Weekend Workroom: Simple wall art

For a long while, we’ve still been trying to figure out how to fill those empty walls we tend to find throughout our home. We’re getting there, but it has been a slow process because we haven’t wanted to put things up just because we have them. We wanted to put things up that were meaningful or actually might qualify as grown-up art.

And, yes, I know grown-ups rarely refer to themselves as “grown-ups.”

I came across this project, however, and figured that if it worked it could be a really awesome way to make our own “art” pieces for both our bedroom and for the living room (which, aside from the Christmas season when stockings are hung on the wall, can be pretty barren). If it didn’t work, I realized I wouldn’t be out a ton of money and I would have at least spent an afternoon trying something new.

A quote Christopher has really come to love lately (that I’m trying to work into my own heart and mentality, as well) is from G. K. Chesterton: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”

So, I set out to try this project. I bought most of my supplies at Michael’s, but I shift my supplier (that sounds so much more official than it actually is) based on what is on sale. Michael’s happened to have the better deals on large (I think they were 18×20-inch canvas packs), as well as a coupon for the Helvetica packs that I used for the lettering. I think I bought the paint there, too.

The project was initially supposed to be a secret but, as most people who know and Christopher and I well, we don’t do particularly well with secrets. We maybe keep them for two days. Then it’s all over. The main reason this project didn’t stay a secret was because I wanted something that would be meaningful for Chris and I wanted his input. We finally (after much debate) settled on short bits of one of the verses from “Be Thou My Vision,” which is one of Christopher’s favorite hymns (if not his favorite).

And, since the process takes a while, we’re still trying to figure out what to put on the other set, which is why they haven’t been put together yet…

Regardless, I liked how the panels turned out, particularly because I took the time to draw the necessary grids and to space letters for each panel, knowing that I am not capable of making anything straight on my own. We decided to keep this set (for our bedroom) really simple, only doing one color per panel. Some colors needed more coats of paint than others (particularly the deep red), but I just kept at it – I did laundry and cleaned the house bit by bit between coats. The paint did bleed in a bit (like the one from A Beautiful Mess), but from any distance it’s not too bad. It adds a bit of texture and gives the Helvetica a bit of a distressed look, which is kind of cool (in my opinion).

Anyway, it was a fun, simple way to do wall art. I’m looking forward to completing some more in the coming year and continuing to make our home both beautiful and meaningful.

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Weekend Workroom: Finishing

This weekend was about finishing things.

For one, the inside of our front door has long looked like this:

Not very attractive, to be sure, but it at least got sanded somewhere along the way, which means it’s been leagues ahead of the outside of the door (or the house for that matter – if you visit, you’ll understand how our house is not-so-pretty from the outside).

While Chris and his dad worked on outside stuff, getting the yard ready for winter (and for our dogs not to have mud to roll around in!), I decided I was going to tackle some painting projects that have long sat unfinished. I’m still mid-project on a few of them, but it was nice to finally get somewhere… A few hours and two coats of paint later, our front door now looks like this:

It’s really pretty. I rehung my wreath there tonight. It just seemed right.

Anyway, after that, we went to our semi-annual teens-run-around-in-the-dark-with-noodles youth ministry night last night and I tackled the last round and a half of the border on the blanket I’ve been working on since this spring (see here and here for beginnings and mid-point). I got to the last 20 stitches and I ran out of yarn in my skein. So, I finished it after I went home. And it’s awesome. Definitely one of my favorite projects. Consequently, I’m back to work on Christopher’s blanket now. Some pictures of the finished product:

It was nice to finish some things for a change. Off for another busy week!

Weekend Workroom: THE Pumpkin Patch

So… be prepared for a bit of a picture dump.

At the end of last month, we went to Nebraska to celebrate my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday. On our way back from Omaha, we stopped at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch to experience the now-annual family trip with our nephews. It’s quite the place. Didn’t think we’d spend the whole day there, but we did.

There were a lot of animals to see and pet. Definitely a few cuties to hang out with. Duck races with Oma and corn mazes to get lost in, and a grown-up size jumping pillow. Good grub. Christopher “split” a turkey leg with Mackers. I really liked the lanterns in one of the eating areas. And, of course, pumpkins. Lots and lots of pumpkins. I am so excited that it is finally autumn!

Weekend Workroom: Gingham Update

Okay, so remember this blanket I started on back in March? Well, I didn’t get very far on it before I went back to work and it became too warm to work on a blanket…

Which is one thing that is awesome about the fact that it is finally cooling off around here and acting like autumn (because, as it turns out, it is now autumn)! The last few days, I’ve been picking it up and working on it while Chris and I have done sick-people lounging (I think I have a sinus infection, but I don’t really know if I have one, I suppose).

Regardless, the result is that it keeps on growing… The body of the whole thing is 55 rows, and I’m nearing the 35th of those rows. It’s such a small blanket, but I guess that makes sense because it’s meant to be for a small person (I make these connections, sometimes!). It’s turning out to be a great little blanket, one of my favorite projects for sure, though it really does have a wrong side, as I mentioned in my initial post. Orderly strings and tie-offs everywhere. See?

Next, I’m hoping to make some headway on my thesis and make myself a skirt or two because I bought fabric for that purpose when I spent time with my mom a few weeks back. I’ve been wanting to learn how to make clothing for a long time, so I’m pretty excited to get started on that…

Weekend Workroom: Jamstress

**SIDE NOTE: I know this is totally, completely later than anticipated… I’ve been trying to figure out how to hook up our new camera in the little time I’ve had at home over the last few weeks. We’ve been gone back-to-back weekends, first to celebrate my husband’s birthday and then to celebrate my brother-in-law’s 30th, with a few shortened weeks and a couple trips through getting our car back from the shop thrown in there. It’s been a bit crazy, but I finally have a real day off today. I’ll be blogging, meal planning, grocery shopping, and doing all the things that I’ve really been missing about my life… Regardless, I give you jam!**

I must confess, I don’t know if I ever thought of making jam before. There’s been something really cool, however, about making my own tomato soup, and there’s always been a draw for me in the canning process (my grandmother used to can their garden each year and my mom occasionally cans when she finds great deals on veggies and fruit), so I figured I’d give it a try whenever the opportunity presented itself.

So, we had some friends offer us some plums a few weeks back, from the tree in their backyard (Italian plums, the best I could tell). I did some research and discovered a simple recipe that didn’t use pectin, a traditional canning process, or twice as much sugar as plums (believe it or not, it’s common to have a recipe for twice as much sugar as fruit, which just seems silly to me). This was all just an experiment. I don’t even like plums, as a general rule.

But I found this recipe:
http://savorysweetlife.com/2009/09/plum-jam-recipe-no-pectin-needed/

And I went to work. I had a lot of plums, and I tried a number of ways to get them out of their skins. In the end, though, what worked best was making sure I had clean hands and using my fingers to remove the fruit… I found I got more of the fruit that way in the least amount of time. It was a really messy process, so make sure you’ve got a space that can take some sticky mess and be easily cleaned afterward.

The main place I deviated from the recipe was that I put my fruit pieces into a blender, rather than let them just cook down to the right consistency. I wanted an even consistency because I’m a odd sensitive-to-texture person, so I did it this way. You could certainly let the plum pieces cook down if you want a fleshier sort of consistency.

If you have a splatter screen, you’ll want to use it. I still have a small mark from where a bit of molten plum mixture jumped up and landed on my arm.

As soon as it was done, I poured it into two clean pint canning jars, using a canning funnel. I made a double batch, or I would have only filled one pint jar. I tasted it while hot and really enjoyed the flavor of the jam. Then, I let it cool and refrigerated both jars, where three can be stored for up to three months. I’m not sure it’ll last until then. It’s pretty tasty.

So, that’s my adventure in jam-making. I like the title “Jamstress,” (Gilmore Girls, anyone?) so maybe I’ll do this again!

Weekend Workroom: Library & Cataloging

I love books.

I don’t know that anyone who knows me at all would fail to understand that statement. The seasons where I let myself read, I read voraciously.

And for many, many, many years, my dream has been to have my books cataloged and organized and in matching shelves.

Chris has tried to make this dream a reality for several years. In our first year of marriage, at our second residence, he “built in” bookshelves (as much as he could in a rental) to give us a bit of extra storage space and a nice piece for our living room. We added a bookshelf that we used as pantry space at our next residence (since the house we lived in had ample pantry space). Then we migrated everything over to our last apartment (man, we’ve moved a lot) and just used the same configuration of shelving because a) we had no money, and b) we decided it wasn’t worthwhile until we had a permanent address again.

When we moved into our home (yay for permanence) last spring, one of the things I set my heart on was to finally purchase some matching bookshelves and create my long-dreamt-of library, but it was one of the last indoor things we could do because it wasn’t an essential piece of making our home work. Because IKEA has finally made its appearance in Colorado, we figured through all the pieces we desired and a timetable in which to purchase each of them.

But we’ve continued to purchase other things that have been more needed in the meantime, so the project has continued to be pushed off by our circumstances.

For my birthday, Christopher’s parents purchased the bookshelves and Christopher assembled and put them in place in our home.

And it is freaking awesome.

This post will kind of do double-duty because there’s so much more of my heart wrapped up in it than there probably should be, so it fits here but it also fits over at the renovation blog. There will be other stuff featured at the reno blog, though, if you want to check out some of the other things we’ve been up to lately (who am I kidding? You can see what Christopher has been up to…).

Our garden level/den looked like this when we moved in:

Yes, the paint on the walls was high gloss. It was everywhere, which is one of the main reasons we painted EVERYTHING. We replaced the light when we moved in, and the carpet and the stairs this past spring, but I digress…
And now it looks like this:

We used the Billy bookcase system from IKEA. I took the measurements for the room and used their Billy planner (http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/rooms_ideas/planner_billy/index.html) to figure out how to make the best use of the wall space. The bins on the left shelf are a reddish color (also from IKEA, but I don’t remember what they’re called), and are the perfect storage space for Christopher’s shoes. The chair is a Poang from IKEA, and it’s super-comfy. We plan to get a second one in time, but it’s a great spot to read, rest, and enjoy the coolness (thermally) of our garden level.

Perhaps the largest piece of this, however, was actually cataloging the books. I wanted a system, but not just one of my own… so I landed on the Dewey Decimal system. It’s simpler than the Library of Congress system and a lot of more recently published materials actually include the numbers with the publication information. I still have a few more boxes to go before I’m done, but I’ve made some pretty incredible headway the past few weeks.

I am a little confused over the difference between [Fic] and the 800 classification for literature, and I can only assume that it has to do with intelligence level ([Fic] being more juvenile fiction; 800s being “literature” with a snooty holding of the head). The “younger” books have been moved upstairs with the bookshelves that used to be downstairs. It seems to work well for us. There also wasn’t sufficient room for our bibles on the shelves, so they got their own bin on the Expedit.

For the cataloging, I’ve been using a freeware program called “Book Hunter.” I found it through the Apple App Store. It doesn’t have a plethora of bells and whistles, but it does the job and has plenty of color to keep me happy when the books’ covers are in the system.

Anyway, I keep looking down the stairs and thinking, “Man, that looks good” and sighing a bit because it’s pretty cool.

Next task: Replace the desk. We haven’t found one we like yet. Give it time.

Weekend Workroom: A Little Bit of Everything and a Lot of Rocks

Our weekends have been a bit jumbled lately, as we’ve sought to keep our lives on track with our one-car status and we’ve had a slew of events that have kept things interesting. Not much time for crafting (though I’m hoping to change that this week – more in Thursday’s post), but Chris and his parents have been doing a lot of work outside.

Two Weekends Ago (April 20-22): Missions Weekend
In preparation for Christopher’s upcoming trip to Nepal in June with some of the youth kids, we helped put together and run a Nepalese-style lunch and servant auction for some fundraising (the lunch happens every year – the food styles just rotate). It was a great event, but a lot of work lugging tables and chairs into place the night before, and helping get everything ready to go that Sunday. Overall, raised about $3000 for the trip and went home and slept (at least I think that’s what we did).

Last Weekend (April 27-29): Grab Bag Weekend
We were scheduled to go to the regional marriage conference, but decided it was a bit too much to sandwich between the track meet Chris was scheduled to coach on Friday afternoon and the prom that we were scheduled to chaperone Saturday night. But it was a good set of days. I went with Chris to work on Friday and was blessed to be able to do some shopping for things we had been putting off for a while due to finances (more on that in Thursday’s post, as well), and then I joined him at the track meet (which I’ll admit I actually enjoyed quite a bit, even when I wasn’t reading). Saturday morning, we had donuts and spent some time together before doing some more long-put-off shopping, Chris mowed the lawn, and we went to prom. I don’t know why any parent in his or her right mind would send a teenager to prom. It was awful. There are not really other words to describe it. But my date was great!

This Weekend (May 4-6): Rock Haul
Christopher’s parents came up Friday night, so I spent my day off Friday cleaning the house (mostly because it really, really needed it – it is spring after all). The reason they came up? To figure out a solution for the west side of our house, where Chris found another layer of rock under the ground cover when he tried to clean it all up last summer. With the use of a crazy machine that moves stuff like rock and the creative re-use of old railroad ties, everything is looking much better, and it’s not even quite done. More on that will be posted when it’s finished at the other blog (http://mercuryreno.blogspot.com).

So, it has definitely been a mishmash around here lately. Lots of things happening with our weekends. And our camera needs to be charged, but we can’t find the correct cord, so picture-taking is somewhat limited. What few pictures I take, I have been taking with my phone and sending through my Twitter account. Here are two to note:

Christopher riding with the “Dingo.” Yes, that was it’s name. No, it did not eat any babies.
Just rocks. But it helped us get our driveway back, and we are very grateful for that.

Completely unrelated to most of this post, but I made two of these roasted red pepper
and Italian sausage pizzas this week. They were absolutely awesome.