Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Hands-On Weekend

We are definitely a DIY kind of family, and this weekend was DIY to the extreme.

Brennan's big birthday present this year is a new play set extraordinaire.  Jim's parents offered to pay for installation so that it would be put together in time for Brennan's birthday party this weekend, but that didn't quite work out.  

After talking to N.E.W., the national installation company that works with Sam's Club, I was scheduled for last Monday.  The local guy (a 3rd party provider) then called to tell me that he couldn't do Monday, but he could do Wednesday instead.  He told me to call him back when I could confirm that the play set would have been delivered by then.  So, as soon as I got the call assuring me that delivery would be on a Tuesday, I called back to confirm installation for Wednesday.  

Unfortunately, the phone number I was supposed to use stopped working (it had worked before), and it didn't accept incoming calls.  When I tried to call N.E.W. back to tell them about the situation and confirm installation, the guy on the phone called their second party to figure out what was going on, and that person said that there was no way I was actually calling anyone and that I was "a liar."  (I had, in fact, used the phone number correctly, and it did turn out that something was wrong with it.)  Then, after being called a liar, I was rescheduled with a different local provider for this coming Monday.  When I  got a call from that local provider to schedule again, it turned out that I had been rescheduled with the exact. same. people.  

Outraged and disgusted, I called and canceled the installation, and Jim spent the weekend in pouring rain and forty-degree temps working his butt off to build Brennan's play set.  

Every single review we read said that this set takes 17 - 25 hours to put together for two people, and every word is true.  As I write, Jim is on his eleventh hour working alone, and I would guess he is only halfway done.  


While Jim built and built, Brennan followed him around like a little puppy dog.  I took advantage of a little quiet time to make this banner for the birthday party, without a Silhouette, thankyouverymuch!  :-)

I do have a paper cutter, circle cutter, corner rounder punch, and a printer, and the graphics are from a piece of fabric Brennan and I bought at a local fabric store recently.  Overall it was pretty easy!

Brennan was supposed to make a 3D mouse for M week at school, so we made this one out of stuff we had around the house (I did have to buy Hershey kisses, but I wasn't complaining):

The body is a plastic Easter egg, the feet are flat glass marbles, the eyes are brads I poked through with the help of a piercing tool I had in my scrapbooking arsenal, and everything is obviously a pipe cleaner.

The kids also enjoyed coloring on the chalkboard wall, which I have almost finished framing.  (It still needs some glue, wood putty, and paint.  I'll post better pics of the actual chalkboard when it's done.)

All in all, it was an incredibly productive weekend.  I can't wait to post pics of Brennan playing on the completed playset!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dr. Seuss Invitations and Dreaming of a Silhouette

So, my little guy turns five in just one week, and we are busy getting ready for a Dr. Seuss-themed birthday party.  Brennan loves Dr. Seuss books, and he also loves the music from "Seussical the Musical."  So when "The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That" premiered on PBS a few months back, Brennan was smitten.  (He has since moved on to "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" and abandoned the Cat.  Poor kitty.)  

B declared right away that when he turned five he wanted to have a Dr. Seuss birthday party.  He hasn't changed his mind since.

Usually I make my own invitations for the kids' parties, but I wanted to make my life a little simpler this year, as I am also planning a women's retreat in April.

In the end, I worked with Etsy seller MommiesInk make these adorable invitations.  All I had to do was load the image onto my memory card, drive to Sam's, and order a bunch as 5 x 7 photos.  When I picked up my photos, they had included a bunch of envelopes, which they always do when I print photos at Sam's to be used as invitations or announcements.  (I never even have to ask!)

I found so many cute items on Etsy, but I tried to be good.  I loved this banner, and I  really want to make one myself, but I'm not sure I'm up for the challenge unless someone wants to offer use of their Cricut or other die-cut machine.  It's just too much work!

Speaking of which...

I really, really, really want a Silhouette.  (Like, so much!)  If I had a Silhouette, I could make my own vinyl decals for my house, create Brennan's birthday banner, make monograms to use to etch glass for wedding gifts, label the kids' toy bins, make more applique shirts for my kiddos...

Oh, the possibilities!

My birthday and Mother's Day are both in May.  Any chance I could talk all of you into donating to the Melissa-needs-a-Silhouette fund?  (hahaha)


What silly, expensive toy do you really wish you could have?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Striped Risk

Well, my hope had been to have the kids' play room finished by the middle of March, and we are getting closer and closer to the end of the month.

I wish I could tell you that I'm done, but I'm not.

But I sort of have a good excuse, and I'm really happy with the progress I've made.

You see, back in mid-January, I was right on track, having made the curtains:

And then, at the end of January, I continued to be on schedule with paint.

In the shadowy mid-day, the green was beautiful. 


But at night, when the florescent lights burned bright, the paint was electric!  I mean, every time I walked upstairs at night, my eyes were on fire!

I hated it.

I had wanted bright and cheerful, not neon.

So I knew I could either repaint everything a different shade of green or take a major risk and try my other idea:  Stripes!

Using this room as an inspiration...

2009 Texas Idea House

I decided to take the plunge.

I pulled some colors from the curtains and bought some sample-sized containers of paint at Lowe's.  Then, I started taping off stripes with no real plan in mind.  (That is some real risk, my friends.)

I did a few stripes each day, partly because the paint needed to dry between stripes, and partly because it was time consuming, and I'm too busy to spend all day in my kids' play room!

When I was about halfway done with the stripes, I started to get really nervous.  The walls still looked pretty neon, and I wasn't sure I was loving the stripes.  And the bad thing about stripes is, once you've painted them, you're semi-committed.  I mean, it is only paint, but because of multiple layers of paint on each stripe, the wall gets uneven, so you can't just paint over them without sanding drywall.

I decided to trust my gut and keep going.  (I was just glad it was my house and not someone else's!)

Well, I am so glad I trusted my instincts!  When all was said and done, it was so worth it!!

Now that the paint is complete, the curtains are in place, the pillows are done, and the new lamps are on the shelves, I'm in LOVE!

It all ties together, it is bright, colorful, and cheerful without being neon, and it looks clean and contemporary.

I love the way the white furniture pops against the walls, and I love that the hints of red tie in subtly without making the room look Christmas-y.  I can just see a large white frame of some kind between those windows!

Sometimes it is important to trust your intuition, even when it's scary.  And sometimes it is okay to get a little behind schedule.  I'm glad I did, because the risk paid off.

I still need to figure out the lighting, find just the right pieces to hang on the walls (that may take a while!), and finish accessorizing.  But we're getting there, and I couldn't be happier.

What risks have you taken lately?

(I'm linking up to National (Not Really) Take a Risk Day on The Nesting Place.  Go check out some risks that others have taken, too!)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reflections on March 20th

March 20th was my grandfather's birthday.  Grandpa helped to raise my sister and me, and he was a very significant part of my life growing up.  He passed away two years ago when I was pregnant with Cora, and he never lived to find out I was having a girl.

He had really hoped it was a girl.

Oh, how he would have adored Cora if he had known her.

Even though I miss Grandpa, today was not a day of mourning or sadness in our house.  In fact, it was a day of great celebration.

Today Jim and I were baptized.

I wish I could describe what an incredible experience this was.  I have been thinking all day about how to describe our spiritual journey in these last months as we have made the decision to be baptized, but it is a really hard thing to put into words.

It has been, for me, a time of intense emotion and spiritual evaluation.  I've had to shed my inhibitions, examine the Bible for what it really says, (and stop depending on tradition and denominational experience to tell me what to believe) and step out in faith.

I could write many paragraphs about how I decided to get baptized today and what I learned in the process, but I'm drained tonight.  Plus, it's really hard to share something so personal on such a public forum.

But, I will say this.  This blog is about things that I love:  Family, decorating, parties, teaching...  And those things are good and have some value in this life.  But those things will all pass away.  They bring pleasure, but they don't bring eternal hope.  Only Jesus can bring hope.  Only Jesus saves.  He is my everything, and I am thankful that now, when I think of March 20th...

I won't just think about my sweet Grandpa.  I'll think of my sweet Savior and a very special symbol of obedience.

God is good.  All the time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Yes, One Small Purchase CAN Make a Difference!

So, I've been helping my friend Hope to change her living room, and it has been so fun and rewarding.  When Hope first contacted me, she sent me a picture and told me that she wished she could have this room:

She ripped this picture out of a magazine a long time ago and has held on to it, dreaming of making a space like this for herself.

After asking Hope what she liked so much about this room and having lots and lots of dialogue about spaces she liked, I learned a few things:  She loves casual, comfortable spaces, she loves yellow, blue, and green, and she likes for the curtains to have a strong presence of color.  Luckily, she is already on her way in several of those areas.

After studying her space, I decided that what we needed to do more than anything was lighten her accessories.  We need to get rid of all of the heavy, gold, gilded frames and lamps and introduce lots of white, some fresh greenery, streamlined frames, and light, fresh pillows. 

Our first mission was to go together to choose those new pillows for her existing couch.  She was worried about having a leather couch when a slipcovered look might suit her style better, but her husband loves the couch and wants it to stay.  I definitely don't think that the couch has to go; it just has to be lightened and freshened up, making it a neutral backdrop.

After Hope and I got back from Pottery Barn the other day, she sent me some before and after pictures of her couch along with the most fun, inspiring email:

"I just couldn't help but email you these photos I took.  I have to admit that I wasn't feeling excited when we were at the store.  I felt overwhelmed by choices and didn't really love anything.  I loved it all together the way Pottery Barn has hundreds of beautiful things pieced together, but I didn't love my measly four pillow cases.  Just being honest.  But I kept telling myself "trust Melissa, trust Melissa...this is why you have asked for her help".  But still no excitement.  When I got home I changed out the pillow covers.  Oh wow!  I was soooo wrong not to be excited!  I really love them and adore the light fresh feeling they automatically bring to the room!  Hooray Melissa!  When we were buying them, I was thinking to myself that I really prefer brighter bolder colors.  Now when I compare my old pillows photo to my new pillows photo I can see how your plan looks so much nicer, cleaner, brighter, etc.
Thank you!  Thank you for going with me!!"

Don't her new pillows make a huge difference?  I think they definitely help move us in the right direction. 

This is proof that just making a small change can have a large impact.  

So tell me, have you ever walked into a store that you love and felt like buying an item or two wouldn't possibly make any difference in your space?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Napkin Pillows

Today I'm thinking about my front living room.  It is not on this year's goals list, other than my goal to add another lamp to the room, but I can plan and dream anytime, right?  I've been helping my friend Hope to choose new throw pillows for her living room, and it got me thinking about adding warmth and depth to my front living room sofa...  Of course, as you change one thing, it makes you think about your whole, big-picture plan, and I'm not sure I have a vision for the first rooms you see when you walk into my home!  So now I'm creating a vision in my mind and would love your input.  Here is where I am right now...

Years ago I found these beautiful napkins and place mats when I was visiting western New York, and my in-laws bought them for me as a gift.  I have always loved them, and I have especially loved that they are reversible and the colors look good with my sofa in the adjoining living room.  I always keep the matching striped runner (not shown) on the dining room table to draw the two rooms together, as they are not separated with a real wall.

The other day I decided that it was silly to only enjoy how beautiful these fabrics and colors looked together when we were eating in the dining room (a rare occasion).  So, I decided to bite the bullet and stitch the napkins together to make pillows.  Now I won't have enough napkins for a large dinner party, but I'll enjoy the pillows so much every day!

I just LOVE how the colors and patterns work together.  Finding fabrics that look good with this green sofa has been a challenge for the last seven (?) years since I got the sofa recovered.  I still love it, but I have many times regretted the fabric choice because it has been so hard to match.  Having another pattern in the room freshens things up so much!

I'm thinking about bringing in dark brown and yellow as my accent colors because I don't really love the salmon-colored roses on the sofa.  Maybe solid goldish-yellow curtains or horizontal tone-on-tone stripes?  Maybe not?  Maybe I should bring in some white?  I've been thinking of adding solid chocolate brown pillows behind the "napkin pillows:" so that I can bring in a chocolate brown chair on the opposite side of the room.  What do you think?  Is the brown too dark?  (I'm trying to tie in my table, which is dark brown, not black.)

And what do I do with the pictures above the couch?  The don't fill in the wall correctly (partly because they're too high), and I really prefer groupings of three, but I'd like to keep using them somewhere in the room because I like the way the prints and the burlap work with the colors in the couch.

(The random napkin in the photo above shows the other side of the stripes near the couch.  I wish I could use it somehow, but I think it's too much floral.)

Help a girl out.  I may enjoy helping other people to design their spaces, but even professional designers (which I am so not) need an outside perspective on things sometimes.  This room could plague me forever if I don't get some fresh perspective!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Little Things Mean a Lot

I think sometimes we underestimate the little things.  Little things can add up to big things, and, I don't know about you, but sometimes I am so paralyzed by a need for big change that I forget the power of baby steps.

This weekend for me was one of great little things and glorious baby steps.

On Friday morning I went to my friend Hope's house, Starbucks in hand, (a great little thing!) to talk about a plan for her living room.  Hope is a good friend with good taste, and I'm honored that she has hired me to help her create a living room that feels more in line with her personal style.  I'll blog about our adventures over the next few months, as Hope has elected to execute the plan in real time, on a real budget.  (I so appreciate this, as most of us cannot realistically change a whole room overnight!)

Hope's hope (I'm lame; I know) is that her room will breathe more, feel more casual, and invite people to come in, put their feet up, and enjoy a glass of iced tea (metaphorically speaking, although I'm sure she'd be happy to make some... Just be prepared to drink it out of a kiddy cup as she is a mom of FOUR young boys!!).

Hope loves blue, green, and yellow and adores spring, so we are going to make her family room feel like spring, year 'round.  Currently the seasons are colliding in a bit in her house, so we'll try to remedy that, one baby step at a time.

While I was at Hope's house we talked about our big-picture plan, we shopped the house a little, and we moved around some furniture.  She had already taken it upon herself to switch out a few things and spray paint some picture frames, and all of these free changes (free minus the cost of some spray paint) have already had a great impact!  Check this out:



The mantel is not done (yes, I'm fully aware that the clock on the left is the wrong size and scale), but we just moved a few things from other parts of the house to see what we needed to do to achieve a different look.  Check out what a difference it made!  I can't wait to show you more as we progress!

And now I will transition from a beautiful room to a beautiful plate of food.  Is this not a work of art?

On Friday night I took another baby step: I tried sushi!  have to tell you, I'm not a seafood person and I don't do raw anything except fruits and vegetables, so this was a stretch for me.  However, of the eight of us who went out, four were experienced sushi eaters, and they assured me that I could have cooked food that wouldn't taste fishy.  (I gave them some major trust, my friends.)

Surprisingly, almost everything I ate was really quite good!  I only ate one thing that was fishy tasting, and that was a smoked salmon roll.  That one did not make me so happy.  Everything else was pretty yummy, especially the pieces that were fried or had cream cheese in them.  (Who knew that sushi could be fried or include cream cheese??!!)  I never tried anything raw, but one thing at a time, right?

After dinner our friends came over for dessert and games, and it was so fun!  A few dollars spent on a babysitter and dinner was totally worth the soul-quenching laughter and joy after a very long and difficult week.  I am thankful that we are beginning to connect more with people who know how to have fun and also run deep.  Those aren't the kinds of people you meet every day, and I am grateful for them.

Here is a picture of my friend Janna trying her own first bite of sushi!

What little things have brought you a lot of joy recently?
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