Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tweaking the Apartment

I'll always be trying something new!

I love blues and greens.  No matter what I do in my homes, I'll always incorporate different shades of those two basic colors in at least some of the rooms.  I typically lean towards lighter, softer shades of blue.  However, recently I have been interested in bringing some stronger color touches into the room.

Before, our large sofa area looked like this.

I still like this a lot, but since the spring I've wanted to bring in more blues with the summer season.  There are a couple of different pillows in the room--I love the stronger blue lines around the border.  It's a little more geometric in design than I typically use.

I changed out the large black Ikea frame from a vintage bird poster to these Natural History vintage shell printouts (Graphics Fairy blog).  I painted some cardboard roughly for an edge and used Mod Podge to adhere four printouts to the center of the cardboard.  I love the colors and the way it turned out overall.

Our TV stand used to look like this.

You can't tell from the above photo, but there is an open back under the top surface which allows a few cords to be visible.  This always drove me nuts!  So I did a new version, shown below.

The back is now finished with a cardboard shape I cut out to fit the space and covered with sale fabric. No more cords, and I like the beach vintage vibe of the fabric!  You can also see that I tried to create a grouping of pictures.  I've always loved that look but have never really done a random group of frames and photos.  Some of the frames display printouts are from the Graphics Fairy blog.  GREAT resource!

The bottom piece is a ceiling medallion from Home Depot.  I made a background with a botanical print from Graphics Fairy and put a picture of my dad and my son in the middle.  I am going to experiment more with different ways to use the ceiling medallions in the future, next time using paint to accentuate the designs around the border.

Our living and dining rooms are connected by a wide doorway with a nice flow.  I don't like too many things out in both rooms, it makes me feel overwhelmed.  It takes away from the beauty of a few items when there are so many to look at all at once.  So I removed some items from the dining room to keep it simple.

In the photo below, I covered a piece of cardboard with a burlap remnant I found and used upholstery tacks I had left over from another project to update our dining room photo board.  I used a couple of black and white photos my son and I took recently for Father's Day.  I slipped it inside a garage sale frame that I got for about 50 cents and had already painted earlier. The burlap coordinates with the khaki sofa fabric from the living room.


A few tweaks and a few dollars and we're soaking in the beach vintage vibe I enjoy so much.   My taste is still evolving and I can't change everything at once, but it's a lot of fun to experiment!  Now...the craft projects and tweaking MUST be done as we have guests coming this weekend to stay for a week.  The fun part of preparations is done and the grunt work begins...CLEANING.  I have a wonderful friend who is going to take my son for a day while I do my best to get our apartment ready for nine people to live together.  Whew.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cruisin' thru June

Summertime...and the livin' is easy.
Fish are jumpin'
and the cotton is high.

George Gershwin's tune was one of my favorite songs in college when I was working with a voice teacher.  The melody perfectly complements the lyrics, in my opinion.  It feels a little lazy, a little slow, and invites you to let out a long exhale, lean back in your chaise lounge, and sip cool lemonade.

June has started off with some changes, a trip to TN, a new class, and some new summer goals for me.  This past week we went to Tennessee to visit family and attend a wedding of friends.  The wedding--although brutally hot--was a beautiful traditional Tennessee affair.  The wedding was outdoors by a wonderfully aged barn.  The women had gorgeous dresses paired with flip-flops!   We strolled across the lawn to the tent with ice-cold drinks and a BBQ feast. As the evening wore on, the patio turned into a dance floor, the strung lights swaying back and forth with the hum of celebration.  My son had a fantastic time visiting family.  He had the absolute luxury of running outside to a huge lawn every morning, (swim trunks on right away), and played in the wading pool every possible minute.  He loved it!

We've got some personal changes as a family to address.  As I learn to adjust to the challenges, I'm looking for ways to maintain peace in my heart and patience with the situation.  I created a sanctuary spot for myself, where I keep important tasks at my fingertips, quotes and encouraging scripture or passages, journals, and a few items that help me take a deep breath when I'm feeling frustrated.  The peonies from the farmer's market are wonderful!

I'm reading The Happiness Project.  It's an interesting approach to creating a more peaceful, positive attitude in your life.  While I know my true source of joy is from Christ, I must admit I do think the same way as the author, Gretchen Rubin.  I'm inspired to try making some more intentional choices about my attitude and how I spend my time.

Many months ago, back when winter was still blowing with its full force in January, I started an online class called Soul Restoration through Brave Girls Club.  I'm beginning the second class in the series and it will be fun to see what great projects and instruction we get this time around!

This week I'm heading to the local running store to pick up my Mother's Day running shoes!  Running is so peaceful for me.  It's particularly beneficial to de-stress when facing some of the personal changes in our family I mentioned above.  I put these on...
grab this...

and head out here...

for a refreshing, invigorating boost.  Trekkin' on and lovin' it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A New Decade

Photo from
This weekend I stepped through the birthday gateway into my fifth decade of life.  That's right, the big 4-0.

I'm not the kind of person who anticipates a big party with lots of hoopla.  I tend to feel self-conscious and instead of enjoying a large celebration I squirm and fidget inwardly, eager to escape out of the spotlight.  When I was a child, my well-intentioned father always brought out the servers performing the big song and dance with everyone in the restaurant turning to watch.   Ugh!!  It was dreadful for someone like me.

I have made this very clear to my husband over the years so he honored my wishes and took me out for a date night to my favorite restaurant in Chicago, Frontera Grill,

with this famous chef at the helm.

Photo by Chicago Tribune
Unfortunately I  (once again) was not good with pictures so we didn't get any from the evening.  But I had a fabulous dinner with a Mango Mojito, jicama salad, shrimp taquitos, pork loin with mole and white corn cakes, and a tamarind-chocolate cake.  Divine.  Simply divine.  I suggested that we do this every weekend but somehow my husband did not see that as very realistic.  Oh well.

He also presented me with tickets to one of our absolute favorites--U2!

Photo from
I am so excited about the concert, but it will be a practice in delayed gratification as I have to wait until July.

Not surprisingly, as I enter a new decade I have been asked by a few people about the topic of being in my 40's.  Does it bother me?  Do I think about the number?

My honest answer is no!  I truly don't devote much time to thinking about the number of my age.  If I'm going to reflect, it's usually in the context of seeing where God has led me--the extreme ups and downs and everything in between.  I think about where I've come from, what I've learned, and what I'm still striving to do with the life I've been granted.  As I mature, I notice the inevitable life changes that come along with increasing years.  I can't easily bounce back into shape like I did 15+ years ago, I'm realizing that no amount of moisturizer is going to stop the crows feet from multiplying around my eyes when I smile, gray is creeping into my hair, people gently refer to me as an "older" new mom, and it is not likely that I will be having more children at this juncture of my life.  So...that's reality.  Here is more reality:  I have a relationship with God that never existed this way in years prior, I have a wonderful husband and an adorable son, I have an opportunity to spend extra time home with my son, I have supportive friends in my corner, I get to live right across the street from the beach and a great lakefront path which we use extensively, I go to a church I'm blessed to be part of, and I have the chance to continue my education and keep growing in so many ways.

I was thinking about what I might like to do in the next ten years...possibly...
  1. Finish my Masters degree
  2. Work on a second language
  3. Do more skiing
  4. Find a niche with serving
  5. Take a missions trip with my husband--and possibly my son
  6. Join a cooking club
  7. Run another marathon
  8. Grow in my own identity and build confidence in who God has created me to be
  9. Travel to more national parks
  10. Learn to sew
  11. Find more ways to reach out to others
  12. Plant a garden
Well, that--along with returning to work at some point--should occupy a fair amount of my time so perhaps I should save some thoughts for 50.

My biggest thought about being 40 is that I am GRATEFUL.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Trio of Projects

As my husband knows well, I cannot go very long without finding a new project to work on.  This past weekend I had to go to a location of the IL Secretary of State to renew my drivers license.  Unfortunately my notification got stalled at the bottom of a pile and I missed the time frame to do it online--darn. My Mr. graciously called and offered me the free ticket to stay out and enjoy myself for a while after I finished the lovely waiting line and beautiful new license picture.  When I told him I'd like to go to the fabric store, he was concerned that I was "running errands" and not doing something fun for me.  Ha!  Can you believe that? 

So...the first of my trio starts back with our January trip to Florida.

I guess sometimes I'm just a grown-up kid because I still love to collect shells.  After scrambling all over the beach while my dad entertained my son by the waves, I brought my goods home to IL.  I used them to make the wreath to remember my little guy's first big vacation/beach trip.  I bleached the shells, broken sand dollars, and other interesting beach pieces because...WOW!  What a smell.  Then they were stored for several months while I got sidetracked with other projects.  Recently I picked up a styrofoam disc for a couple of dollars and used a straight edge to cut out the middle for a wreath shape.  I used my hot glue gun to adhere the collection to the shape base and wrapped an old piece of linen fabric around the wreath to hang it up. 

  Earlier this month, I made the jute "vase" you see in the above photo.  I wanted something to pull in the color of our couches on that wall, but also maintain a vintage beach cottage style as well.  So I started with the orange juice container we had just finished, some jute rope, Mod Podge, a foam brush, hot glue sticks and the glue gun, and a straight edge.  

I started wrapping the jute around the base of the container, using Mod Podge and a foam brush.

As the shape of the container began to change, I switched to the hot glue gun since I needed the extra hold around those tricky curves.  I continued wrapping and gluing all the way to the top.

I also changed my dining room board from the farmhouse toile below

to a more clean, simple background.  I removed the stapes and fabric from the canvas and stretched out the new white fabric across the frame.  When the new fabric was stapled to the canvas frame, I pressed in upholstery tacks to the canvas around the border.  I changed out some of the decor for summer as well.

I find myself shifting with the seasons and craving new colors as each season rolls around.  However, I want to be careful not to be too caught up in the acquisition of stuff just to satisfy my desire for new eye candy at home.  In order to be wise with what we've been given, I do a lot of recycling with old materials and items.  I like to shift the decor around from room to room, rearrange vignettes, purchase a new piece of fabric on sale for a few dollars, use my craft supplies to make something new, or hit up a flea market or thrift shop with a bargain or two to bring home.  I'm striving to be more careful about purchases in general, and to donate items we will not be using any longer.

I'm a woman who loves color, style, and design.  I'm not proud of this, but it can be particularly hard for me to exercise restraint with both clothes and home decor.  This past year the word "discipline" has popped up for me quite frequently so I've been challenged in this area.  I don't believe that means I should never buy anything or never spend any time working on my home, but I am learning to live more creatively and carefully with the blessings God has provided for us.

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
 Proverbs 31:27

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lessons from the Wemmicks

If you haven't read the book You are Special by Max Lucado, I highly recommend you read it when you have the opportunity.  Although it is a children's book, there are truths for children and adults alike.  I have the tendency to put myself down and place my own value in the hands of others instead of standing secure in what I know to be true about myself.  While I read it to my son, I hope and pray that he will learn to live in the knowledge of his worth.  At the same time, I absorb a little encouragement for me too!

In this story, Punchinello is the main character who lives with other Wemmicks, wooden people all made by Eli the Carpenter.  Each day, the Wemmicks hand out stickers to each other.  Gold stars, not surprisingly, are for those who are attractive, talented, and intelligent.  Grey dots are given to those who are falling apart and make mistakes.  Punchinello struggles because he is often the recipient of the dreaded grey dots and the more he tries for gold stars, the more discouraged he becomes and the more mistakes he makes.

 Finally he meets Lucia, a Wemmick with no stars or dots.  He learns her secret is to visit Eli the Carpenter and spend time with him. She knows her true identity is not in what the other Wemmicks think but in the fact that she is loved by her Maker.

 Punchinello loves the idea of living free of the marks given by other people and as a result visits Eli and begins to understand that he is loved beyond what he could have imagined.  His healing begins.

What a great story.  It is so easy to become more focused on pleasing or impressing other people and as a result get completely distracted from spending time with God, our Creator.  How often do we allow ourselves to be defined or judged by others instead of resting securely in what we know to be true?  Do we find too much value in receiving admiration of others?

Away with the stars!  Away with the dots!   Lucia had the right idea, living free of the marks place by others and fully enjoying her true value.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sorry?'s been a while.  A few nasty colds and out-of-town guests later (the colds were nasty--not the guests!), we are settling back into a normal routine.  It feels good to fall back into some familiar rhythms and be able to enjoy getting out of the house.  As much as I am a winter chick, I join the hordes of  Midwesterners wishing fervently for spring to make its welcome appearance.  I can just envision the first tiny green buds popping out on the branches outside our windows.  A couple of days ago I was delighted to see the tulips pushing up and reaching into the fresh air.  Beyond that, I am already anticipating loading my son up with our beach gear in a wagon and walking across the street to soak in the waves and the sand on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Ahhh.  Can't wait.

But today, although it's warmer than many winter days, we are still not quite ready for the spring and summer activities coming soon.  So my son and I were out playing with other moms and kids in an indoor area.  My son, as toddlers are prone to do, was becoming too rough in his play with another child.  As I observed what was happening, I scooted over to intervene.  After talking with him, I directed him to apologize to the other child.  He was not in favor of this idea and made it known!  Fast forward.  As I finished interacting with him, I overheard another individual commenting that she hated it when her parents made her apologize when she wasn't truly sorry.  The overall gist of her opinion was that we're just teaching kids to lie when we tell them to apologize if they really don't feel sorry.

Now I must confess that my insecure side immediately flared up and I felt hurt and defensive that (in my opinion) my parenting was being criticized.  However, trying to get past that muck, I did reflect on the other parent's comments.  After thinking about how I handled the situation, I concluded that I wouldn't change my desire to have my son apologize.  Am I teaching him to lie and be angry with me for expecting him to say or do something that he doesn't feel in that moment?

I fully anticipate that he will be unhappy with some of my expectations, especially in the heat of the moment.  That's just going to be reality for many years to come.  But teaching him to lie? The incident made me recall a discussion I had recently, in which someone pointed out that emotion often follows theology, and emotion will catch up later.  Maybe in a moment when we are struggling with negative emotions, we won't feel like apologizing when we've wronged or in some way offended others.  The theology I believe shapes my actions (I try, anyway!) and I recognize that in order to make a conciliatory gesture to "right my wrong," I need to say those words...even when I don't feel very sorry.  Besides, learning to say "I'm sorry" can be incredibly powerful in relationships.  I'm sorry can melt icy silences.  I'm sorry can open the doors to conversation when anger blocks the lines of communication.  I'm sorry demonstrates an attitude of grace, forgiveness, and humility as Christ modeled for us.  I'm not suggesting this be done in a doormat mindset that leaves no room for healthy boundaries.  However, there are many times when we've done something intentionally or inadvertently to offend, and the apology extended can be instrumental in repairing either a small crack or large fissure in a broken relational bridge.  Furthermore, the more we practice our theology, the more our emotions will run parallel to the theology we're living out.  As behavioral patterns form and our minds are transformed (Romans 12:2), we will have more discernment to recognize what is true and right, act on it, and our feelings may gradually be more in tune.  Of course there will always be times that we don't feel like making the right choice, but when we do it anyway we increase in this little bit of growth I like to call building character.

My son is not old enough to have this discussion, so for now he will be expected to apologize when he hurts others.  Hopefully as the years pass we can talk more about why we apologize so he can at least have an early understanding that we apologize not in a deceitful attempt to patch things up but to genuinely demonstrate love, kindness, and a little healthy humility. 

Now after all of those you think I can remember this during the next disagreement my husband and I have with each other?

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.  Romans 14:19

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Friday Aftenoon

It looks like spring today and it feels more like spring today.  We're even going to Spring Forward this weekend.  These brought some of the spring mood inside...

I decided for certain on Ash Wednesday what I wanted to focus on for the next 40 days.  While some of those thoughts are personal, I will share that I want to work on being fully present in each moment.  I desire to discipline my mind not to run unleashed through all of my concerns, to do lists, and ideas so much that I forget to engage in the beauty of each small moment.  I am so much more grateful and content when I live this way.

I was reminded of this as I took my camera and began snapping some photos today.  Plants and flowers always encourage me to be present in the moment, because I stop, crouch, lean forward, and focus carefully so as not to miss out on the artistry of each small detail masterfully designed by our Heavenly Father.  What would it be like if I engaged in this manner more often?  Would I notice more people in need?  Would I catch a smile more often from my family?  Would I spend more time in awe at the work of God's hands?  How many times have I missed something precious?

I hope that I will discover more about living into each moment so I don't lose out!  It's a challenge to change old habits and start new ones.  But I love it when something fresh and new is blooming.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gifts from the Weekend

I returned yesterday from a refreshing weekend in Oak Brook.  I had my friendship tank filled to the brim with great conversations.  Some were funny, some were serious, some were revealing, and some were instructive.  I even got a good makeup tip (Bare Minerals, anyone?).   Both Saturday and Sunday mornings allowed for a walk on the area paths with a friend.  Yup, we bundled up and braced ourselves against the wind while we chatted non-stop about life (thanks to my sweet roommates for putting up with my early rising!).  That's what I love about spending time with women, especially my sisters in Christ this weekend.  It is so incredibly good in our current culture to see and actively experience TRUE beauty, which I observed in a community of women seeking and worshiping God with all of their hearts.

My life's journey over the last ten months has been pointing my heart and mind to the state of my soul.  God has used multiple tools to lead me to new places of healing and learning.  I have been striving daily (often minute-to-minute!) to train my thought patterns not to drown in the lethal cocktail of anxiety and insecurity, and to lean into scripture like never before for the only effective antidote.  This weekend was a resounding affirmation to these past months and my current efforts to live out the truths I am learning in fresh ways. 

One of the workshops I attended, taught by Susan Shadid, was called Liturgy Matters.  Not growing up in a liturgical setting and having little exposure to many of those traditions and their related history, I found it intriguing.  I am fascinated by the idea of following a rhythm of time that draws my mind to Christ throughout the year.  As a result, I have decided that for the first time I will participate in the Lenten season this year.  I will be attending an Ash Wednesday service this week and am now reflecting on how I personally will use these 40 days to contemplate Christ's sacrifice and what this means in my life (there is a helpful overview here).  I am eager to experience this Lenten season and wonder how it may impact Easter weekend, which often goes by with a nod and a prayer...topped with a loaded Easter buffet that leaves me stuffed and more interested in seeking a nap than in celebrating Christ's miraculous resurrection.

I am so grateful today for the gifts from this weekend.

           Blessings to you today as you trek through life.  May your soul know true beauty.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soul Matters

The soul matters.  In a big way.

The last week we've had a lot going on at home.  In addition to busy schedules and long, unfinished task lists, my son was ill.  Several days were spent inside our little warm cocoon at home and we were both itching to get out.  As soon as we walked through the door and hit the sidewalk, he opened up his little arms wide to the world as if to say, "I'm back and I'm lovin' it!"  I know how he felt.  We even got to make a stop at his favorite park down the block to take a quick trip down the slide.

 This upcoming weekend is a women's retreat through our church called Soul Matters.  I'm staying with friends in a nice hotel and enjoying good teaching and personal time.  I'm leaving Friday and returning Sunday at lunch so I'll get a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some connecting with God, others, and myself.  I'm definitely bringing my running shoes along and hoping I can find a pretty trail in the area where the hotel is located.

When the soul gets a little weary from the daily trek of life, it's good to make sure that time with God is a priority.  Even if it can't be in the form of a weekend retreat, I find that quiet time to journal, read, and pray sharpens my vision and fills my tank for the next task at hand.  It's helpful for me to be in touch with those habits and activities that replenish my soul. First and foremost, I need...
Time with God.  This is all I need, I could stop the list here!  

There are other soul "thirst quenchers" that I can think of too.  This is not an exhaustive list, but a start:
  • Walking outdoors (surprise!)
  • Time having fun with family
  • Journaling
  • Crafting
  • Reading
  • An evening out with friends
  • A new decor or cooking magazine
  • Trips to the flea market
  • Going to the library
  • Trying a great new restaurant
  • Putting my feet up with a glass of wine and watching a good movie with my awesome husband
Make time for the things that speak to your soul, your soul matters!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

DIY Sunburst Mirror

There are certain design elements that I am drawn to every time I see them.  I love mirrors!  Not necessarily looking IN them, mind you, but I like the way they embellish a room.  In a couple of weeks I'm going to be doing another mirror project...well, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Most of the sunburst mirrors I have seen are quite pricey, so I decided to try one of my own.  I saw a few ideas out there which were great, like this...

Photo by Isabella & Max Rooms
and this...
Photo by Nesting Place
and this too.
Photo by Under the Table and Dreaming
I decided to head out to  Home Depot and use a little of the above inspiration and little of my own.  I like my version too!

  • Plumbing equipment from Home Depot (I'm sorry, I cannot tell you what they are, exactly.  I found them in the plumbing section with bins of similar equipment.  See pictures below.)
  • Round wooden clock base from Michaels
  • Craft mirror
  • Hot glue gun & glue sticks
  • Spray paint
  • Hardware to hang pictures
  • Craft paper (optional)
  • Mod Podge (optional)
  • Beads (optional)
  • Sandpaper
1.  Collect supplies.  Peel tags from plumbing pieces.

2.  Lay out the desired spacing around wooden circle.  For those who are more patient than I am, you may want to draw lines on the back of the wood circle to be exact!  I just "eyeballed" it.

3. Start gluing the copper plumbing pieces around the wood circle.  I started by placing two pieces across from each other.  Imagine a line going from 9 to 3 on an analog clock, and then two more pieces placed at 12 and 6.  These are your base pieces.  It is easier to fill in from these starting points.

Note:  Since the copper parts have a curve to them, it was necessary to elevate them on a pile of books while gluing.  I started with a stool but the books worked more effectively.  I also found that the curved shape of the pieces made it necessary for me to hold them securely in place for about 15-20 seconds before I let go.

4.  Once the pieces are glued on, you may choose to cover up the holes in the copper pieces with beads or another embellishment.  This is optional--I just preferred to add another detail to my design.  Using the hot glue gun again, I circled around each hole with glue and then placed the bead over the top of each hole.

5.  Now that the gluing is finished, the pieces can be painted.  My pictures don't show this, but I used dark grey spray paint first and then white on top.  I knew I would use sandpaper to distress the mirror, and I wanted a uniform base color of dark grey to peek through the white when sanding.

 6.  After the paint has completely dried, it's time to begin distressing! Take the sandpaper and sand as much as desired on the wood.  A VERY light rubbing across the copper pieces which are your "rays" (as well as the beads) will also result in an aging effect.

7.  (Optional step)  I took a piece of craft paper, traced it to fit the circle and cut it out.  I spread mod podge on the back of the paper so it would adhere to the back of the mirror.  It's not perfectly flat, but it gives a more finished appearance.

8.  Get a hammer and attach the picture hanging hardware.

Here is the finished project in my living room!


I'm linking up to Transformation Thursday at Shabby Chic Cottage.and Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest.