Decorating

I have been working on redecorating my bedroom for quite some time. I think I mentioned that before. My brother came and visited and kicked the re-do into high gear. Mister and I don’t really work super well together on projects: we get very angry at the other person for not reading each other’s minds. And since we both lean towards the quarrelsome side, we can get a smidge testy. Once when we were engaged we took an upholstery class. We had to find a chair and then spent the entire two month class reupholstering it. Towards the end of the semester one of the other couples in the class was very surprised to find out we weren’t already married. “You two argue so much I just assumed you were,” they admitted. So yeah, projects together have never been our strong point. But we know how to channel all that passion, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, so after Mister and I attempted to hang some bead board together, I decided to have my friend Tamara help instead. There may have been a lot more laughter than was needed, but we eventually got it done and it looks pretty decent. We only put one piece in upside-down!

The thing I’ve really wanted for my new bedroom, though, is a wrought iron bed. We currently have a lame head board (swirly white wrought iron that my mother-in-law picked out for us about a month after we got married). I wanted something a lot more cottagey and old-fashioned. And something with a footboard too, because a bed without a footboard seems teenager-ish.  I had my eye on this Medocino bed from Pottery Barn. But you know how Pottery Barn is–so overpriced. I mean, I’m sure they bed is nice quality but the prices are a little absurd.

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This bed frame is $1300 (not including 8% sales tax and $150 shipping). Not in our price range. But it’s so cute! Ah well. I did find it at the Pottery Barn outlet for $789. But that’s still a little more than I could get Mister to agree to. He didn’t want a new bed to begin with and it’s hard to get someone to plunk down several hundred dollars on something they don’t want at all. I had already pushed my luck getting Mister to agree to my red and white color scheme so I figured the bed would have to wait. You gotta know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em, as Mr. Kenny Rogers would say.

I don’t understand all these bloggers who do a whole room remodel in less than a week. Do they have all the furniture and decor before they even start? How do they know how it will look once it’s put together? I bought one comforter and then decided I didn’t like it once I put it on the bed. It took me six more months to find one that I liked better (fortunately I sold the first one–bought on clearance at Pottery Bar–on ebay for a $70 profit.) It took me two weeks just to figure out how to change the blade on my miter saw, let alone cut the mouldings for my bedroom. I think I’m not motivated enough to be a home decor blogger. Also, I don’t like artistically arranged stacks of stuff on tables. I like my tables free of clutter. A lamp, yes. Books and shells and vases full of who-know-what? Yuck. So I can forget about being a career as an interior designer.

Because I love to waste time online, I peruse Craig’s List for various items quite often. Wrought Iron beds, among other things. (Although it’s a little hard to find wrought iron beds because a lot of people are dumb and think it’s “rod iron”.) But I found a guy over Thanksgiving break who was selling the exact Pottery Barn bed I wanted. In the size I wanted. For $90. Ninety dollars.

Despite living an hour away from me, I boogied down to his house immediately. Even Mister couldn’t complain about that price. That’s less than our sheets cost, for Pete’s sake!

The bed was on his back deck and it was freezing out (literally. A rarity in Texas). There was sleet coming down and I could barely see the bed frame. I could tell it had a few nicks and scratches but for $90 who cares? I knew I could touch it up, no problemo. When I pulled my money out, they guy actually said, “you know what? Just give me $60.”

I seriously almost fainted.

I would have danced a jig if it hadn’t been so cold out. Just for kicks I dragged Mister into the Pottery Barn outlet on our way home to show him the exact same bed for $730 more. He got a little more jazzed about our bed after that.

I have expertly painted over all the nicks and the bed is ready to go. I’m just waiting on the new mattress frame (turns out I need a bed frame that will accept a footboard. Another $100. Still a deal.)  And I need to frame the vintage postcards I bought on Etsy. But they’re being shipped from Germany so who knows when that will happen. See what I mean? How am I ever supposed to finally be done with this bedroom? By the time it’s finished I’ll probably be sick if it. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Last week amid the birthdays and lice and Easter preparations, Mister and I escaped to the Round Top Antiques Fair. I always write about this because it’s so completely great; when are you guys going to believe me and go yourselves? Who cares that it’s the middle of nowhere in Texas? Tori Spelling made it out last year! You should too!

This time my main shopping trip was to Marburger Farm–which is one small part of Round Top. I think Marburger has the best items and displays, hand-down. Keep in mind that this takes place in the middle of a 40-acre field. There are several giant tents set up, but there is no paving or air con. Despite this the sellers do a fantastic job making their booths look gorgeous. This is especially amazing considering how many of them come from around the country.

Marburger also has wifi and nice Kohler bath trailers (with actual toilets!) so it’s not completely primitive. These were some of my favorite things that I came across. (Not nearly as kitschy and oddball as the flea marketish parts of Round Top.)

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I thought the shells were nice but an actual zebra head? That’s kind of a niche market.

 

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Because who hasn’t thought, “you know what this mantel needs? A turtle shell.”
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Have you ever seen so much Ironstone in one place? I haven’t. I noticed a really pretty cake stand that I thought I might splurge on until I took a look at the price tag.

 

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$1600 for a cake stand??? For that price I expect it to be painted with the tears of 18th Century Chinese concubines. I think I’ll stick with the ceramic version from Pier One that costs 97% less.

Also pretty but way too expensive:

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Antique napkin rings. At between $150-$200 each this lady has sunk a lot of money into inventory. And think of all the polishing! Oy! I don’t even own any cloth napkins. I think that officially makes me tacky.

So no, I didn’t buy much at my trip to Round Top. But let me tell you, it is the best window shopping on Earth. So mark your calendars; the next fair will be October 3-7.

To find out more about Round Top, you can read my post from the last fair here.

It’s How-To Tuesday! Today I’ll be showing you how to make a fantastic cork board jewelry display. Like most girls I love jewelry. But there were lots of pieces that I rarely wore because they were in a giant jumble in my jewellery box.  I tried to find some way to organize all my necklaces and bracelets and earrings in an easy-to-see way, but I have a lot of stuff and there just wasn’t anything that really fit my needs.

I was browsing at the Container Store a few months ago for–get this–a container. I needed someplace to stash my knitting supplies, but instead I found a really cute magnetic bulletin board. There was a necklace hanging from one of the pegs and the wheels in my brain started to spin. I considered buying the magnet board to store my jewelry on but it was $50 and the magnet pins were $12 for 8 of them. Way too expensive.

After wandering around my second favorite store, Hobby Lobby, (my favorite, in case you had to ask, is Target. Duh.) I decided to do a corkboard jewelry display, using an empty picture frame.

The great thing about a corkboard holder is that it can be completely customized to whatever your jewelry needs are. Using push pins makes it possible to change your storage as your jewelry collection changes. Have a lot of long necklaces? No problem. Suddenly get obsessed with bracelets? Just add  a bunch of pushpins and you’re all set.

This is an incredibly easy project. It requires zero artistic ability. Things can get a little spendy if you go out and buy a brand new frame (use that 40% off coupon that most stores offer online!). There are lots of frames at thrift stores or you might have some ugly art around your house that can be tossed while still using the frame. All the materials you’ll need (besides the frame) will cost about $20. Considering how much jewelry boxes and displays are, that’s a real bargain!

I originally made my corkboard from a pre-made frame that I got at Hobby Lobby. But I also made a corkboard for my daughter, India, and used a hundred-year-old frame that that my grandma gave me which had an ugly, faded print in it.

The important thing is to consider your jewelry collection. Think about how many necklaces you have and how long they are. What about bracelets? And earrings? Do you mostly wear post earrings or danglies? You’ll want to consider how much square footage you’ll need. You don’t want to make too small a corkboard. Remember that bigger is better since it’s likely that you’ll be accumulating more jewelry through the years.

Another thing to consider is where you’ll put this thing. Mine ended up being 28 inches x 32 inches and that’s not exactly a size of frame that can be stuck just anywhere. I wanted mine kind of near my closet but not out in broad daylight for my kids to pull stuff off of. I ended up putting it in what I fondly call, “the poop room” (the little room in my master bath with the toilet in it).   It works for me.

These are the items you’ll need to make this:

Picture frame. It doesn’t need to have glass or a backing. Just the square frame.

Thick foam mounting board. This can be cut to size at any craft store or picture framing shop.

Roll of cork. This can be found in most craft shops.

Spray Glue.

Pushpins. India opted to make some cute pushpins but I prefer clear.

Ribbon for dangly earrings (optional). I used thicker ribbon to make it easier to see the earrings, but any width of ribbon is fine.

Utility Knife.

You may also need a heavy-duty staple gun for the backing.

I highly recommend using the thickest mounting board that will fit in your frame. The cork is actually pretty thin, it’s the foam board that will do most of the actual holding of your jewelry.

If you’re using a frame that has something else in it, pay attention to how the print and glass are held into the frame. Sometimes there are little nails called brads. These can either be removed or simply bent out of the way with a flathead screwdriver.

Before you start assembling your project make sure your mounting board actually fits in the frame. This is especially important if you had it cut at a store. If it’s too big, use a utility knife and a ruler to cut it shorter. Once it’s the right size it’s time to stick the cork to the backing board.

Cork is very brittle. It’s incredibly easy to break it or even stick a finger through. It’s best to roll it out on the ground and not lift it.  If your frame is big, it’s nice to have an extra set of hands helping out. The cork board we’re making today is for India’s room, so I’m having her do most of the work. Teach a man to fish, right?

Roll your cork out on the ground using something (or someone) to keep it unrolled. Some heavy cans of food will work.

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Spray both the cork and the foam board according to the directions on the glue. It’s sticky, smelly and messy. You should absolutely do this outside!

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Place your foam mounting board onto the cork and press it down thoroughly. If the edges aren’t attached well,  spray them again.

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Once the glue is dry (it should only take a couple of minutes), use a utility knife to cut off the extra cork.

 

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If you want to do a ribbon across the cork board to hang your earrings on, this is when you’ll do it. I put mine along the bottom, but you can do it wherever you like. India wants to use hers as a bulletin board so she didn’t want a ribbon at all. If you do want an earring hanger, hot glue one side to the back of the board. Once it’s cooled down and is very secure (at least five minutes), pull the other side of the ribbon extremely tight. The ribbon will eventually sag if it’s not as tight as possible. Even so I put a few pushpins in the ribbon to keep it from drooping in the middle.

 

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Once your ribbon is all finished, you can flip the board over and place it in the frame. Hopefully yours already has a wire for hanging. If not, you’ll need to install some hooks and wire.  You can figure that out because you’re smart. And good looking!

 

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If you used a frame that previously had artwork in it, you’ll hopefully be able to use the clips or brads that were there before. India pulled the brads out of our antique frame and hammered them back in so they were nice and secure (are you totally digging my pink hammer? I have a pink drill too!)

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Once you’ve gotten your cork board all put together it’s time to hang it up on the wall.The final (and funnest) step is to stick your pushpins in and hang up your jewelry! It will feel so wonderful to have everything organized and right at your fingertips!

 

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Today we have a guest post by my favorite reader: my sister, Arianne, from Little Pink Houses. She and I (and my brother, too) were ingrained from the time we were born with the notion of “I can do it myself and probably cheaper”. Arianne saw a cute vignette of stuffed fabric birds mounted on a branch and decided to make something similar for her daughter’s nursery. They turned out really adorably and would be completely easy to customize to any sort of decor. I asked her to do a tutorial for my blog because I knew these would be a not-too-difficult sewing project; plus I LOVE BIRDS! OK, Arianne, show us how to put a bird on it!

First you’ll need to pick out some fabrics.  Any fabric will work, but some are easier to work with than others (lightweight quilting cotton is easier than denim, for example. Silk would be a really lovely and elegant choice.) You can use fabric scraps you have on hand, you can ask someone you know who sews to look through their extras, or you can buy fabric quarters (called “fat quarters”) in coordinating fabrics.  Most fabric stores sell these for around $1.50-2.00/piece, or in pre-coordinated packs for $5-10 for 5+ pieces.   You need 2 fabrics for each bird. A safe amount is 8” square for each section of the bird.

I recommend laying out your fabrics in pairs before you start, one piece for the top/head/wings and the other piece for the belly of the bird.  If your pieces are different sizes, the larger piece should be for the top of the bird.

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Print out your pattern. I used one from SpoolSewing; you can download their free PDF here.  Cut the patterns out of the paper.

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I made these patterns a little bigger because I found the 1/4″ hem to be a little too tight.  It was very hard to sew a ¼” hem on such a small shape, since it requires a lot of turning as you sew. A few of my birds had to be re-sewn because I missed an edge.  Give yourself a little extra room around your pattern so that you can allow for a bigger seam allowance.

Next grab your first pair of fabric pieces .  Choose the piece to be the top/sides of the bird.  Make a fold in it, about 6” deep.  Lay the bird top pattern along the fold of fabric 1 so that it will double itself when you open the fold up.  Pin it down with a couple of pins.  Lay your bird belly pattern on fabric 2 and pin it down.  Cut them both out.  (If you didn’t leave an edge around the paper pattern, just leave an extra edge around it now as you cut it out.  I promise you won’t be sorry for giving yourself an extra ¼” allowance once you start sewing.

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Repeat this process with all your birds.

Iron your bird pieces.  The last thing you want is to get them sewn and stuffed and THEN notice that they are wrinkly, or that the fold is still showing across the top of one.

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Lay the top and bottom bird pieces together PRETTY SIDE IN.  In other words, the sides of the fabric you want to show when you’re done should be facing each other.

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Starting at the tail, pin together one edge of fabric 1 and one edge of fabric 2.  Pin about every 1-1 ½” and stop when you get to the end of fabric 2.  Remember that these will be 3 dimensional birds, so the fabrics won’t lie exactly flat.  You’ll have to sort of bunch the top piece a little, with little folds between the pins, to get the edges flush.  They’ll sew up just fine, so don’t worry.

Sew one edge of your first bird.  (Although it’s generally easier to work in a sort of assembly line fashion—cutting all of the pieces at once, ironing all of the pieces at once, etc.—I found through trial and error that you should sew one bird completely and then turn it inside out to check it for seam holes before moving on to the next bird.)  I used white thread, but you can use any color you want.  The stitching doesn’t show much except on the tail.*  GO VERY SLOWLY.  You have to turn these babies a lot, and they are very small.  It can be kind of hard to get them turned in time if you go fast, and the attractiveness of your bird, especially the head, depends a LOT on how evenly and carefully you sew these seams.  Sew it poorly and your bird will end up looking more like a vulture! (Ask me how I know.) Also, remember to sew a little bit bigger hem than the pattern shows (if you’ve cut it with extra room) so you don’t miss any edges.

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Remove the pins and pin together the other edges of the two fabrics, again starting at the tail.  These two will lay even less flat, with even more bunching between the pins.  Just do your best to keep the edges aligned.

Sew the second edge.  Now keep in mind, when you get to the end of the belly fabric (#2), you can just keep going and sew up the bottom side of the head of the bird.  I found it easiest to keep going up the breast, up the head, and right off the end of the beak.

Then to come back and do the top side of the head separately.  If you try to take that corner (around the beak’s point), you may end up with a weird-shaped beak.

You probably won’t need to pin the bird’s head to do the rest of the sewing—it’ll be pretty well held together.  Just make sure your two pieces of head fabric are lined up right.  This next part is very crucial:  STARTING AT THE BIRD’S BACK, TAKE AS SHALLOW AN ANGLE AS YOU CAN COMING IN TO FINISH OFF THE BIRD’S HEAD, almost continuing the line of its back.  If you come in steep, you will create a point on the bird’s back, and your bird will look like a vulture!  I had to unpick my first 2-3 birds before I got the correct angle.  This is why it’s crucial to turn the bird inside out before you move on to the next bird.  I even recommend using a pencil point to get the whole beak turned out so you can see its shape.  (Sewing around that beak is tough.  Just remember, go very slowly.  And stop every few centimeters, with the needle still IN the fabric, lift up the foot slightly, turn the fabric, and continue sewing.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to do a very rounded seam around the bird’s head to avoid it having a vulture-like neck or beak.)

Note from Jennie: To keep any puckering from happening at the birds neck, make three little snips about 1/8″ away from each other right where the neck arches. You’ll cut from the edge of the fabric right up to the seam (but don’t cut the seam!).

After you’ve sewn both sides and the head (the tail is left open), turn your bird inside out and check to make sure you haven’t missed an edge and left a gaping hole.  If you haven’t, good!  You’re a better seamstress than me.  Now move on to your second bird.

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Once  you’ve sewn up all your birds, and they’re right-side out, it’s time to start stuffing!  I bought one 12oz bag of ultra plush fiber, and it was plenty to do about 14 birds.

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Use the eraser of a pencil to push the fiber down into the beak first.  You don’t want to get done and find you have a floppy beak!  Leave about ½” of the tail empty so that you can sew it closed.

 

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Finish the tail.  You can do a fancy hand-stitch here to make the thread invisible.  But after doing that with one bird, I found it way too time consuming.  Instead I decided to just fold both pieces of fabric over, inward, ¼” and sew a straight stitch across the tail.  You can see the thread, but once the birds are up on the branch, it won’t show much.  And I actually think it looks pretty cute!

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You’re done with the sewing! Aren’t your birds so cute?

 

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Next select a good branch.  You can buy fancy polished branches at the craft store.  Or you can pick one off a tree in your yard.  I recommend one with at least a ½” diameter on the main branch with ¼” diameter shoot-offs; too flimsy and it will bend under the birds’ weight.

Lay out your branch on the ground and position your birds before you glue them on.  That way you can be sure you like the final look without having to peel off mis-placed birds. I also recommend taking a picture because once you pick up the branches to mount them, you’ll forget where your birds went.

Mount your branch.  You want your branch to be at least an inch or two from the wall so your birds’ tails will fit behind the branch.  So if you can find or buy some really long nails (3-4 inches), that will allow your branch to sit away from the wall.  Hold your branch up to the wall and mark where you want it to go with a pencil.  Put in a couple of nails to support the branch—allowing your branch to lie on them.  Use some clear fishing line or thread to lash the branch to the nails.

Hot glue!  Use a dab of hot glue on the branch (not on the bird) where you want each bird to sit.  Right where the body meets the tail is a good spot for balancing the bird (it’s where the feet would be on a real bird, after all).   Stand back and check each one as you go to make sure it’s

sitting level and looking the right direction.  It’s a lot harder to move them once the glue has hardened.  Put all your birds on and…voila!  Birds on a branch!

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You might think that when you have a big family, you have pictures of kids everywhere. The sad truth is that there are a very overwhelming number of photographs to deal with. Then there is always one child who is completely unphotogenic and you can’t very well have pictures of some children up and not others. Plus there’s the whole issue of buying so many frames, where to fit them all, etc. What I’m trying to say is that I have very few pictures of my kids around my house. I decided to fix the situation in a way that would combine cheap and simple with cute and interesting and would allow me to use quite a lot of pictures. The whole set up cost less than $10 and that includes getting 5 x 7s made of most of my photographs. The nice thing is that this arrangement can be made bigger or smaller and goes well with any style of decor. For How-To Tuesday, I’ll show you how to do your own picture wall.

 

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Cardstock (if you use thinner paper, the pictures will curl when hung).

Photos (I used mostly 5 x 7s with a few 4 x 6s to make things look a little different)

Twine or rope (I used jute twine from Home Depot. $2.50 for a roll.)

Mini clothespins (Regular-sized ones are too hefty. I got mine at Michaels and Hobby Lobby. About $3 for 24. )

Glue of some sort (I like my Tombo but a gluestick will work fine.)

Pushpins. Clear pushpins are excellent decorating helpers. You’d be surprised how often you can find ways to use them.

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Step One: Crop and cut your cardstock and photos (if necessary). I left a 1″-1.5″ border of cardstock around each photo. For the love of Fiskars, please use a paper cutter and not scissors! It’s impossible to get a decently straight line with scissors. Believe me!

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Step Two: Apply glue to the back of the picture and try your best to apply it to the cardstock without it being crooked.

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Step Three: Use your twine and pushpins to string up your display (I did one row at a time). It works best to have a helper telling you if things look straight. You might decide to do several symmetrical, even rows or do them kind of topsy-turvy like I did. The nice thing about pushpins is that you can pull them out and reposition them without making a mess of the wall.

Step Four: Hang your mounted photos with mini clothespins. They hold the pictures up surprisingly well.

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Stand back and enjoy! It’s super simple to switch out pictures (cut a piece of cardstock and slap on a new photo. Or even better; flip the current picture over and glue a new photo to the back).  You’ll always have an easy way to display your latest photos.

 

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Hello my darlings, sorry to be so utterly neglectful but it’s been vacation time lately. I spent a few fun-filled days in Utah visiting my sister and her not-so-new baby. So ashamed that she was born in May and I’m just barely meeting her for the first time. That’s what happens when you live a thousand or so miles from your family (actually I have no idea how many miles it is but it’s a 27 hour drive).  Her name is Pippa Jane Eleanor and she is adorable, no?

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I returned home from the extremely dry mountainy air just in time for my children to have a three day break from school. No idea why; some sort of teacher something-or-other. It was a very looong weekend. I mostly ignored my offspring while I tried to get several projects done. Like cleaning out my closet. Right now the closet is in the scary-horrible-right-before-it’s-almost-finished phase.  I also have almost finished decorating Arabella and Adelaide’s room. I started it three years ago.  Now the girls are a lot older and this decorating scheme is a smidge prissy for them, but they’re so happy that the end is near that they’re very excited nontheless. Here is a sneak peak:

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Don’t expect to see the finished photos anytime soon. I’ve run into a bit of a snag since the fabric I chose for the dust ruffle has been discontinued. I have enough fabric for 3/4 of one bed. So it looks like I won’t actually be truly finished for who knows how long.

 

I also made six loaves of bread and nearly ran out of yeast.  I had bought some at the store but couldn’t find it anywhere (you have no idea how often that happens). Turns out it fell out of my car while I was unloading groceries. But I didn’t find it until it was a little too late.

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So, yeah, I’ve been getting a lot done. And my kids? What have they been doing? Well, the boys are content to shoot things with airsoft guns and arrows but the girls need a little more creativity. As usual Klutz came to the rescue with their best and most wonderful craft kit so far: Shrinky Dink Jewelry.

This is such a great kit I couldn’t resist and had to make a few pieces of my own. My girls (and all their many friends who traipsed and in out over the last week) were constantly huddled over the table, coloring and cutting their Shrinky Dinks.  Not only are there tons of cute ideas in the accompanying book, but there are lots of jewelry supplies and a jillion adorable templates. The book is clear and easy to understand and full of great advice like “don’t complain that the oven window is dirty unless you’re volunteering to clean it.”  Obviously the author has children! Also immensely helpful is a ruler that tells you how big your Shrinky Dinks will be once they’ve shrunk. That’s always been a bit of a head-scratcher when we’ve made them in the past.

Here is one of my designs, before shrinking (I traced it from one of the templates in the kit with a fine-tipped Sharpie):

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And after. I made it into a cute necklace with the supplies from the kit:

 

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You can get the Klutz Shrinky Dink kit at Michaels  for $25 (but beware they won’t take coupons for this item since it’s a “book”. Jerks.)  But I got ours for about $16 here on Amazon. I ordered a couple more kits for birthday party gifts, we love it so much. If you have kids over age 5, Shrinky Dinks are a godsend. This kit kept all of us girls happy for days (even our 16-year-old!).  Refill packs of Shrinky Dink paper are about $6 at any craft store (buy the rough kind, usually called “Ruff n’ Ready”).

 

 

I wasn’t compensated for this post, sadly. But I do get money from amazon if you click through my link. Which you should definitely do.

Bad: My laptop decided to not acknowledge the existence of the internet this week. I could check my email through my iphone, but that’s about it unless I deigned to use the children’s computer.

Good: I finally spent some time redecorating the room that Adelaide and Arabella share. I’ve been working halfheartedly on it for a year or two now, but Mister set up a new sewing nook for me. That, coupled with the sudden bounty of free time, and I actually got some curtains and bedskirts sewn.

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Why wasn’t my house immaculate and all my projects finished before the internet came to pass? Oh yes, I read books back then. Any excuse to not do what I’m supposed to!

Music to sew to: (you know I love it super old-school!)
The Ink Spots– “I Don’t Have to Set the World on Fire” (I could listen to this 100 times a day.)
Fats Waller– “My Very Good Friend the Milkman” and “Every Day’s A Holiday”
Georgia Gibbs– “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked A Cake”
King Cole Trio– “Frim Fram Sauce”

So I’ve got six kids. That means six backpacks, ten or twelve jackets, a jillion pairs of shoes, and all sorts of miscellaneous junk that accompanies them. In my house all of this kid gear gets hung on a little coat rack or stuck in some cheap plastic cubbies. The coat rack and cubbies share space with the laundry room (“room” is a generous term. “Tunnel” is more accurate.) Would someone please explain to me why the laundry room, which is used for a few hours each day, is combined with the space where eight people are supposed to put all their stuff? And yet I have a nice-sized dining room that has a chandelier and fancy crown moulding and is used approximately . . . never. (Not to mention it’s carpeted. Hey, builders, in case you hadn’t heard, carpet + food = disgusting! Duh.) Basically we have spent years with a disaster of a room where coats and shoes are always mixed up with spare socks and clean undies. It makes me want to scream. Actually, I think I have screamed about it from time to time.

For years I have been plotting the conversion of my dining room into a mudroom. The dining room occupies the perfect spot between the front door and the garage. Mister and I haven’t exactly seen eye to eye on this matter (he’s all, “resale, people like dining rooms, resale, it’s too weird”, etc. I’m all, “I’m not living this way just because the next people who buy this house may already have dining room furniture.” I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t rather have storage than a big, seldom-used waste of space.

Mister’s parents were here a few months ago and they chimed in on how nice it sounded to convert the dining room to a mudroom and, voilá, he was suddenly on board with the idea. Imagine that. So we got busy ripping out the grody beige carpet and figuring out which color to paint over the ho-hum walls.

Here is the room just after we took out the chair rail, baseboards and carpet.
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I spent hours and hours researching lockers. I knew I wanted something that had plenty of room with hooks inside and a couple of drawers. And most importantly doors. I hate all these storage systems that have eveything just sitting in cubbies out in the open (I’m talking to you Pottery Barn!) I do not want to see all my kids’ junk! I want to close everything and have it look neat and attractive. The cheapest option turned out to be the Pax Komplement closet system from Ikea. Especially after I went there and saw that all their birch and oak doors/drawer fronts were on clearance. But the Ikea systems are really plain and contemporary-looking. Not me at all. But the price! The price was so right. So I got my thinking cap on and ended up buying a stencil to jazz up the cupboards. A stencil of geese. (No, not really. But that’s what I think of when I imagine stencils.) Instead I got this odd-looking beauty from Whitewall & Co. (uh, what is that, Jennie? Just stay tuned, friends.)

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I decided on a blue and white color scheme, but I wanted a softer, slightly greener blue than I have in my family room. So after trying a few colors from Benjamin Moore (none of them right) I mixed up a batch of paint that was a combination of my family room paint and my light green bedroom paint. Perfect! I took it to Home Depot to have it color matched and they were way off (right color but four shades too pale.) So I threw in some more green and blue until it was just right–it’s a kind of spa blue. Sadly, that means that when this gallon runs out, I’m out of luck. But I still have a bit left so I think I’ll be OK.

I painted the walls the spa blue color and stencilled the lockers/cabinets spa blue and white. Here is one finished cabinet door and the “wall of experimentation”.

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Mister installed my new cherry wood floor (actually fake wood laminate from Costco. I’ve had it in my family room for a year and it’s great stuff) and built my cabinets. I laid out all the cabinet doors and drawer fronts on the floor and stecilled the whole thing at once to keep a sense of continuity.

I just love the way the lockers and the whole room turned out!

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I didn’t want to label the lockers for each child which would distract from the design. Luckily I found these snappy little knobs in every letter of the alphabet at Hobby Lobby (and they were 50% off that week. $1.50 each! Bargain!) Yet another reason not to give your children all the same initials.

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Here are the three drawers at the bottom of each locker:
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I wanted to close off the open section of wall next to the front door but Mister simply wouldn’t hear of it. While I was in Utah he built this wall of cubby things instead and I really like it.

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I painted a bunch of Ikea plastic boxes that fit inside the cubbies. Ikea never makes things in colors I like, so I used a primer made for plastic things and then painted them with the wall paint.

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This project wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it. Every time I walk into a clean laundry room with nothing on the floor, I rejoice. The kids are being so wonderful about keeping everything put away so I am one happy mother.

I haven’t posted on my blog in two weeks. That’s my record. It was due to a couple of things: I was in Utah/Colorado/New Mexico/Texas for over a week; most of the time driving or having fun. Then I came home and realized the my poor laptop is just about deceased. I’m still pouting about that and have been showing my computer “that’s what it gets” when it breaks on me. Only, my computer doesn’t really seem too sad up about my neglect. I have now resorted to using the kids’ computer which requires that I sit at a desk. A desk! How quaint.

After visiting several friends and family members in Utah, I helped my mother finish packing and we loaded up the moving van, her jalopy (otherwise known as a Ford Escort, which she had checked from head to toe and the guys at the garage swore up and down would make it across the country. Which it did), and a slightly scary trailer filled with food storage and a band saw (yeah. We got in a fight about the band saw. She’s moving into an apartment and she wanted to bring her band saw. And put it on her balcony. I can’t start thinking about this again.)

We abandoned the trailer half an hour south at my sister’s house after we realized it wasn’t registered. I was so thrilled, being the designated truck driver. The truck plus the trailer was a scary-long thing to be hauling around.

Have you read any of Pioneer Woman’s blog posts that she does about the swanky hotels she stays at when she travels around the country? In a similar vein, may I present the motel we stayed at our first night on the road. I shan’t tell you the name because it’s my little secret, but it’s in Monticello, Utah (yes, that’s as far as we made it the first day. We had a lot of last-minute things pop up.)

This motel was probably one of the dumpier places I’ve ever stayed in my life. Not dirty, just, well, let’s take a look:


Matching handles are completely passé. Or hadn’t you heard?

Who needs a lid that actually fits the toilet? So overrated.

The toiletries (or should I say, toiletry) were exquisite.

As was the art. It’s like I could actually hear the babbling brook. That is a brook, right? Or maybe a road?

I especially enjoyed the juxtaposition of the no-nonsense 80′s oak chair with the early-70′s faux-Spanish dresser/desk. And let’s not overlook the clashing lamp–still sporting it’s plastic wrapper. Who says small towns can’t be stylish?

R.I.P ugly cheap faucet.

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This statuesque beauty has taken your place:

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Climbing around under the sink is hard on your back.  Not to mention a little oogie and claustrophobic.  But it’s ever so worth it.  Especially since the plumber who came to fix our water heater told me he charges $290 to install a kitchen faucet.  (I also saved money by getting this faucet on ebay.  75% off the retail price!)
Moving on from the faucet to the drab walls.  
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Aaah, color.  That’s better.
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Great. Now the beige tile looks even more hideous.