Magnet Board Makeover

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I saw these at the thrift store and just had to buy them. I wasn't sure what I'd do with them, but I was determined to do something. After all, it was 1/2-off day. And my oh my do I have a hankering for magnet boards.


So, I whipped out the Mod Podge, the scrapbook paper, a few buttons and a little ribbon and ta-da!


Before and after. Aren't these super adorable? As much as I'd like to keep them, I believe I will sell them with the rest of the crafty goodies I've been cookin' up.



Peanut Picnics #5

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It took awhile to find this local park. I knew whereabouts it was, but couldn't pinpoint it. We weaved through quite a few roads. Just as I was on my way to a different park, I took one last turn and got just as excited as the kids to have finally found it.


There's a playground on one side of the street and a huge open football field on the other side. My son was yelling "Go Pack Go," even though the field was populated by the little leagues.



The boys noticed some "balls" from one of the trees. They gathered as many as their little arms could carry, up to the elbows. They had the whole park going with ball games. One tiny boy put a ball on the bridge and started jumping. They played ski-ball on the slides. They played catch. Amazing what one little gift from a tree can do for the entertainment of tiny people.


My nephew has told his mommy more than once that she's not allowed to come along on our picnics. This is something he only does with his cousin and auntie, so there!

Easiest Fall Wreath Ever!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


This rag wreath is one of the easiest decorations you could ever put together, and it will bring festive fall flavor to your front door or living room wall faster than you can say "buy it at a craft fair."

*about 1/4-yard fabric (or shirt material, leftover ribbons, etc) in warm fall colors
*a twig wreath
*fabric scissors




1. Cut your fabric into strips about 1/2 to 1-inch thick and long enough to tie around the wreath.


2. Double-knot the strips at regular intervals around the wreath.
3. Um, wait. That's it!!! Well, you might want to trim the bottom ties so they don't hang too far down.


You can vary this in so many ways. You can vary the colors and textures by alternating two, three or four different fabric patterns. You could glue an arrangement of leaves and acorns at the bottom corner. I found my twig wreath at the thrift store for $1. I already had the fabric. Keep your eyes peeled, because you can often find gaudy already-decorated wreaths at the thrift store that are super-easy to take apart. Red, orange and brown fabric can come from anything from rags to shirts to faded corduroy pants. Then, for Christmas, you can start over with red and green strips!

For the Love of the Vignette

Friday, October 21, 2011

Vignette [vin-yet] n.
1. Any small pleasing picture or view.
2. A small, graceful literary sketch.

Turns out I love a vignette in any of its forms. In high school Honors English, after reading a book, the teacher asked us what the biggest lesson we learned from it was. I was astounded to learn about a new way of writing. I never knew you could write a whole book in vignettes. What an epiphany! I never thought I could manage writing an entire novel with plot climaxes, antagonists and foreshadowing. But I knew I could piece something beautiful together with soft, intertwining vignettes.

Fast forward a few years, and I have another epiphany. What? You can create vignettes in your home too? I've said it before, but interior design is something I knew almost zero about. But oh, the idea of beautifully-curated little landing spots for the eyes. I had been using them from the time I had my own room growing up, but I didn't have a name for them and I hadn't learned the skills of scale, balance and color.

Style Your Space

In her Style Your Space e-course, Rachel Denbow makes the compilation of the vignette seem absolutely why-didn't-I-do-this-before, do-able. My favorite part of the vignette? The way they can prevent "dumping zones." These are my least favorite parts of the house where library books, mail, random tools and toy parts pile up like pigeons around a bag lady. And they zap my energy whenever I look at them. Place a graceful vignette in the same spot, and like magic, the dumping stops. It's as though all the males living in the house actually realize the aesthetic they'd be destroying if they "dumped" there. Yessss!!!

So, here's my first shot. I'm no pro, but I grabbed a few things from the house that I already had, a peacock feather my husband bought the same day for me, a thrifted pot, some acorns from one of our picnics and some little seed pods I plucked at a local corn maze. See, I've already started to notice the beautiful patterns and colors around me, even in subtle, easily-overlooked places.

I love the mix of feathery and sharp, round and triangular, short and tall. Obviously green is my favorite color. The pumpkin stands out a little, but is anchored back in by the peeking green ridges. Plus, this makes my least-favorite piece of furniture (an old VHS cabinet) so much easier to look at.



Best Place to Work

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I work at one of the best places to work. Really! It's official. We were voted in the top 10 best places to work in the nation.

Here's the proof. Where else do you get henna tattoos for free on your work break?


Business owners take note: One of the best ways to ensure customer service exceeds your expectations is to treat your "internal customers" with just as much respect and gratitude. Well-taken-care-of employees will naturally feel more inclined to take good care of customers.

If I've learned anything from working where I work, it's that some of the best ways to honor employees are free:

1. Start some lunchtime or after-work clubs for people with similar interests. Give new parents, crafters, gardeners and others a place to gather and form long-lasting relationships. Allow participants to relax their professional demeanor a bit and show their true colors. Bring in a guest speaker every once in awhile.

2. Offer free workouts at lunchtime. Use a TV or projector to show workout videos. Exercise TV has all those free workouts on demand.

3. Host a supply exchange: Set out a table and invite employees to swap extras of an item that you choose. Some ideas are books, craft supplies, tools and kids' clothes. The rule is, you bring one to take one.

4. Relax the dress code, even just once a month.

5. Send out a weekly internal email updating everyone on what's happening inside your company. You might showcase one employee per week, revealing something no one knows about that person. This is a great way to keep everyone in-the-loop and start conversations.

5. Have employees donate business books that are in good condition to the company library and allow everyone to "check out" books from the selection.

Some of these ideas are taken directly from my own workplace. We incorporate some of these things and so much more, you probably would never guess. But henna...that's when you know you've got it good.

Current Obsessions

Friday, October 14, 2011

Every once in awhile I become completely obsessive over someone or something. The objects of my obsession all relate to my deepest passions in life in one way or another. I love studying people who are doing exactly what I want to be doing or things that trip my heart a little. Here are some of my recent and past obsessions:

1. Sylvia Plath: her intelligence, way with words, and desire to follow her writing dreams. I don't like to delve too deep into the dark side, but I think her writing is genius. I'm a little bit of a nerd when it comes to reading scholarly articles that analyze her works, just don't tell anyone.

2. JK Rowling: her background story is riveting. Her keen intelligence and humbleness makes her oh-so-likable. The way her ingenious, detail-driven mind works is astounding. I love how protective she is of her own creation too. She will never sell out to anything that doesn't completely match her vision. I never hear ego when I hear her speak, I just hear a passion for her creation.

3. Creative, playful, self-driven girls making their own ways in the world like Ginny, Amy, Elsie and Rachel. I have to go back and read earlier posts just to soak up as much as I can. I find that when I steep myself in all their charm, beauty and creativity, it jumpstarts the inspiration in my own life. A big thanks!

4. Zee Avi music: my soul does a happy little skip when her voice comes on my Pandora channel.

5. I somehow can't soak up enough podcasts about thinkers, ideas, literature, big dreams, fitness, and weird science. I will be a student until the day I die.

6. Diana Vreeland: I can't help it, but I'm hooked. I read her biography, researched her life and fell in love. Yes, there's the arrogance, but she has no apologies for it. I just think it's riveting how she pretty much inspired fashion in her time. She didn't just track fashion trends in Vogue, she actually dictated fashion to the world. She knew exactly what she wanted and never wavered even a smidgen. I got stuck on Jackie O for the same reason--she had vision. I like that.

7. Mad Men: A friend and I started watching the series at the same time just because we thought it looked neat. "Looked neat" is such an understatement, no? The clothes, the interior design, the juicy plots, the inside look at the advertising world (I'm a copywriter, I can't help it). I'm in a love/hate relationship with the moodiness, but it's better than frothiness if you ask me.

8. Christian Hedonism: I'm reading Desiring God by John Piper (bless him!). I want to lap up every last drop. Who knew Christians were really supposed to be that happy? My spirit is growing from having a solemn attitude (which has its place in certain contexts) about faith to a downright giddy one. It's exciting!

9. Oprah's LifeClass: I'm not going to be trite and gush about how Oprah has changed my life, but you have to respect the woman for her self-built empire and unprecedented gallery of information. That said, I'm finding the LifeClass immensely groundbreaking for curating a life built upon my deepest, most pure potential. Even some of those listed above have been creative, lifestyle role models and have helped me realize some key things about myself and what I want to accomplish.

Moms Criticizing Other Moms

Friday, October 7, 2011

"I don't mean to interfere or anything" Really? You could've fooled me. "You know, there's a strong undertow right next to this island." A woman drove past, reversed, got out of her car, and crossed a foot bridge just to tell me this.

"Um, no. I didn't know that." I reply, trying not to roll my eyes like an irresponsible teenager.

"I wouldn't let those kids climb those rocks like that. If they fall in, you're never going to see them again."

"Well, of course, I'm not letting them go past a certain point" (And I'm sitting right here within arm's reach of them. And there's at least 20 feet of slowly-sloping rocks they'd have to climb down and forcefully throw themselves in to actually make it in the water. And you can see the water is completely still at the bottom of the ledge. And I want these kids to experience nature, to climb, to explore, to practice their agility, to grow stronger, etc. I refuse to shelter them from every single imagined danger there is. Believe me, my stomach already does cartwheels every time my son climbs a ladder at a simple playground.)

"Yeah, but they could fall in and that current would pull them right under."

"I assure you, I'm not going to let anything happen to these boys." I say with as much conviction as I've ever had in my life.

"Well, I hope so." She says, as though there's even a chance that this might not be so.

What is the deal with moms criticizing other moms as though we're all hapless waifs trying everything we can do to purposefully hurt our children? Please, stop! My love for my child runs deeper than anything I've ever felt in my entire life. I would, without a second thought, put my body in front of a bullet for him. If fact, I would McGuyver whatever I could within reach and contort my body into impossible positions to stop anything from hurting my child. This I assure you with my entire heart, body and soul.

In spite of this, I could list numerous incidents where other moms (strangers) have come up to me to tell me that I was doing something wrong. I don't know whether it's because I'm a younger mom (no one has EVER dared to say anything to my husband or mom) or because mothers just feel a certain entitlement-of-the-wise to interfere, but several people have offered their "input" about my parenting skills. And it makes my blood boil every time. I probably shouldn't take it so personally, but the entire issue of moms criticizing other moms seems to be trending. It's not just me. It's other moms I know and even moms I don't know.

I mean, does our utmost devotion to our beautiful creations mean nothing? Does our obsessive tending, nurturing, directing, teaching, minding, worrying, and guiding count for nothing? Don't our overly-obsessive thoughts about what's best for our children count for anyting? If they sneeze once, we stay awake at night watching them, making sure they're breathing. We shape our entire existences around our children. Our life goals are centered around their care and wellbeing.

Please, unless you have good reason to believe that someone is physically or emotionally abusing a child (which makes me sick to my stomach), or unless she explicitely requests your input, refrain from criticizing another woman about how she's raising her child. Be assured that she is doing the best that she can and her mother-in-law is probably already on her case about it anyway. Maybe instead you could give her a pat on the back and a compliment. Those displays of motherly affection are, ironically, all-too-rare.

Peanut Picnics #4

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It was raining when we went on our 4th picnic. But we had a nice shelter to keep us covered. Our picnic quilt ended up being my goofy nephew's cover-up until we ran back to the car for his jacket.



If there's one thing I've learned with our weekly picnics it's that keeping children at the table when they've just arrived at a new adventure is next to impossible. Especially when they see a playground out of the corners of their eyes their huge staring eyes and turned heads. I really wish I could drum up the same level of excitement about a different corner of town as they do. I'm learning. These tiny tots are teaching me.


After eating, we explored our territory and found more unexpected trails! Right at the mouth, we saw a beaver or woodchuck or other similar wood-gnawing animal. As we got closer, we noticed a little animal trail that went from one side of the path to the other through two small openings. Around the corner, we saw a chewed up branch. I love finding these little clues to animals' lives while we're not watching.

We also came across a small slow-moving stream.


The rain came down off and on during our walk, but we just stopped under the trees when it sprinkled. We climbed logs, scoped out the fallen trees and imagined magical lands beyond the scope of the trail.




We also got a little goofy while we waited out the showers.


When we got back, Tom and Huck (ha!) finally, finally got to play on the toys. And this, my friends, is how you teeter-totter when your legs are a bit too short to reach the ground yet.


While the boys were playing, I was busy collecting pretty acorns. These beauties were scattered everywhere around the park. I have some little leaf-shaped plates that would make the perfect showcase for these. Decorating for fall makes me feel so giddy.


Some Soule Mama Inspiration

Saturday, October 1, 2011

If you don't already know about her, you have to check out this awesome mama/writer/pioneer/artist... I just got done going through her Handmade Home book. I am completely smitten with the concept of handcrafting things for your home that nurture your family, entertain your children, mother your sick, and personalize your space. I swoon a little bit every time I read through the pages and gaze longingly at the pictures. I am reminded again and again what the purpose of my life is at this very moment, for my three-year-old and husband--to nurture my family and carve a loving home.

I did, however, actually complete one of the projects in the book. Yay me!!! Mind you, my sewing machine had tragically been sitting unused for at least five years before this. I suddenly had a strong desire to make something that had a certain purpose in my home that I couldn't find any other remedy to.

My husband has this annoying habit of grabbing a second towel to put on the floor for his feet. It's sloppy, but I didn't have any better solutions. We had tried a carpet square, but the second that that started, um, smelling, I had to throw it away. It was unwashable.

Enter the washable bath mat. Hooray! This was also the least intimidating sewing option for my rusty skill. I found a microfiber cloth at the dollar store and a pillowcase at the thrift store. I cut a piece of the pillowcase fabric the same size as the towel, sewed 'em both together, and voila! I got a tiny bit lazy and skipped the part about layering towel pieces over the top, so it doesn't look quite as cute as Amanda's. But it works!


In putting together one's sewing toolkit, Amanda also suggests finding a sewer's user manual. She says new or old, the basic sewing principles have not changed much. Guess who was a little giddy when she snagged a vintage copy of the Better Homes and Gardens Sewing Book in mint condition? Oh yeah. And that $2 price tag tasted oh-so-sweet.


Look how sweet the old-time pictures are.


To top off all the great feelings and motivation that came from making something practical with my own two hands, I even thrifted a new sewing machine cover. Ok, I think it was intended to be a toaster cover, but it fits over the guts of the machine perfectly. And the sunflower print was much too perfect to pass up.