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DIY Felt Envelopes

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“Come on. Let’s practice,” I said to Ev one night as I was tucking her into bed.  Every night I go in to check on the girls before I turn in for the night and whisper that I loved them in their ears.  Evie always complains that she wishes she would wake up for this nighttime ritual. “Yell in my ear, Okay, Mom? Yell ‘Wake up!! I love you!!’ so I know that you are there.” So I told her we would practice as I pretended to sneak up on her while she pretended to sleep. I leaned over and whispered a “yell” in her ear that I loved her.  She giggled and then grabbed me around the neck before imploring, “Mom, when you come in can you leave me a note under my pillow?”

This was just a couple of weeks ago and since I have slipped notes under pillows while sugar plums danced in their heads.  But then I remembered this idea. I will admit it isn’t original to me. I have seen the idea of making children’s mailboxes or large envelopes for tucking sweet notes such as these to children eager to receive them.  It’s a small way I can connect with the girls and give them reminders when needed that they are loved. I have found these notes tucked away in their book bags they have taken with them to school.

Anyway, I didn’t follow a pattern because I figured the concept was pretty simple (at least the one in my head) and hopefully you can make sense of it, too! It only took ten minutes to make both of them and to make two only cost one dollar. Cha-ching!

First, I started with two sheets of felt (about 25cents each at Walmart) and I liked the idea of contrasting colors, so I chose two shades of pink.

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First, I started with a sheet and folded it about 3/4 of the way up against itself and sewed along the side edges as indicated here. I also sewed along the bottom just to have a neater bottom edge but it isn’t necessary:

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I then folded my other sheet of felt in half long ways and cut a curvy triangle (with two short flat sides as well, so I guess not entirely a triangle) for the enclosure. I then sewed that along the top of my envelope.I also chose to sew a little lace edging on for some girly detail, but again, not necessary at all.

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I also cut hearts out of the scrap for a “seal”. I told the girls if the seal was on their envelope, then they would know they had mail. Otherwise, I would keep it tucked into their envelope.

I completed this little project by gluing Velcro on the back of the hearts with tacky glue. I used the rougher edged Velcro because it sticks right to the felt without needing to sew it’s counterpart on.

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That’s pretty much it! Pretty simple, meaningful and definitely cheap! My kind of project!

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I just stuck them to the girls’ door with thumb tacks just under the flap.

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And who doesn’t love mail, right?

 

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A Trip To Paris At Home

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Alright. I’m not gonna lie to you.  When we got the call yesterday morning at 6:30, I groaned. I did.  I’m pretty sure I whined shamelessly.  It went a little something like this: “Seriously?! Again?! AH! That is the fourth time in seven days. You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Yeeeeeeeeep.  Here in the snowman capital of the world we had ANOTHER snow day. Sheesh!  With subzero temperatures verging on fifteen below, I guess I can see why they thought it necessary to cancel again. But, really, could they have asked me first? I have orders I am behind on, not to mention dishes, housework and Downton Abbey!

Alas, though, I gave in and accepted that all of that would have to wait. Again.

A very sweet friend sent me some tea in the mail and I caught a glimpse of it sitting on the side table while aforementioned tantrum was transpiring. It was so charmingly called “Breakfast in Paris” tea. Ah! Breakfast in Paris, I thought to my little ol’ self. If only……

The best part of being a parent, in my opinion, is that I really don’t have to act like an adult all the time and I have a great excuse for it: I’m just being a good mom!! If I want to take the whole day and pretend that I am strolling the streets of Paris, shopping and visiting the Louvre and sitting in cafes admiring the Eiffel Tower, then by golly I will! You know….for the sake of the kids….

Here is the schedule for our day.  We started by listening to the “French Traditional” station on Pandora to set the mood. Then, I taught the girls the three French words I actually know: Bonjour, Au revoir, and Merci. Of course I used a very obnoxious and completely off accent all day and called the girls Mademoiselles.

We put the kettle on and used our finest china, pretending that we were taking our tea and breakfast in a street café.  We imagined it was sunny and warm and there were birds chirping (or at least I did. The girls kept contradicting me saying, “Nu-uh, Mom. There are no birds. It’s cold!”).

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Then we made crepes using this yummy recipe. I did add a little canned pumpkin for nutritional benefit as well. We filled them with jam and fresh fruit. We sipped tea and talked in accents and dreamed of a warm morning in Paris gazing at the Eiffel Tower.

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After breakfast we took a stroll down a street lined with blooming flowers (or really took a walk up to our second story bathroom) to the “salon” where we had French manicures and did our hair in French braids.

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Then, alas, because the house and messy kitchen sadly won’t clean itself we pretended to be French maids. The kids weren’t really buying it, but we had to stay in theme, right? 😉

Then we went “shopping” at the Le Petit Closet (again, insert me in French accent, “Oh yes! Dis is da finest Fraunch boutique in all of Par-ie.” And the girls groaning, “Mooooom. It’s our closet!!”) We put on our finest duds and put on a fashion show.  I draped a tablecloth over the door as a backdrop. Verrry hip this year on the Paris runway. Then we struck some serious and very chic poses. Do you see the pure diva sass I’m dealing with here, people?!

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Before lunch, we took virtual tours of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. They both have A-M-A-Z-I-N-G sites with 360degree views. On the Louvre’s site you can click on paintings and statues and such and get a larger view of them and information about them. You can see the museum room by room. I was IN LOVE! Je T’aime, Louvre! They also have a whole wing dedicated to Egyptian history which was a great opportunity to tell the girls about the ancient Egyptians and what they believed and how it differs from what we believe as Christians.  It turned into a little theological/Bible lesson. Bonus.

After all of that, we took a tour of local attractions via our very own, personal tour guide, Pinterest. Do you know there is a trampoline bridge over the Seine?!!! WHAT?!! That alone makes me want to visit the city of love for real!!! Did I say yet that I like to act like a kid sometimes?

 Then for lunch we had veeeeeeeeery authentic French cuisine: French (garbage) fries. Hey! I did crepes, alright?

Then we strolled to what I would like to pretend was an outdoor theater in the park and watched the movie “Madeline” (on Netflix).  It’s a story about a little French girl in Paris who is trying to save the girls’ home where she lives. Cute.

After the “theater” we had pumpkin lattes (DECAF!) with chocolate on a veranda overlooking the Seine river.

Then I about collapsed from exhaustion. Who knew touring Paris could be so tiring?

So I made the girls rest for a few minutes while I prepped for our next item on the venture.  I told them we would paint pictures of the Eiffel Tower (because, honestly, you can’t go to Paris and NOT do something artistic, right?). So I googled a silhouette of the Tower and then traced it onto a piece of watercolor paper. Then I used some handy dandy rubber cement and painted over the silhouette.

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You can also use art masking fluid but it is WAAAAAAAAY expensive and a bottle of rubber cement is only a couple of dollars and change and does the job nicely.  I told the girls to paint all over the paper in any colors they so desired.

While they worked I serenaded them because that’s what they would do in France, right? Artists need mood music to get the creative juices flowing. In this case, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor because that’s pretty much all I know at this point.

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Then when it was done and all dried and the masterpieces were created, I took an artist’s eraser and rubbed off the rubber cement revealing the tower beneath it and voila (as the French would say).

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We ended the day with French onion soup for dinner (which I would not recommend. I don’t believe it’s really French or a favorite with kids). Lesson learned.

All in all, it was a pretty romantic day….for me at least! A couple of times Ev said, “This is the best day EVER!” So I think they enjoyed it as well.

Disclaimer: I do always like to have a reality check though, for those of you who might think this was all kittens and unicorns and kittens riding on unicorns and are tempted to be discouraged. It wasn’t all sunny. I did plenty of scolding in my French accent, the girls didn’t dig all of my ideas, and at one point I just threw my hands up and really scolded…in clear English….and SUPER loudly. It was fun, but not perfect, even in Paris!

Here is a FREE printable in case you feel inspired to do your own stay-cay vacay to Paris!

Revoir, mes amours!

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Identity Theft: Being a Wife and Mom

identitytheft I stood beside my husband trying hard to maintain eye contact with the speaker with two little hands wriggling for freedom in mine. I had given them the speech before we went in: though I understood the temptation, they were not to ask for candy and needed to understand we were not there for them. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and ready to cry but knew it was important that I be there. So as I waited in one of those rooms, filled with mourners and smelling almost nauseatingly of chrysanthemums, we stood in line with others who came to pay their respects to the family of the man from our church who had recently passed away. I had never even actually met him because we haven’t been at our church all that long and for a lot of our time there he has been sick and unable to come. Still, I had spoken with his daughters and wanted them to feel loved and supported. I scanned the room and smiled, but as I saw the people approaching I inwardly groaned, because by now, I was well acquainted with this routine. People walked up to our girls and gushed over how beautiful they were and, “oh my, look at those dimples.” While I tried my very best to concentrate on what people were saying, the girls whined about when we were going to leave. My husband was introduced over and over to family from out of town as the associate pastor and father of these two charming and delightful children. I waited patiently.  Anytime now, surely someone would acknowledge me. But as I stood them, smiling politely, I was no more than a footnote on a page. When I was acknowledged at all, it was to be told what a wonderful husband I had and how blessed I was to be his wife. If introduced at all, I was nameless. Just an accessory, really, on my husband’s arm. I felt as important as the tie he was wearing. “This is his wife and his lovely yellow tie.” His wife. Pastor Sam’s wife and Evie and Nora’s mom. Nameless. Faceless.

The girls began to really get antsy, as little girls do in a funeral parlor filled with nothing to do but to try to wriggle free from their mother’s iron fist grip. After twenty minutes of “your husband is the best thing since cherry pie” and “oh. You are so lucky to have been blessed with such a husband and children. Count your lucky stars the heavens were smiling down on such a person (I’m sorry. What’s your name again? Yes. Yes. That’s right. Sam’s wife)” I gave up and let go of their hands. Before I knew it, they were trying to race each other down the hallway all the while I was trying to keep my attention on the funeral director who was shooting jokes at my husband left and right. I told them they needed to sit, which to them translated into jumping violently on the couch. The elder of the two smirked at me, knowing full well that my blood pressure was rising, which meant her fun was just starting. Through gritted teeth and a plaster smile I told them to sit quietly in chairs within arms reach of me. Once they had done so, the older one began to bounce in the chair, again to try to see if she could crack me. I really think this girl has a future in interrogation some day.  At this point, my head was throbbing, my feet were screaming, and my heart was drumming in my ears. I shot the girls that look that only mothers can give that says something like, “I love you but if you choose to cross me again I will sell you to the circus and make sure they give you a terrible job like cleaning up elephant poop and scraping gum off of bleachers and brushing the lion’s teeth…” A man from our church chose that moment to mosey on over to us and tell my girls how good they were and how sweet and charming and pretty they looked. Again, I was acknowledged only by a conspiratorial smile as if I would readily agree how well behaved they had been. The elder of the two flashed me her dimpled, smug grin that I know translates to her, “I win”. At that point I think my smile must have looked akin to one someone must have when they are sent to an insane asylum because her smile faded quickly. The gentleman from our church must have seen it, too, because he chose that moment, the first time I had been acknowledged as an individual the whole evening to say chidingly as he walked away over his shoulder to,” enjoy the journey. ”

Then I screamed. I did. I yelled that I, too, was trying to be thoughtful and considerate by being there and that it had been by my choice, not obligation. I shrieked that I did, in fact, have a name. When I was born to my two, lovely parents they did not put on the birth certificate “Sam’s wife”. I stomped my feet a little, threw some really poetic insults at the condescending comment, and stormed out of there, wives and moms around the world applauding me, my oldest daughter gawking at me and my husband giving a great speech to everyone about how I was the love of his life and what he, in fact, would be without me

…… In my head. That whole, lovely scene only played out in my head. What actually happened was I smiled again, politely, not really dignifying the comment with a response, then grabbed the girls by their hands, ushered them outside, put them in the van and lamented to my husband about how I have lost all identity as a mom and wife, how no one seemed to even see or acknowledge that I was even there, other than to scold me for not ” enjoying the journey “. I may as well have a name tag that says ” Hi. My name is wife and mom. ”

This idea of identity theft is sort of a recurring theme in my tales of woe, actually. Just yesterday I was crying to him about it again. I have people tell me all the time how incredible my husband is and how lucky I am to have him. Though I usually respond with a very sincere and hearty word of concurrence, it can also be discouraging, because though he has earned every single word of praise, I can’t even be introduced by my name if I’m introduced at all. When I begin my lamenting it usually sounds a little something like this: I feel like a job. I am the packer of lunches, the finder of socks, the kisser of boo boos, the maker of meals, the comforter, the cheerleader, the team mascot, the folder of laundry, the discipliner, the cleaner….. You get the idea. I’m rarely even called by my name. I’m, “Moooooooooooooom!!!!” most of the time. There are so many days when I sit back and wonder how it came to this. How did I lose all sense of who I am as a person and become a job? When did I become so faceless and nameless? When did I become nothing more than arm candy for my husband and a convenience to my children? If I’m honest, some days I can be downright resentful of my family, because, in the spirit of being totally candid, so much time spent being a mom you are undervalued. You are taken for granted and abused. In fact, there can be an attitude that you should be cleaning up after them, cooking for them, and taking them where they need to go. And my husband, who truly is this amazing man and great spouse, can’t meet all of my needs all the time and can get wrapped up in work or coaching soccer, because, despite popular belief, he really is only human and the poor guy can only do so much. So he can’t always see that I am drowning sometimes in loneliness and frustration. I heard once that when people were polled, what they wanted most was to be appreciated. I also read this somewhere: you know you don’t appreciate someone when you think it’s their job to do anything for you.

A pet peeve of mine is to go to a restaurant and see people treat the service there like their own personal slaves. My mom used to be a waitress and I only know a fraction of how hard that really was on her to be on her feet all night, dashing to fill orders, to be hit on by drunken men, to have people yell at her because their steak wasn’t prepared to their liking though it was no fault of her own, to work for crummy tips, all with a smile plastered on her face. But I have been out with friends and witnessed some of them treat our servers in this way, making snarky comments, ignoring them when they check on our table, and not offering any word of gratitude and say something like, “They’re getting paid for it.” As if passing them a lousy tip gives you the right to treat them any way you want.

OK. I digressed a bit. But here is my point: Just because someone has a job it doesn’t give anyone the right to treat them as less than human. As a means to an end. A job. Hence my point. As a wife and especially as a mom it so often feels like I have lost all sense of self and feel underappreciated. My children, as I did to my own parents, don’t get how much I sacrifice for them on a daily basis, and honestly, I don’t expect them to until they have kids of their own.

As I have been sitting here writing, I wanted to tie this up with a nice little bow; a word of encouragement and enlightenment to those who are struggling like me, most days just trying to keep my head above water and sanity in tact. So here it is, my incredible words of wisdom: you’re not alone. When I talk to my friends, most of ’em feel the exact same way. Being a mom is tough. Sometimes being a wife, even if you’re married to a really great guy like I am, can be really tough, because all of a sudden you wake up one day and realize that you have lost so much of who you used to be. I think I used to be fun (I think??). I used to be spontaneous and go out swing dancing. I used to hang out with my friends on weekends and NOT talk about kids. I used to be the interesting girl across the room that you wanted to get to know better. I used to have a name.

My mom recently handed me a folder full of all these papers, mementos of things I created as I grew up: report cards, pictures, essays. I came across one essay I had written as an introductory paper for a creative writing class. It was titled “Mirror of my Life.” As I read it,I was reminded of the girl who wrote it. She talked about her dreams and ambitions, her frivolous activities. She talked about making up skits when she was all alone, talking in different accents and dreaming of a life on stage, perhaps.  She talked about her fears and hopes and the world that was wide open before her. At seventeen, anything seemed possible. As I read those words, I missed that girl.  I missed the girl who was carefree and laid back, who spent her free time writing poetry and daydreaming and reading books.  Then as I read further, I caught a truer glimpse of her, reading between the lines: a girl who dreamed of being married and having kids.  She was a girl who prayed for and laid awake at night dreaming of and writing letters to the husband she couldn’t wait to meet.  She was a girl who was at times lonely with the ambition to have her own family someday, lonely in the waiting. Then I was reminded of the girl who just a few years later married a man beyond her dreams when she was so young, but who cried herself to sleep so many nights and sat in lonely corners during the day aching to hold a baby of her own. For years, she sat and prayed and waited, empty in heart and womb. Then I am reminded of the person I am now, living out those very dreams written down on the paper in my hands. After that, I come to pity the girl on the paper because though she may have had much less responsibility, she had much less to be thankful for.

So here it is: my secret to sanity when I feel like I’m fading into absolute oblivion, because, as with all things in life, it usually comes down to perspective. I will take a few thoughtless comments from people who can’t see what I do, though I know I do them. I will take not being introduced properly to so-and-so’s second cousin twice removed who I will never see or remember again in my life.  I will take the forgetfulness, being taken for granted, and yes-being walked on at times, because even on the most exhausting of days I wouldn’t trade this life or what this girl has for anything in the world.

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DIY Owl Tote

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Last year, I made this advent calendar counting down until Christmas. Always one to cram extra projects into an already exhaustingly busy month, on day nine I had written, “Make a Christmas present for your teacher.” Blah.

I have a few friends who are teachers and I know they often receive the same gifts. So, I wracked my tired brain for an idea that might be somewhat original, cheap, and also something the girls could make, preferably having to do with owls since their teacher has a fondness for them.

I came up with nothing. HOWEVER, while I was browsing the aisles of Walmart in search of other last minute craft supplies, I stumbled across canvas totes, all under $3. Score. I snatched one up and scurried home, giddy with anticipation and self-congratulations of being so thrifty and clever.

This bag took less than an hour, and if we’re being honest here, it could have taken half that time had I not enlisted the girls to help me out with this. Ah! I love them. They are precious, but heaven help me! Let me get this out of the way because if you read any of my posts you know I like to keep it real, lest you think this was some Hallmark, Kodak moment so when you try this out with your kids you are cursing me and my family for generations to come because I made it seem like this project was sunshine and kittens and lollipops. Sugar and spice and everything nice it was not.

First, I had the girls help me cut out pieces for the wings (I don’t have a pattern, but it was pretty easy to freehand them) and was trying to make sure we all had ten digits on each hand by the time it was all said and done because Ev couldn’t keep her eyes on what she was doing and the dogs were wrestling and bumping into us. I asked Nora to keep an eye on the pieces to give her a “special job” while I was trying to sew pieces on. She lost them. Twice. Poor girl tries so hard, but is slightly absentminded like her Mama. Then I had the girls take turns helping me by pressing down the pedal while I guided the bag through the machine. StrEEEEEEssful!! The dogs kept looping around my legs and under the table, digging in my garbage and stepping on the pedal. Again, fingers were counted after that fiasco. I discovered also, much to my great annoyance, that I had to rip out one side of the bag so I could fit it into my machine, then I stitched it back up when all was said and done.

So, that out of the way, I will tell you how we pulled this together. Let’s start with the supply list, shall we??

-canvas tote

-scrap fabrics for eyes and wings

-large buttons for eyes

-sharpie paint marker

-fabric markers

-glue gun

-sewing machine

We started out by making a wing pattern out of paper and making two, cutting them out along a fold so you have two mirror images. Then I traced something round for the eyes and drew large circles in the middle of large buttons (also found in the craft section at Walmart). I pinned the fabric pieces to the bag (after opening up one side so, as aforementioned it fit better through my machine) and went to work sewing the pieces on. I chose to do a straight stitch because I like the raw edge look, but you might prefer an applique stitch. Once the fabric pieces were on, I stitched the open side back up and hot glued the button eyes on. Once all of that was done, the girls wrote on the back of the tote. Pretty easy peasey, my friends. I think they turned out cute, don’t you? Oh. Yeah. The bag is pretty cute, too. 😉

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Confessions of a Christ Addict

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“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

“Come Thou Fount” was penned in the 1700’s by a young convert to Christ. It is said that Robert Robinson walked away from his faith as the last stanza of this song suggests he feared he would. It is rumored that many years later, while riding on a stagecoach,a traveler with him began singing this song. When asked if he liked her song, he replied, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” It is debated about whether he ever returned to his faith before his death in 1790.

This hymn is one of my absolute favorites. I have the words written on the wall in our dining room. “O to grace, how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be, let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee…” It is one of my favorites because it is often the cry of my own heart.

I stumbled out of bed at 3:30 this morning, careful not to disturb my peacefully sleeping husband or the cat curled at my waist. I woke up in a panic, knowing I needed my “fix”.

Hi. My name is Courtney. I’m a Christ addict. It’s been… Three days since I last read my Bible, gave more than a cursory prayer or applied Scripture to my life.

If this really were some therapy group, I would tell you that I wasn’t a full blown junkie. I’m more of a social Christian, really. I just really go to God when I need a quick fix; a temporary high. Nothing serious.

See, I just need my quick fix every once in awhile. I need it when I’m frustrated with the kids. I throw a prayer toward the ceiling, a brief plea for wisdom, just something to get me through the next hour. I read my bible when I know I have a half hour here or there, but only if my day allows, and even then my mind is wandering about my to-do list. A temporary high, so I can feel good about myself and my “dedication” and have something else to check off my list for the day. I hurl a verse at my girls when convenient, when it helps me make my point to them. A quick fix.

This time of year can be especially distracting for me. Every year, I feel like I’m chasing the white whale of Christmas, the stuff Bing Crosby songs are made of; the charmingly decorated house, filled with Nat King Cole carols, pine scented candles, homemade, personal gifts, a tree sagging with tacky ornaments, gingerbread houses and freshly baked cookies. I am longing for the feeling I had when I was a child, the feeling you only got at Christmas time. I lost it somewhere around age thirteen, when I thought I was obviously too old for such childish behavior and have tried to find it ever since. In my search, I have lost the true joy of Christmas, of everyday, 365 days of the year living, that comes from a true relationship with Christ that satisfies like nothing else in the world. In my search for it, it’s only robbed me if my joy, thankfulness and contentment. It’s made me cranky and discontent, always searching for something better: more Christmas spirit, more Christmas movies, more parties and traditions, more presents to make or buy, more CDs to listen to. I’m always on the hunt, but in my search I’ve only found that Joy is not something that can be bought at Target.

I woke up with the sweat of this verse on my brow: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?”

In my own way, I’ve gained the world. I have this house that may not be a mansion in the Hamptons, but it’s prefect for me, with it’s ornate fireplace, wrap around porch, claw foot tub. I have a cozy, warm bed to crawl into every night next to a faithful, loving, adoring husband that I don’t come close to deserving. I’m the mom of two wild, rambunctious, strong-willed, sweet girls. My husband has a job where I get to work beside him and both do what we love. I have friends and family who love me, somehow. I eat everyday, often more than I should. In worldly possessions, I really lack nothing. Still, what does it profit me, even as a daughter of the one true God, if my life is dedicated to these things rather than to Him?

See, I don’t want to just be a social Christ addict, I want to be a full-blown, all or nothing, go big or go home junkie. I want to be like this pastor we met in NYC who holds bible studies in homeless shelters in the Bronx and hands out care packages to people in AIDS facilities. I want to be bold enough to stand the ridicule he faces when he sings on the subways and ferries in Manhattan, when at times he has been openly mocked, kicked and been threatened bodily harm. He still peaches with boldness, with love and with joy. You see, the thing about pastor Jeff is that he is always smiling. Always. The joy of Christ oozes out of him; it runs through his veins. It is his life blood. I want to be so addicted to Christ that I can be called, as he does himself, “cross-eyed and crazy” for our Savior. I want to be crazy out of my mind, totally hooked and overflowing with a love for God that can never be satisfied, a thirst that can never be quenched; an addiction that always has me on my knees crying out for more. I want to be that kind of Christian. I want to be able to say I am living out I Thessalonians 5:16-18 that says, “Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, or Lord.” I want to be able to say:

“Hi. My name is Courtney. It’s been…. Well, I haven’t stopped praying, giving thanks or worshipping Christ…”

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Spring Cleaning Tips and Tricks

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It happens every single year.  After the chaos of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and everything in between, we usually hit a nice little lull in January and February and sometimes, if we’re lucky, the beginning of March. But by St. Patrick’s Day our calender is marked up with appointments, parties, school programs, Doctor’s appointments and the like. Every single year from March until New Year’s it begins.  It always amazes me how the less we are home the greater the mess we seem to create. How is that possible? It is one of the great mysteries of life like the Bermuda triangle and missing socks.

And every day my poor husband gets to hear my redundant lamenting over how messy the house is. I try to keep some kind of order in my house, but let’s be real for a moment, shall we? There are times when three days worth of dishes are piled on the counter, the laundry is so backed up that we are turning our underwear inside out, and the carpets are so piled with pet dander that they look like shag. Who’s with me?

Just sitting here writing about it is exhausting me. Sometimes, especially when we are busy, it feels insurmountable. But I am here my friends to tell you there is hope! As someone who is easily overwhelmed, here are a few tricks I do to try to keep my brain from exploding in attempting to not only get the house clean but to keep it clean (well, or at least in some kind of order).

1. Keep your cleaning clutter to a minimum by using fewer cleaners (and do some good for the environment while you’re at it). I don’t know about you, but under my sinks can collect some serious clutter, too. I have read so many articles about how household cleaners are not only harmful to the environment but harmful more importantly to you and your kids. So, I keep it simple with three basic cleaners that do the job quite well:

*  bleach water. I use this for the really nasty stuff like the bathroom. You can use vinegar water for those jobs as well because it disinfects well, I just prefer the smell of a bleached clean bathroom.

*  white vinegar water: White vinegar is my cleaning BFF. It can clean windows and mirrors, your hardwood floors, and great to clean walls and baseboard and to dust with among other things. I use it to spray mattresses  and furniture to give it a fresh smell and eliminate odor. I even spray it in the air as an air freshner. It is a disinfectant without being harmful to breath in. It does the job without being harmful to you or your stuff. Some people say that they hate the way it smells, but honestly, I feel like the smell doesn’t linger long.

 *  baking soda. I love baking soda. It is a great abrasive for stubborn things stuck on your counter on tub, and it is a great deodorizer. I sprinkle it on carpets before I vacuum and in toilets before I scrub the bowl. When our pup has a little accident on the carpet, the first thing I do is sprinkle the spot with soda and it will absorb it before it can permeate your carpet. It’s great to put in a load of laundry to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

2. Make a (realistic) chart. When I look at my house as a whole and see what every room needs (i.e. my kitchen needs cupboards scrubbed, fridge cleaned off in and out, decluttered, cleaned in general, etc.) it can be a bit overwhelming. Cleaning (especially Spring cleaning) is sort of like going on a diet. If you try to do too much at once, you get overwhelmed and end up giving up altogether. Make a list of what is realistic for your week/day.  For instance, take Monday to tackle the kitchen, but leave the living room till the next day. When it’s broken up, it’s much less intimidating.

3. Make it fun.  I don’t know if anyone is like me, but cleaning is NOT fun to me. My maternal grandmother loves to clean and could make it an Olympic sport. I, sadly, did not inherit those genes. But something that helps me is to give myself little “rewards”. For example, when I need to sort things out like that pile of paperwork that has gathered on the dining room hutch or fold laundry, I take the opportunity to make myself a cup of tea and sit down to watch that new BBC program that just came out on Netflix and do my work then while I watch. In fact, I will look forward to three loads of laundry that need folded just so I have an excuse to get caught up on Downton Abbey. It inspires me to put in those three loads of laundry throughout my morning so that when the girls are down for rest time I can do just that. Also, I have been known to have a chocolate bar on hand and once one thing is checked off my list it is time for me to have a piece of my candy bar. Chocolate is always inspiring!

4.) Set a timer. Okay. Now I know this one sounds cheesey because we aren’t all six. BUT, it really does help me! Just this morning I looked at the kitchen with crumbs everywhere, dishes in the sink, and garbage strewn about from breakfast and wanted to walk away. But, in my head I tried to ask myself how long it would realistically take me if I did everything that needed done. I set a timer for that amount of time (which was only ten minutes, by the way) and it made me work more swiftly because I wanted to be done by the time it went off. In the end, I actually had time to spare.

5). Make lists. Again, with someone who is easily overwhelmed, this helps a ton!! When I look at the house as a whole, I give up before I begin. But, if I sit down and make a list of what needs done in each room it helps me to see what my priorities need to be (the fridge can be cleaned out another day) and I get a huge sense of accomplishment when I can check one off. Am I the only one who likes to put something on the list after I have already accomplished it just so I can check it off?

6). Fill a laundry basket as you go from room to room.  This is another trick that has helped me immensely. We often get clutter at our house because there are things that I have no idea what to do with. So, I have started putting things in a laundry basket and just go from room to room filling it with things that are out of place and when I enter rooms, some things get put in the basket and some things get put back where they belong. If it is my goal to empty the basket, then I find that I really can find a place for everything and sometimes that place is the trash can or box to give away, which brings me to……

7). Keep a giveaway box. Just recently I put a box in the basement for things to give away. We are planning to have a yard sale this summer to raise money to go to our missions trip to Romania. Knowing the box is there and knowing what is going in it is for a good cause helps me to part with things a little easier than I normally would (being the pack rat that I am by nature). Keep a box to donate clothes to your local city mission or items to go to the Salvation Army or outgrown toys to go to needy kids. Having a good cause to donate to is great incentive for decluttering.

8). Involve the kids. Last summer when the kids were home all day, I nearly panicked. I didn’t know what to do with them all day without tearing my hair out! I would plan fun days (girl days or days at the park or days with friends) but I honestly found our very best days were spent…..cleaning!!! I don’t know what it was, but when we started cleaning together it was this bonding time for us. My girls are still young, but I think it was a sense of accomplishment for them. We would make a list, then I would ask who wanted to do what and they have always been eager to volunteer. Then we would put on music while we cleaned and had spontaneous dance parties or make a game of seeing if we could check something simple off our list (like putting away all the books or cleaning off a dresser) by the time a song had ended. It gives them responsibility and if you make it fun and make sure they know how appreciative you are for their efforts, it really is a great time to connect with your kids.

9). Every day, pick up as you go about your day. There is nothing more aggravating than feeling the huge sense of accomplishment of cleaning your house top to bottom only to have it messed up again in a half hour. Again, with busy schedules and little kids, it’s hard to stay on top of things, but I have found it’s easy to do a little every day, even if it’s a crazy day. Some days I find myself taking a potty break and taking 30 seconds to spray and wipe down the sink after I have washed my hands to remove toothpaste and foundation stains and stray hairs. When I am going to fetch my coat from upstairs, I pick things up that need to go upstairs and put them away as I go. I honestly feel like if I didn’t do things like that every day I would end up on one of those shows about people with the disgustingly horrible houses. If I do a little as I am going about my normal routine, it helps to keep the clutter and mess to a minimum.

 

And to help keep things in perspective, I try to remember this

 

thank heaven

 

So, those are some things I do. What tricks do you have for keeping things tidy?

2

There’s No Place Like Home (A Home Tour)

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I just saw this quote on Pinterest today by Jane Austen; “There’s nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Being a homebody myself and a desperate Jane Austen fan, I fell in love and decided to make a print of it myself.

Today, as Spring days often are, is dreary, rainy, and romantically cozy. I find that my house is sprinkled with comfort and all things romantic as I walk through it. I wanted you to take a walk through it with me. DSCF1880

As I walked up the steps toward my attic office, I caught a glimpse of our cat, Picky-Picky sprawled out lazily upon our guestroom bed. I picked up this bedspread at an antique shop tucked away in a quaint little town while on vacation. The curtains draped haphazardly over this antique bed (found for a steal for $75 at a local flea market just down the street) were made from sheets found at Salvation Army.

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Next door is our girls’ room, papered with scrapbook sheets with paper stars dangling above the bed. Sometimes, when I tuck the girls away into bed at night, we pretend they are real stars and the ceiling is a night sky full of wonder and shooting stars.

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Then there is my room, painted a delicious, buttery yellow, complete with three windows that stream the sun through it. Even on a dreary day like today, it is bathed in luxurious light. The four post bed was crafted by my grandfather a quarter of a century ago and makes me feel ridiculously spoiled. It is high and soft and romantic. It is accented with bird pillows and a throw quilt, both crafted by yours truly, and is piled high with quilts acquired from different places, but my favorite being the one on top that was tucked away in my grandmother’s antique chest made by a relative long ago. As you can see, we, too, have stars above our bed. I am quite obsessed with paper stars.

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This vintage tray is one of my proudest finds, picked up at an estate sale for a few cents that sits on a shelf in our bathroom, topped with lotions and potions.

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When we first took a tour of our house when we were looking to buy, I nearly melted on the floor when I caught sight out this fireplace. It’s flanked by fluted pillars and has a built-in mirror that gives the room depth.  Do you see them? I told you I was obsessed with paper stars!

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This is our little breakfast nook, tucked into a corner of our kitchen. Can you tell I like vintage style? We got this table (that has two sides that pop out) and chairs all for $30 at an estate sale. Estate sales are my absolute favorites for the best finds!

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Seriously? Is there anything more romantic on a cold or dreary day than a hot cup of tea in a pretty tea cup? Most of these were my great grandmother’s. Aren’t they lovely?

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Along with paper stars, I am obsessed with birds (did you notice them on the pillows on my bed?). My dear, sweet mother knows this. This is Vivian, as I have fondly named her, given to me by my mom.

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….as was this one, which dangles nicely from the china cabinet in our dining room.

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Our reading nook, tucked between our stairs and living room, is papered with wallpaper I found for a dollar a roll at Micheal’s. I am quite fond of it.

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Aren’t they handsome? Perhaps one of the coziest of coziness on a dreary day are my two pals, Burton and Henry, that keep my company while the girls and Sam are away. Look at those faces!

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Lastly, this is the hope of things to come! This was taken in our backyard at the end of summer last year. This picture doesn’t do anything in it justice. Those zinnias and forget-me-nots brought me such joy! They were absolutely breath-taking. And that cute little girl in rubber boots watering flowers? Words cannot describe how cozy she is to cuddle!

So that is a glimpse into my cozy home! More to come later…….

xo