Monday, December 16, 2013

Goodwill Steal: My new adventure in re-upholstery

I have been wanting to broaden my sewing and re-upholstery skills for a while now. Our kitchen dining chairs have been upholstered, the glider and ottoman in Declan's nursery was re-upholtered and I have made a few drapery panels and pillow covers, but I have never tackled re-upholstery from beginning to end.

This project began as the first project for our new bedroom. It also began when I made a trip to our local Goodwill and discovered a Wing Back chair for $10!! I didn't buy it at first, but I did rush over the next morning and snag it up. It sat in the garage for a few days until I decided it needed to get going. I made a trip to a local fabric store and found two rolls of remnant fabric in the sale bins!! I was ecstatic! These rolls were only $3.48 each. I knew I needed at least 5 yards. The two rolls equaled 7 yards.  I spent a little over $30 for all of the fabric. This brought my total to $40! I thought this was a great deal.

After watching several youtube videos, reading several books and researching Pinterest and blogs, I decided I could probably do this.

A few pointers I have learned along the way:

1. Choose a sturdy chair:
Your chair can come from anywhere, but make sure you really look at it before making a purchase. Look at the fabric and make sure it is just worn or a bad choice of pattern and that the underlying foam is not damaged. Also make sure that the chair is sturdy. You don't want a chair that wobbles or has loose parts like arms or wings (for a wing back chair). As with wooden case pieces, also make sure that the legs of the chair do not have deep gouges that cannot be fixed. I also sat in the chair to see if the springs were still springy and I smelled the chair {I know, I know the people in Goodwill probably thought I was nuts!}. I wanted to make sure it didn't smell of mold or cigarette smoke.

2. Purchase fabric that will actually work well for a beginner project:
The rolls that I purchased were remnant rolls. Have the salesperson roll the entire roll out for you. The rolls I purchased were not complete yards of fabric. A couple of the yards on one roll were shorter because they had already been cut. This, I knew, would be okay for me since my chair is small. These shorter pieces will be used for the arms, sides and seat cushion.

3. Choose your pattern carefully:
An all over pattern will work as long as you buy extra fabric for pattern matching. You wouldn't want a large flower in the center of the chair back and the same flower to show up in a different place on the seat cushion. All over busy patterns, dots. paisley or a stripe will work well and will use the least amount of fabric matching. You also need to choose a fabric that works well for the piping if you add that to your chair. Some people cut fabric straight for piping since they don't need to be particular about matching and some people cut piping fabric on the bias {as for striped fabric}. Cutting on the bias uses a lot more fabric, but the stripes will match  up well.

4. Take your time:
It will be uber tempting to just slash that old fabric and rip it off the chair frame, but resist the temptation. I reached this point one night about 11 P.M. when my hands were sore, I had blisters on my thumbs and I still had a million staples to pull. You do not want to damage the current fabric because you will use it for your new fabric pattern.

5. Use safety measures: 
It may not seem like a dangerous task, but pulling old fabric from a chair can cause injury. Keep your eyes covered with safety glasses {Staples often break into pieces and pop out of the wood}. Wear gloves to help prevent blisters. {If you are using a flat head screwdriver or even a staple puller (if you can afford pricey tools, purchase a staple puller to pry staples loose, push away from your body since you could slip and cut yourself}.

Have a container for staples so they are not on the floor or work surface and place tac strips away from the work area. {This chair had cardboard stripping full of staples, nails on the armrest and curve ease on the chair back}

6. Label 
As you remove the pieces of fabric from the chair, label them with a marker or tape. Label the position of the piece and add a number for the order you are removing them. You will reattach the new pieces in the reverse order. Also, take a LOT of photos and make notes. You will want to refer back to these photos as you reupholster the chair.

So, this is what I have learned. Now I need to get back to pulling staples. I am really ready to get the new fabric cut out and reattached!!

Chair Minus the Skirt

New Fabric

I look forward to completing this chair and blogging my experiences. I will not be doing a complete tutorial. There are so many out there already. I will just post links to my favorites! Stay tuned!

New Bedroom Oasis

Since I love any DIY project, I decided that my next should be reupholstering a chair. I have sewn slipcovers in the past {Nursery Glider and Ottoman Slipcover}, covered simple dining room chairs and I have also sewn draperies {Brown Bathroom Drapery Panel Fully Lined}. But, I have never completed a full re-upholstery from beginning to end. Finding a chair for $10 at Goodwill got my wheels rolling and what started as a new project quickly turned into a Master Bedroom Overhaul.

Since we have been in our home, a lot has gone into the planning of DIY projects to take our home from drab to fab {Our version of comfort and vision of what our home should be}. Being the designer that I am, I also have wanted to change a lot of things to make them better.

This goes for our Master Bedroom. When we moved in, we painted this room first and decorated it sparsely. The furniture in this room includes our bedroom set we purchased as a present to ourselves when we were first married {This was the only new furniture we bought}.

Over time, our bedroom has quickly evolved into a messy room where we don't find escape from our daily lives or the kind of comfort we really want {Our Oasis}. The ironing board stays up in one corner and overflowing laundry baskets often find their way into our room before I can get to them.

Our Master Bath has also become a toy box since we bathe our little man there {Wouldn't trade those toys for the most glamorous bath in the world!!!}

We both decided to give ourselves and our home a little Christmas present. We are putting money towards a new, glamorous Oasis instead of buying presents for each other {Ugg boots would be nice, but they are not a necessity}. It won't be a lot of money; though, since we are on a strict budget. We will cut costs with all of the labor and DIY all of the projects in the room. Pinterest is very, very DANGEROUS. LOL. And, we will shop at Goodwill and places like IKEA and Home Goods for accessories which can also be up-cycled with a little imagination.

So, the planning began and is still going. Here is the plan in a nutshell {without specifics- you will just need to wait for the big reveal of each DIY project as it goes into the room}. I am sure you are intrigued by now.

1. New paint color(s) {Paint ourselves to save on labor}

2. Wall treatment {DIY}

2. Ceiling treatment of some sort {Still working out the logistics of this since we have a vaulted ceiling}{DIY)

3. New seating area {See post on Goodwill Steal coming soon}with DIY chair, table and shelving for books

4. Seating Area Lighting {DIY}

5. Bedside Lighting {DIY}

6. Possibly add some sort of treatment to our current draperies {New would be too costly for our budget}

7. Possibly a new duvet cover for the bed {Purchased of DIY} I have never really found one I just fell in love with.

8. New pillow covers {Hubby has never wanted a mountain of throw pillows on the bed since it takes too long to find the bed at night, but I will throw a few I already have in this room with new covers.}

9. Furniture up-cycle {I really am not sure about this, our furniture is still in good shape.} I love to paint furniture that needs it and I know dark wood isn't "in style" these days, but I just can't bring myself to paint all wood. We will see as the project goes.

I will blog on each project as it is completed with Tutorials or links to tutorials with each. I will also try to keep track of all of the costs so you can see where we were able to save money.

Happy reading! I may not be posting as much in the coming months since we will be working in all of our spare time. Sorry hubby, but I will need you for a few things. Remember, I am height challenged : )
Master Bedroom As Is

You can see from the above photo that we have one accent wall and the rest of the walls are a tan color (too light). The furniture includes a sleigh bed, two nightstands, a dresser and a tall chest of drawers. The draperies are two different colors: the blue are nice, suede drapery panels from Z Gallerie (thanks to a gift card from my students one year). We had them in our apartment and I wanted to reuse them in our home, but they no longer sell the color : ( So, I added dark brown black out panels I found at Target. We also have two dogs so their beds stay in our room in front of the window. These will have to stay. The matching lamps came from Home Goods. The ceiling fan is from Lowe's and was installed by my dear hubby. The comforter (too small for the bed) is a winter level down comforter from IKEA as is the Duvet cover.

So, as you can see, it needs a major overhaul. I am excited about the finished product that now lives in my head. Can't wait to see it in person. Stay tuned!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Furniture Refinishing: If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now

Gary and I moved to Georgia bringing a hodge-podge of furniture we both already had from college. One of these pieces was a dining table we found at KMart for $60 on clearance, but it had no chairs. When we moved to GA, we decided to add chairs and refinish the table to match. {I will leave it up to you to guess what we sat on before}. We purchased unfinished chairs and got to work.

I should have done a little more research ahead of time, but we were in a small apartment with a tiny balcony and had no room or time to take it slow. We began by taking the table legs off (this really is a heavy table for something you can get at KMart) and we got started.

We began with our sander. I am sure we were a sight with the table upright leaning against the balcony railing, sander in hand! Little did we know that there is an art to sanding. You couldn't tell in the beginning, but sanding the table made it very difficult to get a smooth, even grain. Did I mention this was our very FIRST furniture refinishing attempt?

Lesson(s) Learned: 
1. Use a primer that sticks to everything (Zinsser 123 Primer) and just paint without sanding OR use chalk paint (Annie Sloan's). (Now I know : ) 
2. If you do sand, use the correct grade sandpaper and the correct tools. We honestly could have hand sanded this piece and gotten a more even wood grain. The sanding would've taken off the heat treatment from the factory and not a little wood to go with it!

Great Link for Preparing Wood for Staining: {Wood Prep}

After the table was sanded well (or, so we thought), we began to stain the chairs. This is where it seemed easy enough. But, well another couple of lessons learned.

Sanded Table 

Lesson(s) Learned: 

1. Sit the chair on top of small paint or stain buckets so that the stain doesn't stop short because of the cheap plastic you have down protecting the carpet.
2. Treat the wood first so that the stain is accepted evenly (Min-Wax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner)

Because the chairs were new wood that had never been treated, the stain was accepted pretty well and they looked fine. But, when it came to the table stain, it was a different story. A very sad story!!

New Chairs With Stain 

Unfinished Chair

Table Top Complete With Scratches

Table Leg (A Little Scuffed To Add "Character")

Table Leg
We finally finished staining all of the pieces without killing one another and looked at our finished work. We actually did remember to add Polyurethane to protect the stain on the chairs. We didn't add any to the table because I was satisfied with the look afterwards. And, boy am I glad we didn't take the time. This table and chairs is going to through another refinishing soon with a lot of new ideas I have gathered over time and a new SKILL SET.

This is our table today. After we moved into our home and I began to paint the walls, (I loved having white walls and I couldn't get them painted fast enough- kind of like a kid who colors the whole coloring book at once!) I recovered the seats with a pretty fabric. This fabric will probably go as well due to the fact that it isn't very kid (ie stain) friendly.

Refinished Table and Covered Chairs
As you can see from the photo above, our chairs are the same Cherry color as the floors and it is too matchy, matchy for this girl's taste. I am very excited to refinish this piece soon.

This table is now in our kitchen eating area since our dining room is now a playroom {Playroom}. Gary (God knew what I needed in a hubby for sure) is going to also build a bench to add to one side of the table to increase seating. I may/may not add a cushion to the bench. 

The ideas are still flowing and I can't wait to get my hands on some Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax and test it out on smaller piece before tackling this table and chairs AGAIN! I have been told that I am going to absolutely LOVE chalk paint and I am sure I will.

Our Journey to Georgia

When Gary and I first moved to Georgia, we were here for new opportunities and a new adventure. Of course, we were also here without jobs!!

After we were married, we rented a small one bedroom apartment. Gary was working as a Computer Networker at a small company and I was working at a local elementary school. As we became accustomed to married life, we also began looking at our budget and dreaming of buying a home and starting a family.

After crunching the numbers, we didn't see it happening -- ever. He was on a beginning salary and I was on a Mississippi teacher's salary (even with a Master's degree, it is not much). We sat down one night and made a list of places we thought we could live. We began with cities in Mississippi, thinking we would like to stay close to family. When we didn't have any leads for new jobs after a while and many applications and resumes were sent out, we decided we needed to branch out and so we made a list of other states we would like to live {Georgia was NOT on this list}.

Little did we know that God had Georgia as the only state on HIS list! Gary, as a last resort, decided to email a friend of his who lived here already (in Georgia). The timing couldn't have been better. We received an email back that the following weekend was a teacher's job fair for the Atlanta area. After work on Friday, we packed the car and made the long drive. On Saturday, I went to the job fair with our friend's wife and made my connections. Gary gained insight into the computer field opportunities from his friend who is also in the field.

We left feeling hopeful, but not set on Georgia. It wasn't long; though, that I began receiving phone calls. On Good Friday (MS still has a holiday from school on this day), a friend and I made the drive back to GA for an interview. The interview went well. After the interview, we went to get a bite to eat and were going to go back home. While we were eating, the phone rang and I was offered the job. I was so excited and a little bit in shock!

And, the rest as they say is history. We made the move to Georgia that summer after school was out. Gary still didn't have a job so we knew it would be difficult, but we were trusting God that this was His plan for us.

Little did we know what difficulties lay ahead of us. It was summer so I wouldn't be getting a paycheck, the apartments here were SO much more per month than the ones in MS and Gary had no job yet.

After a few months of rice and beans, Gary finally got the call back from the job he had been interviewing with. They finally (after three interviews and several weeks at a different job) offered him a position. We were so happy! Things were finally looking up. We were also introduced to Dave Ramsey during this time through a local church. We ended up attending there while we lived in that city and we loved it. First Baptist Church in Woodstock is such a wonderful place. Check it out if you are in the area

Since that day, Gary has changed jobs a few times, always to a better one. He is now working so close to home which is great since he can come home for lunch sometimes. I was able to teach for 5 years in a great school. I was also able to complete my design degree. We were able to buy a home in a great neighborhood. And, we have met so many wonderful people. We have also been able to adopt Declan and begin our family. You can read more on our Adoption story {Our Adoption Journey}

So much has happened since that summer, but we know that God had His hand in everything. We don't know what our future may hold, but we do know it is in His hands. We do have to keep reminding ourselves that He does have a plan and that it will be the best one for us imaginable. We also have to remember when we face difficult times now that He did bring us out of a few very dark years. We have a hope that He will continue to bless us as long as we follow Him and trust in Him.

We do hope having family close to us is in our future and we do hope and pray that more children are in our future, but we will see!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too: Healthy Holidays

Many of us try to do the right thing by our bodies all year long by eating right, exercising and taking care of ourselves. But, then the holidays arrive and we crash and burn. Whether it be traveling to someone else's home, just letting ourselves be tempted by all of the sweets and special treats laid out at our workplace, or the fact we stay inside and graze since it is FREEZING out; we tend to let ourselves go during the holidays seasons. Then, we work like crazy the first few months of the year in order to get our beach body ready.

Why ride this roller coaster when you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak? It is all about moderation!!

I have a thyroid condition and have been diagnosed with insulin resistance and PCOS- all of these conditions call for low carb, healthy fat, low sugar and as unprocessed as possible foods.

Our meal plan for Thanksgiving this year {For all items, I bought organic when available at my local store.}

Problem with the area I live in-- there are no organic grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe's in my immediate area. I could travel, but this was a last minute change in plans meal that was put together. Another issue- the local grocery store where I shop seems to have an incredibly shrinking Organic produce section every time I go there : (

Plus: We are very soon getting a Farmer's Market in our immediate area! Can you hear my shout for JOY!!

1. Pork Loin marinated with Robert Rothschild Farm brand Hot Pepper Raspberry Chipotle      
   Sauce {Recipe}

  I bought the sauce instead of making it myself to save time. I purchased mine at Costco in the 40
oz jar. The ingredient list is as follows: Raspberries, Sugar, Water, Cornstarch, Lemon juice (from Concentrate), Chipotle Peppers, Natural Flavoring, Chili Peppers. It also has on its label that it is All Natural, Gluten Free and free of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Downside to this sauce if you are more organic: It is not labeled as Organic or Non-GMO, it has lemon juice from concentrate and it has "Natural Flavoring" in its ingredient list which could mean anything.

2. Kale Salad {Recipe} (A Great Alternative to the syrup, marshmallow and calorie laden Sweet Potato Casserole) 
   Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Walnuts, Dijon Mustard, Maple Syrup, Salt (Sea), Pepper, Garlic, Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar (I changed Pecans to Walnuts and left out the onions- not a big fan of onions unless really cooked- I know, I know)

Kale is a nutritional Powerhouse. You can read more here {Kale}
Sweet Potatoes provide many vitamins as well as provide a healthier, lower glycemic index for those who are diabetic or insulin resistant and they are considered as anti-inflammatory. Read more here {Sweet Potatoes}

3. Dressing (I have to have it!! This is my cake. And, yes, I call it Dressing. To me Stuffing goes inside the turkey and not a pan)
  {Whole Grain Cornbread}

I love cornbread as much as the next person and it has nostalgic value. I used to eat cornbread with buttermilk as a snack at my grandma's house when I was little. I recently started making my cornbread, in the iron skillet of course, with half corn meal and half whole grain flour. It is just as yummy and not as crumbly. The above recipe is not gluten free, but you can substitute gluten free flour I am sure. I loosely followed this recipe (left out the cheese, sour cream and corn since I was using it for dressing), but I did add celery to my dressing as well as the typical seasonings and I used Pacific Natural Foods Low Sodium Organic Free Range Chicken Stock. One day, I will be making my own Chicken stock from organic chicken since it is pricey to purchase ready made stock.

4. Butternut Squash Soup {Soup} 

5. Green Bean Casserole (My husband's cake!) {Cream Of Mushroom Soup}

This year's recipe using Amy's Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup{Green Bean Casserole}. I didn't use all of the flour and milk since I added the soup, but I did add the onions and mushrooms.

I used canned soup only because I had limited time, but see below for an alternative recipe that uses NO canned items. {Healthier Green Bean Casserole}. I actually made this last year.

Here are some other Healthier recipes I ran across in my search for the Perfect Thanksgiving Meal:

As you can see, I didn't plan a dessert for our meal. We really aren't dessert people and I rarely bake (could be that I am just not really that good at it!). But, I have made the above Pumpkin Custard and it was yummy! I searched and searched for a better Pecan Pie recipe with no luck. Sorry folks - pecan pie just has a lot of calories. Here is a more whole foods approach to Pecan Pie though {Pecan Pie}.

I would love your comments on how you keep the calories down at your holiday meals. Feel free to post any additional recipes.

Disclaimer: This was the menu plan I had planned for Gary and I for our little Thanksgiving meal. Since we decided not to travel home over the break due to sickness all around, we were going to cook or go out to eat. But, I decided eating in was more homey than eating out. We have since been invited to eat with neighbors. I will be making the dressing and kale salad still.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Playroom: The Moose Arrives

So, I have posted about our dining room turned playroom before, but it is a work in progress to put it mildly.

We sold our dining room table - I loved that table, but we had nowhere to store it : (

We also tried to sell the chairs without any takers. So, they became additional Living Room seating thanks to Ana White. {Slipcovers}.



And, we added an Expedit shelf from IKEA for toy storage. As you can see, there are only 4 green bins. I purchased these at Menards when we were in Chicago to get our son. They were on super sale at more than half off and I couldn't resist, but they only had 4. It is fine because I use the last cubby for blocks. The curtains will go after we add blinds to the windows. 

EXPEDIT shelf on its side

And, this weekend, I discovered THE MOOSE!! Our son LOVES, LOVES all of his stuffed animals. Some of his favorites are Curious George, his Pooh bear from his Aunt Mandy, his Elmo from his mom and dad and his authentic KFC chicken that his dad picked up on a business trip to Kentucky. (We in no way are supporters of KFC, mind you, but it was a great gift for our son because he loves it and now knows how to Bak Bak like a chicken!)

These stuffed animals have been known to dominate the playroom. I was on the hunt for a bin to store them in. And, I am a big fan of collapsible, soft sided containers since they are easy for little man to take toys out of and they can cause no injury. The first of these I bought was from Target (woven felt) and it holds his books. The second was from JoAnn's and it is also grey felt. It holds diapers. And, the third...wait for The Moose. 

Moved to Playroom for soft books (from Target)

Moved to Playroom for Diapers (JoAnn's)

I ran into Home Goods this past weekend while hubby waited in the car. I ran around the store to find the section with the bins. The first one I came to was a large, rectangular one that was navy/white stripe with the word STUFF embroidered on the side. It also had white, rope handles. (I would've taken a photo, but my phone had no signal in the store). 

I wasn't satisfied so I held the bin and ran around the store some more. I came to a table display of bins, but they all had Christmas patterns of red Christmas ornaments and silver snowflakes on them. I wasn't going to give up though because they were also taller and had designs on the interior as well. I stood there and took out every bin that was stacked into the other almost willing there to be another option of pattern that would match the playroom. 

And, then, I saw it!!! The Moose!! I pulled the bin out from the inside of a larger bin. I loved the interior grey and tan pattern and I hoped what was on the side was what I was looking for. It was!! The Moose made its appearance. And, the decision was made. I knew this was the one. I quickly grabbed it before anyone else could see what I saw and ran to the very long checkout line. 

Gotta love Home Goods!! Lesson from this post -- never forget to think outside of the box or bin in this case. Thinking outside the box opens up a world of possibilities with design. 

Day 4: Paper Trail

It has been a few days since I blogged, but believe me - it has been busy around here! On the day we rearranged the living room, I also tackled some of our paper clutter.

Paper clutter comes in many forms, but in our home we have the following:
- Newspapers and coupons
- Mail
- Magazines {Focus of this blog}
- Items we keep for memories such as pictures, cards, newspaper clippings, etc.

My hubby does a good job of filing and taking care of the household paperwork in the form of bills so that leaves the rest for me to tackle.

Magazines were first on my list. We have a LOT of magazines. Some we actually subscribe to and some began to come in the mail all of a sudden. Below is a list of the magazines that arrive in our mailbox monthly:

1. Men's Health (at cost)
2. Women's Health (at cost- recently cancelled)
3. Parents (Discount rate for new parents)
4. Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles (FREE)
5. Architectural Digest (Super discounted rate for Interior Designers)
6. Elle Decor' (Super Discounted rate for Interior Designers)
7. Tennis (FREE)
8. Kiplinger's (at cost)

As well as the free catalogs and flyers from our area:
1. Neighborhood newsletter (bimonthly) (FREE)
2. Crate and Barrel (FREE)
3. Lowe's Creative Ideas (FREE)
5. Local town's newsletter (FREE)

So, when we began to start following our money saving plan {Becoming Debt Free}again after the adoption, some of these magazines were cancelled. Others have been cancelled since the last issue (Architectural Digest, Elle Decor). Parents is the next to be cancelled on the list. There are some good articles as well as recipes and I actually do read most of them, but the magazine cost and adds to our clutter. The newspaper is also going to be cancelled. I initially started receiving the newspaper on Sunday for a free trial (for coupons). But, since we are eating more natural, most coupons don't pertain to us.

Many of the magazines now can be viewed online via computer, IPad, etc. so having the massive stack of magazines on our coffee table was not working. I have subscribed to Architectural Digest since High School just for reference. I also kept getting them throughout college as reference for classes and now as reference for design trends. I love the magazine, but it is high end design. It isn't really a relevant magazine for the work that I do and the style that I follow in my designs. The same goes for Elle Decor'. I will; however, keep these magazines in our office for reference on different design elements and article research. I plan to replace them both with one magazine which focuses on more trends and practical applications. I need to do some research.

The magazines that will not be cancelled are Men's Health (great workout tips and recipes for hubby), Tennis (it's free and hubby loves tennis), and Kiplinger's - wonderful articles on investing and saving money.

We will also not stop getting the neighborhood newsletter (I write articles each issue and keep them), the local newsletter (great ideas on festivals and events in our area), Lowe's Creative Ideas (love their ideas and will tackle some of them in our home), and IKEA and Crate and Barrel (just love to look at them).

So, after the cancelled magazines quit arriving, we will still have the ones that do keep coming. My plan each month is to tackle the magazines. If there are recipes in Men's Health, I will clip them and put them in our recipe binder. The neighborhood newsletter will be filed. Others will be recycled at the end of the month if not needed.

The design magazines I currently have are stored in magazine files from IKEA (as you can see, I need more). Future cereal box recycle perhaps. These magazines are stored by season so that they are easy to reference. For example, all of the November/December magazines are together.

I will follow up this post later with a post on how we tackle our filing system and how we tackle all of those items we just have to keep for the memories.

Design Magazines 

Other Magazines Stored in a Large Wooden Bowl (Heirloom from my grandmother) 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 3: The Day I Thought Would Never Come - Living Room Redo

It finally happened!! I thought it never would! What am I talking about? The Hubby bringing up the subject of rearranging the furniture. Usually, it takes some scheming on my part and usually the furniture gets moved while hubby is at work and little man is sleeping. This time was a shocker for sure.

When we moved into our home, we loved it. It was after we had been there a while that I started trying to rearrange the furniture in the living room. It was frustrating to say the least. The architect really planned a room in which the furniture could only be laid out a couple of ways. The fireplace is on the end wall with the staircase going up to the left. The right wall is a complete wall of windows. The left wall - the only blank wall for furniture is also the only wall with a cable hookup. The entrance into the living room is open with a half wall between it and the kitchen.

So, you can feel my pain by now I am sure. The biggest issue with the room is that I have always wanted to have the TV on the wall beside the fireplace. I always wanted the fireplace to be the main focal point. But, when we were given the option of where to place the cable hookup, we were given only two choices - on the one large wall or above the fireplace. Now, I know it is pretty customary these days to hang the TV over the fireplace. But, I have never liked that placement.

Here is our living room before: The couch was on the window wall and the rest of the furniture was placed around the room. The TV as you can see is on the one long wall. Excuse my dog - photo hog. Our TV is quite large and I complain about its size all of the time, but it was an out of the box special and it is great for watching movies I must admit. The extra dining chairs are chairs I am in the process of covering - my projects are usually spread out everywhere. The telescope needs a new home.


Well, back to the topic at hand. Having a very mobile one year old has caused us to rethink the placement of everything. Having the TV so open allowed him access to all of the buttons and cords. It also caused us the worry of having him pull it over on top of him.

We recently purchased a Roku box that allows us to watch TV without the use of a cable box. This also allowed us to move the TV to another place in the room (It also saved us a lot of money!) In order to move the TV while still on a cable box, we would've had to drill a hole through the outside of the house and run a cable - not a chance - put a hole in our house?

So, the project began. One day while Gary was at work, I did what I could. I then messaged him and told him I wanted him to come home for lunch - with ulterior motives. He did and we moved the TV into its new position.

Here is our room with the new space plan:

In this new plan, the Pottery Barn Entry Way Table (now replaced with the dresser I refinished and re-purposed) is now on the large wall and is being used to hold puzzles and games. You can see that Declan has already found the puzzles. Smile. There is also room on either side for additional seating. These two chairs are from a previous dining set. One is completely slipcovered and the other is a work in progress {Upcoming Blog Post Coming Soon}. You can see I have a few photos yet to hang.

Another option for placement of this table was behind the sofa, but it is too tall. Sofa tables should not have a height taller than the back of the sofa.

"New" Seating With Room for Games and Puzzles
Dining Chair with Slipcover

More Open Floor Space
New TV Placement

I love the TV in its new placement. This is not a permanent solution. I would really love to see built ins on this side of the fireplace, but that is a major thing and will have to wait :) The baby swing is temporary until we can move it into storage.

With this furniture layout, the TV is a better distance from the sofa. It was too close to us before. There is also a lot of space for the dogs and Declan to play (As you can see in the photo, Gabby would rather sleep than play most days). The chest belongs to my mom and I am trying to decide if I want to move it somewhere else or try to get it back to her. I like the chest as a family piece, but it is too high as it is used as a coffee table and takes up too much space. I eventually want to have round ottomans that serve as additional seating and storage.

One other necessary item in our living area is the dog crate. Both dogs are crate trained, but Gabby now calls this home. She has been known to chew here share of table legs. The green and grey pieces are additional floor pads from our playroom. I put them down for Declan when he plays in the living room.
Dog Crate

There is also the issue of the end table. We purchased it when a local furniture store was going out of business. It is wooden with a glass top and has additional storage. Its square shape also gives it a little bit of a modern edge. We will be keeping it for now since for every seat there needs to be a place for a cup to land, but it is too large in scale for the space so I am on the lookout for something smaller in scale.

So there you have the new layout. I must say I am very happy with this plan. And, hubby is actually loving the new TV placement as well.

End Table

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Has it really been a year already? Happy Birthday, Declan!!

Although we celebrated early for family and friends, today is our dear little boy's first birthday! He officially turned one at 5:30 this morning. This day has brought back a flood of memories. It doesn't seem that very long ago that we were throwing essentials into our suitcases and struggling through the airport with an empty carrier on our way to meet our son. People kept asking, "Where is the baby?" And, we beamed as we said, "We are going to meet him."

We knew from the moment that God led us to adoption that our child was waiting for just the right time to make himself known. We made the decision in March, 2012 and by July, 2012, we were contacted by a birth mother. God is great, isn't He? The timeline, when we look back on everything, began the day we followed God's will for our lives. Our birth mother found out she was pregnant in the same month we made our decision to complete the paperwork for adoption!!!

It was a whirlwind trip. We got the call the night before. He was born early that morning and we were on a plane to meet him. We met our son for the first time that afternoon. A few days later, we were able to dress him in his tiny PJs and carry him from the hospital. Gary carried the carrier and I walked arm in arm, both of us crying, with his mom. We loaded him into the car and began our journey as we followed his birth mom out of the parking lot.

Gary drove because the tears refused to stop flowing! I sat in the back seat and reached for his tiny little hand. When his fingers closed around mine, my heart melted and I knew he was mine. One day he would say mama and my heart would melt again.

There have been hard days, sleepless nights, sickness and stress. But, the joy I feel every day when I go into his room to get him and see that beautiful smile - everything else in the world seems to disappear. We could not be more blessed to have him call us mom and dad (BaBa).

Happy Birthday to one special little boy!

On Our Way 
What Am I Doing Here?

About To Leave With My New Mommy
Signing the Paperwork
Mommy Had the Flu
First Bath (Didn't Like it One Bit!)

So Tiny (In Our hotel room)
So Sweet

3 Months
6 Months
9 Months

Becoming Mobile - Watch Out Mommy!
Hello Mickey Mouse

I will be adding a few pictures from his party soon along with his 12 month photos. We were unsuccessful with the cake smash photos. Apparently, our son is afraid of cake!! LOL.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Losing Your Cool (Latest Fieldstone Article)

     For many people, no matter what holidays are celebrated, the beginning of November signals the beginning of the end – Umm - I mean the end of another year. September is a whirlwind and October is gone before we know it. Then, it happens. November arrives. 

To many of us, the last months of the year are a blur. It doesn’t help matters that many retailers already have upbeat Christmas music playing before dust has had time to settle on our Thanksgiving décor. The sale signs, the Christmas décor, the wonderful new coffee flavors at Starbucks and the non-stop commercials advertising the newest gizmos and gadgets are enough to put us into holiday panic and the countdown begins.

The stressful thoughts send our brains into overdrive. “The airports and roads are going to be a mess!  I hope we don’t get stuck somewhere.  What if the house isn’t ready on time? What will my mother-in-law think? How many cookies can one person actually bake? I have to have the perfect presents for EVERYONE! Oh, how I hate holiday traffic. How many parties do we have to attend? We have got to get our Christmas cards in the mail today! I am so tired and I still haven’t wrapped all of the presents. Now, where is the note for Santa? Oh my goodness, I can’t wait until the holidays are over. Can I just hibernate until spring?”

The holidays do not need to be this stressful. With a little planning and taking time to rejuvenate, we can have a successful holiday season and focus on what matters most -  making lifelong memories with family and friends. We also want to take part in making memories, not missing them because we were running around as busy as a bee.

Remember to take time for yourself: This is the most important tip. If we are tired and run down, we are susceptible to illness. Read a book, listen to music or take a long bath. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Make time for exercise. And, no matter how difficult it may be – eat healthy. All of these things will provide you the energy you need for all of the tasks ahead.

Give back: Use your time to help others instead of spending countless hours in traffic or at the mall. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Sing carols to children in the hospital or elderly in a nursing home. Donate money to a worthy cause. Pack gifts to send to troops or children overseas. Help instill giving in your children by allowing them to donate some of their good toys to those in need. Helping others will give you joy.

Shop smart: Begin in January by updating Christmas gift lists and setting money aside. By having money budgeted, you will not overspend. You will also be able to purchase items throughout the year making impulse buys less likely. Shop around for promotions and coupons and shop online.

Use your talents:  Make gifts for others instead of buying them. Some great gifts that fall into this category are photo albums from companies such as Shutterfly, homemade sugar scrubs, sewn items, hand-built furniture, art, and themed gifts. An online search for inexpensive DIY gifts will bring up a lot of ideas. Giving a coupon for your services throughout the year is also a great idea. One husband actually gave his wife a coupon good for one year’s worth of dish washing by him! What wife wouldn’t want that? 

Plan ahead:  Prepare and freeze some meals ahead of time for those days when everyone is tired of turkey or ham – lasagna is good for this. Cookie dough can also be made ahead of time and frozen (it will stay good for 4-6 weeks if double wrapped). Shortbreads, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and sugar cookies freeze best. Set up a gift wrapping station and wrap and label presents as you bring them home or they arrive via UPS, FedEx or Santa. Update your address list in January right after the holidays to save time next year. Decorate and clean as you go throughout the month. Your home doesn’t need to be immaculate – just warm and inviting. Clean the fireplace and purchase firewood. Add clean sheets to the beds along with soft throws. For a special touch, purchase matching PJs for your family and cozy slippers for your guests. If you are traveling, pack travel kits to keep your children entertained on the road or in the air.

Learn to say No: We know ourselves best. If we are normally prone to stress, the holidays will be no different. You cannot possibly attend all of the parties or participate in all of the cookie swaps. Choose to attend the events you know you will enjoy the most – the ones where special memories will be made.

Create your own traditions: Trying to keep up with all of the traditions this time of year will drive you crazy. Try to set a few traditions that you and your family really enjoy and will want to recreate each year. For our family, some of these traditions include visiting the pumpkin patch and apple orchard, decorating the tree together, reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, and attending our Christmas Eve service at church. This year, we hope to add a couple of new traditions with our one year old son. Also take time to remember those family members who have passed away. Remembering these family members will help alleviate the sadness that enters too many homes during the holidays. Add holiday magic by decorating with items that have special meaning such as a bowl of ornaments made by your children.

Whatever your plans for the holidays, the memories made during this time of year are ones to be treasured. Try to find ways to relax and enjoy this time of year. It will be here and gone before we know it. 

My First Spa Night with Natural Cleansing Recipes

Oh, can I say how relaxed I feel?  After a long day with a little man who didn't want to nap, I fed him and put him to bed.  Then, fixed dinner and watched a little TV with hubby.  After the show we were watching went off, Gary said, "I will clean up the kitchen while you go use your Spa Bucket." My hubby reads all of my posts and I am very happy about that.  Love you boatloads, honey!!!  Kiss. You can read more about my "Spa Bucket" as my hubby calls it here {Gotta Relax}.

Well, I started by turning on our small room heater to heat the bathroom.  Baby, it is cold outside! I then ran a bath as hot as I could stand it - I know it isn't great for your skin, but the water gets cold too fast and I haven't had a hot bath in ages since I had Shingles.  I then propped my blowup pillow behind my head and slipped down into the water.  I had full intentions of reading the new Nicholas Sparks book, but I got caught up with Facebook. That has got to be the next thing put on my list of things I need to spend less time doing.

Anyway, I did relax.  I stayed in the tub until the water did get cold and I had to get out.  I then pampered my feet with a Pumice stone - the best time to rid your feet of ugly, dry skin is right after a long bath - and trimmed my toe nails.  Maybe a little TMI, but I haven't had a pedicure in ages either - something I am very willing to give up to save more money.  Who sees your toes in winter anyway. Then, I covered my feet with a Perfectly Posh Shea Butter stick and put on some cozy socks.

I then cleansed my face with my Perfectly Posh Mud Mask.

I must say that I did let everything go. And, I am all the better for it.

And now that I am super relaxed, I must get to bed.  I just had to share how relaxed I am by taking much needed time to myself.  I can now be a better wife and mommy tomorrow because of it.

Below are some all natural Spa recipes.  I got these at a Ladies Night Out weekend at the church I attended while in college.  I have recently washed my face with a honey/brown sugar scrub.  The brown sugar gets rid of the dry skin and the honey acts as an astringent.

Disclaimer: I have not tested these recipes before. Be cautious if you have allergies.

Cleansing Oatmeal and Honey Paste

Ground Oatmeal is a gentle exfoliator that removes dead surface cells
 and residue.  It can be used as a mild cleanser instead of soap and
helps restore the skin's moisture.  The combination of yogurt, which will soften 
the skin, and honey, a natural humectant, make for
an effective, everyday moisturizing cleanser. 

1/2 cup/115 ml. dry oatmeal (I eat Rolled Oats)
2 Tablespoons Honey (We buy ours locally from a farmer)
1/4 cup/60ml. plain yogurt or buttermilk 

Finely grind oatmeal in a blender or food processor.
In a small bowl, combine ground oatmeal, honey and yogurt.
Mix thoroughly until it has a paste like consistency. 
Smooth over face and neck and leave on for 15 minutes. 
Rinse off with warm water and pat dry. Can be applied 
every day, preferably in the morning. 

Molasses Hair Wrap 

This treatment is incredibly easy to do and will add shine and 
moisture to your hair.  One word of caution: Stay away from Bees!

1/2 cup / 115 ml. molasses (or honey or maple syrup)
 (We buy organic Molasses from Costso which we use for making Kefir) 

Apply molasses directly to damp hair and 
massage into scalp.  Cover hair with shower cap or 
plastic wrap and leave in for 20 minutes. 
Rinse with warm water.  Shampoo as usual.

Mayonnaise and Avocado Hair Pack 
{For Dry Hair}

The combination of eggs and oil (from the mayo) and avocado
creates a wonderful conditioner for dry hair.  If you don't have 
time to make your own mayonnaise, then try to buy an all-natural product 
at a healthy food store. 

1 ripe avocado (to make sure it is ripe, take a peek under the 
dry little button on the stem end - if it is green, then the avocado will be perfect)
1 cup/230 ml. mayonnaise

In a small bowl, mash avocado and blend into mayonnaise.
Gently massage into scalp and hair.
Cover head with plastic wrap or shower cap and
leave for 20 minutes. 
Shampoo as usual. 

Thyme and Eucalyptus Back Relief Soak 

Thyme has been said to have been used for its medicinal properties as 
early as 3,500 BC.  Throughout history, thyme has been used to 
relieve asthma, coughs, colds; to kill yellow fever organisms; to 
reduce swelling provoked by gout; and to treat nervous disorders.  
The following recipe is recommended for 
anyone suffering from backache or joint pain.  
The eucalyptus oil enhances the effects of the thyme. 

15 drops thyme essential oil 
4 drops eucalyptus essential oil 

Mix oils in hot bath water and soak in it for 15 minutes. 

As I said, I have not tried these myself.  I have had the recipes since college and just haven't tried them all.  But, if you do try one, please stop back by to comment how it went.  I hope to try the hair ones this weekend.  This dry, cold weather will not be kind to my hair. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 2: Fostering Creativity in My Little Man

When Declan arrived, so did all of the things he would need. Our house seemed to explode overnight with diapers, wipes, blankets, toys. Don't get me wrong - we very much APPRECIATE ALL of the things people have given us for Declan. But, having so much extra in your home can create a little bit of stress for mommy and a WHOLE lot more laundry and dishes on top of that.

In the beginning, we converted our dining room into a playroom. This was a necessity since we also share our home with 2 four legged family members. They have never bit anyone (although our oldest is a fear nipper at the vet). But, we can't be too careful.

So, the converted playroom complete with gates on all open sides provides a great place for Declan to play sans dogs. And, the dogs can't get his toys and run off with them although one poor little bath time whale did escape this week and is no longer with us via our loving Yuko. Declan has also been known to crawl into Gabby's kennel in our living room and chew on some of her toys. Ick!

The playroom is a large room complete with rubber interlocking floor mats and an IKEA Expedit shelf turned onto its side (I am so fearful of toppling furniture so no tall furniture can be found here). The shelf is complete with green bins for toys.

The playroom began with very few toys. After all, our little man put everything in his mouth so we had to be careful what we let him play with. In the beginning, there were only the soft toys and rattles. As he has grown and developed, so have the toys.

It became too much for both of us. I began to notice that Declan had a very short attention span. There was too much to attract his attention so he would go from toy to toy to toy and really never play with any one of them very long. This kind of play was not fostering learning.

So, Day 2 brought on the Toy Room Cleanse. Gary's mom brought several Red, White and Blue bags for me to use to store items in. (If you are not familiar with what we call a red, white and blue, see here {Hong Kong and the Red, White and Blue} OR see an image of the new red, white and blue {Hip Red, White and Blue}. The ones his mom brought me are not red, white and blue, but are covered in cute patterns. {see photo below}

I used one to store the toys that are too young for Declan and one to store toys too old for Declan as well as a few toys that I could rotate in and out. I put these in the corner of the playroom. This helped get a lot of extra toys out of the space.

I then rearranged the playroom to where his push toys and walking toys are in one corner. His small toy bins with balls and music toys are in the cubbies, his books are in a plush, woven felt bin {Purchased at Target}. in the corner by the bookcase, and his larger cars are in yet another corner.

This arrangement has really helped with how he plays. Having the toys in groupings in different areas helped with his play today. He would actually stay in one spot for a while and play with the toys there. If he wanted to play with something different, he would have to crawl to another spot in the room. This space has also allowed space for him to practice walking with his push toys.

IKEA Expedit bookcase on its side
Plush bin from Target for books
Toy Vehicles

Two of Declan's favorite toys right now are the two pictured here: Melissa and Doug Sound Puzzle (who knew?) and his push helicoptor from his YeYe. He also loves his train that he can walk and push (gift from a friend).

This is not a new concept. Children are curious, especially at one. He is no different. The more that is out to catch his eye, the more he wants to see. If I want him to really begin to learn from his toys (ie His new skill this week was putting circular wooden donuts onto a wooden dowel - this helps with hand, eye coordination and using his fine motor skills), then I need to do things to help foster the learning. By limiting the toys your child has and rotating them in and out of the play area, your child will also be more excited about his/her toys because they will seem new to him/her.

Here are some links to child development at the age of 1-2:

This is a wonderful article that restates what I have noticed with Declan's play recently after "cleansing" his playroom. I am thinking I will follow this blog that I was lucky enough to find since I am moving more toward the Minimalist attitude in our home by de-cluttering.