My Sister’s Bridal Shower

My sister, Ashley, is getting married in September! Here she is with her fiancé, Matt, and a couple of very unevenly matched balloons.

Ashley and Matt, Womp Womp Balloons

Womp, womp, little blue balloon.

Their bridal shower was held at my house, and Ashley’s best friend, Sarah, co-hosted the party. We had about twenty five guests, but the photos in my post will focus on the decor and details.

Bridal Shower Paper Fans Decorations

I made a display out of paper fans (some that I already owned, and some that were new) to go above the fireplace, and spelled out “Ashley and Matt” with Rifle Paper garland.

Bridal Shower Paper Fans Decorations

I also wanted to do a honeycomb garland, and Jordan offered to send over supplies from the Oh Happy Day Shop (along with the giant Geronimo balloon and Ashley’s “Future Mrs.” headband). I used giant 19″ honeycombs and the tutorial used much smaller ones, so I bought chain instead of string for support. It was helpful for keeping everything in place while adding each piece too, since with string they would have wanted to slide down toward the center.

Bridal Shower Honeycomb Garland

Honeycomb Ball Party Decorations

Sisters! Ashley and Nicole

Brandon bought a couple of dry-erase comic book speech bubbles a few years ago. I’ve used them before at a baby shower photo shoot, but now we got to use them for real! We asked guests to write their best marriage advice for the couple, then snap a photo with it. Here’s Sarah, my co-host.

Marriage Advice at a Bridal Shower

We had lunch, and then bam, four hundred and forty two desserts.

Ashley and Matt at Their Shower

Fruit Tarts

Pirouettes, Jelly Beans, and Fruit Candies

Queen and pincushion proteas with eucalyptus were a nod to the flowers for the upcoming wedding, along with green trick and little wildflowers.

Queen and Pincushion Proteas with Eucalyptus and Wildflowers


Cake at a Bridal Shower

I made the bridal shower bow bouquet, as one does at these things. I am sure my sister will forever cherish my creation.

Making the Bridal Shower Ribbon and Bow Bouquet

Cheers to the happy couple! Everyone had a great time, and we’re all looking forward to the wedding!

Ashley and Matt, Soon to be Wed!

And We’re Back

This week flew by! We were in Wisconsin for a while and got back a few days ago. We had fun! The kids swam in the lake all day! Boat rides! Family time! I was bitten by a tick! (OK, that last one was not one of the fun parts.)

Vintage "ESCAPE" Bag

Randomness, ahoy!

I’m just about done with a recap of my sister’s bridal shower and I thought I’d have it up yesterday, but it will go up on Monday instead. I’m meeting with her tomorrow to learn how her bustle works, which is a funny thing to type.

On guinea pig watch: I think we’ve got one girl and two boy babies but I could be completely wrong. I’ll take them to the exotic animals vet to double check, but they said it’s too early for them to tell right now.

I’m going to repaint August’s room — I’ve officially decided. That green has no joy in it.

Still thinking and thinking about the kitchen. I’ll be taking photos and drawing up measurements soon, and I’m looking to find someone for a consultation. (Any suggestions?) I have an idea of what I want to do, but I would love a shoot for the moon option too. I suspect it is way beyond the scope of what we could do right now to open up the walls, reconfigure things, add access to the yard, new cabinetry, flooring, blah blah blah… but it would be nice to explore the idea with an experienced kitchen designer.

The Elkhorn Antique Flea Market is this Sunday! I’m thinking of going bright and early. Anyone else going?

Thoughts on Replacing our Antique Stove

Thank you for all of your opinions and feedback. I had been pursuing more general sponsored opportunities lately, which is where my budget for the kitchen is coming from (plus I can’t pay my mortgage in fridges and faucets). Responses to last week’s post varied, as I knew they would, but I was surprised by the overall support in favor of integrating sponsored product.

I was going to hold off on introducing the kitchen redo until plans were more firmly in place, but it could be interesting to take you along for the full ride, yes? I have a tendency to waffle (um, not that you’ve noticed I’m sure) and so I was going to try to hold off on talking about all of this until I was further past the wishy-washy making up my mind stage. But let’s dive in!

First, some context.

We redid the kitchen in our last house for $11,000. That was in 2007, so prices would be a little higher today ($12,660 according to an inflation calculator), but that total covered IKEA cabinets ($1700), quartz counters ($2300), a 30″ stove ($2000) and a 36″ fridge ($1200), a dishwasher ($700), sink (free with the countertop), faucet ($700), lighting ($350), tile ($100), hardware, paint, fabric, and the labor we had to hire for electrical work. People sometimes see a price tag, like $700 alone on a faucet, and get scared off but the overall price for the kitchen was completely reasonable. I remember seeing a $44K makeover on HGTV and feeling pretty good about having pulled off a very similar design for 1/4 the cost.

Our Old Kitchen, Before Being Redone

The Kitchen, Before

Five years later, I painted the walls and trim white for an updated look and I fell for the kitchen all over again.

All-White Kitchen

And then we get here, and hello, antique stove! It was a little intimidating, and it took a lot of getting used to. The pilot light is always on, half of it is unusable because it is wood-burning and not vented, there are four gas burners in a 17″ wide space, and the oven is a tiny 18″ wide by 11″ tall with an open flame at the bottom, a hot-to-the-touch oven door, and no temperature regulation. It’s not something I would have ever chosen. But it’s almost a hundred years old, it works the way it’s supposed to and it is definitely unique.

Our 1918 Cast Iron Wood-Burning and Gas Stove from Nicole Balch on Vimeo.

Now that I’ve totally sold you on the wonders of this beauty, who wants to buy it? Anyone? ;)

Cooking on an Antique Stove

Yeah. I had wanted a colorful appliance for years — it just worked out a little differently than I thought it would. And I’m the one that has been holding out on replacing it! The stove’s quirk charmed me, but Brandon was down to get rid of the stove from day one. He likes to cook, I like to bake. We can’t do either with the ease we were used to, and simple tasks like boiling water take forever. Eleanor is showing a lot of interest in baking lately, and I would love to be able to do that with her — safely and reliably — in something from this century. Replacing it with a stove like the one we put in our old house (which we were happy with) would seem out of place here, but it is time to find something that will work for us.

We did our last kitchen for $11,000, and there are ranges out there that would eat up that entire budget. We should have at least $10K for this kitchen, maybe as much as $15K, but we need to finish up the electrical work in the house and see where our budget is at. I’ll also be looking to partner with brands on certain aspects of the kitchen, but I’m not sure if the range will be one of them or not. Because of the blog, I have been offered full suites of appliances in the past from more than one brand, but they either came at a time when I wasn’t ready to work on the kitchen, or they weren’t a good fit, like the 50s-inspired line that was very cute but not right for this house. (I wanted to give them away and work them into a kitchen for someone else, but they were only available in exchange for placement in my own home.) So I’m looking at the decision here assuming we are paying for appliances, and if that changes then we’ll have more room in the budget to put toward other things.

Some thoughts on what we are (and are not) looking for…

  • Probably 36-44″ wide. This automatically puts it at a higher price point, but we aren’t changing the layout of the kitchen, and that is the space we’re working with. A smaller range would be out of proportion. There is another option, which would be choosing a standard 30″ stove and then replacing the 32″ fridge with a wider model or adding a very narrow cabinet or cart, but do we want to do that? I don’t think so, but I can’t say with 100% certainty yet. We’re not in love with the fridge and replacing it is tempting, but the focus and pressing need here is on the stove.

  • Old stoves by Chambers or O’Keefe and Merritt are fabulous workhorses that can still be found relatively affordably. They cook well and look great. After two years on an antique stove though, I’m not looking for something vintage.

  • I’m not looking for a reproduction antique or vintage style either, but I am drawn to European ranges. Aga, La Cornue and CornuFé, Lacanche, Bertazonni Heritage, Ilve, Molteni… they’re all beautiful. Some are completely out of reach, but not all of them. I also like that they often come in 40-44″ widths (our antique stove is 44″ wide), and have multiple ovens. I complain about the size of ours, but if we had more than one it wouldn’t be such an issue.

  • A professional-style range could be great too though! Stainless steel, modern commercial looks with a big oven and big, beefy knobs (red or otherwise), and powerful burners. Old kitchens with new ranges are appealing, and I hear they come with fancy features like a light in the oven and a self-cleaning mode. Imagine that! Modern times, friends.

  • Gas burners or an induction cooktop. No strong preference on the oven. Given the choice, I’d go with electric, but in the past we have had gas, electric, and convection and been fine with all of them.

  • Five or six burners, including one that does not take 30 minutes to bring a pot of water to boil (which sadly, is what we’re dealing with). Should be fairly easy to find in the widths we’re looking at.

  • Not from 1918.

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