Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DIY Wall Decor

Looking on Etsy for inspiration, I can certainly see that the current trend is toward simple and rustic.  I often overthink and overwork things, working for something polished and 'just right.'  I usually don't like the idea of trying to make something new resemble something worn.  I'm not sure I've accomplished that, anyway, but it was simple and quick...

To start the wall pieces I hoped would brighten up our living room, I headed to another high-end decor supplier, WalMart, and picked up three, 20" x 24" black, matted picture frames.

I also brought home a yard of burlap from JoAnn's.  

I cut 3 pieces from the burlap, each approximately 1-inch smaller in each direction than the interior of the mat.  (The mat was for a 16" x 20" photo, so the interior opening dimension is 15 1/2" x 19 1/2".  This means I cut the burlap to 14 1/2" x 18 1/2".)  I then fringed the sides so
that the fringe was about 3/4 to 1 inch.  I also cut 3 pieces from black cotton, approximately the size of the exterior dimension of the mat.

I came up with 3 words I wanted to showcase (and encourage) in our home: Praise, Prayer, and Peace. I got on Word and used WordArt to create the letters in the size I wanted. After placing the printed words behind, I traced them onto the burlap with felt tip markers.

When framing, I put the frame with glass, face down on a flat surface.  I placed the mat on the glass, then centered the lettered burlap, front side toward the glass, in the mat opening. 

I then put the black fabric piece over all, and re-installed the back of the frame.

These may be just a little too simple, and I might figure out something else to tuck in the frames  to fill some of the blank space.  The kids say they're fine, as is, so I'll probably be content to get used to the plainer look.  I'm happy with the improvement, and the room is feeling a lot more put-together.

Again, a reminder of the Before...

And now, AFTER:

The furniture scale makes a big difference.  We lost some seating by nixing the bigger sofa,
but the little ottomans that match the smaller chairs give us 'flex.'
They can serve as foot rests, tables, or easily-movable extra seating.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Some Make-Do Decor

Help is supposed to be on the way, in the form of advice from Sarah Sarna, interior designer.

A reminder of the "Before"
But I got too impatient.  Tired of the entry full of odd chairs, the oversized, worn (and orange) couches in our living room, and the bare floor I knew needed a rug,  I woke up Saturday morning, ready to make a change.

I headed to that great design mecca, Home Depot, to choose a rug.  With the help of Prince Inventive and Princess Artiste, we picked out a geometric patterned one, and of course, the pad to go under.

When we got home, Prince Inventive helped haul the larger sofa out to the front porch, and I emptied most of the rest of the room (the TV and storage wall will have to stay, as-is for now).  I swept and scrubbed the floors, then tried bringing things back into the space.

I thought I'd forego couches completely, and perhaps, only put in 2 pairs of chairs... But that was a no-go.  I had to keep the loveseat... Until it can be replaced with something we like better.

Sorry I don't have photos of the process, but most of the kids were in the Big City that day, and took my camera away with them.

I'm not sure of the rug... A little too small, and I wish I'd chosen something with some cream or lighter tones mixed in to brighten up the room a bit.  But the family really likes it, so that's a big plus and it will do nicely for awhile.  

Oops!  You don't get to see the "After" yet...

The walls looked so bare, and I thought maybe it was a place I could add some lighter color and jazz things up.  More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Permission Granted

I've mentioned a few times that I'd like to add Scripture to the walls of our home.  

I've compiled a list of many, many verses from which to choose... 18 pages, to be exact!  

I've searched the internet for inspiration examples of how to make it look classy.  My intent was to handpaint them myself.  But how?  I can certainly do calligraphy on paper.  Or at least I used to.  I haven't practiced it a lot lately, and putting it on a vertical surface, and with paint, is a whole 'nother matter, I fear.

So I've been stuck.  But I was still set on DOING. THIS. MYSELF.

This week I read Dear Young Artist (a guest post by Emily Freeman). (I usually read Emily's wise words via Chatting at the Sky, but this time she was guesting on Be Small Studios.) In her letter she said: 

Stop trying so hard to be original. It will get you stuck inside your own head and your work will become self-indulgent and self-centered.
Work instead to be generous.
After that it occurred to me that, in this case, insistence on doing things myself and doing things in a totally original way grew from an issue with control and pride.  I was at least partially motivated by the desire to say "I did that... and isn't it lovely?  Pats accepted right here."  At least in my head.

Number 1, that flies more than a bit in the face of the "More of You, Lord, and less of me" idea that I want the verses to remind us.

Meanwhile, our front entry wall is empty

Also, and probably more importantly, this insistence and my quandary of how to ''get 'er done'' meant our family is longer and longer without the benefits those verses could provide by actually being up where they could be seen.

So, I gave myself permission...

  • Permission to spend money.
  • Permission to buy someone else's work. 
  • Permission to NOT do it all myself. 

Enter Etsy.  I've looked at things on Etsy every once in awhile, but have never made a purchase.  

Of course, I want specially chosen verses, and couldn't just go to one site and have them look all the same, like cookie cutter verses slathered around the house, so I had fun considering different styles over a couple of hours.  

In the end, I am super-excited about my choices... One metal art piece from thewordwithin, a hand-painted subway sign from CantonAntiques, and a couple of sets of vinyl decals from bwordy and astickyplace.  (I also came away with ideas for my own creations -no painting on walls required. I still have my eye on a couple more vinyls from decorexpressions, too, but am waiting until I receive the others to decided colors and my specific order.) 

I will show them to you when they're in use.  I have vague ideas about where each will land around the house, but I may adjust those plans when the pieces arrive.

Meanwhile, I'm headed to YouTube to watch videos (this one and this one) on how to install the vinyl decal type, as recommended by Amber and Sheri of BWordy.  Each of the sellers were so quick, gracious, and generous with their responses to any questions or requests.  As I feel excited about my purchases, I am also happy to give my business to such nice people.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Everything Cookies

Tuesday, when listing the contents of Prince Go-for-It's lunch, I mentioned our "Everything Cookies," so thought today I'd share the recipe.  They came from wanting to pack as much nutrition into an appealing snack that I could for my hungry and growing athletes.  The kids often requested commercially produced granola and energy bars to add to their lunches or to provide a boost going into sports practice.  My goal was to replace those sugar-heavy bars with whole grains, protein, and healthy fats to sustain them through their strenuous activities... Basically, trying for a meal in a cookie (or two).

"Everything Cookies"

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (convection) or 375 degrees (bake)

Cream together

  • 1 c butter (or 1/2 c butter + 1/2 c coconut oil)
  • 1/2 c almond butter
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice sugar

Add and mix in til fluffy

  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix in thoroughly

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups rolled oats

Stir in

  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
  • 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 to 1 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped or broken walnuts

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, place dough in approximately 3 tablespoon portions on lightly greased cookie sheet...with space in between for spreading.  I press the ball-shaped portions with my fingers to flatten slightly... Don't know that it's really necessary.

Bake for approximately 12-14 minutes, until lightly brown.  Remove from oven, and after a minute or 2 to rest in the pan, move to a rack to cool completely before packing or storing.

Makes 36 - 40 cookies.

Nutritional value, per cookie:  200 calories, 12 g fat, 25 g carbohydrates (6 g sugar), 4.4 g protein

I pack 2 cookies per small ZipLoc bag for lunches and packed snacks.  I find that they disappear much less quickly if they're bagged right away, instead of just put into the cookie jar!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

2 More Things... "E" Things

In addition to the short Bible verse study I've added to my day via my family's lunches, I have a couple of other things that have helped me stay more faith-focused I thought maybe I should mention.  Both come from electronic sources.

1)  I owe thanks to this first one to Your Care Guide: 25 Point Manifesto for Sanity in 2013 on A Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp.  This a 25 point plan to care for yourself, stay sane, and have a life that glorifies God.  All great points, but 25 things are a bit overwhelming for me.  I have, though, implemented a few, and maybe a few more are in progress.  The one I want to talk about now is her #4...
Your Care Guide:
25 Point Manifesto for Sanity in 2013

(She also has printable graphics available) 

Your work is art: it needs a soundtrack. 
Find your music.
Play your music.

Sing your music. This is profound.

As early in the morning as I remember - Usually after Hubby and the school-schooled kids are out the door - I start up Pandora on my station that plays inspirational worship and praise music.  (This station was seeded by The Revelation Song as a start.  From that suggestion, Pandora, a free internet music site, plays many, many similar songs for me.)  It fills me, encourages me, and cheers me... And reminds me that all I have is God's, all I do is for God, and He had me and my life in His hands.  It ministers to me in my fatigue, my fear, and my discouragement, which also has to be a blessing to those around me!

2)  Every night I tuck Prince CuddleBunny into bed.  After we say prayers together, he likes me to sit with him awhile as he falls asleep.  I quickly learned that if I don't do something to keep myself alert, I'll wake up about 3 in the morning, still next to him.  So, in the past, I've done things like play Scrabble on a Nintendo DS, or more recently, play Angry Birds, word games, or gem-swapping games on my 7" Samsung Galaxy tablet.

Bible Gateway Mobile App

It finally occurred to me that there must be Bible study apps or Bible knowledge games available for the tablet, too.  

Sure enough.  I now have a Bible verse on my Home screen, and enjoy the app for a daily Bible reading from Bible Gateway.  

There is also a game called Bible or Not Bible?, in which I am shown a quote and must determine whether it came from the Bible or elsewhere.  It's additionally challenging to guess where in the Bible a verse is from, because after I choose "Bible," if that's correct, it gives me the verse's 'address'... it's book, chapter, and verse number.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Multi-Tasking, Version B

Early last month I wrote a long list of the things I want to accomplish with my days.  I think it seemed,
Wanna-Be... A lot of things!
in list form, more impossible than it really is.  Some things probably need to be crossed off. Some things don't need to be done every day.  And some things can be done concurrently... Using, what I'm calling for the purpose of this blog post, "multi-tasking, version A."

This would be the type of multi-tasking where, for example, I boil eggs, while I prepare a batch of bread, while I also prep chicken for a crock pot dinner and encourage Prince CuddleBunny to work on a sheet of math problems.  In other words, juggling different tasks all at one time.

But what I wanted to share with you today is the other type of multi-tasking that helps me accomplish (parts of) my list... The kind where I accomplish more than one thing on the list, but while doing one task.

My best example of this involve my listed desires to read the Bible more and learn Scripture, as well as sharing Scripture with my family.  

I had also written on that list
I want to get up early and make sure my family has nutritious breakfasts in the morning, and for those who leave, take nutritious lunches with them.

I have been doing that most of this year, but have made improvements.  I had been making Prince Inventive and Prince Go-for-It 2 sandwiches each day to grab on their way out to their respective schools.  

But Prince Go-for-It requested they be in a lunch sack.  He mentioned that he ate one sandwich as a snack, and as we discussed his hunger schedule and food needs, I realized I'd been doing only a partial job.  He clearly needed a fuller lunch with more variety, and just more food, in general. (Today he took 1 ham sandwich with lettuce, 1 almond butter and jam sandwich, 1 apple, crackers and cottage cheese, and 4 homemade "Everything Cookies.")  

The first day I told him I'd packed his lunch in a bag, he jokingly asked, "Did you write my name on the front?... and with a big heart?... And did you write me a cute note for inside?"

I'd actually thought of doing those things -less the heart- but thought that might be too baby-ish for a freshman in the midst of a junior high lunch room.  But off I went, back to put things to right, realizing I should've ignored my fears and done what my own heart had told me to do.  I wrote a note on his napkin, his name on the front of the bag, and I even added the heart... I made it small, to avoid huge embarrassment, but just to tuck it there, so he would notice.

The next day, I decided I could do even better.  That's when I started writing a Bible verse, in addition to a quick, loving note, on the napkins for Hubby's and the kids' lunches.

So while doing one thing... Providing nutritious lunches for my family... I accomplish a few more of my goals.  
 - I express love and encouragement
 - I share Bible verses and my faith with them all
 - I also help myself.  In researching verses to write every day, I am contemplating what they mean and have to say to me.  

Plus, by the time I write a verse 3 to 5 times in a morning, I have a chance to start memorizing the verse.

Maybe it's not the hour of devoted quiet time in the Word that most recommend, but it's much better than nothing, and I think God is happy with the change...

Monday, April 8, 2013

If it Ain't Broke...

There is something to be said for sticking with what you know works.  But I was hoping for something that was extra special for the expense and "hype!"

I'm talking about pizza in my new Gaggenau oven again.  (2 sad pizza baking attempts are discussed in Gagg Pizza! and in Gagg Pizza, Strike 2.)

For this past weekend's pizza, I used a method closest to what we considered "tried and true" in previous ovens (described here), but using the Gaggenau stone.  

I preheated the oven, with the stone in place at the lowest oven rack position, to 550 degrees.  I used top and bottom heat for this part.

When I put in pizzas, I switched to bottom heat only.  No fans to blow hot air and hurry the tops.

In 8 to 10 minutes, we had the results to which we'd become accustomed and that we like... Brown, bubbly tops, and crispy crust, also a bit brown.

But this method left the Gaggenau element sitting in the drawer.  After I'd preheated too long to change things, I thought that I could've preheated the oven and stone using the element and the pizza stone oven mode that runs the fan.  Then I could've switched the oven to just bottom heat when I put in the pizzas, as I did this time.  I could've turned the stone mode back on if the stone started to cool, then back to no-fan for the pizzas.  

I'll try that next time.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring Break

Hubby and the junior high and high school kids in our house are on Spring Break, so our homeschooled kiddos are, too.  We also have 3 birthdays in our house ... for Princes Inventive and CuddleBunny, and Princess Artiste.  It's a busy week.

Here are a couple of our activities so far.


There seems to be a theme here, but we really weren't just touring metal animal sculptures....

Or even just big metal sculptures of any and all kinds.  It was just a happy coincidence.  I will tell you more about that trip later.


We're finally to the fun stuff.  With Baby's due date in sight, and pressure heavy on Hubby to get the new hearth and home ready in time, Princess Sassy and I have the green light to start shopping for living space fixtures, decor, etc.  Hubby has gladly relinquished the cabinet-making duties for the kitchenette area above the garage, and we've elected IKEA to take over that task.  So yesterday, the princess and a half ;-) and I visited IKEA and the nearby United Tile to begin accumulating inspiration and plans.

More on that later, too, as things progress!

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