Monday, September 22, 2014

That time we turned the laundry room into a bedroom

There was a clunking noise above my head, followed by a grunt and a smash. A long dragging noise vibrated through the floor.

(one week after moving in - July 2008)
I peeked up the stair well, trying to figure out what the latest argument was in what had become a two month long string of brawls. The bickering began innocently enough disguised as sibling rivalry. A "his stuff is on my side" here / "why are you breathing like a freak" there, but had evolved into what can only be described as...unmanageable.

As mothers of tween boys know, there is something odd that begins to happen to our darling fellas right around their 11th birthday. All of a sudden you begin seeing these passionate/violent explosions that come out of nowhere. Unprovoked rage that's looking for a wall - or face - to punch.

And when you've got two brothers so close in age that they're going through it together?

Then you're right back to where we were, with Camden attempting to drag his mattress through the hall and down the stairs because he'd "rather live outside on the patio than take one more millisecond with THAT JERK."

Damn you, testosterone.

(after a coat of paint and repurposed cabinets before we created a craft room - March 2009)

When we moved into this house, the 3 youngest boys shared the bigger upstairs bedroom. Hayden was eventually evicted and moved downstairs with Brendan as his favorite hobby had become annoying the two older ones. But now - AS MUCH AS I BELIEVE CHILDREN SHOULD SHARE A ROOM - we needed to get creative. Without moving. Or spending any money.



That row of hooks was perfect for backpacks of yesteryear that weren't carrying overstuffed middle school binders and 20 pounds of high school textbooks. Adolescent bags are much too heavy to be hung up now (no matter what pinterest tells you), and those hooks had sat empty for years.

May 2013

Speaking of empty, although the left side of our laundry room is taken up with the washer and dryer, the other side was just doing nothing. Sure, it housed the perfectly organized heaps o' dirty clothes like a boss, but that's technically what that laundry shoot is for. All that other stuff? Procrastination mixed with pure, unadulterated laziness.

There were grand visions of turning the whole space into a super efficient storage mecca, but I suppose that will just have to wait for another season of life. Never doubt the sacrifices a mother will make when she's desperate for some freakin' family harmony.



A quick coat of dark charcoal paint leftover from the boys' dresser upstairs got put onto that recessed wall.


We moved in an old area rug to warm up part of the 1968 (complete with embed glitter!) linoleum. The temporary trash nightstand and lamp moved in that first night until we sorted who got what from the custody battle of stuff upstairs. The tv that's used for video games got plopped onto a shelving rack from the garage. I was having panic attacks at the thought of Camden telling his future therapist about his Harry Potterish set-up...but instead? It became the "cool dorm room" that everyone wanted to hang out in.


He kept all of his clothes stored where they were upstairs, but he wanted a little storage/display space to make it feel less hobo-with-a-mattress-in-a-laundry-room. That tall shelf in our Very Organized Garage wasn't holding much but some old thermos (thermoses? thermosi?), and was chunky and wood and once it got a few inches cut off the end, fit perfectly.



Instead of wasted space, we now have a reason to keep the laundry from getting backed up AND harmony in the house.

For free.





(Update: it's been over a year now, and although the boys are back to being friends again, 
Camden has no desire to leave his little bedroom alcove.)


Here's to working with what you've got.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Christlike Love Handout (oh, how I miss those Young Women's lessons)

{print from tagteamtopkins on etsy}

Serving in the Young Women's program at church was physically draining, mentally exhausting, and quite possibly one of the best experiences I've had. Sure, teaching music to the younger kids is fun, but I'd be lying if I said that I don't look back with some fondness on spending weeks marinating over a concept or principle and the best way to present it to those sweet girls.

So when the email from a reader (hi Kayla!) came in awhile back saying she had a quote she wanted to use, but couldn't think of how to incorporate it into a handout (read: treat), it was a CHALLENGE ACCEPTED kind of situation.



Obviously this would be *super* cute during Valentine's Day with some heart shaped chocolate, but you work with what you've got, right? Dove/Love=same difference. 
I used the dark chocolate because they're red, but any other flavor (or circle-ish candy) would work too.




There are two handouts per page, and in a perfect world you'd be able to cut the paper exactly in half and it would be perfectly spaced, but alas...I'm not a genius when it comes to formatting. 
So trim it up and pretend it was right to begin with.


You can download the PDF here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The perfect gift for a decorator. Friend. Bibliophile. Or winning combination of them all.


via Kimmy Kirkwood


It's no secret that I have a serious lust for old, worn out books.

{No, I'm not referring to you as a book, Roger.}

(The time I cleared off a few shelves to properly get the dust off these fellas. It warranted a photo as proof that sometimes I clean.)

I've picked up these well worn pieces of history all over throughout the years. Thrift stores. Antique shops. 
If I was looking for a particular title, ebay used to be the failproof spot to land a bargain. Unfortunately now that "vintage" is trendy the prices have jumped dramatically. So dumb.

Recently I've stumbled across a new go-to for old, inexpensive, bound works of awesome: Half Price Books.


They have a collectors section, and although there are some BEAUTIES there, many of them are priced accordingly. If you keep perusing down to the very bottom shelf, they have a clearance section where all kinds of magic can be found. Magic that would be perfect in a friend's house that's full of blues/browns/natural tones. Circa 1911, 1913, and 1921 ----> total price of under $10.

{which, for the record, is usually my gift-giving budget}

{also, why isn't there a shot of the inside of that music book? 'Twas gorgeous.}



Sure you could tuck them into a box and wrap it up, but everyone knows that things that can stack should stay stacked. Pretty sure that's a geometry theorem. Plus, it gives you a chance to use all those leftover scraps that you just can't bear to throw away because you are a hoarder have issues with wasting perfectly good things.

That floral paper is a small strip remnant from our master bathroom "art", and the easy flower topper {dictionary and magazine pages} is made just like this one - only with the edges slightly scalloped.

You could coordinate your papers more if you're anal about things matching perfectly and such, but there's something ever so charming about a bohemian little-of-this little-of-that smorgasbord. That's what they would've done back at the turn of the century anyway: use what they had on hand. So we're just sticking with the theme.

Wrap it in yarn, stamp a tag on an itty bit of scrap patterned paper, and you're good to gift.



Now it's your turn: what's your favorite present to give?

Monday, September 1, 2014

ten

 ONE

We now have five kids in five different schools. And TWO freshman. I must admit that when people assumed we were at the college to register for me, not Sierra, it didn't hurt my feelings one bit.

We took the annual photo in the Back To School Spot, a tradition started the first year in this house circa 2008.


Jordan and Brendan now have 6 inches on Sierra's 5'5 ("and a half!") height and show no signs of stopping.


Grades 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13(?)

TWO

The one perk of being poor is that said college tuition/books/etc is 100% covered by grants.
Praise Jesus.


THREE

My Father-In-Law passed away this summer. Although Roger didn't talk to his dad daily or see him very often (no cheap way to get to DC with seven people), just knowing that he can't pick up the phone and call whenever the urge strikes is proving to be an adjustment that's harder than we could've ever imagined.


John Wisor's senior photo
The last time we were able to visit in 2009. You can tell how long ago that was - look at itty bitty Hayden!


FOUR

While Roger was gone to help out with the funeral and get things settled with his family for a few weeks, his otherwise strong, self-sufficient wife had to manage all kinds of emergencies/disasters/things that made the children doubt that we'd make it until "dad got back." And then BOTH cars broke down, leaving me with no way to get to what was supposed to be our 19th Anniversary Gift: a Toad the Wet Sprocket / Counting Crows concert. So I sold the tickets. And then wept.



FIVE

When Roger got back to Texas, we *did* manage to sneak a little celebration getaway overnight. It was his attempt to cheer me up and it worked. So what if it was only ten minutes away? So what if we returned home 18 hours later? It was heaven.






SIX

When I look back at photos of us just before we got married, it makes my heart ache with mixed emotion. How much those two kids didn't know they didn't know.
1995 was tragically naive and yet somehow...beautiful

I can only imagine that's what my future self will say about 2014.





SEVEN
The ever delightful Cindy from Cottage Instincts made a trip down to Dallas which means that WE GOT TO MEET. She's lovely. Funny. Doesn't blush easily. Talks more than me, which is not something many can brag about. AND she likes to try on hats in public, which is one of the most important qualities I look for in a friend.

The Dr Pepper-ing must begin young.



Aside from chewing on my straw, all other baby fun was 100% pediatrician approved, 
if not a little blurry.




EIGHT

The lovely kitchen that Cindy transformed was in this summer's issue of Better Homes & Gardens Kitchen and Baths.
See the behind the scenes photos here and the original before and after here.
It's my duty as an American to brag on her because she's practically famous and has used my toilet without judging me, even though we all know it may or may not have been entirely sanitized.




NINE

When bloggers take a break they always come back talking about everything they've been working on, but spring and summer are my dormant times of year. I disclose that without a hint of remorse. Summer is my least favorite season, and the few days we had that were in the 70's energized my spirit just enough to last me until the only season that really matters: AUTUMN.
Walking into stores and seeing them awash with fall colors is an even tie with big fluffy clouds in the Book of Happy Things.



TEN
Speaking of blogging. I've never asked before, but since I'm feeling renewed and refreshed and almost like back to my old self, let's throw it out there: What kind of things would you like to see more of? Sometimes a random email will come in asking about projects that I started but then never talked about again (*cough* master bedroom freshen up that was finished last year *cough*), and the answer is two fold:
       
               a. because it doesn't seem newsworthy

               b. sheer laziness

I have no idea what people are looking for when they read, and for every "can you talk about wrapping with this theme" there's a "tell me when the packaging posts are over" (ALLISON - ha!). Those who know me in real life will laugh, as I ask for advice but then do what I want anyway, but this time I promise to listen. Mostly. Suggest away.

Monday, June 23, 2014

fun gift wrapping ideas that will make them say WTF {"who's this from?"}

A friend of mine bullied me asked if I'd teach a gift wrapping class for the lady folk at church. Of course I responded with hemming and hawing, and when that didn't work, the gnashing of teeth. It's not that I don't LOVE talking about packaging (hello), but because I have serious issues with talking in FRONT of people. Inevitably I get way too enthusiastic (cue TV performance), go blank, or make an suggestive comment before my unreliable filter can catch it. Not to mention sweat straight through my shirt before it's over.

It's just as lovely as it sounds.

But, as per usual, the guilt of saying no was too much to bear and the madness began.

The lowest quality phone photo possible as we tried to make everything fit on the table. I PACK HEAVY.

The awesome thing about this group of women was that most of them are self proclaimed non-crafters. Good. I love a challenge. Before each class started the excuses would trickle in:

"I'm just not talented in that way."

"It's easier to just go to the store and buy a bag."

"I don't have anything in my house that I can use, and I don't wanna drag my kids to the craft store."

Here's the thing: I don't buy it. You don't have to have any extra money, mad skillz, or a toddler meltdown on aisle 12 to have a WTF {who's this from?} gift. You just need the seed planted that it's okay to look outside your comfort zone, and embrace the rock star that you already are. A few ideas to get you on your way can't hurt either.

After it was over, a follow-up handout was promised as a reminder for when they "went blank", and here we are TWO MONTHS LATER and I'm making good on my word.


Easy Packaging Ideas for the Wrapping Impaired


#1. The recycling bin is your friend.

Don't have any wrapping paper? Paper bags and magazine pages taped together work just as well.

Paper Source bag; a catalog cover with a few rhinestones glued onto the bow because I had to

another paper bag with (Costco holiday) ribbon; a colored paper bag sporting a recycled topper

There wasn't anyone "non-crafty" enough that they couldn't successfully bust out a lusciously scrunched and perfectly wrinkled FREE topper. All that's needed is pile of square-ish scraps cut from magazines (I used 8), a stapler, and about a minute of your time. Ready?





You know what also works splendidly? Old calendar pages.



(side note: while looking for other examples using calendars, I stumbled upon this, which is the hands down winner for Most Seductive Gift Wrap Ever)

via colonel unicorn on tumblr


#2: Scraps of fabric can take the place of ribbon

And if you rip the material, it's not only straight, but also creates these rustic fraying edges which adds to the charm. The tag is a random letter sticker on a piece of black construction paper, hot glued on a frozen apple juice concentrate lid.



A dollar store headband stretches snugly over a box, and becomes part of the gift too. Have an old phone book laying around? You've got everything you need for a "paper pom" topper (same technique as this newspaper one, just smaller).




#3: The Dollar Spot ALWAYS has character stuff to plop on top

Oh Target. My dearest frenemy. They always have some sort of markers/pencils/notebooks that are the ideal size to dress up a package. The same idea can be used both for girls,


OR for boys.



#4: Stacking boxes and mixing patterns adds flavor


"But I don't have two kinds of paper."

Yes, you do.

That red and white chevron? Christmas paper bought at the Dollar Spot on clearance for 30 cents. Who says it can only come out to play in December?

I also use red and pink together - NO RULES.

Do you have a solid paper that is kinda dull by himself? Let him hitch a ride on top and suddenly he's not such a drag.

{skunk image from here, words added using Picasa}

More holiday paper on the bottom, gamer magazine pages on top, all wrapped up in leftover yarn.



#5 Pinwheels make everyone happy

Plus they're EASY, and can be made from anything, whether it's paper,

{there's that solid black again...}

 or a 6 inch square of felt. Simple directions here.


#6 Snatch up those holiday ornaments when they go on clearance

This World Market owl was 75 cents. Perhaps nobody wanted pink on their tree? Sure looks darling with some clearance Valentine paper for your favorite tween.



After using this guy way back here, you KNOW I was first in line come mark down time. Why should Christmas Tree branches have all the fun?



#7 Loopy paper bows make everything look fancy

The sky is the limit, and you can change the mood by changing up your pattern. Damask and an old button sit happily on top of scrap of burlap my go-to dollar store disposable tin.



Meanwhile construction paper and (another) juice can lid scream HAPPY on top of simple stripes. You can find the step-by-step directions here.


#8 Old birthday cards are great for embellishments (and another reminder that holiday paper doesn't have to be holiday paper) 

Remember this jing-a-ling?


By adding some color and card that got it's back ripped off (yikes), the same paper transforms from Fancy Formal to Funky Fresh.



#9 Pick up cute little bowls when you see them

First of all, they're cheap.


Secondly, they are the perfect size for a birthday treat.


*Spoon not included



#10 Gifts are supposed to make people happy. HAVE FUN.

We've talked ad nauseum about lighthearted gifting (here, here, here...), but there are few things I am so passionate about. If you love them, make them smile.