Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kitchens- Hearth of the Modern Home

Recently I seemed to drop of the planet, and all you may have heard from me is a very quick “busy back soon.” I had decided to redo my kitchen, and all my research said “weekend project” and it LIED! I have been working full days all this week with a paintbrush in one hand, or a sander, or a screwdriver. Finally I’ll be putting the finishing touches on stage one tomorrow.

Most people know that the kitchen is the heart of the home, but what they don’t know is that it is the hearth as well. Historically the hearth was the center of the home, and most (or even all) of the homes food, warmth, even clean hot water, came from the hearth. Various festivals existed to light the hearth, add light to the hearth, or burn certain herbs or items. Often the hearth stayed lit constantly, and it was considered bad luck to let it go out. As humanity progressed the hearth changed, it got smaller, less important, then it often went away all together. But in modern homes the kitchen is the hearth. The same as a historic ceremony would exist to add new fire to your hearth today we use our stove more on certain holidays.

If you were to consider the busiest part of your house, or where the most conversation takes place chances are you think of the kitchen. The kitchen is where you make coffee or tea (and drink it to if it’s an eat in) when you have a friend over to chat. The kitchen is where you make birthday cakes, special dinners, Christmas cookies. It’s where you feed your children, where you go for a late night snack, and where you tend to keep important papers and calendars.

And because it is so important it’s important to love it, and to really make it yours. So, stayed tuned for a Kitchen Series- How to Revamp your Kitchen for UNDER $1000. That’s right, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, under $1000. The series will take place over several months, and will be done in 5 parts. I’ll discuss ways to save up the money, fit it into your budget, and discuss tips and techniques I learn while redoing my own kitchen.

I’d love to hear what you love  or loath about your own kitchen in the comments below!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'll be back

I'm not gone, just buried in a project that is taking way longer than expected.  Posting again very soon! I'm working on a post about kitchens as the hearth of the home.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Observing Lent

I think I’ve talked before about my Grandmother. The woman who may just possibly be the sweetest woman in the whole world, until you take her picture one to many times that is. She has Alzheimer's, and is quickly fading away from us. The worst part is that while she isn’t really her, she isn’t gone either. It is strange to get inherited items from someone who is still alive. But as she vanishes I cling to all I know. When I helped clean her house I picked some strange things to keep, aprons, a pressure cooker, books, and her Catholic supplies. My Grandma is super catholic, she’s traveled to see the Pope and spent the last 10+ years going to mass 6 days a week, even volunteering for hours everyday. As she vanishes and fades away one thing I feel like I can cling to is her Catholicism. As her old possessions blend into my possessions, and her old plates become my new plates, one thing that will never blend in is her catholic stuff, it will never be mine. I’m not catholic. Until the day I die I will know that those saint cards, rosaries, and medallions were hers.


And for two reasons, that being one, I am observing Lent. The other reason being that I write about families, and Lent is something many families observe together. Many people pick a family thing to sacrifice, as well as a personal thing. So I wanted to observe it, to honor my Grandma and to experience it with my catholic readers. 

Then I started researching Lent. I found out that exactly when it starts, how long it lasts, and what you have to fast depends on what liturgical calendar your church uses, and also where you live. Eastern Lent is much stricter then Western Lent. Americans get to sacrifice anything we want usually, but in some countries you fast, truly fast. Some starting with removing one thing a week and ending with only bread and water. I decided since I’m not using a religious calendar I’m going to start on Ash Wednesday and go until Easter Eve. No sooner had I given up the idea of more info on Lent than I got my newsletter and an article on Pagan Lent. It isn’t Pagan when you get down to it, it is just secular with well rounded information on fasting and it’s spiritual and physical benefits, especially at this time of year.  For example, the fact that by this time of year fasting could be more of a necessity historically than people realize, since stored foods would be expiring and fresh foods haven’t grown yet. It also talks about healing and the seasonal change during this time. Even the concept of allowing yourself something instead of sacrificing something.

My favorite quote in the article is from Brooke Medicine Eagle, who leads people in fasting and doing vision quests. “Whatever holes in your life you fill with food — or anything else you’ve included on your fast — will become very obvious when you begin to do without them.”

And so, I will finally announce what I am fasting- Drinks. I am only allowing myself water and coffee. No juice, tea, milk, or soda (the big one.) So I drink a cup a day (sometimes two) of coffee with powder creamer, no milk, and the rest of my drinks are just water. Originally I was just going to give up soda, which I only drink once a week or so. Then I decided to give up more, so here I am, writing to you, sipping a glass of nice cold ice water, and counting down to the Dr Pepper I get on Easter.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s isn’t huge in our family, so by no means will this be some amazing post. I hung our heart garland. And we exchanged a few simple gifts.
P2145864I made our heart garland a few years ago. It’s pretty simple. I found a small, simple, crochet heart pattern and made one in every red, pink, or white yarn I had at the time. Then I made a chain of white and occasionally a drop down chain with the hearts on it. And for a truth factor, I STILL have all those same yarns, in the same bag, and just grab it around this time of year for new projects. P2145873
After much searching for a similar pattern I found out I actually had a Ravelry project that shows the exact pattern I used! So if you wanted to make your own just start out with a stash of yarns, a few basic hook sizes (I may have even used just one size) and have fun!(Edited, turns out I didn't read my own info, that pattern MAY be the same one I used, says so on my Ravelry Project Page)
P2145881I DID finish not one, but TWO of the Heart’s Desire Doily! One in a pink cotton blend, and one in white dishcloth cotton. The pink created a cute little centerpiece when combined with a little vase and some fake flowers. They whipped up quite quick, the second one especially since it was partly by memory. And I hope to keep right on going to make a few for belated gifts.
I made my husband and son each a simple heart, and a valentine. One you may recognize from my stamp carving tutorial, the other I water colored a few weeks ago.

Of course my son was happy. He’s always so happy lately it seems like. Must be making up for the first 4 years where he screamed all the time.
There is a picture of my husband and son together, holding their gifts, but I might end up divorced if I share it.
My son has been tucked away for many hours in his room making gifts. He declared that we MUST have a present giving party, where we all gave each other our presents. Then he sat down to make even more presents. I hear he made some for his friends too, but I’ve not seen them. P2145885
Mine were a necklace, a puffy picture of a flower, and a glittery heart. My husband got a plain foam heart with stickers, and I’m not sure what else.

My wonderful, over achieving neighbor came knocking with her older boys. They had created adorable valentines. One was a card using a P2145876glow stick as a lightsaber, one was cake ball ice cream cone that said “You’re Sweeter than a Scoop of Ice Cream.” For me was a cake ball pop, and later another one she actually expected me to give to my husband! The ice cream cone did suffer some damage before I got to photograph it. But it was handed out of a basket from a newly 4 year old, to an almost 6 year old, then carried around before it made it’s way to the table. I think it held up pretty well!  P2145891
For dinner I stabbed heart shapes into the top crust of individual pot pies. Then my sweet boy ended the day by making goody bags for two of his animals, and setting them up to sweetly open them together.
Now, if you’re wondering where my gift from my husband is, well, I told him that he has to buy me chocolates tomorrow, so I can get twice as much for the same price! February 15th, is the best holiday, Chocolates Half Price day!!! Stay tuned to see if he carried out his end of the bargain. Hope you had a sweet day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine’s Day Wreath

One day I was killing time at the craft store and discovered Deco Mesh rolls were on sale. I had intended to get stuff the next week (payday) to make a spring wreath, and maybe a Valentine’s Day one. Since deco mesh was half price I sucked it up and went ahead and got my supplies. I know deco mesh is a big thing in the design world right now, and I felt confident buying two colors for two different projects. Well, I can say now after this wreath that I don’t like deco mesh! I’m not a fan. Love the finished look, but hate working with it and getting just the look I like. It took me 5 times to get the right amount of puffiness. It may get easier each time, so we’ll see if I still hate it after I do my spring wreath. Which I’ll be tackling in the next few days.


And here it is! It’s pretty simple really. Pink deco mesh with sparkly bits in the weaving, and then I tucked in heart picks I found at Dollar Tree. Just by tucking the picks into the mesh, the mesh sucks around the stick and holds them pretty well. Then I cut off any pick ends that show. Total cost less than $7, including the pipe cleaners I used for the framing.  I used a coat hanger for the frame, but I might buy a frame for the next one, see if it helps me like deco mesh.


Have you used deco mesh before? If you have any tips I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stamp Carving Tutorial

I’ve been using rubber stamps in arts and crafts for almost 14 years (gosh!) and have been carving my own for 2-3 years. I’m no pro, but I like what I make. Today I was supposed to use some of my latest carvings to make Valentines with my friend, and she was curious about how I make my stamps. We never did get to make Valentines, we ended up chatting about a million other things instead, but later I decided to carve a new stamp, and make a tutorial.
First I gather my materials. I have the classic stamp carving tool, available at almost all major craft stores, and a stash of erasers. I’ve bought the stamp blanks before, and honestly I like a lot of erasers better, and they’re way cheaper! I usually get erasers at various dollar sections, dollar stores, etc. So far the three pack pictured below of blue and white style is my favorite, and is most like the stamp blanks the craft store sells. I found them at Dollar Tree.
I also get some paper, usually an index card, and regular pencil. First I trace the eraser onto the paper, so I know exactly what size I’m dealing with. P2115843
Then I draw out my design, making sure to leave space on each side.
Then I use the bottom edge of the carving tool, and burnish the design onto the eraser. I just carefully line up the eraser to my outline, then hold my design face down and rub gently.
Then I make sure the design transferred well and lightly pencil on any pieces that got missed, or are just so light they might rub off while I work.
Then I just start carving. Usually I start with the number 2 blade, and just work. Here’s some shots of the carving as I go. I do switch to a number 1 (super tiny) as needed, like in the curly part of the ribbon on this balloon.

After the design is mostly ready I do a test stamp. Usually I use a marker to ink JUST the design area, but to show you what is and what isn’t carved I just used an inkpad. What’s red is uncarved.
I check the stamped image for any errors, lines where there should not be lines, uneven lines, gaps in the carving. Lines can be adjusted, but gaps or breaks in the image means it’s no good. I have to either change the design or trash it. I smooth and fix any errors that show up, then I use some of the wider blades to smooth the carving and then the slicing blade to cut away extra material.
Usually at this point it’s done! I stamp another test image, and if any errors show up I fix them, and if not I’m ready to craft!
Here’s the three stamps I did for Valentine’s Day this year.

If you carve any stamps I’d LOVE to see them! Hope this inspires you to make your own seasonal stamps!

This post has been shared in several link ups. Including Making the World Cuter Monday, Mad Skills, and Make Your Own Monday. Be sure to check them out for lots of other neat ideas, some seasonal and some not.  

Little Ways to Bring the Seasons Indoors

To make your home seasonal doesn’t have to require much time or money, and can be as extensive or easy as you’d like. Here are a few ways to decorate for the seasons or holidays. You could do all of them and still fit each theme of décor into a shoebox to pack it away!

Candles- colors, scents, shapes, all easy ways to decorate and have a little celebration. What I like to do is close my eyes, and think for just a second before lighting each one. I think of a person who needs a little prayer, or I wish for good weather (or snow!) I pray for peace, wisdom, patience. I thank God for seeing another spring. If you’re not spiritual you could simple take a moment to think of a good memory with a loved one, or something uplifting.

Doilies and Table Runners- I crochet and knit and am trying to tackle the mission of making a doily for each each season and holiday. Nothing huge or overwhelming, just a small bit to throw onto the table as a centerpiece. If you don’t crochet or knit then you can buy premade doilies in the craft store and dye them different colors for the different themes, or check out sites like Etsy or Artfire to support handmade. I’m about to tackle this one- The Heart’s Desire, and hopefully churn out at least 1 in the next 3 days. You can also make or buy table runners, which are just larger usually long and skinny bits. Runners are usually fabric, and there are lots of quilting patterns for them if you’re into that!
Photo from Pattern Website, and it NOT my own.
Vases and Fillers- You can grab a small vase in almost any theme, even just at the dollar store. Then I tuck in a few fake flowers, fresh flowers from the garden, or whatever suits the season. Sometimes it’s a glittery bit of plastic with streamers, sometimes a simple evergreen clipping (always fake, because I’m allergic.) Or force a bulb in a pot, and use it as a centerpiece. Everyday when you sit down to dinner you can view the plant growing, budding, blooming.

Garlands and Banners- Garlands are HUGE right now, and you can even find lots of free printable ones online for all sorts of themes. It seems like any blog that focuses on design or crafts offers one free at some point, or even regularly throughout the year. This is another task I’m trying to conquer, making a garland for each decorating theme. It’s slow going. So far I have a sewn birthday banner, and a heart garland you’ll see soon. I tend to whip up simple ones that only last one season, I want an heirloom worthy one for each holiday. You can make garlands, buy garlands at the store, or buy handmade online. And stay tuned to the blog for new ideas as the seasons change!

Note Papers and To-Do Lists- If you are the kind to use to-do lists, or a pad of paper on the fridge for a grocery list, simply change it out! These pads of paper are so easy to find in any store and are so inexpensive! If you also make little notes on them you can tuck them away, and at year end you know when each one was written, and you could tuck them into a scrapbook for year review book.

Air Fresheners- I make my own cleaners (vinegar, water, and some added bits) and I like to add a few drops of essential oils. The essential oils can add to the cleaning power, but they also can add a nice seasonal fragrance to the room naturally. Since I can't use purchased air fresheners I also make my own spray air fresheners by mixing water, a few drops of rubbing alcohol, and some essential oil. I love to make up a spray or cleaner that seems seasonal to me. You can also add oils to the water when you mop your floor! You can purchase essential oils at health food stores, new age stores, or online. You want true essential oils, not fragrance oils. The price will vary based on what the oil is, but you can buy just a tiny bottle. Some will be in carrier oils, which helps lower the price, but you may need to use a few drops more. Using it for air fresheners, or cleaners takes only a few drops.

Soaps- An easy thing to do is use a seasonal soap! Simply drop a bar or bottle by the sink, and since it gets used up there won't be anything to pack away! You could go all out and get a seasonal liquid soap dispenser. And I wouldn't hold it against you if your Santa dispenser is still out in July. Have you ever decoupaged soaps? This used to be a big thing, and I'll do a tutorial here on the blog. It's an easy way to make soaps for any theme or season!

You could easily do all of these ideas, and even a couple more, and then simply pack them away in a small box. If you wanted to get really into it, then set up a seasonal table (details coming soon!) Try using seasonal dishes, or seasonal towels. You can even change out pictures for seasonal pictures and wall hangings!

Do you do anything special for seasonal or holiday décor? Or really just for the big ones? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
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