Domesticated Happenings

Friends, there are always as many as three blog posts being written on the computer, as well as 7,000 being written in my head.  That is how my brain just functions.

Sometimes I get around to writing these fantastic blog posts I have in mind, but most of the time, these posts end up in the graveyard of dead and lost ideas.

Yes.  I have one of those.  It looks very similar to the elephant graveyard a la The Lion King.

Since a few things have been happening around here that I haven’t mentioned, this will be a hodge podge blog post.  A few of these things I will elaborate on more in future blog posts, but others will just have this small cameo appearance.

First, we have finally settled into our new rental home.  It felt like it took forever for me to get all of the boxes unpacked and to get everything where I would like it.  Because we didn’t move with very much furniture, we had to collect some new-to-us furniture.  There was a one month season where we had a free but very smelly couch.  The day I decided the smelly couch needed to go into a burn pile, friends of ours gifted us their old couch because they were buying a new one.

(Side note here:  The entire time we had said smelly couch, I would walk past it singing “Smelly Couch” to the tune of “Smelly Cat”, the tune written by the beloved Phoebe of the television show Friends.  My girls wondered how I made up such a clever tune about our unfortunately odorous couch.)

Our neighbors’ boss (yes, that possession is correct; both of them work for the same person) gave us his old dining set.  This was an unexpected blessing since we had never met this man before, and we really needed a larger table to accommodate any potential dinner guests.

I finally straightened up the office today, as well.  Our office/playroom is characteristically a dumping ground.  Even in Virginia, if the office was cleaned, I must have had some serious free time that day, or I was having company.  It’s nice to not have visual clutter staring me down each and every time I sit down to check e-mail or blog.

Our trusty old SUV is no longer safe to drive due to some rust issues and a non-functioning master cylinder.  Rather than repairing the car (which would probably cost more than the vehicle itself is worth), we looked into selling it to someone who would be able to repair and enjoy it.  In the meantime we had three children, all with car seats, in the back of our commuter car, a 2-door coupe.

I will mention here that we learned a valuable lesson through this experience:  Most car seats are very safe, but it is the most expensive car seats that are narrow and allow you to put multiple children in one row of a vehicle.  We did not consider this when we originally purchased car seats for the kids.  Oh boy.

After a few weeks of hauling a family of five in a scionTC, we grew tired of the “clown car” feel.  We scoured the internet for minivans that fit a few very specific criteria that my husband was not willing to budge on.  Fortunately for me, the search led us to a van in Illinois, just a few hours south of us.  Off my husband went one day last week to rescue me from having to squeeze my adult-self in the back seat of a 2-door coupe to buckle in my three children.

Our new van is a Honda Odyssey (surprise), and although it isn’t new, it is new to us.  It has some things that our family could really benefit from, like leather seats (ever taken crayons on long car rides??) and a low, deep trunk (for those of us who might be vertically challenged).  I had dreaded this stage of motherhood:  the acquisition of a “mom van”, but now that I’ve sat in the driver seat, the idea of a mini-van is growing on me.  It certainly is much more convenient than I had previously anticipated.

In light of purchasing a new vehicle, the Beard and I took a long, hard look at our finances.  Although we had taken Financial Peace University (a Dave Ramsey financial planning course), we had fallen off the bandwagon somewhere along the way.  We had, at one point, been throwing lots of money towards our student loan debt, but as of late, our zeal had waned.  Adding a car payment to our budget gave us a reality check, and we have decided to put all of our financial efforts into paying off debt before anything else.  Before buying another house.  Before buying another anything that is not absolutely necessary, in fact.

And finally, friends, I am working on taking my job at home more seriously.  As it happens, every year or so I go through phases where I feel like my work at home, raising babies, cooking, cleaning, etc. is just not “real work”.  I can feel a bit unaccomplished.  Of course this cycles downward quickly, and I find myself in pajama pants at 2:00 PM.  In order to circumvent this cycle, I intend to value and put effort into my work at home, both in order to find satisfaction in it, and to do it to the best of my ability.

That is all for this holiday weekend.  I hope you all enjoy some hot dogs, fireworks, and a toasted marshmallow or two!

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s House.

Exodus 20:17.

These words written almost 3500 years ago by a painfully shy and not-so-well-spoken servant of God have been ringing in my ears recently.

Let me explain.

When my husband and I decided to move from our last rental house so we would have room for a baby Madeline, we looked into both renting and buying options.  We hadn’t been married very long and were still (and are still :-/) paying off some student loans, so we really didn’t have any down payment saved up.

Being my traditional, we-need-to-do-things-the-“right”-way self, I spoke up and said we should just rent for a while longer.  Ryan, on the other hand, had heard that in rural areas, one could buy a home with little to no money down; this, he told me, would be a better option.  He reasoned that at least the money we spent on housing each month would actually be going towards a purchase, rather than just rent.

And now I can see that he was right, but at the time, I fought his decision a bit.  Mainly because without a down payment, our price range for a home was fairly small.  Sure we could buy something liveable and with enough room for us and a little one, but I had grand plans.  I wanted a family room and a living room, a fireplace (or two!), multiple bathrooms, and a classy looking porch.  And even more.

Our home, is not so grand.  It is modest at a little over 1000 sq feet, and it has a very simple layout.  There are no fireplaces, and there really isn’t too much quirkiness or character to the home at all.

Friends and family members around our age/life stage are beginning to buy homes, and it has seemed that everyone’s house has so much quirk and character.  I’ll admit, I have been very jealous.

Not to mention that it seems as though when our friends have bought homes, they have quickly painted and decorated, making their houses homes almost immediately after buying them.

We have been in our house over a year and a half now, and I still haven’t even finished painting our hallway.  In fact, I finished a can of paint about 3/4 of the way down the hallway.  So it just looks a bit ghetto.

And it has looked ghetto for the last, oh, 8 months.

Since the new year, I have gotten very annoyed with myself over the state of our home.

Please don’t misinterpret me, here.  Our house is fairly neat-ish, most of the time, and it is usually clean.  I just really haven’t been able to make it very homey.  Each time I went to a friend’s house and they had decorated nicely I would feel down about my own skills

These feelings culminated a few weeks ago.  We were driving home from a very artsy friend’s house, and I honestly broke into tears explaining to my husband how inadequate I felt that I couldn’t create a home like my friend could.  He tried to comfort me as best he could, but I knew my husband just couldn’t understand my distress.  What he kept reminding me was that there were so many other things I excel at, and so what this wasn’t one of them?

And then it really hit me.  Although I thought I had been coveting other women’s homes, I wasn’t.  Instead I was coveting their skills.  I coveted their eye for color or their ability to pick out and coordinate fabrics and furniture in their home.  I coveted their ability to work within a budget to make their home a comfortable place for their family.

I simply don’t excel at those things.  But like Ryan said, so what?  God has given me other gifts.  I can bake a mean loaf of bread, and I can memorize almost any number I see, including license plates and social security numbers.

I am essentially my own Rolodex. 😉

So, readers, I wrote this long post just to say that I have surrendered to that fact.  I simply don’t have the artistic ability to make my home look like a picture-perfect magazine house.  Instead, I am striving to not only discover what it is I like, but how to incorporate it in our home within a budget.

No longer will I worry and fret over what other people think when they walk into my living room.  Will they judge my color choices?  Will they think I hang weird pictures?

Who cares?

It’s our home, not theirs.  And it may be a plain Jane kind of house, but it’s my plain Jane kind of house to put my mark on.

Nesting at Christmas

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During my last pregnancy I don’t particularly remember having a nesting period. I definitely prepare to have Bitsy Girl come home, but it wasn’t the crazy hormonal rage I had heard about from other women. Well, this pregnancy has made up for it! I have had a few days in the last week or two when all I want to do is fix up the house. I have been vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, generally cleaning in addition to finishing up with curtains in the house and decorating for Christmas. I have made curtains for three rooms in the house in the last two weeks! The best part of all, though, has been the Christmas decorating. For the first time since having my own space I have really enjoyed putting up our tree as well as using cheesy fake garland with some Christmas lights. And of course, covering our windows with window clings. I am not sure how I ended up in possession of at least 6 different kind of clings, but it has allowed me to bring Christmas into rooms where it normally doesn’t creep into. And of course I was creative with our tree topper: a Santa hat!

Super Simple Fall Craft (for the Challenged Crafter)

I have seen everyone and their mother make these wreaths on Pinterest and around town, so I decided to give it a go in hopes that it would be a simple project:

Thankfully it was, and I would love to share how I created this cute little wreath.

Materials


A straw wreath in the size of your choice (mine is a 16″ diameter) ($3.75)

one or two skeins of yarn (depending on the size of your wreath ($2.99)

artificial flowers ($3)

Technique

There wasn’t too much technique involved here.  I balled each of the skeins of yarn, then wrapped the yarn fairly tightly around the wreath to create and completely wrapped look.  I had started with just gray, but then ran out of that yarn and still had straw gaps to cover, so I made some fancy white stripes with yarn I had around the house.  (The gray yarn wasn’t a full skein anyway).

This was a tedious task, and it took probably over an hour.

After I finished wrapping, I grabbed my artificial flower bouquet and snipped off some of the flowers leaving about 1/2″ if stem attached.  I used the plastic stem of each flower to secure it to the wreath by pushing the stem through the straw.  For more flexible stems on the smaller flowers, I just tucked the stem into several wraps of yarn.

I’m sure you could hot glue the flowers to this wreath, as well as other decorative items if you were so inclined.  I am not so handy with a hot glue gun and decided against using one.

I hope you enjoy this super simple, super easy craft that can make your front door look cute for just over $10!

Some Indoor, Uh “Green” Updates

As new-ish homeowners, Beard and I still have quite a bit to learn about how to take care of a house and make it our own.  We’ve been fairly slow in most of these processes, most likely because we moved in here when I was 8 months pregnant with the Bitsy Girl.  There really is only so much a giant waddling woman can help with, and with a tiny baby around, there isn’t much you can start on without fearing it will wake her up.  Now that we’ve realized Bitsy Girl could sleep through a circus dancing through her bedroom during nap time, we’re a bit more adventurous.

Yesterday we finally decided to tackle what is probably one of the biggest, but most dramatic improvements we want to make in this house:  painting the kitchen.  That may not sound like much; painting is a fairly easy job.  But when you have over 40 square feet of ridiculous cheap back splash to rip off, the job because a little bit more complicated.

This was our kitchen the day we moved in:

It wasn’t terrible, but definitely not our style.  The whole house was painted with flat, beige paint, which, to be perfectly honestly, has never really done it for me.  I’m more of a color kind of girl.  The most impressive thing in the photo, though, is the back splash.  It is a single sheet of what we discovered was dry erase board behind the counters, oven, and nearly floor to ceiling next to the back door.  This, my friends, was our challenge.

Some of you may be thinking “oh, how neat!  Dry erase board as your back splash.  Clever!”.  But those of you are sadly mistaken.  Not only did this junk cover way more square footage of wall than a normal back splash should, it was also not very cute at all.  Despite what it looks like in the photo, it was white with a faux gray marbling.  Which, of course did not match the black speckled counter tops that were put in by the same owner.  ::sigh::  That kitchen mismatched itself in so many ways it drove me nuts.

So more than one year after moving into this house, we finally decided to tackle the kitchen.  This decision was made based, of course, on the fact that I discovered that a good friend of mine loves to paint.  My husband hates to paint, but loves hanging out with my friend’s husband.

(I did not let Beard get away without helping with the back splash, of course.  I’m not sure my friend an-d I could have torn it down with as much efficiency as Beard can.  He can be truly Beardly sometimes.)

This is the lovely wood paneling we found underneath the back splash.  Our whole house has this stuff, and it has been oh so lovely to paint.  We were surprised to find it unpainted underneath the back splash.  The flat, beige paint caper mystery had finally been solved.  It was one owner to single-handedly painted the whole house one bland color and mismatched the kitchen to itself; way to go, Dude.

It was once the final pieces of back splash had been ripped off that Beard took a break.

He then promptly showered and ran quickly from the house with the Bitsy Girl so my friend and I could get painting.  It was a fairly uneventful job after this, but the results were oh so dramatic.

Pay no attention to the junk on our counter and stove.  We’re just slow at putting things away.  But seriously.  The difference is ridiculous.  The best part:  it only took one can of paint.  I haven’t quite decided what to do with the other can yet, but I’m not returning it.  Maybe I’ll paint the dog green. 🙂

 

Making Goodwill furniture look GOOD

I do like to frequent the Goodwill.  Okay, all thrift stores (including the terrifying DAV, for those of you in Central VA).  Not only can I find clothes for all of us, shoes (usually just for me), and random household items, I can usually spot a quality piece of furniture dumped by someone who had no use for it.

Two weeks ago, Beard and I had gone camping, and on our way back I coaxed him into stopping at Goodwill.  Don’t ask how this works; he’s a sweet man.  I spotted a lightly stained wooden desk for $15.50.  I had been scouting out a desk for myself for several weeks now, since my husband uses all of his desk (and doesn’t share well :-P).  I hmm-ed and haw-ed over this desk for far too long until Beard made the decision for me.  He got a “Sold” sticker from the woman at the register and promised to pick up the desk later in the week.

Of course, I hate light-colored staining.  I don’t know why; it just doesn’t look nice to me at all.  It looks very early 90’s, and we all know how styles in the early 90’s have been praised…

So my solution was I needed to paint this desk.  My color of choice:  black.  Our home has mostly light (almost pastel, but not so gross) colored walls, so black furniture sets it off nicely without making my home look like a Precious Moments book.

I grabbed some supplies for the job at Lowes and Walmart.  I want you to know that I used the absolute cheapest version of things possible for almost every supply.  My husband and I are constantly arguing over price versus value; are more expensive things actually better.  So to test my theory, I used cheap-o stuff.

First, my hand sander:

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A Black and Decker Mouse.  This was the only item purchased at Lowes, and it cost $43.  That may seem really expensive, but honestly, check out some of the other hand sanders some time.  Orbital sanders, for example, start around $50, and though they can be more useful, Beard chose the Mouse for me because the pointed front allows me to get into little corners.  Love it!

From Walmart I acquired my Krylon Indoor/Outdoor Spray Primer in gray.  Since I was painting the desk a dark color, a darker primer allows me to use less coats of paint. 🙂  I also grabbed a quart of Krylon Color Creations Black Satin Finish paint, as well as a 2″ paint brush labeled “Good”, but only because Beard wouldn’t let me get the “Economy” brush.  (On a side note, I was thankful for that.  This brush was actually a lot nicer than I expected.)

Of course, in order to do the job correctly I had my husband help me disassemble the desk, then I was able to get to work sanding it down:

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I didn’t have to take every speck of stain off the wood, just rough it up enough for the priming coat.

Now, I will warn you that I used spray primer.  And I stink at spray painting, so I really just put a good, thick coating on.  If you have any skill at spray painting, do two or three thick coats of primer; it’ll work better.

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Then of course I applied paint.  And more paint.  I ended up with three coats of paint, and no, I didn’t take any in between coat pictures.  That’s because the first two had paw prints on them.  Seriously.  I can’t keep those kitties out of anything.

After letting the final coat dry for at least 24 hours, I had my Builder Beard put the desk back together:

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Pretty shnazzy, huh?

 

Next up:  A mild rant