Sunday, July 26, 2009

All in the Family

My paternal great-grandparents raised 13 children in a Southern mill town during the Great Depression. This weekend nearly 100 of us gathered for a family reunion, all of us descended from or somehow connected to my great-grandparents. 

It was full in every way. Crazy, loud, and overflowing with churns of homemade ice-cream.

Now that I'm a mother, I am ever more in awe of the mothers who went before me. Mothers like my great-grandmother.

Mothers who did not have electric washing machines or dishwashers.
Mothers who did not give a second thought about baby scheduling vs. attachment parenting. 

Mothers who birthed and nursed one baby after another while gardening, canning, sewing clothes & quilts, milking cows, raising older children, and caring for those in their community.
Mothers who did not get facials or worry about perfect decor.
Mothers who lived in the South without A/C.

I sort of envy those mothers. Life was harder, true. But life also seemed simpler. And these days, simple sounds good and pure. I feel increasingly compelled to unplug all the screens around me. Find myself frequently lost in daydreams of living on a farm. {Strangely out of character for an urban-wannabe like myself.} Notice that I'm more and more drawn to simpler ways of doing and living. 

I envy the hard work, strength, fortitude, and piety my great-grandmother possessed. A woman I never got to meet but whose name I now carry. 

I don't know how she sent 5 of her boys off to World War II. Her kids remember that she locked herself in a closet for hours at a time and prayed.  {She was known far and wide as a pray-er.} All her boys came home safely, for which I'm grateful. One of those boys is my grandfather.

I don't know how she navigated the unpredictable waters of marriage at the age of 16, eloping with her 23-year-old love, early marriage a welcome escape from her stern stepmother.

Reckoning with her story came at just the right time for me. As a 21st-century-woman, I fret over things my great-grandmother did not. As a 20th-century-woman, she fretted over things I do not. But with all those children, all that important work to be done, all that praying in her closet, I get the feeling she wasted precious little time on the business of fretting...

A lesson this 21st-century-woman needed to learn in the here and now. 

God placed her back then. He placed me right now. But over the last few days, our stories have intersected and she has taken up residence in my psyche.

I wish she had bottled a tonic steeped with all her virtues and handed it down, just for me, the one who bears her name. But I'll settle for her legacy. Legacies do not expire or evaporate. They inspire and persevere. 

And they most certainly do not fret.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

*This post linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Framed {Part 2}: Window Pane Photo Project


Meet my friend, Bette. 

Bette will kill me for putting her picture on my blog.

Bette is wildly creative and resourceful. She should have a blog because she does so many projects you would all just have a fit over. Yesterday Bette came over to my place to show me (and a few of my neighbors) how to make this fantastic project using an old window, fabric, photo mats, and photos. This project cost me $2.50.

My friends who came over got their windows at local thrift stores for a few dollars. Habitat for Humanity thrift stores often have these.

Window: Free {Dragged home from the dump from my neighbor for me. You know you are pathetic when people see trash and think of you.}
Fabric: Burlap {Left over from an old project but at only $2 a yard, crazy cheap.}
Photo Mats: I had 2 and I purchased a set of 2 for $2.50 at Wal-Mart
Photos: I used ones I already had.

First, clean your window {especially if it came from the dump.}

Second, staple your fabric to the window only at the top of the frame.

Third, lay the window flat on the fabric and position your photos (already in the mats) on top of the fabric, making sure it's centered in its pane.

Fourth, glue (with regular glue or hot glue) the mat in place on the fabric. {Note: I think this is a 2-person job. One person lifts up the frame enough for the other person to position and glue down the mats. I will not lie, this was rather tedious.}

I apologize for not taking more photos of this part...our hands were tied up.

Fifth, staple the rest of the fabric in place along the back of the pane.

Finally, attach hardware to the back of the window and hang. You can use those metal mounting brackets with the teeth on the bottom or use those hooks that you screw in to attach a length of twisty twine across the back. It would also look great leaned against the wall on a mantle or shelf.

Here's the finished product again. Would you believe I already had those white frames on either side of the window? This is my home's entry way and I feel it sort of sets the tone for what we're all about: Family.

You could get a window without glass, staple the fabric on the back, and insert your photo mats right through the pane. Much easier! 

You could also turn this into more of a memo board if you remove the glass. This would make it easier to change out photos and memorabilia.

Make it beachy. This project is perfect for black and white beach photos. You could add some shells in there or prop a starfish on the bottom of a pane.

For more "framed" inspiration, see Framed {Part 1.}

Oh, and I decided to link up with Kimba at A Soft Place to Land for DIY Day. Go check out her blog for some fun DIY inspiration. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Framed {Part 1}

I get all project-y in the summer. It's the time when I think I'll get all that stuff done that never happens during the rest of the year. Sadly, I have been anything but productive and it's nearing the end of July. 

But I did complete a project last week that was quick and easy and has left me feeling all satisfied... 

I framed some pictures. {Applause please.} 
The beautiful faces of the people and places I love most 
are the best kind of art to me.
Why am I blogging about something that everyone already knows how to do? Because most of us don't take the time to do it. Here's my challenge to you:

Pull those precious faces out of hard-drive hiding 
and onto your walls, where you can enjoy them every day.

I am slack about many things but when I got my gift camera I vowed to enjoy my photos. To print them and frame them and give them as gifts. 

I took inventory of my existing frames and the photo sizes I'd need to fill them. I chose my favorite photos and made them black and white. I uploaded them to so I could pick them up that afternoon. {I like the matte finish I get with their one-hour service.}

I did print these 3 in color. Love them. Still finding the right place to hang them.

While at Wal-Mart I spotted some black wooden 8  X 10 frames with nice 5 X 7 mats included...for $3! 

These are my sister's cutie-pie kiddos. I snapped some close-ups of their faces while visiting them this summer. I was able to surprise her with these framed photos last week. 
{Yes, those are $3 Wal-Mart frames and they even have metal hooks for hanging on the back.}

One of my photo walls. Are you sick of seeing this wall yet?

New additions to the photo wall...

Haven't hung these yet so for now they're propped...

Now if I could only get them organized and in photo albums so easily. 

Stay tuned for another framing project later this week.

Oh, and thanks to all who gave me nifty recipes for homemade cleaners last week!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

DIY Detergent for the Non-Naturale

I am not what one would call au naturale. I only briefly experimented with cloth diapers 8 years ago. I do not own a tent. I think lip gloss should be the 8th wonder of the world. I will probably color my gray until I'm 104. 

But I have gone and done something downright granola. I made my own laundry detergent. This is not an endeavor that involves slaving over a boiling vat of lye and stirring with a wooden oar. It requires no cooking whatsoever.

I spent about 10 minutes whipping up my first batch and I have now used it for at least a dozen loads. It works great, smells fresh, and is beyond cheap. 

It even worked wonders yesterday morning when I awoke to Cupcake's misadventures in poo. One overflowing diaper of poo  + one bored 19-month-old + no mommy in sight = a crib, sheet, bumper pad, dresser, wall, and carpet christened with poo. 

The borax and grapefruit seed crush worked fantastically to disinfect and deodorize such a horrid load of linens.

So here's the recipe: Homemade Laundry Soap Powder

* 1 white soap bar (no dyes; I used Ivory)
* 2 C baking soda
* 2 C borax (in your laundry aisle)
* 5 drops lavender essential oil
* 5 drops orange essential oil
* 1/4-C vinegar (per load)
* 5 drops grapefruit seed crush (per load)

Grate soap with fine side of a cheese grater (or have your kids do it.) Here's what it will look like.

Add soap, baking soda, borax, lavender & orange essential oils to a lidded container. Whisk.

Use 4-5 T (about 1/4 C) for a large load. To each load add 1/4 C vinegar (this keeps colors from fading and bleeding; also breaks down hard water.) Add 5 drops grapefruit seed crush as a disinfectant.

Start laundry, sit down, eat chocolate, and put on some lip gloss. You deserve it. For you are now a domestic goddess and homemaker extraordinaire. June Cleaver is smiling down on you from heaven.


You can purchase essential oils at a health food store or order them on-line. I ordered mine from Beeyoutiful, a wonderful company I love to support. Their catalog provided this recipe. The essential oils are $5-$10 dollars a bottle but will last for ages. I've had my tea tree & lavender oil 8 years.

I figured out that this detergent costs pennies a load and isn't full of chemicals and dyes. I was attached to store-bought liquid detergent before but this powder dissolves great.

If you try it out, I'd love to know your results. If you don't try it, don't feel guilty for using Tide. You should still eat chocolate and show yourself some love.

Have any great (and easy-to-make) homemade cleaners or remedies of your own? If so, please share. I'm wanting to learn more. No lip gloss recipes please. I'm hanging on to my shimmery, drug-store goodness.

Head on over to Kimba's DIY Day for more DIY inspiration!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Price My Space

I love a good party. Especially when I get invited into the living rooms of total strangers and they tell me what they spent on stuff. Who in the world would ever host a kooky party like that? The Nester, of course.

So here's my contribution to her Price My Space party: THE LIVING ROOM

The Man and I have been married almost 14 years. One or both of us were in graduate school for at least half of that time. Since then we have each worked as educators until I decided to stay home 2 1/2 years ago. I know that makes you all so jealous because clearly we are rich and spend a fortune on home furnishings.

Seriously, I tell you that because it provides the context for my purchases. Since being married, I have never had much set aside for purchasing furniture and such. With the exception of one or two splurges, all that you're about to see was either free, thrifted, or dangerously discounted. I love to live on the edge like that. 

Here it goes:

1. Pine Pier-1 entertainment armoire: about $300 because it was scratched. Will be getting a makeover soon. (Did you see The Nester's blue one? My sad pine armoire is so jealous.)

2. Black bookshelf housing baskets of toys and covering ugly TV cords: $2 at a yard sale and spray-painted.
3. 4 baskets: $3.99 each at Big Lots
4. Lamp and frames: about $15 

5. Painting: $50 at Ross last summer with my birthday money. 
6. Mantle decor: Vases free from my sister's wedding. Candle holders nearly free from hosting a Southern Living at Home party years ago. Junk in the vases $4 (Dollar Store and after-Christmas potpourri.) Starfish $1 or so at Wal-Mart.

7. Chair, side table, and accessories: Free and spray-painted table and chair. Wooden thingys $12 for all 3 at Hobby Lobby on Clearance. Galvanized flower bucket free. Fake green branch-$4 at Hobby Lobby. Lamp $15 from Wal-Mart (a set of four matching ones years ago...and I am so over the hanging crystal trim...she'll be getting a makeover too.)

Oh, and the window mistreatment: $4. Read more about that here.

8. Tiny ottoman / stool under table: $7 at Goodwill

9. Sofa: Purchased 7 years ago at Value City Furniture in Pineville, NC for $449. I searched high and low for months to find one that looked Pottery-Barn-ish but was a fraction of the price. (Where was Craig with his list then?) 

The cushion covers zip off and can be washed. It is dirty and well-used. But it's comfy and has lasted longer than one might think...which is good because I still need it to last quite a while. I love light, beachy furniture even though it's less than practical with children who naturally attract dirt. Still, I love it. 

This sofa has heard many a good story and served as Brownie's fort for quite some time now. It has endured naps, tears, mountains of laundry, and pillow fights. When it's time here is through, I may just have to provide a eulogy.

10. Seagrass storage ottoman from Pottery Barn: $100 at the Gaffney outlet after Christmas.

11. Seagrass chairs from Pottery Barn: $110 for BOTH at Gaffney outlet after Christmas. 
(These 3 seagrass pieces may just be the best deals of my life.)
12. Black iron table: $19 from IKEA

13. Room-size area rug: free from my mom's house...and currently in desperate need of cleaning.

14. Shelf, photo frames, vase: $50 or less for all of it, some of which was white and scratched before being made new by black spray paint. This wall is also getting a makeover soon.


There you have it. It was hard to just segment off the living area because our kitchen / dining / living space is all one room. I guess I could do part 2 if anyone is actually interested.

Total = $2,050 (give or take a few dollars) and purchased over a 9-year span.

Oh, I forgot to add paint. About $50 for this part of the room I'm guessing. (And we STILL have to finish the trim-work even though we painted the room nearly 2 years ago.) Color is Montgomery White from Benjamin Moore. 

Which takes my total to about $2,100.

Thanks for coming!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I'm finally home after a month in the beautiful state of Michigan where my husband grew up. Yep, right there on that beautiful lake.
Sigh. I love the summer. My sissy Southern self can't handle Michigan winters for any extended period.

It was wonderful being away from home for so long. I was able to disconnect from the familiar and immerse myself in family and beauty and projects in someone else's home.

I had lots of fun behind the lens as this was my first Michigan July with my gift camera.

Here are some of my favorites...

Campfire stories with Papa:

Play-doh Yoda:

Play-doh Obi-Wan:

Cupcake & his cars:

Blondie loves hunting for baby turtles in the lake:

Brownie & his favorite past-times, preparing for a career in civil engineering (hope that sand cities actually exist somewhere) and drinking a caffeinated soda, a rare treat:

An excursion to Lake Huron:

Silhouettes at dusk, before family fireworks:

We are pyromaniacs. Our family's personal fireworks display rivals that of a small country.

{Favorite black & whites}

The Man with his brother & sis:

My favorite 4 people in the whole world:

Love my baby's curls:


I hope you all had a fun and festive 4th. I look forward to jumping back into blogosphere and reconnecting. 

{For all you shutterbugs out there, a couple of questions. What is an affordable basic zoom lens for a Canon? I have a digital Canon Rebel XTI. Also, what is your favorite post-processing program? I currently just use iPhoto which came on my Mac.}


Stay tuned for next Monday when I join in the Nester's "Price My Space" party. Hope you can come party with us!


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