 11, 2015 and filed under home.

grilling fruits and veggies

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Every September, I find myself trying to soak up every last bit of summer. I want all the watermelon, ripe tomatoes and fresh lemonade I can get. My new goal is to grill out every single night.  So, I'm sharing a couple unexpected grilled dishes I've tried and loved.

Grilled Romaine Hearts. Simple. 

This is the easiest dish ever and it's a little different than your average green salad. 1. Cut Romaine Hearts in half. 2. Wash and remove any wilted leaves 3. Season with olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. 4. Grill for about 4-6 minutes serve with shaved parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes.

Balsamic Fresh Grilled Fruit.  

This is our first try at grilling fruit but it it turned out well and it was super fast and easy. 1. Cut fruit in large chunks. I had peaches, watermelon, and cucumber on hand, so that's what we used. I placed a couple basil leaves in between some of the fruit.  2. Skewer up like kabobs and pour on some aged balsamic vinegar. 3. Put skewers on the grill until to get some char marks (6-8 minutes). 4. We served with a side of feta cheese and poured a little extra balsamic over it after we took them off the grill. 

Posted on September 6, 2015 and filed under food.