The scoop on our first empty nester trip to Austin and Waco!

My husband and I sent our youngest son to college this fall, and can I just say: empty nesting is for the birds! I’ve always been the sort of mama who laments the start of school, because I so enjoy the company and conversation and joyful work of raising our sons. I’d been bracing myself for the wonderful-for-them-but-hard-on-mama time when our youngest would go to college this fall, but still, it’s been awkward. Disorienting. Hard.

But alas, the silver linings are many, and evolving. First, all three of our sons are blossoming and thriving in their college endeavors, and we couldn’t be more proud, or grateful.

Second, I get to hang out with my husband again! We have so much fun together, and over the years, sometimes that fun gets lost in the daily-ness of child rearing, bill paying, and work going life. But now, we’re having so much fun planning for the next chapter of our lives together.

Today I’m sharing one of the first empty-nester things we did: taking a trip to TEXAS!

Full disclosure: He called it “the Austin trip.” I called it, “the Waco trip.” Because he’s all about cooking and grilling and the art scene, and I’m all about the art scene, and…well…I’m a Fixer Upper JUNKIE.

You can follow along with my DIY and Fixer Upper-ish projects on my instagram site, Scrap Wood and Still Life. In the meantime, enjoy some glimpses of our time in Waco! I’ve added about a hundred million projects to my DIY list because of this trip, it was so much fun and so inspiring!

The silos! I’m here!

The staff here are experts at merchandising. Aren’t these faux fall stems beautiful? I wanted to bring home EVERYTHING I looked at!

Gotta get me a thing of wheat for sure.

Seriously, it’s a crate with faux stems.

How do they make it look so irresistible???

Of course I love books. So of course, I have to find myself some corbels and make my own book ends like these! How adorable, right???

Another display in the store.

How cool are the overlapping mirrors?

I have a bunch of random mirrors.

I’m gonna have to duplicate this look.

That’s all there is to it.

“Come Thou fount of every blessing.”

One of my all-time favorite hymns.

I have a sharpie.

I can find a cool big frame.

I’m so gonna copy this.

So, not only am I a writer and a DIY-er, I’m a nurse. An RN. And behind every RN is an awesome clipboard.

Now, this one is really thick, so I wouldn’t use it at the hospital.

I’d make it to clip photos to, or maybe to clip recipes to in the kitchen. I have several antique binder-type clips, so I know I could duplicate this. And so, I MUST.

Just so cool.

Don’t ya think?


Speaking of original book ends, check out how they use these antique woodworking clamps! You guys, these are a woodworker/book lover’s DREAM!!!!

Gotta find some old clamps.

(My Dad, who is my idol–carpentry and beyond–says I can’t have any of his. He’s using them, after all.)

I’m already searching Facebook Marketplace for someone getting rid of an old, wooden ladder. How adorable and industrial-ish is this bookshelf???

I found this at a store near the silos–that’s every bit as cool as the silos–called The Findery. I highly recommend visiting The Findery stores if you make your own Waco trip.

I stole a bunch of ideas from them, and I actually found an adorable dress there, too.

A beautiful table at The Findery.

Another beautiful table at The Findery.

Love how they put a metal inlay on the top.

So how cute is THIS little rustic wall sconce?

Could hold fresh or faux flowers, perhaps pencils or crayons in a homeschooling room, maybe cotton balls and Q-tips in a bathroom.




So many buildings in Austin and Waco have beautiful murals on them.

Waco has quite the soul, indeed.

The storefront!

Of course, when in Waco, we had to visit Clint Harp’s place.

I love all of the Fixer Upper episodes where Joanna commissions Clint Harp to do various (and GORGEOUS) woodworking projects.

This item holds photographs under the burlap strings.

SOOOO cute!

Likewise, his little store front did not disappoint.


Wooden pumpkins at The Findery. Surely #icandothat.

One of my favorite things at the Harp Design Co.

Two-by-fours routed out to hold simple chalkboards.

Be still my DIY HEART!!!

Letters made with 2×4’s and a little simple hardware.

Also from Harp Design Co.

Get. In. My. Workshop!!!

I have old egg crates.

And faux greenery.

And glass vases.

These are at The Findery.

Copying NOW.

This wall display was probably my very favorite part about the Magnolia store.

Brokenness is beautiful.

If you’ve read my novels, you know that’s my overarching theme.

For my books.

My art.

My everything.

Inside the little garden store on the Magnolia property.

Probably my favorite part.

Flowers outside the Magnolia garden center.

Food trucks within the Magnolia center.

In summary, such a wonderful trip!

With such a wonderful husband!!!

(photo below of me and my hunky husband in front of an iconic wall in Austin.)


First Scrap Wood and Still Life project: our faux brick wall

As mentioned on my new web page, Scrap Wood and Still Life, I’m making a more concerted effort to bring joy to folks with my DIY projects and painting. (Follow along on Instagram, @scrapwoodandstilllife.)

My first attempt at bringing readers DIY posts was a couple years ago through a blog series called Home Sweet Farmhouse Home that coincided with the release of my novel, Lead Me Home. It was so much fun that I’m starting it back up again.

Besides a unique way to be creative and love on our homes, I think folks are drawn to DIY and farmhouse themes because restoration touches on our innate longing to know that no matter how messy we are, can be renewed and restored by God’s grace (Psalm 51). Such themes also touch on the fact that we are made in the image of the Lord (Genesis 1:27). Since He is the ultimate Creator, no wonder many of us feel called to create!

On to the project: our faux brick wall

Recently we installed a faux brick wall in our basement stairwell. This was super fun and truly one of the easiest home improvement projects I have tackled to date.

Here’s the wall we started with. It’s mostly stripped bare of the gallery wall I had there before, but even then it was pretty blasé. For 12 years I’ve been wanting to do something creative with the space, because it is open and visible to anyone who comes in, and the little shelf-like area was just begging to be something useful.

After surfing Pinterest for hours and hours, I decided on a faux brick wall with my own version of a German Schmear treatment.

Here’s how I did it.*

Source list and tools (not an exhaustive list):

Liquid Nails makes this project a breeze. Make sure you get the Liquid Nails made for putting up paneling–there are a lot of different kinds. Some DIY sites recommend nailing as well, but if you use the Liquid Nails as directed, I’m pretty sure the paneling won’t go anywhere.

Once the panels were up and given a day or so to dry, I applied plenty of spackling paste to the seams of the paneling, and then randomly in other places. This is where my process differs from a lot of others you’ll see, which spackle all over the brick. I just applied it sporadically.

Then I simply painted over it all with the chalk paint. I left some spots bare and painted some more lightly than others. I just eyeballed it until I was happy with the coverage and look.

Some people want the whole wall to be white, which is a little cleaner looking. Others prefer to let more red hang out, for a more rustic or industrial look. The important thing is to use your imagination and have fun with it!

Finally, caulk all the edges.

I used a 2×6 cut to the length of the shelf, a 1×4 as the shelf back, and stained them with Minwax’s Jacobean, one of my favorite shades of their stains.

Here’s a couple of close-ups:

I added a couple of paintings I made, which were inspired by my cousins’ dairy farm, also the inspiration behind my novel, Lead Me Home:

The real life Red:

Let me know if you try this project!

And if this inspires you, have fun!

Be blessed and celebrate your creativeness, friends!


*Please refer to the main Scrap Wood and Still Life page for an important disclaimer. 

Home Sweet Farmhouse Home, Episode 6: Fireplace reveal!

Hi dear friends! Thank you for stopping to read this final episode of this summer, and part 2 of last week’s Home Sweet Farmhouse Home.

(For all the episodes of Home Sweet Farmhouse Home click here.)

If you remember, last week I showed the first stages of our fireplace surround makeover. It was a nice fireplace, but it was ten years old. Besides that, I’m FREAKING OUT because my firstborn is going to COLLEGE in less than a month and so I’m redecorating my house to cope. (Because nothing helps stress like adding more stress, right?)

Also, because my third novel is set on a farm, I want to pretend I live on one, too.

Here are three more of the inspiration photos I found on Pinterest. You can see all my decorating pins by clicking here.

Dream fireplace #1:


Dream fireplace #2:


Dream fireplace #3:


Those are some lofty goals right there.

But I love a challenge.

Last week I showed you how I chose the river rock for the bottom of the surround.

Below is the wood planking I found at Lowe’s to use for the shiplap.

While it would be an expensive product for covering an entire room, it was perfect for the tiny space above the mantel. I only had to use one and one-half packs. The pieces are pre-cut into various sizes and they fit together tongue-and-groove style.

IMG_1749 (1)

I didn’t have to make any cuts to these planks because I got lucky and they fit the space I needed them to perfectly.

And I used basic trim nails to hang them.

See how they come in different sized pieces so that a staggered look is made simple, too?

IMG_1748 (1)

The other thing I love about these planks is that they are really thin.

This helped the 1×3 poplar I chose to frame them compliment them perfectly.


All up and caulked.

I love caulk.

Caulk makes everything better.

Even amateur carpentry.


Because the planks I used are not traditional shiplap and I wanted to create a patina of age and wear, I painted the grooves with plain black acrylic paint.

Then when I painted over with white, I purposely left imperfections.


But before I show you that…

…on to the grout.

I was terrified to put the grout on the stones. I was afraid it would run all over the carpet or that I’d picked the wrong color or that the stones would “get lost” in it and I’d never be able to wipe it off right.

I didn’t need to be skeered, though.

The Kind Man from Lowe’s and the directions on the back of the stone tile were most helpful. Here are some of the products and tools I used.

NOTE: Make sure you get SANDED GROUT. There’s a HUGE difference between this and the un-sanded variety and take it from me, it’s not pretty.



Here’s the grout, all mixed up.

The consistency reminded me of cake batter.


Below is a shot of the first stages of grout application.

This is when I started to get skeered again.

The rocks disappeared!

It was so messy!

I had it in my hair and in my teeth and all over the dogs.

I felt like I was a little kid who got out of the ocean and rolled in the sand.

That’s how messy it got.


Lots of wiping and sponging is involved.

And more wiping and sponging after that.


But finally, I started feeling like I was getting someplace.

Someplace wonderful.





This whole project reminds me so much of the way my novel-writing goes.

I get inspired.

I dig in.

I freak out.

And somehow, after the giant mess of it all…

…something beautiful emerges.



Here’s the before picture again:



And here’s the after.

I thought I might need a new piece of art to hang in the middle of the shiplap, but I really love this print of the man and woman praying.

On a farm.

So I kept it.



Now I have a farmhouse-ish fireplace to match my farm-inspired book. (Have you read it yet? 🙂 )


What about you?

What inspires you and your creativity?

What DIY projects are you working on at your place?


Thank you for reading this fun little Home Sweet Farmhouse Home blog series. I’m taking the rest of the summer off of projects so I can finish my fourth novel and carve my heart out of my chest get my firstborn off to college. But after that, I may have some more projects to share with you. Would you like that?


And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17