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Be the Good

Be the Good

I remember having a conversation with my mother when I was pregnant with Cooper and telling her that I couldn’t listen to the news because it freaked me out and made me wonder what I was doing bringing a child into such a terrible world. My mom told me she’d felt the same way when she’d had me and pointed out that I’d turned out okay. I left the conversation feeling less worried and the thought came to me, “Well, Audrey what would happen to the world if the ‘good people’ stopped having children?”

It’s easy to be dragged down by the difficult things we see or experience in the world. Because the terrible things are often so obvious and are the things that make the headlines and the gossip rounds, it really can seem like the bad is overpowering the good. But it’s important to remember that good is a force too. A powerful force, but one that is often easy to overlook because it isn’t sensational and is so often displayed in quiet and subtle ways. Perhaps, we’re doled out such small doses because it is so powerful.

Right before Christmas, I started reading the book Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza.  I normally wouldn’t choose to read about the Rwandan Genocide during a season that elicits feelings of joy and merriment, but it was a book club selection that I’d postponed reading and it was soon due at the library. Surprisingly, reading the book did not end up making me feel depressed, but it made me reflect on my faith, blessings, and ability to be optimistic. Despite losing almost her entire family and being hunted by former friends and neighbors,  Immaculée  is a very positive and optimistic woman full of love and forgiveness – some of the strongest forces of good.  I was struck by many of the things she said, but felt a need to record this quote in my journal, “God is the source of all positive energy, and prayer is the best way to tap into that power.”

I still worry about my kids, I am a mom after all. I worry that the world will rob them of their innocence and whether they will make good or bad choices as they grow older. Most of all, I worry that my parenting won’t be good enough. I try to quell those worries though and remind myself that good is a powerful force. A force that can overcome my inadequacies as a parent, a force that can help me or my kids survive tough times, and ultimately a force that comes from God.

My new sign and mantra. Inspired by Pinterest and made possible by wood found in my attic. Now I just need to hang it.
My new sign and mantra. Inspired by Pinterest and made possible by wood found in my attic. Now I just need to hang it.

 

Everyday Use

Everyday Use

Everyday Use” is a short story by Alice Walker that you probably read in a high school or college English class. A story you probably hated because you read it in an English class. I’ve always liked the story though, because like good literature should it always gets me thinking. In case you didn’t do your homework, I’ll give a painfully oversimplified rundown of the plot. (My apologies Alice Walker! Surely it can’t be worse than Spark Notes.) The story features an encounter between a mother and her two daughters. One daughter, Dee, has gone off to college where she believes she has rediscovered her African heritage while the other daughter, Maggie, has stayed home helping her mother. Dee has come home to visit and asks her mother if she can have some of the family quilts that were pieced by hand, quilts that were promised to Maggie. When the mother tells Dee the quilts belong to Maggie, Dee gets upset saying her sister couldn’t appreciate the quilts and would “probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.” After some more arguing, Dee leaves in a huff telling her mother and sister that they don’t understand their heritage. Every time I read the story I can’t decide which sister is right. Is it better to hang the quilts on the wall for display or to use the quilt for what it was intended? Do either of the options really give the quilts the respect they deserve?

I was thinking about this the other day when I was putting away some dishes that I rarely use. They were a gift from my grandmother and since she gave them to me five or six years ago I’ve used them twice. The majority of that time they’ve sat in carefully packaged boxes in my storage room. They’ve been carefully preserved, but for most intents and purposes they have been wasted. As I was looking at the naked cupboard tops in my kitchen I was struck with brilliance on how I could give the dishes some “proper respect.”

The cupboards before.

 I pulled my “fancy” dishes from the basement and arranged them on top of the cupboards. Now they’re not only serving as practical decorations that brighten my kitchen, but they’re reminding me that I should use them. Maybe not everyday, but I think any day has the potential to be a little special.

The cupboards after.
The cupboards after.
Big Boy Room On a Budget

Big Boy Room On a Budget

I’m not generally one of those people that creates a master design scheme for decorating a room. (I’m just not that fancy.) So, when we relocated the crib to Ellen’s room I slowly began my process of collecting and making things (as cheaply as possible) to turn Cooper’s room into a big boy room.  There are still things that will get upgraded as he gets older (like a bed frame), but I think I’ve created a base that will transition well as he grows.

We found this dresser on the side of the road. It was fairly beat up, but we cleaned it up, re-stapled the back, replaced the handles, and did some touch-up sanding and staining. It still isn’t the most high quality piece of furniture, but it works great for a kid’s room and saved something from the landfill. We put a picture of Jesus, the ever handy temporal thermometer, and some decorative pieces Cooper received when he was born on top of the dresser. The number hamper came from Ikea and I made the banner out of scraps to go over his crib.

The curtains are blackout curtains I made when we first moved in. (If only this simplified version tutorial had existed then, I could have made them a little less stiff.) The bed rail was given to us by one of Noel’s co-workers that was unloading his kid stuff. The framed cross-stitch was made by one of my grandmas, the stool is made from sustainable bamboo, and the comforter and blankets were made by me. All of the stuffed animals were gifts.

I’d read a green design article once that said you should pick age neutral patterns for big items so they can grow with your child, so I choose the fabric for the comforter with that in mind. I’d had my eye on this fabric for awhile and snatched it up when it was on closeout on fabric.com.

We picked up the little table and chairs at Ikea, the rug was on clearance at Home Depot, all of the toys were gifts (having the only grandchildren means we never have a shortage of toys), and most of the books were either gifts or purchased used. (I highly recommend Better World Books if you’re looking to purchase used books online.) The bins were purchase new and serendipitously matched the rug, the frame holds a family photo taken by my wonderful mom, and the plant is an orchid that despite all my care seems it will never grow flowers again.

Noel made the cube organizer with the help of an online tutorial and the use of a co-worker’s table saw. I think it turned out pretty good for his first woodworking project. (Side note: I took wood shop in high school, Noel took keyboarding 🙂 ) I sanded it and painted it to make it presentable.

Even though I didn’t necessarily start out with a vision, I’m pretty pleased with how everything came together and so cheaply at that.

Decorating: Cheap and Green

Decorating: Cheap and Green

There’s always a few things that are worth paying a bit of money to make your home more green (like insulating or installing an efficient cooling system like Noel talked about yesterday), but I’m always on the lookout for cheap ways to make my home a greener and more welcoming place. When I was working on Ellen’s bedroom I cam across a post on how to green your nursery on the cheap. A lot of the tips could be applied to the whole house, so here’s a list of some of my favorite ways you can be green when you’re decorating your living space.

  • Open a Window. I feel like busting open a window makes my home a more inviting, laid-back  place. Plus, it’s a cheap way to breathe cleaner air and get rid of indoor pollutants. I even open the windows now and again on a sunny winter day. (I don’t have any science on this, but I feel like it keeps us from getting sick as often.)
  • Houseplants. Another cheap way to make your indoor air quality better and an Eco-friendly way to decorate. Here’s a list of  10 houseplants that work as air purifiers and NASA’s list of air purifying plants. My favorite plant right now is my big Sanservia Plant  (AKA Snake Plant or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue). I think it’s pretty and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.

  • Reuse. Not only does this cut out the waste new stuff would create, but it gives you an opportunity to be creative. If something doesn’t quite fit into your decorating scheme, look for a way to repurpose it so it does or find another place in your house where it can be useful. For example, when I decorated our bedroom I covered existing pillows and used an old quilt for the base of my comforter.
I love ideas like this one from soyouthinkyou’recrafty.com. Now if only I had a sturdy old bookcase . .
  • Buy used. As much fun as organic mattresses or tables made from sustainable wood would be, I really think this is the ultimate way to be green when acquiring new stuff (as well as save some green). This way you aren’t creating more waste and any horrible chemicals used in manufacturing the item have probably out-gassed.
  • Clean. This of course makes your house more inviting and is another great way to help the indoor air quality of your house. Plus, it helps maintain the stuff you already have so you don’t have to replace things as frequently. Take it to the next level and buy green cleaners or make your own.
  • Keep it simple. Doing this cuts clutter (which makes for less dust and better air quality) and also keeps you from buying unnecessary things (which creates more waste). I like to think that this also teaches a valuable life lesson.

Are there any things you guys do to stay green while beautifying your home?

Dye Job – Natural and Otherwise

Dye Job – Natural and Otherwise

No this post is not about dying my hair. Trust me, that’s never going to happen. I’m not big on food dyes. I try to avoid them in the things I buy and have only used my my little vials of food coloring once in the past two years.  (When I unsuccessfully tried to make cute cupcakes to impress the pre-teen girls I taught at church, which was silly on so many levels.) With Easter coming up I’ve tossed around the idea of dying Easter Eggs and in my green sleuthing have found several suggestions of how to dye eggs naturally. While I’ve decided to hold off on that tradition for at least another year (I’m just not ready to deal with that potential mess), I thought I’d share my two favorite findings. There’s these suggestions from Annie’s Eats and these from 100 Days of Real Food. If you try either of them, you’ll have to let me know how it goes.

Now, before you begin to admire me for how green I am, let’s talk about the second dye debacle of my week. I saw a wreath on Pinterest that proclaimed itself to be “super easy” and seemed fairly green to me (made out of old t-shirts and cereal boxes). I wanted something to make my house more springlike, so I decided to make it, but found I didn’t have any sacrificial t-shirts that were the appropriate colors. So, I picked up some Rit Dye while I was at the fabric store and didn’t really think anything of it until I was reading the instructions and some of the warnings made me begin to question how eco-friendly (or just plain safe) the product was. (Keep in mind, I stay current with some people/organizations that are pretty intense in their chemical avoidance.) Then I had one of my classic brain debates:

Well, it’s not like you’re eating it. But the clothes will be touching your skin. All. Day. Long. It is helping you reuse something. But it will be wasting water and flushing questionable stuff down the drain.

(By the way, this type of debate is the reason why it takes me so long to shop and I’m constantly being asked by employees if I need help.) In the end, the dye won out and I added a few stained shirts to the mix to help me feel like I was at least extending the life of clothes that might otherwise be tossed. I opted to use the “bucket method” as I thought I’d have more control over the color and limit the amount of water I used. In retrospect, I think the “washing machine method” might actually be the way to go since the color would probably be distributed more evenly and the machine is probably more efficient at rinsing things out than I am.

Sadly, the wreath didn’t end up being as quick (which is what I interpreted “super easy” to mean) as I thought. By the time I got to 2 1/2 hours of rolling fabric and using the glue gun I was getting pretty agitated (and so were my kids). But now it’s done and I can leave the dyes and the crafting alone for awhile. Phew.

Energy Burst

Energy Burst

I’ve been pretty tired lately. More tired than I’ve been my whole pregnancy. You can tell by my To-Do list. Recently it has honestly looked about like this:

  • Walk 1 mile
  • Watch The Bachelor on Hulu
  • Take a bath and listen to “Birthing Affirmations” (Hypnobirthing track that gets you thinking positively about birth)
  • Nap
  • Do hair and get dressed
  • Load dishwasher

Even with Noel making lunch and me letting Cooper stand 4 inches away from the TV while he watches DVDs, it will take me the full eight hours that Noel is at work to get through the entire list. Then when Noel gets home from work, I lay on the couch and complain about how tired and uncomfortable I am while he tries to make something for dinner that I might actually eat. I might clear the table or give Cooper a bath, but most likely Noel will do those things while I bounce on my exercise ball and then nearly fall asleep in Cooper’s bed. (Poor Noel is such a trooper.) Lately though, I’ve had this crazy resurgence of energy. For example, on Monday I went to Target to buy Cooper a new binky. (I was really hoping his old one would last until we were ready to take it away, but it’s in pretty sorry shape.) On a whim I decided to slowly meander the store and look at all the clearance shelves. I came across some curtains at 50% off that fit perfectly into the color scheme I have in mind for our front room. When I got home I set to work hemming the curtains and making pillows out of the extra fabric for the couches. Keep in mind, I haven’t touched my sewing machine in a month.

The new curtains and my snake grass plant.

When Noel came home for lunch he was surprised and told me to try and take it easy that afternoon. I lounged for about 45 minutes checking emails and blogs before I felt a compulsion to clean our kitchen chairs. I cleaned in between all the slats of the chairs and every nook and cranny of Cooper’s high chair. Then I sanded the gunk off the bottom of the chair legs, and glued felt strips to the bottom of each one in hopes that it will protect my floors a little bit. I also intermittently stopped to start new loads of laundry and get all our clothes washed. When Noel came in the door I’m pretty sure he thought I’d gone insane.  I’m not sure what this burst of energy means, but I’ll take it.

 

The Nusery

The Nusery

Over the weekend we did the final touches on the little girl’s room. I wanted it to be simple, but feminine and am quite pleased with the final product. The best part was the minimal amount of cash we put into it.

This is looking in the doorway. On the wall we have a framed copy of “My Day Old Child” from my mother-in-law and a framed free printable of “You Are My I love You.” The rug is a Target clearance find, the flower lights were a Christmas gift a few years ago from my parents, and the rocking chair was my “reading chair” when I was little. The toys and Bumbo were Cooper’s.

My parents used the crib with me and my three siblings and I’m sure it’s a “death trap” by today’s standards, but Cooper survived, so we’re keeping it. What can I say, we like to live on the wild side. (That reminds me, one of the first times we left Cooper with someone the husband reassured us, “He’ll be okay, and if he isn’t, well you can always make another one.”) I did buy some breathable bumper pads and found the elephant sheets for $5 at Down East.  The gray elephants were one of Ellen’s Christmas gifts and the brown polka dot one is one I made using this tutorial from Make It And Love It. I made the name banner out of scrap fabric and the tulips are some dried ones from a plant Noel got for me.

Across from the crib we have a shelf with a little air purifying plant in a clearance pot from Lowe’s, the framed picture of my great grandma, and an Alaskan doll which is of course from the Alaskan grandparents. The night light of course is an LED nightlight 🙂

Thanks to family, after Christmas sales, gender neutral clothes of Cooper’s, and some hand-me-downs from a gal at church (who had twin girls, so we have two of some outfits), the closet is well stocked with 0-6 month clothes.

The final wall houses the changing table. The elephant collage you’ve seen before and was made from a Martha Stewart tutorial. We hung our ever handy XL wet bag on a hook and picked up a little hamper from Ikea. The changing table was Cooper’s and the paper lanterns were decorations at my sister’s wedding.

I figure if you don’t factor in the clothes or the stuff that we bought for Cooper, the whole nursery cost less than $50.

 

Five Star Hotel . . . or Something

Five Star Hotel . . . or Something

Back in July I was taking you guys on a tour of our lovely home and left off with a promise that the basement was up next. I’m sure many of you were continuously disappointed as you checked our blog week after week and we never made a second mention of it. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget, I just didn’t really know what to say about it. Even though the basement was 80% finished when we moved in (carpet, paint, the whole shebang), it didn’t change the fact that we only have enough furniture to fill up 50% of our house. For months all the basement housed was an old television on a rubbermaid container, random boxes, and a futon. It was a great place for doing aerobics, but wasn’t very aesthetically pleasing. We’ve gradually collected a few pieces over the months (Have I mentioned how shockingly expensive furniture is, even the crappy kind?) and with family arriving for the holidays we’ve at least made the place into something slightly cozy. It’s likely that the basement will remain much the same after our guests leave (barring us winning some sort of home makeover contest), so at the risk of losing even more readers due to further postponement of the basement tour, here is what we’ve got:

First of is the unfinished portion of the basement. It houses our extremely swanky laundry room. Maybe some day we’ll be like those people in Better Homes and Gardens who run out of rooms to remodel and have too much money laying around, so they have to put granite counter tops and fancy sinks in their laundry rooms. Maybe.

Off the laundry room in one direction we have our furnace, plumbing, and a space that will someday become a bathroom (not pictured). In the other direction we have our storage room.

In the finished portion you will first find the family room. Someday we envision it being a place where we will lounge on comfy couches and watch movies on our projector, but for now there’s the lawn chairs and the spacious 22″ television on the shelf.

The air mattress is not one of our permanent fixtures 🙂
This is the shelf that usually houses the tv, but we moved it upstairs so guests could enjoy movies and television while sitting on couches.

This room also doubles as our workout room. All guests are welcome to use our extensive home gym equipment.

Here is a close-up of the “art” montage we have on the wall. Really it’s just some pictures of us and a bunch of National Parks postcards that we framed.

As you head down the hall you’ll pass this closet

and the owl art. The owl art is really just some cute wrapping paper that covered one of my birthday gifts that I framed in clearance frames from Target.

At the end of the hall is my “Do Room,” which I’ve showed you a bit of before.

This air mattress is also not a permanent fixture 🙂

The last room is the official Guest Room. It’s actually bigger than our Master (complete with two closets) even if the picture doesn’t exactly portray that.

The Guest Room also comes equipped with its own entertainment center. Very snazzy.

Yeah, we still haven't completely phased out the rubbermaid furniture.

And that my friends, is our awesome basement. Pretty close to five star accommodations wouldn’t you say?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Despite what previous posts may have led you to believe about my Christmas spirit, I really do enjoy getting into the season in fun ways. This past week has done a great job of getting us psyched up for the month. We’re hosting Christmas this year so we decided we should get a legitimate Christmas tree (no three foot trees or fake ones rescued out of college dumpsters this year). I know it’s silly to love a plant, especially one that isn’t exactly alive anymore, but every time I walk into our front room and am greeted by the scent of this beauty I can’t help but smile. The tree even looks somewhat designer thanks to the gorgeous hand cross-stitched ornaments my grandma has made for me over the years and the glass balls I scored at Target for 70% off last January.

The best gifts come in large bellies 🙂

Friday night we went to Golden’s annual Candlelight Walk. It’s a fun little tradition the town does where everyone walks down the main street carrying candles and singing carols. Then when everyone arrives at the end (and after a million local dance studios and singing groups perform) they have a big countdown and the mayor flips a switch that officially turns on the town’s Christmas lights.

Cooper and Noel playing in the snow.

Saturday we shoveled snow and put up Christmas lights.  Several of our neighbors really get into decorating (think life size nativities in front yards and a million flashing lights), so our house seems pretty plain in comparison, but we like it.

Our simple lights.

Then to truly get into the spirit of Christmas we watched our church’s Christmas devotional. It’s always good to be reminded that Christmas truly is a celebration of Christ’s birth.

Stockings hung on the piano with care.
The Rest of the Main Floor

The Rest of the Main Floor

Today I bring you the rest of the main floor. Let’s start with the front room.

We have big plans for how to lighten this room up and add color, but that will come (as many other things) with time. The plants are orchids that I have my fingers crossed will bloom again and the curtains are my fabric.com clearance find creation.

This is the entryway with my clearance hooks from Target. (Can you tell I just peruse clearance sections at stores?) Noel and I are in debate about whether a table would fit/look good along that wall.

The rest of the room. We’ve got some super groovy lamps and art in the works, but you’ll have to wait on that.

This is a built-in bookshelf in the dining room I forgot to show you. Hopefully someday it will be organized in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

This hall leads to the three bedrooms and the main bathroom.

The framed Rubber Duckie silhouette is my favorite detail of this room. I kind of got the idea from this tutorial, but didn’t actually follow it.

And the last thing for your viewing pleasure is Cooper’s room. (Note: I was reading Where the Wild Things Are to Cooper the other day and realized that the book actually says “Let the Wild Rumpus Start.” I think “begin” has a better ring to it than “start” though so I will not apologize for my sign’s misquote. Hopefully Maurice Sendak won’t be offended.)

The room was blue to begin with and Noel just felt like there needed to be clouds, so we bought a sea sponge and got to work with some of the paint the former owners left us. Turns out I’m an awful cloud artist. I painted over the two clouds I attempted and Noel took over from there. He did a great job and I think it has a nice whimsical look. We also have some glow in the dark paint that we’re going to use to put constellations on the ceiling. The curtains are blackout ones that I crafted. Measuring was a bit of a fiasco for me (I realize it shouldn’t be that difficult, but for some reason it just is NOT one of my talents), but I think they turned out okay.

On one wall we have what I would like to call the “Activity Center.” I spray painted some old cookie sheets and one one of them has some marker board sheets (another Target clearance find) and the other is a home for magnets (which I need to purchase).

For this one you’re going to have to use your imagination. We bought a Martha Stewart cube organizer to house Cooper’s toys and books. I was optimistic that it wouldn’t be a piece of crap, but was sadly disappointed. We returned it and have plans to make our own cube.  In the meantime, just close your eyes and imagine that all those little bins are sitting snugly in a sturdy white cube organizer. Yes, that’s much better. Next up: the basement!