Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Mail

Have you ever sent a hug in the mail?

We have many family and friends who live far away.
Sometimes you just need to send a hug.
Yesterday we did.

Wouldn't four colorful hugs in your mailbox make your day?

Trace your child's hands on their favorite color paper.
Cut them out.
Add a sweet little note.
Measure their "hugspan" with some fun ribbon.
Staple the ribbon to the paper hands.
You've just made a hug.

We had so much fun making some happy mail yesterday.
I miss getting happy mail...now that it's just easier to email or text.

I really miss some of my favorite magazines filling the mailbox too...so many are out of publication now...Cottage Living, Simple Scrapbooks, and Home Companion.
As a young mom, a magazine was like a much needed vacation.

Any ideas for happy mail or new magazines?
I could use some new ideas!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Here is what I've been working on this week...three pieces of art for our church. Three of us have been meeting since January to update the foyer. It's been an amazing process....gathering paint swatches, finding new furniture, and updating the room. Many hands worked together and made it all possible.

We wanted some art that coordinated with the new furniture, filled the space, and was meaningful. After looking around, we decided it would be best to make something ourselves. When I saw this idea I knew we could adapt it for the space.

A week ago I walked around and traced people's arms during coffee hour. I painted the canvas the same color as the opposite wall. High school students cut out the arms for me, and then I traced them on to the canvas. I used acrylics and pastels on the trunks. The students and my kids helped me cut the leaves from old church hymnals.... and inked with Tim Holtz's distressing ink....

We hung them on Saturday, and I'm really happy with the results.

A brief explanation....

I'm so thankful for the friends who helped me Saturday cut, ink and, modge-podge the final leaves. It evolved into a beautiful community building project.

Here's the other side of the room.

Now I can focus on enjoying the week with the kids, and preparing our yard for the annual Easter egg hunt on Saturday.


Friday, March 26, 2010


Phew, what a LONG and busy week this has been!

Today I'm really excited to be featured by Kristin at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia. I've been reading lots of decorating and mom blogs these days, and this is one of my favorites. Kristin has an amazing home, and a wonderful style. Her kitchen will be featured in an upcoming issue of Better Homes and Gardens!

Every Friday is "Feature Friday" on Kristin's blog. She shares a before and after project from one of her readers...and mine is featured today. Take a click over and check it out.

I'll leave you with a teaser of why I've been missing in blogland this week. I've been buried in a huge project....a few large paintings for church. I'm hoping to finish and hang the pieces on Saturday.

The kids started Spring break yesterday, and I'm looking forward to a week of fun and exploring in L.A. No trip to California in the works....L.A. is "the Local Area!" We're lucky to be near a metra train, and an hour from downtown Chicago.Enjoy your weekend!

I think it's finally time to put the skis away....Happy Spring!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chalk Talk

"Why do you have so many chalkboards Mrs. Johnson?" asked Linnea's ten year old friend.
"Do I?"
"There's one in almost every room of your house!"

Funny, I guess there is.

Here's the biggest one. Mark was not a happy camper the day I found this, curbside. It was 1/2 a mile away, and I stalked it all day long to make sure it was still there. My two year olds weren't big enough at the time to hoist it up on top of the mini-van with me. Nor could I juggle a jogger and push the thing home. We stopped to pick it up around dinner time. We could hear the screams of the little girl inside shrieking, "They're taking my chalkboard!" I felt absolutely horrible...but took it anyway. There was a sign on it that said, "Free. Take Me!"

So we did.

There isn't always a coordinate grid on the board. Sofi wanted to learn how to make one. Fun thing to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon, huh? She's six, and fascinated with numbers and all things Math related. Frightening.

Grandma Izzy's little board is a permanent fixture in the dining room. We write what we're having for dinner. Last night was "Soup Sampler." Fancy phrase for, "We have nothing to eat but four kinds of leftover soup and the oven still smells from the plastic episode." The kids were so excited to see four pots stewing. We'll have to try that one again!

Mark wasn't thrilled to hang these back up behind the island in the kitchen. They're from Ikea, and the kids love them. They're great for a quick doodle before breakfast or lunch, or to practice spelling words on. I know my stool has writing on it. They're a little beat up....so I wrote the kids first and middle names around the edge with a Sharpie pen. "Carl Malcolm, Linnea Brooke, Sofia Lillian and Isabella CaiHong." It's odd. It's random. It's quirky, and I love it. No assigned seats, and all the names fit around.

Here's the pantry door that we fill with funny quotes. When we erase them I write them down in a little book. This is not one of my favorite quotes, but it's true.

This one hangs outside the kids' bathroom in the upstairs hallway. We wrote on it in the basement when we were kids. Sometimes I'll write down things they need to do...but most of the time it's filled with random drawings.

I think that's it...but I may find a few more when I walk around again. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

June Doesn't Live Here

This is June Cleaver. I'm convinced she had a housekeeper. How else could she look this good every night, have dinner on the table, and where pearls? Look at her hair and make-up.
Nothing is out of place. I'm sure she even ironed her blouse and skirt.

June doesn't live here.
Mrs. Rogers' wife does.

Remember Mr. Rogers?
He changed his shoes every time he came in the door...and slipped into a new cardigan or jacket too. All while singing a song. He had a vivid imagination and could usually be found in the land of make believe. My oldest and youngest live there often....and I do too.

I could be his wife.

Today I wore Birkenstock sandals to walk the dogs and to the train...along with a jacket zipped up.

Then I came home and put on my sneakers and nylon windbreaker and hit the trail for a run.
No time for a long shower. Just long enough to freshen up, and slip into my clogs and Spring jacket in time for a meeting and visit to the dental chair...just for a cleaning. Oh how I adore those sweet girls, but I'd much rather see them in another setting. My blood pressure is through the roof each time I sit in that chair.

Back for lunch with my little girls, and time to not embarrass my 10 year old at her D.A.R.E. graduation. I'm sure I did in my mustard yellow tights and riding boots. I don't ride...
although a man at the library asked me if I had a horse. Excuse me? I topped it off with a mustard yellow cardigan and jean jacket. I'm sure I embarrassed her. Oh, no worries.
I had a little dress on too.

Now it's time to switch gears again and settle into my slippers, yoga pants and hoodie.
Just in time for American Idol and Biggest Loser.

If there are any breaks, you'll find me in the kitchen. Cleaning. I'm not sure if there is a sink or counter in here.

Sorry June, my hair is in a messy pony tail, and my pearls have been long tucked away.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Grounds in my Coffee

I'm tired...dog-tired.
I could lie down on the floor kind of tired....
and I'd sleep just fine.

Try as I may, today was just another weird day in the life kind of days.
Mondays can be a jolt to the system, and today was no exception.
The plans I had, fell through.

I changed gears, went to the gym, and did spinning.
Not the yarn kind of spinning.
Sweating like I've never sweat before kind of spinning.
On a bike.
In the dark.
With strangers.
With images of Puerto Rico on the screen in front of me, a trainer screaming out commands,
20 sweaty bodies crammed in a room, all pounding and sweating like mad.
Following along like a drill team.
Sweet adrenaline-rushing dance music thundering over the speakers.

What a way to wake up and start the day.
I loved it.
I'll do it again.
At 5:15 tomorrow morning.

An hour later, my body became a pretzel.
Really it did.
I had no idea I could bend and stretch in such bizarre positions.
But I did.
In a room with 20 different sweaty bodies moving up and down into downward dog.

Back to real life.
Sick husband.
More messes.

By 2 p.m. I craved a cup of coffee.
I can not make a pot of coffee to save my life.
Really, I can't.
If you came over, I'd hand you the bag of coffee beans, the grinder, and the coffee pot,
welcome you into my home, and ask you to make a pot.

Today was no exception.
I had grounds in my coffee.
Grounds bubbling over.
Grounds pouring over my newly painted white cabinets.
Perhaps I should now "antique" them all a bit?
Grounds in the french bread that was rising.
I'm not joking.
All this for 4 cups of de-caf coffee.

30 minutes later,
I tried again.
I did it.

Just one piece of a bean in my coffee.

I'm thinking of starting a coffee delivery service.
I could make the cups look pretty.
I just wouldn't make the coffee.

By 4 p.m. we learned plastic in the oven isn't a good thing when it's heated at 400 degrees.
Why was there plastic in the oven?
Don't ask.
There was.
It smelled.
Smoke everywhere.
More messes to clean.
French bread to bake for dinner...with a few coffee grounds.

Band concert to attend.
Gym floor filled with nine bands.
NINE bands.
One sleeping child sweating on my lap.
A fire alarm at the end of the concert helped clear the building quickly.


Life of a mom, in three words.
Tomorrow's a new day.
Thank goodness for that.

Friday, March 19, 2010

How to Bring Me To Tears

...and cause a meltdown.

Send me flowers.
My husband has learned after 17 years of marriage, and 4 years of dating, to never ever send me flowers. A flower delivery truck can send me over the edge.

You're probably stuck on those numbers...I don't look that old do I? Ok, don't do the math, I'll do it for you. I was 16 when we met, and 20 when we got married...a month shy of 21. I know, I was a BABY. So, now I'm 29, right?

Anyway...I'll let you do the rest of the math.
Just don't send me flowers.

I don't do bouquets.

I don't do flower arrangements.

Without a meltdown.

It's a little quirk, I know.
If you do bring me flowers, from the garden is great, and the wilder the better.

... a plastic wrap from the grocery store or market, no problem.
Just, please, no red roses, or anything in tones of mauve, or white daisies.
Or anything artfully arranged.
If it is, I'll rip it apart and disperse it all throughout our home. I'll also have a meltdown that will put me in my closet crying for a bit. I may even put a call into a friend.

A rose in the bathroom...yellow is fine.

On the birdbath...this pink is fine.

In a little pitcher on the counter, no problem.

The red roses, or mauve flowers, or daisies, will be put at the nearby nursing home on someone's little ledge...to make their day.

They might even be placed on a neighbor's doorstep.

The red roses, mauve ones, and daisies, or anything arranged reminds me of funerals. When you're little and go to a lot of them for people you love, you have a lot of visual memories. For me, all of the above bring out my darkest of days....and cause a meltdown.

My sweet husband brought flowers home from the grocery store last night, and left them to sit in a vase of water. I found them this morning. It was very sweet...and very thoughtful. They are now dispersed through our home. I'd rather have little flower vases everywhere than one big one that looks like a funeral arrangement.

So there,
you learned a little more of my quirks.
Too bad the mauve ones from the grocery store boquet can't make it to your doorstep.
I guess Sofi and Izzy have a few deliveries to make. :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Do Not Like Them Sam I Am

St. Patrick's Day 2008
Poor Sofi was 4 then, and pretty worked up about trying green eggs and ham....
St. Patrick's Day 2009...
Poor Izzy wasn't quite into the day....she's not really a morning person, and did not want to be told to give them a try...
St. Patrick's Day 2010...
Everyone enjoyed....even my almost teenager. Next year, he'll be the one crying and groaning.
Not really my thing...but it's been a breakfast tradition since at least 2000. Food and books, what could be a better combination?

Yes, this is probably the last year that all 4 will be into my green eggs and ham literary breakfast feast.....case in point. Thirty minutes ago.

New Household rule...do not answer my rhetorical questions that are spoken to nobody in particular.

"Am I losing it?!" I said to MYSELF, in reference to an activity we missed on the calendar. Even with an iphone, and everything on my calendar online,it doesn't make a difference if I don't take the time to look at the calendar. It was a beautiful afternoon. I didn't need technology to tell me we needed to be outside sipping shamrock shakes at the park. We're not Irish, but I do indulge in shamrock shakes and green eggs and ham on the 17th of March each year. Ok, I do NOT eat green eggs and ham or shamrock shakes....I am vegan, and even before I made that switch, I didn't eat them. I just feed them to my children.

Back to losing it....
"No offense Mom, but I kinda think you are."

There you go...I have an almost teenager. My BABY is 5 feet 5 inches tall, and wears a size 11 shoe, with no sign of stopping for a long time. I am 5 feet 3 and 3/4 inches, ok, maybe I put the 3/4 inch in there. Once upon a time the 3/4 inch was there. The last time we measured, it wasn't. Am I shrinking too or is it just my brain?

I'm shopping for shoes. High heels. Comfortable, and wearable whenever I need my BABY to see that I'm still in charge, and not losing it. Once upon a time I used to be able to walk quite well on stilts. I'd practice now, but the stilts are at Dad's farm in Door County.

I think my BABY needs some stilts for his thirteenth birthday in July...and Mom here will show him how they are used. I may even be wearing them year round for the next 5 years to show my authority.....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Organizing By Personality

I am not a naturally organized person.
I never have been, and never will.
Flip back a few posts, and you'll see the horrible before.
I still can't believe I posted that picture...
but I did,
and now it's out there for the world to see.

With four kids, ages 6-12, our house has been constantly evolving....
I am constantly recycling and giving things away.
If I didn't, there would be even more stuff lying around everywhere.

Here is what my art studio looks like today,

and this is the book that got me there.
It's called The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker, by Wendy Smedley and Aby Garvey.

I bought it a few years ago.
Read that line again.
a few years ago...
Hmmm...a few years ago my kids were 3-9 years old.
If your kids are in that age bracket,
don't try to take on too much...

Recently I went through and did the little exercises in the workbook.
I took the time...I worked through my ADD.
I didn't want to, but I did
and it made a huge difference.

I don't like clutter.
This book helped me realize that I organize best with open containers...
that I can't see through.
I also realized that I can't stand plastic ones.
Not even one little bit.

I organized by like objects.

And it doesn't always look pretty.
These are projects in the works....quite a few of them.
I know, they're in plastic envelopes...but until I find pretty woven basket-like ones,
these will have to do.
I can grab one, work with it, and then put it back.

I'm not a seamstress.
I simply wrapped the shower rod with burlap, and used cute safety pins.
For now, it works.
Someday, I'll sew it.
That someday may be when my kids are ages 16-22,
and that's ok.

Storage container wheels out...from Ikea, years ago.
Photo boxes on the top...still to be organized a bit more.
There are even some empty drawers...exciting!

Here is the kid zone.
The little boxes on the top were found curbside, as is.
Isn't it amazing what I find on my runs?
Time to head out for one in the morning.....

Inside are scissors, envelopes, crayons, markers, pipe cleaners, etc.
They are all things they use regularly, and can plop on the nearby table.

In the metal cabinet are their plastic bins...organized by item.
The kids don't mind the plastic.
I just close the door, and then I don't have to see them. :)

The closet, I mean pantry, locks.
Little things like safety pins, metal words, letters, etc. are in the muffin tins.

I also learned I organize well by color.
The jars of ribbon are by color.
The little jars are flowers by color.
The scraps are organized by color.
Little doo-dads (paper, graphics, etc) are in the drawers by color.
The paper is sorted on the racks, by color.

Maybe my aversion to plastic went a bit too far.
Jello molds and angel food cake pans work well for paint and glue guns.
Until tonight, when the kids wanted some angel food cake,
and I couldn't find the pan in the kitchen.

Doesn't everyone store their acrylic paint in an Angel Food cake pan?
Probably just me,
and I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Soulful Style (Long Post)

I've been working hard at this room,
I thought today I'd take you on a little tour and
share the details behind the pieces within...

For those who care,
the walls are Behr Glamorous White
the trim is Behr Vermont Cream
I've got to be honest...I often pick colors by their names....
anyone else do that?
The cabinet is Benjamin Boor- Coventry Gray
Boring name, but I highly recommend the color....

Yesterday, I found this beautiful quote on a blog,
and wrote it here on my "new" chalkboard/ photoboard.
When I found this curbside, the glass was missing in the bottom pane.
I was out of twine, so used some old lace and my trusty glue gun.
I wrapped the back in burlap, and used some more glue.

I had these mini clips hanging around, and added some of my mom's button collection.

Underneath the frame is my Grandma Izzy's sleeper sofa.
This will come in handy for guests, or when the kids have sleepovers...
It's a sweet little loveseat that she took meticulous care of.
I found a canvas slipcover and pleated white pleated pillows at Target,
and made the bumpy pillow from a garage sale find.
The burlap one is leftover from the curtain I made for the counter.

I love to read, and this is nestled next to the couch for books and magazines.
A friend of mine was moving and had placed this on the curb...
I think it's an old wash bucket with a ringer....

I fashioned this fabric into another pillow...note the monogram!
I found it at a barn sale in Door County.
If our husbands weren't around, and our car wasn't already loaded,
my sister and I would have cleared out the place....

Anyone speak German?
According to my brother this pillow reads,
"Each Day Brings New Worries."
Cheery thought, huh?
We found it amongst my mom's sewing things after she passed away.
I wish we had an inkling of the story behind it...but we don't.
I love the embroidery.
My brother thought I was nuts to want it!
He can sleep on this sleeper sofa when he visits....

View from the closet wall....
I found the curtain valance a few years ago at the thrift store.
The other side has yucky embroidering on it.
I soaked it in bleach and flipped it around. Voila!

Door found at my neighbor's curb down the street...it was so heavy that I had to send poor Mark down for it after dark. I checked a few times to make sure it was still there.
I've been holding on to it for a few years...
Finally I had a plan!
I covered cork squares we had on hand with burlap and lace,
and we hung the cork panels with liquid nails.

Grandma Izzy's Joy of Cooking....
I know it's a weird spot to have it, but it makes me smile.
Plus I'll have something fun to read from time to time....

Since I'm not baking cupcakes these days, I thought I could at least indulge in the smell...

Found this at Target....smells yummy!

My Grandma Agnes' toy sewing machine, complete with the sharp needle....and moving parts!
I've dragged it from room to room and around the country since I was a little girl.
Love it!

Details on the door....
I need to get some black and whites of the rest of the family and hang them up there!
Here is Sofi and her bear...another beautiful pic by Trish...

Everyone needs a few angels watching over them,
and I have at least two,
some even have broken wings...

Thank you Trish for these two sweet cherubs...
finally they can watch me while I work!

I share this space with my kids,
and that can provide many challenges.
This table from Ikea helps, and is great for homework, games, puzzles, or art projects.
The legs can easily be removed to make room for a house guest.
The chandelier is from a yard sale.
It will be moved to our gazebo later this Spring.
I painted the formerly red chairs....

Here are some more cherubs....
Found this sweet chair curbside on a morning run,
complete with the angels...

Ok, I guess I am a major garbage picker!
I found this at another neighbors down the road....
good thing I often run when it's dark!

Inside are photo boxes....
and no, they are not in meticulous order.
There are more photo boxes hiding in a suitcase behind the door with the fun wreath.
That's a HUGE project for a rainy day....

And here my friends is the ugly wall....
The tv is resting on Grandpa Malcolm's trunk.
I debated long and hard about putting the tv back in.
But you know what?
I like to have it on HGTV or some other silly show or movie sometimes....
so it's staying!
The door has been outfitted with a lock to keep little hands out of
my "pantry" of crafting treasures....
And to the right of the "pantry" is some ugly laminate that really needs some help...

It opens to reveal Sofi and Izzy's school room.
I wanted to take it down,
but they use it almost every day to play school.

This may be my solution to beautify it a bit....
Shutters, framed in barnwood,
or modge-podge a map on top....
What do you think?

If you made it this far, I am shocked I held your interest with my pics and ramblings.
I'm just glad to have found some kindred spirits who love to make their house a home and find treasures curbside and repurpose them!

My next post will be on how I organized things.....another sleeper! :)