Monday, May 25, 2015

Simply Spring #11: Americana and Bird Decor

Hello friends!

Welcome back to my Simply Spring series, which as usual carries on my Pretty and Practical theme, too.

I've been meaning to redecorate my front hallway in a patriotic Americana theme for summer, and I figured Memorial Day was a great time to start the season.

My one big chalkboard was the obvious place to make a change. This is what it looked like until today.

I Googled "God Bless America chalkboard art" and came up with this from the StoneGable blog. Yvonne has quite lovely posts there, so check it out.

I obviously didn't include all of her embellishments or the words at the bottom. I made it my own. I may be a patriotic American, but at heart I am more of a global thinker. Hence, "and the rest of the world." I found the wood hearts on clearance at Target for about $2.

Another clearance item, this sign from Old Time Pottery, hangs above my hall closets directly across from the front door.

Underneath of that, I hung wooden hearts from my decorations storage bin. I generally don't prefer distressed furniture with purposely worn or scratched paint, but this is more primitive than distressed, and it's small enough to not be visually overpowering.

The little birds had been up on the cabinet with the chalkboard, along with others. I picked out the ones that looked sort of red, white, and blue and arranged them on the tea cart near the door. As you'll see later, the others moved into the living room.

On the other side of the door, my red and blue basket is filled with water bottles, easy to grab on the way out. At Jo-Ann Crafts today, they had a 60% sale on many items with an additional 20% coupon beyond that. They had a whole bunch of patriotic decor, but as I looked and looked I didn't see anything that really grabbed me, that I had to have. I did buy the blue star ribbon with wires and added a bow to two baskets and a cinnamon broom in the hallway.

While working in this area, I took the time to organize all of the shoes, make the kids take their backpacks to their rooms (only a couple of more days of this anyway as school lets out on Wednesday), shake out the hall rug, and sweep.

So that is my front entryway right now. Oh, and our front door. I took down my spring flower wreath and put this up instead, again from my decor bin.

How about an update on my living room, which I've been featuring in this series? (See here.) Last week I mentioned that I had bought lighter blue curtains to replace the darker sheer and silky ones I bought just before Easter. I moved that first set into the computer room to cover the sliding glass doors since we need extra privacy.  Well, as it turned out, the newer blue ones were too sheer for my purposes too, so I moved them to the dining room where we only had blinds. Then I started hunting for room darkening curtains for the living room. This limited my color options and I gave up on finding blue ones.

I finally found brown to match the couches, and had to travel to three different Target stores to get the 10 panels I needed for the two big windows. They still aren't quite as "room darkening" as I'd like - for that, I guess I would have had to buy blackout curtains. But I did figure out to put cardboard panels behind the curtains to cut more of the light. This will save on summer energy bills and reduces the glare on our TV screen. My curtain buying is not done, though, because I still need some for my bedroom to cover up my worn out blinds.

I moved the birdhouse picture and the ceramic birds in from the front hallway to complete my pastel bird and garden theme.

I found this sign at a church rummage sale. It's perched on top of our DVD rack. I love the words. We have a pretty crazy home.

I finally hung the last four curtain panels this evening. These don't have the cardboard behind them yet. I may leave it that way for now.  My oldest daughter, Mary, just gave me the big blue ceramic bird today. She's been rearranging her own house, and as she was thinking of my new decorating scheme, she realized she had something that would fit in just right! I needed something of that blue tone big enough to go on the piano, and it's also a similar style to my little ceramic birds. I love being able to wrap the same colors and theme all around the room.

These birds also remind me of freedom, and that in turn reminds me of the great blessings of liberty we have here in the United States of America.

I am grateful on this Memorial Day for the brave men and women who have given their lives to serve and protect to our country.

God bless America!
God bless you... and the rest of the world, too!

Virginia Knowles

Monday, May 18, 2015

Simply Spring #10: Pretty and Practical Continues

Welcome back to my Simply Spring series!

Wow! It's been another busy week! I don't even know where to start!

The most exciting event was my grandson's first birthday party on Saturday, with a very clever airplane theme. What I didn't know is that my daughter had also baked a "smash cake" for him, and the color of the cake (under the frosting) revealed the gender of his new sibling due this fall. You can see the pictures and find out whether it's a brother or sister here: An Airplane Birthday Party and New Baby Gender Reveal.

We also had an ROTC awards night at the high school, an 8th grade graduation, lots of medical appointments, a used curriculum sale, and so much more.

One trick I learned in preparing books to resell is how to remove permanent marker from a smooth cover. Just scribble dry erase marker liberally over it, then wipe with a tissue. You may need to repeat once or twice, but most or all of it will come off!  If you need to remove adhesive residue after taking a price sticker off, use a citrus based cleaner like Goo Gone or DeSolvIt. It would be better if people used removable stickers to avoid this, but this is the next best thing. Of course you can use these tricks on other surfaces as well, such as walls, windows, kitchen counters... Been there, done that.

I'm still trying to fit in time to beautify my home. Does this seem trivial when there is so much else to do? Maybe, but it's good for everyone's mental health. Beauty is restorative, bringing an essence of rightness, peace, calm, and loveliness to life. I am still thinking a lot about cozy, quaint, comfortable cottages as you might remember from my post My Cottage Dreams (Why Not Now?).

I like to visit vintage and antique stores as often as I can, even if I can't afford to buy much. I did find a used copy of Mary Emmerling's American Country Cottage book at Adjectives Market last week while I had an hour gap between other errands. I also found a book on country decorating at a thrift store recently. I like a more traditional English country cottage look rather than country cute. I despise wooden geese with ribbons around their necks.

When I get the chance, I sit down with my Home & Garden notebook and these two decorating books. I study each page spread carefully. I write down what I like, what I don't like, and what I could do with what I already own or what I could purchase inexpensively. Beyond the notes and ideas, this is an exercise in noticing beauty, in enriching my own soul. I may not ever have transom windows (sigh!) or pegged wood floors, but I can enjoy the pictures! I'm not so much into "how to" decorating books right now. I just go for the ideas and inspiration.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might know that I redecorated our living room last month in blues and browns. I tried to keep the cost low by shopping mainly at thrift stores and Walmart. I bought blue taffeta curtains for two large windows, but I'm not sure I like them there. They are a bit shiny for that room, and unfortunately too sheer. If anyone tries to watch TV or play video games during the day, there is too much glare from the window light. And like I said, with the kids home during summer days, that's going to be an issue. 

Anyway, I decided that I should move those curtains to the sliding glass door in another room. Then I found some other reasonably priced light blue curtains with a nubby woven texture. I'll have to get my teens to hang them soon after the rest of the panels arrive at the store. Meanwhile, here's a picture of one panel in its packaging. I think this is more the look and opacity that I want!

The newer curtains will also go better with the blue book bin and trash basket that I found at Target this week. I swapped out end tables. This mission style table, which I got at a church rummage sale for $1, is smaller and allows easier access to the adjacent book case than the previous one. The lace cover conceals a multitude of scratches. 

Another decorating idea that struck me today is that two of my adult daughters are in Europe right now taking exquisite photographs. I am utterly drooling over their dozens of pictures of their three days in Iceland. I think I'll get some of them enlarged to hang in our computer room.

Stunning, eh? Still SO jealous! At least I get to live vicariously thanks to digital cameras and the Internet!

Well, that's about it for this week. I'm tired and sore and need to go to bed. I will finally have an appointment with a spinal neurologist this week to consult about my joint damage, daily headaches, and facial numbness resulting from a traffic accident 11 weeks ago. I am hoping she can figure out what to do and get on with it!

Virginia Knowles

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Simply Spring #9: Mother's Day and Meltdowns

Dear friends,

Happy Mother's Day!

Well, I hope you've had one.

I had a meltdown this morning.

It was the Perfect Storm of fatigue, back pain, head ache, frustration, assorted mothering challenges, a messy-ish house, and at least one loudly disgruntled child.

We missed church. I retreated to my bedroom in tears.

My oldest daughter (a mommy of three) came over and listened to me moan and gripe, then gave me a neck and head massage, and then sent me back to bed for a nap while she had a "little lecture chat" with her younger siblings.

And somehow, we all managed to enjoy our traditional Mother's Day lunch. It helps that it wasn't at my house and I didn't have to do any of the cooking. We also got the all important family picture with the whole clan - two parents, seven daughters, three sons, two sons-in-law, four grandsons, and one unborn grandchild whose gender will soon be revealed.

Just know that there is much of our family story that this cheerful picture does not show. (If you want to see more of our pictures, including a college graduation and much more, click here: Images of My Month of May.)

So, for those of you who are having a tough time with motherhood right now, I present to you several links on this blog that may encourage you. After that, I'll share a poignant essay called "Motherhood" that I think was written in the 1950's. Enjoy!

And now the essay I promised.

My Aunt Nancy sent this vintage newspaper clipping to me several years ago, and it has always been a humorous encouragement. 

MOTHERHOOD, by Jeanne Merrihew Lofgren

“A Mother is a maker, a mender, a moderator, and a teacher.

She makes boxer pants and chocolate pudding, law and sometimes order, castles, threats, promises and rabbit suits. She makes horses’ heads from paper bags, little suits from big ones, new dresses from old ones, sunsuits from kitchen curtains, small balloons from popped ones, stew from nothing whatever. She makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and peace when possible.

A Mother is a maker and a mender.

A Mother mends broken dishes and broken hearts, trouser knees, hurt noses and hurt feelings, trouser knees, torn jackets and torn fingers, and trouser knees. She mends old sheets, old rosebushes, old baby dolls and brand new trouser knees.

A Mother is a maker, a mender and a moderator.

She is a moderator in times of war --- civil war, verbal war, insurrection, minor skirmishes, attacks from the enemy; in times of strife, in times of injustice, in times of temper, in times of hairpulling.

A Mother is a maker, a mender, a moderator and teacher.

She teaches how to button buttons and how to say a prayer. She teaches how to hold a knife and fork, how to hang up clothes so they sometimes stay hung, how to sit still in church. She can teach a love of books and of music --- she can even turn child hearts to God. But almost never can she teach how to close a door without a bang or how to come in without bringing in mud.

A Mother can count. She counts calories and blessings, pennies and children’s heads in the car. But she never counts sheep!

A Mother is immune to surprise --- whether it is a glass of water in her desk drawer, a cat sleeping on fresh sheets in the linen cupboard, worms in trouser pockets, good report cards, bad report cards, split foreheads, split infinitives. Nothing ever really surprises her.

But sometimes a Mother reaches despair. The dryer won’t dry when all the clothes are washed and wet. The baby bites the cat’s tail and is scratched for it. Three-year-old dumps the tinker toys by the front door when you expect the minister to call. The baby screams for attention - soothing medications must be halted while Mother sprints to a relentless doorbell. There stand two neighborhood children to report, “Your baby is crying.” Six-year-old after forty-five minutes cannot spell “what”.

Eight-year-old dashes in to say he forgot, but it is his turn to take cookies to his meeting today. Fingerprints all over the house loom suddenly vivid. The ragged edge of the rug seems suddenly dreadful. Three-year-old won’t go outside. The cat won’t come in. The gelatin won’t jell. The sun won’t shine. The stew sticks and the pudding boils over while the phone rings on and on and on. And with it and above it and through it all comes, “Mommy, come and see --- Mommy, come and see”, incessently, monotonously, unendingly from three-year-old.

Mother leans chin on broomhandle and mutters, “Next time I’ll raise chickens, Lord. Children are just too much.”

Then ten-year-old crashes in --- rough and ready, all boy --- to confide, “Mommy, at Cub Scout meeting we had to list the five things most precious to us, and I did: One, God; two, love; three, America; four, babies; and five, sunsets.”

Suddenly the baby’s eyes seem very blue, six-year-old recites from memory the entire 23rd Psalm, which is better than spelling “what”, fingerprints retreat again. Daddy walks in. Really life could not be richer. It is a glory never to be bartered.

Dear Lord, keep the chickens. I’ll carry on for now. And thank you --- from the bottom of my heart.”

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Simply Spring #8: The Merry, Merry Month of May

Welcome back to my Simply Spring series! We're having a busy start to the merry, merry month of May!

Yesterday, some of us drove an hour and half over to Palm Bay to go to a graduation picnic for my daughter Joanna's boyfriend David. I hadn't met David's parents yet, so I jumped at the opportunity! They are very sweet people, and it was well worth the trip. This week David is getting his engineering degree and Joanna is getting hers in Interpersonal and Organizational Communications (or something like that), both from UCF. She starts her master's degree in counseling at UCF this fall. I am so proud of both of them for all of their hard work!

Meanwhile, my Renaissance Girl Lydia (20) was busy chalking up her own accomplishments at the St. Johns River Festival of the Arts with this rendition of Giorgio de Chirico's painting "Mystery and Melancholy of a Street." She is taking piano lessons and studio art, and an extra college summer class. Then she is leaving for UF this fall as a ceramics major. She's also plotting how to get her younger brothers and sisters outdoors more this summer, so we're looking into raised bed vegetable gardening? Do any of you have experience you'd like to share with us?

Today, a few of us went to lunch party at our friends' house after church. As always, I took pictures of their beautiful lakeside backyard, which you can find here: Florida Through My Lens: Garden Gathering on Lake BellThe rose picture at the top of this post is from that party.

My oldest son, Andrew, is turning 18 this week! How did that happen? He has been way taller than me for a really long time. We'll celebrate his birthday on Wednesday, and also have a whole family gathering (hoping for all 10 kids, two sons-in-law, four grandsons) on Sunday for Mother's Day.

There is so much else going on this month, but I'll leave those for future posts!

On to some practical stuff at our house, namely my on-going quest for order...

Kids and chores. Sigh. They each have a day when they are assigned to unload and load the dishwasher, but if they miss, then there is confusion about who goes next. And that isn't even talking about the rest of the house! It's like my lovely homemaking schedule has been all but useless.

Yesterday I called a family meeting with most of
the kids who still live at home. I shared a new plan for their feedback. Here's the deal: I made a chart with all of the available jobs (unloading and loading dishwasher, loading, wiping counters, sweeping, vacuuming, folding linens, helping cook dinner, putting away groceries, and special projects) with various point values for each one. We each have to meet a quota of at least 10 points each week and we can generally choose the chores we like at the times that are best for us. However, if I need something done right away I will look at the check off chart on the fridge (on the honor system) and if someone is low on their quota and reasonably available, I will call them in to do it. If I get any balking, they get docked a point, or something like that. So if they want the extra freedom of choice, it's in their best interest to be proactive and jump in early so I won't nab them at an inconvenient moment with something they hate to do. We haven't started the plan yet, but they agreed to give it a go and I'll keep you posted on how it's working!

Of all the kitchen jobs, I personally prefer loading dishes. I always rinse and stack them ahead of time anyway, no matter who is doing them. I hate to see the sink overflowing, and it keeps the dishes from getting too crusty while they wait. It's less overwhelming for whomever is doing dishes next, too. That simple practice cuts so much kitchen chaos right there.


After, with one side completely empty,
but all of the same dishes as before
That's it for this week's Simply Spring post! Here are the other seven so far!

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles