My Best Life

25 Sep, 2015

Just a sweet little roundup of some of my favorite moments in the past few weeks.

big chickens

The chickens are SO big. I cannot get over how adult they look when I compare it to their tiny little baby pictures and videos. Every day when I get home from work they come running up and I try to spend a little time petting each one.


When I wake up and everyone is out enjoying our property it makes me feel like the luckiest and happiest girl in the world. Like I have this place that people really enjoy. My father in law really loves our pond. I think he named this fish Steve.


This was the first gift that we got that was not on our registry and I cannot be more in love with them. This is seriously the glass I use all the time in my house now. (And another gifted humongous wine glass that says “Hers” for my wine obviously). Speaking of stellar wedding gifts…

Apple Ale

Drinking these (slowly, because I want them to last) is just a reminder of our whole wedding week. So freaking thoughtful and terrific.

Love Bear

And this moment. Seriously. So freaking cute.

<3 Jessa



Intentions Rather than Vows

22 Sep, 2015

I don’t like the word “vows” in this context. A vow is like a promise, and whether we like it or not, promises are easy to break. I prefer the word intentions, because it gives you a clear view of my side of things. What I intend to do, how I intend to treat you, right now and for the rest of my life. This is just truth ok? I can’t see into the future. I can’t see all of the ways that we will inevitably hurt one another, I can’t see how our love is going to grow and morph into (hopefully) this bigger, even stronger thing. What I can see is how I want to treat you, and how I intend to love you.

We ultimately didn’t include our own homemade vows in our wedding ceremony, partly because the ceremony that our friend Laura wrote was so perfect and partly because Wayne (and me too) hadn’t had time to sit and reflect and write any. If we had chosen to include them, here is what I was going to say. I wrote it in a text message to myself one night while I was laying in bed and Wayne was showering (which probably says a lot about how much free time we had).

Your love is like an electric current running straight through my heart. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I look at you and I feel really full, like a balloon stretched to it’s limits – but in a good way. Your love is solid ground beneath my feet, it is an arm around my shoulder and the kind of hug that makes all of your worries melt away. Your love is my bread and water. It is a snowball fight in the winter and the sunshine sinking deep into my skin on a warm summer day. It’s the adrenaline of climbing down a steep cliff and standing next to a freezing waterfall, with it’s roar pounding in my ears. Your love is chicken noodle soup when I’m sick and macaroni and cheese when I’m sad. Your love is so big that I never knew I could want it, or that it could ever be in my reach. 

I intend to be those things for you too. I intend to support you – in your decisions, in your choices, and in your life. I intend to help you continue to learn and improve and to do the same so that we can always be the best versions of ourselves for one another. I intend to love you – hard, unconditionally, and openly – as much or more than I do today, which is a lot by the way. 

weddingIncredible Image by Adam Brophy at Crafted Focus Photography

<3 Jessa


Project Update – Guest Bath

31 Aug, 2015

Before we get started let me remind you what this bathroom once looked like so that you can fully appreciate the difference. Please take a moment to review. The pink tile, the pink surround, the pink toilet and bathtub. The pink streaked marble on the vanity and sink, the pink flowers (which actually I kind of love). Let’s ignore the fact that the ambitious renovation plans were too ambitious and that we are not even finished with the bathroom a week before the wedding, much less relocating a kitchen.

Shortly after moving in in February we started demo. We were motivated and demo is fun so… that went quickly. Then Wayne had to do quite a bit of plumbing work that I couldn’t really help with so that was frustrating for both of us. After that there was putting in of the subfloor (I helped with that!). In May the in-laws came up to help us get back on track and they got the framing and the electrical done, which showed exactly how different our new bathroom looked and felt! The shower is HUGE.

Screwing in the subfloor

Screwing in the subfloor


More plumbing...

More plumbing… (PS. I find him SO sexy in his monkey suit and boots)

New electrical on the shower wall

New electrical on the shower wall

And then there was the drywall. It sort of loomed above us for a while and was a bone of contention. Wayne was pretty clear that putting up drywall was the worst job ever and that we should just hire someone but after repeated attempts to get quotes and have people come out we were pretty fed up. Work was stalled at the stupid drywall phase and it was dumb. Finally we decided to do it ourselves and even went out and bought a fancy drywall jack. That was the worst decision I’ve ever made. It was awful, we wasted so much time and drywall, and what we put up looked like crap. It was so discouraging. Wayne was right. DO YOU HEAR THAT WAYNE?!

So these really nice men came and put up our drywall in 3 days. Honestly, they didn’t charge us enough considering how freaking hard that shit is to do and I now know from experience to always hire someone to do the drywall. ALWAYS.

But, Jessa, what if it’s just a small section or I’m really strong or I have a ton of time on my hands?

Did you feel that? I just smacked you. Go hire a drywall guy.

After drywall is up you get to do the fun stuff that you can actually see when the bathroom is done. Like the can lights Wayne’s dad put in the shower or the chandelier that is going to hang above my gorgeous tub.

Check out those cans

Check out those cans

And for the past two or three weeks it has been tiling. So much tiling. Tiling is one of those things that takes time to get good at so, take my advice, practice on someone else’s bathroom. 🙂 I am way better at it today than I was two weeks ago and each day it gets a little less frustrating and I get a little quicker at it. Which is good, because we still have an entire shower to tile (I’m taking bets on whether this will happen by the time people get here for the wedding). But look guys, I feel eons better about the bathroom at this point because as of yesterday morning the floor tile is IN. It’s laid, it’s mortared, and it’s ready to be grouted. And you know what happens after grout?! A toilet. I’ve never been so excited about a toilet in my whole GD life.

White subway tile to the ceiling on the wet walls (walls that might get wet)

White subway tile to the ceiling on the wet walls (walls that might get wet)

How tired do I look? FLAWLESS

How tired do I look? FLAWLESS

I love this floor so much.

I love this floor so much.

Still To-do List

  • Finish tiling behind sink area
  • Grout all walls and floor
  • Install toilet
  • Build sink cabinet
  • Install cabinet and sinks
  • Install mirror
  • Finish installing kerdi in shower
  • Tile shower
  • Grout shower
  • Install shower fixings … what are those called? They aren’t appliances
  • Paint

So if there’s still a little dust when you use it at the wedding, forgive us. 🙂

<3 Jessa


Emotions are Complicated

28 Aug, 2015

We are legit a week and a half away from the wedding ceremony and just two weeks from the party. Shit is getting real.

It’s getting real in the sense that there are still real tasks and projects that have to be accomplished before this thing can go down the way we both want it to, but it’s also getting real in a hits me right in the feels kind of way. I am basically walking around right now as one big ball of emotions, which is not my favorite way to be. The number of times I’ve had to fight back tears because of a stray thought (sweet or sad) is kind of ridiculous.

Wayne and I are both taking the entire wedding week off of work, to spend time with the amazing people who are going to be here for both events but also to spend time with one another. We are consciously taking the time to be together, to reflect on our relationship and it’s path – the work that got us here and the work that it will take to get us to the next 5 years. All of this reflection has me feeling tender and vulnerable.

From our date night this week.

From our date night this week.

Weddings are hard. There is a lot of pressure (whether real or imagined) to do this thing a certain way and to feel a certain way about it. It’s supposed to be the best day of my life, right? A culmination, an apex – I should feel giddy and beautiful and hopeful and like I’m starting a new chapter. But we aren’t starting anything new are we? We committed to one another a long time ago, we have built a life around that commitment and this is really more of an appropriately timed celebration of that. More importantly, where is the room for the sadness that I feel?

My sister’s birthday is on Sunday and my Wedding is only a week and two days from that and in some moments that is pretty overwhelming. I was really worried at my graduation from my Master’s program that we would have difficulty celebrating a happy moment so soon after we had experienced such a great loss. I felt really guilty about having a big life event and small party and more than a little worried that it would turn into a room full of people crying. Everything was fine then and I’m sure everything will be fine now but I can’t help but feel a small amount of the same feelings. More than that I am just sad. My sister was the one who wanted to be married. My sister would have loved this party and loved to be here for me. My sister would have loved this house and my life, but the truth is I have her to thank for all of it.

So that’s where I am. I am both incredibly happy and terribly sad, in alternating moments. I tear up because I miss my sister but I also tear up because I feel so SO loved right now. I am more than a little excited to celebrate with so many of the people that I love most in the world, tempered by moderate anxiety and worry. All the feels.

<3 Jessa



Family Is Who You Choose

17 Aug, 2015

When I tell people about all of the things that Wayne and I currently have going on they get this look on their face, half confused about why we would choose to do that and half pitying. They start to understand the momentary crankiness, the yawns, and the desire for a beer or the sunset or something that marks the end of an already long day.

Between big renovations like the guest bathroom (we did some tiling this weekend!!), building some of the big wedding pieces ourselves, landscaping the property while also making it good for growing food, our full time jobs, and general wedding planning we have a lot going on. And since the wedding will be at our house it pretty much all has to get done in 3 weeks – right?

Our friends and family have stepped up in a huge way and all of this is just a constant reminder about how good people are to us. I’m not sure what we do to deserve this love but I will be looking for chances to repay them! My in laws have come several times to help with key renovation bits. Because of them the bathroom is one step closer to being done and the curb appeal of our home is greatly improved. PS Thank you for helping convince Wayne that the chandelier was a good idea. 🙂



front door

That says nothing about the days when I come home and our wonderful housemates have mowed the entire property, hung the globe lights for the wedding, swept the whole house, or any number of other sweet and incredibly helpful things. My mom has put in work to get the house ready and Rachel gave up her whole weekend to come help me tile the new bathroom.


I firmly believe that you get to choose your family. I have always wanted a huge family that will sit down to happy, loud, chaotic Thanksgiving dinners but I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, especially without kids. I feel so incredibly lucky now to feel one step closer to that life goal. I am, right now, surrounded by such a wonderful and big family who looks out for one another in so many ways. Sitting down to a full dinner table all weekend long made my heart incredibly full and I feel a little like bursting because of it.

<3 Jessa


What friends are for

4 Aug, 2015

My best friend and I are two very different people. We have different politics sometimes, different personalities, different ways of handling stressful situations. She’s got this quiet grace and I’m a bit of a pitbull (I choose pitbull because I associate them with overt friendliness, wagging tails, licking faces, big heads, etc).

When we were deciding where to move I just knew that I could not live in a place where I did not have close girlfriends close by. When my sister died my girlfriends were legit my lifeline and that kind of support and unconditional love is something I want in all aspects of my life. So while there were other places on our list, North Carolina eventually topped it – not in small part because that’s where she is. Since moving here we have had a whole heck of a lot to celebrate. First her wedding, then we bought our dream house/farm, and just this month she and her new husband bought their own first house!


Buying your first house is an accomplishment. It’s the most fun part of adulting because after that it’s all bills and roof leaks and such. Celebrate while you still can!! 🙂 But seriously her house is beautiful, she is beautiful, and I am just so incredibly happy for the two of them. This is why you surround yourself with people you love – so that you can spend your days celebrating them and their accomplishments (and be similarly celebrated when it’s yours).


Next it’s our #riotouswedding . I can’t wait.

<3 Jessa


Last Names

20 Jul, 2015

Ever since Wayne and I decided to turn our 5 year anniversary into a wedding I’ve had last names on the brain. I’ve never really wanted to get married except for maybe that time when I was 3 when I wanted to marry my Daddy or when Jamie and I played house and I was married to her. It’s just never been a thing for me. In fact, I was pretty (self defined) anti-authoritarian and alternative so I suppose you could say I developed an anti-marriage situation that has sat in the back of my mind for a long long time. Then, when I grew a social and political consciousness it seemed really wrong to me that I was expected to have a big fancy ceremony and invite all of my friends and family when some of them were not allowed to have the same big fancy ceremony.

So all of that alternative-ism is poking at me and subconsciously impacting me whenever I try to make decisions about my wedding ceremony and party, andthereareamilliondecisionstomake. I have to be super thoughtful and self conscious about whether I am making a decision because it’s expected, because it’s unexpected (which is just as bad), or because it makes sense and that’s how I want it. Do I want to wear white? No, but i really love wearing white and look pretty in it so why not? Do I want my father to walk me down the aisle? Ugh, so patronizing. He doesn’t own me and neither will Wayne. But he’d really like that I think and do I really care that much? Do I want to spend the night away from Wayne before the wedding. Why? It’s not like we are virgins. Although it would be sweet to spend that time with my mama and my girl friends. Etc, etc. Because nothing can be easy, right?

We are awkward.

We are awkward.

So recently we put up two new mailboxes at the house and got stickers to put our last names on the front. And of course, this caused an existential crisis. I had been avoiding making this decision for like 8 months. Do I want to change my name?

Wayne hasn’t cared much from the very beginning and has always said that he will do whatever I want. Ideally we would both change our last name to something new, because we aren’t fans of hyphenation and it would be fun to pick a new one (Mr. and Mrs. Awesome). But Wayne is a “the third” and how douchey would  it be to lose his father and grandfather’s name on a whim? Especially since he really likes both of them. So I was left in limbo and my poor mailbox sat in front of me for way too long while I agonized.

Ultimately I put both names on and left the decision for another day.

Ultimately I put both names on and left the decision for another day.

The alternative part of me was railing. Why would you take his last name? Your last name reflects your heritage and your family. It’s a tie to your mother and father and grandfather and sister, plus it’s yours! Why do you have to do all of that work changing your last name when it doesn’t even make a difference? And then the reasonable, thoughtful me would think a little deeper. This isn’t about taking a stand against the patriarchy right? I mean, MY name is my dad’s last name and his is his dad’s so the patriarchy still stands. Plus, now that we have decided to get married it’s not about politics – it’s about what we want.

So I finally made a decision and I think it will surprise a lot of people. Ultimately, I want Wayne and I to have the same last name. It’s not a big deal, but it’s what we both want. Come September 8th we will be Mr. and Mrs. Witzel and I’m going to have to learn how to cook pretzels and bratwurst – obviously. #puttingonthewitz #riotouswedding

Our newest addition to the house.

Our newest addition to the house.

<3 Jessa


Birthday Week/end

12 Jul, 2015

I know some people demand a whole month for their birthdays and some demand at least a week but I honestly forgot that my birthday was coming up until it was pretty much upon us, so I settled for a weekend. 🙂 Early that week our #home served as a place to crash for some old acquaintances and new friends who are on an epic 2 week road trip adventure. They got in after I was already asleep but I was able to hang out the next day when I got off work for some beers and massive amounts of food.


The worst thing about having your birthday on a holiday is that your best friend is out of town with her husband’s family.  The best thing about having your birthday on a holiday is that everyone gets the day off work and it’s a long weekend. My birthday weekend was the perfect mixture of relaxation, alcohol, and productivity. We went out dancing, ate delicious brunch, and got super silly but we also built two raised beds, planted some seeds, built a picnic table, and cleared out the massive forrest that was growing in the juniper behind our house. I can look back on my birthday weekend and see smiles, but I can also feel really good that it is getting us closer to our goals and making our house look just a little prettier for the wedding. Pictures of each project will come but you can see a taste of the raised beds on the farm’s new facebook page!

The best part was the people though. Our friends Ben and Cass (soon to be blogging on moved in to our downstairs apartment that week and Jake (the best house guest ever) came in to town that Wednesday. I am just really grateful to be surrounded by such wonderful people and feel really extraordinarily lucky. Plus my mama bought me real number candles. When is the last time you blew out a cake with your age on it? We are usually too lazy for that. 🙂





<3 Jessa


The First Farm Loss

8 Jul, 2015

It’s already happened. One of our sweet girls has already been taken by the big guy in the sky. By big guy in the sky I mean, most likely, one of the hawks that continuously circle our neighborhood looking for field mice and baby chickens and probably small dogs as well. They were not alone for long but it didn’t take much for Lucy to disappear and never return.

I know this happens and it’s going to happen again. I know farm animals die, especially when you don’t coop them up all day long, and because: circle of life blahblahblah. But I cannot tell you how much this loss hurt, how much it felt like MY failure. It was my responsibility to care for these tiny babies and it was my decision to free range them and it was even me who said to my friend Sabrina as she was leaving town “they’ll be fine!”. They were not fine.

It is even more my failure because I thought I did enough research but it turns out everyone has a different opinion about when chickens are old enough to free range. I now have a different opinion as well. This is my first time with chickens and I didn’t realize what a difference a few weeks would make. Just two weeks after Lucy disappeared Ethel is basically covered in her adult feathers and is heavier and bigger. She’s also smarter and more cautious, although that might be because of the trauma of seeing her sister carried away.


We purchased the guineas to help protect the hens but they must be even younger than the chickens because they basically follow Ethel around as if she is their mom. They aren’t protecting anything, the lazy bums. For about a week after Lucy disappeared we were constantly looking around the coop, hoping in vain that she would come home. It’s a strange feeling, that weird little last bit of hope that you know you shouldn’t have but you do.

One thing I did well was make sure their home was finished so that they could move in, so at least I can’t fault myself there (trying to find some silver lining here). My fabulous mother in law spent one Sunday working with me to seal up the vents with hardware cloth (OMGsoannoying), attach the roof, and paint it and I have to say – I am proud of what the moms and I did (my mom helped me with the construction of the home). We used some free home depot plans that I am not going to link to because I would make SO many changes to those plans if I could and they were really difficult to follow. One day I’ll build another coop straight from my brainspace that fixes all of that and share those with you.

Nesting Box




Because no project is ever complete here at Riotous Living Farm my mom is currently working on some beautiful white trim for the coop and we still need a stylish egg collecting basket to hang from that carabiner.

<3 Jessa


Full House

2 Jul, 2015

There is nothing that fills my heart more than being in a place I love, surrounded by people I love. It’s even better when I can host them, or somehow provide them with their own comfortable space. Time and time again, this little future farm/big house that we bought is giving me the opportunity to feel that way. It’s amazing how many people want to come visit you when you don’t live in the Armpit of America anymore. Having friends and family over is also a really good excuse to play tourist in our own city, especially because it’s a new city to us as well. One of our most recent visitors is my good friend Sabrina, who does a really good job of bringing out the silliest, dancing-est, least home-body version of me. Your proof?




That’s in the middle of my very first Durham dance party with a new friend/friend-crush that Sabrina introduced me to. Matching plant related half-sleeves 4TW. Also that is hands down the most attractive picture of me I will ever post on this blog. There is no beating that. We also did fun touristy and vacationy things like head to the Museum of Science and Life and watch chicken TV while drinking beer.





Then we went thrifting like only girls who have unique fashion tastes but are super cheap know how to go thrifting. We were looking for clothes but also for some #riotouswedding related dishware and “centerpiece” inspiration. Centerpiece is in quotation marks because can you really imagine me with traditional centerpieces? If you can, you aren’t paying attention.





We also went to a pretty amazing Lindsey Stirling concert at Red Hat Amphitheater and sat around being very giggly. It was generally a pretty awesome time.  It is such a good reminder that we chose the right place to build this life of ours. There is an easy to access airport so people will visit, oodles of culture and music and good food, and yet it’s slower paced and super green and open to this sort of counter culture idea. This week our friend Jake is in town so I can’t wait to find out more about Raleigh and Durham!







<3 Jessa