Living Room Mini Makeover

Living Room Mini Makeover

Does anyone else find it almost paralyzing to make decor changes in your home? I find it hard enough to keep the house picked up and clean, let alone spruce up the decor. Swapping out accessories here and there is one thing, but making major changes like painting and getting new furniture are things that pretty much only happen at our house when we have an event (like a graduation party) coming up. Which we do again this year. In about 4 weeks. Yikes!


I have a hard time defining my home decor style because it changes so fast, but right now this photo of Lauren Conrad’s living room represents pretty well what vibe I’d like to create in our home.

Lauren Conrad's Living Room

Image Source:

Here are all of the things I love about this space:

  • Bright, white walls
  • Warm wood trim
  • Caramel leather
  • Potted plants with green foliage
  • Round mirror
  • Midcentury shapes (check out that planter by the fireplace!)
  • Wicker/seagrass
  • Graphic white and black fabrics


Then here are other things I wanted to incorporate:

  • Beach art
  • Sea glass
  • Gold/brass accents
  • Books
  • Rustic wood mantle


Here’s what the living room looked like a few weeks ago:

Living room before

Living room before

We’ve been wanting to relegate this big, old olive green sofa to the basement for a while and replace it with something brighter. Also, as you can see our house is chock-full of that orange-y wood that was popular in the 1990s. I’d love to repaint all of the trim white, but ain’t nobody got time for that, so instead, I decided to just paint the fireplace white and replace it with a rustic wood mantle. Photos like this one inspired me:

Fireplace Inspiration

Image Source: @HouseofJadeInteriors


The first purchase that kicked off the mini makeover was this rustic wood mantle from Wayfair (just $108!).
Rustic fireplace mantle shelf


Here’s what it looks like, along with this awesome live-edge round mirror I found at HomeGoods for $79.
Fireplace mantle round mirror


Then I also bit the bullet and bought two Farlov chairs from IKEA in, gasp, WHITE. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “But you have boys. And dogs.” I read review after review of these slipcovered chairs saying that a little OxiClean and a good wash gets these babies looking crisp and white again after life’s little mishaps. I sure hope those people were not exaggerating, because we seem to have a lot of little mishaps running around my house. I’ll be sure to do a follow-up post later on toward the end of summer letting you know the real deal on life with white slipcovers. And boys. And dogs.


Here are some of the “after” photos with the new chairs, which are incredibly comfortable, by the way.


Living Room After


And I love these two recycled glass vases from Viva Terra. I’ve seen them for as much as $185 for the pair, but at the Viva Terra website you can get this exact pair of vases for just $75!


Glass recycled vase


Living Room After


Those Aztec print pillows you see on the Farlov chairs and on the leather sofa are from Target. They’re normally $24.99, but at the time when I was writing this post (Wed, 4/18), they were on sale for $18.74! I already had one of these pillows from a year ago, but I bought two more.


Living Room Mini Makeover


And that cool Midcentury plant stand with the white pot and wooden stilt legs on the left side of the sofa console table is from Target’s Project 62 collection ($29.99). It also comes in a larger size, and they are available with black pots as well.


The art is a photo I took from beneath a pier at Topsail Beach in Surf City, North Carolina. I had it printed on canvas and we’ve had it up on the wall for years. We have relatives in North Carolina, so we’ve been to this beach and under this pier many times. It’s great to have a little piece of the beach in the living room.


Living Room After


I love the look of a big seagrass or jute basket to hold extra pillows (these are the pillows that came with the IKEA Farlov chairs). I had this one in our bedroom, but moved it to the living room.


Living room after


To paint the fireplace white, I first primed it with some primer I had and then did two coats of Sherwin Williams Ultra White. We thought about taking the two wood supports down because the mantle can be hung “floating” style, but it would have required patching large holes in the fireplace surround and we weren’t up for that big of a job this go around. Someday I want to get a different fireplace surround altogether, but today is not that day. For now, I love how painting the surround white brightens up the room and lessens the impact of all of that orange-y wood trim.


Living room after


All of the items on this midcentury side table (which I got at a Goodwill store for $15!) are items we already owned. The brass pineapple and brass planters were also thrifted items.



The two geometric print area rugs in the living room (because I couldn’t find a big enough area rug for the space that was in my budget) are from Target.


Ikea Farlov Chair


The IKEA Farlov chairs are nice and oversized, cushy but supportive, and they look FABULOUS!


Ikea Farlov chairs


I found this cute macrame wall hanging at a Kirkland’s store for $24.99. And that’s my fiddle leaf fig from Lowe’s. It’s doing really well in this spot of the room. I’ve heard they’re tricky, but so far so good!


Macrame wall hanging


I love how the white paint on the fireplace surround helps the carrara marble tiles stand out more. A project for another day will be to paint the gold strips on the fireplace black so they don’t stand out so much.


All in all, I spent $1183.44 plus tax to do this mini-revamp:


If you take out the cost of the two chairs, the “decorating” total was just $385.44. We’ve been planning to replace that old sofa for about 3-4 years now, so I can almost not count the chairs in the cost of this quick mini makeover in preparation for our graduation party. But Dave Ramsey would count it, so I’m counting it too. Go, Dave!  😀


I saved a lot of money by “shopping” other rooms of our house for accessories we already owned that I could use in the living room makeover.


I’m happy with the way the room turned out! It’s a pretty dramatic difference, and it took the room from cluttered, shabby, and a bit dark to bright and interesting. I do think it resembles the style of LC’s living room at least a little. Thanks to Pinterest and Lauren Conrad for helping me figure out my current home dec style.

everyday teacher style signature


Note: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on or shopping via these links may result in my earning a small commission or referral fee. As always all opinions expressed here are 100% my own. I truly appreciate your support.





After 3 years of Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping (FXB)

Jenny Smiling By Boxing Ropes

As of April 8th, it has officially been 3 years since I joined Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping (FXB), my gym my fitness family, and began an “extreme” new chapter in my fitness journey. To celebrate my 3-year FIT-A-VERSARY (that’s a thing, right?), I collaborated with my lovely friend and amazing photographer, Lily (follow her on Instagram at @lolatakespictures), to share this year’s progress.


Jen Uppercut

Jen punching bag


Last year’s fit-a-versary post told my “story,” shared my “why,” and outlined all of the specific changes I noticed and progress made. (Read all about my 2-year progress and 1-year progress if you’re new here, and if you like you can also take a look at my Farrell’s Instructor bio.) I’ll do a little of that this year too, but mostly I am going to let Lily’s photos tell my story.



Jenny typical before

Okay, let’s get the “before” stuff out of the way. Here’s a pretty typical photo of me between the ages of 35-45. Although I was very athletic in high school and continued to have athletic phases over the years, I never really stuck with anything very long. Why? Life. I had every excuse I needed to abandon one diet and exercise program after another: kids and their activities, full-time teaching job, hobbies, consulting work on the side, a never-quite-clean house, a dog, church committees, volunteering, and on and on. You name it, I used it as an excuse.


So when I joined Farrell’s back in April 2015, it was just the latest in a long line of diet and exercise programs. This one was “only 10 weeks” (hah!) so I figured I’d give it a go and move on to something else that I could do “on my own” when I was svelte and fit 10 weeks later. It was rough getting up at 4am to get to the 5am class 6 days a week (that’s the only class I could fit into my schedule), but I thought, hey, I could do it for 10 weeks. I had no idea at the time that I hadn’t just signed up for a 10-week program, but I had just been introduced to my future fit family, support and accountability system, and new, healthy mindset.


Jen Punching Pose



I’m not going to talk about “after” photos any more because I realized there’s never going to be an “after” photo of this particular transformation, just a series of “during” photos as time goes on. My fitness journey is an ongoing process and I plan to keep it that way.

Here are my Day 1 photos and stats compared to my Year 3 photos and stats.

  • Weight before: 164.6 lbs — Now: 147 lbs     (down 17.6 lbs)
  • Body Fat % before: 33.5% — Now: 25.5%     (down 8%)
  • Chest before: 37″ — Now: 34″     (down 3″)
  • Waist before: 33.5″ — Now: 28″     (down 5.5″)
  • Upper arm before: 12.5″ — Now: 12″      (down 0.75″)
  • Thigh before: 24.25″ — Now: 21″     (down 3.25″)
  • Hips before: 43″ — Now: 38.5″     (down 4.5″)
  • Smile before: pathetic — Now: high-beam (up 100%)

In all I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds, which was my original goal when I started FXB (although weight is no longer a goal on my list). My biggest weight drop was between Year 1 and Year 2, after my body had finally adjusted to eating healthfully, drinking lots of water, and exercising nearly every day. My new goal is simple: do better (work harder, eat better, have better form, etc.) than I did yesterday. When I focus on improvement, all of those other things (fitness, inches, pants size, health) improve along the way. For instance, right now one of my goals is to be able to do 100 push-ups in one minute. The closest I’ve come so far is 92, but I’ll get there with practice. Another goal I’m working on is to get more “sculpted” definition in my abs and legs now that I’m starting to see signs of it in my arms.

If you just look at the numbers, my stats from Year 2 to Year 3 aren’t that different except for two: body fat (down 1.5% from last year) and pants size (down from a solid size 10 to a little less than an 8). My weight is about the same as it was a year ago (1.5 lbs higher now at 147), but I have gained a lot of muscle and definition and lost more fat, so my shape looks different than it did even just 1 year ago. And honestly, I feel stronger and healthier than I have in years.

Jen side by bags


Instead of talking about what I’ve “lost” like I did last year, I’m going to share what I’ve gained.

  • Good habits. Someone once said, “First we form habits; then they form us.” Truer words were never spoken. Except maybe “Fake it ’til’ you make it” because that’s kind of saying the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you have an occasional down day: it’s what you “usually” do that counts. For the past 3 years, I have “usually” exercised hard and eaten healthfully. And believe it or not, I still attend the 5am class 6 days a week. In my world, 5am is the one time during the entire day when nothing ever “suddenly comes up” to prevent me from working out.


  • Crazy brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. Therefore, encourage each other and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11.   I used to think I could do everything by myself because I do have a pretty strong will, and maybe I could, but why should I? It’s so much more fun and effective when you partner with positive people who help keep you motivated and accountable. My FXB fit family is the best! My whole life I’ve always compared myself to others (thought process: she/he does ____ better than I do, so I’ll try to out-do her/him). Since becoming a kickboxing and resistance training instructor 2 years ago, I have FINALLY stopped being jealous of other people’s progress and learned to be genuinely joyful about their success (that maybe, just maybe, I in some small way helped them achieve).  The one single person I try to outdo on a daily basis is me, yesterday. It makes ALL the difference! “Find your tribe and you find your vibe” (okay, Jen, enough with the cliches).


  • Pain relief. Like a lot of other people in their late 40s, I have a few aches and pains from past injuries. I’ve got an arthritic knee from tearing my meniscus a few times, achy feet and toes (more about that here), bursitis in my shoulder from years of softball and volleyball, and a few other pesky things like that. For a while I was getting cortizone shots in my shoulder and knee on a regular basis. Not anymore! I haven’t needed a cortizone shot for over 2 years now. News flash: when your muscles get stronger, they are better able to support and protect your gimpy areas. I have less knee pain now than I’ve had since I initially tore my knee at age 15 playing softball, and it’s all because my leg muscles have never been stronger. Likewise, my sore shoulder no longer wakes me up at night from sleeping on it. Go, muscles! I’m not saying exercise has “cured” my injuries, but I can definitely say it has given me a lot of pain relief.


  • Three words: fitness instructor discounts. Fellow fitness fashionistas, did you know fitness instructors can get discounts at Lululemon, Athleta, Alo Yoga, Reebok, Prana, Ryka, New Balance, Sweaty Betty, ASICS, AVIA, and others? Oh I get why they do it: if you’re leading a group fitness class, people might notice what you’re wearing and ask about it. Still, that’s a pretty big perk for something I would’ve done anyway. Score!


 Jen arm definition


So What’s FXB All About?

Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping (FXB) is a program that incorporates cardio kickboxing and strength training (with resistance bands) group fitness classes along with personal coaching. There is also a nutrition component, which is crucial to your success, but I love that you don’t buy any food or recipes or supplements from FXB. The nutrition is all on you making good choices. Essentially you eat clean and break up your daily protein and carbs up into 6 small meals. You get one “fun food” day per week to relax your nutrition, and that day has made good nutrition do-able for me. I used to do everything all-or-nothing, but when I’d fall off the wagon with nutrition or fitness, I often didn’t get back on. The FXB program helps you learn to eat to live, not live to eat.


Jen kicking bag



The 10-Week Challenge

When you first join FXB, you complete a 10-week, 6 days per week, “challenge,” competing for the chance to win $1,000 for having the biggest transformation. For many people, including myself, that 10-week challenge eventually becomes a way of life.


Jen putting on wraps


Cardio Kickboxing

The kickboxing workouts are SO intense and fun! You get to take all of your stress out on those bags for 45 minutes, 3 times per week.


Jen having fun


Strength Training

Then the other 3 days per week you do strength training workouts using resistance bands. Those little bands look so innocent hanging on the wall, but don’t be fooled. They have the potential to push you to your “Level 10” as we like to say at FXB.


Jen lunges with band


We rotate strength training days between lower and upper body, so you’re pretty much always sore somewhere.


Jen wide grip curls with band


Fit Family

One thing I didn’t think I wanted (I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel), but now can’t imagine doing without is all of the other “Fit Members” who work out with me each day. We support each other and push each other to be better. It’s such a positive, inspiring atmosphere! Okay, I have to throw in another cliche here because it’s SO fitting for FXB:  “We rise by lifting others.” Yep, that’s how they do it at Farrell’s.

group shot at fxb

p.s. – Lily didn’t take this photo 🙂


These Photos

For the record, what you see in Lily’s photos is the real me, no photoshopping. I definitely still have trouble spots (three C-sections have made my stomach area a little more resistant to toning, for instance), but instead of fretting over them like I used to, now I just have fun working out and pushing myself. Consistency is key, and if you keep making those good choices over time, things will keep moving in the right direction. My transformation has been s-l-o-w compared to a lot of people’s, but that’s because I am building a lifestyle, not just going all out for a quick fix. I’m 100% okay with that.

Jen look left



Black and white punch

Jen look center

black and white punching bags


You rock, Lily!

You guys, weren’t these photos amazing? Sometimes you don’t realize how much progress you’ve made until other people point it out. At one point during the shoot after looking at an image on Lily’s camera display, I commented that the lighting in her photos made my arm muscles look really defined. Lily said, “Dude, they ARE. You look like an MMA fighter.”  That made me feel pretty good, actually. Thank you so much, Lily, for somehow capturing the way I “feel” about myself and Farrell’s after 3 years!


Lily from Lola Takes Pictures

Meet Lily! Follow her on Instagram at @lolatakespictures to see more of her AMAZING photography.


What about you?

I used to see working out as a chore that I had to do to feel good about myself. Now I view working out as what I “get” to do for fun each day. My “why” back when I started FXB was basically to lose 20 pounds. My “why” now is simply this: because I love it. I’d love to hear about YOUR fitness journey. What keeps you motivated to exercise and take care of yourself? What are your favorite ways to work out?


jenny smiling

Casual Beach Vacation Capsule Wardrobe

beach vacation capsule wardrobe

We are planning a beach vacation this summer and I cannot wait! I’m notorious for over-packing, but this year I need to keep things in check because the five of us will be going to Universal Orlando for a few days and then driving out to a beach house for a few days. That’s a lot of people in one vehicle, and since we all need to bring things, that means I need to pack lighter than I’d like. Luckily, I’m traveling with all males, none of whom are particularly concerned with what they’re wearing. The downside is that 3 of those 4 males are 6 feet tall and counting, so they and their clothes take up more room than they did on car trips years ago when they were little.


I’ve never created a capsule wardrobe before, but there are quite a few people out there are really good at it (for example: check out Paige at or follow her in Instagram @stylethislife for some great capsules!). I challenged myself to make a 10-item wardrobe capsule, but  I just couldn’t do it. I kept bargaining with myself (“shoes don’t count as clothes, right?” and “maybe I won’t count the bag and the hat?” and also,  “a swimsuit is a recreational item, not clothes”). I decided to quit bargaining and just allow myself 15 items. I will admit that this capsule does NOT include undies, so that is one more item I’ll need to pack; but everything else should be covered. Except sunglasses: those REALLY don’t count as part of your wardrobe. Because this capsule only has 15 items, darn it.


3 Rules: Casual, Stylish, & Comfy

I set 3 parameters for my capsule: everything in it must be casual (or I just wouldn’t feel like “me”!), stylish (this year I swore not to pack my cut-off sweatpant shorts….), and comfy (if I can’t bring those sweatpant shorts, I need to at least be almost as comfortable). I also tried to build the capsule around pieces I already own, or are at least similar to things I have, so I don’t need to go out and buy anything when we’re already spending way more than I’m comfortable with on this vacation. (Can you ever be comfortable with spending money on “extras” like vacations? I can’t, sorry.) I am proud to say that at the time when I made this, all of the items EXCEPT the shoes and bag were less than $30 either everyday or due to a sale price. Score!! The bag is under $50 and the shoes, well, they hover around the $100 mark. But they’re really comfy. You can shop all of these items by clicking the product links in the list below.


I guess it also goes without saying that all items in the capsule need to be able to mix and match with the other items. You’re probably like, “Duh, it’s a capsule wardrobe.” But I kept finding myself wanting to stick in a unique item that didn’t fit with the rest, so this was hard for me!

Beach Vacation Capsule Wardrobe 15 Items

Shop all of these items by clicking the product links in the list that follows.


1. American Eagle Tomgirl Slouchy Bermuda Shorts

American Eagle Tomgirl Slouchy Bermuda Shorts

I own these shorts and they are SO comfortable. And they are long enough that I don’t feel too exposed and no tugging is involved. I love that they’re distressed and faded. So beachy! The shorts could be worn with any one of the tops in this capsule, and you could even wear it with the bikini top.


2. American Eagle Soft & Sexy Hi-Neck Tank

American Eagle Soft & Sexy Hi-Neck Tank

Did you see that “hi-neck” part? There’s nothing worse than a tank top that makes you have to worry about bending over and putting on a show. This tank top keeps everything covered and it is really soft and comfortable. It would look great with either pair of shorts, and I am also picturing it with the white jeans and either the kimono or the denim jacket. It’s also the perfect layering piece under the striped sweater for chilly nights.


3. Old Navy Sleeveless Swing Dress

Old Navy Sleeveless Swing Dress

You probably already have a tank dress, t-shirt dress, or jersey-knit swing dress like this one already in your wardrobe. It can be worn alone or topped with the kimono or denim jacket. You could also wear the sweater over it or tied around your waist for some color. Since it’s basically just a cheap jersey material (totally washable and packable), you could wear it as a cover-up at the beach, too. I can see dressing it up or down by going with a wedge sandal vs. a backstrap sandal.


4. Target Universal Thread Freeborn Denim Jacket in Light Wash

Target Universal Thread Freeborn Jacket Light Wash

Even if you don’t end up wearing it much, it’s always been my policy to take a jacket with you on vacation when you’re traveling someplace warm. You just never know when a storm or cooler day is going to blow through, and it’s good to have something to pop over whatever you’re wearing to add a little warmth. Honestly I’ll be totally okay with it if I never have to put this jacket on when we go to the beach or the theme park, but if I do need it, it’ll be there.


5. Gap Panama Resort Hat

Gap Panama Hat

I’m not a huge hat person in general, but when I’m on vacation someplace sunny I do tend to wear hats to keep the sun out of my face. This one is pretty neutral and would look really cute with any of these outfits.


6. Natural Chic Ring Handle Woven Tote

Natural Chic Ring Handle Woven Tote

This is my favorite tote right now! I like it so much I gave one away in my 3-year blogiversary giveaway a few weeks ago. It’s lightweight and just the right size to hold your stuff, but not take up too much space. It looks great with beachy outfits and espadrilles.


7. Old Navy Relaxed Boho V-Neck Top

Old Navy Boho Relaxed V Neck Top

A bright floral tank goes perfectly with all of the bottoms in this capsule. With the white jeans and wedge sandals you’d have a cute dinner look, and with either of the shorts and flat sandals you’d be all set for a day of exploring.


8. Gap Navy Stripe High Neck Criss-Cross Back Bikini Top

Gap High Neck Lace Back Bikini top Gap high neck lace back bikini

Again, “high neck” rules my summer world. This bikini top would be perfect for actually having FUN at the beach or a water park, not just lying around looking pretty and worrying about what might fall out of your suit. Sorry for that visual, but it’s true: you will never see me in a swimsuit that you can’t actually swim in. You’re welcome, by the way. 😀

Gap Hipster Swim Bottom

I would wear this bikini top with some navy hipster bottoms that would also do a pretty good job of reigning in the muffin top and holding everything basically in place.


9. Old Navy “Oh Hey Vacay” Tee

Old Navy Oh Hey Vacay Tee

I have this tee and wearing it makes me feel like I’m on vacation even when I’m not. A white and black graphic tee would look great with any of these bottoms, as well as with the jacket, the kimono, and as a layering piece with the striped sweater.


10. Sole Society Carima Tie Espadrille Wedge

Sole Society Carina Tie Espadrille Wedge

These are SO cute with their bows and espadrille slide style. They don’t have much of a change in grade from toe to heel, so they’d be comfortable. They come in 4 colors and I do love the striped ones, but for this capsule I’d get the red ones to have a little pop of color with my outfits, most of which aren’t too colorful.


11. Vionic Kirra Backstrap Flat Sandals

Vionic Kirra Sandal in Snake

Vionic sent me a pair of these shoes to try and I love, love, love them! They feel like I’m walking in a pair of sneakers: cushy, flexible, and with plenty of arch support to keep my feet in natural alignment. I chose the snake print because the colors are neutral, but they also add a little bit of texture. Trust me when I say you could walk all day long in these. I plan to wear them the days we’re at Universal Studios. Bring on the miles!


12. Gap Midrise True Skinny White Jeans

Gap True Skinny Midrise Jeans

A good pair of white jeans can take you anywhere. I mean anywhere. They look dressy when paired with a pretty floral top or a kimono, and they look cute and casual (think nautical) with tees and sweaters. The only downside to white jeans on vacation is that sometimes when you’re eating your yummy vacation food, you dribble and get your white jeans dirty. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen, or if it does, that there’s a short line at the washing machine exactly when you need it.


13. Target Crochet Kimono

Target Crochet Kimono in Plum

I chose a solid color kimono to include in this capsule because that way you could wear it with the floral tank. I don’t actually have a solid color kimono: mine is a floral print, but depending on your blouse it might still work. I could definitely wear my floral kimono with the white tank and the graphic tee. Also, a kimono makes a great cover up for walking to and from the beach or the pool in your swimsuit. It looks dressy when paired with the white jeans, and more casual with either pair of the shorts.


14. Gap U-Neck Raglan Pullover Sweater

Gap U-Neck Raglan Sweater Stripe

The colors in this sweater are so pretty and fun, and the material is lightweight enough for summer. It looks perfect with white jeans or blue denim (as well as the tan shorts, for that matter), and will layer well with the tee and the tank.


15. Old Navy Everyday Khaki Mid-Rise Shorts (5″)

Old Navy Khaki Everyday Midrise Shorts

There are SO.MANY. pairs of 3.5″ or shorter shorts out there. What’s the deal? Am I the only one who does not want the top parts of my legs hanging out when I’m walking around? Maybe I am, but I sure appreciate shorts that are 5″ or more in length. These tan khaki ones from Old Navy are a great basic that pair well with anything and everything.


My Exact Items (-1)

Here are all of my “real” items. As you can see I do have everything shown above except for the following: (1) my kimono is a dark red floral print; (2) my bikini is just plain navy blue; (3) my floral dressy tank is bright red; and (4) I don’t have the red espadrille wedge slides. I practiced packing all of this and if I carry the bag and wear the hat, shoes, and one of the shirts/shorts below, I can easily fit all of this plus my toiletries and undies into my carry-on size suitcase. High fives all around!

my exact items



So there you have it! I’ll be posting some flatlay combos of these items over the next few days on my Instagram account @everydayteacherstyle, so follow along if you want to see my capsule outfits.  What are your must-have clothes items for a vacation?

everyday teacher style signature

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on these links may result in my earning a small commission or referral fee. Also, I received a pair of Vionic shoes as a gift from Vionic (they did not ask me to post any reviews or photos, but I loved the shoes so much I wanted to share them with you). I appreciate your support of my blog. As always, all opinions expressed here are 100% my own.