End of summer home decorating

End of summer home decorating

End of summer home decor

I’ve been writing about some serious topics the past few days, and I’ve loved interacting with many of you on Facebook, Bloglovin’ and through text. I guess I’m not the only one feeling the sadness of back to school, and I’ve also learned that many of my friends have been doing the happy dance now that they have a few minutes of peace and quiet each day!

Now it’s time to move onto something a little more light-hearted: home decorating.

I’ve mentioned a number of times here on my blog that I’ve really grown to love changing out my decor for the seasons. But the “back to school” time of year that we are in right now is the one “season” that has perplexed me in my decorating.

Let me explain.

I really look forward to rearranging my mantel and other decorations to match the mood at Christmas, spring and fall. It makes me feel like it helps me to savor the season. Around the end of May, I usually transition into summer mode by adding American flags and baseballs to my decorating.

I often forget to take photos, but here are a few shots of my July decor from last year:

Once July has passed and Independence Day is a memory, I can’t wait to move on. However, it’s too early to start decorating for fall. I want to hold onto the end-of-summer season just a bit longer.

This year, I was determined to decorate for August and September in some way, but couldn’t really every come up with a decorating theme. I can’t even express my level of happiness a few weeks ago when I found this sunflower wreath, which is exactly what I had in mind.

My decor is full of browns, greens and purples, so I was looking for something that wasn’t too bright. I also love how the texture and bow match the rustic feel that I’ve been trying to achieve with my decorating.

About a year and a half ago, I transferred some of the photos I’ve taken onto pieces of wood. I covered the photos in mod podge to create an effect that looks like a painting. For a while, I had a whole wall covered in photos, but then I had the idea for my husband to build these shelves to go over our coffee bar. I love that I can pull out one or two of my photos to match my current decorating mood.

This was the perfect time to use this sunflower photo, which is one of my favorites.

I still don’t have a lot of decor for this time of year. But I switched out my spring birdhouses for this globe and traded the spring flowers for a bouquet of prairie grass which I picked last year from behind our house.

You also know that I love changing the sayings on my chalkboards to match the seasons. I thought this was a good reminder for my kids as they go back to school.

Now, I can breathe a big sigh of relieve that my transitional end-of-summer, not-quite-fall decorating is done. 🙂

It’s the little things in life that make me happy!

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What about you? Do you enjoy decorating for the seasons? Do you change out your decor half as often as I do?

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In this season…

In this season…

The past few days, our backyard has been a flood. It rained nonstop from Saturday morning through Sunday night. The rain came down in sheets at times. I laid in bed the past few nights, listening to the sump pump as it worked constantly to keep water out of our basement.

It felt like the rain would never end.

The rain reminded me of the current season of my life. We all go through stretches of time that seem dark and dreary. We pray for the rain to stop and the sun to shine. We ask for a break from overcast skies and pouring rain.

This past week felt like that. I had my follow-up endoscopy on Monday. I came out of the procedure groggy with only a slight memory of the conversation with my doctor afterward. I know he said that one of the physical symptoms I’ve been experiencing this past year has grown worse. One of the symptoms of celiac disease is acid reflux. Mine is relatively severe. It has caused my esophagus to be quite inflamed and swollen and has grown worse since last June. I’ve also developed an ulcer in my stomach from the excessive acid.

I know tons of people deal with ulcers and acid reflux, and in the whole scheme of things, this isn’t that big of a deal. I guess it felt like a big deal to me because I was really hoping that after 10 months of prayer and four months on a very extreme “healing diet,” my symptoms would be getting better, not worse. (The rest of my tests are being sent to a specialist to review, so I don’t have any other results.)

On Thursday, I was getting ready to leave town for the weekend to go to a women’s retreat with my church. I was overwhelmed by the idea that I was going away for the weekend for a rare opportunity to get away from my everyday duties of cooking and cleaning for my family of six. But instead of getting to enjoy a weekend of having someone else cook for me, I needed to plan out my meals and figure out what kind of food I could take along in a cooler to get through the weekend.

I will admit that I spent more than an hour hiding under a blanket, just feeling like I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t know if it would be worth all of the effort.

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By the end of the weekend, I realized God had planned a message just for me.

It was about seasons.

The seasons of life.

Some of our seasons are sunny and bright. Others are dark and rainy. Some are full of hope and promise. Thankfully, He can use them all. I came away from this weekend, knowing that God has a plan and purpose for this season of my life. It made me thankful that this has been a hard season if it gives me an opportunity to help someone else or have a better understanding of what other people are facing in life.

I also had an opportunity to be grateful for all of the beauty of my current season. I have a wonderful husband and family. Our kids are such amazing gifts to us. I love our home and community. I’m thankful for friends, extended family and an incredible church family. I get to do things I love everyday.

I also realized that the hard things I’m experiencing right now are part of a season. It’s not forever.

I spend a lot of time focusing on food and planning for my next meal. It’s a necessity for me right now. But I don’t want it to be the only thing I think about. Yes, some of the changes I’ve had to make need to be permanent. But I have more hope and confidence now that I’m moving forward. I’m going to get to a place of more energy and improved health. It might not be happening as quickly as I want it to, but I feel confident that those days are coming.

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I’m so thankful to everyone who has been so encouraging to me the past few weeks. During the retreat, it was a huge blessing to have other women sit and cry with me as we talked about our seasons…. and chocolate chip cookies… and pizza. I also wanted to say, “thank you” to everyone who left a comment on my last blog post or on Facebook. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness in all of your words.

A few months ago, I started writing my story of the past year. I’ve shared bits and pieces of it here, and sometimes I feel like it’s all I talk about. I’ve been reluctant to hit the “publish” button because I don’t want to be too vulnerable or come across as overly dramatic. I think it will be good for me to put it out there, even if it’s just a reminder for me when I want to look back at this season of my life. I’m going to do that tomorrow, so if you are interested, I hope you will come back. 

The sun came out for a while this morning, and I was able to walk my daughter to school. It was refreshing to have a break from the rain and see all of the signs of spring as we walked our familiar path. We dodged puddles and soaking wet grass. Everything looked so much greener than it did just a few days ago. It was a great reminder that the dark rainy days are usually followed by some of the most beautiful seasons.

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Thanks for reading! I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave me a comment or put your e-mail address in the box to the right to get future posts in your e-mail inbox.

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“Would you rather…”

“Would you rather…”

“Would you rather live in place where it’s always warm or in a place with seasons?”

When our family is on vacation, we often ask each other “dinner table questions” while we’re eating. Sometimes I bring along a box of questions. Other times we make them up. We spent the past week in Florida for spring break, and this was the question that kept circulating around our family.

I asked my husband. Then, he asked our daughter. She asked her sister. And she asked her brother. Around the family, the question seemed to revolve throughout the week.

Considering we all love warm weather, and we all love to be active outdoors, it seems that the answer to this question would be obvious. Surprisingly, each of us had to think about it before answering.

The warm weather would be nice. Wouldn’t it be great to go out in the evenings in shorts and t-shirts?

Inevitably, the conversation would continue…

But it would get so hot in summer. And wouldn’t we miss drinking hot cocoa on a snowy day? What about wrapping up in a blanket to read a book and drink tea during a spring rain? And the fall colors? Could we really live without those? Would we appreciate summer half as much if it was always summer? 

Hmmm…. this question is harder than I thought!

Interestingly, each time my husband or one of my children would start leaning toward the warmer climate, my heart would get heavy. What have we done? Should we have tried harder to move south years ago? Have I RUINED everyone’s LIFE?!? Would we be better people if we didn’t have to deal with cold and snow?

As the week progressed, I started to notice something.

We were really blessed to be staying at a nice resort with easy access to pools and beaches. We could go outside 24/7. And yet, we all had different views on how much time to spend outside. I was the only one to get up early to head to the beach for the morning sunrise. Our youngest daughter and I typically put in a few hours at the pool before the older kids woke up. Our oldest daughter really wanted to take advantage of the sand volleyball court while some of us thought the sand was too hot. The boys enjoyed doing research on their hobbies, and didn’t always want to spend hours floating in the pool. Some of us opted to eat our meals in the A/C, rather than out on the deck.

Just because it was warm and sunny the entire week, it didn’t mean we always wanted to take advantage of it. We often needed a break from swimming or laying in the sun or getting sand all over our feet.

Believe it or not, we were all actually happy to return to our northern climate… not because we love 40 degrees, overcast and rainy. But just because we enjoy pursuing our interests and hanging out with our friends and lounging around our own living room.

Would we be happier in a warmer climate? Maybe. But happiness isn’t about the weather. We spent a week living in a resort with pools and beaches, but that didn’t mean we were automatically happy. We had to choose to take advantage of what was right in front of us. Back here, we have to choose to enjoy the seasons. Choose to make the most of what we have.

Yes, we can choose to do things to make our lives better, maybe even happier. But we also can choose to be happy, no matter what our situation.

So maybe we should have changed the question. Whether you live somewhere that’s always warm or you love the seasons,  how about, “What can you do to choose happiness right where you are?”

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working on hand lettering

working on hand lettering

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, then you know I have a thing for chalkboards. I love writing new words and phrases on my chalkboards to decorate for the seasons. But I often would “cheat” on my handwriting by cutting out a stencil using my Silhouette and using that to create pretty letters.

Well, recently, I stumbled upon a blog that gave some great tips for improving your handwriting on a chalkboard. I’ve always loved to try to mimic different fonts in my handwriting, so I decided it was about time that I paid attention to an expert’s advice. Here are a couple of tips that I learned for becoming a better chalkboard artist.

  1. Sharpen your chalk.

Ugh. I didn’t think I would be able to do it. My worst nightmare is the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. I couldn’t imagine sticking a piece of chalk in a pencil sharpener. I was so scared to do it. Guess what? It was absolutely not a big deal. It didn’t bother me one bit.

2. Write an outline of your word in your regular handwriting.

I had to do this a few times to get the word to fit the space in which I wanted it to go. That’s the great thing about chalk. Just wipe it off and start over until you like it.

3. Thicken your lines, only on the downstrokes.

4. Then, color in the lines. This gives your writing more of a “faux calligraphy” look.

5. I added the rest of the words in lower case block letters and did the same thing: Thicken the downstrokes and color it in. I also added some serifs to the words. It’s not perfect by any means, but I’m making progress!

I tried the same technique on another chalkboard, but I ran into trouble because my chalkboard paint is starting to peel off. To get around that problem, I dipped my chalk in water before writing with it. My lettering still needs a lot of work on this one, but I did like the effect the wet chalk gave to my writing.

It was much more difficult to get all of my letters uniform in size on this one. But, oh well! It’s a chalkboard, right?!

You might remember a few years ago that I decorated for Valentine’s Day for the first time ever. That was actually the first time I really decorated for any holiday other than Christmas! So, here are a few shots of the rest of my Valentine’s Day decor. It’s not up for long, but it makes me feel like spring is on the way!

I wrapped these oversized letters in yarn a few years ago. I love them with the milk glass dishes that my grandmother gave me.

I’m still crazy about this six panel window frame that I bought last year. I need a Valentine’s wreath to go on it, but I can’t find one that I like. (You might know how I feel about red!)

I did allow this tiny bit of red in the house. Plus, it was fun for my daughter to hang the hearts on our branches.

The snow globe is one little hold over from Christmas. And yes, the truck is red. I skipped completely over my winter decorating from last year.

And finally, this “love never fails” sign was my first ever painting project using my Silhouette! I’m ready to update this sign now that I know a little more about what I’m doing with the Silhouette and painting projects!

I’m going to keep working on my hand lettering skills so you will probably read more about that in the future. I actually found a 31-day challenge to improve my hand lettering that I’m planning to try. Let me know if you want to do it with me!

So, what about you? Does anyone else love chalkboards like I do?

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Soaking in October

Soaking in October

On Sunday afternoon, our 6-year-old and I were walking along the trail behind our house. She had her little arm wrapped tightly around my waist. I held her close with my left arm around her neck.

“Mom, this is the best weekend ever,” she sighed.

It wasn’t the fall festival we had attended the night before. Or the trip to the party store to buy her Halloween costume.

Nope. The title of Best Weekend Ever had been achieved when I stopped to pick up a bright red leaf on our path. “Look how perfect and beautiful it is,” I told her.

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She found one a few feet ahead. We kept collecting as we made our way to the park. Three more reds. Then an orange. “I hope we can find some yellow ones,” I said.

She planned how we would press them all inside a book. We would need different pages for each color. One for red. Another for yellow. One for orange. And we would need a whole section for dark purple. We walked slowly, making sure we didn’t step on any leaves that we could add to our collection. The sun was shining brightly, warming up the crisp fall air.

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Earlier that day, the two of us had sat on the front lawn carving pumpkins. She was finally old enough to create her own design and handle a real knife with only a bit of assistance. I fought the urge to help. To make the carving go a little faster.

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I felt like the house was literally screaming at me with its piles of dirty laundry and counters covered in dishes. Messy rooms and dirty floors tried to convince me to come inside. Thankfully, I ignored all of their jeers as we separated pumpkin seeds, washed them and set them in the sun to dry.

Earlier in the weekend, I had convinced a few of my older kids and some of their friends to join us in making caramel apples. At first, I had decided just to provide a snack of homemade caramel sauce and some apples when they got home from school.

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But then I realized I couldn’t even remember the last time we had made real caramel apples. I knew we had done this when they were little. But no one — including me — could remember unwrapping the caramels and cooking them over the stove to cover our apples. I couldn’t remember ever melting chocolate or buying mini chocolate chips and toffee bars to use as toppings.

“Why not?” I asked myself. Why do I want to hurry through this? Sometimes it seems like they are too old to start a new tradition. But these are the days they will actually remember.

I’ve reached the point in my parenting journey that I’ve realized these opportunities are numbered. We only have two more Columbus Days with all of our kids living at home to take a trip to the corn maze. We only have three more Christmases before our oldest son goes off to college.

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I know I don’t have that many more Octobers until our youngest daughter won’t want to sit on the front lawn and carve pumpkins with me. How many more autumns will she see the joy in analyzing leaves for our collection?

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With our three oldest kids, it can be a struggle to get them to participate in these seasonal rituals. I consider myself blessed that I still have one little one who wants to jump in leaves or build a sand castle.

Other times, I simply require it. “We’re going to have some Forced Family Fun,” I warn the older kids before we head off to the zoo or a family hike or the pumpkin patch. Even if it’s not their top choice of what to do, these adventures often result in hilarious memories together.

Sometimes I wish I could extend the time or put it in a bottle so I could pop it open and experience it again later. Instead, I’m learning to soak it up. We live in an area where we get the joy of changing seasons. So, why not?

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Buy the real caramels. Drink apple cider. Walk slowly. Pick up leaves. Clean off the pumpkin seeds.

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How about you? Do you have any October traditions? Have your kids outgrown any of the activities you used to love to do? How do you convince your older kids to take part in family traditions?

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