Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Just Call Me Farmer Mom

If you aren't already a parent but hope to have little ones one day, then I'm going to give you some life changing advice.  Parenting is hard.  Okay, so maybe not life changing, but definitely truth. 
I've come to realize that parenting is a lot like planting a garden of really slow growing crops.  You tend to the crops but the fruits of your labor are years away.  In the mean time, you toil and work, celebrating the little growths and being disappointed when the little plants don't grow as they should.  As parents, we do the same thing.  We work on these little people over the time we have them, but we don't know if we've done the right things for our little "crops" for years.  Sure they're growing, but are they thriving?  Are we giving them the tools they need?  It's hard I tell you, because while there is some immediate feedback, you don't really know for years if you've done it right!
I remember one time my great-grandfather growing an arbor of grapes.  He toiled over those things and they never did produce fruit.  He was so frustrated.  We went to the co-op (do those still exist?) and the library and poured over everything we could find about growing grapes.  Finally, he decided that the best thing to do was to cut the grapes back and see what would happen.  You know what?  When the vines grew back, they actually did produce grapes! It wasn't like he didn't have a hand in it.  They still required the right foundation to grow--good soil, the perfect location, a strong arbor, appropriate amounts of water.  It was only after he stepped back and let the grapes do their own thing did it happen though.
Being perfectly honest, I'm at that crossroads with our oldest.  The "letting go" stage.  Baby steps though, people, but letting him go a bit nonetheless.  It's hard.  I mean REALLY HARD.  And it's REALLY SCARY!  I've been tending to that little plant, er, um, person for over 12 years now.  He's actually closer to adulthood now than he is to infancy.  I'm not even sure how it happened.  One day, he was climbing on my lap to read stories and the next he's almost as tall as me and starting to grow a mustache (don't mention it though--he's not happy about it).  I've got less than 6 years left to make sure I've produced a good human being before I send him off to college.  Eeeeekkkkk!  Did I mention it was scary?  It's scary.
I still want to do everything for him and I find more and more often that I'm reminding myself that one day my boy will be a man *gulp* and he'll have to have the capability to do things on his own.  He'll need to be able to take care of himself, think for himself, and make decisions apart from us.  I find that, in homeschooling our children, I actually have to be more aware of being a helicopter parent and nip it in the bud.  When your child is with you all the time and relies on you for so much, you also have to be the one to provide situations where they can grow on their own and practice what they've learned without you.  I don't like it, but thems the breaks, kid.
I will say this though, I'm pretty pleased with the way that crop is growing.  And unless drought and pestilence eats it alive during the awfulness of the teenage years, I think my little plant might be okay. 
For now, I'll keep providing him with a good foundation, but backing off more and more to let him grow in his own way.  And praying along the way that when the fruits of my labor come in, that I've grown him to be the best person he can be!
Choosing Joy,
Jen

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Business of Cakes

I'm not entirely certain where to start with this post, so I guess I'll just start at the beginning of this journey.  When I started toying around with cake and fondant and what not, I had no clue what I was doing.  But I LOVED it.  It was so intriguing to learn new things.  I had successful attempts.  I had crushingly horrible attempts.  But I enjoyed it.  My husband is a chef and he knows what he's doing.  He's "been there, done that" so to speak.  Somehow though, he still enjoys the process.  Even though his successes are far more frequent than his defeats, he still loves to cook.  His satisfaction comes at the end result.  I, on the other hand, am a process person.  I like the learning and the planning that goes in to the attempt.  The end result is just a by product of that. 
When I started making cakes for people, 99% of those were friends.  They knew that I didn't know what I was doing but they took a chance on me anyway.  And those people are AWESOME for that!  I got some confidence under me, took on bigger and more complicated cakes.  Unless you do this (or something like this) you have no idea how awesome it feels to take a cake somewhere and have everyone literally stop everything to stare at your creation.  Your baby.  You put your blood, sweat and tears into some of these cakes.  Not literally of course, that would be unsanitary, but on any given day, the temperature and humidity outside, the temperature and humidity inside, the precipitation for that day, and more measurements that really only meteorologists and sugar artists give two cents about can affect your canvas.  Nevermind the logistics that go into making sure the cake will hold up at the venue.  Woosh.  It can boggle the mind.
Before I lose you in barometric readings and dew points and such, let me get back to my story.  At this point, I started taking on other clients, as in people I didn't know.  Here's where the joy started creeping out.  It's not that I didn't love the process anymore.  It's that then I had to start setting prices and flavor lists and bookkeeping and blobbity, blobbity, blah.  The process that I love so much was getting pushed further and further back.  It started becoming a job.
And here's the real kicker.  Because this is a hobby, I don't charge "cakery" prices.  I can't do it.  I still don't know what the heck I'm doing half the time.  So it's become a job that I'm not getting paid to do.  To be perfectly honest, what I charge for a cake barely covers what it costs me to make it.  There is very little profit if any (some cakes cost me money) and I make nothing.  At this point you're probably thinking, "Charge more.  Problem solved."  And you're right.  That would solve that.  But it also undermines what I really want to do.
I have lost sight of the process in all of this.  That's no one's fault but my own.  I should have learned to say no earlier.  The sheer volume of cakes I turn out sometimes means that it's all about the end result and very little about the process.  And it's kind of sucked the joy out of it.
I have never set out to have this be a job.  At its core, this is a hobby for me.  There is so much more I want to learn and attempt.  Plus, I have four little people who depend on me as their sole source of emotional support when their Daddy is working out of town.  It's unfair to them for me to be tethered to the kitchen from sunrise to bedtime because I couldn't say no to just one more small cake. 
I hope this explains why my work load has been decreasing and will continue to be so small for the time being.  My favorite cakes are almost always the ones that I make for friends and family and I will continue to do those on a case by case basis.  I hope if I tell you "no" that you won't take it personally.  Even if this does become a job eventually, I want it to be one that I enjoy doing.  For now, I hope my hobby continues to make people happy.  And that includes me!
Joyfully,
Jen

Friday, May 10, 2013

All About Mom...From the mouths of my babes.

In honor of Mother's Day, I asked B, C, and A to fill out a little questionnaire all about me.   D is still a bit too young to be answering any questions, but she made a fantastic assistant.  For you reading enjoyment, answers about me...from the mouths of my kids!  To give you a guidepost regarding some of these answers, B is 12, C is 7, and A is 4.

1.  My Mom's name is:
  • B:  Jennifer
  • C:  Jen
  • A:  Ma'am
2.  She is _____years old.
  • B:  34
  • C:  6
  • A:  Some years happy
3.  She is _____feet _____inches tall.
  • B:  5 feet 8 inches
  • C:  6 feet 9 inches
  • A:  Long feet big inches

4.  She weighs _____pounds.
  • B:  Don't talk about it, son!  (Best. answer. ever.)
  • C:  6
  • A:  This much (holding his hands about 6 inches apart)

5.  Her favorite TV Show is:
  • B:  NCIS
  • C:  Football
  • A:  NCIS
 6.  Her favorite food is:
  • B:  Steak
  • C:  Pasta
  • A:  Salad
7.  Her favorite thing to drink is:
  • B:  Coca-Cola
  • C:  Coffee
  • A:  Milk
8.  Her favorite thing to do is:
  • B:  Be on Pinterest
  • C:  Stuff
  • A:  Eat
9.  She likes to wear:
  • B:  Stuff that isn't PJs
  • C:  Red
  • A:  Red raincoat
10.  My Mom is really good at:
  • B:  Blogging and cooking
  • C:  Working on stuff
  • A:  Driving to Nee Nee's house
11.  I like it best when my Mom:
  • B:  Cooks
  • C:  Buys me a Batman cowl (I think he's dropping a hint here since I've not bought him a Batman cowl yet!)
  • A:  Drives the car
12.  My favorite thing to do with my Mom is:
  • B:  Talk to her
  • C:  Shop for groceries
  • A:  Eat crawfish
13.  During the day my Mom:
  • B:  Cleans
  • C:  Plays ball
  • A:  I can't remember
So, so funny!  In case you were wondering, my name is Jen.  I am 34 years.  I am 5'6" tall and we don't talk about the weight!  My favorite regular TV show is NCIS but I am a huge football fan (Roll Tide!  Geaux Saints!).  My favorite food is steak, although spaghetti with meat sauce and a loaded salad with bleu cheese dressing are high on my list.  Coffee is my favorite thing to drink.  My favorite thing to do is any sort of home improvement project (except installing a new pane of glass--bleck).  I like to wear jeans and tees, but my raincoat is red and I was wearing it earlier.  Their opinions on what I'm good at, what they like for me to do, and their favorite things to do with me are all their own.  I love their answers for their favorite things to do with me because they are uniquely them.  I spend time talking to B at night after the smaller kids are all in bed.  That's our time and I almost cried when I realized he treasures that time too.  That might be my favorite answer of all.
And if you're wondering what I do during the day, well, that's a whole other post altogether.
To all of you mommies out there and to all of you dudes who fulfill the roles of mommy and daddy, my hat is off to you.  Happy Mother's Day from our family.

Joyfully,
Jen (or Jennifer or Ma'am)

P.S. I found this questionnaire over at All for the Boys.  She even made a super handy PDF and you can click here to get to it!  Print some out for your kids and prepare to be amused!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Faux Vintage Letter Tiles (A Wall Art Project)

I first got the idea for this project from this post I found via Pinterest.  I liked the idea of Scrabble-esque tiles as far as being able to intersect our names, but I realized that what I really wanted was old signage or letterpress letters.  I found some fantastic letters online but at $5 a pop, they quickly went out of my price range.  As the idea for the wall ruler started to come to fruition,  I decided I could just make some letters.  That way I could get the size and style I wanted and the cost would be significantly less than I had found.  Spoiler alert--it only ended up being about $.62 cents a tile!
But...whew!  This project had a hard time getting off the ground.  Seriously.  The first day I had begun to work on it, I stepped into a bed of incredibly ferocious and angry fire ants.  I happen to be mildly allergic to those so that pretty much put the kibosh on anything for the rest of the day.  Then on the day that should have been installation, A fell and I thought he might have broken his nose.  It's scary to see that much blood come out of your child's nose, but he's fine today and has no swelling or bruising, so I think we're okay now.  Once I was able to work on this, it was relatively painless and most of the work comes in the planning.
I don't know if this would work with just any combination of names.  We happen to have enough repeating letters in the right places.  You could also do this with words.  The only thing I think you really need to keep in mind are that you don't want to incidentally spell other words when joining them together.  For example, I could have put Aidan next to Colin and they could have both used the Ns in my name, but then I would have also been left with "CA", "OI", "LD" and "IA".  Clear as mud?  If you've played Scrabble, then it might make more sense and hopefully the photos will help as well.
The first thing you're going to need to do is figure out a layout.  I found that the easiest way to do that was with graph paper.  Once I found a layout that worked, I just counted the tiles I'd need and headed to Hobby Lobby.  My original thought was for 4x4 wooden tiles, but once I saw them in person I realized that would be way too big.  A 2.5x2.5 would have been perfect but they don't sell those.  Then I found these 2.5x3.5 inch rectangles.  I hemmed and hawed over them for a while, but realized that they would probably actually be the best thing to get me that old signage look.  And at $1.47 for a pack of 4, they were very reasonably priced.  I ended up buying two extra packs, just in case I messed up.  There are no craft stores in my town, so I didn't want to mess something up and have to make the trip again!
The next step was to determine exactly how I wanted the letters to look.  When I was a little girl, my great-grandpa used to take me to the co-op.  I guess nowadays we would call it a feed and seed store.  I even got a pet baby chick from there (country girl represent!).  Anyway, they used to have all kinds of handmade signs and individual letters.  So I wanted to sort of combine those two ideas.  The font needed to be really plain so I just grabbed a set of stencils from my craft supplies, but if you wanted something else, you could certainly print out the letters and draw them on like I explained here.  I just lined the stencil up and drew the letter on.
Then I colored it in using a permanent marker.  I connected the lines to make it look less like a stencil, but whatever floats your boat!
Then I let the permanent marker set up for a bit and then stained the tiles using the same Minwax Early American that I used on the wall ruler.  I brushed it on with foam brush and then wiped up the excess with a paper towel.  These were very smooth and thin so I didn't sand them.  They also sucked up the stain very quickly so your should probably plan to wax on, wax off wipe on, wipe off pretty quickly.  One coat would have been just fine but I went back and brushed a second coat on a few just to make them not look so uniform.  And here are the tiles after they'd been stained.
After letting those air out for a night, I put all the tiles in the layout that I'd decided on.  I had also picked up some wood strips while I was at Hobby Lobby.  They are essentially lattice strips cut into three foot lengths.
These were used as a sort of "skeleton" to attach the letters to the wall.  I placed them on top of each name, trying to figure out the best placement.  There was no real scientific method to this.  I really just tried to have the least amount of piecing.  Once I determined that, I cut all of the strips slightly shorter than the necessary length.  This furthers the illusion that the letters are floating on the wall and gives you a little bit of wiggle room in your placement.
At this point, I also wrote the corresponding name on each strip and drew in where the names would intersect.  I measured it both lengthwise and widthwise and found the center.  I then went to the wall and found the widthwise center and marked it.  Then I measured how far down I wanted it to start and then marked the center there too.  Once I had center marked, it was as easy as hammering each strip in with a finish nail on each end, making sure to keep it level as I went.  I have paneling under this paintable wall paper so the strips are actually really secure.  They're also really lightweight so even if one falls off the wall at some point, it should be okay.
You may notice that two words are missing here.  D fell asleep and since this is right outside her room, I decided to proceed with the next step and add those in after she woke up.  Just pretend those words are there!  HA!
Then I just started hot gluing the letters on.  Yes...I said hot glue.  Like this...
You'll notice that the letters are centered on the strip.  At this point, I might have squealed.  And possibly petted it.  I plead the 5th though.
Putting the letters on took practically no time.  In less than 15 minutes it looked like this:
And then three hours later (that girl napped a long time today!) it looked like this!


Kids love personalized things.  The boys keep walking past this and smiling.  They even showed D her name, so now she smiles when she walks past it too!  I feel like it needs something using the "R" in "Barry" to balance it out.  I'll be thinking of a word and will update if I think of something.  ;-)

Supplies:
  • Wooden tiles
  • Permanent markers
  • Stain
  • Foam brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Lattice strips
  • Finish nails 
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Hot glue gun and sticks
I had everything on hand except for the wooden tiles and lattice strips.  My total for this project was just about $25, but may run you slightly more depending on your finishing choices and what materials you already have.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or click the Contact Us link on the sidebar!

Joyfully,
Jen

Monday, April 15, 2013

Watch Us Grow! A wall ruler to measure the kids...

Moving past the sad sack post about the damage to the playroom (whomp, whomp, whomp), I been working on a cute, easy, useful, and sentimental project for the hallway.  I've always envied people who live in their houses forever and have the markings of their children's heights on the door frame.  When our oldest was born, I saw a very sweet giraffe growth chart and planned to DIY it one day.  Fast forward 12 years and there is still no very sweet giraffe growth chart anywhere in our home.  I guess it's a good thing though because, hold on this will blow. your. mind, kids grow up.  Yeah, whodathunk it?  And in this bleak forest known as adolescence, giraffe growth charts are not cute.  Neither is that pre-teen angst but I digress.  About, oh, I'd say a year ago, I pinned a growth chart on Pinterest that looked like a huge school ruler (click here for Dear Lillie's version and here for 517 creations' version) and I was in LOVE!  It's completely moveable too, so even though we don't ever plan to move, we could take it with us if we ever decided to.  That would have been helpful as renters many moons ago when Lil B was born and we were living in a small apartment.
 The first thing you'll need is a super cute assistant with chocolate around her mouth.  Check!
Then you'll need
  • 1-1"x8"x8' board (I like pine for reasons I'll go into in just a second) 
  • Sanding block or sand paper
  • Paper towels
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Permanent markers (I prefer Sharpie brand in the fine tip)
  • Stencil or printed numbers
  • Stain
  • Sealer
  • Foam brushes
  • Drill
  • Screws (Wall anchors if your not going into studs!)
The first thing you need to do, is cut your board to length.  If you have baseboards, you will need to accommodate for those.  That meant my board would need to hang at least 5 inches off the ground.  I went with 6 inches.  From there I measured what I thought would look best on the wall and decided that I wanted it 6 inches from the ceiling also, which meant that my board would measure 7 feet but my ruler will measure 7.5 feet.  Hopefully that makes more sense as this goes on!  I had Barry cut the board to 7 feet in length.  Then I gave it a good sanding and wiped it down with wet but well wrung out paper towels.
While I was waiting for that to dry, I went to the computer and printed out 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in a font and size that I liked.  I went with Imprint MT Shadown (it's a pre-installed font, at least on my PC) in font size 350 and I set it to only print the outline. 
Next, I took my yard stick and measure off every foot, making sure to remember that my 1 foot line only needed to be 6 inches from the bottom of the board.  I ticked all of those off and then went back and drew them to three inches in length.  Then I ticked off every inch, making those lines one inch and extending the lines to 2 inches long at every half foot.


 

Here's the reason I prefer to use pine.  For one, it's readily available in my area making it cost effective.  For another, it's soft which makes it perfect to distress.  It also makes it easy to trace something onto it and then paint it, reducing the need for carbon paper (which is absolutely NOT readily available in my area!).  All I did was eyeball the placement of each number and, pressing down very hard, trace the outline of each number and was left with a nifty impression!


At this point, I just went over all of the lines with the permanent marker and traced the outline of each number and filled it in.

I know some people are scared of stain and I have no idea why.  Maybe it's because I grew up in a home with a father who believed painting wood furniture was one of the seven deadly sins so there's really no mystery in it for me?  I believe staining a piece is more art than science.  Once you understand how stain behaves, it's really easy.  I'd rather stain than paint, to be perfectly honest.  I wanted this piece to look aged, so I went with Minwax Early American.  It's got that sort of old oak patina to it.  You can buy small cans of stain for about $5, so if you aren't convinced in the store by the tiny little swatch, bring it home and slap it on a scrap board.  That's also a great way to figure out how many coats you need to get the desired color and a way to practice if you've never stained before.  I prefer to stain with foam brushes, but some people prefer to rub it on with an old cloth.  Hey, whatever floats your boat!
I shook the can up really well (the pigment settles so either shaking or stirring it is vital!), opened it up and then dipped my brush into it.  I put it on kind of sloppily, heavier in some parts, lighter in others because I wanted it to look used.  When I stained the furniture in D's room, I went very carefully and smoothly because I wanted it very uniform.  I stained the edges first and then the front of the board and immediately went back and wiped off the excess with clean, dry paper towels.  I let it sit for a few more minutes and then wiped it down with more clean, dry paper towels.  I didn't take a photo of this step because I didn't want to get stain on my camera but if you practice, you'll get the hang of it.  And if you want it to look old then you really can't screw it up.  You have to wipe the excess stain off.  It won't dry for the most part and then you're left with a gunky mess.  NOT COOL.  Follow the manufacturer's instructions if you need to do a second coat.  Some recommend a light sanding or buffing and some don't.  You're almost at the finish line now, so don't screw it up by not reading the directions!  I didn't need a second coat, so I just let it dry and air out overnight.
I almost always use stain with polyurethane built in so that I can skip the sealing step, but they didn't have the Early American with poly in stock, so I bought a spray on top coat.  I gave it a couple of coats, following the instructions for dry time between coats.  After that was dry, I let it air out in the sun for several hours and then in the playroom overnight until it wasn't smelly.
To install, I measured 6 inches from the floor and predrilled holes for the screws.  I had planned to countersink the holes and then fill them in with plugs, but I found some screws with rounded heads that I wouldn't mind seeing (and they sort of lent to the "this has been around forever" look) and attached the ruler to the wall, putting the screws straight into the studs so that it's nice and secure.  That's a two person job, so make sure you have some help!
And ta-da!  It's done!  I didn't even have the drill put away and the kids wanted to be measured, so I guess it's a hit!


This project costs around $20 to complete!  As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or click the Contact Us link on the sidebar!

Joyfully,
Jen

P.S.  If you're not feeling industrious, Dear Lillie and 517 creations sell these in their shops.  You can click the links in the earlier text to get there.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A (Hopefully) Minor Setback in the Playroom

When last I left you, I was proud of my shiny new playroom.  Something happened a couple of days ago that made it a little less shiny.
I was in my bedroom and I heard our furbaby Hank bark.  He's a bassett hound mix that we adopted from the shelter and he's finding his "hound dog" voice right now, which means he sometimes barks just to hear himself do it.  He was crated at that moment, but didn't act upset.  My cell phone rang (and later I realized my home phone had rang also but I left it on the dryer--who does that?) and it was a friend from high school.  Her church does a tent revival every year in an open field across the street from our house so I didn't find it odd that she'd be calling.  I answered the phone and she said, "Someone hit your house."  The words didn't make sense.  It's like if I said, "That grass is pink," and you'd go, "HUH?".  Yeah...like that.  She repeated it and said that she was walking over so I opened the front door and I see her coming across the street and to my left is a car with its front bumper around the corner of my house.
I called 911 for the first time ever in my life and told them what had happened.  We live in the country but along a state highway.  I'll say this, I no longer worry about the response time for emergency services.  Within a minute of hanging up the phone, a sheriff's deputy, ambulance, and VFD first responders had arrived on scene.  Within another minute, two more guys from the VFD, another sheriff's deputy and state police were here.  Of course, Barry's working out of town, so I did the only logical thing a grown woman could do at that point--I called my mommy and daddy.  HA HA!  None of us were hurt, and the people in the car were being cared for, although they weren't injured either.  I really just wanted my dad to come over and tell me that my house wasn't going to fall in on me.
It was at this point that things kind of went downhill for the driver. I found out that immediately after she hit the house, she attempted to start the car back up and presumably continue driving, but she didn't seem to be coherent enough for that to be a conscious decision.  My neighbor, whose yard she had plowed through before our house, took her keys from her and gave them to the state police officer.  After listing some really potent medications that she was on, the driver was detained and handcuffed on suspicion of DUI.  I sincerely hope that once they got her to the hospital, the found that she wasn't impaired in any way.  If you're a regular reader or if you are a real life friend of mine, you know that my sister Danielle was killed by a drunk driver (you can read that post here) so someone choosing to drive while impaired has already made its mark on my life.  Thank God no one was injured or killed.  My neighbor's kids play in their front yard.  My kids could have been in the playroom. 

The damage appears to be minor.  The driver hit the corner of the house and if you'll remember from the interior sneak peak I showed here, we left the brick columns up, so that's actually what she hit, and the brick columns are surrounded with Hardiboard, which is supposed to withstand hurricane force wind.  Se was not going all that fast by the time she hit it either, thanks to her taking out the neighbors fiber optics box first.  We'll have to assess the damage more thoroughly when Barry gets home but all accounts are that we'll just have to replace the trim boards. 
Here are photos of the damage.  It really could have been so much worse.  Here's the front of the house.

And from the side...

Take a step back and it doesn't look too bad.

Next project--concrete wall around the house?  Moat maybe?  HA!  Sometimes, you've got to laugh to keep from crying!

Joyfully,
Jen

Friday, March 22, 2013

Our Biggest DIY Project to Date--The Playroom Addition

These have been exciting times around our house.  The 4 munchkins are finally getting a dedicated playroom space!  Our carport has been closed in and converted into what we're calling the "Kid Cave".  Think "Man Cave" for the younger set of dudes.  And a dudette.

A few things first--This is not a tutorial because every home would present a new set of challenges and not only could I possibly address all of them, but I probably couldn't even imagine all of them.  Also, I'm calling this a DIY because we did actually do it ourselves with the help of a friend who was formerly in the construction business. If you don't have a knowledgeable friend who is willing to work for caramel pecan pie (I kid you not!) then please hire out what you can't do.  Seriously, this is your home we're talking about and the last thing you want is to DIY this up and then have it fall apart.

Our county requires permits for this kind of project.  Apparently, not everyone who works there thinks it qualifies as an activity that requires a permit so they gave us one anyway because they figure they might as well.  To obtain a permit, you simply bring a sketch of the plan and an estimate of materials and they give you a permit.  It won't be that easy everywhere, so please do yourself a favor and check into what this type of project requires where you live. 

So far, we've been asked several questions over and over so I'll address those. 
1.  Where will you park?
We haven't used the carport for car storage in years.  In 2008, we moved the furniture that we'd be using in A's room to the carport to stain it.  Since then, one DIY project after the other has gone on out there and eventually it became less of a carport and more of a workroom.  Also, I drive a Ford Expedition now and it wouldn't fit anyway.  Believe me when I say that a playroom is a much better use of space.

2.  What's that on the outside?  Wood or vinyl?
It's neither.  We went with a product called Hardiplank.  It is more costly than vinyl siding in the short term but is worth it in the long run, at least to us.  I could extol the wonders of Hardiplank but I think they do a super job of explaining why it's a great option so just click here and learn more!

3.  Why didn't you put a window in the front?
When this project was in the early planning stages we had planned for it to be a bedroom and that's really the only wall where we could put a closetAs it evolved into a playroom, we found that the front wall was still the only place for toy storage.  And sure, we could put a window there and just cover it up but we could never decide whether the window should be the same size as the living room window (which is the largest window in the front of the house as well as the window closest to the front of the addition), or larger to be the new "main" window, or the same size as the other windows on the front of the house.  But all of that fretting was really for nothing once we realized that the existing header in the carport would mean that any window we put there wouldn't be the same distance from the overhang as the other windows and I knew that would drive me nuts. Moving the header would mean some serious structural engineering and we weren't down for that.  In fact, you may notice in the photos that the window next the the ones on the side of the addition is a bit higher than the new windows.  We're unsure of how we plan to handle that yet and aren't terribly concerned since the laundry room will be overhauled at some point.  We'll make that adjustment (if one is even made) when we get there.

We still have some finishing to do and we still need to paint the addition as well as the trim, but here it as of right now.  The inside is still being worked on so that will be another post.  Barry hung the drywall and I'm finishing it. I'll have that post up as soon as we get it painted...if we ever get there.  It's not a sprint, it's a marathon (or at least that's what I'm telling myself--don't burst my bubble if I'm wrong!).

Before:


 After (At the point we're at now):



A little side by side comparison of the before and after:

And how about an interior sneak peek?

My sweet nephew asks me every few days if it's "done already".  I guess I better stop typing and start texturing some walls!  ;-)

Joyfully,
Jen

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gabe and Rachel's Wedding Cakes

My cousin Gabe and his girlfriend of 4.5 years made it official last weekend in a fun and relaxed wedding at their home.  I knew pretty early on in the planning process that I'd be making a wedding cake.  Rachel chose a peacock theme for the wedding.  At first, we had some pretty bold ideas for the cake but Rachel's mom thought classic white was the way to go so Rachel and I hatched a plan...classic white wedding cake on the outside but beautiful peacock colors on the inside.  My husband refers to it as a "mullet cake", you know business in the front and party in the back.  Just replace front with outside and back with inside!  HA!  So here's the business side of the cake:


And here's the party side of the cake:


Fun fun fun!  And it elicited oohs and aahs when everyone saw the inside which is always cool!  The cake was white vanilla cake and the frosting was vanilla buttercream.  I colored the cake batter and swirled it in the pan.  If anyone's interested, I'll put up a tutorial on how to do that.  (That tutorial can now be found here.)  Thanks for stopping by.Just message me or post it in the comments!  The cake was covered and decorated in marshmallow fondant.  The topper was not edible (those were real feathers!) nor were the ribbon bands and diamond buckles on the bottom of each tier.

For the groom's cake, I knew I wanted to do something different.  We tossed a few ideas around but I was sold pretty quickly on a cheesecake bar.  We used a no bake recipe and put the cheesecakes in 9 oz. cups and served them with cherries and chocolate so that everyone could customize their cheesecake in their own way.  These went like hot cakes (cheesecakes?) and were terribly easy to make.  We served them from the cupcake tower that I made.



I was a bridesmaid and the morning of the wedding, I found out that we'd be dancing down the aisle as would Rachel and her mom.  I'm sure it was quite a sight to behold and I'm pretty thankful I haven't seen any video of that yet!  I'll leave you with the song we danced to though.  I'd also like to apologize to Bruno Mars in advance if the dancing was as terrible as I'm fairly certain it was!  ;-)


Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Word for 2013

Thanks for all the sweet love on the "The Woman I Would Have Her Copy" post.  I had no idea so many people (men and women) had the same issues that I had.  So many people said that they needed to hear that so I'm happy that you were touched by it.

This is going to sound like it's going into two completely opposite directions, so bear with me.

I've been seeing people all over blogland name their word of the year.  If you're unfamiliar with the concept, it's a word that is your theme for the year.  Something to inspire you or something you want to accomplish...that sort of thing.  I thought long and hard but I really couldn't come up with anything.  No word or phrase struck me.  I couldn't think of anything I wanted to strive to attain.  I mean, I have goals, of course, but that's about as far as it went.

I told you this was going into two directions.  Stay the course, people!  I'm getting you there!  The other day, I asked for a recommendation from my Facebook friends for a local optometrist.  Our new insurance gave us several different options and those were totally different than the ones on our previous insurance.  Several people recommended this one optometrist in particular.  I had used her years ago.  I won't say how many but it was in my teen years.  I racked my brain for an opinion on her from that time and I couldn't come up with anything.  I realized that probably just meant that I hadn't had a bad experience with her.  The dentist who started pulling my tooth before I was totally numb?  His name I could tell you.  I could probably pick him out of a line-up, even though I was in junior high when that happened (I was one of those people who still had baby teeth in junior high--don't judge me!).  The point is that because I had a negative experience with him I remember him.

It's human nature, right?  I would imagine that most people probably have that same perception.  We remember the negative because it keeps us safe.  When you're a child and you touch the stove and it burns you, you remember the next time not to touch the stove because that hurt.  Then you notice all of the other hot things around you and realize that they will also burn you.  It's got to be a subconscious thing though.  I know I didn't purposefully hold back any positive feedback on this particular doctor.  Interesting, isn't it, how the mind works?

Forget my first statement.  We're diverging yet a third way.  Oops.  All of that "why do we remember the negative" introspection made me realize that I'm holding onto a lot of negative.  Why?  Because it keeps me safe.  If you don't completely trust, no one can break it.  If you don't completely love, no one can hurt you.  I could list more examples, but it would just be to say this.  We build walls to protect ourselves from the hurts of others.  I realized that I'm holding onto to hurts from 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 5 years ago, etc.  I thought I had let most of that go, but I'm really just entrenching myself in those hurts.  I'm not really healed of those things.  I put up the walls and put it out of mind, but if you can recall those hurts, then it's taking up some of your heart space.  It's emotional clutter.  And I don't know about you, but I would prefer for my heart space to be filled with good things and those negative things are taking up some pretty valuable territory.

Roads are coming together.  I told you to just stay the course.  My word for 2013 is "Uncluttered".  I want to be uncluttered in my heart, my mind, my soul, and my home this year.  I know things will still be crazy, but the good kind of crazy.  I'm sure I'll post about it since pouring my heart out is ultimately pretty cathartic but also makes me feel like an awkward pre-teen on the first day of school.

I'll update again at the end of the year and let you know if I was successful in becoming uncluttered!

Joyfully,
Jen

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 Home Goals

Our homeownership anniversary just passed.  We've been homeowner for 7 years now!  I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but when we bought our home it was supposed to be our starter home.  And at the time is was the perfect size for a mommy and a daddy and two kiddos.  It's a three bedroom, 1 bath ranch home that's as old as my husband and I are.  We planned to stay three to four years and then upgrade.  Wouldn't you know it though?  We fell in love with this too small house and it's location.  It's got potential, people!  So we moved from the starter home mindset to the forever home mindset.  For one of us, it lit a fire under us to get it done and for the other person, it meant we could take our time.  I'll let you figure out who's who.  The big layoff in 2012 put that to a screeching halt though and being able to save our home became the priority.  It also made us realize just how much we really did want to be here.  So, with seven years of living here under our belts, we've made a list of projects we'd like to accomplish.  Some we'll finish this year, others we won't and that's okay!  We don't plan to go into debt so some big things, like the kitchen reno, will take more time.  This is just an interior list.  Exterior is a whole other post.

Living Room/Hallway
  • Cover/disguise/hide window looking into carport.
  • Paint ceiling in living room and hallway.
  • Hang wallpaper in living room and hallway.  (I'll be posting a tutorial on paintable wallpaper in the future!)
  • Beef up moldings in living room and hallway and caulk and paint them.
  • Repaint board and batten wainscoting on living room walls.  (This actually turned into taking down the board and batten and redoing it.)
  • Replace or restyle light fixtures--DONE!  We took the two hallway lights and the ceiling fan down and repainted them in oil rubbed bronze.  The whole project cost about $10!
  • Paint cabinets next to mantel? Paint mantel?  I'm playing this one by ear until the room comes together.
  • Replace hinges on front door.  Possibly replace front door eventually.  It's a standard 6 panel steel door right now and it's okay.  We'll reevaluate that once some other projects are completed.
  • Window treatments.
  • Reupholster ottoman.
  • Area rug.
  • Wall decor, throw pillows and other accessories.
Dining Area
  • Repaint ceiling.
  • Convert window to patio door.
  • Repair wall from conversion.
  • Hang wallpaper and paint.
  • Beef up moldings and caulk and paint them. 
  • Replace flooring.
  • Sand and stain dining table.
  • Build and upholster dining benches.
  • Buy two new dining chairs. 
Kitchen
  • Renovate.  I'm not even sure what we'll salvage.  I say scrap it and start from scratch though.  ;-)
Carport
  • We have plans to close the carport in this year for a playroom for the kids.  We're calling it the "Young Man Cave."  Will post more as the time draws near!  (We offered the room to Lil B and he said he'd rather continue to share a bedroom with his brothers in exchange for a really awesome playroom, so we aren't forcing him to continue to share.)
Craft/Laundry Room
  • We must figure out a better washer and dryer placement.  It's terrible right now and there is so much wasted space.  If nothing else, we will have to move the dryer vent because it blows out onto the carport now.
  • Organize craft supplies.
Nursery
  • Toy storage. Other than that, I'm calling this room "done" until she moves in to a big girl bed.
Boys Room
  • Reconfigure sleeping space.  Not crazy about bunk beds, so this will require some real planning.
  • Paint ceiling, walls, and trim.
  • Bedding.
  • Window Treatments.
  • Steam clean carpets. 
  • Replace closet and entry doors as well as door hardware.
Master Bedroom
  • Paint ceiling, walls, and trim
  • Replace closet and entry doors as well as door hardware.
  • Bedding.
  • Window Treatments.
  • Flooring. (You can read about why it needs new flooring here.
Bathroom
  • This room also needs a full reno.  Paneling in a bathroom--need I say more?  We also desperately need a vent fan in this room.

I will update as projects are completed and I'm sure I will think of things to add as time goes on too!  Any home goals for you in 2013? 

Jen

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What a Difference a Day Makes Prints--DIY

If you've been on a Pinterest a hot minute you've probably seen something like thisthis, and this.  This is my version (no, I still haven't replaced my camera...).

I've loved them for a while and really couldn't tell you why I didn't just go ahead and make one.  I knew I could DIY this so I came up with a set of instructions using Microsoft Word.  These can really be tailored to your specific style using different fonts.  I'll tell you what I used but I encourage you to have fun with this and really make it your own!  (And no, these aren't our real names and birthdates.  I'm not begging to be had by an identity thief!  Just FYI!)

The first thing you want to do is open a new document in Microsoft Word.  Set your margins to what you want the finished size to be.  Go to File>Page Setup>Margins and set the top, bottom, left, and right margins to 1" each for an 8 x 10 print.  For a 5 x 7 print, set the top and bottom margins to 2.25" and the left and right margins to 2".  Make sure your orientation is set to portrait.  Next, click the tab marked Layout and set your Vertical Alignment to center.  Click OK to get back to your document.

Personally, I wouldn't go any smaller than 5 x 7.  I also found that anything more than 7 dates on an 8 x 10 looked busy, so keep that in mind too.  I went in chronological order from oldest event to most recent but however you want yours to read and whatever events you choose to chronicle is up to you!  Set your text alignment to center.  Type in the date then hit enter to move to the next line and put the event title or person's name. Continue in this manner until you are finished with the dates and events.  Finish it up with the "what a difference a day makes" tagline.

This is very custom to your preferences, but here are the fonts that I used.  The dates are CM Old Western (font size is 48)  found here.  The names are French Script MT (font size 36), which came installed on my computer.  The embellishments next to the name are Soft Ornaments (I used a lower case "e" in font size 36) found here.  The tagline at the bottom, with the exception of the word "day" are Teletype (font size 24) which came installed on my computer.  The word "day" is French Script MT again (font size 48).  Part of the fun is playing around with the fonts and sizes until you get what you like!  You'll also have to make adjustments in font size if you do this in a smaller size or if you have more or less events than the example.  Please, please, please scan files for viruses before you download anything.  I'm not responsible if you download something and your computer gets some nasty bug, but I would feel awful.  And always make sure to follow the rules with regards to licensing  for home and commercial use!  Then just print it and frame it!  I used card stock because I had it but you could use regular printer paper also.  It won't matter once it's framed!  You'll have to trim a little off unless you use a larger frame and mat.

Another shot of the finished product again just so you don't have to scroll back up:

Love it!  It would make such a cute housewarming gift!  Questions?  Hit up the comment box or send me an email!

Jen

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Woman I Would Have Her Copy

"...the love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy." ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women 

This is one of those posts that I felt led to write but didn't really want to write.  I'm not good with putting myself out there and revealing my hurts and insecurities.  But sometimes, in the process of working through those things it's a necessary evil...at least it is for me.  So bear with me please.  I'm putting my heart out here.

Upon seeing my daughter, people usually say, "She looks just like you!"  Since that statement is generally preceded by an exclamation of her cuteness, part of me swells with pride because aren't they, in essence, saying I'm cute too?  No?  Maybe?  Let's just say yes they are, okay?  I usually say, "Thanks!  We get that a lot!"  But there's another part of me, a bigger part of me, that screams when they say that.  I want to say, "No she doesn't.  She's beautiful.  She's nothing like me."  Ouch, right?  Talk about an internal struggle.

It's how I really feel though.  I've had body issues and image issues my whole life, but I don't think they're any worse than most women have.  We live in a size 0, airbrushed world so it happens.  I had a light bulb moment last night though.  I realized that it's not that I don't want her to look like me...I don't want her to be me. 


I realize that 99% of my issues are that I am my own worst enemy.  And my daughter will be her own worst enemy too one day unless I do something now.  The way she views herself in the future will be directly tied to how I view myself.  The woman she becomes, the wife she becomes, the mother she becomes will have everything to do with the woman, wife, and mother that I am.  And don't think I don't realize that my boys are watching too.  The kind of woman I am will factor in to the kind of woman they bring home to meet their mother.  And I want to like her.  Really I do.  And hopefully that will be many years from now.  ;-)

No longer will I look in the mirror and bemoan the me with bags under my eyes.  Instead, I want to see the bags that are there because I stayed up late talking to a son who will be a teen before I know it, caring for a sick child,  watching a movie with my husband or catching up with a friend.  The same can be said for my wrinkles.  They are there because I've laughed until my face hurt with my friends, learned my lesson about sunscreen the hard way, and wept when necessary.  I want to see the me that is getting older, which is a privilege not afforded to everyone. No longer will I be the me who stands on the scale and grumbles about the number.  Instead, I want to be the me that knows my self-worth isn't a number on the scale.  I want to be the me who is more concerned with my health than what I weigh.  No longer will I be the me who despises the extra skin and stretchmarks around my mid-section.  Instead, I want to be the me who remembers that my body carried the 4 little people I love more than anything in the world. I will remember that I share my DNA with my family so some of the things I don't like about myself belonged to some of the people that I love the most and that there is something beautiful in that.  I really could go and on and on but it all boils down to the fact that I need to really be the kind of person I would have her emulate.

I will be confident enough to be nothing but proud when people tell me my daughter looks like me because how she views me and how she views herself depend on that.

This isn't about beauty.  Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.  We are all who we are.  It's how we approach who we are that matters.

One day, someone will say to my daughter, "You look just like your mother."  And I don't want her to think that's a bad thing.  I want her to be proud when she says, "Thanks!  We get that a lot!"

Choosing Joy,
Jen

*Amended to say that this isn't the only thing I hope she takes from me.  I have many other lessons to teach her.  This is but one area in which I struggle so please don't think I only care about how she feels about her looks!  I'm sure other blog posts where I keep it real about our lives will follow!  :-)