Monday, March 30, 2009

When Fabric & Plastic Collide...

I had a break last weekend. A break from my house. A break from my laundry. A break from two out of my three children. A break from the computer (more on that later.) And a break from small-town-ness.

Blondie and I took a girls-only road trip to the big town of Charlotte to see our BFF's. Woo-hoo!

I met Lily 8 1/2 years ago in our natural childbirth class. We knew we were destined to be friends when we laughed uncontrollably at all the same parts of the cheesy birthing videos...while the other mama's-in-waiting certainly did not.

Our girls were born exactly 4 weeks apart, after two long labors and two failed attempts at childbirth au naturale. They are best friends too.

Lily and I have collectively endured 6 childbirths, enjoyed 2 trips to Paris, cried a million tears, laughed a billion laughs, and talked a zillion hours on the phone.

We only lived in the same city 2 years.

But that hasn't held us back from living life together.

{Paris 2006}


And what in the world does any of this have to do with pretty plastic?

I gave Lily's laundry room and craft closet a mini-makeover. I wish I'd taken before photos, but honestly, I hadn't planned to blog about it. So she snapped a picture for me and e-mailed it.

Organizing is the one and only thing not in Lily's repertoire.

This girl is so talented, you would hate her...if she wasn't so darn lovable and endearing.

She paints murals without patterns. And sews (also without patterns.) And cooks amazing food with nary a recipe in sight. And she's fluent in French. And she decorates like noboby's business.

And she invented this. And you must buy one for every new mom you know.

I could go on but you get the picture. (Oh, and she cuts and highlights my hair when I visit. Love her.)

And while she is uber-talented, she admittedly could not organize a closet to save her life. And you can be sure that when you open up her freezer, something will fall out of it.

That's where I come in. I could not paint a mural if my life depended on it. And the two times she's taken me to Paris, I humbly followed her around and self-consciously muttered my Oui's and Merci's. And I would never have the guts or the creativity to invent something...and then raise three children and run a home while running a company out of my living room.

My home could grace the cover of any given month's issue of Disarrayed Living. But oddly enough, I do love to corral clutter and organize the nooks and crannies of life when I actually have the time. Lily does not.

So while she spent the day painting murals of Paris cafe scenes for an upcoming school play and shipped out padalilies, I organized nooks and crannies. And we took breaks to eat chocolate and talk and laugh.

Here's the crafty tutorial:

Purchase these small sets of flat, skinny drawers ($7-$10 for a set of 3.) You can see Lily has six. Here's how I organized and labeled them:
  • miscl craft supplies (glue, scissors, hole punches, glue sticks, stapler, etc.)
  • stickers
  • painting
  • pens, pencils, erasers
  • crayons & colored pencils
  • markers
Kids can take out just one drawer at a time (like the crayon drawer), take it to the kitchen table, and then slide it back in place when finished.

The more segmented you group your craft supplies, the easier it is to find what you need. This system has worked in our home for about 3 years so I think it's a pretty good one.

For the larger drawers (which she already had):
  • craft paint (Lily has tons seeing as how she paints murals.)
  • craft paint supplies
  • craft projects (like painting sets or jewelry kits the kids have gotten)
  • craft supplies (like play-doh, modeling clay, etc.)
To make them pretty:
  • Cut pretty fabric to the size of the front of drawer. Lily has lots of gorgeous fabric samples from her business, so these were free.
  • Spray the plastic with spray adhesive (can be purchased in craft section of WM or Target or at any craft store.)
  • Press fabric onto drawer.
  • Adhere cute adhesive labels or make your own and hot-glue them on.

Now I'm all inspired to glue fabric to every scrap of plastic I can find.

You may not be able to solve world clutter, but you can take strides to conquer your own. Not all at once, girl! You'll do nothing but cry and cuss and retreat to a corner with chocolate in hand.

But I dare you to pick one little corner. Give yourself an hour. Maybe two. Clean it out. Throw stuff away. Spend $10 on some plastic and $5 to make it pretty.

You'll smile and feel better about things. And then you can have some chocolate.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Pretend Writer

Since last summer, I've longed to attend She Speaks, a conference sponsored by Proverbs 31 ministries. 

It's being held July 31st-August 2nd in the Charlotte, NC area.

She Speaks is an event for Christian women who feel called to influence the culture around them through speaking, writing, or leading. It's life-changing, welcoming, inspiring, and nothing short of wonderful. This year they even have a track for bloggers.  

You don't even know how badly I want to go. 

This post is my attempt to get there. For free. Because this She is strapped.

Several days ago I read this post at Chatting at the Sky. Immediately I was filled with nervousness and hope. Why? Because Emily, who will be speaking there, announced that...

She Speaks is giving away a scholarship! It covers the conference costs for one lucky lady. So here's my shot. 

And you can have a shot too! Go to Lysa's blog (Lysa TerKeurst is the founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries) to get the scholarship scoop. It's easy. Just post about it and include the appropriate links. But hurry! The deadline is March 27th. 


The Scooper's "Story":

Here's the part where I tell you that I feel called to be a writer or a speaker. I don't. Actually, I don't know. The whole thing scares me. 

All I know is that I'm a pretend writer who would love to someday be a real writer. I'm passionate about words. And I want to use my words in ways that are meaningful and honest and encouraging. 

This is why I want to go to She Speaks, an event with real writers who mentor pretend writers in the art of real writing! 

And while I have been known to do some speaking, in general microphones make me want to vomit into my purse. Believe it or not, I used to speak for a living. Out loud. In front of people. And sometimes with a microphone (gulp.)

I taught college students, a rather intimidating audience if you ask me. And my job called for speaking at lots of venues beyond the classroom. Big, scary, vomit-inducing venues. I perspire just thinking about it.

And while I loved my job, the balancing act of career and home took its toll on me. So, I left career behind and made the decision to be at home with my children all the time. It's been two years now and I haven't regretted my decision for a second. 

But I miss the writing. And even the speaking a little bit. And the camaraderie I felt with others who did what I did. 

I miss saying things besides:

Do you hear me? 

Don't make me come in there! 

Make sure you flush!

Hence, my blogging and my journaling. I guess I still have a lot to say (even if it's sometimes about pretend decorating and chocolate tortes.) But I'd rather pen it than speak it. In fact, now that I don't have to speak and write about history and teaching and retention, I can speak and write about other stuff. 

The stuff that keeps me up at night. The stuff I grapple with. 

The stuff of being a modern-day wife and mom, a sister and a friend, a perfectionist and a slacker, a Believer and a skeptic.

A girl who wonders when she'll finally be a grown-up.

A girl who struggles with contentment.

A girl who often trades pleasure for joy...even though she knows better.

A girl who's trudged through shattered dreams...

And been awestruck by the Father's goodness to bring forth beauty from ashes.

And out of all of this, a well-spring of thoughts and words.

These days I can't seem to stop thinking and grappling and writing. 

I even mustered up the nerve to submit an article to a fancy magazine as part of an essay contest. I didn't win but I loved the process.

So I keep writing.

A friend in real life just told me, 

I read your blog because it makes me feel normal

Her simple compliment was the missing affirmation I needed. 

Because on any given day, I am feeling just one foot on this side of crazy. And it makes feel better to know I'm not alone.

So maybe I'm called to write. Or maybe just compelled. Or maybe both. 

And while I desperately want to go to She Speaks, thus far my family is not on board with the idea of fasting for a month so that I can attend this conference. (They are so hungry and self-absorbed like that.)

I thought I would watch this year's She Speaks come and go. And I may. And if so, I'll be glad for the one who is meant to go. And I'll eat chocolate torte while the rest of the She's are turning into better speakers, writers, and leaders.

But maybe I'll be blessed and get to go after all. 


Have I told you I want to go to She Speaks? Have I told you that you should go too?

And may the best blessed She win! 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Choosing Mary

As I write this, I'm overwhelmed by the state of affairs here.

A kitchen piled high with dishes, a living room strewn with overflowing and unpacked bags from a come-and-go weekend, the 11 plastic bins and baskets filled with clothes to sort and hand down or laundry to fold. {Not that these bins have been sitting here for exactly 5 weeks already.}

And then there's me.

A much-in-need-of-shower, sweatshirt-smeared-in-snot-and-oatmeal, frumpy-pajama-clad-mama. Oh, and Brownie just discovered two of his sister's hairs in his oatmeal. I gagged.

Shameful. All of it.

And we're having a family over for dinner tonight. Fantastic.

{So after I indulge in this bit of bloggy escapism and reflection, I will put on my Super Woman costume and employ my domestic super-powers. After I down my second cup of Cafe Verona of course. Even Super Woman requires caffeinated reinforement.}

But today, I have a rare bit of perspective.

Last night at church, I told my 1st-graders the story of Mary and Martha. Mary, who chose to sit and listen at the feet of Jesus, while Martha (her dynamo sister) chose to busy herself with the domestic affairs of hosting the Saviour of the world. Martha, who was just a wee bit resentful that slacker Mary was too captivated to help. The nerve.

And I was sobered beyond measure at my Martha ways, day in and day out.

Too busy and stressed with the important tasks of keeping home and children.

Too busy to just stop and listen to the one Voice who brings peace in the midst of chaos.

Too busy to sit at the feet of the One who has the answers.

Too preoccupied with what all the other Martha's around me are doing to make their homes and lives run much more efficiently and successfully than mine.

Too consumed with myself. My needs. My wants. My agenda. My guilt.

So today, even in the midst of more work than is possible to accomplish, I am choosing to be Mary. And tomorrow my default-Martha-setting will likely be there. And the next day. And the next...

But today, He is calling me to listen.

In the midst of all the legitimate and necessary tasks, He is calling me not to fret or worry or impress.

In the midst of my working, He is calling me to focus on Him as my source of strength.

In the midst of my own agenda, He is calling me to listen to the sweet little voices who need me to read to them, listen to them, help them, and have a cuddle with them. The ones who sit at my feet each and every day.

And today, I will.

I will listen. I will learn. I will not fret.

By His grace alone, I will be like Mary.


Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World sounds like a great book. Have any of you read it? If so, what did you think?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Few of my Favorite Things

I'm going to pretend I'm Oprah today and do a "Favorite Things" show. I mean post. Minus the free Viking refrigerators, digital cameras, designer purses, and slew of women hyperventilating and sporting mascara-streaked faces.

Here it goes...

The Coffee House station on Direct TV: This has changed my life. If you have Direct TV, see if you get this music station. It's actually an XM Satellite Radio station that also plays through your television. Where I live it's channel 848. 

I enjoy smooth, mellow, delicious music all the time. Cafe Verona anyone? It features "coffee covers" of already-cool songs {made even cooler "unplugged."} Best of all, I feel like I live in Starbucks.



Fresh Herbs: A departure from music, I know. Clearly, my favorite things are all over the map. I'm a nut for really good (quick) food with layers of flavor. Fresh herbs are a super easy and inexpensive way to make regular food taste gourmet. Just swing by the herbs section of your produce department.
{You don't honestly think I grow fresh herbs, do you? It sounds idyllic and I wish I did. But, I can only grow one thing at a time and right now that happens to be 3 children.}

Anyway, my favorites are cilantro and basil. I love to snip cilantro on top of Salsa Chicken, quesadillas, tacos, soup. It's also great on Thai food. 

When I was in grad school I waited tables at a swanky Italian restaurant that sprinkled fresh basil on almost all the dishes. It was love at first bite. Just last night I sauteed leftover angel hair with yummy stuff and topped it with fresh basil. Delish. And it took all of 5 minutes.

Fresh herbs are usually about a dollar a bunch and a cheap way to chic food.


Sunless Tanner: It's come a long way since the early days of stinky orange stain in a tube. Now that I'm a grown up and realize that wrinkles and sun damage are unattractive yet inevitable, I try to avoid "tanning." 

Not that my teenage self ever laid out in the sun on my black trampoline while slathered in Crisco. And not that I now have a bevy of ever-growing age spots on my thirty-something self as a result.

But let's be honest. Wintry white legs are no woman's best asset. And I believe stretch marks and cellulite are always improved with a tan. 

Meet my new friend, L'Oreal Sublime Glow.

This brand works well and gradually turns your pale self into a believable bronze beauty. Because it's gradual, you don't have to worry about legs that look like they bathed in Tang.

{Tip: T.J. Maxx often has high-end and nicer drug store brands for way cheap. I just got a $10 bottle of Aveeno gradual sunless tanner for $5.99. It also works great. A friend got a super-expensive bottle of Clarins for 5 or 10 bucks. Another tip: Exfoliating in the shower before application gives you a smoother sheen. Yes, I have a part-time job selling stuff on infomercials.}


Craigslist: Sort of like e-bay but free and local. Just list stuff you want to sell (or want hauled off) and you arrange the details with interested buyers in your area. A great way to sell unwanted furniture and stuff sitting in your garage. The Man sold two old sets of golf clubs for $80 each within 24 hours.

Likewise, a great place to find furniture or even free stuff (like plants or building materials.) Yep, they have a category called "FREE." I shop there most.

............................................... I just bought $100 worth of gift certificates to a swanky local restaurant for $8. No lie. Check it out. Great for date night with your man or to print out and give as gifts.

I could go on but I'll keep you guessing and save more for another episode. I mean post.

What are a few of your favorite things? I'd love to know.

Friday, March 13, 2009


This blog is like a box of never know what you're gonna get. Today I'm feeling inspired to dish about yumminess.

Jen just did a guest post over at Kimba's and if any of you ever struggle with what or how to feed your family, you should check it out. I heart both of their blogs.

And when I posted a comment there, I commented under Emily (who I also love) who referred folks to Kendra, who has a fab food blog and is doing a survey (complete with a giveaway.)

Confused? Don't be. Go here for great meal tips and here to do a quick survey and maybe win something. And even if you don't win, you've found a great food blog

So, in the spirit of yum, I made a chocolate torte last night. And I'm giving you the recipe so you can go make it. Now. Go to the store right now. Get the ingredients and whip it up. I don't care if you have to haul all your young 'uns with you to the Super Wal-Mart and they ask for sugared cereal and toys and hit each other and cry and you have to then scream at them in Wal-Mart mom voice and tell them you're gonna beat them when you get home. 

This torte is that good. You will love me for giving you this recipe and you will read my blog forever.

If you are having a bad day, go make this torte. Your troubles will disappear. If you are having a great day, go make this torte and your day will be all the more celebratory. 

My friend, MB (love her), has made this torte and shared it with me not once, but twice. That's how much she loves me. I just helped her do some window mistreatments in her kitchen and bedroom and she paid me in torte. Which is roughly equal to one million dollars.

Go here to get the recipe off the Pillsbury site.

And if you make this torte, please comment and tell me how it's changed your life.

Bon appetit!

Friday, March 6, 2009


I was all set to do a post on easy Spring touches and when I tuned in to the Nester today, she was calling for Spring. And she sent me to the Inspired Room, who was also calling for Spring.

I'm so excited that everyone is gettin' their Spring on. And you totally need to check out their Spring posts...and link up with your own. 

Love all that blogspiration out there.

Anyway, here's a few Spring touches I've made amid the mayhem. Unfortunately I have to strain my neck to see these pretty vignettes...seeing as how I have 11 plastic storage bins, 3 laundry baskets, and 2 garbage bags of clothes sitting in my great room. 

Because Spring is more than birds, eggs, and tulips. 

It is also the glorious season of sorting through seasonal clothing, shipping off hand-me-downs, preparing for my area consignment sale, and sorting through the mother lode of baby boy clothes. Goodwill is getting their fair share too.

I digress.

Here's a little table in my great room. I've used this thing for every imaginable purpose. Right now it's simply a pretty place to set up Spring and hold a cup of tea and make me smile. 

I had everything but the wooden decorative thingys. (Does anyone know what these are called?) I scored those from the 80% off section at Hobby Lobby. I also bought the fake branch there, 50% off. I don't love fake plants, but I tend to neglect real foliage and it tends to die as a result.

These are some tacky-turned-terrific urns I got a while back from the thrift store. One was a speckled mint green. The other was goldish. They look much prettier with a coat of creamy, glossy spray paint...compliments of Wal-Mart, 96 cents a can.

(See how sad and dreary and tacky...)

(See how happy and chipper and glossy...)

I put some moss in there. And some sticks.

More moss. More fake stuff. These happy urns adorn my newly redone bedroom.

And don't you think this...

is better than this?

I printed off a few more vintage prints from The Vintage Moth and added these to the "office" area of my bedroom that needed a little help. Already had the mats and clip frames. I love free bees. And free eggs. And free birds. 

I also added my diplomas...which have nothing to do with Spring. Except that people usually graduate then. Yes, I'm a nerd and I put my diplomas up. And not because I'm trying to impress people who wander into my bedroom. 

These diplomas pay homage to the days when this girl actually had a brain and got paid real money to do smart and productive things. Paid.

And when I wander into my bedroom and cannot for the life of me remember what I came in there for, I can glance up at these pieces of framed paper...and know that once upon a time I had a brain that remembered things.

And finally, you can spruce up your toilet for Spring by tossing in a bunch of grosgrain ribbons. And a rogue shoe.

Want more ideas?

How about some junk scattered about the bathroom floor. Nothing says Spring like cotton balls...and feminine supplies.

It's only fair to give credit to the other half of this designing duo. Let's give it up for Cupcake, my 15-month-old decorating savant.

I have lots more Springbellishment ideas up my sleeve. I'm sure Cupcake does too.

But first...the bins. And the sorting. And the laundry. And the digging grosgrain ribbon out of the toilet. Sigh.

Got any Springbellishment ideas up your sleeve? I'd love to see.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Top Five

This is my shameless way of trying to win a $250 Target gift card. Our Suburban Cottage mentioned that over at Barking Mad, she's giving one away...and it could be me. Or you. But hopefully me. No, I'm just kidding. It's totally great if it's for you. Or me.

You just create a post listing your top 5 or so favorite posts and then link back up. 

(My fabulous and frugal new bedroom)


(also introspective)

(me in a nutshell...well, a rather large nutshell seeing as how it's the unabridged version)

(how I mistreated five whole windows in one day for $20)

Good luck!


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