Best day ever

Last Saturday was arguably the best day of my life so far! After a long first week at my new job (yay!), I was more than ready for a weekend away with Mike. He had perviously planned to take me to San Luis Obispo for my birthday and – the one thing I requested? – I didn’t want to make a single plan for the weekend.

Mike not only planned the funnest weekend with my favorite things (clearly should request his planning more often!) but surprised me with the best question I’ve ever been asked (spoiler #1). 😉

We drove down on Friday night and got settled into our comically small cozy airbnb. We turned in early in anticipation of a full day ahead. On Saturday, we woke up earlier than expected and had a few hours to kill before our brunch reservations. Of course my first thought was, COFFEE! Mike Googled coffee shops and found a gem called Ascendo. It was a gloomy morning and I enjoyed a cafe au late with homemade almond milk before heading to our favorite place in SLO for brunch; Luna Red.

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We enjoyed mimosas and spilt an order of eggs Benedict and an egg sando. I mention this all of the time on the blog but I absolutely love that Mike is, more often than not, willingly to spilt two dishes with me so we can sample more.

Lucky me that I get to spend the rest of my life with him (spoiler #2)!

Our next item on the agenda wasn’t until later in the afternoon so we decided to go check out the landmark Madonna Inn. Two words; Holy pink.

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This place is insane. Pink and roses are the theme and… I really don’t know what else to say about it… Aside from the fact that I made Mike go into the iconic men’s restroom and take a picture of the waterfall urinal. Happy wife, happy life (spoiler #3, kind of….).

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Apparently the waterfall starts as you walk up to it and …start your own stream

After experiencing enough pink for a lifetime, we made an impromptu trip to the beach. In classic Ashley form, I was craving kombucha.

Booch on the beach, what’s better?!

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We strolled in the sand, sharing sips of fermented tea, before finding a swing set ON THE BEACH. Best idea ever.

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Then it was a romantic trip to the Sycamore Mineral Springs. Now, if you know me and Mike, you know we love to hot tub. At this point, I remember thinking how great the day was so far. Little did I know how much better it was going to get…

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After the hot tub, we were getting a bit hungry but Mike had something else planned that closed within the hour. We were debating nixing his original plan and grabbing a glass of wine and tacos instead but, when he told me what was planned next, I immediately opted for a quick snack to stick with the plan.

After all, WE WERE GOING APPLE PICKING!

Pretty much every fall I tell Mike how much I want to go apple picking but it just hasn’t panned out. So, you can imagine my excitement when Mike told me we were finally going. I was downright giddy. Also, bonus points that the orchard was an organic one.

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We arrived about a hour before closing. It was drizzling out. I was already euphoric. The lady working there advised us to go deep into the orchard for the best apples. This worked out perfectly for Mike’s plan.

I was seriously so excited to be there picking apples with Mike I could barely handle it. I was taking millions of pictures in between picking the tiniest apples I could find. I don’t know what it is but, baby apples just taste better! Mike kept joking that I wasn’t letting the apples “grow to their full potential” by picking them when they were so small and all I kept saying was I didn’t care! I think they taste better small.

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After about 20 minutes rummaging through the trees to find the best apples, Mike pointed out one with a plethora of BABY apples. I immediately walked up to it and started ranting about how great tiny apples were. I was picking them like a mad women. One-two-three in my palms, ready to go for more when I heard Mike.

“Ashley?”

Shit, I thought, he’s going to be mad that I keep picking these baby apples instead of leaving them to grow to their full potential.

I turned around with a guilty look on my face ONLY TO FIND MIKE DOWN ON ONE KNEE.

Omg, I will remember that image for the rest of my life. It was the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. I instantly started to cry. He asked me to marry him. I told him to stand up. I hugged him. I cried more. He asked again. I sobbed, “yes, yes!”

He put my gorgeous ring on that special finger. I cried some more. And all of the sudden I was done apple picking. I was overcome with all of the emotions. I could barely believe Mike had just PROPOSED in the most Fall-style, Ashley-inspired way.

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That it was!
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After the ring and the tears, Mike told me wine tasting was next and I was like, HELL YES LET’S GO! I don’t think my smile faded for the next hour.

We paid for our apples and went to Edna Valley Winery for wine and cheese and smiles and shamelessly telling everyone we just got engaged (and yes, we got our tastings comped;).

We bought 2 bottles to enjoy with family and then it was time for dinner!

I barely remember what I ate or what we talked about. All I remember is thinking, I can’t believe I get to marry this guy! Our day was full of all things we love and, like I mentioned, included the best question I’ve ever been asked.

It’s been such a fun week telling our families and friends that we’re ENGAGED!

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Of course, I’ve also loved showing off my ring that was designed and made by our gorgeous and talented friend Altana Marie. The ring is perfect and 100% me.

I knew I didn’t want something as traditional as a diamond ring. This is personal preference but I really hate what a status representation engagement rings are. I knew years ago that I didn’t want to subscribe to the notion that my engagement ring should be “3 months pay” or some other marketing scheme like that.

Despite thinking insanely pricey engagements rings are a waste of money, I do love the symbol of them. It’s said that the Greeks decided on what we now know as our “ring finger” because, allegedly, there is a vein that goes from that finger straight to our hearts.

I MEAN, HOW ROMANTIC IS THAT!?

Logistically, I wear black almost everyday so felt a black diamond was more fitting for me personally. Plus, as mentioned, it isn’t as traditional; which Mike and I are always fans of.

We don’t have any idea about wedding plans (so don’t ask about dates;) but we’re excited for this next step in our relationship. It sounds so corny but I feel like our love and relationship has deepened and intensified  just in this past week alone.

On that note, cheers to our future!

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xoxo #blackisthenewblack

 

Vegan roasted red bell pepper sauce

YOU GUYS. This recipe is a winner. With one of my closet friends as my inspo (read about her wedding we just went to here), I whipped up this vegan roasted red bell pepper sauce to serve over spaghetti squash tonight and it’s so creamy, you wouldn’t even know there isn’t cheese in it.

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I’ll admit, there’s a bit of prep work (more than I usually do on a Monday) with roasting the bell peppers. And I made my own cashew milk, which obviously added time. You can prep the cashew milk the night before to save a few minutes but I do highly recommend making your own nut milk for this one; since it’s a savory dish.

I know you can buy unsweetened nut milk but it just always has a hint of sweet in my opinion. Besides, if you can avoid added ingredients, why not? Making your own nut milk is actually super simple. The only pitfall is it doesn’t keep for too long (no preservatives!) but I’ll give you the exact amounts I used for this recipe below.

That means, this post is actually two recipes in one! Your lucky day, friends.

As mentioned, I put this sauce over spaghetti squash (that I did prep the day before) but you can dip bread and veggies in it or use it as a sub for a more creamy pizza sauce.


Vegan roasted red bell pepper sauce

Prep time:  45 minutes – Cook time: 5 minutes – Servings: 2 – 3

Ingredients:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 2 – 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 – 2 Tbs of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup cashew milk*
  • 2 Tbs of nutritional yeast
  • A few dashes of red chili flakes (optional)
  • Basil for garnish

Directions:

  • Roast bell peppers in a 450 degree toaster oven for 30 minutes or until skin is charred
  • Tent bell peppers in tin foil to steam for 10 minutes and then remove skin and seeds
  • Sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil
  • Add peppers, sautéd shallots and garlic, cashew milk, nutritional yeast, and red chili flakes to blender and blend until smooth
  • Garnish and serve 🙂

 

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Roast
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Peel
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Blend
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Pour

*For the cashew milk:

  • Simply soak 1/2 cup unsalted cashews in water for ~8 hours (I soaked mine while I was at work today)
  • Drain cashews and add to blender with 1/2 cup of water
  • Blend and strain in a nut milk bag

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A Washington Wedding

This girl loves a good wedding and this weekend Mike and I attended one that will go down in the books.

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We flew to rainy Washington to celebrate our good friends Morgan and Joe getting hitched. Arriving early (ish) Friday evening and piling on layers to adjust to the low temps, we checked into The Hyatt in Bellevue with just a few minutes to get ready before the welcome party. A French braid and leaving the hotel with wet nails it was!

We met up with other friends who had also flown in from the Bay Area for a quick drink in the hotel lobby and then headed to Wild Ginger to see the soon to be Mr. & Mrs.

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Unbeknownst to us, the restaurant had recently moved locations. We walked right past the new location on our way to the old location, which sucks when it’s cold out and you’re in heels! But we made it there eventually, joking that we all deserved another drink from our added steps.

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With the Bride & Groom!

With the wine flowing and plenty of “hellos” to go around, the night was a great start to a wedding weekend! You might say it was a little too much fun, leaving both me and Mike severely hung over for most of the next morning. Ek. (In retrospect, we realized we just didn’t eat enough the night before, distracted by the good time we were having.)

After finally rolling out of bed around 1pm on Saturday, we walked to Earls for lunch; again bundled up for the cold stroll. It was sprinkling outside and, truth be told, I was happy for a quintessential Washington afternoon. I, of course, ordered the avo toast (any time it’s on the menu, #mine) and Mike got a NOM rice bowl (that I ended up eating half of). After lunch we walked in the rain to get tea at a cute cafe nearby and rid the rest of our hangovers! It was an uneventful afternoon but fun nonetheless.

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Then it was time to get wedding ready! Glam’d up and ready to celebrate Morgan and Joe, the group of us all staying at The Hyatt piled into a Lyft and headed to the venue. By this point, the weather had graduated from a light sprinkle to full blown rain. Washington decided to really show off for all of us out of staters. 😉

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The first person I saw when we entered the venue was the bride! Morgan was gorgeous and chic, standing there in a floor length black dress with a glass of sparkling in her hand. It was great to see her before the wedding and was a refreshing twist on tradition.

After everyone had time to mingle for a bit, Joe parted the crowd to make an aisle for Morgan to walk down. Again, another refreshing, no fuss take on standard wedding practice. Minutes later, Morgan was walking down the aisle – lined with love – in a white, lacy dress that swooped down in the back. She walked to the Imperial March which 1. is 100% Morgan and Joe and 2. (proud of myself for this one) I knew was Star Wars related without anyone telling me.

Morgan and Joe’s vows were personal, not too long, and cavity-causing sweet. The perfect combination! They had their husky by their feet while saying “I do,” and their respective best friends officiating. It was such a special moment to witness. I think everyone there felt honored to be experiencing it with them.

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Next up? Dinner! The menu included a salad and bread to start, vegetarian meatloaf (a paradox), roasted potatoes, an array of vegetables, and pumpkin ravioli. So delicious, and no meat! Love that.

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There was a macaron bar was for dessert and then it was time to dance, snap selfies, and toast to many years of love, laughs, and happiness for Morgan and Joe! My favorite PNW couple.

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Mike and Ben, at it again!

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olive oil chocolate chip cookies

I’ll admit, I’m not much of a baker. I cook like the Balinese* with little direction and not a single measurement. From what I gather, baking requires all of the direct and pretty much exact measurements.

Not my world.

Until I saw a recipe for olive oil chocolate chip cookies and I thought, well, that sounds de-lish.

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Reading the recipe conjured up images of rolling hills, a perfectly breezy-sunny afternoon, and olive trees. Olive trees all around me and Mike! On a picnic! Romantically sipping rosé, staring into each other’s eyes, and eating these cookies.

A girl can dream!

Real life though, I pulled out our measuring cups, propped up my iPad, and scrolled through the recipe every 3.5 seconds to re-read the same line again and again. Why is it so hard to remember what comes next and how much of it?! Eventually these gems came out of the oven and – one word – bliss!

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* When we took a cooking class in Bali, our instructor was making the corn fritters and cracked 4 eggs into the mix. As he did, he said something along the lines of “this recipe takes 4 eggs… or 5 eggs.. or 3 eggs… really how ever many eggs you have will work!”

Mike and I immediately exchanged glances because that’s exactly how I cook; how ever many I have …works!


olive oil chocolate chip cookies

Prep time:  15 minutes + 20 minutes for chilling – Cook time: 10 – 12 minutes – Servings: 12 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 bar dark chocolate, chopped

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • In large bowl, mix together butter, oil, and sugars until fluffy
  • Add egg and vanilla
  • In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt
  • Mix flour mixture into sugar mixture until combined
  • Fold in chocolate
  • Chill in refrigerate for 20 minutes
  • Scoop 1 inch balls and place on baking sheet 1 inch apart
  • Bake for 10 – 12 munites
  • Take out, let cool slightly, break and enjoy!

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So NOM

[Visit] NorCal beach towns

In classic California fashion, we spent the weekend exploring beach towns here in the Bay Area. We visited both Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, exploring a mix of touristy and local things.

Mike’s parents arrived from Toronto on Friday and before beach bumming it, we kicked things off at B Street and Vine in downtown San Mateo. This place is a local Bay Area gem with the best bruschetta around.

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On Saturday, after coffee and a light breakfast, we drove to Half Moon Bay. Our first stop was back to Dad’s Lunchonette for burgers, beers, and mac n’ cheese. Just like the last time Mike and I went to Dad’s, we took it to-go and ate on the beach across the street at Half Moon Bay State Beach. True to NorCal weather, it was a windy but the sun stayed shinning throughout the afternoon; making for a nice day!

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After we ate, we played a few rounds of Kubb (Barb and Dan beating us 2/3 games). Next up? A nice beach stroll where we found a flock of baby seagulls, proving that everything is cute when it is a baby and small!

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The boys setting things up
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They were so tiny!

After our walk, we drove to Half Moon Bay Distillery for a FREE tour. HMB Distillery is a small craft distillery run by a husband and wife. Ulli gave our tour and she was great! Now thinking about it though, the tour was actually more of a talk. It started with a introduction video explaining how her and her husband started the distillery. Then she told us all about vodka and gin – how they were made and the key differences between them – following it up with tastes of each.

I was a big fan of their gin so we ended up going home with a bottle. I also just love to support local and small businesses. Plus, since the whole thing was free, I’m glad we bought something at the end. If you’re ever in Half Moon Bay, I recommend checking it out.

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Those gorgeous Cali. beaches 👌

We ended the night back in the south bay at one of mine and Mike’s favorite restaurants, Orchard City Kitchen.

On Sunday we started the day at The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. This place is a little touristy but at $8 a ticket (and $5 to park), it’s a fun, reasonably priced thing to do. Plus, the drive there is beautiful under all of the California redwoods.

The Mystery Spot claims to be “a gravitational anomaly.” You’re able to do all of these weird things like stand a table and lean off of it without falling (pictures below). It is only a 45 minute tour – that’s pretty cheesy with a lot of punny jokes – but I think it was worth it.

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After The Mystery Spot we drove to downtown Santa Cruz. One of our favorite thing to do as a couple is go to the Tea House Spa, where you can enjoy a hour spa and a hour massage for only $180. Such a deal! We didn’t do this with Mike’s parents but there is a cool beer place nearby that we usually go to after the spa called Lúpulo Craft Beer House. We decided to stop there first for beers and a meat and cheese plate. It was a nice day out so we were able to sit on the patio and enjoy our brews and noshes.

After we walked to Mike’s favorite place in Santa Cruz to stock up on cookies at Pacific Cookie Company. Typically I rather go for something else indulgent (like a really good cheese or wine!) but even I have to admit, the cookies are delish here.

We ended the day at Pour Taproom on the main strip in downtown. Mike and I have been there before and think it’s a cool idea. There aren’t any bartenders here but, instead, you serve yourself with selections of different beer, mead, and wine to pick from. One huge wall is lined with all of the taps and you can do a “taste” (2 ounces), a “flight” (4 ounces), or a full glass. You’re given a bracelet to wear that tracks your pours to pay at the end.

I think we each tried about 4 different beers while playing a game of parcheesi, which is about the longest game ever. We actually ended up leaving before we finished. Then it was time to head back over the hill to go home.

Tired but happy from a good weekend, we curled up and watched Lady Gaga’s new special on Netflix, Five Foot Two, in our new spacious office!

[Meatless Monday] DYI veg burgers

It’s a weird day over here in the Bay Area! It was HOT this afternoon and then raining with thunder and lighting when I got home from work. It’s stormy and gloomy without the cold. All of my windows are open, along with the patio door. The smell of rain is filling my apartment (that, and the smell of a musky candle I have burning too). My lemon tree is happy for the drops of rain. It’s a cozy Monday afternoon. Perfect for experimenting in the kitchen!

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Mike and I avoid meat whenever we can. Veg burgers are on regular rotation over here and although there are some good brands out there (Dr. Praegar’s is my favorite!), I love making my own with only a few ingredients. This recipe was super easy with only 2 main ingredients and some spices and condiments. It can easily be a “kitchen sink” recipe by subbing out the Great Northern beans and rice for whatever you have on hand (quinoa and black beans would be great as well).

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Plus you make now and freeze them for later. I actually find that they heat up better this way because they are frozen into place before pan-frying.

If you’re doing this, I suggest doubling the batch to get the most of your time. 🙂

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If freezing, use parchment paper in-between burgers to keep from sticking

 


DIY veg burgers with a grain and a bean

Prep time:  25 minutes – Cook time: 10 minutes – Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dry rice, cooked according to package
  • 1 can Great Northern Beans
  • 1 TBS Trader Joe’s Onion Salt
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • 1 egg

*you can sub the onion salt for other spices and the hot sauce for mustard or ketchup, etc.

Directions:

  • Mash rice, beans, egg, and spices together until gooey
  • Refrigerate for 20 minutes
  • Round into burgers
  • Freeze or pan fry until middle in warm (about 4 minutes each side on a slightly oiled pan)
  • Dress up and serve

 

Friday Favorites

New water bottle

I found this water bottle on sale a few weekends ago and have been loving it! It was only $10 so cheap compared to other trendy water bottles shaped the same. It keeps my water cold all day. I’m using less plastic bottles. And it’s my favorite color. All around wins.

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Everything but the Bagel and Onion Salt spices

When Melissa was here she tipped me off to the Everything but the Bagel trend that is gripping Trader Joe’s fans (🙋). So, when I was shopping and saw it last week I was sure to pick up one. The Onion Salt also caught my eye and I thought, why not? I’ve only tried Everything but the Bagel and if it’s any indicator of the Onion Salt… I’m a fan.

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Simpler Times canned white wine

Another TJ’s gem! This wine is cute, sparkly, and cheap. I heard they sell out fast so I grabbed two the other day and will probably be making it a regular shopping list item. At only $3.99 (the same price as my beloved Spindrift sparking waters, mind you) it’s a steal. Side note: I also love that it is teal.

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Lemons!

I love lemons from friends who have overgrown trees. Look at all these beauts Mike got from a friend!

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Note the ugly one front and center that Mike picked specifically for me! Don’t be scared of ugly fruit, y’all

My Breville espresso maker

Mike surprised me with this baby years ago and it is still of my favorite gifts ever. I’ve made countless coffees for myself, friends, and family. It’s something I would likely never buy for myself because of the price but it’s been such a great investment I might rethink that if this one ever stops working (touch wood).

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Does anyone else go to bed excitedly anticipating their coffee the next morning?? asking for a friend

Our new, redone office space

About a month ago, Mike and I redid our office to reduce clutter and open the space up.

What we nixed:

  • 2/3 of our L shape desk that rarely never got any use
  • two monitors
  • a computer
  • surround sound speakers
  • a printer (that we didn’t even have ink for)

What we bought:

  • 3 cube organizer shelf to go under the TV and keep our DVD player on (something that used to sit on part of the desk)
  • 3 cube storage bins to put things like games, workout DVDs, workout bands, etc. in (I personally don’t like things to be too matchy-matchy so we went with 2 gray and 1 navy and put the navy on the far right vs. the more common middle place)
  • This and this storage basket to put our yoga mats, foam roller, weights, etc. in – these aren’t the cutest baskets but they are functional and were cheap; plus they are casual enough for the space vs. the other rustic baskets they had
  • A throw pillow similar to this one but I bought it on sale at Ross (i.e. no link)
  • This tiny topiary because it is so cute

What we did: 

  • Disassembled our desk and took 2/3 down to the garage.
  • We now have a desk that takes up half the space and a window that’s a lot more accessible and visible. I love it.
  • Put the 3 cube storage together and organized small items inside the bins.
  • Arranged our mats and weights between the 2 baskets (I think this is my favorite addition because everything is easily accessible but it doesn’t look scattered like it used to with our mats just propped up against the walls and the weights in an old laundry basket!)
  • Added a new pillow to our futon to tie in the gray strips on the basket to something else in the room.

So far we are loving the new look! In the end, the project cost more money than I thought it would but the pieces we got can easily be used again when we move. I wish I took a before picture but I didn’t think about it… Here are some after shots though!

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