Monday, September 30, 2013

The dining room is all grown up

One of the things I was most excited about when we decided to sell our house was the thought that I might have an actual dining room.  

In our old house, the "dining room" (yes, it deserves the air quotations, because it wasn't actually a room.  More like "undefined space probably used for eating and stuff") sat right off the kitchen, and was only large enough for a small table.  We did the best we could with it, but it was never a great space for entertaining.

This is my superproud BHG photo moment.  Yes, I was in the BHG 100 Days of Holidays e-mail.  One time.  A really long time ago.  

This table was accomplished because we purchased two identical tables - they were super cheap and I like the look - and stuck them end to end.  'Cause we're classy like that.

A dining room was one of those non-negotiables on my list when we were house hunting.  I couldn't keep shoving two tables together in a room that was waaaay too small like the dining version of a fat guy in a little coat - I just couldn't do it.

After spending the last year living in a construction zone of varying levels of completeness, I was so excited to have the opportunity to actually pull together a table.  A themed out, season-appropriate table, because I'm super OCD and since I'll never cure cancer, my love language is to feed people and make things pretty I'm an amazing homemaker.

So here's a little of the decorating and renovating and finishing we've been doing around here to take these empty walls from house to home. 


We've got an awful lot of blue and green working in our house right now; it's kind of the glue that's holding the whole design together, and it extended to our dishware.  Since those aren't traditional "fall" colors, I wanted something that would incorporate the blue and green, but in a way that still lends itself to a fall feel.  I already had the galvanized wash tub - which I adore - so we filled it with seasonal flowers.  The pumpkins I found at Pier 1, and I like them because they pull in not only that fall feel but also unify the other gold and silver elements in the room.

I made the napkins, which I like because of their versatility.  A gold-ish charger, a bit of twine and a simple hand-printed name tag, and we're in business.

I'm really enjoying displaying my dishware, all out in the open and whatnot.  It's a nice alternative to letting it collect dust 362 days a year.   Usually those pillar candles sit on the top shelf where that awkward space is, but they were upgraded to prime real estate on the table. 

Also, that square plate up there?  It used to look like this...

...but it's gotten a facelift to work with the decor in our new home.  I firmly believe in the transforming power of paint.

I'm loving all the natural elements in this room.  The flowers, the metal, the twine, the hint of glamour with the gold and silver, but in a way that doesn't overpower.  There is a lot happening with color and texture, but it still all works.

The room opens to both the living room and the kitchen - which means it's a fabulous running ground for children and dogs.  Is it weird that I really like the sound of their screaming and pounding feet as they run themselves silly in circles through my house?

The chandelier in this room (which, sadly, didn't make it into the photo) is the only original light fixture left in this house... and I'm seriously considering spray-painting it blue.  What?  Too far?  

I'm not completely sold on the art above the buffet.  It too was a beloved part of our old home, and has been with me since my very first apartment.  Although I love the print itself, I'm not sure it "goes" in our new house.  What do you think?

So there you have it!  Our first grown up dining room table in our first grown up dining room.  And just in time, too, because we were lucky to have ten people (not including the two preschoolers and SIX! littles that have been born in the last 13 months) join us for dinner recently.  Turns out, it's the perfect space for entertaining.  We all FIT!  Can I get a woohoo?!

It's a serious upgrade from those two tiny stucktogether tables of our first house.

Have I mentioned that we're kinda loving it?

Have a great Monday, and let us know if you have any questions!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sneak peek {and a freebie!}

Happy Thursday, friends!

We are busy with a snotty nosed three year old and a one year old who wants to be held.  All.The.Time.  School has been suspended (better than being suspended from school - can that happen in the home school world?) in favor of lots of TV, naps and that age old, mom-approved fluids, fluids, fluids.  It's extremely glam around here.

I am hard at work on several projects, including our first house-iversary update and TOUR!  Stay tuned, because it's coming next week.  I'm excited to show you all the progress we've made (not to mention all the horrible befores, which make us look reallygood by comparison.  It's like I planned it that way!).  

Also coming next week...

It's October, y'all!  My absolute favorite month of the year.  Without giving too much away, I'll leave you with: We've been doing a little decorating.  I can't tell you any more because it's not 100% finished, but I am loving this project.  I've had the same old boring stuff on my Halloween mantel for the last six years, and it was time for a change.  Cue the dramatic, spooky music and break out the fog machine, because like werewolves on a full moon...'s coming.

Lastly, something I'm over the moon about: It's my first ever FREEBIE!

You guys and your sweet compliments about this printable from our kitchen makeover, you really know how to make a girl blush.

Here's my secret: I made it.  In honor of your encouragement on our crazy journey, and how creative you've made this non-creative, artistically-challenged gal feel, we've decided to share the love.  

Simply click here to download and save.  You should end up with a JPG file which can be printed from your home computer (I took mine to Tarjay and had it printed as an 8x10 photo for the low price of about $2).  Since this is my first ever freebie, please let me know if you're experiencing any trouble with this; we'll work out the kinks as we go.  {Obnoxious necessary legal stuff: images and printables found on these links are intended for the private and noncommercial use of individuals and are not intended to be sold, distributed or recreated.}

If you find a home for my friend the happy camel here, let us know how you use him!  

Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Best of the net: Fall Home tour faves

Have you ever had one of those moments where the stars aligned, the light of Heaven shown down and you were in total, complete bliss?

I'm a geek - GEEK - for fall/Halloween/Christmas home decor. I'm the girl who subscribed to Better Homes and Gardens magazine instead of People at the age of 18.  Yes, they delivered it to my dorm room, thank you for asking. I wait every year for mid-September when two amazing things happen: 1) PSL, 2) 100 Days of Holidays e-mails from

(Sidenote: I'm still a little on the fence about Pinterest, even though it should probably be right up my alley. Sometimes I love it. Sometimes the crazy amounts of creativity all in one place makes my head feel like it might explode. Plus, all my seemingly-creative ideas seem to slide through a sieve once I get on Pinterest and see that someone else has already done it better than I could have. WHAT'S IN YOUR WATER, Pinterest people? I want some!  Rant over.)

This year, BHG went one step further and hooked up with some amazing and talented bloggers to creat the Finding Fall Home Tour. You guys? It's like Christmas morning, calorie free ice cream, a full night's sleep and fireworks all rolled into one. With a pumpkin spice latte on the side.

So today, a crazy-talented roundup of a few of my faves from the tour. You can see the whole thing by checking out Finding Home. Grab your coffee and a cozy spot to sit, because you'll want to stay a while.

via The Yellow Cape Cod (Drool.)

via Thislewood Farms (Double drool.)

RIGHT?  Aren't you in the mood to go out and buy some mums, pumpkins and burlap?!  Nothing's better than a little inspiration on your computer screen.  No - not even a PSL.  (Well, we'll call it a tie.)

Have an inspired day!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week 3 Roundup

Our third week of preschool was brought to us by the letter A and the garden of Eden.

Predictably then, our activities were chalk full of one thing: APPLES!

We made prints using apples and paint.  Once they were dry, we used them to do a variety of activities.  We hung them on the wall and practiced counting in order, which she has completely mastered. 

I gave her a basket, and she got to "pick" the apples off the "tree" (aka the wall.  It wasn't fancy, but totally fun anyway.)  She recognizes the numbers in order, so we were done with this in about five minutes, but it was enough fun that I put them back up and we did it again a few times. 

We did an apple taste test, and had great conversations about the ways that the apples are similar and different.  We got to explore the word OBSERVE.  My favorite part of homeschooling isn't the activities, it's the conversations and listening to her frame the world for herself.  She knows so much!

We recorded our findings (while practicing the letter X, of course).  She got a little mavericky and drew her first S - totally on her own - for "soft" and a G for juicy.  Love.

This child loves her work books, so we did a little of that too.

And I'm quite happy to report that the chalkboard is getting its fair share of use!  (Those big circles are apples, not bombs, in case you were wondering.)

We used the apples to do a few things, including working on patterns, and doing this apple craft based on our memory verse.  I'm starting to suspect that Leah knows quite a few sight words.  She decided that she wanted to glue down "God" first, so she picked it up and pulled it out of the pile.  

 Except that I hadn't read the words to her yet, or told her anything about what we were doing.

Logan really liked this activity.  I heard an awful lot of "ooooooh!" pointyfinger.  

We made applesauce and apple pie.  We made an apple tree using her foot and her hands.  We drew apples with water colors and made a diagram of an apple on a paper plate.

On Friday, we took a little trip to a farm to pick raspberries.  I looked for a you-pick-it apple orchard, but just couldn't find one.  It's been an unusual year weather-wise in Colorado, so perhaps it just wasn't in the cards.  

So that wraps it up for us!  We're looking forward to the letter Z and the story of Noah's Ark!

Leah and Logan - Dancing in September.
What triumphs and challenges did you face this week?  Anything you and your child are particularly proud of?  Brag it out!

Happy learning, friends!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fall Wreath {and in your face 9 years ago me}

The very first fall I lived in my very first apartment, I got a little crafty.  I had a handmedown glue gun from a garage sale that my grandma gave me and I went a bit crazy at Michael's.

{Oh, get ready.  Embarrassing first apartment photo circa 2004 follows...}

Argh, HOLY first apartment HELL, Batman.  C'mon, though, how cute is that wreath?  Little college Melissa with her ducky mug someone gave her in high school and her garage sale dining room table and her very, very feeble attempt at decorating on a budget that was spent by the time I'd bought books and paid my rent.

Even though it was my first ever wreath, I thought it turned out pretty well.  And so it traveled with me into our first house, into my marriage, and onto our very first Halloween porch.

And there it remained.  Year after year, diligently and faithfully placed on its hook on the front porch each Labor Day until the day after Thanksgiving, when it was replaced by a Christmas wreath (incidentally, made about a month after this one).

Of course, it came with us to the new house.  We didn't decorate last year since we had a one month old and a new house and seventeen gajillionty projects to even make it livable.  This year when I pulled it out, covered in dust, fake flowers and greenery all a mess, it just seemed... really sad.

I decided it needed a face lift. A more grown up, sophisticated look.  A little burlap (which I'm so into this fall, by the way).  And so, I give you....

After a really really good dusting, I pulled all of my nine-year-old hard work off the wreath to start again (because: waste not want not, and the wreath itself was still in good shape).

I picked up a few things from the craft store, and started by wrapping my wreath loosely in burlap.

Once I had the burlap positioned the way I wanted it, it was a matter of getting the picks in place.  I started with several bunches of flowers, which I promptly took apart using a wire cutter.

I started with the most neutral at the back and worked my way forward, adding only one or two individual stems at a time and securing them with the glue gun.  The berries initially had leaves and full stems, which I liked but didn't love when I added them in the wreath, so I cut them down and used only the berries as a frame in the center.  

I knew, since I'd used the burlap, that I didn't want to add a bow, so instead I bought some overlarge acorns as a cover to hide the imperfections and glue where I added the picks.  The last things in were the feathers, which I absolutely adore.  

Here is the finished product:

I'm kinda loving it.  Especially since the total cost of this transformation was a whopping $24, wahoo!  It's certainly an upgrade - I suppose it was probably long overdue - from that sweet little attempt from my college days.  A grown up wreath for a grown up house.

While we're at it, a quick shot of our front door (even though I'm dying to paint that ugly brown door... Navy blue?  We'll get there!):

So, there you have it!  What do you think?  Better than my first attempt?

The Award goes to...

When I was little {okay, maybe not as little as you'd want me to be given what I'm about to admit}, I used to practice my Acceptance Speech. You know, just in case I ever won an Oscar. Or a Tony. Or a Grammy. Or a Nobel Prize, although I'm not entirely sure they let you make a speech there since they're all super smart/nerdy scientist-peace-enthusiast types. Mostly I practiced it in the shower, or in front of the mirror with my hairbrush as my microphone.  It may also have involved what I like to call the Halle Berry, where I get all choked up, overuse the phrase "oh my God!" and gush about how totally unexpected it is.

Please, tell me I'm not the only narcissist who did this?

And, although my attire is much less glam than I had imagined it would be, given that I'm still in my jammies and sipping coffee, I FINALLY GET TO GIVE MY SPEECH!!!

I was nominated for a LIEBSTER award, and I'm totally geekin' out about it!  Wahoo!!!  OhmyGod, this is so unexpected!

First, I would like to thank the Academy.  Because that's tradition, and it makes it sound like I'm super humble and never imagined I would actually win.

I also want to give shout outs to Darcy of The Ruffled Stitch and Sarah at Church Street Designs for the nomination.  You gals?  You're pretty wicked awesome.

In return, I am nominating the extraordinary talents of the lovely ladies at these sites:

  • Sara at Brainstorm In Bloom - awesome elementary-age resources, tips and tricks from a classroom teacher who's been there. 
  • Andrea at Unschool the Teacher - creativity and practicality all rolled into one neat little package!  Resources for toddlers and pre-K with a twist (they're awesome!)
  • Kimberly at Quirky Cool Blog - for edgy takes on upcycling that are as do-able as they are clever.  Love.
  • Tricia at Raising Humans - stories of down-to-earth motherhood that we can all relate to, told with vivid heart.
  • Tonya at Pails of Paint - because I'm super jealous of her mad skills.
  • My lovely friend Cindy - because she's a funny, fab mom to two incredibly adorable little girls.  Seriously, how cute are they?!
Compiled from the lists made by the two lovely bloggers who nominated me, here are my "get to know me" questions:
1. What made you want to start blogging?
     I was that kid who always had a notebook under her arm in which to jot random thoughts, back when the internet was new and I had to walk to school barefoot and uphill both ways.  I can't keep anything in my brain for more than about five minutes, so blogging was initially an opportunity to remember those precious moments with my littles.  Now that I'm home full time, it's an chance to connect, a creative outlet, and opportunity to share my triumphs and challenges and hear those of others in return.

2. What is something you have learned lately?
     I am on a crazy journey.  After a very eye-opening trip to our pediatrician, I'm no longer buying my bread - I'm making it!  I'm learning about natural family planning.  I'm learning how not to kill the plants growing in my backyard.  I'm learning how to sew.  Giving up my day job has opened up all kinds of doors to a bunch of hippie stuff I'd never imagined I would dabble in, go figure. 

3. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
     Paris.  Seriously, Paris.  I'm dying to go to Paris, so if you know anyone who can hook me up, send them my way.  I'd Carrie Bradshaw it up in Paris.

4. Favorite season and why?
     Fall.  I could list about 30 reasons, but I'll stop after Pumpkin Spice Latte.  'Nough said.

5.  If you had to live in a decade other than the current one, what would you choose?  
     I love this question.  I'm convinced I belong in the 1940's.  Or perhaps in England as a member of Downton Abbey circa 1919.  Except I'd probably suck at both because a) I'm a girl and b) I have opinions.  I hear that didn't work out for lots of people at those times.

6. Cheesecake or normal cake?
     Um, seriously, does this even require an answer?  CHEESECAKE!  For sure.

7. If all jobs paid the same, what would you choose to do?
     I am so lucky, because in this arena, all my dreams have come true.  I was a teacher, now I get to stay home full time.  Right?  It doesn't get any better!  But I like to think that in a past life I was a party planner or designer of some sort.  

8. Do you follow directions/recipes/instructions or wing it?
     I'm a follower.  I follow rules, instructions, directions, etc, but not recipes because I'm a wild, crazy rebel in the kitchen.  

9. Are you more of an early bird or a night owl?
     I wish, wish, wish I wasn't, but I am absolutely a night owl.  One who always has to get up early on account of the tiny terrorists who live with me and demand I wake up to love, feed and care for them.  They're really getting in the way of my snoozing, by the way.  

10. The beach or the mountains?
     The mountains.  The beach.  I can't decide and would love either.  Give me mountains on the beach.  In Paris.  I'm game.  

  11. Name one of your pet peeves.
     People with those COEXIST stickers on their cars.  Because, inevitably, those people drive like the biggest DBs in the universe.  Seriously - people are fighting legitimate wars over legitimate, lifechanging and life-threatening issues.  You can't even share the road.  Get over yourself.  (and don't hate me if you have one of those on the back of your car, I'm sure you're an excellent driver)

Some quid pro quo once you've been nominated:

1} You must link back to the person who nominated you.
2} You must answer the 11 questions given to you by your nominator.
3} You must pick other bloggers, each with under 200 subscribers, to be nominated for the award.
4} You must come up with 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
5} You must go their blogs and notify them of their nomination.

These questions are to you:
1. Which fictional character do you most identify with?
2. What song would you pick as the soundtrack of your life?
3. Name your favorite childhood toy.
4. Explain why you blog in 15 words or less.
5. What is the most unusual thing to happen to you while on vacation?
6. Chocolate or vanilla?
7. Thing (food or otherwise) you crave most often?
8. You are a closet _______ fan. 
9. Movie you can't help but cry while watching.
10. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
11. If I could be in a room with anyone throughout history, I would choose ____________ because...

Thanks again for reading!  I'm glad you're here!!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Homeschool rituals and routines

When I was doing my master's program, we had an entire class dedicated to classroom management.  Of that, an entire section was devoted to "rituals and routines" generally and specific to the language arts classroom.


Because predictability is key to success or failure in the classroom.  Kids need to know 1) what the expectations are, 2) how to recognize whether they're meeting them and 3) where and how they belong so that they are behaviorally, intellectually and emotionally engaged.  

Rituals and Routines for the homeschool classroom.  

In some ways, your rituals and routines have to be even more defined because your child's school day doesn't begin and end with a location change.  There is no definitive shift from "regular life" to "school," so you must embed the structure as a natural part of your child's day.  

In that effort, I offer our school day schedule as an example.  Feel free to use all or part of this as it works for you, your child and your teaching style.

5:45 - Rise and shine for Mom.  Get dressed and ready for the day.
6:30 - Rise and shine for the school girl.  Get dressed, brush teeth, tidy room and make bed.
7:00 - Breakfast (a very slow affair in our house.  If there is extra time, she gets to play or watch Super Why on PBS - a show I completely love, by the way).
8:00 - School starts! For us, Dancing in September by Earth, Wind and Fire signals the start of school.  She gets her backpack from its hook on the wall and we dance for a few minutes.  My plan is to change our "starting school" song every month; I'm thinking Monster Mash for next month (October).  

We always begin with our calendar activity first thing.  Then it's on to singing and our Bible story.  From there, the activities vary depending on our day, how engaged she is in the activities and what she wants to do.  Yes, I absolutely try to give her choices about what she wants to do (a strategy that helps with engagement, empowerment and building her own self confidence).  

Her writing/painting/coloring etc activities are always completed to the tune of the Veggie Tales channel on Pandora.  We love it.

I shoot to end between 9:30 and 10:00, and she knows it's time to end whens he hears the clean up song (yes, the one from Barney. It's lovely every day in case you were wondering).  We clean up, she gets a sticker for her hard work, then has a snack, and it's on to the rest of our day!

No one knows your children as well as you do, so whatever rituals and routines you put in place are exactly the right ones.

What are your fave activities to help your little ones during their school day (however long that may be)?

Happy learning, friends!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Attention novices: Don't fear the needle

...Unless you're on death row.  Then, probably fear the needle.

So, you guys.  I bought a sewing machine!  A Real!Life! sewing machine, complete with thread and needle and all sorts of other fancy gadgets that I can't quite use yet.  At first, I was completely intimidated.  I read the manual.  Then I read the manual some more.  Then I set the manual on fire because it might as well have been written in Latin even thought the captions were all "EASY!" and "SELF-THREADING!" I was all I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO SAY and then I cried a little, got the matches and went out into the back yard to enjoy a little manual-flavored s'more action.  It wasn't until I went back inside and discovered that I still had no clue how to use my shiny new sewing machine that I regretted my impulsiveness.  Drat.

Then I sat down in front of The Machine, called my husband and, together, we played with it until we figured it out.  We threaded that bobbin.  Hard core.  

I know - you super awesome folks out there who are actually good at this sewing thing, you totally don't get me.  Because I had the fear, people.  The kind of fear that shook me deep down to my very core.  Okay, so I threaded my bobbin.  I threaded my needle.  Now I have to... um...  ...   ... why can't I stop crying I'm not even pregnant?! 

Yeah, that happened.  

But I finally grew the guts to grab some fabric, put my foot down (literally) and stitch.  One.  Two.  Three.  Backstitch three.  Forward again.  

Feeling the rhythmic hum of the machine.  Watching something emerge where once there was just random piece of fabric.  I've so been missing out. 

Sewing?  It's awesome.

And I'm not even good at it.  Even so, I did manage to make pillows.  And a table runner.  And they actually look like - you know - what they were intended to look like.  WIN!

If you know what you're doing, you should officially ignore this post.  Because I'm going to share the "pattern" for the pillows that I made, which is like so middle school if you've sewed more than three things in your life.  You can probably make gathers and use grommets (swoon!), while all I can do is straight stitch and just barely at that.  Don't rain on my super duper novice parade, I'm the grand marshal.

I swear I ironed these, by the way.  We just have a small dog who thinks she's the Queen of Sheeba and these pillows were made especially for her.  

Here's what I did for my 20 inch square envelope closure pillow covers:
:: Measure and cut one 20 inch square panel (front)
:: Measure and cut one 20 x 26 inch panel (back)

:: Iron, iron, iron
:: Cut the larger panel in half, giving you two 20 x 13 panels to make up the envelope closure in the back

:: Fold one long edge of each 20x13 panel, iron and sew the edge

:: Pin the panels together, wrong sides facing out, creating an envelope closure in the center

:: SEW!  Sew around all edges leaving a 1/4 in seam allowance 
:: Turn right-side out and iron some more

TA-DA!!!! I KNOW, RIGHT?!  It's a pillow!  (I was excited too.  While I was sewing, Casey was laying an entirely new floor in my bathroom, but I was super excited about the fact that I stitched two pieces of fabric together.  I WIN.)

So that's that.  Obviously, I'm pretty open to suggestion.  What are your favorite tips + tricks?  Help a newbie out!

I changed my font at