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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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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

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24 Days of Christmas: Day Four- Vintage Christmas CD

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I usually try to make myself wait until Thanksgiving Day to start listening to Christmas music. It takes a lot of self-control, which apparently I don’t have because by the second week of November I had made this Christmas CD and have listened to it almost every day since.  Since I love all things vintage as well, I like to call this my “Vintage Christmas List”.

I started by searching for songs by my favorite members of the Rat Pack and also honorary modern-day members like Norah Jones and Micheal Buble. I looked for songs by Burls Ives and Doris Day. I grew up listening to Bing Crosby every Christmas, so he is my absolute favorite when it comes to Christmas songs.

I found them, downloaded them, and burned them to a CD. Pretty complex, right? But I wanted to share my list with you. Oh yeah, I also added “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas”, another classic I loved growing up, which my kids love now, too! Every time we get in the van, they request it.

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Christmas Crafts Day 3: DIY Band T-shirt

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So I know this is an odd choice for a Christmas craft, but if you are anything like me, I like to make a lot of my gifts. It makes them more personal and I can often make them cheaper than buying them. Hence, this project.

This is the cover to my brother’s band CD. As of yet, though they have a rockin’ CD, they don’t have any accessories.  So for Christmas, I decided to make my brother a t-shirt to wear to his gigs. Thankfully, though his cover looks complicated, because of it’s haphazard nature I figured if I didn’t get the design exactly duplicated it would still resemble the CD cover moderately.

I confess I am not entirely done with the shirt yet. I wanted to be able to keep up with my “24 day” commitment, but I figured you would get the idea anyway!

So to start, here’s what I used:

*Fabric paints as well as silkscreen paint picked up from any craft store

*Plain t-shirt (I got this one for $3 at Hobby Lobby)

*hair dryer

*Alphabet stencils

*Contact Paper

To start, I cut little strips of contact paper in jagged strips to mimic the pattern on the cover. Like most of my projects, it wasn’t too scientific. I just taped the strips down and painted in between the lines.ImageImage

After I had painted in the lines, I used a hairdryer to dry the paint to make the process go a lot quicker. It took an average of ten minutes to dry between each application when using the dryer.

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Aaaand, that’s about it! I know, I know….super complicated! I just kept doing layer after layer until I got a pattern that looked like the one on the CD cover. I still have yet to stencil the letters on, but this project pretty much took me an hour or two to do. Not too bad! I hope he likes it!

Merry (almost) Christmas!

***DISCLAIMER: If my instructions on anything don’t make sense sometimes, it’s usually because I am being bombarded with a barrage of questions at any given moment; anything from: “what time is dinner” to “MOOOOOM, why doesn’t this Barbie have underwear”

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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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Picture This

I have always loved painting murals and have often dreamed about making a career out of it. I have done enough thus far that I have an extensive portfolio, though little to show for it since most of my work has been done “for a good cause” and not for any real money.  But, it’s good experience none-the-less and it’s really therapeutic for me, so I’m probably saving money in the long run! I’m painting instead of paying someone to sit on their couch and tell them my list of woes. Anyway, I wanted to share a project I am working on now for our church nursery and I admit this is mostly for the benefit of my mom (hi mom!) who was trying to look at these via my phone and couldn’t see them very well. It’s not the Sistine Chapel….but, I hope you enjoy it just the same.

I was inspired by the “Sheep in a Jeep” books by Nancy Shaw and illustrated by Margot Apple. She has a whole series of these books and they are some of my favorites to read to my girls, not only because they are simple and not too long, but they are clever and the illustrations are hilariously adorable! So, I had this big idea to do “sheep in a park” and have imagined all of the ways I can portray them having a tea party, playing checkers, feeding the pigeons, taking walks, kids doing hopscotch….My imagination has gone wild with all of the things I could do, considering the room I am working in is rather large. Here are two that I have started thus far:

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My goal is to always make my scenes look like snapshots of photos.

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I hope I have succeeded! There will be more to come soon….

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Time to reevaluate…

I have had my Etsy shop on “vacation mode” for about a month now trying to catch up on orders I have in. I specialize in custom quilts, and though ten orders might not really sound like a lot, when they take about three months to make, it takes up a lot of time….and time is money. I am really no business woman. It’s all very overwhelming and confusing to me sometimes. So, I have been pondering whether I should cut back on taking customs orders in general, or just offer simpler patterns and quilts of a much smaller size, like baby quilts or throw size quilts, or if I should do away with quilts in general! I do a lot of custom guest book quilts for baby showers or weddings, and have done family tree quilts as well. So, here are some pictures of what I have made and some things I have currently for sale. I could use some serious feedback or any advice anyone might have in making a more profitable business, and if any of my items stands out to them! Thanks!

Superman Baby Tag Blanket1. Superman sensory blanket.2.Guest book tree quilt 3.Patriotic quilt4. Baby pinwheel quilt 5.Custom baby shower quest book quilt 6.Charlotte’s Web book purse 7. Custom team quilt
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Silhouettes Pillows

Silhouettes are so trendy right now, and I have totally caught the bug! I love silhouettes and have them displayed all over my house. I have them of my children, my husband and I, my dog, off birds on my wallpaper,  I even have some of people I don’t know hanging in my dining room. So when I was considering recovering some shabby pillows that we have had for ten years, full of holes, a little outdated, and stained, I thought I would like to incorporate more silhouettes!

To do this project you will need:

*Old pillows or pillow forms

*Profile pictures of your subjects

*A computer with printer

*Fusible webbing (I used this kind from Walmart which was less than $3)

*Thread for hand and machine stitching

*Two different fabrics-one for the background and main part of the pillow, and one darker for the silhouette. For Henry’s pillow, I used burlap, which I do not recommend for this project. I found out belatedly that the fusible web doesn’t stick to it, so I had to go the extra mile and applique it on by machine.

To start, I picked my favorite subjects: the kids, and my dog, Henry, who is like one of our kids.I made the kids stand against the wall (as you can see I came up with this brilliant idea right after dinner, hence the bibs). With Henry, it was a little trickier making him sit still while I took this shot…a treat being held a few inches from his nose might have been involved…

Next, I uploaded the images on my computer, and used a program to edit them, playing with the shadows and exposure so that their faces stood out against the background.I printed their images to use as a stencil, and traced their images on the back of the fusible webbing. As a note, if you want your picture to appear in the same direction as you took the picture, print it as a mirror image.

After I traced the picture, I cut them out and ironed them on the back of my accent fabrics. Then, I cut out around the fabric and ironed it on to the front of my background fabric. If you really want to ensure that your silhouettes won’t come off, you can applique them by hand or machine. I opted not to, except for with Henry’s because the webbing didn’t stick to the burlap.I then started the demolition process on my pillows. Since I bought these, I wasn’t sure what I would find inside, whether it would be an actual pillow form or just stuffing. Since it was just stuffing in all three pillows, it gave me a little more freedom to make sizes I wanted. However, for one of the pillows, I did use the fabric as a sort of template when I was cutting out my fabric. You can either use a ripper or a good old fashioned pair of scissors. Never one to turn down the opportunity to take a short cut, I opted for the scissors.Cut out the shape of the pillow you want, and sew around the edges, wrong sides together, and leave a small opened so you can turn the fabric right side out.After you turn the pillows right side out, stuff them, and stitch the opening with a hand stitch. If you are feeling more creative, you can make your own pillow form, then just make a cover that you can take on and off using a zipper or make envelope sham. As I said, with two kids at home, full-time ministry, and an online business, for my home projects, I like to take shortcuts when I can.:)