New Home Tour: Hall Bathroom


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This is the only room in the house without any windows (aside from closets) making it an excellent safe room for tornado warnings. It also makes it harder to photograph. I was using a wide angle lens that I think it not very good quality…or else I just don’t know how to use it very well. Anyhow, sorry about the poor quality photos. This room needs some art. And a shower curtain. And new towels. It’s not very done. I’m not sure why I’m giving a tour of it at all…

FYI, our architect is Ryan Thewes.

Related Posts:

New Home Tour: Kitchen

New Home Tour: Living Room

New Home Tour: Dining Room

New Home Tour: Den/Playroom

New Home Tour: Nursery (Alianna’s Room)

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids

New Home Tour: Master Bathroom



I’ve been on a roll making homemade popsicles. (My current go-to is frozen mixed berries blended with plain whole milk yogurt and a bit of sugar to sweeten.) Ali loves them and she’s totally adorable and photogenic.

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Gosh, I love this kid so much! By the way, Happy 20 Months, Alianna!

Enclosed Courtyard


One of our loftier wish list items for our dream house was an outdoor “room,” like a courtyard or atrium. Our architect surprised us with a courtyard was the front entrance to our home. To save money toward the end of construction, we decided we would add the fence and gate to enclose the fourth wall on our own. We finally had a beautiful weekend and time to do a quick project together. Jason and I used the same technique as the modern wood fence we built at our last house. Without the fourth wall, it didn’t really feel like much of a courtyard at all.

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Now it feel more complete!

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We’ve got our own private retreat. This is quickly becoming our favorite spot for lunch and afternoon popsicles. As it gets warmer, I’ll probably start spending my morning time with God out here, sipping a cup of tea.

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I’ll do a follow up to this post with pictures of our process, as soon as I get around to editing all the photos.

Mission Accomplished: It’s a Dresser



My big goal for this weekend was to find a dresser for the bedroom our future foster kids will stay in. Eventually, I’d like to add a beautiful vintage dresser but for now we just needed any dresser. I found this specimen for $22.99 at a thrift store in our neighborhood. I spent about 3 hours repairing, sanding and painting it. I spent another $12 on handles and hardware. It’s not big but it will work for now. I painted it the same color green as the little 2 drawer nightstand I painted a couple years ago for our first kids’ room that’s now in Ali’s room. Eventually they may end up in the same room. So here’s my wonky little weekend DIY project, before:


And after:



I need to call our case worker to double-check but I believe all of our requirements to reopen our home as foster parents are now met. BIG SIGH!

Related posts:

Preparing for Foster Kids: Bedroom Tour (the 1st time)

New Home Tour: Nursery (Alianna’s Room)

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids (the 2nd time)

Phone Photo Friday


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We got our fireplace screen in the mail on Wednesday. (I ordered this one.) It’s fairly lightweight but has enough catch against our ceramic tile that it won’t budge easily. It looks better than we expected. All in all its a very silly purchase for home safety but whatever. If we have a fire roaring in the fireplace and kid accidentally lunges toward it, this should save them.

Now the only thing we have left to resolve on our home safety checklist is to add a dresser to the kids room. I don’t think either of those things are holding up our home study approval but we had to agree to comply before our next home visit. Still waiting for an official approval letter in the mail.

Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!

New Home Tour: Master Bathroom



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At our last house Jason and I built and tiled a custom 4’x5′ shower with two shower heads for our master bathroom, inspired by the house in Costa Rica we stayed at for my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding. It was huge! Our architect was determined to make sure our new master bathroom was not a downgrade so this one is even bigger. And the best part about it is that we have enough water pressure in this house to use two shower heads at the same time…although the hot water does run out a lot faster. It’s awesome in a private locker room kind of way. I like to joke with Jason that when we’re old we’ll be able to hobble our walkers right in here.

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The pretty orchid was a housewarming gift from the couple across the street.


I love the natural light that pours into this room and especially the shower. I have bad vision without my glasses on and natural light in the shower helps me see. Notice that no electric lights are turned on in any of these pictures. It’s that bright, even on a cloudy day.


Sources can be found on this post I did about our master bathroom plan. The only change is the towels and bathmat, which we ended up getting from Target.

FYI, our architect is Ryan Thewes.

Related Posts:

New Home Tour: Kitchen

New Home Tour: Living Room

New Home Tour: Dining Room

New Home Tour: Den/Playroom

New Home Tour: Nursery (Alianna’s Room)

Room to Grow: Making a Bedroom for Foster Kids

Lessons from the Foster Dog


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“We’re becoming foster parents,” I explained to the young woman I had just met.
“Oh! Like for dogs?!” She asked.
Dogs?! Are you freaking kidding me? 

That was 2 years ago.

It bothers me to no end that searching for “adoption” and “foster” yields as many listings about canines as human beings. I love dogs, but that love is worlds apart from my love and value for people.

The other day I was walking my loved cocker spaniel Lucy. We don’t usually walk far this time of year but it was the first sunny day we had had in a while and we both needed exercise so I decided to go around our whole block. Halfway, a cute shaggy little white dog ran across the street to us and started sniffing Lucy. They both seemed playful and unintimidated so I let them check each other out for a while thinking this little guy’s owner wouldn’t be far away.

After 5 minutes I decided we needed to start back home. Puppy followed us. I kept stopping and shooing him away. “Go back home, little dog!” I felt like I was luring him further and further from his home as I walked with Lucy but I wasn’t sure what to do.

When we finally got back to our house, little pup was still with us.

I left home with one and returned with two. The metaphor was not lost on me as a foster parent. My mom commented later, “He heard you take in strays.”

Jason and I discussed what to do and I decided I’d walk him alone all the way back where I found him and try to figure out where he lived.

When we got back, still no one was looking. The yard he came out of was actually a vacant home for sale. Shoot. I tried the house next door wondering if they recognized him. No answer. Meanwhile he’s running around in the street, almost getting hit by cars and I’m debating whether or not I care enough to do something about it. When he had gone a ways from me, I started back home. He chased after me at first but then saw a teenage boy across the street and ran to him instead. Then a couple walking their little white dog caught his attention. (This is a lesson in itself: he was desperate to follow someone. Anyone.)

I was free from this not-my-responsibility dog. I walked back home looking back every few minutes, half expecting to see a little white fluff ball following me. I went back inside relieved and tired from walking almost 2 miles and sat down to work.

Jason was still outside planting and digging in front of our house. An hour later I heard him shout from the garage for me to open the door. There he stood holding the little white pup in his arms. He had found his way back to our house.

I should back up and say that my husband just barely loves our dog Lucy. He’ll let her out, clip her nails when they get annoyingly loud and help me give her haircuts if I ask but I can’t remember the last time he’s pet her. But there he was holding this stinky, muddy little dog in his arms explaining that he picked her up for our next door neighbor to take a photo and the dog just settled into Jason’s arms.

Oh dear! How pitiful. 

I really don’t want another dog and this one not our problem or responsibility. Lucy looked at me longingly, reminding me that she doesn’t get as much attention as she craves and she really needs a haircut. I hardly have enough time for the dog we already have. I put some of Lucy’s food and water out in the garage for the little dog. He ate and drank a little and wandered back off to follow Jason around the yard. I went back inside because Ali was waking up from her nap.

Our neighbor posted the photo online somewhere…our community has several online forums, general and pet related. I’m not sure where she posted it, honestly.

While Ali had her snack, the little dog came up to the front door a few times, looked at Ali, Lucy and me and barked at us. Then he returned to Jason in the front yard.

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Lessons Learned from the Foster Dog:

Compassion is what made me stop. Compassion for the dog… sort of, but also for his owners who I was sure where looking for him. Compassion is what made Jason pick him up when he returned to our yard the second time.

Selfishness is what made me walk away and attempt to ditch him…twice. He’s not my responsibility! Find someone else to care! Why did you choose to follow ME?!

Pride is what made us explain to the people he jumped all over and the cars that he ran out in front of “Sorry, he’s not our dog!” We will not be held accountable for his unruly behavior.

Sympathy is what made us decide we’d keep him in our warm garage overnight, in Lucy’s crate with a soft blanket so he would not freeze or get run over outside.

Love is what drove us to give him snuggles and a bath and blow dry later that night. I realized this is how I would want someone else to care for my dog if she was lost. Also, we wanted him to be well presented if we did need to find a new owner for him. Love is why we started calling him Stuart instead of just “dog.”

Empathy is what made me look at stinky, tiredly little Stuart in my arms and ask, “Is someone missing you?” and wonder if he was asking himself the same question.

Hope is why I posted his picture and a description on Craigslist, attempting to locate his owners or at the very least line up new ones if we couldn’t find his within a few days.

Joy came when we got a message from our neighbor that she had found a listing from another neighbor, half a mile from us, listing that her neighbor boy across the street had been calling for his shaggy dog Whitey that evening. We believed we had a match. It was 10pm when Jason got ahold of the neighbor and he ended up taking Whitey to her house for the night. She said she’d take him back to the boy after school the next day.

It was a short lived foster experience—fostering a DOG—I can’t believe I’m even calling it that. But it was packed with metaphorical lessons. I’m thankful for how much God is speaking into my life right now and I’m very thankful this lesson was relatively painless. The Teacher is doing a lot of teaching and I know the test is coming soon.

Update: The next day the dog’s boy came by and thanked us for finding his dog. Apparently his grandma let him outside unchained and Whitey was long-gone when he got home from school.