Little Changes, Big Differences

It would seem when your house has been flooded and you’ve been living in a too small FEMA trailer for months, everything else life throws at you feels like a personal insult. Like your van – the only vehicle that the whole family can fit in – needing to spend a week in the shop for multiple, expensive repairs. Or a medical bill you thought you paid off last year now being represented by a debt collecting law firm and charging interest and attorney fees on top of the original amount. Come on, rain! Stop pouring!

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Our mortgage company has graciously agreed to disperse our insurance money in dirty, little poots after we file hella paperwork for each vendor. While this adds work on top of work to finish the house, we hope it ultimately means we can get back into the house faster.

My dad and Ryan have been off this past week and put in some more hours at the house. We have finished hanging the dry wall and we’re starting to look for someone to tape\float\texture so we can get ready to paint. We had a guy lined up but we apparently lost him to Mardi Gras and haven’t heard from him in a while. Oh well, I guess. We’ve also nearly finished with the electrical needs.

We’ve made a few small changes that are making big differences already. First, we moved the light switches in the kitchen from the right side of the door way to the left. This is just the first step to installing a pantry to the right, but it feels more natural. In the four years we’ve been in that house, my muscle memory hasn’t reset, and I still reach to the left first. So, woo hoo for that!

We also installed a light and outdoor light switch at the back door. It may seem small but I’m thrilled not to have to walk up to a dark door anymore! We’re also getting ready for new doors. Birthday party guests will be sad to see the large doggie\kiddie door go, but I’m not.

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The biggest little changes we’ve made are in the kitchen. We widened the door way from the kitchen to the dining room and added a wall to cut the dining room in half.

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New Changes in Red

 

Now, the kitchen opens up more to the dining room making it more of one large space. It also allows light from the dining room to reach more of the kitchen. I plan to lay the same tile floor throughout and use the same paint color on the wall. It’s a perfect compromise for my tastes. I don’t like fully open floor plans; I like for each room of the house to be sectioned out. At the same time, however, I like for the house to feel open, airy and bright. Compromise achieved!

The wall broke our dining room into two small rooms. One side will connect to the kitchen as the dining area. The other side opens up to our foyer and will become a small study. Ryan was not on board with the changes in the kitchen until I mentioned we could also make a study for mostly his use. Marriage, amIright?

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Now there’s a Wall! On the other side of the wall is now a study!

This change will make a huge difference for us. Before we used this side of the dining room as a play area for the kids, but what we really needed was a space that could be closed off to set up the computer and paperwork associated with Ryan’s job, schooling and overall adulting. Previously, that was in our bedroom. We both hated it, but had no alternative. Until now. We plan to set up the desk, computer, and file cabinet as well as some bookcases and a chair with lamp in the new study. Our kneeler and icons may move here as well.  I fully expect to lose Ryan into this room until the children are grown.

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Now the study!

Fine by me because I’ll get full use of my bedroom back. Without the desk and bookshelves in our room I can resume my plans to make our room a bit of an oasis, complete with reading nook, pretty curtains, and house plants.

In the meantime we’re lining up contractors and making lots of lists. First list we made was “what is the bare-minimum that has to be done before we can move back in?” Our Mardi Gras break has been delightfully productive, hopefully this side of Easter break we will have more to show!

Current prayer requests are as follows: continued cooperation from the mortgage company, honest sub-contractors and no more large unexpected expenses.

Farewell Fair-Feathered Friends

It was a soggy, fourth-trimester day in July when the chickens came into our lives. That was just over two years ago. And now, gentle reader, it is time that I share some news that may sadden of you. The chickens who have brought you so much entertainment over the years will be moving on later this week.

And by on I mean the big stew pot in the sky.

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Here to peck our ways into your heart

They have educated us in so many ways. They have provided unique conversation starters, encroached on our territory and covered our driveway in crap. They have terrified us and they have cultured our children in ways we can’t undo

What they have failed to do, is keep laying eggs.

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I see you have clean clothes there. It’d be a shame if someone….shit on them.

We’ve had a surprisingly long run with these chickens. This has been our first real step into homesteading and overall, it’s been a success. We like the addition of chickens to our lifestyle — we eat eggs from them, they eat scraps from us, it works. The kids think the chickens are just the coolest and we like them growing up with this small insight into farm life. We hope  in the future, maybe as early as next spring, to start again with new chickens and a more sturdy coop.

I want to take a moment to scratch out a small space on the internet to honor the time the chickens have been a part of our lives.

Thanks for the memories, chickens.

 

 

 

Chicken Run
(I know insurrection is spelled wrong)
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I am the one who knocks

For further reading about the chickens, check out these posts:

The Chicken — A Ghost Chicken Poem

The Birds…In Your Mind and In Your Backyard — Psychological toils of having chickens

With a Cluck Cluck Here — Welcome chickens

 

 

Fall Toddler Crafts

The weather is consistently staying cooler not hot. We even had all the windows and doors open for most of this week. I think it’s almost safe to say, it is fall! Knock on wood. I posted before about some of the decorations we’ve put up around the house to celebrate. These were things I made very quickly and very cheaply just to have some fall color around the house.

There is another way we mark the seasons now, and that is our gallery wall in the dining room. Really it’s just an ugly blank wall that we’ve done nothing with in the nearly 3 years we’ve been here. One day I started sticking the kids’ art projects up there and just like that, we have a new tradition. We’ve begun our fall wall. It’s still a work in progress, but I wanted to show off what we’ve done so far.

Fall Tree

This was the first thing we did. I’ve been getting bolder in “designing” these walls. I thought putting up a tree would give us a lot of chances to add to it in the style of woodland creatures.

I found a roll of brown package paper at the dollar store. This turned out to be the easiest way to make the trunk rather than construction paper, poster board or anything that required painting. I taped up one long strip the height of the trunk I wanted. I then came back and cut slight curves on either side to make it look like a trunk and not just a piece of paper taped to the wall. We used some of the scraps to make branches.

I’m not crazy about the leaves, but they will do. I took pieces of red, orange and yellow construction paper and cut out random leaf shapes. Then Evie helped me tape them up. I had a pack of foam cut out leaves from the dollar store, so we filled in some with those. I feel like it could be fuller, but frankly, I don’t want to cut out more leaves, So it is what it is!

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The first thing we added to our tree was bird nests. I took a small paper plate and cut it in half. Each girl colored their “nest” and glued on small twigs we found in the yard. I cut out little bubble bird bodies and the girls glued on googley eyes and the feathers. Once everything was attached and dry, we picked branches for them to rest.

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This is my favorite! I may leave it up somewhere in the house after fall ends. At first I was going to do each of the kids’ foot prints on a separate canvas and make a sort of collage with them. But then when I found this canvas at JoAnn I immediately switched to this idea. I’m so glad I did, I love it!  I painted the whole canvas blue, then lightly sketched the line where the branch would be. That way I was able to more or less line up the kids’ feet.  Once the foot prints were dry, I went back and painted in the tree, branches, leaves, feet, beaks and eyes. I also took a slightly darker brown and wrote in the kids’ initials and 2014 on the tree as if it were carved in. This one makes me smile every time I go by it.

Fall Acorn Banner

What good is a fall gallery wall without a label? I used these two tone acorn foam cut outs from the Dollar Store. To make the letters, I wrote the letter on the acorn using a glue stick, then Evie spread glitter all over it. I’ll honestly admit, I am surprised it worked out so well.  After we did all the letters, I punched holes in the top of each acorn and Evie sewed jute string through. If you repeat this craft, word of advice. String the acorns *before* you do the glue and glitter. It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t at the time…To finish off the banner, I tied some red gingham ribbon between the letters for a little added cuteness.

I’ve got some more ideas in mind, especially as we get closer to Thanksgiving. At least for a week or so, though, they’ll get put on the back burner since we’ve got a birthday party coming up next weekend. Sweet Evie is turning four and she’s so excited to celebrate (and have cake). So I’ll be distracted by that for the coming week. If the party turns out cute, I’ll be sure to share on the old blog soon.

Quick Fall Decorations

We’ve had nearly a week straight of less than 100 degree temperatures!! While part of me is sad to see the peak of hurricane season come and go so quietly, a larger part of me is relieved things are finally cooling down. The first day of cooler weather, I walked outside with the kids to play in the yard and just took a deep breath and said “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have survived another Louisiana summer.”

Less humidity is invigorating. Immediately my thoughts turned to crisp weather and the holidays and of course I wanted to decorate! At this point in life, seasonal decorations have to come cheaply and easily. I can’t really pull out extensive craft supplies to work on a 3 hour project, nor can I spend $50 on a single wreath. But it’s still fun to decorate and change the house for a new season, even if it’s not Better Homes and Gardens perfect. So here are some of the things I’ve done around the house for fall!

fall shelvesThe easiest decorations to make are ones for sale at the store 😉 There are some beautiful things out there, but the often cost a lot. Or at least what seems like a lot to me. I went to the Dollar General and picked up these things. The leaf tile I bought at JoAnn’s last year at their after season sale. All told, I spent around $10

The rest of our decorations are pretty much Dollar Store crafts. I got these three large felt shapes and simply hot glued them together. I laid the center leaf on top of both of the side pumpkins. Voila, a table runner!

Table runner

Evangeline and I made these pumpkin garlands to hang in front of our two windows in the dining room. It would have taken me 5 minutes, but it took a little longer because I used it as a learning opportunity and let Evie do most of the assembly. These are foam pumpkin shapes from the Dollar Store. It’s hard to see in the picture, but some are plain and some are covered in glitter (Evie got to practice making patterns). Using a hole punch, I put two holes near the top, then Evie sewed a jute string through each one.

pumpkin garland

This last project was a little more involved, but just as quick. I saw this idea on Pinterest for using embroidery hoops to make little pumpkins. The original pin left the hoops plain and went for a natural and slightly more abstract look. I decided to make mine a little more animated looking. It takes two embroidery hoops to make one pumpkin — one outer ring and two inner rings. I made one large pumpkin and two small. You inner lock the two inner rings then slip them inside the outer ring and tighten the screw. I found the larger ring was easier to do; the wood of the smaller rings are thicker, but it worked just as well.

Embroidery Hoop Pumpkin

I painted the inside and outside of the rings in alternating yellow and orange. Once they were assembled, I cut brown stem looking pieces out of thicker construction paper. I bought a vine of fake leaves from the Dollar Store and using hot glue, I attached the stem as well as the leaves. My version takes a few more steps, but it does give a different look.

pumpkins

Are things cooling off where you are? Are you making any preparations for the fall season? The kids and I are starting on our Fall Gallery Wall in the dinning room. So be on the look out for new additions to that.  In case you’ve missed the others, we’ve done a Spring Gallery Wall and a Summer Gallery Wall too.

Our New Nook

I don’t think many families consider kitchen renovations among their nesting to-do’s.  However, we convinced ourselves before Genevieve comes, among other things, our kitchen needed some sprucing up. A month and a half ago I got to show off the awesome built-in mail organizer my dad made for us. After a few weeks off, he was back!

This idea came about before the ink was dry on the purchase agreement a year and a half ago. When we bought our house, there was a laminate cabinet unit installed in the far corner of the kitchen under a corner shelf and tv stand. The TV stand didn’t last long and the mail organizer by the fridge did away with the need for the shelf.

Kitchen Before (3)

Our kitchen is long and wide. Wider than a galley kitchen, but not wide enough for a full breakfast nook. Our idea was to add some seating with a small table for the girls to be able to sit and color or what-have-you while we are in the kitchen. I’ll come back later with more details about the design and building process. Mostly I just wanted to show off this beautiful, custom kitchen banquet we now have in our kitchen!

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It looks so natural in this spot and fills the corner perfectly. A table is still forthcoming. My parents found one at a flea market in Pensacola that needs a little lovin’. After all the work that went into making the banquet, we’re going to live with the table as is for a while. That also gives us time to decide how best to modify it.

Before and After Kitchen Banquet Before and After 2

With custom fitting and design, this was not a quick project. But in the grand scheme of what Pinterest calls DIY, it was simple. And it makes such a difference! To me, this bench makes more sense for the kitchen than the stand alone cabinet. It also significantly adds to the quality, aesthetic and functionality of our house. I know I didn’t build it, but I am so proud of this banquet!

You may also noticed my stenciled frames hung up in all their glory! I’m working on ideas to make those walls a gallery or collage corner. There’s still more deciding to be done on that end, but right now I’m so happy with my bright picture frames and adorable pictures of the kids.

built in kitchen banquet

We’re starting up the third trimester and Reuben and Felicity’s birthdays are drawing closer. After their party, phase two of baby prep begins. With the completion of this project, I’m willing to call Phase 1 done!

Phase One To-Do List:

  • move bookshelves to master bedroom
  • move changing table to Reuben’s room
  • set up children’s library
  • install shelves in hall closet
  • install shelf in Reuben’s closet
  • move chest of drawers to Reuben’s room
  • install cornice board in girls’ room
  • build in kitchen mail organizer 
  • build in kitchen banquet

 

Stenciled Picture Frames

I stenciled! I’m a stenciler! It wasn’t that hard, I just let the stencil do all the work.

I admit to staring at the blank walls of my foyer daydreaming of three quarter’s high board and batten meeting a regal yet contemporary geometric print stenciled on the wall. I’ve read tutorials, tips and even product reviews, but ultimately I’ve always been intimidated by the whole prospect. Maybe I’m spending too much time staring at blank walls?

Finally I decided I ought to at least try. Don’t worry, I didn’t just start stenciling a wall. As I’ve mentioned, we have some fun projects coming up in our kitchen soon and I decided I’d like to make a collage wall the corner between the doorways to the living and dining rooms.  To begin, I bought two balsa wood 11×14 frames and stencil materials. Then I jumped right in.

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I feel as though stenciling is a crafter milestone. Or maybe that’s just me being overly proud of myself. It took me a week or so to finish them, but that’s because I could only work at strategic times. The frames didn’t turn out perfect, but I learned quite a bit:

First, I misunderstood my stencil and thought the first color I used would be the prominent color. Nope. What I had hoped would be a grey design with yellow outlines, was the opposite. It turned out fine, because what I thought was flat  grey paint was actually silver metallic paint and I prefer the yellow anyway. C’est la vie.

Second, geometric prints are pretty user friendly and certainly not as complicated as they could be. That is, unless you’re covering something like a picture frame and the pattern has to match up in the end. The first frame I did, I jumped in feet first and wasn’t surprised when I got to the last panel and it didn’t match where I had started. The second time though, I was really careful and purposeful but still managed to not line up. I kind of meshed it together in a way that I don’t think is super obvious but I was still sad.

Third, and I’m not sure how I’d fix this in the future, I didn’t get an even coat with the yellow. Some parts are darker than others. As I was painting I tried to use the same amount of paint and keep an even coverage, but it didn’t work out that way.

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Fourth, my top color didn’t cover as well as I had hoped. To be fair, the grey paint wasn’t what I thought it would be and ended up being much darker than originally expected. I was hoping for a bright yellow, but when it was all said and done, the yellow is much more muted. All in all I think that will actually be better because the pattern makes for a pretty busy frame, and having two large busy pattern frames on a somewhat small wall may have been overwhelming if the paint was also bright.

Then again, maybe I’m just talking myself out of painting over the whole thing and starting over. I have picture hanger kits to use for both frames and I’m ordering prints of pictures I want to put in. I also have to figure out how I’m going to actually get the pictures in there…but that’s next week’s problem. Right now, I’m super proud of my frames and my first attempt at stenciling. After our kitchen project is done, I’m going to hang up the frames then take my time building a collage around them. So if you start seeing a bunch of collage wall pins on my Pinterest boards, you’ll know why.

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Make Way for Baby: Phase One Continued

A month ago, I posted about our preparations for new baby (who we now know is Genevieve). We’ve made some more progress! Phase one mostly consists of super organization. We need to first have room for all people and the stuff already in our house before adding another baby and her stuff.

Our house is plenty spacious, we only need to make better use of the space we have. This has become my mantra lately to keep me from complaining about this wonderful and more than adequate house we just bought. My dad generously donated his time and master carpenter skills to our cause and spent an evening bettering our hall closet and the closet in what is now Reuben’s room.

Our hall closet was pretty bare bones — a single shelf above a closet rod. As to be expected, it became a catch-all for stuff that didn’t have another place to go. After our great toy purge at Christmas, I organized the kids’ toys into boxes and store them in the hall closet. It’s a system that’s worked great and has simplified our lives. However, it takes up a lot of space. Not to mention all the other hall closet type items that need storing. This is what we were looking at before building in shelves:

Hall Closet Before

My dad added a shelf above the top shelf, and three below. We had room for a fourth, but I wanted to leave a taller space at the bottom for things like our vacuum cleaner.  There is still a second step that we’re waiting on. I want to be able to hang our brooms and mops on the inside of the door. While they are not significantly heavy it will require a little creativity to hang them on the hollow core door. Nonetheless, the closet is vastly improved and much much more useful!  The new and improved closet looks like this:

Hall Closet After

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Reuben’s closet was also simply a single shelf above a single closet rod. Since this room was originally our study (RIP beloved study) the closet was stacked to the ceiling with storage boxes. A significant amount of nesting energy went into clearing out that closet to make room for baby stuff. We added a shelf above the existing one and wrapped it around on end. We also added onto the original shelf to wrap it around the same end. What a difference! I’m still deliberating if I want to add more shelving to the top and\or a second closet rod. Right now, I’m moving in everything that needs to be in there. Once that’s all settled, I hope to better be able to tell what is needed, if anything. I do know that I want to add some pegs on the left hand wall to hang Reuben’s growing flat cap collection. I didn’t have time to “stage” the pictures, sorry. You’re getting the real life look at things.

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We’ve been able to cross off a few more things from our list (we added one thing, just so we could cross it off). Ryan’s big boy dresser finally arrived. We set it up in our room and moved the one he was using into Reuben and Genevieve’s room. We also built in a mail organizer in the kitchen, which I posted about before.  One more big project, then I think we’ll be finished with construction and can move onto bed shuffling. But that’s phase two which won’t start until after Reuben and Felicity’s birthdays in May. Until then, I still have a lot of boxes to sort through.

Phase One To-Do List:

  • move bookshelves to master bedroom
  • move changing table to Reuben’s room
  • set up children’s library
  • install shelves in hall closet
  • install shelf in Reuben’s closet
  • move chest of drawers to Reuben’s room

and just for fun: