Monday, September 21, 2009

Barnyard cake

If you are reading this post, please scroll down to the following 2 posts I just wrote. I'm making up for lost time and have posted 3 tonight (including this one). My oldest son had a birthday party this past weekend with a farm theme. I truly thought I had taken more photos, but this was the only good once I took of his barnyard cake. I saw this idea on another blog. It was VERY easy which is good for me since I don't have much patience for cake decorating. It makes me bonkers if truth be told. The "barnyard" is a 9X13 cake frosted with chocolate frosting. The "field" was made from crusehd chocolate teddy graham cookies and the grassy "pasture" was made with green tinted coconut. The split rail fence was made from pretzel sticks. Easy peasy!

Jewelry with a conscience

Last night I ordered this bracelet online from Macys. Perhaps that doesn't seem like a big deal. However, I very rarely buy jewelry for myself and if I do, I try to buy it off the clearance rack at Target or Kohls. I don't think I've EVER in my life bought myself a piece of jewelry online. In fact, until I turned 40 last spring I really didn't wear much jewelry on a daily basis. However, once the big 4-0 rolled around I decided that I don't want to fade into frumpiness. Instead I made it a goal to try to buy cute clothes, cute shoes and fun jewelry (as inexpensively as possible, of course). So...........I would like to explain what prompted me to buy this particular bracelet aside from the fact that it is really gorgeous and fun and bright.

September has been a whirlwind month. My oldest son turned 8 this month and we've had a series of parties for last weekend for our older relatives and one just this past Sunday for his friends. Every year when I practically kill myself getting the house cleaned up for the birthday party I tell myself that I will never again host a party at my home. Instead I vow to plan next year's party at another venue so I can just load up my kids and show up with a cake. Well........then the next year rolls around and it just seems like a good thing to have the party at our house. We live on 2 acres. We have a huge yard with lots of room to roam and run, a mini-"forest" to explore and now..........a new fort to play in. Kids just love to come to our house and we very rarely have children over to play since we live in the country. This year was no exception and we lucked out with the weather.......Sunday was a perfect fall day.........crisp and clear, not too hot and not too cold. Anyway......the party was a success, but afterwards I was completely wiped out. I was truly just wrecked. I was just getting over a bout of stomach flu that I had at the end of last week. I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed even though all our entertaining responsibilities were over. As my boys watched a movie in the living room, I retreated to my bedroom with a glass of wine and my Oprah magazine.

It would probably be an exaggeration to say that the article I read was life-changing. However, it was truly eye-opening. If you are not familiar with the O magazine, every year Oprah sponsors or facilitates a jewelry project that supports African women. Working closely with the Fair Winds Trading organization several bracelet designs are chosen each year and crafted by African women. The bracelets are then sold online through Macys. They may even be available in the Macys stores. The article in the most recent O magazine told about how this year's project paired Rwandan women with artists in New Orleans to create the beautiful beaded bracelets like the one shown above. Aside from the obvious goodwill of these efforts and the tremendous financial effect they have on the women in Africa, what struck me and touched me the very most about the article was getting to know some of the women and their life stories. I am so sheltered and so blessed in the life I have been given. It is truly humbling to think about how many women in the world have experienced loss, trauma, and hardships that I cannot even imagine. One of the women who came to New Orleans to participate in the beading project lost her entire immediate family to the Rwandan genocide. Parents, siblings............gone. She was "bought" as a sex slave to a wealthy man and has three children, all the result of rape. Two or three days each week she and her children go WITHOUT FOOD. I cannot imagine surviving or enduring any one of those things let alone all of them. As hard as it was to read I appreciated getting a chance to have my eyes opened to the plight of my sisters across the ocean. I was moved enough that I ordered a bracelet after reading the article. It is a small thing to do. I know that I will get many compliments on the bracelet. It is unique and beautiful. I look forward to sharing with people about the project that created it. And I am also looking foward to wearing it because I know that each time I glance at it I will remember and think about the women across the globe who made it. I will be moved to pray for them and their families. And that's a good thing.

If you are interested here is a link to the article.

More signs of Autumn

Today my little boy and I had the day off from school. We were very busy all day but had a good time together. We had a shopping outing and among other things we picked up a bag of various little pumpkins at.........Home Depot! We were going there to buy some more spray paint so DH and I can finish the fort this weekend. When we were headed in I spotted the bag o' pumpkins and had to get them. I have been wanting to get some mini pumpkins to put on top of the pair of candlesticks I bought a few weeks ago at Goodwill. The candlesticks were $2.99 each and look great topped with the white pumpkins. I have seen some really cute home decor using mini pumpkins on some of my favorite frugal decorating blogs. One idea is to adhere letter stickers to three little pumpkins and then line them up to spell "BOO". I may do that with some of my little orange pumpkins.

For now, the rest of my pumpkins from Home Depot are nestled in a wire basket that a very kind friend gave me last year. (You know who you are........thanks so much!) When my oldest son got home today and noticed the pumpkins he said, "Wow! It looks like we're getting ready for fall and Thanksgiving around here!" He's right!! I love fall decorating. I also got 4 fall cloth napkins and a fall candle at Kohls today, but I didn't take a photo of them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Autumn is (almost) here!!

I love fall. It is practically my favorite season although I love the seasonal changes we have here in the midwest. In the past I haven't decorated a whole lot for fall. Mainly that is because I didn't have many decorations. I am kind of frugal and have a hard time bringing myself to spend money on decorations for my home. I would never pay full price for home decor........I think it is priced ridiculously high in most stores. I have a lot of Christmas decorations, but most of them have been given to me. Over the past year as I've become more immersed in the blog world I have been very inspired by several frugal decorating blogs. It's amazing what great looks you can get without spending a lot of money. During the summer I took several little trips to Goodwill and my favorite thrift store in addition to hitting up several garage sales. As a result I have many new fall decorations to use this year. I have added a bunch of them to my baker's rack (also a summer garage sale find) and I love how it looks now all decked out for autumn. Today I'm going to share with you some of my new decorations.

Here is a full view of the shelf.

On the top shelf is a tray from Goodwill, a pumpkin teapot from Goodwill (59 cents), a green teapot (birthday gift from DH a few years ago) and a garland that I bought at a garage sale for 50 cents.

This shelf has a checked plate ($1 at a garage sale) on a black stand (thrift store) with a thrift store basket filled with another 50 cent garage sale garland. The little white pitcher is from Goodwill for 59 cents.

This shelf has a metal basket (thrift store) that I'm hoping to fill with rolled up fall napkins or placemats. I might have to sew my own.........haven't found any I like yet. The metal AUTUMN sign was $3 at a garage sale and the metal pumpkin was 99 cents from Goodwill.

The bottom shelf has a fabric pumpkin that I bought MANY years ago at a craft show, leaf garland from a thrift store or garage sale (I can't remember), yellow metal bird from Hobby Lobby and a little leaf dish I just bought today at my local thrift store.

I hung a little fabric HARVEST wall-hanging that I made several years ago above a shelf in the dining area. I'm experimenting with this, but I think I will leave the candy corn lights up. I just bought them today at my fave thrift store for $3.50.

Close-up of the candy corn lights. I am thinking of picking up another strand to hang in my Montessori classroom this season.

This weekend I finally hung up my chicken quilt. It looks awesome! Thanks, Mom and Dad!! On the shelf below it I put a metal platter that I just bought at the thrift store today and another fabric pumpkin that I also bought today at the same store.

Here's a close-up of the platter and pumpkin.

I would still love to find a few chunky candlesticks to hold some mini-pumpkins. I'd also love to find some autumn "filler" for some glass candle holders I have. My sons are getting old enough that I think they would leave lit candles alone, so maybe I can start to enjoy candles again. Even safer, however, are those little flickering LCD candles. I love those too! How do you decorate your home for fall?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Chinaberry catalog

I just received the latest Chinaberry catalog in the mail today. If you are not aware of this company, I highly encourage you to click here to order a catalog. They carry a wonderful selection of children's books for all ages. I pretty much read the catalog cover to cover. The catalog is a treat in and of itself. They have really delightful, personal descriptions and reviews for every one of the products they carry. I LOVE LOVE LOVE children's books and am always amazed at the wonderful variety they have. I am heading off to curl up in bed with the catalog right now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Progress on the fort

The DH and I worked very hard this weekend on the fort for our oldest son's birthday. We started out by clearing out the yucky, dirty shed. You can see those photos here.

We started by framing in a new floor with 2X4s. The old floor was completely rotted out.

Then we cut and nailed down 2 sheets of OSB (particle board) on top of our floor frame.

Then we cut windows into the two side walls between the studs. Next, we covered the studs with another sheet of OSB and cut out the window holes. We did this to create interior walls since the walls were just bare studs. We had removed the two original doors. So our next job was to frame in a new front wall with 2X4s. You can see the front wall frame here along with the new interior walls and windows.

We had bought some 1X3s to frame out the inside windows. I used 1X2s on the chicken coop windows and miter-cut the corners. This time I wanted to use wider boards and I used straight cuts. I thought this type of frame was more appropriate for a fort. :0) I am happy to say that I completely made the window frames by myself including cutting them with the circular saw (I like to feel really cool and channel my inner Amy Wynn when I use the power tools) and hammering them on.

We added a new front wall to half of the front frame, again using OSB. The other side will have a screen door which we have not yet built.

After doing all the above, I spent almost all of Monday afternoon painting the interior. I have a paint tip to share. Pay close attention: DO NOT SKIMP ON PAINT. I had bought a cheaper kind of interior paint to paint the inside walls. After priming them with KILZ, I started to paint the first coat of interior paint. I figured it would take 2 coats because I needed 2 on the coop to really cover the OSB well. As soon as I rolled a few strokes I could see that it was really thin and would take many coats to cover well. I was not in the mood to paint multiple coats after priming the whole thing. Luckily I found some leftover cream-colored Behr paint from a previous project. I'm telling you right now.......Behr paint rocks. This paint had been sitting in our basement for a few years at least. And all I had to do was stir it up a bit. It completely covered the primer coat in ONE COAT.

The next two photos show what the interior looks like with its new paint job. A vast improvement over the nasty old shed interior we started with.

We have quite a bit left to do, but it's getting there. We still need to frame out and paint the door, finish the window shutters, and put flooring down. When we're done, this will be such an awesome playspace for our boys. I can't wait until it's finished.

Monday, September 7, 2009

30-Day Shred: Level 2

This morning I did the Level 2 workout from Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred DVD for the first time. Level 1 was still really challenging for me, but I've now done Level 1 10 times so I wanted to move on. Level 2 is hard, but I enjoyed the new exercises. It took me nearly 3 weeks to do the Level 1 workout 10 times just because of our schedule. However, I have lost 3 pounds so far and feel so much more toned and much stronger. So.......I'm highly recommending it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Our weekend project

Since my DH and I now consider ourselves to be really great carpenters after our chicken coop construction project we are tackling another building project this weekend. Our oldest son will turn 8 soon and hasn't given us very many good ideas for what he wants for his birthday. So......we are turning another shed on our property into a fort for him (and his little brother). This shed is stuck back to back with the one we used to build the coop. So we will pretty much just imitate the steps we took to construct the coop. It should be pretty cool when it's finished. Yesterday we (mostly DH) cleared out the inside. You can see that there was a bunch of stuff in there. It has now been designated to the trash heap or to another storage area on our property. DH had to liberally spray down a few wasp nests with the bug killer spray. Today we are going to start construction. Hopefully it will go quickly, but it seems that these projects always take longer than you think they will. I will definitely post photos of the process. It is really dirty and gross in there right now. The floor is completely rotted out, so we'll start by framing in and laying a new floor. The whole interior will be primed and painted white which will make a HUGE difference in how it looks.

Here's what it looked like after we cleared it out and DH removed the existing doors. We'll frame in a new front wall with a screen door.