Tuesday, June 24, 2014

DIY Projects in the Works

I've never been one to have a hard time coming up with ideas or finding inspiration.  On the contrary, I always have far more ideas and projects in my head than I have time to do them.  Which results in many ideas getting pushed aside, or "thrown in the vault" as I like to say.  But every once in a while, an idea hits me and I feel compelled to drop everything and do it.  This has happened to me twice recently, and although neither was a completely original idea, I was so struck with inspiration that I immediately started work on them.

The first was this outdoor music wall, which I saw pop up in my Facebook news feed a couple of months ago:  http://www.filthwizardry.com/2010/05/music-wall-rip-music-tree.html

What a brilliant idea! And so easy, too.  And I knew we had the perfect spot for it, so two days later I was already gathering junk from our basement to do it.  It's still a work in progress, but here's a little sneaky peeky:

Outdoor music wall, in progress

I still have some more things I want to add to this, but it's a pretty good start!  And literally the only thing I purchased for this was some spray paint to liven it up.  Can't beat that!  Or can you??  (Ha!  See what I did there?  Haha, eh, ahem.)

Moving on to the second idea...  Several months ago, I got the urge to paint our van.  No, not have it repainted, but to paint it myself.  Crazy?  Maybe a little, but it wouldn't be the first time I have painted a vehicle - I had a car in high school and college that I painted twice: once with random designs and the other with the solar system and stars.  In any case, I have been thinking about this off and on for many months, but hadn't really come up with a plan of how I wanted to paint it.

///Fast forward to a couple weeks ago///

I was looking at one of those silly buzzfeed articles - you know the ones:  "30 Amazing Photos That Will Change Your Outlook on Life" or "16 Animals That Are So Cute You Will Cry" or some other nonsense, seemingly always in a tidy little list format.  I see these pop up in my Facebook news feed frequently, and I rarely click on them.  But for some reason, I happened to click on one a couple weeks ago - I don't even remember what the article was now, but somewhere in the ridiculous list was a photo of a car painted with chalkboard paint.  When I first saw the pic I kind of casually thought, "Haha, that would be fun." But after a day or so, I kept gravitating back to the idea and thought, "No, wait, that really would be fun!"  And it was the perfect solution to my indecision of how to paint the van - if I painted it with chalkboard paint, we could draw on it and keep changing it! 

Sneak peek at the chalkboard van!
It didn't take me long to start gathering supplies and begin work.  And of course, as soon as I got a little section done, we had to try it out!  Even though this is a fairly big project, two weeks after deciding to do it, I'm already half way done.  When inspiration strikes like this, it really is a force to be reckoned with!  Now I just have to wait out a couple of rainy days so I can finish it.  Back to indoor projects for now!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

B is Three!

Well, almost.  Her birthday is right around the corner, but we decided to celebrate a little early when Grandma and Grandpa were visiting over the weekend. We also decided to keep it simple and just do a family celebration this year. 

A couple weeks ago, I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, and she said, "Purple!  With purple frosting!  And strawberries!"  I checked in with her a couple times in the days leading up to the celebration, and she gave the same answer every time.  So, a purple cake with purple frosting and strawberries on top it was!  Fortunately from all of my experiments in making a rainbow cake with natural food dyes, I knew exactly how to make a purple cake:  blackberries. 
Interestingly, though, the blackberry juice which turned the cake a nice shade of purple, turned the frosting more of a pink.  I guess I need to do some frosting experiments!  I added some blueberry juice, which turned it a bit more purple.  In the end, it wasn't quite as purple as I had hoped, but the birthday girl loved it, so that's all that matters.  Well, that and the fact that it tasted good.  That matters, too!

The one and only present she asked for was a purple stuffy.  She hadn't ever really showed preference for one color over another until just recently - now she clearly loves purple!  Which makes me want to redecorate her room, but I have to keep reminding myself:  one project at a time.  Of course, that didn't stop me from going ahead and picking up purple paint chips at the hardware store.  (Ok, so I may have a teensy bit of a paint-chip-collecting problem!)  In any case, here she is with some of her presents: a purple puppy, which she loved, maracas, which were a big hit, and glitter paint - we go through a lot of  paint in this house and were well overdue for a restocking.  Big sis gave her the little dolly tucked under her other arm.  So cute!

It's hard to believe she's (almost) three already.  She's definitely not a baby anymore, which is a bit bittersweet.  On the one hand, you kind of wish they could stay little forever, but on the other, watching your children grow up is such an amazing thing, and growing up she certainly is!  Seriously, look at this big girl!!  Next thing I know she'll be asking to borrow the car.  Sigh.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring Gardening Adventures

I'm not one to usually mind winter, but this winter felt brutal.  Bitter cold, tons of snow, lots of illnesses - it seemed never-ending.  Needless to say, I've had spring fever for quite some time now.  I've been daydreaming about starting up our garden again for months!  And now, finally, finally the time has come.  (Yippeeee!!!!)  I looked back at my garden notes from last year, which reminded me, oh yeah, I have a blog that I haven't posted on in months.  (Oops!)  I guess I should have learned by now to never end a blog post with "More soon!" as I did on my last one which was, oh, almost 8 months ago.  I suppose "soon" is relative, though, so 8 months could be considered soon, right?  It's sooner that 8 years.  Yeah, we'll go with that.  Apparently that's how I roll with this blogging thing.

In any event, looking back through my notes, I remembered that I wanted to take better notes this year, and more photos.  I'm going to make every effort to do that, so I started a log where I can quickly enter the date, what I did, and any observations or notes I want to remember.  I'm not going to bore anyone with the minute details of that, so I'll just quickly sum up what we've done so far.

We decided to try starting some seeds indoors this year.  We have a couple windows that get pretty good sunlight, so we thought we'd give it a go.  We started with some tomatoes in mid-March, and they seem to be doing well.  The last weekend in March, we went to a local garden center and let the girls each pick out one packet of flower seeds, and when we got home, we started some Chrysanthemums that G picked out and some chives. The following weekend, I added brussel sprouts and cabbage to our seedling collection, then watermelon. 

Last weekend it was finally warm enough, and dry enough, to get outside and start preparing the garden beds.  I've suddenly become very ambitious about gardening, and have decided to at least double the amount of space in our garden.  (Who needs a lawn anyway?)  In order to maximize our sunny area, I decided it was best to reconfigure our garden beds.  So I dug up two 4' x 8' sections, and used some old boards we found under the deck (thank you, previous owners!) to build the beds.  The girls were delighted to have a chance to dig in the dirt and see so many worms!  We've already planted peas, carrots, beets, and potatoes in the first bed, and I moved some strawberry plants to the second one.

This weekend we're planning to plant more peas and carrots in the second one, and I'd like to do some onions and spinach and/or lettuce, but we'd have to pick those up.  Oh, and I started building another bed, in addition to the 2 we are already planting and the 3 others I have built, which will give us 6 in all.  Yeah, I guess that's a little more than double, huh?  What can I say, I'm excited about this whole gardening thing!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Everything's Coming Up Daisies!

The painting has begun!  I knew we had picked the right color when I opened the can of paint and G said, "Awesome!"  And she was even more excited once we got some color up on the walls.  Part of what sold her on this color was the fact that it's called 'Daisy' (she loves daisies).  I'm the same way with paint colors - I know the name of the color doesn't really matter, but I have a hard time selecting a paint that, even though I may love the color, I don't like the name of.  Silly, I know, but hey, it's who I am.  And apparently who she is, too.

So, here's some before shots of her room:

Yikes.  A pretty sad looking bedroom, eh?  In my defense, this room was used only as clothing storage and a changing room for the girls for the past year, so I didn't really bother doing anything with it.  And I wasn't too concerned with all of the boxes of outgrown clothes that were starting to stack up.  So even just getting this room cleaned up and putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls will be a vast improvement.  Here's a sneak peek at the painting progress:

We're loving this color!  It's so bright and sunny, and has instantly made the room more cheerful.  And made me realize that the trim definitely needs a fresh coat of paint as well.

More soon!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sleep, Room Rearranging/Redecorating, and the Rainbow Quilt

 First, a mini celebration because...

I finally finished piecing the rainbow quilt top!  Woohoo!!!!

This is a pretty big deal for me, as I started this quilt about a year and a half ago.  I started off with a bang, made some progress, then it sat there, half-finished and lonely, waiting for me to pick it back up again.  So this summer I set a goal to at least finish the top, and with only a couple weeks of summer left, I'm happy to say that I have met my goal!  Yay, me!!

Now for the sleep issues and room rearranging.  When we moved into our new house a year and a half ago, I was excited that the girls would finally be able to have their own rooms.  In an effort to get her excited about the move, I promised G that we would paint and decorate her room first.  But then reality hit.  No one could have prepared me for the struggle we would have trying to get the girls to sleep in the new house.  (Six months before she slept through the night again - yikes!  And as for B - let's just not go there.)  After a few months of both girls being up multiple times a night, we were frustrated, exhausted, and at our wits end.  In a moment of sheer desperation, we decided to have them try sharing a room.  Maybe being in the same room together would help them sleep better?  At first it didn't seem to make much of a difference, but a few weeks later, things started to improve.  And then, it happened:  we got one child to sleep through the night.  Woohoo!  Two would be ideal, but we were thrilled that at least one was sleeping good again.  So for the next year, the girls had their "bedroom" and a "dressing room".  Not having any idea how long this would last, all plans for bedroom redecorating were put on hold.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and big sis finally got fed up with little sis getting all of her things, and decided to try having her own room.  Realizing that this may or may not work out, I made a deal with her:  I would move only her bed into the dressing room, and she had to sleep there every night for one week.  At the end of the week, she could make her final decision as to whether she wanted to stay or move back in with her sister.  The transition went relatively smoothly (for her, at least - for B...not so much), and at the end of the week, she decided to stay in her own room.  So we moved the rest of the furniture, and that night:  disaster.  Both girls up half the night.  Ugh!  Fortunately it seemed to just be that one night, and now G is back to her usual good sleep.

So...time to redecorate!  We've been looking at paint samples together, trying to come to an agreement about colors for her room.  Of all the colors we looked at, Rainforest Mist was her favorite:

Which I had to veto for the walls.  Don't get me wrong, it's her room and I want her to have say in how it's decorated, but given the very bold floral wall paper in the hallway, I couldn't live with this color on the walls.  It would just fight with the nearby wallpaper too much, and would drive me batty every time I walked by her room.  So, I made some other suggestions, and we've decided on Daisy for the walls:

And she really liked some pinks too:

So we've decided to go with Daisy as the main color, with accents of Prairie Rose, and some version of this blueish-greenish aqua color that she loves so much:

I think we've come to a good compromise with this, and I can't wait to get started!  I picked up the yellow paint today, so maybe I'll even be able to get started on the walls this weekend!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Perfectionism and Adventures in Gardening

My perfectionism sometimes gets in the way of me actually accomplishing anything.  Lucky for me, hubby is far from a perfectionist.  While I will agonize over how exactly to do a project and scrutinize every detail, he will just grab some stuff and slap it together.  Case in point:  our garden.  We've been talking about making a vegetable garden for...oh, I don't know, years.  Several years ago, we attempted one at our old house, but it was quickly gobbled up by the groundhog that lived in the woods behind our house (he came into our yard so much, we even gave him a name:  "Pucker").  Eventually we decided it wasn't worth the effort to try to grow vegetables to feed Pucker.  So that was the last of the gardening at our old house.

Our current garden, mid-July

Last summer was the first summer at our new house, and it was then that we discovered that half our lawn was dead.  We thought it might be a good place to put a garden in, but decided to wait and see what would happen with the lawn over the summer (weeds...the answer is weeds would happen).  This spring we again discussed putting a garden in.  I, of course, wanted to plan out all of the details:  decide on the exact size and shape, get just the right boards to build raised beds, figure out precisely when to plant which seeds, etc.  Then one day hubby said, "I think I'll go outside and put together a garden bed."  I'll admit my first thought was "I don't think so."  You see, he isn't exactly the handiest of guys, and besides that, what about all my garden plans (you know...the ones I had yet to make)??  However, despite my hesitation, I agreed to it.  So, he found some boards under our deck (thank you, previous owners!), and voila - a garden bed.  It may not have been perfect, but it was done, and that's more than I can say for my garden bed (which was still entirely in my head).  We were even able to make a second one with more boards the previous owners had left.

Seed packets, purchased from PTA fundraiser

In mid April, we sowed our first seeds:  peas and carrots.  We also planted potatoes, I think around the same time, but my memory is a little fuzzy.  Hopefully this blog post will at least give me something to look back on so I can remember what we did when next spring rolls around.  (First note to self:  take more notes!)  The peas were the first to sprout up and it quickly became evident they needed something to climb.  In an effort to be resourceful, we found some large sticks in the yard, shoved them in the soil at the edges of the rows of peas, and tied twine between them.  For the most part, this worked fairly well.  However, once they got taller it seemed like they could use more support, especially after getting drenched from the many rain showers we've had this summer.  (Note #2:  peas need more support!)  The carrots took a lot longer to sprout up, but they're doing good now.  At least I think they're doing good now (how can you tell with carrots??)  And the potatoes seem to be doing good as well.  Oh, and hubby found a strawberry plant growing elsewhere in the yard and moved it to the garden.  No sign of strawberries yet, but it is still alive at least.  We also had a few random tomato plants pop up, which we moved to the garden as well.  Cherry tomatoes were the one and only thing we grew last year - apparently they reseed themselves (bonus!).  So that's garden bed #1.

Garden bed #1

In garden bed #2, we planted green beans and cucumbers, probably in mid-May, but I can't recall for sure.  We also threw in a couple more volunteer tomato plants we found.  The green beans are doing great.  The cucumbers took a bit longer to get going, but now the vines are really starting to grow, and there's not much room for them.  Which means we're scrambling being resourceful and looking around the yard to find something for them to climb.  (Note #3:  cucumbers need something to climb, or room to sprawl!)

Garden bed #2

First garden-fresh peas!

The first week of July, we tasted our first peas, and man were they delicious!  We've been eagerly gobbling them up over the past couple weeks.  In fact, only about half of them actually make it into the house.  (Note #4:  plant more peas!)  I think it was about a week later when we got our first green beans, which were super tasty, too.  Then we were gone for 4 days, and returned to a partially wilted garden, but an excellent little harvest!

First big harvest from our garden - yippeee!

Fortunately after a good soaking, everything that was wilted snapped back.  And since I started composing this blog post a week ago, we dug up the rest of the potatoes (which were super delicious!) and picked our first cucumber (which was yummy too!).  All in all, I'm super pleased with the results of our garden so far this year, and definitely want to do even more next year!

In summary, my notes for next year:
1. Take more notes, and photos, right from the beginning.
2. Get or make something better for the peas to climb.
3. Get or make something better for the cucumbers to climb, or give them more room to sprawl.
4. Make at least one more garden bed, so we can grow lots more veggies - definitely plant more peas and potatoes!
5. Try something new - maybe broccoli??
6. And don't worry about making the garden perfect, because...
7. Everything tastes better when it's homegrown, and...
8. Even if they're not perfect, gardens are way better than lawns!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

There's no Someday Like Today...

Countless times in my life, I have said "someday".  Someday, I'll make more art again.  Someday, I'll check out that new place I've been meaning to go.  Someday, I'll finish that project (like the makeshift curtains in our living room that are still in their jerry-rigged state a year and a half after moving...ugh!).  Someday, I'll get back to doing yoga.  Someday, I'll finally write and illustrate the children's books that I've had ideas for foreverSomeday, I'll start blogging again (it's been almost a year since my last post...).  You get the idea.

Recently my life had become so full of these "somedays", that they started to become overwhelming.  Everywhere I looked, it seemed there was a reminder of something I wanted to do, but had put off until "someday".  I became stuck.  I had all these things to do someday, but what about today?  My entire life felt like it was on hold, waiting to happen.  And what kind of life is that??

Of course, with little ones in the house, it's often difficult to find the time for everything you want to do.  (Love them as I do, they sure are time-suckers!)  But I've come to realize how important it is to carve out time for yourself.  And how important it is to prioritize your life.  And to make changes so that you can do the things that really matter to you.  You know that saying, 'If mom's not happy, no one is'?  Yeah, that.

When Little G (who's not so little now) started Kindergarten last fall, I started thinking more about my job and how it wasn't really working for me anymore.  While there were aspects of working at a florist that I enjoyed (and still do, on occasion), others...not so much.  Like being tied to retail hours and being expected to work extra hours for every holiday.  That was really starting to get to me.  I wanted to be home with G before and after school.  I wanted the flexibility to be able to volunteer in the classroom.  I wanted to enjoy our holidays instead of being stressed out working overtime.  I wanted more say in what I did with my time.

So I made a change.  It wasn't easy.  I had been at the same job for nearly 10 years.  But when I found a job working from home doing something I love to do anyway, I knew I had to take a chance and seize the opportunity.  I admit the transition to a new job has been rocky, but several months in, I have no regrets.  True, there has been more of learning curve than I anticipated.  True, it has been a struggle to manage my time efficiently and get enough work done.  True, we've had to make sacrifices because my income is lower now.  But has it all been worth it?  Absolutely!  When I look back at the school year and think about all of the things that I was able to do that just wouldn't have been possible had I not made this change, it has been undoubtedly worth it.  Am I still struggling to adjust to the new job?  Yes.  But I'm trying to keep a positive outlook and have faith that it will work out, given time.  And if it doesn't...well, at least it was a step in the right direction.  That I know for certain!

Over the course of the past year, all this job transition stuff has taken a lot of my time and energy.  The "somedays" started piling up again.  But that was bound to happen...after all, this wasn't simply a change of job, it was a complete change of career.  A complete change of the way I spend my time, and the way I live my life.  And the past few months haven't exactly been typical either.  This spring, just as I was starting to get in a good rhythm with work/life balance, something unexpected happened:  my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and less than 2 months later, he was gone.  Seeing someone close to you die is a surefire reminder for you to live.  And not just to complacently go through your days, but to actually live your life to the fullest.  To do all of the things you want to do.  To experience new and exciting things, but also to savor the quiet little moments too.  It's not always easy, but I'm doing my best to keep all this in mind as I heal and move forward.  Baby steps, I keep reminding myself.  And as for all those "somedays"?  Well, now I say there's no someday like today.