There is no such thing as a perfect home. Even when we finally get all the projects checked off of our list, new things are constantly popping up! In my conversation with Kali, we chat about fighting for contentment in our homes no matter what they look like. Kali also shares some practical tips for making small changes in your home decor even when you don’t have the time or money for a big renovation. And we also touch finding a style you truly love even amidst the noise of decor trends. This episode was such a fun one for me, and I hope it encourages you in your homemaking!
In this episode, we cover:
- Taking a break from creative work
- Living in the tension between envisioning what your home could become and being patient in the process
- What people don’t realize about finally getting their dream home
- Are you following trends or is your taste truly changing?
- Identifying the three factors that determine your personal style
- Are you missing the perfect solution for your home decor?
- Making the most of your home when you can’t overhaul it
- Taking pride in caring for your home even when it is imperfect
- How to approach decluttering and organizing when you are not naturally organized
- Keeping seasonal decor practical and minimal
- Changing your mindset about the repetitive tasks of homemaking
- Narrowing down what decor style you truly love
- Different home decor personalities
- Simple ways to spruce up your home without spending much time or money
- The impact of choosing contentment in your home no matter what it looks like
Thank you to our sponsors!
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Azure Standard is a family-owned company dedicated to providing you with high quality, affordable organic, natural, and non-GMO groceries, health, and household products. Place your order at AzureStandard.com and use the code SIMPLEFARMHOUSE10 to receive 10% off your purchase. This promotion expires February 28, 2023, and is only available for the first-time Azure customer order, with a minimum of $50 order (orders to drop locations only). One time use per customer.
Kali Ramey Martin is a farmer’s wife, mom of two sweet boys and amateur at just about everything. She is the author of Potager: From the Garden to the Kitchen and publishes a magazine called Notebook Quarterly. She happily dabbles in gardening, floristry, homesteading, photography, interior design and cookery, and is passionate about making the world a softer, simpler, more beautiful place.
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. I know you can’t tell because there’s one episode every week on Thursdays like usual, but this is actually the first episode that I’ve recorded in probably a month and a half now. I believe we took a six week break. We just got really ahead on guests and recordings, which was really nice because it made for a nice break all through the Christmas and then January, as we recovered from the holidays and all of that. And so I am excited to jump back into interviews. And today I’m having on Kali from @krameymartin over on Instagram. She’s been on before. She is the author of The Notebook Quarterly. She has books and just creates a lot of beauty. She’s currently on a sabbatical from creating any new physical things like books and magazines. She’s sporadic on Instagram. But we’re going to talk about homemaking and why she felt the need for a creative break, what she’s doing to create the environment in her home that is comfortable for her family. We’re going to chat design. We’re going to— you know, some people get really into that, and we are two people who do. So if you love all things homemaking, you are going to love this interview.
Lisa Bass My name is Lisa, mother of seven and creator of the blog and YouTube channel Farmhouse on Boone. Join me as I share with you my love for creating a handmade home, from-scratch cooking, and a little mom and entrepreneur life along the way.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, welcome back to the podcast. I’m so glad to have you on again. I think it was last spring—right?—that we chatted all about homemaking and home decor. So if you could start by—for the listeners who didn’t hear that episode—giving a quick introduction of you. If you want to talk about your home, your family, and where to find you, we can start there.
Kali Ramey Martin Sure. I’m Kali. I live in Oregon’s Willamette Valley with my farmer husband and two little boys. We have a 1928 cottage on ten acres, and it’s been sorely neglected the last couple of decades. So we’ve got quite a project on our hands digging it out. Over the last couple of years, I have published a book and a quarterly magazine, and now I’m officially on sabbatical, as I’m calling it.
Lisa Bass Okay. So from your home projects or just from the magazine or sharing on social media? What kind of sabbatical are you taking currently?
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, kind of social media and just creative work in general. After having— you know, in crazy baby mode, and then I just needed to do something. I just felt like the book had been on my heart for a long time and it felt like the right time to do it. And we were kind of— everything was settled at the time. I had kids who went to bed early and nappers, and it was a good time to do it. And then when we moved, everything was just chaos for so long that I feel like I needed something where I could sit down and make it pretty. So that was kind of the time that I was working on the magazine. And then between the ages of my kids and just our homestead coming along, I’ve just felt like it’s a time for me to take a step back from that stuff and really pour my heart into my family and our home.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I think a lot of us can relate to that. Do you feel like that was partially the reason that you wanted to create the magazine and create something beautiful in print? Was it because you had a lot of renovations going on in your home that made it to where that felt like a space that you couldn’t put your touch to in a way that you can now?
Kali Ramey Martin Absolutely. I mean, it’s one of those things—and I’m sure you can relate—where like you’re sitting there and every surface within your visual range needs to be fixed, painted, touched, redone, inside and out. And so it can be almost suffocating when you don’t actually have the skills to do much of it.
Lisa Bass Right.
Kali Ramey Martin To just sit there stuck with your own ideas. So totally. It was so cathartic for me to have the magazine to make it as pretty as I could. And I had the skills to make my world nice and clean and pretty and shiny there, even if I didn’t in my real life. And I still don’t in my real life, but we’ve got it to a point enough where it’s livable. It’s better.
Lisa Bass Yeah. All of that takes so much more time than you think. When you first buy a property like that and you can envision the way you want every single room to be, and then the difference between the way that you visualize it and then it actually coming out like that is years and years of time. Or just a ton of money, a ton of time, or like half and half of each of those. Or whichever spectrum you fall on, that is how the renovation happens. So let’s talk a little bit about that. I’m sure a lot of people find themselves in homes that they can’t call done in any way, whether it’s they’re in a fixer-upper or they’re in a house that just will never be their dream home. And enjoying your life and your homemaking during that time. I know one of the things we were talking about was gratitude in those seasons. So how did that translate for you throughout your story of taking this place that maybe you had a vision for, but the actual execution of it was hard?
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. I feel like this is a topic that we’re both really jazzed about, and I know you’ve done videos on it in the past and it just speaks to me, like, life isn’t perfect and our homes aren’t going to be perfect. Nothing is going to be perfect. Even if we have years of being able to do projects and make choices that we do love. I doubt anybody who lives in a “perfect home” would still say that their house is perfect.
Lisa Bass Oh yeah. You always find stuff. I find that amazing. I feel like I’ve done all the things that we wanted to do when we first moved here. And then I think like, “Oh, we’re done.” And I think of other things. I think it will never stop if you don’t, at some point, acknowledge what it is you have that you’re thankful for about your home.
Kali Ramey Martin For sure. And I kind of came to the— after— so, I’ll give a little context. We bought a house six years ago that was a wreck and we did an extreme makeover. My dad and my husband spent two months straight, seven days a week, 18 hours a day.
Lisa Bass Wow.
Kali Ramey Martin We gutted the entire thing and redid it. And we did it—
Lisa Bass And you saw probably some very nice progress because that’s a lot of time.
Kali Ramey Martin Talk about satisfying. I mean, it was almost like a TV show.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it was like an HGTV show.
Kali Ramey Martin But because of that, we had to make super simple, super inexpensive choices. We were doing it all at one time. Everything was white. Everything was basic. And after we lived there for about a year, it was like, oh, there’s so much I want to do. And I’m not satisfied with everything just being plain and boring. And I kind of had started to really hone some of my interior design tastes at that time. And I kind of realized— after being really frustrated for about six months, realizing, like, if I’m not happy here right now in this scenario where everything is clean and nice and perfectly good, if I can’t get happy here, I’m not ever going to be happy. I’m never going to be happy in the dream home if I can’t be happy in this current place. And so that’s something I’ve really worked on for a long time, and by no means am I perfect at it. But I’ve kind of come around to think like, you know, gratitude covers a multitude of sins. So I have holes in my bedroom walls still after two years. But I can see what it will be someday. And I’m grateful for a warm, cozy, safe place to rest my head at night. And so it’s kind of just that mind— like talking to yourself instead of listening to yourself. Listening to yourself go, “There’s holes in my walls,” or talking to yourself and going, “I’m not fixing those holes right now because I’m saving up for the wood paneling that I want to put up in here. It’s going to be worth it. And in the meantime, I’m safe and warm and happy and cared for.”
Lisa Bass Yeah, I like that you had that moment where you had this house that you completely redid, like fixer-upper style. And because of that dramatic transformation, you thought, okay, I got to really see what it’s like to get everything I want, so to speak, in a house. I mean, it was maybe not what you ultimately wanted, but at that time before doing it, that probably was everything that you wanted.
Kali Ramey Martin Totally.
Lisa Bass I find this happening so much just because we did—four years ago—get to purchase like our “dream” property. We bought an old house on seven acres. We put fence around it, we have an old barn, an old cottage. And so—in pretty much most people in my audience’s minds—we bought like a dream property, and in my mind too. And so I have the opportunity of interacting with a lot of people who think if they could just get to where I am, every single thing in their life would be different. And I’ve seen people say that, like, “I just want to find basically exactly what you’ve found. I want to find an old house. If I did that—” like they just imagine their life like these sweet, happy days on into eternity with pies in the windowsill and the linen curtains flapping in the wind. You know what I mean?
Kali Ramey Martin And they’ll never worry again.
Lisa Bass And in so many ways, it is— like I completely— I’m so thankful for this place. And I really do, like, I think it’s so beautiful. But all the same normal life stuff that you think maybe somehow is just going to be magic over there is still the same. And it’s really interesting whenever you do achieve a certain dream, being able to have that perspective that some people might not ever see, or maybe they’ll work really hard to eventually see. I in no way want to say I’m not grateful because, seriously, I am. It’s just an interesting perspective to be on the other side of like “having reached your dream”, you know what I mean? And then being like, “Yep, this is really great, but ultimately it’s still life,” you know?
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, it’s still imperfect. And then even the minute you get everything painted or cleaned or whatever, the paint starts to chip. The floor starts to wear.
Lisa Bass Yeah, cabinets, we just had to get them redone. I literally had our entire kitchen freshly made cabinets, and we just had them repainted last week because, like you said— and my floors. I actually saw a video. We were looking at old videos a couple of days ago, and the floors, we had them redone, not a scratch. Like the most pristine, beautiful floors you ever saw. And you wouldn’t believe what seven kids does to these old floors.
Kali Ramey Martin I can believe it.
Lisa Bass So those examples are just all too real in my brain. We bought this dream farmhouse, we fixed it up, and now we’ll live our happy days out in this perfect little house. But it’s still, like you said—
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. And I think you kind of hinted at it a little bit, but by the time you get things done or you get the whole house done or whatever, trends have changed, times have changed, material availability has changed, your own tastes have changed. And that’s something that I really experienced with the last house, too. When we did it and I made all the choices, I was pregnant, I was exhausted. I just wanted everything white, plain, easy.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Clean slate.
Kali Ramey Martin And by the time we moved out, I was ready to move into an English cottage in the Cotswolds. And so I think that people really struggle with that, too, because we’re assaulted all day, every day by design trends, new seasons of curtains or pillows or whatever. No matter when you finish something, it’s never going to feel done because of the visual world we’re living in, I think, and all these wonderful companies who have to sell you their stuff.
Lisa Bass Yeah, they have to come up with new trends.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, and so it’s so hard not to get sucked into— unintentionally sucked into a trend, too. Like you kind of have to— what I’ve realized, along with figuring out how to be grateful for where you are at, is figuring out what you actually love and leaning into that versus what you’re seeing all over the place. Because a lot of times you may not really be seeing the things that you love all put together in one space. And I think you kind of encountered that. Last time we talked about it, you were saying, “I wish I could just find a picture of a room with this color paint and these color couches so that I can see that what I’m thinking will look right.” Mixing this farmhouse, Victorian, kind of leaning towards a simple, minimalist vibe. And I think people want to see something and copy it and know that what they’re doing is right. But then they’re like, “But it doesn’t feel collected or homey or cozy.” And it’s like, “Well, that’s because we’re trying to copy something.”
Lisa Bass Yeah. And it’s not going to be the same in your house with your details and the way your house faces with the way the light comes in. The paint color is going to hit different. I was thinking when you were talking about how just as soon as you finish something, it’ll change. And I find decor very interesting and fun. I know you do, too. Not everybody does. But I’ll listen to YouTube videos about like 2023 kitchen trends. And it’s so funny to me that countertops can be a trend because you can’t change that. Say you just decide like, 2023, you’re into home decor, you’re going to follow all the trends of what’s going for kitchens in 2023. Well, you’re going to be staying stuck there because you’re not going to change your whole kitchen. Like how I did my kitchen, yes, we repainted the cabinets. But like, that’s basically it. At this point, this kitchen is what it is because we’re not going to tear out the quartz countertops and start again. So to some extent, you do just have to figure out what it is that you’re drawn to, and that does get refined over the years. But then part of me, being— you know, I’ve been in two houses, I’ve really loved decor for probably 15 years now. And watching what I “really love” change by the influences makes me wonder. People are like, “Well, just do what you love.” I’m like, “Well, that’s very relative because I think I love one thing and then I love something else even more.” So how have you navigated that in your home as you have made some decisions that are— you know, paint’s not permanent. Paint’s fine. I don’t mind that we’re going to be repainting this and that, because that’s all part of— that’s like me reading a book. That’s a fun activity. Or like some people have other hobbies. Me painting a room would be a fun thing that I could do, like every single year and that be just okay. But the more permanent things or just the design in general. When you start taking your whole house in this certain way and you’ve collected for years, it’s hard to navigate back from something like that. So in a way you do have to sort of decide something along the way. How has that worked for you?
Kali Ramey Martin So I have a theory that there’s three factors at play with everyone’s personal style. And there’s two— I think everybody has two styles that they are really drawn to just naturally. And the funny thing is that often times those two don’t seem to make sense together. Like, for example, I love Pacific Northwest, like cabins. And I also love an English cottage. And you wouldn’t necessarily look at those two and be like, “Oh, I get that. That goes together.” And then the third factor is you have an actual house that you’re dealing with that has some sort of architectural style. How do I bring in—
Lisa Bass Right. Yes. It has some say in the matter.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, it really does. Cause if you ignore your house, it will speak up at some point.
Lisa Bass Yup. If you’re listening. And not in like a woo woo way, but like, it’s just literally ugly if you don’t pay attention.
Kali Ramey Martin Totally. Like it’ll just feel wrong. Yeah, I don’t think my house speaks to me.
Lisa Bass No, not in that kind of way. Not actual speaking.
Kali Ramey Martin Not actually.
Lisa Bass It’s a dead house.
Kali Ramey Martin For sure. So it’s this game of like, I’m drawn to these things and I have to fit it into this literal box that is my house. So with our current place, I’ve established that I’m drawn to English cottage. And not like— like rustic English cottage. And then I love a cabin. But I have this house with very Swedish lines. And a Swedish country house, but everything is square, rectangular. There’s low ceilings. It doesn’t have amazing light. Big windows and really small rooms, small spaces divided. It’s not open concept at all.
Lisa Bass Which is so cozy and much easier to decorate, in my opinion.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, and I think there’s things that you’re drawn to within that. When you don’t have that architecturally, you almost beat your head against it for a long time until you kind of figure out how to work with it. I didn’t love the low ceilings, but we decided that we would take from the Swedish design that I started looking into. And they do wood paneling on all of their ceilings. And so even though they’re low, you get these long lines which makes it feel bigger. And then they paint everything really light colors, really airy creams and whites and light grays and light blues. And so it was like, okay, well, let’s do the wood and let’s take it to these light colors so that the light we do get reflects and it’s bright. And that has helped me incorporate some of these natural textures which I’m drawn to in a cabin or cottage into this Swedish architecture. And we’re really loving it. It’s been such a pleasant surprise to see it kind of come together because when I first started talking about it, everybody was like, “What?” But yeah, and then looking at the two styles that you’re drawn to. So I love a cabin. Well, there’s a ton of wood used in the cabin. I love an English cottage and there’s tons of exposed beams. They have a big wooden exposed mantelpiece. There’s a lot of natural woods used. And then the other aspect that I love that’s used in both of those is stone. And so it’s kind of looking at those things and saying, “Well, they seem super different.” You know, in your case, like Victorian and farmhouse. They seem different. But what are the things that they share in common? What are the textures that they share and the patterns that you can use with both or the colors or whatever? And then how can I implement that in this space that I have?
Lisa Bass Yeah. And that’s been really fun for me in my situation. What it keeps me from is— when I think Victorian, sometimes I want to accidentally start going into some of these more fancy or formal. But my other style is very much country. Sometimes I call it farmhouse, sometimes I call it country. And that really helps me to reel it in. Like that is not country and I just love it. I’ve always loved country. Like even whenever I was a kid at my grandparents’ house and they had chickens on the wall, that was all just comforting. And it’s something that I’ve always liked.
Lisa Bass All right. I want to take a quick break to tell you about the Modern Homestead Conference. If you are trying to learn all the things when it comes to homesteading, from gardening to having a family dairy cow to figuring out pastures and all of the nitty gritty details that go into it, then it’s important that you build a community around that endeavor. I know the times that I’ve learned the most about something has been whenever I talk to other homesteaders, whether it be the community of people I’ve built in my area— I have some friends and we send each other the dimensions of our cow milking stanchions. Or whenever I met some friends when we first got our dairy cow and they came over and showed us everything we need to know. I’ve also built so many great connections and community through the online world, like when the Homesteading Family came out to our house last spring and we shot a vegetable fermentation video. I learn so much from those in-person interactions and that’s why going to conferences is so important. I know this from my own experience with blogging. In the early years of my blogging journey, I went to every conference I could. It took a lot of investment for me to travel there, but I made connections that I still talk to every single week. We bounce ideas off each other. I learn the most from those relationships, and that’s why these kind of things are so important. So the Modern Homestead Conference is held in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It’s a live two-day event with expert speakers, including Joel Salatin. If you’re in the homesteading world, you’ve definitely heard of him. The Homesteading Family, which, like I said, I’ve met in person. Melissa K. Norris, we’ve been on each other’s podcasts and we chat all the time. So she’s a connection I made. Anne of All Trades, Farmstead Meatsmith, and many more. Not only will you gain valuable knowledge and skills to help you live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, but you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy a concert by Grammy Award winning farmer and filmmaker Rory Feek. Classes include raising a family milk cow, onsite live butchering and curing, talking about homestead income, four season gardening, cheesemaking, homeschooling, sustainable agriculture, so much more. It’s a whole lifestyle and they are going to be experts in all of those. Plus, you’ll probably learn a lot just from walking around and running into the other conference attendees. I know that happens to me. I go to the speaker sessions, but then I actually meet people who become fast friends that we actually communicate after that. You don’t want to miss out on this unique event. You can get your tickets now at ModernHomesteading.com. They have their early bird pricing through February 13th, so this might be a last-minute decision for you, but if you want to get on the early bird pricing before February 13th, again, go to ModernHomesteading.com. I know that you will learn so much. I know sometimes this kind of thing can be scary to embark on, especially if you go by yourself or just you and your husband. But I have never come away from something like this without more value than the investment I put in. So I highly encourage you again to go to ModernHomesteading.com to learn more about the Modern Homestead Conference that is coming up this summer in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Lisa Bass One thing I was thinking whenever you were talking about taking a while to kind of figure out what works in your space, I was listening to this YouTuber—like a design YouTuber—somewhat recently, and she was saying how we always think there’s some right answer for a house. And I have 100%— the way she was saying, like I have felt that to where I feel like if I could only just figure out exactly what would look good in here. I’ll probably get close or 50% there, but there’s something out there that looks perfect, and I’ll probably never discover it. And she was challenging that. Like, actually, there’s no perfect solution. It’s not like there is some right answer and your goal with interior design is to just figure out what that right answer is for this space. That was like, oh, that is very freeing. I don’t like thinking that there’s like some right answer that I’m trying to find my path to here.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. I’m just constantly missing the mark. I’ve definitely felt that way. I mean, that’s why Internet quizzes are a thing, right? Is because people are like, so desperately—
Lisa Bass Yeah, there’s like a right answer.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. Tell me, tell me what to do. And I think, I mean, that applies to so many things, like clothes. I still have a hard time with like, just tell me what I’m supposed to wear. Tell me the perfect thing.
Lisa Bass Right. And there are people who will. There’s like a whole niche of people who are like, I will look at you and tell you what you should wear. And honestly, what does it matter? If you believe that after they tell you it, then it’s true. I mean, if you think that you look the best in that, then by all means, it’s like a placebo effect. It is right. And so with the house thing, though, most of us don’t have anybody directing us. So it’s nice to know that there isn’t this— you know, like this room would look perfect if you just did this, and you just have to shoot in the dark until you finally find that perfect combination of collected and colors and textures.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, there is no perfect. There is no done. There is no, I mean, arriving. It’s definitely— to me, it’s one of those things where it’s like, I’m sure I’ll be 85 and rearranging my living room.
Lisa Bass It’s just like with humans, we’re just made to work and that’s just part of what makes us thrive. That’s why we were created. And so I think that, yeah, it’s just all part of it. And it’s actually fun. Okay, this is actually fun for me. No, it’s not— I’m not defeated that I’m going to be sewing new curtains for my windows next week in my kitchen. This is just the fun. I enjoy every year thinking what would look good this coming year on my kitchen windows? It’s a nice change. So with that, with it being almost like that’s all the bad news. Well, you’re never going to get there, so give up. What are some things that we can do in our homes to care for things well? To make our homes homey and lovely without them being perfect. I know you were mentioning cleaning, organizing, bringing in fresh flowers. What are some of the things that you would do to—despite the home having holes in the wall and maybe being painted the wrong color—that we can do every day to care for things?
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, definitely cleaning. That sounds like duh. But there is something about freshly cleaned stuff, even when it’s old, even when it’s ugly, even when it’s— I mean, our bathroom— we have one bathroom in our house and it is horrible. Just horrible. The bathtub and the sink are pink. Well, they want to be pink, but they’re not quite.
Lisa Bass They’re like some off pink.
Kali Ramey Martin Oh, putrid is my word for it. The cabinetry in there was built with plywood. The shower is like a yellow plastic like stick-on shower surround. It’s terrible.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Kali Ramey Martin But I clean the snot out of that thing every week. And every week, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good that my family has a clean bathroom. It makes me feel good that I’m taking care of what I have. And it’s not pretty. And it’s never going to be in its current state. But it’s what I have and it serves us well. And that’s good enough. I think the more you can build up that sort of a positive feeling, even in an ugly room, the more it makes you feel better about it. And then there are simple things you can do. One of my favorite podcasts always talks about neutralizing the ugly. And that’s what we’ve—actually, the last two weeks—been trying to do in our bathroom. We picked out a really pretty paint color, picked out an inexpensive shower curtain, put a new faucet on the putrid sink, and put in new light fixtures, inexpensive light fixtures from Amazon. Maybe a $200 makeover. And it feels so much better in there. And so there’s a ton of ways that you can kind of work with what you have, make simple swaps out that make it a little easier to fall in love with what you have going on, even if it’s imperfect.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and I like the idea of taking $200 and a weekend and not making your dream bathroom— this is definitely not the, you know, if you were going to rip everything out and start over, what you would do. But being able to just make it to where it’s a little bit fresh and it’s not as ugly. And then I can totally relate to sometimes not even wanting to clean those spaces properly because maybe you plan on doing a renovation in the future. And so you’re like, “Well, I’m gonna rip this thing out anyways, so I’ll live with it being really dingy and not putting a bunch of elbow grease into getting all the stains off.” But it makes you feel so much better when you just do. Whenever you’re like, “This is my sink. And so I’m going to clean it like a person who was proud of their sink would clean the sink with a toothbrush and vinegar and getting in there,” you know?
Kali Ramey Martin Oh, yeah. Scraping out the nasty caulk and redoing it. And it really does make a difference.
Lisa Bass It does. Probably a couple of months ago now, our family got a stomach bug. And normally the adults don’t get it, but we did. And I spent a lot of time in the bathroom and I was like, “When I get better, I am going to take an hour and a half and clean this toilet.” Not that it was— we’d cleaned the toilet, like put a little toilet stuff in there, rub it around and whatnot. But I was like, “I’m going to detail this toilet.” And so the next day, when I was better, I was— we have really hard water, and I tried all the tricks for getting off the hard water deposits, like the calcium deposits. Turns out it’s this thick. And I literally just have to chisel it off with a knife. And the thing sparkles and shines. I’m like, “See? I should have taken care of this a long time ago and just spent some time taking care of what we have.” I was like, “Do we need a new toilet? Because none of the tricks are working. Like, I’ve tried all the things that I read online for how to get hard water out,” and turns out, it just needed a lot of elbow grease.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, it does make a difference. Yeah, it goes back to the gratitude thing of, like, if you can’t figure out how to be happy right now with your funky bathroom, then you’re not going to be able to be happy when it’s a beautiful bathroom. And if you can’t figure out how to take care of your bathroom now when it’s a funky bathroom, you’re not going to take any better care of it when it’s a marble bathroom with pristine shower glass and all of that.
Lisa Bass Right.
Kali Ramey Martin It’s more about training yourself to care for your home and have a sense of pride in that now while you don’t have the dream thing so that when you do have the dream thing, you really value it and you already know how to care for it well. And maybe the paint chips a little slower because you take better care of it.
Lisa Bass Yeah, right.
Lisa Bass Want to take a break from this episode to tell you about this month’s sponsor, Toups and Co. Now, if you’ve been listening to this podcast a while, you’ve definitely heard of Toups and Co. I actually have recently sold my mom and my two sisters on Toups and Co makeup. We were on a girls trip and we were sitting in the hotel room talking about our makeup and they were on their phones quickly ordering it because I love it. I love it because it not only is natural and uses quality ingredients like grass-fed tallow and oils and things that you recognize and nothing that you don’t and that’s really bad for your skin and bad for your health. It can go into your skin, which is your body’s largest organ, and actually affect your health whenever you’re not using natural things. But not only that, it actually works. So I just had to update my foundation for my winter skin. I have to always get like a darker shade in the summer. And I also got the Toups and Co mascara. I hadn’t tried that yet. I have their bronzer, their highlighter. I have like their whole line of makeup now. I keep adding to it. I really love the primer that goes underneath the foundation, and of course, the skincare. Especially right now in the winter, my skin needs the extra hydration. And so I’ve been loving their tallow balm and their oil cleanser, the seabuckthorn oil cleanser. It also moisturizes and cleanses. I can’t say enough good things about the company and their products, so they’re made in America by a small company. I’m actually now friends with the owner as well and just a genuinely awesome company that you can feel great about supporting. And also the products are amazing. So head on over to ToupsandCo.com to check out their organic skincare. Whether you’re in need of moisturizers, cleansers, or their makeup, you can use the code FARMHOUSE to get a discount over at ToupsandCo.com.
Lisa Bass Also, you talked about organizing and decluttering, and that’s something that’s been just a major priority of mine the last month or so. How do you create habits? Or do you have any certain habits? Or is it more of a “this space got overrun with something and so I’m going to throw out half the cabinet and reorganize it every six months” type of thing? That’s kind of my style. But do you have any tips for staying on top of organizing and taking pride in the maybe more hidden areas of your home?
Kali Ramey Martin I think you and I are pretty similar in the way that we’re not like— like I’m not like a systems person. I don’t have perfectly labeled everything. I’ve tried in some ways. I look at I think it’s The Home Edit or something online, and they have rainbow colored bins and I’m like, “Wow, what is that like in your brain?”
Lisa Bass Yeah, it’s different up there.
Kali Ramey Martin Oh yeah. But I’m totally not like that at all. And similar to you, we have no closets in our house. None. And so everything has to fit into a furniture piece, which means you really have to figure out how that piece is going to work. And again, I think similar to you, it’s like I am only going to have a certain amount of things so that I only have to keep track of a certain amount of things. And I know that each of them has a place where they go so that you don’t end up in the like, “There’s just stuff shoved in this cabinet, and I don’t even know what’s in here.” I mean, everybody ends up with that to some extent. But with toys, we try to like, “This is the tractor basket. This is the truck basket. If we receive a tractor or a truck that does not fit in the basket—”
Lisa Bass We need to get rid of something.
Kali Ramey Martin “Then we need to reevaluate our stock and get rid of it because there’s only so many spots.” So I think that’s my biggest strategy is, like, is there a spot for this? If there’s not, we need to reevaluate.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah. Like you said, I’m not a systems person either, and that works for me. But staying on top of it and not having to deal with all of the inventory— there is a lot to be said for— like, I like not being minimal in my decor at this point, but for the spaces kind of in the baskets and behind the doors having less inventory that can get drug out and dispersed throughout the house, I really have to constantly evaluate, what is this cabinet or this certain furniture piece, what is it supposed to function as? What are the handful of things that we’re going to be able to keep the categories in this space? And then where can I put something else? And then at what point do I just decide that, you know what, I think I’m spending more time just putting this certain item back away without anybody actually getting any use from it. It’s got to go at that point.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, totally. I think, as far as decor and stuff, I think that if you don’t want to feel overrun by things or have to store things— for me, I don’t buy holiday decor because then I have to store it. I don’t have anywhere to store it. And then I have to keep it organized. And so it’s like, I’m going to use things that can either be thrown away at the end of the holiday, like greens or whatever. Or stuff that can be used for a different purpose. Like beeswax candles, you can put them out and it feels Christmasy, but then you can also bring them out in March and it feels springy. And stuff that applies everywhere. I decorate with—and I think you do, too—I decorate with a lot of dishes and books and branches and all stuff that can be used all throughout the year if you use it in a different way. At Christmas, you bring out the red and the green books and put them in a display, and in summer you bring out the blue books or whatever. And so using stuff that’s multipurpose, too, I think can really help. I was looking at Elliot Homestead’s YouTube and she was displaying all of her fruit and all her produce and it’s like, that looks so beautiful and fresh.
Lisa Bass Oh yeah, I watched that video, too. I loved that table she did. I feel like she has older kids than me. Well, I know she has older kids than mine. Well, my oldest is older than hers, but my youngest three are younger than hers. And so I’m like, “I could not have that out,” but I loved it. It was so pretty with the nuts and the— there was all kinds of stuff laid out on the table. It was very pretty. And it’s such a practical way to add color.
Kali Ramey Martin Yes, totally. I think it’s another one of those things where— and hopefully that’s not discouraging to people. But you’re never going to arrive at a perfectly organized world. It’s a constant checking in with your systems and seeing how they’re going and checking in with your inventory of stuff. And I think that’s one of the joys of homemaking. If you’re managing your stuff well and checking in on it, you feel good after you declutter something, after you reorganize something.
Lisa Bass You do. Oh man, yeah.
Kali Ramey Martin And when that system works, it’s like, oh man, I got this.
Lisa Bass Yes. Yeah. It is all so satisfying, and it’s all part of it. And it’s probably encouraging for people to know that if it feels very like you’re always doing the same things over and over again and that discourages you, like you want things to be done— probably a lot of people, when they enter into homemaking, they’ve come from a background—at least I did—where I did check things off. Like I went into this grade, got my grade. I took this test. Then I took this course load and I got through college or whatever. And then when you enter homemaking, it’s not that. It’s a whole different mindset. And so I’m kind of— I mean, I’m 15 years into homemaking and so it’s something that I’ve just come to terms with and that takes that mental stress off. But maybe if you’re a new homemaker, yes, there is no system that’s going to keep you from having to revisit your inventory, revisit organizing that closet that you organized last year this time. Just constantly restocking, cleaning the refrigerator. It’s all part of it. But it’s also very satisfying, especially when I think your mindset about it is okay with all of that.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. And even stuff like coming home from the grocery store and putting all of the groceries away, I used to hate it. I used to put it off for hours to the point where it was like, oh, is this stuff going to be okay because it’s been out of the fridge for so long? And it was like, you know what? I’m going to change. I’m going to change myself because this is ridiculous. So it was like, now we get groceries every Monday. I come home, I pull them all out of the bags, sort them into categories, clean out the fridge before I put anything away, and then by the time I get it all put away, it’s like, it looks good, it smells good, it feels good. The rest of the week, I want to cook because it’s pretty and I know what I have. By the end of the week, everything’s gone because we’ve actually used it all and it’s like, this is grown— I’ve grown as a person. You really do get a lot of pride when you conquer stuff like that.
Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah, I agree. I felt that way after my toilet day. I was like, I thought this toilet was permanently dirty because of hard water, and I just have to chisel off the calcium deposit. Oh, yeah. I was like, really excited about that for the longest time. Such small things like a white glistening toilet.
Kali Ramey Martin That’s awesome. Totally. Especially after you have spent a lot of time in it.
Lisa Bass Oh yeah. I was like, heaven forbid if I ever have to set over a calcium covered toilet again. Nope. Oh, yeah. I was ready to throw that thing away. But with homemaking, there are some things that you almost have to just jump in, like putting your groceries away. You finally had to get over it. Like, I’m just going to do this and make it enjoyable and then you actually find enjoyment. But there are some things that are inherently enjoyable, especially if you—like us—love home decor. And you were talking about making—as far as finding your style—and making an actual physical book or bulletin board and not relying so heavily on the Internet sources because they get really overwhelming. I know when I’m thinking about something, I’m looking at this source and that source and I’m like, remember whenever it was kind of just fun to dream of wallpaper and paint and all of that without all of these influences? So how does that work for you with books or making designs and figuring out a style that you love for a room? Just coming full circle to that?
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, kind of what we were talking about earlier with figuring out what you really love and what you’re drawn to. And you mentioned, I think your grandparents’ kitchen. Even though there was chicken wallpaper or whatever, you love that country feel that— you know, you vividly described how it made you feel. I think trying to go back and kind of grab on to things like that. I talk about this all the time, but there was a British cooking show. I had just graduated college. I had gotten a job in my degree. I was working at it 9 to 5. I was miserable. Hated it. Wasn’t for me. And I stumbled upon this British cooking show on YouTube and her kitchen spoke to my soul. And the food too.
Lisa Bass Oh, man. Sounds pretty.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. And it steered me, my entire life, in this whole direction. I saved up money for a year and a half working at that job, and I went to culinary school. And it just totally changed the direction of my life. But the kitchen and the way that kitchen made me feel and just watching the show, it was like this— it was a huge moment for me, similar to your feeling about the grandparents’ kitchen. And I think that’s the stuff we have to go back to if we’re going to really figure out what it is that we love with all outside influences aside. And those sorts of things, they’re quiet moments. They’re memories, the way that things or places made you feel versus the Internet where it’s flash, flash, flash, flash. Thing after thing after thing. Also with an algorithm that is, “Oh, you clicked on one farmhouse? So I’m going to show you 75,000 farmhouse pictures.” And so all of a sudden, you’re seeing all the same thing. And you’re like, “Well, I guess that must be my thing, because that’s all that’s coming up here.”
Lisa Bass That’s what Instagram says or Pinterest says.
Kali Ramey Martin Or I guess that’s what everyone’s doing because that’s all that’s showing up. And so I think the better way to find those quieter inspirations, for sure, is books. I have found so many fun design books from like the 90s at thrift stores or antique stores. And, kind of like you were saying about your kitchen, it’s so cool to go and look at something that was published in 1992 that shows a kitchen built in 1972. And you still like it because it has those things. It has maybe gingham sink curtain and an old-fashioned sink like you have. And the cabinet faces are the Quaker shaker style because it’s such a classic. And so I love to look at old stuff like that because if you’re still liking it 50 years later, odds are it’s going to be something that you like through all the changes and all the trends and all the everything.
Lisa Bass Yeah, because when I think about the styles that have always been appealing to me, it’s changed as far as the way that I’ve done it over the years. But the country feeling has persisted throughout. And so it’ll express maybe a little bit different. But yeah, I could definitely see what you’re saying, that we do all have maybe like a certain way that makes us feel the most comfortable. And that might be being surrounded with a lot, or some people thrive more minimally. Some people don’t care as much about decor, and so just having a clean space with not a lot of clutter, everything be very comfortable and functioning well is all that they need to feel very at home.
Lisa Bass I want to take a quick break from this awesome conversation to tell you about today’s podcast sponsor, Azure Standard. So if you’ve been following along for a while or if you’re in the real food niche homesteading lifestyle interests, you’ve probably heard of Azure Standard. Azure Standard is a co-op style way to get your groceries. So basically if you find a drop that’s in your area—ours is about 30 minutes away; we actually have a couple that we could go to—and you order with a lot of other people in your community. That way you can get the bulk price. So you’re essentially all going in together for a big truck delivery to get these products— organic, natural, staple type products into your home for a cheaper price. They have eggs, meat, seasonal produce, bulk grains, and spices. Last time I ordered from Azure Standard, I picked up a lot of dairy products, which is one of my favorite things to get from there, mostly because it’s so hard to source organic. Now, of course, we get our own raw milk here from our cow, but I am not in the habit yet of making cheeses and sour cream and all of these dairy products that we use so frequently here in our home. So last time, I ordered a huge package of organic probiotic cream cheese and organic probiotic sour cream. I got a whole drawer in my refrigerator full of raw cheese. Another thing that’s hard to find is organic raw cheese here. When we do find it, it is like $8 for a little block. I was able to source it way less expensive on Azure Standard. I also picked up some seasonal root vegetables. I have a huge box of sweet potatoes in my pantry. I got all purpose flour, cocoa powder, frozen foods, so many products that I can’t buy in bulk around here and we use in bulk here in our home. Azure Standard is offering Simple Farmhouse Life listeners 10% off your first order over $100 that is delivered to your local drop. So go over to the Azure Standard website, AzureStandard.com, find where your local drop is, sign up for that, and then place your first order using the code SIMPLEFARMHOUSE10 to get 10% off. So if you’ve been on the fence about trying Azure Standard, I really encourage you to one evening this week grab yourself maybe a bowl of granola or a hot chocolate, sit down at your laptop, and just pore over the website, find those deals, whether it be something seasonal that is a really good deal. Or maybe you’ve been purchasing gluten free oats from your local grocery store; they might be a lot less expensive on Azure Standard. I encourage you to take that leap, put some things in your cart, use the code SIMPLEFARMHOUSE10 and try it out.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, I like that you’re acknowledging that people who are design-minded have different priorities. I think that’s another thing that really plays in. I’ve gotten together with a group of friends from college and I’m talking about remodeling our house, and “I really want my house to reflect my soul, like who I am on the inside.”
Lisa Bass They’re like, “What are you even talking about?”
Kali Ramey Martin And my friend was like, “I just want my house to be clean by the end of the day.” And I’m like, “Oh, wow. There are people who don’t think like me.”
Lisa Bass Well, the way I’m able to be so sympathetic to that is because the person closest to me in my life, like female wise, is my sister, and she couldn’t be more different with that. And so I’m very able to understand the other side. Otherwise I might not be as able to do that. And I’d be like, “Wait, what? There are people who—” but like genuinely, she’s not just trying to get herself not to care. She does not care about decor. She enjoys her house being cozy. Like at Christmas time, she likes the twinkle of the Christmas tree, but her mind spinning endlessly on thinking about like, “What if I did this or that?” She would love for me to tell her, “Do this,” and then she’ll do it and she’ll leave it there for the next 50 years. Like, you know, her mind doesn’t go there. But she does care. She wants her house to be clean and comfortable and organized and tidy and all of that. But like, as far as decor, it’s just very expressed differently. Like it’d be fun for her to have a throw pillow to throw on her couch, but it’s probably going to just stay that throw pillow and she won’t question whether or not it reflects her soul.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, she won’t spend like six weeks researching the perfect throw pillow pattern on the internet.
Lisa Bass It’s really hard for her to fathom how much time I spent picking out the perfect gingham, mind you, for my window curtains that are going to be coming from Europe like sometime—the fabric—sometime in the next couple days. That would not be a conversation she could relate to discussing.
Kali Ramey Martin Oh yeah.
Lisa Bass Like I sit in the bathtub and scroll through hours of fabric listings. Don’t you ever struggle to find the right fabrics? Like, that’s not going to be a conversation she and I are going to dwell on. But then I have another sister who could totally go with that. So yeah, it’s okay if this is not— I listen to podcasts where people are so different in how they think of things from me. And it’s really entertaining to be like, “You think of that. That’s interesting. Like your brain goes there and it dwells on it.” I do find it really fascinating. So this might just be an entertaining conversation for people that like people consider this much.
Kali Ramey Martin These crazy ladies. Oh yeah. I feel you on the fabric thing.
Lisa Bass It’s hard.
Kali Ramey Martin Like it has to have the right blue, the right feeling. It has to feel right on your hands. It also has to look right.
Lisa Bass That’s why it’s so hard.
Kali Ramey Martin Oh, it’s just fabric.
Lisa Bass Because the local— all we have is JoAnn’s. And no offense, JoAnn’s, but there’s nothing there. I mean, there is a lot there, but there’s nothing there. And I’ve tried so many times thinking maybe they got something in, and I go in and I’m like, still nothing. So the only option you have is online. I actually have on my guest list, I want to have Miss Mustard Seed on to talk about just fabrics. So the people who are like, “What?” You’re probably not going to listen to that episode, if she ends up agreeing to come on. Like I want to talk about fabric for an hour.
Kali Ramey Martin That picture in her book where she has her— it’s an entire armoire of fabric. And then there’s a huge thing of rolls in the corner. I’m like, “You are my people.”
Lisa Bass Yes, exactly. I get it. I’m the same way. But for people who— say they just, you know, they’re kind of tuned in for the entertainment factor of us talking about the minor details—
Kali Ramey Martin Dorking out.
Lisa Bass Of like we’re going to switch the wood paneling on the— you know, that’s going to make my ceilings feel— which I totally go with. But for people who maybe are here for entertainment slash they do want to make their homes cozy and comfortable, yet aren’t going to devote a lot of mental energy to that. What are some of the low thought and maybe very cost effective— because I find, too, like trying to convince someone who doesn’t go all in with their brain on design— like my mom for example, she’s looking forward to changing some things in her house. And I opened up her eyes to all these ideas, and now her wheels are turning. But my dad’s like, “Why? Why would we spend any extra money on that or time?” Like, he just can’t get there. So what are some of— you had like a list of listener questions. What are some cost effective ways—we can even talk about just like the kitchen—to update or maybe make it feel cozy and comfortable if the cost and the mental energy are not going to be very, very high?
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. Like specifically with the kitchen? Or just in general?
Lisa Bass Well, in general. I like the idea of the kitchen, but we can talk about in general and then maybe hitting on the kitchen would be fun.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, I think the number one thing I always would recommend is just choose timeless finishes. If you don’t care a ton about the aesthetics, the best way to guarantee that it’s going to look good down the road and be easy to care for and be easy to clean is if you choose something timeless. A shaker cabinet because they don’t have a bunch of grooves that dust can get in or whatever. Choosing a very neutral, simple countertop. People rag on granite all the time. But guess what? Granite’s super easy to care for, for the most part. And there are very simple granites that aren’t super detailed or dated or anything that you can choose. Choose materials that are going to be 1) timeless, and 2) easy to care for. As far as updating things, like you said, paint is so easy to change. My sister-in-law, they bought a house and everything was perfectly good which would have killed me because I would rather have something—
Lisa Bass Yeah, sometimes it’s too good. I’m like, “I can’t change that.”
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, because then you can’t tear it out because it’s perfectly fine.
Lisa Bass Yes, exactly. It’s too good. It’s too nice.
Kali Ramey Martin And she was like, “Everything is great. It all works. I don’t really want to change much, but I don’t love the color in here, but I don’t really know what to pick.” And so they had like an oak cabinetry. She didn’t want to paint the cabinets. She didn’t want to mess with the counters. She didn’t want to switch the sink. I’m like, “Okay, well, oak can be kind of a yellow. Oftentimes a green can kind of mellow that out.” So she painted this really subtle, super subtle green, and the cabinets instantly looked new, refreshed. She put some new hardware on the cabinets and it looks like a brand new kitchen, even though it’s 20 years old. And so there are lots of easy ways to kind of— even in our bathroom, as we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks, painted, put up a nice curtain, changed out the faucet. It’s still a horrible pink sink with a plywood cabinet, but the faucet is not decomposing every time I wash my hands. So there’s lots of easy, easy ways. And then light fixtures. You can get cheap light fixtures on Amazon.
Lisa Bass Well, a light fixture is something that you think is difficult to swap out, but it really isn’t.
Kali Ramey Martin It isn’t.
Lisa Bass It’s one of those that seems like a renovation, but it’s really not.
Kali Ramey Martin No. You can watch a YouTube video and get that down. Pretty simple.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And then with your plywood, can you put like— what if you gathered some fabric and stapled up a little curtain around it or something that you could— or is that not possible? I haven’t seen it.
Kali Ramey Martin Yep. I totally did that.
Lisa Bass Is that what you did?
Kali Ramey Martin Over the summer— the cabinet is shaped like a T for some reason, and so the curtain did not— I couldn’t— and yeah, it’s weird.
Lisa Bass I’d have to see a picture.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, I took it off temporarily. I might put one back on, but there’s not a whole lot that’s going to help that scenario unfortunately.
Lisa Bass And I’m sure you’ve thought of all the possibilities, but sometimes people just need to think, like, put a little fabric up. Paint. Maybe new hardware. Those are all really easy swaps.
Kali Ramey Martin Even taking the doors off. Mhm. Yeah I think it— was it your last house mudroom, you took the doors off of the shelves in the mudroom and just painted it and had cute baskets.
Lisa Bass Yep.
Kali Ramey Martin That makes a huge difference.
Lisa Bass Yeah. I painted the cabinets—like the inside and the outside—black because it was just like a little, like it was a small area. And then took the doors off because they were just not very nice cabinets and put baskets in. And yeah, it was a good improvement. It wasn’t the perfect solution ever, but it definitely was like a afternoon project that made this very “wow” before and after moment which is always good.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. Speaking of Miss Mustard Seed, I feel like she has a lot of projects in her book that are like— she was working with what she had. They weren’t major renovations, a lot of them.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I like that in their last house, she very much just worked with— it was like a 90s house and they just worked with everything. She didn’t rip everything out and make it a— you know, whatever perfect thing she wanted. She just worked with it and it was very pretty.
Kali Ramey Martin It’s nice to see someone make a normal house work. I think a lot of people live in normal houses.
Lisa Bass Oh, yeah.
Kali Ramey Martin And it’s nice to see somebody just dive into it.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that is inspiring. Do you know any other good books or maybe Instagram accounts or something where someone takes a really normal house and just enhances the— you know, it’s not like a Victorian or a colonial, just this old— you know, or something that inherently has character. It has to just be drawn out. I don’t know.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, I don’t know a lot of people doing that.
Lisa Bass I know. I don’t either. That’s discouraging.
Kali Ramey Martin I think it is a pretty niche. If someone wants to get into that niche right there.
Lisa Bass You should do that.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah.
Lisa Bass Well, but really the tips you gave about just taking care of what you have, cleaning it up, adding flowers, playing music, organizing it, that’s really the message with all of that. This is very fun for us and for a lot of people in my audience because it’s something that a lot of homemakers are drawn to. But we’re just coming full circle back to the if you can’t be happy in your regular house, well then, you’re going to struggle.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah. I think we’re both Sally Clarkson fan girls.
Lisa Bass Yes.
Kali Ramey Martin And Lifegiving Home is an absolutely life changing book.
Lisa Bass That is a very good point.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, it’s not like a coffee table book where you’re going to see her home, per se, but just the perspective that she—
Lisa Bass You don’t even need to.
Kali Ramey Martin The perspective she shares about the kind of home you want to make for your family is life changing.
Lisa Bass Such good points. Well, thank you so much for coming on and just chatting homemaking with me. This is a well needed conversation. Tell everyone where they can find you. I know you’re taking a sabbatical from your magazine. Are you still posting to Instagram?
Kali Ramey Martin And I’m still posting Instagram when the spirit moves. @Krameymartin is my Instagram. And then I’ve kind of been slowly working on updating my website a little bit. You can still buy the magazine over there. My books are sold out, but spring and summer issues are still available there. And we’ll see what the sabbatical brings after I’m done with it this summer.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on again.
Kali Ramey Martin Yeah, thanks for having me.
Lisa Bass All right, as always, thank you so much for listening. And I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.