Sunday, March 29, 2015

Simply Spring #3: Pretty and Practical Again

Welcome back to the third edition of Simply Spring. I'm continuing with my Pretty and Practical theme. You can find the other posts here:

As you can see above, I did replace the tall purple torena plants (shown last week) with white petunias in my tea cup shaped pots. Much better I think! I replanted the torenas along the walkway. I don't have the luxury of puttering in a quaint little potting shed, but I do have my supplies tucked behind the garden wall. Every time I pluck out a few weeds, I toss them in that big brown basket.

Unbeknownst to me, while I was busy gardening the other day, my nine year daughter was in the kitchen making scrambled eggs for my breakfast. Trust me, she makes them much better than I do! :-) I thought maybe her one of her six older sisters had taught her how, but she says they didn't. That means she just picked it up from watching us all these years.

I'm really trying to live my cottage life dream in my suburban ranch house. That means getting it into order and surrounding myself with simple pretty things.

This morning when I got up, I told myself I could work on the blog after I put away 50 things. I actually stopped counting well past 100, though that included putting my winter clothes in a storage bin. My desk was a mess, but it's looking great now!

My desk area has a bird ~ butterfly ~ flower theme going on with several items like my calender, a small covered container, my tissue box, a vase of silk flowers, a Renoir "On the Terrace" print, etc. I've had this Logitech mouse for a long time, but just switched back to it because it fits in with my spring decor better than my bright red one.  (My kids use the extra one.)

Behind my lap top are two decorative boxes that I bought at Dollar General last year. I keep my receipts in them - one box for the family bank account and one for my personal one. I empty the receipts out of my purse and store them here until I can itemize them on a spread sheet. I love the quotes on top of them, reminding me that buying a lot of stuff isn't what makes me truly happy. Still, I do know that surrounding myself with simple beauty and inspiration certainly enhances my emotional well-being, so I don't mind purchasing small things that add to that.

A new addition to my desk - a card I found at Timothy's Gallery on Park Avenue in Winter Park the other day when I was down there for an appointment. The quote really speaks to me in this season of life: "One day soon you will do it. Follow the path. Take the risk. Launch your ship. Navigate to the place you truly want to be. Whatever stops you cannot be immovable as you yourself have placed it there. Perhaps you have needed all this time to get ready but now you can do it." I needed that as I'm trying to conquer my fears and move forward in life! I bought one for a friend who needs this message, too.

Back to my desk - and making the best of what I have. I bought this solid wood desk for $5 at an estate sale last year and salvaged the hutch from someone's curb. (I didn't have to buy anything expensive! I'm a thrifter at heart.)

I sort of like the worn wood since it has a bit of character and history.

However, I was going to try to fix up this blemish with a wood repair blending stick. It didn't work. It doesn't look any better, and now there is a waxy residue there. Meh.

I was able to pull off another practical fix. I had just purchased this area rug at Old Time Pottery, but the corner kept sticking up.

I didn't want anyone to trip, and it didn't look right. I went to Lowe's looking for an anchor, but came out with blue double sided duct tape instead. It works.

I did have to go back a week later and put an extra little piece underneath, but even if I have to keep taping it down once in a while to keep it flat, it's worth it.

Speaking of rugs, I bought this Little Green machine in February because my daughter got a dog from the shelter and it does messy dog stuff on the carpet sometimes. It cost about $80 at Walmart. I wouldn't do a whole room with it because it's a spot machine, but it's great for little messes. I've gotten some old stains out, too.

True story: this is how our sink typically looks with so many kids living here. Yeah, they just tend to throw their dirty stuff on the pile, if it even makes it to the sink in the first place. They each have an assigned day to empty and load the dishwasher, but you can imagine they procrastinate if they're faced with this pile. So I usually rinse and stack the dishes ahead of time for them. They get much cleaner that way, and I actually like doing this. Really. Something about putting it in order, like a puzzle. Seeing the results gives me quite the boost.

I'm actually a rather random sort of person, so here we are jumping back to the bedroom for the last set of photos. I've tried to reduce visual clutter by only leaving a few things on each shelf of one of my four bookcases in there. (The others are full of books. Imagine that.) I still don't have quite the effect I want, since some of the stuff doesn't "go" with each other. I do like each individual item, though. My mom made the stained glass rainbow and dove for me nearly 30 years ago. The vintage easel frame was my grandmother's. I am trying to keep a consistent place for my purse and black and white tote (a gift from my friend Judy) so I can put them away and grab them quickly. I designated a shelf just for them. And there's a Longaberger basket with copies of my mom's old Birds and Blooms magazines.

The next two were Christmas gifts from my daughters.

A crystal dish holds part of my encouragement stone collection, along with a lump of coal to remind me of my family heritage.

I showed you the new faith heart stone last week, but I just got the dream heart stone on Friday when I was in the vicinity of Ten Thousand Villages again. I am waiting for them to get their Courage and Inspire stones in stock. There is a method to my stone buying madness. I'll write more about why I bought this particular one in an upcoming post on my Watch the Shepherd blog. Maybe within a couple of weeks?

Last one!

What is Bella Grace? I had never heard of it before but saw it in Sam's Club for a discounted price of $14. It's a quarterly magazine that's more like a gorgeous book with 160 matte pages, artsy photos, a sturdy folding cover, and no outside ads. The title reminded me of my poem "Bella Sophia" and the appealing cover just begged me to pick it up. (Peek inside the spring issue.) A quick flip through the pages confirmed my hunch that it's just like me, or at least what I want to become. The subtitle is "Life's a Beautiful Journey." Yep, that's what I think too. So it jumped in my cart and followed me home. The articles are all inspiring and creative, and most of them have writing prompts for further reflection. Since I'm intending to pass it along when I'm done with it, I'm not writing directly on the pages but in my leather journal. 

One question: "What are five things that make you dance with utter joy?" Well, I'm not a dance-y sort of lady, but here's what I wrote:
  1. a good conversation/connection with family and friends
  2. nature beauty and photography
  3. writing to make a difference
  4. an adventure
  5. reading something profound and inspirational
But you could have guessed all that anyway, right? I know that these answers may not seem spiritual enough for a Christian, but they are. I just didn't use the obvious words, but it's all in there. :-)

I've been super lucky to have three of my kids come in to my bedroom and hug and chat while I've been writing this. That sure counts for #1 on my list!

What would you write on your list? What brings you joy?

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Simply Spring #2: More Pretty and Practical

Welcome back to my Simply Spring series. Last week I started out with Pretty and Practical at Home, photos of lots of things I've bought or made to make our lives more lovely. This week, I have more!

When I pulled out last year's spring decorations, I noticed that my floral wreath was looking a bit bare. I could see a lot of green plastic showing through, as seen in this picture. So I bought a roll of wide satiny ribbon for about $2 at Walmart, and wrapped it around the wreath base between the flowers. Then I added a big bow at the bottom. You can see the results in the picture above!

I found the beautiful small garden flag for $5 at the Deals store. I've had the metal flag stand for a long time, but like to switch out the flags for each season or when one gets faded from the sun.

The flowers I had in my tea cup shaped pots were getting scraggly. I bought two purple torena plants at Lowe's today when I went to find something to anchor down the corner of the area rug that I featured in my last Pretty and Practical post. We were in a hurry, and my daughter picked these out. I'm not sure they are the right ones for the two pots on my garden walls. I think I will replace them with something shorter and white. I'll replant these purple ones in the ground in a slightly shady spot, since they aren't supposed to have full sun anyway.

When I go back to Lowe's for more flowers, I may just buy myself a blackberry bush or two. When my family lived near San Francisco for most of the 1970s, we had a whole fence covered with blackberry bushes and my mom made fruit leather for us. We love blackberries here, so maybe we should try growing some in a container.

Speaking of San Francisco, I was at a yard sale this afternoon and found a photo book about the "Painted Ladies" - colorful Victorian houses in San Francisco. What a blast from the past!

Which reminds me that we have some "Painted Ladies" too. My Aunt Kathy painted the birdhouses on the left and right. A few years ago at a family reunion, she brought along supplies for all of the kids to paint some, and my daughter Naomi did the one in the middle. She gave it to my elderly grandmother who later passed away. Now we have it again on top of a hutch in our dining room.

Aunt Kathy also painted this glass cookie jar, which I inherited from my mother. I love the saying - so profound! "Every flower that ever bloomed went through a whole lot of dirt to get there." Ain't that the truth!

I bought this small painted jar at Dollar General for $1. It says "Love is spoken here,"  so maybe we can use it for encouragement notes or something. Or I may put flowers in it.

Here is another one of my chalkboard creations with the same basic thought. The soft pastels give it the vibrant colors. This is one of the wooden boards that I sprayed with chalkboard paint.

I noticed after I bought these hot pads and dish towel that they have the same colors as the chalk art above. The the colors and design also remind me of this "painted lady" house I found in the book I bought.

My sweet friend Judy read last week's Pretty and Practical post and said she had a present for me. At church this morning, she gave me the tote that's on my lap in this picture. It's very lightweight, and I can pop my smaller black purse right in it when I need to carry something that won't fit in the purse. It's pretty often that I bring along a book to read if I'm waiting for my kids at youth group on Sunday evenings, so this is perfect! She also gave me the short sleeve cardigan sweater tucked inside the purse. I love it, especially since it is really long and black and so it makes me look thinner! You can read more about my friend Judy and her husband Bart in these posts:

One book that's already been on my 2015 reading goals list (to finish up) is A Thousand Resurrections: An Urban Spiritual Journey by Maria Garriott. Maria lives in the Baltimore area, where she and her husband Craig (pastor of Faith Christian Fellowship, a PCA congregation) have served in urban ministry in the blighted Pen Lucy neighborhood for decades. I visited there a few years ago when I was in Maryland to see family, as I had met Maria before and also have friends at that church. Her mom lives in the Orlando area, and this morning was so delighted that she was visiting our church as she does when she's in town. We had a lovely chat. Pretty soon I'll share some things Maria wrote about boundaries and burnout. You can read more about Maria in these posts: Weekend Gratitude: Just Beauty and Beauty and Diversity on an Autumn Sunday in Maryland.

I've been trying to catch up on my paperwork this weekend. I realize I've dropped the ball on a few things that I should have taken care of months ago. Oops.  Last night I set up the small white folding table next to my desk just to give me space to spread out the piles, boxes, folders, notebooks, and hole punch for doing the paperwork. I found these cardboard file boxes at a dollar store a couple of weeks ago, and used them for quick sorting. They remind me of the hot pads. That must be my dominant color scheme for the spring, eh?

When I went to bed last night, I couldn't find my beloved little iPod. I was a little desperate for it since it has a ton of my useful information on it. (So much easier to find things than in a pile of paper! And it beeps when I need to do something! What would I do without it?) Anyway, I looked and looked and looked and then gave up and went to bed. This morning I could hear the alarm go off across the room, but still couldn't find it for the life of me. It wasn't until the afternoon that I opened my desk drawer, and there it was next to my green tea dragon fruit mints. I must have dropped it in there absentmindedly when I was doing all the paperwork last night. Hmmph.  But don't you like the pretty yellow hard shell case I bought for it?

My final photo - the new addition to my encouragement stone collection. I got it at Ten Thousand Villages the other day when I was on the same street to go to an art festival. The FAITH heart is actually a bright pink, so I'm not sure why it's showing up red here. I used a modified picture of it in a new post on my Watch the Shepherd blog: When Abuse Leads to Cynicism. I have quite encouraging feedback on that post from friends on Facebook, so check it out. You can also read about the rest of my stones in these posts:

I have some more pictures for you, but I'll save them for another third Pretty and Practical post next week.

Meanwhile I want to share a little music video, "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera. I heard this song on my way home this afternoon and it immediately struck a bittersweet chord in my heart, especially after writing the post about abuse and cynicism and shame last night. They are so related. Then also, some of the phrases in this post also echo the same sentiments, like "Love is spoken here" and "Encourage one another and build each other up" and even my inspirational stones that silently speak to me each day. Isn't that such a cry of all our hearts, for words of kindness and beauty and courage to help us get through life?

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Simply Spring #1: Pretty and Practical at Home

I'm starting a new series called Simply Spring here on This Mom Grows Up. This Friday is the official start of the new season, so what I'm planning to do is a weekly post related to springtime for the next few months. I'll probably do these on Sunday.

Today I wanted to show you a few things I've bought or made around the house to make our lives a little more practical and pretty.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had purchased some small wooden cutouts to spray with chalkboard paint. The picture above is one of them, and this is another. I didn't sand either of them before I started, and the wood grain is quite evident on the Welcome Spring sign, though not so much on the bird cage. I tried sanding and repainting a larger board, but I'm not sure it was much of an improvement either. It was a fun little experiment, but I think I'll stick to buying chalkboards. I am so glad I bought soft pastels to use, since they are much more vibrant than regular chalk!

My teenage daughter and I went to Old Time Pottery yesterday and found this 5' x 8' area rug on sale for $35. Our last one, which I had picked up from someone's curb many years ago in fairly decent shape, was getting pretty ratty. I've been looking for an affordable new one, and this caught our eyes. I intend to change the color scheme in the living room when I can find some gently used couches in a muted color. So I wanted to get something that would go with that, as well as what we have right now. This one is a mix of contemporary and traditional. What do you think? (Note: After I wrote this post, we found a brown couch at the Christian Sharing Center for $100. It reclines on both ends, too! I'll try to find a close enough match for it as soon as possible, but for now we have one newish brown and one very old saggy red. I do have to say that the microfiber fabric has been really durable all these years, and the newer one is made with that as well.)

Another pretty and practical item from Old Time Pottery - a push broom with flowers and butterflies on it. This is another thing I've been looking for, and I was glad to find it on sale.

The strap on my last purse eventually broke, so I started using a much smaller burgundy velvet one. I loved the idea of not lugging around as much stuff (my back is quite sore from a car accident), but that one was too tiny for my basic stuff. So I looked and looked some more. After a few weeks, I found exactly what I wanted - a smallish but big enough black purse with a zipper and a slender shoulder strap. It's minimalist, and I love it! You know what I just realized? I got all three of the purses at Goodwill -- each for about $3 in great shape! That's the way to go. What about my big fat wallet? I'm not carrying it anymore! I pared down to several cards that I needed (license, Sam's Club, debit, etc.) in a coin purse. I have a small zip lock bag for receipts. I usually have my keys, phone, and iPod in my pocket, but sometimes I put them in the purse, too. I may or may not also have a comb, a small pack of tissues, and a digital camera. I leave the wallet in my van, without anything valuable in it. It has discount cards and other stuff that I might need but can easily get out when I'm at the place where I need it. 

Why did I buy a rotary phone? Well, we have a cordless phone at home, but it gets lost pretty easily. If it isn't charged, we can't even find it by beeping for it. I had to buy a new cordless phone because my kids need a reliable way to call me if I'm not home. (Some of them can text me from iPods.) Anyway, I saw this for $1 at a yard sale and figured it would be a great way to always have an extra corded phone in one place. It's not going anywhere! And it's fun for kids who have never used a phone dial. I love vintage! (Note: When the guys hauled one of our old couches out, we took the cushions off, and voila, there was the missing cordless phone, along with a set of my keys!)

I started decorating for spring this past week. I put out some country blue decorations on the table in the front hallway. Then I decided to add the basket to put in library books when we're done with them. I can grab them on the way out the door and drop them off when I'm running other errands. I think I bought the basket at Salvation Army. Do you get the idea that I love buying good stuff cheap at thrift stores, yard sales, and on discount?

I found this motivational poster at Dollar Tree. I decided to put it on the water heater in the laundry room, because the main area of responsibility I would love to see my family embrace is keeping track of their clothes. It's a never ending battle making sure the clean ones get folded and put away. People in this house are known to take them out of the dryer and plop them on the floor. Or dump clean clothes out of baskets and not put them back. Or... Never mind. You get the picture. And speaking of "getting the picture" - my little girl got this one. I found it on my camera, so she obviously noticed it (yay!) and snapped this photo. She also took the phone photo above.

Another practicality - an extra set of basic tools. I've had the screwdrivers in my desk drawer for a while, but I just added my very own short handled hammer ($5) and tape measure ($1) from Walmart. Having my own set means I don't have to rummage through the storage room (and hope someone returned what they took or even that the tool bag is in the house) when I just want to hang a picture or something.

I saw this tip in a friend's e-magazine. Take a plastic cereal container, line it with a grocery bag, and use it in your car for a trash container. It keeps the stuff in and only takes up a little space. I tucked extra bags at the bottom. Mine is wedged between two supply bins for little things we always need along the way: hair brushes, tissues, wipes, scissors, pens, paper, iPod and phone charge cables, etc.

The kids are on spring break, so we're going to try to start some flowers from seed. We got four packs at Dollar General along with potting mix and a seed starter tray, all for under $10. They are still in the back of my van, but maybe tomorrow?

I found this little gem at the Ross discount store last week for $15. It's a lightweight coil hose and sprayer for my garden. The big green one is way too bulky and heavy for me to drag around everyday, especially since I'm recovering from a back injury. I love how my new blue one stretches!

Well, that's it for this week!

What are you doing that is pretty and practical for spring?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. I've got another similar post up now!  Simply Spring #2: More Pretty and Practical.