A Simple Christmas Gift

I have a confession: I didn’t know what Black Friday was until I dated my husband. Growing up in the boonies, there was no such thing as Black Friday. Prices were the same the day after Thanksgiving as they were the rest of the year. There was no online shopping back then, so Black Friday was unknown to me. Some of you avid Black Friday shoppers are probably shocked, but that’s the truth. However, this Black Friday, I was going to be brave and stopped at Target to find a bargain or two. I walked in, assessed the crowd, took a deep breath, grabbed a cart and started browsing the $1 and $3 section. Only to put my cart back and walk out the door five minutes later! It was too much. Couldn’t handle the bustle. Oh well… I tried.

Christmas is really about Jesus, and spending time with family and making memories anyway, right? I’d rather be able to do more of that and less time browsing crowded stores trying to find the “perfect” gift. 

After the Target fiasco, I decided to make gifts. Something simple. Perfectly imperfect maybe. I really enjoy simple, homemade Christmas gifts. Even the dish cloth Grandma crocheted can be appreciated. It’s the time and effort someone puts into crafting something special that counts. And if it’s either useful or beautiful, that’s an added bonus! 🙂 

A couple summers ago, I came across an ad on Craigslist for free wood. Someone was tearing down their old barn. And wouldn’t you know, it wasn’t far away! I excitedly drove my car over and loaded as much beautifully weathered Ohio barn wood as I could into the back of old Betsie. I didn’t necessarily know what all the wood would be used for, but I knew there were projects in the future where it would come in handy.

Like today. My simple Christmas gift. Totally doable on a cold, snowy day.IMG_0627I found a couple boards of varying width and used my saw to make them the size I wanted. Using gorilla wood glue, I made the cross and put a bunch of library books as weights to hold them while they dried for a couple hours. Then I looped jute string around the center, with just a little bit of hot glue on the back to hold it in place.

Christmas is about Jesus humbling Himself, coming to this earth as a baby in a manger (can you imagine?), and thirty-three years later, dying on a cross to redeem fallen mankind. What better way to remember what He did for me?

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“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.” (The Old Rugged Cross, by George Bennard)

Mudroom Makeover

On a farm, a mudroom is essential. It’s where you take off your muddy boots and hang up your coat after you’ve done the chores. Honestly, most of the muddy things get left in the garage at our house, but the mudroom is the next place you step into. And when you’re not muddy, it’s nice to have a place to hang your coat and leave your shoes.

The mudroom walls started out off-white, just like the rest of the house. And when the painter asked me if I would like it painted, I said, “nah”, with a wave of my arm. (Silly me.) I thought it would give some dimension. Instead it looked like we forgot to paint the mudroom.

IMG_9883Years ago, I picked up this cute little bench at a garage sale for $10. It had caught my eye (since it was green and had cute hearts on the sides), but I decided after bringing it home that I wanted it blue. It fits perfectly in the space between the garage door and laundry room door and serves as a space for my husband’s shoes (which, quite honestly, are too big to fit in the closet neatly)! 🙂
IMG_9882 Several months after we moved in, I couldn’t take the “unfinished” look anymore and decided to paint the mudroom.
IMG_9881This was one of those afternoon projects that I’d been procrastinating starting. Once I saw the color on the wall, it was so gratifying to just get it done! (So just start!) 🙂

IMG_9887IMG_9886After the walls were done (in Olympic “Royal Palm”), my blue bench no longer worked. It clashed like maroon damask and aqua polka dots. So I painted it white. (Spray paint with a satin finish.) Ah… much better! And I just love this sign that I picked up at Hobby Lobby-  it covers the alarm box perfectly.DSC_5281

May I introduce you to Greta? She’s my black angus cow. My brother-in-law is a welder and made her.
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Here’s the wall before Greta.

DSC_3277Here’s the wall after Greta. I love looking over there and seeing her when I’m in the kitchen. She’s a happy cow.DSC_5283

Just a few hours of work, and our mudroom is stylish and welcoming. IMG_9881DSC_4714IMG_9883DSC_5267

Coffee Table Spruce Up

My husband and I started out with very little, like most newlyweds. We had our clothes, cars from high school, and each other! We were so blessed to end up with my aunt and uncle’s old dining table and chairs and hutch (of which you’ve already heard the story). They also gave us these 2 coffee tables. Here they are in our first little apartment. All those doo-dads on the table are most of the home decor items we received for shower/wedding gifts. 🙂 (The couch and chair were also given to us by generous friends…more on that later.)

random 024After graduation from college, we moved to my husband’s home state of Florida. At that point, I figured the table needed a little makeover. On a warm summer day, I hauled the table out by the pool in the hot sun and slathered on a layer of gray primer first, then painted it glossy black. (I really had no idea what I was doing back then, but you learn as you go, right?) 🙂 It dried- very quickly- complete with bubbles from the sun. But it was usable. And we did use it… for another five years or so. 100_5581Then one day, I ran across this. It kinda looked like our table and I liked it.

First, I measured the top of the table and figured out that I needed 4 4×6’s cut to 52 inches. The guy at Lowes quickly made the cuts for me.

Next, using a rag, I applied one coat of Zar stain. I love the dark, rich color!DSC_4411DSC_4413 DSC_4412Lastly, I put the boards on the tabletop, planning to glue them down later. (Still haven’t glued them…) But it looks great! And it’s easy to dust underneath. 🙂 (For some reason, the wood looks a little reddish in these pictures, but it’s darker in real life.)

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A Little Bit of History

The last couple times I’ve visited my childhood home, I”ve been fascinated by all the treasures there. Growing up surrounded by history, I never even realized that so much of the “junk” in the barn, the shop, the garage were treasures! Now, my sister and I go “treasure hunting” whenever we visit. During one trip, I discovered boxes of old books, letters, and ticket stubs in the barn. My parents were high school sweethearts and my dad was a bit of a sentimental packrat and saved every scrap of paper with a memory attached. I collected many of these artifacts that are now a precious part of my heritage (since my dad went to Heaven eight years ago) and brought them home with me. So, thanks to him, I have a bit of history tucked away for safe keeping.

I suppose there are many different ways to display paper treasures, but I thought it would be fun to try my hand at mod podge.

We had one of those flimsy particle board side tables you can buy at Wal Mart for $10 in our music room. It lived with a round white tablecloth over it that had seen better days, thanks to Milo, the playful cat.IMG_8927DSC_4800The flimsy table was a good candidate for my first mod podge project. If I messed it up, oh well. So I hauled it to the garage and gave it a coat of antique white paint. After it dried, I rubbed on a little Zar stain with a rag.

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Instead of using the original letters, I made copies. Also, some were written on blue or pink paper and I wanted all black and white. I also made copies of some of my favorite sheet music. Using brewed coffee and a sponge brush, I brushed each copy with coffee, then baked it in the oven at 170 for a few minutes to dry. This gave each piece a vintage look. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of this process.

Next, on a cookie sheet, I mixed the mod podge with a little water (enough to be able to soak it up with the sponge brush) and began painting each piece. Mod podge is incredibly sticky and when it dries, you end up with a film on your hands. But it is really cool stuff! After I had arranged and placed each piece down on the tabletop, I painted the corners with more mod podge and smoothed them down with the sponge brush. Some of the papers were hanging off the edge, so I trimmed those flush with the edge of the table.

This is the table when it was still wet. You can see how it lightened when it dried.

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If you have an old table (or dresser or trunk or whatever!) that needs to go from drab to fab, this is a fun way to add a little character to the piece.DSC_5030DSC_5029

Burlap Lampshade

There is a little consignment shop in Loveland that I like to visit from time to time. They are very reasonably priced and occasionally you can score a great find. I got these hotel lamps there for $4 each! She probably had a dozen of them. I picked up two, then went back the next day and got 2 more. They were gold and that color green that makes my toes curl a little. Very Marriot-ish, if you know what I mean.

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Although the bases looked a million times better after I spray painted them white, the shades turned out terribly. Especially when the lamp was on, you could see the wrinkly fabric and uneven lines where I had wrapped it around the shade (without properly measuring…). I’ve never been proud of them. That’s why when I came across thisit was obvious what needed to be done.IMG_8128

So I tore off the green and burlap and got busy cutting out circles. Lots and lots and lots of circles. I would admit that this has been one of my more time-consuming, tedious projects of late. But it was worth it.
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I used this ribbon spool as a general size-guide for cutting out the first circle. DSC_4964DSC_4966To find the center of the circle, I bent it in half, then in half again to make a kind of flower. Then I just put a drop of hot glue on the center of the bottom. I tried to space them about an inch apart or so.

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I began with a line down to the bottom, then came back and started going round and round. DSC_4968DSC_4971

Until…DSC_5021DSC_5019DSC_5011Much improved, don’t you think? 🙂IMG_6072

Easy Chalkboard Wall

This was an easy couple-hour project that has been fun for both my husband and I, as well as the kids. We’ve enjoyed doodling and leaving each other silly or sweet notes.

My sister has also been wanting to do a small framed chalkboard on her kitchen pantry, so I challenged her to see who could complete their chalkboard first. I won. My sister said that I can help her paint hers next time I come to visit. 😉

Our chalkboard wall is just at the top of the stairs in the playroom where it is handy to scribble something as you walk by. Or you can sit and stay awhile. DSC_4936 I taped off the ceiling and along the baseboard (such an easy way to cut in, I’ve found… even though the “experts” say you should never tape to cut in!) Well, it works for me.

The wall only took one coat with touch-ups in areas where the paint was sparse. *Update: I’m going to add 2 more coats. The main reason is to be able to erase easier. As it is now, I have to use a wet rag to erase adequately. DSC_4938Doodles!

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I found this fun little box at Tuesday Morning and thought it was perfect for holding chalk and an eraser. I might mount it on the wall…

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Afternoon Hallway Facelift

It’s been long in coming. Every time I walked through the hall into our bedroom, I thought to myself, “Gotta paint this.” It just didn’t “flow” and felt choppy going from aqua to gray with the off-white sandwiched in the middle.

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Well, Monday, I did paint it. I had a quart size of Olympic “Sea Sprite” left over from the kitchen and office, and it was just the right amount. No fuss no muss. It took about 2 hours. (Cutting in took the longest… my least favorite part.)

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Do you like my step stool? I was being lazy and didn’t want to go out to the chicken house in the cold to haul in the dirty ladder, so I made do. It worked just fine. DSC_4832 DSC_4833I don’t know about you, but I’m a little bit of a messy painter. Paint usually ends up all over my hands and at least a smudge or two on my clothes. It’s always a good idea to wear frumpy work clothes. This time, I also wore an apron like my grandma when she cooks. 🙂

I used a wet paper towel to wipe around the doorframe where a little excess paint collected.
DSC_4828Wow! I do love the finished look! It’s amazing what a coat of paint will do!

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