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CONTEST: Have Your Photos Painted for Free

photocontestAs many of you already know, I have an ETSY shop. Up to this point I’ve mostly sold printables but was thinking of branching out. I’ve always loved painting, but I’ve put it on the backburner for awhile until this past Christmas when my super awesome husband bought me art supplies: a tabletop easel, new paintbrushes, pencils.  It reignited my passion for painting. I wanted to be able to start selling some of these paintings in my shop. That’s where you come in.

I decided to have contest. Here’s how it will work: I want photos in three categories: 1) animals/pets 2) children (preferably closer up) 3)portraits (also preferably closer up. If I choose your photo two things will happen: 1) I will paint the picture then send you the original (a $100 value) and 2) sell prints of your painted photo in my shop (this is something you are agreeing to if you submit a photo). If you are interested, you can go to my Facebook page and like my page for further details and updates. I will be announcing winners March first.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

xo

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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?

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DIY Easy Picture Frames

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This is one of those posts again that seem a little silly for me to even be giving a tutorial about because these are so ridiculously easy to make, but….well, here we are.

I was shopping for a friend for her wedding shower, and I had this big idea to put together this cute little package of goodies for her to decorate her home with. I started, of course, by stalking her on Pinterest to find out what her style was. Though this might seem a little creepy, it is incredibly effective when trying to pick out the perfect gift for someone.

Anyway, on my quest to finding such aforementioned items, I hunted for cute and affordable picture frames. This friend is super trendy. She always looks like she just stepped out of a magazine, so I wanted to find her something that would fit her style. I did. I found this adorable chevron picture frame that was classy, but still looked a little rough around the edges to give it that shabby chic charm. It was a 4×6 (perfect) and…what?!!! Fifteen dollars!! Have I mentioned before how cheap I am? I could have gotten her the picture frame, but I couldn’t afford to add much else to it. So instead, I grabbed two white frames, $5 each, one a 4×6, the other 8×11. I headed home, got out my Sharpies, only second to Duct Tape in their versatility, and went to work.  My husband so wisely looked at me and said, “You’re doing that freehand?” Yep, was my confident reply.  How hard is it to do a chevron pattern?? Well, apparently for someone like me working at 10 o’clock at night, it’s no small feat.  I hated the way it looked, which was completely uneven and I was sure she wouldn’t like it either. So, my original DIY list looked like this:

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then quickly changed to this:

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Instead of Sharpie, I decided to go with decoupaging instead. I had this darling paper called, “The Sweetest Thing” that I picked up from Micheal’s to wallpaper my girls’ room and thought it would be perfect for this project. So here’s what I used:

*2 white picture frames

*glue (for decoupage-so much cheaper than Mod Podge!)

*scrapbook paper

*foam brush

Okay, so I know this is probably pretty self explanatory, but this is how it was done: I started by taking the glass and backing off to be able to wrap the paper smoothly around the edges.  Then I cut strips of paper the length of each side and then some so it could wrap around the edges and be tucked around the side and glued to the back.  I cut diagonal slits in inside corners of the paper so they could be fold neatly around the inside edges. I started gluing my paper down, edge by edge, then I covered the whole thing with a layer of glue, then let it dry and did another layer. My first attempted side looked like this:

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And here are the final products. Pretty easy, right? All in all these took me about a half hour to make both of them. Not too bad!

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I think she liked ’em.

xo

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Easy Mitten Quilt and Tea Staining Fabric

ImageQuilting as you go is a really popular way to quilt it seems these days, which absolutely thrills my soul! With two businesses to try to keep afloat, two girls to keep after, errands to run, a house to keep in order, murals to finish painting, custom orders to keep up with, youth group activities, church functions, upcoming showers and parties, Christmas presents to be made…..(you get the idea) I am so happy when I see something that helps me to shave off some time on my projects. I have sold my quilts in shops in the past (real storefront stores, not online) so I have to have an inventory of quilts on hand ready to be shipped out. Fall is just around the corner, and Christmas and snow shortly to follow, so lots of stores are already carrying winter items (which is terribly depressing to me, but that is for another day).  Anyway, I came up with this mitten quilt that is an applique quilt-as-you-go quilt that literally took me just a little over three hours to make, start to finish (minus tea staining the fabric). 

Here are the supplies you will need:

* 2 pieces of fabric measuring 48″x36″

*Batting measuring 48″x36″

*Fabric scraps of your choice for the mittens and binding (I found this adorable cotton fabric that looks like it’s knit, but I think using real salvaged sweaters would be cute, too)

*Rickrack

*Fusible webbing

*Thread

*Tea bags (if you intend to tea stain the fabric first)

Pretty simple list, right? 

First, I tea stained the fabric by boiling some water on the stove with a few tea bags, then I turned the stove off and let the fabric soak in it for a good hour, then rinsed and rung it out and hung it out to dry.  Don’t toss the water or bags yet because they will come in handy later.

102_2205After it had dried, I dipped it in the water a few times, then rinsed it out and rung it out really well, the put it in my dryer to really set the stain. DO NOT PUT IT IN WITH OTHER ITEMS!! It will stain other clothes, so I don’t recommend it and you might want to run a rag over the barrel once you are all done with this process. It has never left residue on future cycles for me before, but it probably doesn’t hurt to use this precaution.  You can always hang it up to dry again if you want to.  After it was dry again, I took just the tea bags and would put them in the fabric and squeeze for a very highly concentrated staining.  I have found that it’s always better to make sure the fabric is completely dry when you do this. 

102_2206Then I toss it in the dryer once more for good measure, pull it out and it’s good to go!

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I love anything vintage or antique, so I love this method because it makes your fabrics look “aged” quickly.

Once the fabric was tea-stained, I went to work cutting out mittens. I traced around my own hand for a pattern (very scientific 🙂 ) and then cut out two pairs of mittens out of each of the fabrics and webbing I had, totaling six pairs of mittens. Then, I sandwiched my three layers together (backing, batting and front fabric) and pinned it all together nicely as you would any other quilt.  Then I went about pinning and ironing the mittens in place. This part was fun to me, because I liked putting them around a little haphazardly like mittens strewn about after a morning sled riding and building snowman, discarded in the haste of warming hands on a mug of hot chocolate.  

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After I had the mittens where I wanted them, I pinned on some matching red and green rickrack to connect four out of my six pairs of mittens. I love rickrack! It adds a vintage touch to any project.

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*Note: I know one if dark brown and not red, but I was going to use the brown until I found I had some red after I took this picture. 

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Starting from the middle of the quilt outward, I went about quilting the three layers using a free-motion stitch, and sewing around each of the mittens and across the rickrack. 

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Once it was completely quilted (which took only about an hour total time) I cut out 1/2″ strips for the binding from different fabrics, just to keep things interesting. 

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Last but not least I attached the binding by machine. I know, I know…..that’s the lazy method. But, doing it this way is the difference between 30 minutes and three hours. So, I will take the easy method, please.

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Aaaaaaand (drum roll please) there you have it! A cozy quilt for the upcoming winter chill.

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Now all that is missing is a hot cup of cocoa, a crackling fire, Dean Martin singing “Baby it’s Cold Outside”, and snow sticking to the window outside. 

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Pottery with a Purpose

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For about two years now we have been sponsored a child from Haiti (Ermione)  through World Vision and the girls have loved praying for her and sending her specials cards and pictures.  When we were searching for a child to sponsor, we chose Ermione because she is from Haiti which is still reeling from the earthquakes which ravaged their land a few years ago. Also, her birthday is just one day prior to Nora’s, so they feel a special bond to her because she is so close in age to them.  As the girls have gotten older, my husband and I have been wracking our brains in how to teach the girls gratitude for all that God has provided for us and for caring for others beyond themselves; hence this little project. It’s experimental, to be honest, but we wanted to involve the girls more in sponsoring a child of their own, earning the money themselves (well, with our help of course) to care for another child overseas. Rather than spend time telling you about it myself, I thought I would let my guest bloggers speak for themselves. 🙂

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EVIE:

“My name is Evie and I am five, almost six. I like to play with my Mommy sometimes and I love Mommy. I like to play games, eat popcorn and watch a movie. My favorite movie is Tinkerbell and I have a necklace and I make pretend food for everyone.

Today we painted plates. What colors were on the plates were brown, pink, purple, black and let’s see….think, think, think, think, think, think, think….We did the plates for us to keep and to tell everybody in our country about Jesus…um…I meant about to make money for other kids like Ermione and other kids so the Moms and Dads and kids could buy food in a poor, poor, poor, poor place. I was on the plates. I showed what face I wanted to do and color things in.”

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NORA:

“My name is Nora and my favorite thing to do is play outside and I like to eat macaroni and cheese and have some color in my macaroni and cheese. I like to go to the candy store and especially is go to camp and get popsicles there too; eat there, spend time there, too. Go in the pool and play in the playground.

We colored the plates and that was really nice and we did pictures on the plates and smiled. We did the plates to spend money to eat because it’s for them to have…um…for Ermione. It’s cost some to buy food and it’s for them to help buy food because they don’t have much food. It’s for them to learn about Jesus and to help them go to school to learn about Jesus. Ermione has the same skin as me and her birthday is the day before mine. She’s the same age as me and Evie which is five….the same thing as us. Some day we would like to play with her sometimes. “

I am going to be offering personalized plates like these and other hand-painted pottery by me and the girls in my Etsy shop and other pottery (like these mugs) and all proceeds will go to our sponsored child. Who knows? We are hoping to be able to earn enough to sponsor more than one a month!

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Quilted Pet Portraits

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I get restless very easily. My creative brain is always working overtime to help keep the rest of me sane during the mundane day-by-day of everyday living.  I specialize in custom party/signature/wedding/shower quilts, and to be honest with you, I get a little bored sometimes and like to try new things. So, hence, here we are. I am a HUGE dog lover. My dog, Henry, is a very big part of our family and well….I am very attached. I have seen some very cute pet portrait quilts, and since I know there are many other dog/pet/animal lovers out there, I thought I would try my hand at it! This is my first attempt and I am sort of learning/teaching myself as I go by trial and error and I thought some of you might enjoy fumbling through this process with me. First of all, I picked out a picture of Henry that I thought might work best for this-one that had a nice frontal view of his darling face. As you can see, I had quite a few to choose from:

ImageIn the end, I chose this one:

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To start this project here is what I used:

*Tracing paper

*Image on computer

*Fabric scraps, different colors/patterns for shades/variations

*Interfacing

*Scissors

After choosing my image, I zoomed it in on the computer to make it the size I wanted (I ended up putting “Henry” on a 14″x14″ block, so I made it to fit that well). Then I traced over it with tracing paper, tracing over anything that I felt would be significant in the final product (i.e. shading on the ears/face, the different parts of his eyes) being careful to label what everything was and what color/pattern I wanted to use for each piece so that it would stand out (i.e. for the shading on the ears I chose dark gray fabric, for his eyes light blue, etc.). The pattern looked like this.

100_2146I chose black and white polka dot for the main fabric, so I traced around the pattern and cut it out of the fabric. For the other pieces, I traced them on top of this pattern to make separated pieces, then cut those out of the fabrics I had chosen for them as well. This was very helpful to keep the original pattern intact, because I could then place it on top of the black background I had used and then used it to make sure all of the other pieces were in their proper place.  I will say all of this was exceptionally tedious, but fairly simple.

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100_2139I pinned everything in place and was ready to go!

100_2136Once I had his whole face together, I pinned it to interfacing and cut out around it so the fabric wouldn’t bunch when I appliqued it all together. I then picked out another background-background fabric, this time white with black polka dots and cut it out into a 14″x14″ square and pinned Henry to this. Then I set about appliqueing him on with my trusty machine, being careful to start in the center, just like when you are quilting anything (i.e. the nose on out).

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100_2140I just did raw-edge machine applique because for 1) it’s much quicker and easier and 2) the little fringe makes your portrait look a little “furrier” which I thought was fitting. 🙂 And, here is the finished product:

100_2145 Isn’t he cute? I think I’m going to add a border to this and either do a wall-hanging or a throw quilt. The girls suggested I use it to make Henry (the real Henry) a bed. Hmmm….that would look a little something like this:

100_1588Probably not….but look for it soon on my Etsy shop!

xo

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Drab to Fab: A Desk Make Over

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This is Desk. She is from Pennsylvania and she loves sitting in the corner, holding pictures and acting as a drop-off center from time to time of loose change and keys.  In her spare time she acts as a buffet for dinner parties. She is here with us today because she needs a make-over.  She is ready to shed her dull lackluster brown facade and step into something a little more bold and lively. Let’s welcome her, shall we….?

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I love nothing more than a good makeover story. When we bought this house two months ago, I fell head-over-heels for the character it oozed from every nook and cranny. It is an old Victorian home, a restoration itself, and the people who set about restoring her to her original glory really kept true to her Victorian roots. All of the dark, mahogany woodwork has been kept untouched and the dark wood floors are spread throughout our main floor. I adore it! The only setback is, with so much dark wood things can look a little drab.  After spending months trying to paint our other home in preparation to sell it, the last thing I wanted to do was to pick up another roller and start on this one, as least not for a few months. In comes this desk. It is old and even missing a support section that connect the two legs, but I have always loved the character of this desk. She has served our family well over the years, but she has not aged well. She needed a face-lift. 

Like all of my other tutorials, this is cheap and easy. And, I got what I needed from The Dollar Tree. 

Supplies:

1.Pretty contact paper (they always have this pattern at the Dollar Tree, no matter what store I have gone to).

2.Latex paint

3.Medium sandpaper

4.Metallic spray paint

I started off by removing the hardware on the drawers and spraying them with silver metallic spray paint and set them aside to dry.  Then I cut the contact paper to fit the size of the drawer. This only took one roll of the paper to cover them all. A dollar! Score!

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Then I painted it with the latex paint. It only took about two layers of paint. Since I love the “distressed” look, I went through the process of carefully rubbing off some of the paint on the corners and edges to age it a little bit.

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And, there you have it! It took me only about and hour and a half, beginning to end. Not bad. Not bad at all. 

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