Back-To-School Mantels / Home Decorating Ideas

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There is something about the back-to-school season, that I have always loved.  With all of the fresh new supplies and clothes, and the whole new school year stretched out before us, with so much yet to be learned, it’s just always been an exciting time to me.  Even though we homeschool, and even school right through the summer, we (even the kids) still love the excitement that the start of a whole new school year brings!  All new books, fresh supplies, new experiences, and a new season to grow academically.

It’s that love for all things ‘back-to-school’ that inspired these mantels in our home! It’s a theme that fits just right, through the month of September!
I used [Read more…]

Decorating with Autumn Leaves; Door Garland and Candle Jars

 
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on God’s green earth, who appreciates the foliage that Autumn brings, more than I do.  I am mesmerized by it, from beginning to end.  Ask my kids.  They are often amused at how taken I am, with the beauty of this season.  And they’ve certainly come to understand that I don’t want them to miss one bit of it, any more than I do. I get especially excited when we are driving here and there, which with 4 kids I can tell you, we do a whole lot of.  “Oh!! There’s a tree starting to change right there! Do you see it guys?” And as fall progresses., each week is more full of awe than the last. As we go along, I’ll burst out “LOOK!….at that GORGEOUS tree guys!! LOOK AT THE COLORS ON THAT THING!!”  I’ve startled them. And they’ll be like, “We know Mama! Watch where you’re going!”  It’s true. I probably shouldn’t be driving at all in the Fall. Certainly not during peak foliage week.  There is just a span of weeks in this season, where the trees are all I can talk about, everywhere we go. Sometimes, I feel God made Autumn, just for me. Perhaps not. But gosh, it sure feels like such a gift of love.

The peak beauty of the season, is really all too fleeting for me.  I want it to stay just as it is in those weeks, forever.  At least, I want to save as many beautiful leaves as I can.  But I’ve never found a great way to preserve them for a while, until this year. Oh yes, there was the waxed paper trick but, I heard that never worked all that well.  And besides…..Confession of Domestic Shame:  I really hate ironing.  So when I learned that using Glossy Modge Podge really worked well, I was so excited to try it.  And I immediately started dreaming up a very simple, very rustic leaf garland for my home.

The kids helped me Modge Podge countless leaves they had collected for me, over the weeks.  We had them drying and being pressed between the pages of newspapers and magazines all over the house. I’m willing to bet we’ll be finding several we missed finding again, well into spring.  But I found you can actually Modge Podge a fresh leaf right away, anyway.  I do recommend the Glossy medium. I tried the Matte finish just as a test, and it seemed to strip the color, and not look very impressive once it was dry either. Something about the Glossy really does enhance the color of the leaf, and add lustre.  To Modge Podge (MP) the leaves, we just poured some MP in a non-pourous bowl, and used foam brushes to apply it to our leaves, doing the back of the leaves first.  Then you can lay them on newspaper or whatever, until they dry. They don’t really stick anywhere as drying, because they are not flat or heavy.  MP is so easy to clean up anyway.

I wanted my garland extremely simple and rustic.  Jute was just the kind of string for the job. I love this stuff.

I took 4 pieces of equal lengths of the jute, knotted the ends, and twisted the quadruple strand quite a bit before push-pinning it over the frame of our sun room french doors.

Then, I just stuck my leaves in between the twisted jute string, arranging as I wanted to, all the way across.

There it is. Done in like, . . .a couple of minutes.
And I didn’t fall off while standing on the chair I had to keep moving, even once.
(Although I think I had my husband and kids nervous, because they kept reminding me to be careful. That might have to do with the many happenstances I have had. But not this time!)

Look how pretty!  Honesty….my heart is racing a little bit right now, just looking at them. 
No two alike….such beautiful shapes and colors.

Do you see that long pointy leaf? After being out and about collecting leaves, the kids came running in, so excited to give me that one. They call it my giraffe leaf.  I love giraffes, and they saw a giraffe skin pattern in it. I do too now.  I felt the love, and that leaf makes me smile even more than all the rest now.

I also used the glossy Modge Podge to apply more leaves to jars.  I love that you can just slap that MP all over the jar with a foam (or flat bristle) brush, and everywhere it dries where there is not a leaf, it looks like frosted glass.

Isn’t it beautful?
I’ll warn you that this project took a little more patience than I had anticipated. Certainly not as easy as my garland! It’s worth the little bit of trouble I think though! It’s just that the leaves, which I had MP’d the back of, as well as the jar, don’t want to lay down flat right away. It’s all kind of slippery. It’s only once the MP glue starts setting a little, that is starts sticking as you need it to.  You need to MP over the leaves too anyway, so I kept kind of poking the leaves down where they were sticking up. Once the whole jar was dry, I did one more final coat.  Oh and I just let stems hang free off the glued down leaf. I liked them that way anyway, if they didn’t want to stick.

They give such a warm glow of radiance.

I can see myself doing these same projects with leaves every year, from now on. And other preserved leaf projects I’ll think of I’m sure now too. 
I so enjoyed every minute of working with the leaves, and I am so very happy I found a way to preserve them, and let the beauty live on in my home, as the world around us outdoors drains colorless.

Thanks for coming by, and listening to me go on and on about my love for the colors of Autumn.
It sure was an amazing Fall season this year, and I thanked God for it every day.
Do you get a colorful foliage season where you live, in the Fall? And if so, have you done anything with the leaves?

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Customizable Sketch Book Journals

The kids and I are well into a new school year here, and things are going really well so far.  Our oldest is a high school sophmore now, and the 3 youngest are fifth graders.  So naturally, each year has gotten more academically involved, deeper and serious for all of us;  myself as the teacher, and they as students.  But I can freely admit that I am learning almost as much as they are, and enjoying my re-education as we progress with each year.  I love finding new ways to keep their homeschooling experiences fun. 

One new idea I came up with this year, actually came about as I was brainstorming a gift idea for a special-little someone-else in my life.  While that gift is more elaborate and expensive, and personalized from me, it occurred to me that it might be fun to incorporate the general idea into our schooling, on a more budget level, for my own kids. So I mentioned the idea to them, of keeping their own sketch books throughout the year, and was not prepared for their level of excitement about it! I also wanted them to customize their very own a little bit, so they treasured them more.

The intentions for these sketch books are for the kids to just use freely whenever they want to, to practice drawing, write a little poetry, journal some thoughts, or even just doodle as they feel like it. But I did let them know I may ask them to use their sketch pads to express their thoughts or feelings in any way they’d like, following field trips or other home schooling or life events worth noting, in an artistic way. These pads are for dry medium only, but naturally you can adapt the general idea to any kind of pad, as well as customize the cover using any material you’d like. But today, I’m just sharing with you what we did.

Here’s the basic supplies we worked with:

  • Inexpensive spiral bound sketching pads
  • Modge Podge
  • Foam brushes
  • Scissors or an X-Acto type blade

And, 12″ x 12″ patterned scrap booking paper.  These are the sheets my kiddos picked out for themselves.

Now things are about to get ever-so-slightly-messy. Especially with kids. So I thought I would tell you my cheap little trick I use for protecting the table for all of our craft happenings . . . . . .

TIP: Plastic party table covers, from the Dollar Store!  One usually lasts us for many, many projects. When we are done working, we make sure any paint or glue on it is dry, and then we just roll it up in a ball and put it away for next time.  (You could fold it, if you really need to. I know some people are like that. Hey, I have my own weird issues, but they are different. I’m not judging! lol)

So the first step is putting a quick layer of Modge Podge on the back of the patterned paper.

You don’t want to put any excessive amount on, or go over and over it, or the paper will get kind of soggy, and buckle.
But you do want to go right to the edge of the paper.

Then also put a layer all over the cover of the sketch book.

Then carefully place your Modge Podge’d paper, onto your Modge Podge’d sketch pad cover.

You can line up your paper evenly, by using the spiral bind as a guide. 
Be sure to smooth out any air bubbles in the paper.

Now, the paper was not cut to size on purpose. You could figure out and prepare the exact size paper you needed ahead of time. But it just seemed easier to me to just put it on their, and then either trim off the excess, or just fold it over into the inside of the cover. 

These particular sketch pads were conveniently 12 ” tall, but only 9″ wide, so we had 3 extra inches to fold in.  The putting Modge Podge on both surfaces is just a preference, and may not be necesarry.  I just know with my kids, these sketch books were going places, and going to take a traveling beating. So, I figured the more secure the paper was adhered, the better.

Granted, not all of them came out with the paper put on perfectly straight anyway, because they are kids, and doing the best they can. And perhaps not as particular and picky as I am! (Which really, has got to be a nice feeling, sometimes!) They just had fun making them, and were really excited about the whole project. Which is really the best part:  Kids being proud of what they made, and caring for those things that much more, because it is their own creation, from start to finish.

I’ll tell you, it’s been weeks now, and these sketch books have proven to be a really great idea for my kids. They have really used them, on their very own whims. Regularly! Every day. It’s a beautiful thing to catch your kids sketching this or that.  Sometimes really working on a particular one over time, trying to make it come out just right. This is how all of my illustration skills were born! 

As you can see, we further personalized their sketch pads, with their initials. Those were all cut in vinyl for them, but they each specified the exact initials they wanted, colors, design and arrangement. I think they all came out so great!  And each cover really does well express their individual styles and personalities.

 I hope this idea inspires you in some way. I know that for me personally, any notebook or sketch book full of blank or lined paper, gives me the butterflies.  IS there anyone else out there, who understands what I mean? The opportunity for expression just laying before those two covers, is exciting!  So consider making yourself a special one of your own, and just let whatever wants to come out of your head to your hand, come out. See what happens inside! You may be surprised, and you may just enjoy every minute of it. Everybody should just take time to chill and doodle, sometimes.

Thanks for coming over. Please share this idea if you are so inclined.

My Custom Built Farmer’s Table Home Office Desk

 I know many of you have been waiting for this, with all of my teasing about it! And I have been dying to show you my custom-built farmer’s table home office desk, that that my husband made for me.  For this first post, I am simply sharing with you the build itself, and some of the story behind it.  In upcoming posts, I will show you my workspace all set up and pretty. (When I get that far.)

So first, to put my appreciation and excitement in context here, you should know how I have been working.

In this large amoire in the photos below, is our TV, which we rarely use at all. But behind it was my work cubby.  It was always amusing when someone who had been to our house a few times before, before they realized there was a work space behind there.  They’d always react with such surprise and intrigue.  So come around the amoire (following the numbered photos), and see my little space I have had . . . . . 

It certainly was a workable idea for the past few years, in that it gave me a little privacy for editing client portrait work. It is rather organized and cleaned up here, but that is not how it has always appeared or felt. (I had already started cleaning out here, to empty this whole cubby.) To start, I hated the desk. The photo is deceiving I think, because this desk was SO large, and yet not efficient at all; with shelves I couldn’t easily get to, and virtually no storage or room to work.  With a modern design, fake wood laminate and black accents-ugh! I wanted it GONE.  And what a dust magnet this cubby has been!  Anyway, imagine on the desk-top, on either side, a tall pile of papers, notebooks and dozens of folders.  And not just here. When I worked on my laptop for school and blogging, I’d sit on the couch, where beside the couch was small table with another 2 piles of papers, notebooks and folders.  Then there is the school room, where I’ve kept all of my teacher books.  I can’t stand clutter or disorganization, so having everything everywhere has tended to make me cranky, and yelling when I couldn’t find something!

 Between homeschooling my 4 kids, their work needing correcting or keeping, educational planning stuff, their activity schedules, forms needing to be filled out, home and life maintenance with mail, bills and records and the like that needs to be kept up with, and my work paraphernalia for the blog and it’s website, it has felt like unorganized madness to me! I can’t manage and work my best like that. 

What I needed and wanted was one organized management center to work from, with a style that said me, and reflected our farmish/antique home decor.  A Pottery Barn home office knock-off, of sorts.  Yes please, Honey!

Whenever a new school year is about to turn over in the next 2-3 months, I always get into this nesting mode frenzy, wanting to get super organized and ready for the next year. So my chatter about my dream custom-built farmer’s table home office desk had picked up speed as of late!  I completely cleaned out that cubby, moved the amoire, and just gave away that huge desk to a very grateful girl, who really needed it.  It was going to be an all new space, that I could manage everything from.  Open, bright, stylish and cheery.
As always, Michael and I first got some initial drawings down on paper, which Michael threw out by accident! ; ( , and a few revisions later, Michael got to making it a reality for me. 

My design idea was simple;  the base of a plain old farmer’s table, with cubbies and shelving for storage. But it needed to be BIG. The full length of the wall opposite the large window, to accommodate and organize all areas of my life and family I need to manage, as well the larger equipment I need to do it, such as my 2 computers, hard-drives, copier, etc. 

So if you haven’t scrolled down and peeked already (uh-huh), the reveal is next. But I have to say, this was SO HARD to photograph with the lenses I have, as this desk is 7 feet long!  But every inch was custom designed with a purpose for it’s space. Take a look . . . . . .

Is it not GORGEOUS?!

While there were no initial plans for drawers at all, the craziest things happen to us, and we ended up with some beautiful ones! I’ll get to that story-bit in a minute, but as you can see, the general structure of the desk is very much a farmer’s table design.

Let’s talk about some of the details:

Simple table legs support the desk.

Now let me tell you about the drawers, which really have added such beauty to the piece as a whole.  In the beginning, I had just planned on using lots of cubbies and little containers, for all of the little things, all built upon a farmers table, much like the one we eat at in our sunroom. But the craziest blessing happen to us all of the time, and this amazing happenstance is no different: 

About the time the table was pretty much built, and yet still bare wood and unfinished (as seen above, minus the drawers), Michael had a job to go re-letter the back of one of his client account’s large moving trailer. While he was there on the job site, he went to throw some things in the dumpster. There, in the container, were 3 of these beautiful drawers and some big desk all broken apart! I can only imagine how beautiful the desk must have been, because the drawers are to me, breathe-taking.  Crazier, the slim design and depth of the drawers would fit and work perfectly within the table side of the desk he was building for me. So he grabbed the drawers, and all of the attachment trackings for them, and  brought them home.  I was astonished. I immediately fell in love with them, and he installed them.

Just look at the hardware!

Even the keyhole makes me gasp and smile inside.

They silently and smoothly just roll out, like butt-ah!

And the inside of the large drawer had me flipping out with joy . . . . . .

Talk about great quality. HOW, could anyone throw these drawers away?  And what a blessing just meant to be, that Michael was there at that site on this particular day, and looked in that waste container, right when we were building this project!  The waste removal company was coming to empty that container the very next morning! The drawers would have been gone forever.

These two smaller drawers were installed side by side, on the opposite end of the large one.   Take note of the bare wood before finishing.  Aside from the drawers, the table-top is made of cabinet grade plywood, while the rest is plain pine and bead board.  A very light color wood.

Now, how I was going to finish this desk, was such a torn-dilemma! I even did various techniques experiments on several scraps of wood, trying to decide:  Did I want to just paint it white and then sand it down to worn in various places?  Crackle it? Use some dark wax or antiqued glaze?

Honestly, it feels like such a big an important decision, that it kind of paralyzed me.  So I kept it simple for now, and will likely continue to alter the finish more when I decide on one, or all of the ways I am contemplating. But at least then it will be a thought-out decision. For now here’s all I did:

I sanded it to a worn state in specific places, such as corners, edges, and raised areas.

But because the wood underneath was so light, I went a step further using a possibly odd technique and medium, to bring the distress work out more . . . . . .

I mixed clear glaze and straight burnt umber watercolor paint.  I painted just over the areas where it was sanded to wood, let it sit a minute, and wiped off with a clean dry rag.  It stained the exposed under-wood just enough, to have a more distinct worn look.  As I said, I still may do some crackle work in areas, and/or antique it more with wax or glaze.  But I also expect it will get wear and age naturally, simply from me using it a lot, and owning it for a very long time to come. But for now, I am loving it as it is.

I am still ‘moving in’ to this large piece of furniture that is quickly organizing my whole world, and there will be a follow up post to show you how I arranged everything I needed in this space.  But as I said, parts of the desk were very specifically designed for certain things.  To give you one example today; that top left cubby you see, will hold my 4 external hard-drives, most of which are about to dumped of all client work. They are already mostly free space even still,  so I will be using them for a good many years to come, for external storage space for all of my other personal photo storage and designs.

As I am sure many of you know and will agree, it’s the accessorizing that is the most fun!  It’s the pretty little things, that really make a space yours, and I have always felt it’s important to surround yourself in your home and work space, with the things that make you feel those little leaps of joy inside. (Or that’s what happens to me, anyway. ; ) So I will be sharing with you all just how I’ll be utilizing the space of my new custom-built workspace, the ways in which it’s organizing my life, and all of the little things I love that make me smile, and maybe will make you smile too. Or give you some ideas of your own.

Another crazy blessing story-bit:  I had told Michael I would probably just use one of our regular white farm chairs at the desk, rather than a black computer chair.  But that some day, I would love to find a nice white office chair on wheels, much like the Pottery Barn chairs, that we could never afford. 
Well guess what he found and brought home with the drawers? . . . . . .

Again, for free. When Michael was chatting one of the moving company employees at the job site where he pulled the drawers out of the waste container, and told him all about this desk he built, the guy said, “I have a chair inside that went with the desk we got rid of, if you want to see it.” And this is what he brings out!  Oh, you know I’ll distress this some too, and get some pretty shabby-chic cushions for it.  But what a high-quality chair!  It not only is on wheels and swivels, but it rocks! I’m a rocker, still. Between my first baby-girl that loved to nurse forever, and then my triplets, Mama-rocking is a just part of my natural movement now. This is a big chair though. It definitely needs the cushions. I feel like a kid in it right now.  Michael was more excited about getting the chair for me, than the drawers. But the drawers were actually the biggest pleasant surprise for me.

So there it is! I know I am ridiculously blessed to have a husband whose skilled hands can create these things for me.  This desk would cost thousands of dollars, bought. And it wouldn’t be custom-built, for me and my specific needs. Or made with love! He’s built so many things for me, big and small.  This one is certainly very special to me, as it will really help me manage the most important aspects of my life; primarily teaching my children, and managing our family details, and lastly, doing what I can to help my husband provide for us, through blogging, which I love to do anyway. 

I do apologize for the length of this post and number of photos, but there was a lot to share with you, and I’ve been SO excited to!
Wouldn’t you be? Tell me what you think of it! Do you have a special space in your home, that helps keep you organized and everything managed? Please tell us about it, and leave any ideas you may have for us as well.  Thanks so much for coming by and looking!

Flower Photography, and History Repeating

 

I don’t know where time has gone, but I sure wish it would slow down some.  I’ve done the best I can all along, to cherish every moment of watching all of my children grow up, knowing it will all happen too fast. It’s yet another reason I school my kids myself. I don’t want to miss any of their fleeting childhood. Still, it seems like yesterday that my first baby girl, Alexis Grace, was born.  She grew up in the blink of an eye. Next thing I knew, she was in high school, and taller than me!  She’s athletic and strong, and it blows me away.

And now she has a real job! She’s been trying to figure out how to get one sooner for awhile now.  She has worked with both Michael and I in our businesses quite a bit, in the past few years, weeding and prepping truck lettering with Michael, and as my photographer’s assistant when I was doing a lot more portrait work. We’ve paid her of course.  Also, she’s actually been pretty creative at finding safe ways to make a little cash of her own, in the meantime, too. I’d venture to say she chooses to spend her time differently than typical girls her age. She’s a determined soul, who loves to research, earn her own way, and make things happen. If anyone is interested for their own young teen kids, I can share those ideas at another time. She’s always been diligent with every dollar she’s gotten.  Since she was little, she’s been strict with her own budget for spending and saving.  And now, she’ll be making a real pay check from someone else, other than us. There was a lot to consider, knowing she has a lot on her schedule, especially with schooling, and more upcoming heavy sport seasons. Not to mention of course, being such a young age still, at 14.  But she gets excellent grades, is self-disciplined with her daily responsibilities like clockwork, and has been really wise with her money. There was really no reason to not let her.  She was hired in a heart beat. We just had to get some extra paperwork signed off here and there, because of her age.

She’ll be working at a nursery here in town, watering all of the flowers, helping customers, etc.  It’s a job we’re comfortable with as her parents, because we’ve known the owner for years.  He’s a good client of Michael’s, so we trust him to watch out for her, and he has a good staff. Also, it’s all outdoors, where Alexis loves to be.  It’ll be real hot some days this summer, when the humidity kicks in. But it’s still pretty ideal work for her.  I’m excited for her! 

The funny thing is, I used to work at a nursery and greenhouse for a couple of years in high school, right around the same age as she is. I have to admit, I was not all that interested in plants and flowers at that time. But I was working with my friend, so it wasn’t all that bad. I learned what I had to know, to take care of the plants and flowers, and help customers.  But it was just a job to me.  My second job, actually, working with a lot of plants and flowers. I started working when I was 9 years old, cleaning an older couple’s home and maintaining their impeccable landscaped yard on Saturdays, until I was about 14. I got paid well too!  But I was well into my married years, before I honestly took an interest in real gardening and such. However, when I fell in love with it all, I fell hard! I really love working in my gardens.

The funny thing is, my daughter is as passive as I was about gardening right now, as I was at her age. She’s not as into it as my younger daughter is. To her credit, she’ll volunteer to water the gardens on summer nights, which I always appreciate. But I have wished she would love gardening as much as I do.  So this job of hers, gives me hope. Already, she jumped in and helped plant some flowers the other night with me. It could very well be that all she learns at her job, will serve her well, years down the road. I think it’s a wonderful education to have. I know I was happy to have some agricultural knowledge and experience to draw on, once I decided to start gardens of my own.  I believe she’ll be a valued employee, because she is definitely a people-person, always smiling, loves to help people, takes pride in her work, and despite her supposed lack of interest, she really remembers the names of flower varieties!  I’m just so excited she’ll be working in this environment, in particular.  I mean, what a great first job on her own.

Well enough chatting. Yes? I’ve been having fun taking photos of the beautiful blooms around our home. Some are on the edge of neighbor’s property. I am always so happy with my camera in my hand.  So I thought I’d share with you some of my photos.

An Iris.

Geraniums.

A Chrysanthemum.

Azaleias.

Azaleias.

Foxglove.

And more Foxglove.

I think this last shot is my favorite, tied with the Iris. What’s yours?

Also, I’d love to know how old you or your teens were when you got your first job, and what you did.  Scroll down and tell us about it.

So glad you came by. : )