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.

Must.

Make.

NOW.

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.)

 

Books I read in 2016, and my top five favorites of the year.

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The good news about 2016 is I read more than I thought I did.

The bad news is I never feel like I’ve read enough.

To close out the year, I thought it’d be fun to share with you all the books I read in 2016, including my top five favorites of the bunch.

(NOTE: I don’t count in this list the book of Wendell Berry poetry, or the short story collections of Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Edith Pearlman and Ann Patchett which I keep on my nightstand at all times.)

If you want to peruse most all of the books I’ve read and my to-read pile, click here to visit and connect with me over at my Goodreads site. I’d love to talk books with you over there.

This year I joined a book club for the very first time, and thanks to them I read a lot more suspense and thrillers than usual. And thanks to my teenagers’ school reading assignments, I read a few classics I would not have otherwise. Some of them I liked, others I did not, but I definitely learned something either personally or about writing better from all of them.

Without further ado, my top five books of 2016 are:

25893709My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout.

Strout is one of my all-time favorite writers, and this novel did not disappoint. Her language is simple yet exquisite. Her structure is bare and yet every word bursts with meaning. Her characters invoke nearly every emotion and yet, without a hint of melodrama. Her prose amazes me.

168646Slaughterhouse 5, by Kurt Vonnegut.

This is the first Vonnegut I’ve read. I know, shameful, right? But you have to understand, I live in Indiana and Vonnegut is all anyone in writing circles here ever talks about. I did not want to like Vonnegut. And yet, the characters got under my skin and into my bones, and I cannot forget them. For me, that is one of the truest measures of a great book. *sigh* And so it goes.

13330761The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller.

A post-apocalyptic book without being overly theatrical. What’s not to like about a man and a dog and love in the middle of hopelessness? I might be partial because I live with four men and three dogs. But still, the story is thoughtful and introspective, and once again, memorable.

27161156Hillbilly Elegy: Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance.

One of the few non-fiction books I read, it’s also one of the best. J.D. Vance defied all odds and achieved an Ivy League education despite his sometimes abusive upbringing in a family (like so many) forced to move from their beloved Appalachia to Ohio to find work. If you want to know what the rust belt, red state phenomenon is all about–and even if you don’t–this is a moving and eye-opening read. Vance succeeds in writing a powerful memoir without being political, leaving readers to make their own conclusions about the plight of the disenfranchised in America.

12527Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard.

This book is a gift to the soul. First published in 1974, I would call it contemporary transcendentalist in flavor, and poetic in its prose. Dillard writes about both the microscopic and awesome, sometimes beautiful and sometimes disgusting, details of nature–plants, insects, animals, weather, and more–through a year’s worth of seasons at her home in Virginia. At once a prayer and a meditation, this book was precisely the salve my worn out writer’s heart needed this year.

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Honorable mentions go to Johnny Cash’s book of previously unknown poems (because JOHNNY CASH), and Greg Schwipps’ What This River Keeps. Winner of the 2010 Indiana Author’s Award a fellow DePauw alumni (and now professor there), I admit I was a bit partial to the story going in. At the same time, I’m a picky reader and this story did not disappoint. In fact, he wrote the story I wanted to write, which is fine because I could not have done it half as well. It’s the story of what happens when a reservoir is built, when a river is dammed up, when a place is flooded, and what remains–literally and figuratively–in the hearts of a small Indiana town. Raw and real, with prose that meanders and pulls with the same grace as a river, Schwipps belongs in the same category as writers like Kent Haruf and Wallace Stegner.


Below is my entire 2016 reading list.

Do any of these surprise you?

Have you read any of them?

If so, did you like or dislike?

And finally, take a second and let us know in the comments what YOU read in 2016 and your favorites of the past year!

  1. Sleep Tight, by Rachel Abbott
  2. Delivered, by Michelle Thorne
  3. Revealing You, by Michelle Thorne
  4. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  5. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
  6. Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson
  7. Silent Sister, by Diane Chamberlain
  8. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  9. In the Bedroom: Seven Stories, by Andre Dubus
  10. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
  11. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
  12. Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia, by Sandra L. Ballard, Patricia L. Hudson
  13. Above the Waterfall, by Ron Rash
  14. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
  15. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
  16. Land of Silence, by Tessa Afshar
  17. Adopted for Life, by Russell D. Moore
  18. Sweet Mercy, by Ann Tatlock
  19. Backseat Saints, by Joshilyn Jackson
  20. Redemption Road, by John Hart
  21. Coal River, by Ellen Marie Wiseman
  22. There Will Be Stars, Billy Coffey
  23. He Knows Your Name, by Linda Znachko
  24. A Prayer Journal, by Flannery O’Connor
  25. The Feathered Bone, by Julie Cantrell
  26. Mr. Splitfoot, by Samantha Hunt
  27. The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  28. Need You Now, by Beth Wiseman
  29. Amy Snow, by Tracy Rees
  30. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
  31. Hillbilly Elegy: Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance
  32. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
  33. What this River Keeps, by Greg Schwipps
  34. The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines
  35. Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Unknown Poems, by Johnny Cash
  36. Flyover Nation, by Dana Loesch
  37. Ruined, by Ruth Everhart
  38. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by A. Scott Berg

May our bookshelves be full and our obsession with good stories never cease.

Happy reading in 2017, friends!