Monday, May 30

Happy memories

Last week I shared the fact that I was running at top speed, getting through the week of final exams and planning for my youngest son's 8th grade graduation and my middle son's high school graduation. Our busy week is now past, and we're left just with memories of some good, good times.

Want a glimpse?

My youngest son Lee (now a freshman!) and a very proud mom

All three boys at Lee's 8th grade celebration

Preston speaking at his graduation ceremony

Jack, Preston, and me

Preston with my amazing sister and her family

Preston and his good friend Will with our wonderful pastor

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

Wednesday, May 25

Running at top speed

Here's part of what's going on this week at our house:

  • Jack's back at work after his surgery (he's doing well, thank God!)
  • Final exams for Lee
  • 8th grade graduation for Lee
  • Senior banquet for Preston
  • Preston's high school graduation
  • Preston's graduation open house
I didn't realize I could run so fast. If you were to draw a cartoon of me right now, I'd just be a blur. Heaven help me!

Despite the craziness, though, I have to smile:

My hydrangeas are in bloom. God is good.

So what's going on at your house?

Thursday, May 19

Furnishing an outdoor room: make your own ottoman

I just re-made one of my favorite pieces of outdoor furniture, and I took pictures so that I could write a tutorial for you--in case you'd like to make your own ottoman!

Since my front porch is covered and fairly sheltered from the elements, I like to treat it as a outdoor living room. Several years ago we bought a settee and two chairs made of outdoor "wicker" furniture (it's not wicker at all; it's a weather-proof synthetic). Ours is made by Lane Furniture, and it's very sturdy and comfortable. If you're ready to invest in high-quality porch furniture, I would certainly suggest that you check out Lane's pieces. They are of the highest quality, and I couldn't recommend them more highly. Buying the settee and chairs ate up most of my budget for furnishing this space, though, so I had to get creative with the other furnishings. I made a sturdy ottoman for almost no money. Here's how you can make one of your own.

First, obtain a very sturdy styrofoam cooler, such as an Omaha Steaks cooler. You've seen these, I'm sure--you might have one sitting in your garage! You need something heavy-duty enough to hold your weight when you sit on it.  (You could also do this with a heavy-duty crate or wooden box.)

Add something heavy to the inside of the cooler, just to make the ottoman more weighty. I used old magazines from the recycling bin.

Pad the cooler with foam. I used pieces of an old egg-carton mattress pad. You can pad the top only or the top and sides, which makes a nice cushy ottoman.

Leave the bottom un-padded.

Cut a piece of scrap wood to go on the bottom of your ottoman. Adhere the wood to the ottoman with your choice of adhesive (I used my glue gun).

Cut a piece of heavyweight decorator fabric big enough to wrap your ottoman like a gift. I used about 1 1/2 yards of 54" wide upholstery fabric. Lay the fabric wrong-side-up on the floor; place the cooler right in the middle of the fabric. If your fabric is striped or patterned like mine, make sure the cooler is sitting straight on the pattern.

Pull the fabric over the long sides of the cooler. Make the fabric nice and taut. Using a staple gun, attach the fabric to the wood underside of the cooler. Use just a few staples at this point; you'll add more when all sides are covered.  Be sure to take your time on this part to get the sides nice and smooth.

Fold and pull and re-fold and re-pull until the fabric on the two ends of the cooler is neatly arranged. I made "seam" lines in the corners (although these are not seams; they're just folds). This part is a little tricky, but remember you're just wrapping the cooler with fabric the same way you'd wrap a present with wrapping paper.  Here's a tip: You'll have a good bit of excess fabric in these end pieces; cut out some of the underneath excess with scissors so your fabric will lie flat. It won't be perfectly smooth, but that doesn't matter. It may take you several tries to get the fabric to look the way you want it on the ends.  When you've achieved a look that you like, pull the fabric good and tight, eliminating all wrinkles, then attach the ends of the fabric to the wooden underside.

Once you have all sides smooth enough, staple the fabric to the cooler's underside several times, so that it's very firmly attached. At this point you'll have a nice fabric-colored box.

See? The ends aren't perfectly smooth, but they're close enough.

Choose something to use for your ottoman's feet. I purchased feet from Home Depot for about $4.00 each and spray-painted them to go with my wicker furniture.

If you use feet such as this, use an electric drill to create a hole in each corner of the bottom of your ottoman. Then simply screw the feet into place.

Alternatively, you can use just about any kind of block that will attach securely to the bottom of the ottoman.

Turn your ottoman right-side-up to make sure it's steady on its feet.

Now sit down and put your feet up--you've created a lovely piece of porch furniture for very little money!
Since I made the ottoman, I've updated my porch, and I simply re-covered the ottoman.  Here it is now:

If you have a heavy-duty box or crate or even a cooler, you can create your own ottoman!

And later I updated once again, this time with a drop cloth and some painter's tape.  Here's the latest look:

The possibilities for customization for this project are practically endless!

**Note: I first made this cooler-cum-ottoman in 2009. It's been used heavily and left out in all seasons since then. I've changed the fabric several times, but I'm happy to tell you that body of the ottoman is just as sturdy now as it was when I first made it. So if you have access to one of these sturdy coolers, I can highly recommend that you use it in this way.**

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Wednesday, May 18

Still painting after all these years

I remember the very first time I spray painted something. The year was 1988, and I transformed a beat-up old shelf unit from the trash pile into a sleek black shelf unit to hold our stereo (you know, the kind of stereo with a turntable, a cassette deck, and big speakers). My love for spray paint was born that day, and it's never faltered.

One of my favorite things about spray paint is that it can transform an object of very humble origins into something useful for my home. My latest spray paint transformation? This old sewing box I found for a couple of dollars at Goodwill:

I don't know if you can tell, but the plastic of the box is embossed to resemble woodgrain. I didn't think the embossing looked too great on the original box, but look at it with a coat of Rustoleum's Heirloom White:

Not bad for a couple of bucks, huh?

As to where I'll use it in my house, I think I'll employ it as a "floor dressing" piece. An interior designer friend of mine once told me not to neglect empty floor space, such as under a side table. So I'm always on the lookout for things that would look good on the floor but not create a cluttered mess. Boxes like these tea chests are some of my favorites:

I found these several years ago at TJMaxx, and I like the way they look under the tea table in my dining room. (Bonus: they mostly hide the lamp cord!)

But even at TJMaxx prices, boxes like this can be pricey, so I'm really glad to re-purpose a Goodwill find with spray paint!

How about you? Are you a spray paint fan? You should check out Thrifty Decor Chick's Spray Paint Party for lots of inspiration!

Tuesday, May 17

How did it go so fast?

My baby boy. On the day we took him home from the hospital. I know he's mine; I have the ID tag to prove it.

I was a 27-year-old with no prior experience and no training, yet they released him into my care. They checked his little ID tag and just handed him to me, as if I knew how to care for him. What were they thinking?

His birth was just a little while ago, wasn't it? Wasn't it?

Oh, no. The calendar doesn't lie. It was 20 years ago today.

And that old adage rings in my ears:

The days are long, but the years are short.

Really short.

Tuesday, May 10

A new day

". . . we have left undone those things we ought to have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done."

(Confession of Sin, Morning Prayer, Book of Common Prayer)

That pretty much sums it up. And brings me to today.

Thank God for new beginnings.

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in Him."
Lamentations 3:19-24

Anyone else in need of a new beginning today?

**Joining Darcy for Sweet Shot Tuesday**

Sunday, May 8

Mother's Day

Today is my 20th Mother's Day.

Wow. Even as I type those words, I find them hard to believe. It's cliche', of course, but so true: The days are long, but the years are short.

In honor of the occasion, I'd like to share a post that I originally wrote for my dear friend Melissa at 320 Sycamore. And if you're a mom, I wish you a very happy Mother's Day today!

May 2010

As I reflect on some things I've learned about being a mother, my thoughts turn to my teachers. I have three of them. They're all red-headed boys. For most of what I know about being a mom I've learned from my kids.

First, the oldest. He's always been my favorite, you know. He's the one who taught me how to do so many important things: how to feed a baby, how to bathe a baby, how to comfort a baby. I can just picture him with his curly red hair and his soulful hazel eyes. He's always been a thinker, that boy--a thoughtful, deliberate, patient fellow. He's the one who named me. I never knew if I would be "Mama" or "Mommy" or "Mother"--but "Mom" is the name he chose, and so "Mom" I am. He taught me to listen.

Then there's my second son. He's always been my favorite, no doubt about it. He's the one who made my oldest son a brother, the one who made us really feel like a family. He taught me that a mother has two hands--one for each boy. Oh, how he loved his big brother. I can just picture him shadowing his brother, imitating him, always trying to win his approval. He's faithful and loyal and gracious, always ready to assist. He taught me that I can do much more than I ever thought I could.

And then the youngest. He's always been my favorite, hands down. He's the one who charmed us all. What a joy he'a always been, this little tag-a-long. I can just picture him wanting to do the same things the "big boys" did. In the end, though, he made a special place for himself. He taught me patience by his example. He's always had to go along, and he's become a great companion. He's funny and fun, creative and generous. He taught me to treasure childhood.

After nearly 19 years of motherhood, perhaps the greatest thing I've learned is how love works. I always wondered how God could love all of us--how it was possible that all His children could be so dear to Him. I never really understood. I didn't realize how the heart can expand--how time may be divided, but love multiplies. I'd heard that before I was a mom, but I never knew it myself. Now I know it's true.

I learned it from my favorite sons.

Friday, May 6

A little too much excitement

When my boys were little, they would judge the excitement of a day by how many different kinds of vehicles they saw. Together, we read books about vehicles. We sang songs about vehicles. We watched videos about vehicles. We had a Matchbox car collection so large it was practically uncontainable.

When my oldest son, Will, was four years old, he went on a special trip with my husband. They called home upon arriving at their hotel. Will's breathlessly thrilling report to me? "I rode in a van, a bus, an airplane, and a rental car ALL IN ONE DAY!" In the world of a family of boys, a day doesn't get much better than that.

But even in a family of boys, it was altogether a little too exciting for this vehicle to arrive at our house on Wednesday evening:

I snapped this photo with my phone just before I climbed in to accompany my husband to Duke Hospital. Jack's open-heart surgery is now three weeks past, and he's been doing really well. But he had a setback on Wednesday when his heart developed arrhythmia and he fainted. He hit his chest on our living room sofa when he went down--right across his incision site. Miraculously, he was not badly hurt. But he fainted again as Preston and I were helping him into our bedroom. At that point I called 911.

And that's how I got the exciting chance to ride in an ambulance.

So Jack is back in the hospital for a couple of days. Thank God, he's doing well now. Apparently some post-surgical inflammation caused the arrhythmia. They conducted a lot of tests to rule out any other problems; everything was fine. They performed a process called cardioversion to stop and re-start his heart. I'll admit that was a little scary, but now his heart in normal rhythm. His cardiologist also prescribed an anti-arrhythmic drug that he'll have to take for several weeks. He'll remain in the hospital for observation for another day or so, and then he should get to go home.

Will you join me in thanking God for protecting Jack? It's been a rough couple of days, but I am brought to my knees in gratitude in considering how much worse things could have been. I think I've had all the excitement I need for one week!

Tuesday, May 3

Inexpensive kitchen accessories

I'm really enjoying the new-sew faux Roman shade I created for my kitchen window (click here for tutorial). The black background of the fabric is great for blocking the strong western sunlight, and the cheerful colors in the fabric are light and summery-feeling. I wanted to add more of those colors to my kitchen, especially the aqua color. So I was excited to find these inexpensive towels at Target:

I went back to the fabric store and bought just a few inches of fabric (1/4 yard was more than enough). I cut two strips of fabric 5 inches wide and just a little longer than the width of my towels:

I pressed the top and bottom edges under 1/2 inch with my iron, creating nice neat edges. Then I simply hot-glued on the strip of fabric to the bottom of each towel:

I folded under the edge of each side, then folded the remaining fabric and hot-glued it to the back of the towel:

As a finishing touch, I hot-glued on some gimp to cover the top edge of the fabric. The gimp was just $1.50 per yard at my discount fabric store, and one yard was more than enough.

Aren't the finished towels cute?

Now, will the glued-on fabric hold up to washing? We'll see. I think it probably will, but I'll let you know if it fails. If my past experience with getting hot-glue stuck on fabric is any indication, it should hold up well. Of course, making these towels would be an easy sewing project, but I wanted to try this no-sew method.

**Update, one week later: I've washed and dried these towels twice now, and the hot glue is holding strong!**

And while I had my glue gun out, I completed another fun project. When I was buying my 1/4 yard of fabric, I noticed this fringe that went really well with my fabric:

The fringe was $5.00 per yard; I bought 1/2 yard, thinking I would make tassels for the lamps that flank my kitchen sink.

I came home and searched through my bits and pieces of trim, and came up with a pretty good combination:

As you can see, I used a candle cup as the base for each tassel. When they were complete, I added these toppers:

I bought these on clearance after Christmas; each one cost me 25 cents. I like the way there's both a male and a female cardinal, and both work with the colors of my fabric. (I neglected to take a photo of the tassels before I hung them on my lamps, so these pictures aren't the best. Sorry about that.)

Here's a little clearer photo with the lamp turned off:

And here's a late-afternoon photo of my kitchen sink with its new accessories:

All together, I spent about $11.00 and a little time for two new towels and two tassels. I'm pleased with my work. What do you think?

**I'm joining

Vanessa and Heather, At the Picket Fence, for Inspiration Friday