Feeling Crafty

I guess that blogging about my home improvement projects lit a fire under me, because I woke up yesterday with a resolve to finish the job that I started. 🙂

I put the last coat of paint on the back bathroom walls in the morning. When I finished, I realized that I has about 1/4 cup of paint left from that  gallon. I knew that I wanted to use some of that paint to make custom artwork for my front bathroom…and if I let it dry out I knew that I would put off the project because I didn’t want to open a whole new gallon.

I had a deadline! I work very well under the pressure of a deadline. Some call it procrastination…I call it creative…procrastination. Ehh. It works for me.

So I loaded up my mom, my boys, my niece and nephew, and headed out to Michael’s to get a few supplies. We hit the jackpot and found a 5-pack of 16″x20″ canvases for $9.95! I only needed two, but Zander has fallen in love with art in the last couple of years. He had been begging for me to get him canvases…so two birds and such. I also picked up a larger canvas for half off (of the normal jacked-up prices…) for the back bathroom. One tube of paint for an accent color (regularly $3.99, but it was also 40% off), and we were ready to go!

I had seen a pin on Pinterest that gave me the idea for this project. I decided to use the colors from the two areas that I was painting (front bathroom–green; hall, foyer, and back bathroom–blue) plus the accent color that I picked up at the store to create artwork that would coordinate perfectly with my rooms without running all over town trying to find the right picture at the right price.

Here’s what I did:

Tape off your design

First, tape off your design.

Then do it again...

Then do it again…

Then pretend it's a paint by number (without the numbers)...

Then pretend it’s a paint by number (without the numbers)…

Remove the tape

Remove the tape and enjoy!

Custom art work for super cheap!

Custom art work for super cheap!

Again, I said custom art work for super cheap!

Again, I said custom art work for super cheap! See how the blue in the painting coordinates with the blue peeking through the doorway? Brilliant!

The final result

The final result…note the bathing child, which allowed me the few minutes necessary for taking these pictures without the creation of messes of horrific proportions.


Moving in (Part 2): Bathroom Before and After

Remember how I said a few days ago that I didn’t make any changes to our house when we moved in? Well that was partly because we were entirely too broke to be buying a house, and partly because we literally had to move in within hours of signing the papers.

After closing, I walked into the house that was so near perfect when we chose it…so inviting that we just had to offer on it…

And realized that they took the rose tinted glasses with them when they left! It was still nice, and I was still happy that it was ours…but there were a few glaring issues that we hadn’t seen/noticed (or weren’t THERE until after our home inspection).

BB hole in a window pane? Check.
Stains and hair on carpets from dogs living INSIDE the last month? Check.
Bathroom wall with a baseball-sized patch that wasn’t even sanded or painted (just covered with a picture)? Check.
Other issues I can’t even name now??? Check.
Money to fix it? Nope.

So I put tape over the BB hole, used a friend’s carpet cleaner to TRY to clean the carpets, and hung a cardboard-backed piece of Hobby Lobby art on the bathroom wall (on the nail that was already there) and called it a day. Or a year. Or seven.

The bathroom was the very first thing on my list of “things that need to change” in our house.

Lovely wall with patches and holes

I filled and sanded lots of holes on this wall since we didn’t want to leave the broken fixtures up eternally…please also note the patched-but-never-finished area. It looks small here, but it was about palm-sized. Lovely.

Another lovely wall

I sanded and patched around the switches here, then filled in the holes from the TP holder. Since it jabbed you in the side every time you used the toilet, I decided that it had to go.

Vanity view

I’ve always loved dark blue counter tops, haven’t you? No? hmmm…

The problems with this room (in no particular order) were:

  • Dirty walls that wouldn’t come or stay clean…no matter how many times I scrubbed them
  • Broken fixtures. The toilet paper holder and towel bar were both irreparably damaged and had been for most of our tenure
  • Walls with bumps, patches, holes, gouges, etc.
  • Unfinished…finishing? The trim and door facing wasn’t ever blended/puttied/connected/whatever they call it to the walls. Long story short, there were gaps that were just plain gross. They looked ragged and collected gunk.
  • Nails that weren’t completely sunken when putting in the door facing, and holes that weren’t filled when the nails WERE fully sunken
  • No cover on the tub overflow hole…so the baby gets to bathe with a “rusty hole of interesting possibilities” that fascinates him endlessly
  • Lovely cream/gold speckled tile in the tub/shower area that is a BIT tricky to coordinate with both a paint color and the dark blue counter tops that I flat out didn’t have the cash to replace (understatement of the year?)

Since we’re still relatively broke, I still didn’t have a ton of cash to throw at this room. I did, however, have $100-$150 that I could stretch or splurge with to my heart’s content. 🙂

Since I had several projects going at once, and since planning had been going on little by little in my mind for some time (thanks Pinterest), I had a document on my phone to track goals for each room.

These were my goals for the room:

  • Sand and fix bad spots on walls (total cost was $15 for ALL rooms…so maybe $3-5 for this one)
  • Paint walls ($30) and trim ($5-10 after dividing among all rooms)
  • Reuse towel ring and don’t replace tp holder–use basket on tank for tp.
  • Frame for old print for the wall (This was a nostalgic semi-splurge. I realized after choosing my paint color that the old cardboard-backed print that had hung there all those years was perfectly coordinated for my new colors! I decided to frame it properly and use it instead of buying new art. $25 for the frame)
  • Fix overflow cover ($9)
  • Use hooks instead of towel bar; install two lower ones for the boys to use ($15)
  • Frame Mirror ($15…but I haven’t done it yet. I have the materials, but we kind of went on vacation…soon!)
  • Storage cabinet above toilet (this is on hold until I find a great deal on one…that won’t fall apart when you look at it sideways)
  • Additional art for either side of vanity (this will be about $7 total…I’m using a pinterest idea that I’ll share when it’s finished!)
  • Total so far–around $130. With the storage cabinet, I’ll probably end up a little over the original budget, but that’s why I haven’t bought it yet. 🙂

Want to see???

I had some great help. My wonderful mother came to help cut in, hold ladders, and dispense water and wisdom. Then I got a little more help…just look…

Roll baby roll

Roll baby roll

I love this one

I love this one

Isn’t that great? Then I got a little more help…

Precious helpers

Precious helpers

Michael came in and drilled the holes for the hooks, since I was still afraid to use the drill (I’ve gotten over that!) Then…we were finished.



Another shot

The area in which I’ll eventually put a pretty white cabinet…and half of a helper.

New Bathroom

The money shot! 🙂 What a change a coat of paint and a little love can make!

I love it more than I can say. It is an accomplishment that means so much more than it would if I had just paid someone to do it. It means that I conquered negative thoughts that said I couldn’t. It means that I added beauty and value to our home.

And that was only the beginning…more to come!

Frustration and Appreciation

Yesterday was one of those days that makes a stay-at-home mom long for a nice desk job…even though it’s Saturday.

It started with an early wake-up (is there any other kind with kids in the summer??), followed by a wet spot in the (master) bed from a leaky pull-up. Joy.

While I was cleaning up the wet mattress and stripping the sheets, Wyatt found and emptied onto the floor the new bottle of homeopathic cough/cold medicine that was the only thing that FINALLY got him to sleep the night before with his gunky self.

At some point, I finally fed, cleaned, and loaded everyone up for a trip to (anywhere but our house) Walmart to get groceries…and another bottle of the medicine since he was still gunky. That trip went relatively well…except for the constant whining about being hungry (“we just ate breakfast, you had a snack in the car, and we’ll have lunch when we get home…NO WE AREN’T GETTING….”). You get the idea.

Then we checked out. I paid for the groceries and reached back for the receipt. RIP! The contents of the brand new bag of tortilla chips now covered the inside of the shopping cart. All of them. Both boys had a chip in each hand and an innocently baffled look on their faces. I just calmly scooped the chips into an empty shopping bag and asked the cashier (who happened to be a friend from high school) to toss them into her trash can. She offered to let me get a new bag, but at that point, all I could see was the exit.

The day continued in like fashion…spilled drinks, artwork on bedroom furniture, gravy that wouldn’t thicken, cubed steak that didn’t seem freezer-burned until you tasted it, and the list goes on. Did I mention that I’m trying to lose weight, but all I can think about is wanting a Hershey bar??? Argh!

As I talked over my day to Michael, he commiserated about the frustrations that I’d faced. He didn’t mention the fact that he’d just finished his sixth straight 13+ hour work day (even though he’s actually only supposed to work four days a week), or that he will only have one day off before doing it again. He didn’t talk about having to work outside in the heat so that I could sit inside with our children. He didn’t mention any of the struggles from his own job. He just listened and understood.

Then a couple of hours later, finally, I got the little man to sleep. Zander was already down, so all was quiet. I was able to breathe a sign of relief…until I remembered that I hadn’t yet finished washing the dishes from supper. They were still sitting there on the stove.

I found the motivation deep within myself to go back into the kitchen…and I found this…

LoveIt took my breath away. This is my husband speaking my love language in a way that I had forgotten he even knew. This is the most beautiful gift that he could have given to me because it was so thoughtfully chosen, so quietly given…

The beauty of the roses…the message of “relax” in the wine…the message of “you’re beautiful the way you are” in the chocolate…and the message of appreciation in the card that he chose.

We don’t really emphasize holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day with one another (of course, OUR moms still get cards…). I’m good with that. It works for us, and it makes moments like this even more special.

He lifted me up when I needed the affirmation most…not when the calendar told him to appreciate me. There is so much beauty in spontaneous expressions of love.

I am so blessed to have a loving, giving, compassionate husband. He is my love. He is the other half that God crafted to complete me, and I am so thankful for it.

The easiest homemade bread EVER

If someone was just randomly reading my blog, I guess that they would immediately assume that all I cook and eat is bread. I have a recipe for whole wheat bread, one for rolls, and now yet another bread recipe!

That person would be really close to being right. 🙂

I love bread. I love homemade bread. Mainly though, I love EASY and DELICIOUS homemade bread.

Did I mention that this recipe only uses a handful of ingredients? AND doesn’t require kneading? AND comes out with a deliciously buttery crust that will make you think that you are consuming something that involves way way WAY more than 1 tablespoon of butter? Yeah…I now make 4 loaves at a time.

Oh…and they freeze beautifully too. Bonus!

I found the recipe at Alexandra’s Kitchen, and you should look there for great step-by-step photos that I just can’t seem to make.

Peasant Bread

4 scant cups flour (I prefer bread flour)
2t salt (kosher is great, but any will work)
2c warm water (warm to touch but not hot enough to burn)
2t dry yeast (or one packet)
1T sugar

Mix water, yeast and sugar. Let proof for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir well. Cover the bowl and let rise 1 hour in a warm spot.

While the bread is rising, thoroughly butter two oven-proof bowls (1-1.5 qt works best because larger bowls won’t let it rise properly) using about 1T of room temperature butter for each bowl. Seriously…use the whole tablespoon of butter in each one…you’ll thank me later.

After the rise, fold the down with 2 forks. Kind of pull it down and toward the middle a few times with the forks to “punch it down,” then divide it in half. Place each half into a buttered bowl.

Let the dough rise another 30 minutes. Go ahead and turn the oven to 425 so that it’ll be ready.

Bake the loaves at 425° for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375° without opening the door and bake for another 22-25 minutes. If the bread is browning too much on top, you can cover it loosely with foil for the last 5-10 minutes.

Turn it out onto a wire rack to cool a few minutes before devouring.

The bottom crust will be golden brown, deliciously buttery, and perfectly crispy. The smell is amazing, and your husband will think you can work magic.

If you want to freeze the second loaf for another night, just let it cool all the way before wrapping it in foil. Pop the foil-wrapped loaf into the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, you can put it (foil and all) directly into the oven to warm.

I cook 4 loaves at once now so that we can enjoy the fresh-baked taste even on quick-cook nights. Since I don’t want to worry with a single huge bowl of dough that doubling the batch would make, I just make two regular batches at the same time. It’s really only a couple more dishes and no extra time.

Hope you try it and enjoy!

“Moving into” our home…after 7 years

Sooo…I bought a fantastic bundle of homemaking e-books a few weeks ago in a frantic effort to whip myself into shape. 🙂 It is such a rich collection of treasures that I’ll be digging through those books for the next two years. There were a few books (or studies), however, that really spoke to my heart. I picked two and dived in.

And broke down barriers that I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t see.

31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way

Vibrant Living Strategies Workshop from Well Grounded Life

Amazing. Plain and simple.

To condense several days of major personal journaling and revelation into a manageable blog post, I’ll just give you the pertinent highlights.

We have lived in our house for nearly 7 years, and I haven’t even changed the living room curtains. No, really. In fact, the only major change we have made was painting the living room a few years ago because the grey/green was depressing…and I could no longer live with the horrible WHITE sponge painting on the brick fireplace.

I realized that we have been living in survival mode from the moment that we married. Sometimes (often) that survival mode was for financial reasons, sometimes it was parenting, and sometimes it was a million other things. Because of that mindset, we never really made any steps toward making our house our own. We have lived like renters for our 7 years of home ownership.

I also realized that I have spent much of my adult life on auto-pilot.

Which brings me to my resolutions (the fun part)…

From my Vibrant Living Strategies  journal:

I want to live intentionally! I want to have drive and a purpose. I want to be proud of my home when I invite people in…or better yet, when my husband comes in the door each day. I want to be proud of myself as a wife, a mother, or even a person for the first time in a very long time.

I am praying that this course and the other changes I’m going to work on making will give me the encouragement I need to make real and meaningful changes in me, my attitude, and my heart…not just my circumstances.

Day 1 of 31 Days to Clean led me to create this home care mission statement (because you need to know WHY you’re cleaning before you can be successful changing HOW you clean):

I want our home to have a sense of peace. I want our home to reflect intentional living–not haphazard, “fall where it may” living. I want to be able to enjoy the beauty of the things in our home. I want to have a functional home–where the things we have can and do fulfill their intended purposes. I want to stop living with a renter’s or survival mode mindset! We are homeowners, and our home should look and feel loved.

So I made plans. I looked at my home with different eyes. I listed the things that bothered me most about our home, and then I began taking steps toward fixing them. I grabbed the “low hanging fruit” to make quick progress.

Luckily, I also took before and after photos along the way with future blog posts in mind. 🙂

Although there are bigger projects to share, I’m going to leave you with my first steps…because that’s where you start any journey.

My helper is checking that my picture is level.

My helper is checking that my picture is level.

I decided that the first step was to properly hang the pictures that I use to decorate my house. Since I was living with that renter’s mindset, I just had them hanging on nails that were already in the walls…whether they were really in a good place or not. Hint–they usually weren’t.

My mom painted this in college. Isn't it awesome?!?

My mom painted this in college. Isn’t it awesome?!?

They were small steps, but hanging those paintings made such a difference in my house and heart. I made progress that day, and it began the process that has helped me to make even more.

I also got to use power tools later. Stay tuned. 😉


Annnnnd I’m back

According to my dear friend and neighbor Nikki, I’ve been on sabbatical from blogging long enough. So here I am!

Life has been a crazy ride for the last year, and it feels like I’m just now beginning to get a little bit of traction. I certainly haven’t been idle though. I have lots of projects to share and lots of things to talk about!

Currently, I’m working on spring cleaning, painting about 60% of my house, and dreaming/planning for a kitchen renovation. Zander is out of school for the summer, so we will have lots of adventures to talk about too. All in all, if I can keep my wits about me long enough to actually sit down and write semi-regularly, it’ll be a fun time.