Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Decorating (and Living) with Guts

I love changing things around in my house. Always have. Even as a kid, I loved to decorate. I still remember most of my bedrooms (and there were a lot).

Remember when this house was amazing.

My 80s bedroom had a matching country blue comforter set complete with a ruffled pillowcase and ruffled curtains that framed our white vinyl mini blinds. I even remember buying it. My sister got the pink one, and I wanted the blue. They had other colors, but I liked the blue. My mom even questioned it, "Are you sure you want blue?" The wallpaper was a subtle stripe adorned with peach and country blue roses. I loved my room. It was inspiring... so much that I colored on everything (wallpaper included). 

Similar to my country blue curtain.

Later I wanted something more grown up, which meant bright, matching New Kids On The Block (or NKOTB to their biggest fans) sheets, comforter and curtains. 

This is actually it! I remember tracing their signatures and staring into those black and white faces!

I shared a room with my sister while we lived at my mamaw's house. It had a matching white eyelet comforter set with small satin ribbon bows in the trim -- so fancy! The room had white wicker furniture that actually matched and mirrored closet doors. 

In the 90s I still liked the country, antique style. I had another comforter set with mauve roses and vines. I remember lots of baskets and pictures of flowers and cute baby animals...

Later, I decided to paint my room sage. It was really more of a mint though, and after a year of it, the color completely grossed me out. To this day, if any color hints at that awful sage mint I have to change it. Right then. Finally, I painted my room a soft cream. It was pretty. I opted not to do curtains over my mini blinds. Instead, I accentuated the half-window with a scarf and old-world sconces. I loved the old world look... way too much. 

In college it was zebra print pillows and a khaki duvet cover with purple sheets (Go LSU!). Great choices until I saw the peachy-beige color of my dorm room walls. It clashed in the worst way. 

It's funny to think about all of those rooms. I spent so many hours there! It gets me thinking... what will I think of when I look back on my current style? 

So much of what I do is limited by my budget, but I also limit myself by playing it safe. When I chose that blue comforter set, I didn't doubt it. I knew what I wanted. I liked blue. Gosh I wish I could be that decisive now. I wish I didn't care so much what was in style, expected or in everyone else's homes. 

And come to think of it, I want to live my life more like that too. I want to go for the unexpected. Not worry about others' opinions. Just go with what I love. 

How about you? Do you remember all of your childhood bedrooms? Do you wish you could decorate and live life with more conviction?

I have a board on Pinterest called "Design with Guts." I hope one day, some of my rooms will look more like them. My life too. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Spending Fast

It's been 17 days since I last went shopping. Holy Moly! 17 days! And can I tell you, it's been hard!

A while back I read this post about The Small Notebook's "No Spend Month." I was shocked, impressed, inspired, but I did nothing.

Until a few weeks ago. When a dear friend pointed out that I'm always buying stuff. Who me? (in my most innocent voice) I don't shop that much. But it got me thinking. Hard.

It is unfortunately true. Even when I don't buy, I shop. A lot. I love shopping online, in person, you name it. I never met a store I didn't want to explore.

This, combined with a heart-to-heart about our financial goals and bloated credit card bill, gave me the push I needed to set a goal: No buying for 1 month.

For many people this isn't too hard. But for me, it's been quite a challenge.

For the first two weeks, I didn't buy, but I did shop. I quickly realized that shopping and not buying isn't very fun. Plus, think of the time I was wasting looking at stuff I had no intention of buying. And I do not like to waste time!

So, for the last two weeks of my spending "fast," I'm not going to shop either. Well, much. (some things are unavoidable)

I did buy groceries, but with a much smaller budget than usual. I'm also sitting in a coffee shop typing this. And, yes, I did buy a snack. But it's a far cry from my regular habits.

There are moments it's easy, but most of the time, the money is burning a hole in my pocket! I keep a mental (sometimes written!) list of all the wonderful things I'm going to buy when I can spend money again. But it has opened my eyes to just how much stuff I spend money on that isn't really necessary.

I even talked with my husband about it last night, and we're planning our own No Spend Month next year.

So how about you? Would you try a spending fast? Have you done it?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grocery Store Come-Backs

Most days I avoid the grocery store with my three monkeys. If I do happen to go, the comments are inevitable. With three kids under three, I've heard some good ones. I thought I'd share a few and what I wished I would have said (or was thinking) at the time.
Oh they are so cute! And what are their names? How old are they? My sisters cousin has twins... a boy and girl... and they weighed... Honey, did you see the babies? Come look...
Thank you for showing an interest in my adorable children. We have exactly 23 minutes in this store until one of them poops or has a meltdown. I have 17 items left to purchase. Please let me continue my shopping!
Wow, you're going to the grocery store with all of them? You're brave!
Yes, I am brave. I gave the maid and nanny the day off and thought I'd take the children for a stroll in the market. Really... I'm in Walmart. I don't have a maid. I also don't have any diapers, bread, toilet paper or milk in my house. And, last time I checked, you couldn't purchase those items at the McDonald's drive thru and the Walgreen's pharmacy doesn't consider those items over-the-counter medications. :)
I bet they're a handful!
Yes they are, but they are also a blessing. 
My absolute favorite:
They are beautiful. How do you do it?
I'm so glad you asked! I don't really have a choice. (Usually this is where I chicken out...) I am so dependent on the grace of God. I rely daily on the Holy Spirit to give me the patience to care for these precious children. I am nothing without him. On the days I try to do it in my own strength, I fail. They are a daily reminder of my inadequacy as a mom and human being. And I'm so thankful for it. They keep me on my knees. I have to trust God to get me through this season. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chalkboard Paint on Kitchen Cabinets

The chalkboard trend... by now everyone has at least pinned one of these babies on pinterest. (Hopefully one from my etsy shop... hee hee) They're fun and so useful. I just love 'em.

A couple of months ago while finishing up a chalkboard project, I had a moment of brilliance... aka I got distracted. On a whim, I painted the inside of the cabinet doors on my pantry. I didn't sand or prime it. I painted the cabinets last year, so I knew it was a good surface. After two coats and about 15 minutes of work, I have a simple, hidden surface to jot down my weekly menu and grocery list. 

The best part: it's super convenient!

I have an iphone app to manage my grocery list, but many times that's too inconvenient. I end up forgetting what I was supposed to write before I can find my phone. I may be in the middle of fixing dinner and realize I need three things. I just jot it down (usually in my messiest handwriting) and add it on my phone later. The menu is great because I just open the pantry and see what meals options I have. 

Here's another shot of my gorgeous cabinet. I did organize it for these photos... in case you were wondering. :)

I buy my chalkboard paint at Lowe's, but I've also seen small cans of it at Walmart in the craft section. Just make sure you have a good surface for the paint to adhere to. I use a disposable sponge brush or roller and apply two coats.

*Before you use the chalkboard, "season" it by rubbing chalk over the entire surface and erasing it with a dry paper towel or cloth. This will make it easier to erase items.

Let me know if you give this little idea a try!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Repainted Foyer

If you're friends with me on Facebook, you know that a couple of weeks ago, I repainted my foyer... for the fourth time. The problem is that there is so much going on in the space: crazy black/tan patterned flooring, too many doors and chair molding.

I originally painted it yellow-gold on top and grey on the bottom. I liked the color combo, but it didn't flow with the rest of the house. So, on a whim, I took out my leftover gold paint and painted the bottom half. Better. 

I lived with that for a few months. On another whim, I whipped out some Valspar Belvedere Creme that was left over from a furniture project. I painted the bottom half again. Better still. It stayed like that for almost a year. 

I just wasn't feeling the yellow-gold. My living room is a greenish-bluish-grey, the kitchen is a darker blue-green shade, and the study is green. It was too much. My house felt choppy.

So, I started taping up swatches. I tried everything, but nothing looked right. Add the crazy floor tile and a chair rail... ugh! I knew what I had to do, but wasn't painting a room white considered chickening out? Seriously, out of every color in the rainbow, I couldn't find one I liked?

I hurriedly picked up seven swatches of cream/ivory/white at Lowe's while my monkeys attempted to escape the confines of the shopping cart. I selected Muslin Wrap by Valspar. Another trip with the monkeys yielded paint (in an eggshell finish) and a roller. 

Two days of naptimes, and I have a pretty, ivory foyer. I really love it. It's light and airy. 

I'm loving how my Valentine's flowers looked in there. I now want hot pink flowers in every room. 

Here's how it looks from the door. That's my great-grandmother's buffet. It's terribly beat up and scratched. One day, I will get around to refinishing it. My other grandmother gave me a 100-year-old frame that I'm going to have made into a mirror. It will eventually go in here.

Here's our new family sign. I like the way it turned out, but the letters are too dark. Being the perfectionist I am, I always find flaws in my own work. Still, I love the verse, Col. 2:7. 

I also have a chalkboard hanging in there. What do you think about painting the inside of my front door that same shade of blue-green? Too much? I just can't stop...

Here's the whole room. Sorry it's a little blurry. We're eventually going to replace the tile with the same wood that's in the living room. And that popcorn ceiling's gotta go. One thing at a time... At least I like the wall color!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mom Advice Part II: What to read

This is the second post in a two part series on mom advice. Like I said earlier, I'm not an expert yet, these are just some thoughts on the subject. I do not have it all figured out!

1. The Babywise books

I didn't do absolutely everything by the book, but this was such a huge help in the first few months! When I had my first child I didn't know anything. I kid you not. It's embarrassing how little I knew... like babies eat all through the night. Whaaaat???? I have to wake up in the middle of the night. Seriously... I had no clue!

So, a friend recommended this book. When my little cherub was 5 weeks old and not sleeping at all. I desperately ran to the bookstore. As I read each chapter, I implemented it. She was sleeping in her own bed for 2-3 hours at a time at night within two days. She slept through the night at the appropriate age and has done so ever since. It works people!

Babywise 2, Toddlerwise and Preschoolwise are also good.

2. A New Kid By Friday, by Dr. Kevin Leman

I seriously think this guy is a-maz-ing. This book is more about older children, but it's good stuff. His parenting advice is brilliant. I want him to be a little angel on my shoulder telling me how to parent my kids. All his books are full of great advice.

3. Making the Terrible Twos Terrific, by John Rosemond

This is a great book about the 18 months to 3 years age range. His advice is also great. It's reassuring. It's low-stress. It helps you realize that this too shall end. And when you have two 2-year-olds, you really need that! I leave this one out and go back to it often.

So those are my top three. I've read other good ones, but these are my favorites. I also highly recommend Focus on the Family's daily broadcast. They have an iphone app too. It's so encouraging to parents and gives godly wisdom on how to raise your kids.

Now a word about what not to read.... There is a lot of bad advice on parenting out there. And a lot of it comes from people who are supposed to be "experts" on the subject. And maybe you think mine is too. But since you're still reading...

Here's two things to remember. 1. Take parenting advice from someone who has been successful at it. 2. God gave your kids to you. You get to decide how to raise them.

I hope this was helpful. If you have an awesome parenting book to suggest, please share it in the comments section. I can always use the help too! :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

It doesn't take much to make me smile

I have two new things in my living room that put a smile on my face every time I walk into the room. I'll start with the biggie:

I made a slipcover, y'all! And I am so stinking proud of myself. Is it perfect? No way. But that's not what I was after anyway. I just wanted pretty.

Here's what I started with:

I found two of these Old Hickory wingback chairs at a garage sale a few months ago. I paid $40 for the pair. I originally thought I would reupholster them, but slipcovers seemed more practical. I followed Miss Mustard Seed's video slipcover tutorial here. It was not easy. I'd say I'm an advanced beginner when it comes to sewing. This was a challenge!

I used bleached drop cloths for the fabric. The slipcover cost about $35 in materials and took several long nights and nap times. But it was worth it.

What a transformation! I love my "new" chair. And I'm sure the next slipcover will look even better. 

The other reason I'm smiling is two brass candle sconces I found at an antiques shop.

They were $15 for the pair. I love them on either side of the TV. Now, I'm not sure what else to put up there. Suggestions?

Maybe I'm an old lady at heart, but I just love these. Or maybe I really am an old lady. I have about 20 gray hairs right in the front of my head... Ugh... I digress...

It really doesn't take much to make me smile. And when I find or make something pretty and inexpensive, I just love it even more. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mom Advice Part I: What to buy

A good friend of mine is having her first baby and asked for any advice I could give. So, I decided to do a little two-part series on the subject.

Let me start by saying I am in no way, shape or form an expert. But I'm happy to give my two cents. I'll start with a list of what to buy and what not to buy.

Delta Winter Park 3-in-1 Convertible Crib - Espresso Java
So, for starters, you'll need a crib. I wouldn't break the bank here. I'd look for one that's convertible to a toddler bed. I'd also go gender neutral if you're planning on having more kids. It's very tempting to think that you need to buy the best, but they outgrow it in no time. And then you have to buy a real bed that they'll keep for a lot longer. Some beds convert to full-size or twin beds, and maybe it's worth the money. I didn't do it that way. But I had twins, so it wouldn't have been practical for me anyway.

While we're on the topic of beds, make sure you have at least three crib sheets. You never know when you'll need an extra (or two)...

You also need a place to change diapers. I bought a nice dresser to match the crib and added a changing pad on top. Easy peasy. And when baby is out of diapers, you have a pretty dresser.

This little swing was a life-saver. It's the Boppy Rock-in-Comfort travel swing. It's inexpensive, can fit in your car and my kids loved it. You may also want a bouncy seat. They are great for colicky babies.

This Fisher Price booster seat is awesome. It's space saving, portable and will take your child through their preschool years.

Finally, get a good pack n play. You will use it when you travel, and you can use the bassinet in the first few weeks when baby sleeps in your room. It's also good practice to let your little one practice napping in it. Then when you're gone during nap time, it won't be so hard to get him down for a nap.

Dream On Me Umbrella Stroller with Child Tray in Blue - 453-B
If you can, get a used full-size stroller, and buy a good umbrella stroller. They're portable and light. You'll use it often. Look for one that comes with a tray.

Absolutely DO NOT buy tons of toys. Keep in mind that the best toys are those that have been around forever and are not expensive. After hauling loads to the Goodwill, I've learned my lesson about buying things that last.

Well, that's about it for what to buy. Keep in mind that the lists from the store are made by people who want you to buy more stuff. And it's so tempting to want the best of everything, but it's not really necessary. So many things can be purchased used through Craigslist or local resale shops.

If you have any other advice, please share it in the comments section!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Give that mom a pat on the back

Being a mom of little ones can be exhausting. The diaper changing, endless laundry and temper tantrums can leave us drained. But I think moms with kids at any age can feel that way. When I imagine parenting teenagers... yikes.

So we bounce along and do our best, trying to live up to the job description. Our purpose in doing it all gets drowned out by the to-dos and daily battles. We lose sight of the bigger picture. 

That's how I felt last week when I received an unexpected email telling me I was doing a great job with my kids. I had tears while reading it. And I have tears thinking about it still. I needed that. 

Encouragement is so important. It costs almost nothing to give -- just a few words or strokes with a keyboard. Yet, many of us withhold it. 

I'm not talking about flattery. If you don't mean it, by all means, don't say it. But if you see a mom doing a great job, let her know. I think we could all use a pat on the back sometimes.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up." I Thess. 5:11

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Mom-mobile

Yesterday as I was getting my daughter out the car, I managed to pour half a large coke into one of the carseats. Fortunately, no child was harmed in the process. When I took the carseat out, the crumbs, candy and other gunk on the seat could no longer be ignored. "Yep," I thought, "This is gross."

Not my actual car. Imagine this level of dirty on the inside.

I considered taking a picture, but I was too embarrassed. Seriously.

At first glance, the backseat just looked cluttered. Shopping bags, toys, jackets and shoes hid the true filth lurking beneath. After a quick declutter, I began to vacuum. I found candy, sand, the equivalent of one McDonald's small fry, chewed gum, sucker sticks, used kleenex, finger nail clippings, half-eaten biscuits, cookies, an empty milk bottle, toy jewelry, a banana peel, receipts, etc.

I know, gross.

After the vacuuming, I took kitchen cleaner and wiped the gunk off the doors, console and cup holders. Huge improvement.

I'd like to keep my car clean, so I'm trying a couple of tips from a very wise lady (you know who you are). 
  1. Never walk inside empty-handed. Keep a bag in the car to bring things in and out of the house. I used a reusable shopping bag and folded it underneath the driver's seat. 
  2. Whenever kids are going to eat in the car, prevent the mess. Keep a beach towel under the passenger's seat and spread it the floor to catch crumbs. When you get out, dust off the seats and shake out the towel. 
So, there's a towel in my car and a bag under my seat. We'll see if I stick with it. What about you? Is your car's interior (or exterior) embarrassing? Or maybe you have some tips to share with the rest of us?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's All About Perspective

I loooove it when my house is clean. By clean, I mean an empty sink, toys put away, surfaces cleared... you get the idea. With three little kids, that doesn't happen much. About the only time that it does happen is at night, and I'd say that's maybe 25% of the time. The fact is, when the kids go to sleep, I'm zonked! But I really do try to keep the house somewhat tidy.

The other day, my husband was walking through the playroom on his way out the door and said the strangest thing. As he stepped over a sea of toys, he said, "I love this. I love seeing that they had fun in here."

"Whaaat? That's you reaction?" I thought.

My typical train of thought when I see the mess is, "We have too many toys. I should get the trash can. I'm so sick of picking up all this mess every single day! Uggghhh!"

So his perspective -- much better.

What if you took that mindset next time your house looked like this?

Or this? 

Let's try not to sweat the small stuff. Instead, let's focus on enjoying our families, being thankful for what we have and living life. In our homes, in relationships and in life, perspective is everything.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Purposeful Life

What if we actually did this? What if we really did what God wanted us to do? Many of us don't really know what that is. 

Sometimes I think I get a glimpse of it, but then I get busy and distracted. The day ends and I don't know where it went. But what if I were more purposeful in how I spent my time? What if I really did make the most of every opportunity?

Maybe I would accomplish something remarkable. It gets hard when the things that don't matter to God, really matter to us. Or when those things are good things, but not God's priorities for you right now. 

In James, we're encouraged to ask God if we lack wisdom. I know I could a new vision of what God want's me to be doing right now. How about you?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cabbage and Black-Eyed Peas

I've never been a fan of cabbage, but it's tradition, right? Last year I went to a friend's house for New Year's Day, and she served egg rolls. Brilliant!

So, this year I made my own. And they were yummy.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Egg Roll Wraps
  • Cooked chicken or pork, cut into small pieces (I used half a rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 bags coleslaw (or you could cut up a head of cabbage)
  • Can black-eyed-peas, rinsed and drained
  • Light soy sauce
  • 1 Egg white
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
To begin, put a little oil in a large pan or wok. Saute the onions and carrots on medium heat until soft. Add the meat, beans and one bag of coleslaw. Pour in about 1/4 cup of soy sauce. I don't really measure it, just estimate. Stir until it starts to wilt, then add the other bag. Add more soy sauce if it needs it. (I usually do a taste test.)

Once the filling is done, take an egg roll wrap. Add a couple of spoonfuls in the center, and fold it up. Seal it with a brush of egg whites. The egg rolls can be fried in a skillet, but they taste much better deep fried. I used a Fry Daddy. Make sure the oil is really hot and drop it in. Let it come to a nice brown and flip it over.

Drain it on a plate with paper towels, and you're done! This makes a huge batch. Either plan a party or cut the recipe in half.

This recipe does take a while. I wouldn't consider it a week-night staple, but it's a fun alternative if you want to do something special. In the hour or so it took to clean my kitchen and cook, this is what my children accomplished...

Ummm... that's why most of my dinners take 20 minutes. In case you can't tell, that's just about every toy they could reach pulled out onto the playroom floor. At least they were quiet though. 

My husband and the twins ate it. My daughter tolerated it. So it passed the kid test at my house.

I hope you'll try the recipe, and that you're blessed with health and prosperity in the new year!
Thanks for stopping by Doing More Than Laundry!

I also write a blog about design and my furniture business:
The Little House. Check it out!