Wednesday, July 31

Easy lighting updates

We've now lived in this house for eight years.  We know how the house works.  We know how we live in this space--and what doesn't work for us so well.  So we've been making some updates over the past several months.

One of my favorite things about the kitchen updates I made this spring is the new chandelier in the breakfast area.

We've used this space in many different ways over the years, but we finally decided that our extra-long table is a keeper, so we added a chandelier to the space.

I'll tell you the truth--finding the right chandelier was not easy.   We needed something fairly big and wanted something a little on the rustic side.  And we wanted something that would be well-made and heavy-duty without costing a fortune.  The Arturo chandelier from Ballard Designs was just right for us.  (One of the great things about Ballard is that they often have promotional coupons.  When I bought the chandelier, I used a coupon that I found in a copy of Southern Living.)

When we found the chandelier we wanted, I wished for new pendant lights over the island.  Luckily, the pendant lights over our island were the easiest home improvement I've ever made--they're inexpensive light kits that simply screw into existing can lights. 

The only downside to using these kits is that the fixtures only accommodate a chandelier-sized light bulb, but that's really not a big deal.  Here's how they looked for years.  You can see the old wall color, a sage green, in the background.

This latest update was even easier--I just replaced the shades on the pendants!  The new shades were less than $10 each, so this was a very low-cost change.  Someday I might bite the bullet and have custom pendant lights installed by an electrician, but for now these work just fine.  

I like the way these complement the new chandelier.  Here you can see the pendant lights with the chandelier in the background.

Some of you have asked when I'm going to share the updates we've made to our living room.  My answer: as soon as I can!  One last piece is still on back-order.  Waiting for it has tested my patience, for sure.  But the room should be done soon!

Meanwhile, I have a few more plans for updates to our kitchen, but the next ones are going to take a bit more time.  Slowly but surely, right?

Monday, July 29

Super-easy decorative pillow made from scraps

This spring I made a new faux Roman shade for my kitchen window, and I love the new look.  This particular shade I made from a tablecloth, so I had extra fabric left over.  Of course I saved the scraps--do you do that, too?

Here's a close-up of the shade:

A few days ago it occurred to me that I could use those scraps to make pillows for the new captain's chairs in the breakfast area, adding a bit of coordination between breakfast room and kitchen.  So I made them.  Out of scraps.  For free.

I just rolled up an old towel cut to size for my chair to make the innards of the pillow.  (This produces a nice firm pillow--you can use a different kind of filling to make a squishy pillow.)

I followed this tutorial for making a no-sew bolster pillow--it's really simple!

Adding a covered button to the end makes the pillow look finished.

I had the covered button kits in my stash, so my total cost for this project was $0.  Zero.  Nothing but a few minutes of my time.  It took me much longer to take the photos and write this post than it did to make the pillows!
Now the captain's chairs sport colorful little pillows that coordinate with the kitchen window treatment.  You could make much bigger bolster pillows using this same method.  I didn't want the pillows to get in the way of the person sitting in the chair, so I purposefully made them kind of skinny.

Do you have any chairs that could use a little splash of color?  Check out your fabric stash--you could be well on your way to custom-made pillows!

Wednesday, July 24

Simple project: DIY "Antique" Stool

It's been very hot around these parts as well as a little too busy for my liking.  I wanted (needed?) to do a quick little project that I could finish without toiling for hours in the heat.

This little "antique" stool fills the bill nicely!

In real life, there's nothing antique about it.  It started out as a cheap pine stool from the discount store, and it's been sitting in our attic for years.

To get the look I wanted, I started by giving the stool a coat of Rustoleum's Heirloom White spray paint.

Hint:  To spray paint an item evenly and easily, begin by turning it upside down.  And if you're painting several items the same color, group them together!  Any overspray from one item will land on the other.

Here's the stool after its fresh coat of paint.

I wanted a little more character for this stool, though. So I used some sandpaper to distress the edges.  I love distressing furniture.  You can take out your frustrations by sanding the paint off the edges of the furniture.  And when you're done with the distressing, you don't have to worry about your paint getting nicked or chipped--that just adds to the look!

Just for fun, I decided to apply a number to the stool.  This would be simple if you had a stencil or a vinyl cutting machine.  I have neither of those, so I just used Microsoft Word and printed a huge "5."  (I think this one was size 480.)  I don't know how to print an image in reverse, so I printed the 5 regularly, then flipped the paper over and scribbled all over the back of the image with a pencil.

Then I turned the image right side up and traced around the 5 with a pencil.  This gave me the outline of the 5 on my stool.   Look closely and you can see the pencil marks.  (I should have taken the time to center the number on my stool top a little better, but oh well.)

Once I had my outline, I simply colored in the 5 with a black Sharpie.  (Hint: Use a few Sharpies for this process.  When one starts making faint lines, replace its cap and use another.)  If you're going for an overall distressed look, your colored image doesn't have to be perfect; simply sand lightly over the image when you're finished coloring.

Then I distressed the stool a little more and quickly wiped on some stain, just to give the stool an old-looking finish.  (Hint: keep both a wet and dry rag handy when you're using wiping stain.  Use the dry rag to wipe off the stain right after you've wiped it on, and use the wet rag to wipe off any boo-boos.)

All done!

I'm happy with the way it turned out.  I'll use it on my front porch and won't worry if it gets more distressed!  And the best part is that, aside from drying time for the spray paint, it took less time to complete the project than it did to write this post.  And all I had to buy was a can of spray paint--everything else I had on hand.  Not a bad outcome for a $4.00 can of paint and a few minutes of time!

What do you think of my "antique" stool?  Do you like distressed furniture?

Joining Kim at Savvy Southern Style for Wow Us Wednesday
and Paula at Ivy and Elephants for What's It Wednesday

Monday, July 22

Preparing for back to school
with an English Teacher

Summer is going by so quickly!  As much as I hate to admit it, we are already preparing for going back to school.  The last month of summer break always seems to fly even more quickly than the rest of the year, doesn't it?

Something you may not know about me is that I am an English teacher by training.  Now, when I say "English teacher," you probably think of someone who teaches literature.  That's what English teachers have become in recent years.  But no--I'm an old-fashioned English grammar teacher.  My degree is secondary education in English grammar.

Now I've made you cringe, haven't I?

But there's an upside to this story.  I'm a bona fide grammar nerd, and I love to share my knowledge of how to use our language.  So I've written a series of posts regarding some points of English grammar that can be particularly troublesome, including:

. . . and more!

I also wrote a post explaining why good grammar matters; you can read it here.

I've made a new Pinterest board called "Grammar Guru" to include all these posts.  You can check it out here.

And if you (or your children) have any questions about English grammar, I'd be glad to answer them!  (Really!  Answering questions about English grammar makes me happy.)

Now, tell me:  do you care about good grammar?  And what do you do to get ready to go back to school?

I'm joining Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading!

Sunday, July 21

Soul Care Sunday

My friends, I've been thinking about this verse a lot lately:

What's your prayer this Sunday?

God bless you and keep you!

Tuesday, July 16

What parents need to remember

Children are a gift from the Lord.  Being a parent is an incredible privilege.  Having a family is a remarkable blessing. We know these truths, right?

What a mother needs to remember

Why, then, are we tired and discouraged so much?  Why do we have to scrape ourselves off the floor, take our vitamins, drink lots of water, and sometimes seek respite in the bathroom with a magazine?

Because being a parent is hard work.

There's a lot of parenting advice available, and much of centers around an ancient Latin phrase that entered contemporary consciousness on the heels of the Academy award-winning film Dead Poet Society.  The phrase is carpe diem, and we usually understand it to mean "seize the day."  In other words, take advantage of the moment.  Make the most of each day.  Grab every opportunity available.  And be sure to savor each moment while you're at it.

But deep in your heart, you know that some moments aren't worth savoring.  Some days you can't seize; sometimes you only survive.

So I'd like to suggest a different Latin phrase as a guiding light for parents.  Forget carpe diem, but remember: tempus fugit.

Tempus fugit.  Time flies.

Sounds corny, doesn't it?  I used to think so.  Then one day I was talking with an older, wiser man, who happened to be an accounting professor.  As we discussed the fact that time seemed to go faster as we age, he offered an explanation for that phenomenon.  He explained that as we get older, our total lives consist of more and more days.  With every day that passes, each day is a smaller percentage of the total.

I think he was really on to something there.

You know how four-year-olds feel that it takes forever to get from Thanksgiving to Christmas?  It's because one month is a huge chunk of time from their perspective.  That one month is a large percentage of their total lives, so time seems to limp along.  As they get older, the month becomes a smaller and smaller fraction of the totality of their lives, so time seems to move faster.

I'm about to turn 50 years old, and I'm here to tell you:  time flies.

Why does that matter?  Why should parents care?

Yes, it's true: parents need to know that time with their precious children is limited, and that each age and stage is to be cherished.

Sure, when your little one crawls into your lap and asks you to read a story, you cherish the moment.

When your three-year-old dances around the Christmas tree, you cherish the moment.

When your five-year-old stars in the end-of-school play, you cherish the moment.

When your third grader wonders how to help a friend who's feeling down, you cherish the moment.

But tempus fugit.  Time flies.  And your little ones become big ones awfully fast.

Honestly, though, some days don't consist of beautiful moments at all.

So what about the time when your infant spits up all over you several times a day and won't sleep at night?  When you're so sleep-deprived that you can't see straight?

What about the time when all your children have a stomach virus at the same time?  When you wish you had two washers and two dryers just to keep up with number of dirty sheets?

What about the time when your precious angel turns into a demon on the playground and you get called to the principal's office?  When you feel the burden of molding his character crushing your shoulders?

What about the time when your toddler tries to flush your bottle of perfume down the toilet or your two-year-old floods the bathroom or your three-year-old swallows a bunch of medication and has to be rushed to the hospital?  What about the time when your four-year-old has pneumonia or your five-year-old gets second-degree burns or your eight-year-old has a bloody scooter accident?  What about the time when  your ten-year-old has appendicitis or your fourteen-year-old has open-heart surgery or your nineteen year old has emergency surgery the week of Thanksgiving?

What about those times?  Do you seize those days?  Do you cherish those moments?

I don't think so.  In those moments, you just do your best.  Some days you hang on by the skin of your teeth.  Some days you don't hang on at all; instead, you let go and crash to the floor.

But time still flies.  Even the worst days come to an end.

And before you know it, your precious-awful-wonderful-terrible-delightful-maddening children will be all. grown. up.

Ask me how I know.

If I'm honest, I'll admit that some moments I cherished only after they were long in the past.

From where I'm standing now, I can give this one little nugget of parenting advice:  forget about seizing every day.  Let go of the burden to be the perfect parent.  God always knew you weren't perfect, even before He gave you a child.  But that's okay.  He's perfect, and there's nothing that can happen in your parenting journey that His grace won't cover.

Carpe diem?  Not so much.  But tempus fugit?  Yes, it does.  You can count on it.

**Joining Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading and

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Monday, July 15

Life with a good sense of humor

Hello, friends!  Can you believe today is July 15--the middle of summer?  The weeks are flying by, aren't they?

Here's where we like to spend a lot of time in the summer:

Our covered front porch is tucked into a cozy nook in our house, so even on the hottest days it's a comfortable place to hang out.

I re-did our porch last spring, including creating outdoor-friendly art for this wall.  (You can read all about it here.)

Recently, though, someone changed the vignette, and this is what I found:

This visitor stayed for awhile, but my husband discovered that he brought some unwelcome insect friends with him.  So this morning, this is what I saw on the porch:

Can you read the chalkboard?  Here's a closer look:

I live with funny people.

Do the people in your house like to play jokes?  Tell me about them!