Thursday, November 6, 2014

A painful lesson I learned about money

Has it really been so long since I've posted?  Life has been SO busy.  I hope that perhaps I'll be back sometime to write about more of it.  But for now, I just want to tell you a little story.  Most of all, I want to tell it to myself so I'll remember.

I already posted about how my father died after his long illness last December.  We were all heartbroken--and naturally Christmas felt achingly empty without him, especially since it came so soon after we lost him.  Nevertheless, we gathered in my mom's living room on Christmas Eve.  There was no Christmas tree except for the twelve-inch one we had bought and decorated in Daddy's hospital room just two days before he died.  I'm not sure if he ever saw it, but it now presided over our Christmas, standing on a table as if it wanted to be acknowledged.  There were few gifts for the adults, and the children's large gifts were not wrapped, but they didn't mind and we did the best we could to honor the holiday somewhat properly.  If nothing else, we were glad to be together.

My dad had never been the type to make handmade gifts, even though he was artistically talented and could have made some wonderful things.  He rarely picked out gifts for us at all.  He usually just gave us money, and this year he had of course been sick, too.  So, less than two weeks after we said our goodbyes in that dark little hospital room, we sat in my mom's living room opening a little box that contained a beautiful ornament my mother had bought, and the very last Christmas gift we would ever receive from my Daddy.  He had been in the habit of putting money into a special Christmas account, and by checking how much was in the account, Mama knew about how much he had intended to give each of us.  It was what most people would consider a lot of money.  It certainly felt like a lot of money, as I held it and wished I had something he had doodled on the back of a napkin just for me.  But we got money.  And as I sat there thinking how large and generous a gift it was, a nauseating thought occurred to me.

In the stress of his illness, in our grief, and because we were strapped for time and energy, we had run up our credit card balance.  We never carry a balance on our credit card, only charging what we know we can pay off right away.  But this particular year I'd had to buy more gifts than usual because, though I had tried, I just didn't have the creative energy to make gifts.  I had spent a lot of time at the hospital.  We'd stopped for fast food a lot, and I had shopped just because I felt bad.  I thought maybe if we bought the kids a few extra gifts, things they would really love, at least they might not be miserable at Christmas.  By December 24th, we had a credit card balance large enough to negate Daddy's last Christmas gift.  It hurt.  When you receive that kind of a gift, you want to use it to do something permanent, or at least something good.  Something that the person who gave you the money might have wanted you to do.  It hurt my heart to think that we would be using that money to pay off junk toys, a half dozen fast food meals, and a bunch of other stuff I can't even remember--most of which we could have said NO to.  Growing up, I always watched my parents wait at length on non-essential purchases, saving up and shopping carefully.  I remember exactly how my dad looked, sitting at the dining room table, working contentedly in his old plaid-covered checkbook, using a pen to balance it.  My parents always set a financially responsible example.  That made me feel even worse.

Christmas finally ended and we struggled to fit 20 times more toys than any child needs into our relatively small home.  Despite all we had spent and all we had been given, I was deeply unhappy.  On December 29, I stumbled upon a blog post entitled 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero.  31 days straight of zero non-essential spending?  It sounded, at once, both suffocating and liberating.  After reading the blogger's personal story, I was touched and intrigued.  After discussing it, Jordan and I decided to begin the spending freeze that very day.  It was evening already, but we reasoned that since we had not spent anything all day, it could count as day one.  It was one of the best months of my life.  It helped us get back in control of more than just finances, and gave us something to be happy about.  I'm so thankful that Ruth has put this gift out there for anyone who needs it to pull themselves back up.

This sad story has a happy ending.  We cut our spending off cold turkey, paid off the credit card, and had a little money to save, too.  Then, once the 31-day freeze was over, we continued limiting our spending.  We finally knew for sure that it truly didn't make us happy; quite the opposite, actually.  Instead of buying more stuff, we started selling things we didn't need!  We continued putting money into savings, and finally decided to find a new piece of furniture to replace the tiny, scratched-up yard sale table that was the first thing anyone saw upon entering our front door.  We wanted something with storage, yet beautiful and with character, too, and we didn't want to spend too much.  Just as spring was beginning to creep in, we visited a local antique mall and found the perfect piece, on sale--a buffet with two cabinets and three drawers.  We were told it was made in the 1940's.  So was my dad.  Every time I walk by it, I am reminded of the redemption that hard work and a little determination can bring.  I am also reminded of my dad and the way he probably would have jokingly called it a "fiiine piece of furnityure."

Harry Potter likes it too.

It's been too long since that first cleansing spending freeze, and we have found ourselves backsliding a little, so now we are doing another one.  Last time, thanks to Christmas and a few other factors, we were able to put money into savings and meet several financial goals.  This time will be different.  We have a dental check-up next month for all three kids.  I'm just praying there are no cavities this time.  We didn't have a car payment last time we did the freeze, but we do now because our dear old Betty broke down and we had to buy a new (to us) van before we wanted to.  Yes, we have some expenses coming up that can't be helped.  But even if we don't put a single dime into savings during this spending freeze--even if all we do is just barely stay in the black, keep our credit card balance at zero, and leave our emergency savings untouched--it will be totally worth it.  It will be so much better than letting things spiral because why bother, we won't get ahead anyway.  Someday soon, a gift or a Godbreeze will come, and we will be ready to receive it.  That's what I've learned.  That's what I'm reminded of when I look at our buffet.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How to make dryer balls out of wool sweaters


Have you heard of dryer balls?  They are wool balls, generally made of yarn or wool roving, that you throw in the dryer with your wet clothes.  They can be used instead of dryer sheets, reducing static cling.  But more importantly, they SAVE ENERGY by absorbing some of the moisture in your clothes as they dry!  Our power bill has been annoyingly high, especially during the cold part of this winter.  I've been wanting to lower it, and I've also wondered for a long time if I could make dryer balls out of old sweaters.  Sweaters are one of my favorite craft materials!

One day some time ago, I came across a pin on Pinterest showing how a lady had done this.  I repinned, but when I finally got ready to click through to her tutorial, the entire blog refused to come up!  Maybe it'll be back someday?  Anyway, I was inspired by a photo from An Owl's Nest.  Here's how I made some dryer balls out of old wool sweaters, and used up a bunch of scraps!

1)  Round up: 

--Your scrappiest wool or cashmere scraps (mine were left over after I made a Valentine wreath*)
--A thick wool sweater or two--some holes are fine, doesn't matter if it's crappy-looking
--A nicer-looking wool sweater with some decent non-holey sections for the outside of the ball
--Embroidery floss in complimentary colors
--A needle and scissors, of course  :-)

My tiniest scraps, excited to fulfill their destiny

Your sweaters should preferably be clean already, because you don't HAVE to wash and felt these after they are made.  I've done both.  It's optional.  Also, for this project I would not compromise on sweater content.  I used some cashmere for the scrappy core, and the rest 100% wool.  I would recommend avoiding any percentage of polyester, nylon, acrylic, etc., just to be sure they work properly.

2)  Go ahead and thread your needle so it's ready when you need it!  Cut your crappy-looking, possibly holey sweater into long strips.  Grab a handful of your scrappy-scraps and squish them into a ball, then begin tightly rolling as shown.  Keep adding strips until your ball is the size you want.  Mine ended up about softball-sized.  Bigger balls are easier to find when mixed in with clothes in the dryer.




3)  Once your ball is a good size, sew the end of the last strip tightly to the ball with embroidery floss.

  
But WAIT!  Before you go on to the next step, there's another option you could choose.  If you have a little wool roving and would like a more traditional dryer ball, you could apply your roving to the ball you already have.  Just pop over to Crunchy Betty's felted wool dryer ball tutorial and pick up at step 2.  It's a genius way to save on expensive roving while getting a dryer ball that looks about the same!  But if you'd like to continue with sweaters only, go on to step 4.

4)  Now you are going to sew a snug-fitting tube to serve as a case for the ball you just wound up.  So, pull a piece of your nicer-looking wool sweater around the ball to measure where you need to sew, and sew right sides together with your embroidery floss.  Be sure to make the tube an inch or two longer than it needs to be to fit around the ball, because we will be turning the edges under in the next step.

Mine happened to be a sleeve that was a bit large.

When you cut the excess off, be sure to leave enough that it doesn't unravel!  Then throw that cut off piece into the scrap pile for your next ball!

Turn it right side out and try it on your ball to see if it fits.  It should be tight.


5)  Now that you have a well-fitting sleeve, grab one end and turn the edge down to the inside.  We are going to sew a few big stitches around that edge to gather it up.




6)  Pull it tight!  Once you get the first knot tied, tie a couple more to be sure it doesn't come undone.  Then you can snip the thread off.



7)  Repeat steps 5-6 on the other end.




8)  Explain to your ball-loving son that the ball is for the clothes dryer, not for him (if applicable).  He took off with a couple of my first ones and crammed them into his sister's hot pink Barbie convertible.  I'll make him some balls later.  I have plenty of material!



9)  Try them out!  If you'd like the outside sweater to felt up a bit, you could wash it on hot and dry it a time or two.  It might turn out even nicer if you tied it up in pantyhose first (not sure, because I didn't try that).  You don't have to wash it, though.  I was just as happy with the ones I threw straight into the dryer and began using immediately.

These I washed and dried.  They are a little linty.


I haven't been using these long, but I have been able to significantly dial down the time my dryer runs.  I even washed the kids' sheets today, which normally take extra dryer time, and they dried fast!  I think there is also less static, but I'll need more time to say for sure.  Sweater balls are a bit lumpier than traditional dryer balls and not quite as pretty, but since they spend most of their time in my dryer, it doesn't really matter.  Also, if they ever start to come undone, they'll be super easy and cheap to fix!  I'm pretty happy with how this little project turned out.  Can't wait to see our next power bill.


 *Here's the Valentine wreath.  Made it with a coat hanger.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

My dad, 1943-2013

Ivey and her Grandpa, October 2010.  Happy days that we thought would last longer.


It's a painful thing to write and impossible to put into words, and that's why I haven't yet.  But on December 11, 2013, after a long hospital stay and a much longer bout with Wegener's Granulomatosis, my dad died.  He was surrounded by his family, under a piece of the Wardlaw tartan he loved so much.  I'm glad I got to be there with him during his last moments on Earth, because I think he knows we were there.  Not everyone gets to have that.  But it was still the most painful few hours of my life, and I know I'm not alone in that.

We all went in one by one to tell him goodbye.  I don't know if he could hear me.  He never got to tell us goodbye; when he last talked to us, none of us had any idea it would be the last time.  I wonder what he would have said.  Nurses cried with us.  Hospital staff thoughtfully brought in sandwiches and drinks and a prayer shawl for my mom.  A music therapist came and played hymns on the keyboard, and the hospital chaplain and the minister from our church came.  He died around 6:45 in the evening.  We had to leave and make the strange, lonely drive home without him.

I never knew before that a house could be sad, but my parents' house was.  The walls just ached with emptiness.  The home our family had shared for decades, that my dad had cared for so meticulously, mourned with us.  We brought home the tiny 12-inch tree Jordan and I had decorated in his hospital room one day before.  One day before.  How quickly things can come crashing down.  It was the only Christmas tree in the house this year.

Upon arriving at the church for the funeral in the steady cold rain, I thought I was fine.  I had managed to not melt down at visitation the night before.  But then I opened the door to the church and heard the bagpiper.  The one thing my dad really wanted at his minimalist graveside-only service was a single bagpiper to play Amazing Grace.  We had tried to get a whole band, but because it was Christmastime, hardly anyone was available on such short notice.  So he got his way.  Every time I'd heard bagpipes in recent years, mostly at various Highland Games events, Daddy had been there.  In fact, I'd been there because of him and his enthusiasm for our Scottish heritage.  This time, he wasn't.  I looked across the churchyard where the funeral tents over his grave site sheltered his casket from the rain.  The beautiful, sad bagpipes were there to mark our farewell.  I loved the music, but it hurt.

My brothers and I wrote down some memories of our dad and asked a good friend from church to read them at the funeral.  Lots of people couldn't hear what was being read because the rain was pounding on the tent for the whole service.  The rain was inconvenient and messy, but also kind of perfect.  I told my family over a month ago that I would post what we wrote on my blog for people to read.  I've been meaning to do it, but knew that writing this post would take me back to that dark little hospital room.  It's a place I've been trying to stay out of mentally for the past few weeks, as we process things and find a new normal and try to walk our children through their grief as well.  But I feel a little better now that this is written.  Here is what we all wrote to be read at Daddy's funeral.


__________________________________________________



Music has always been one of the things I have enjoyed.  I remember dad spending time with me as a child and playing Highlights of the Messiah and Bach Organ Fugues on the old RCA record player.  He told me he enjoyed these when he took music appreciation and had to go to the Virgil Fox organ concert at Littlejohn Coliseum when he was a student at Clemson.  I think he enjoyed listening to me play the piano and sing even through all the mistakes when one practices.  He always encouraged me to practice.
I also remember the numerous times he would take me to road races when I was in high school and college.  He taught me it was more about the effort one puts into things than winning.  This could never be seen more than when he took me to the NCAA regional cross country championship meet and was waiting on me as I was the very last runner to cross the finish line.  He shared that he was still very proud of me because I didn’t quit.

Although I enjoyed school, I never was one that exactly learned in the same way as others.  Dad always encouraged me even through college when I changed majors at least four times.  He never let me give up on myself even though there always seemed to being a great deal of obstacles in my way.  He expressed to me that he was so proud to see the effort I had put forth through trying circumstances much more so than the fact that I earned my doctorate.

Dad encouraged me greatly in my spiritual life.  He thought it was very important that I used my musical ability in church.  He always taught us that we should use the gifts God gave us to serve Him.  There were countless Sunday nights that he would wait on me because I sang in choir.

Later in his life, Dad became very interested in family genealogy and all things Scottish.  As a family, we regularly attended the Highland games each year.  Dad enjoyed having all of us there, dressed in our tartans and participating in all the festivities.  He allowed me to represent our clan at the Kirking of the Tartans and allowing me to march our tartan flag in the parade of clans after the service.

~Brad~



My father, above all, was a great family man.  He particularly loved playing with us when we were young children, and it was wonderful watching his immense enjoyment of being with his grandchildren.
Although he was a man of many interests, there were certain things he shared with each of us individually.  Growing up, we spent lots of time fishing, arrowhead hunting, rock-hounding, and enjoying the outdoors.  I especially enjoyed those times.

My dad was not an extremely social person, but the people who were close to him know that he had a fantastic sense of humor.  His impressions of people, usually family, were priceless and hilarious.  If he took the time to make fun of you, you knew you were special to him. 

Later in life, he and I shared a love of music and art.  We also both celebrated our family heritage, and relished going to Scottish Highland Games together with the family.  He taught me from a very young age to garden, and was masterful at growing things.  He loved woodworking and construction projects, but would become frustrated with it, as he was a perfectionist.  I worked with him on many of those, and am so happy that we had the opportunity to share one last project:  his garage, and now, my pottery studio. 

I learned a great many things from him, the best of which is how to be there for my family.  He will be sorely missed, but will live on in our memories and recollections.

~Paul~



One of my earliest memories is of dancing on my Daddy’s feet.  Every time we watched Sleeping Beauty and the waltz would come on, Mama would say, “It’s your song!”  We’d hold hands and I’d stand on his docksiders as we twirled around and around in our little kitchen.

You never would have found him teaching kindergarten, or even Sunday School—but my dad loved babies and little children.  When I was about three years old, I used to throw my Barbie dolls across the room in anger, because I did not yet have the fine motor skills to change their tiny outfits.  Daddy would hear the thud, come in and pick the Barbie up, and dress it for me.  Memories like these are what I  most want to share about my dad.  Daddy could sit in the floor and join in a toddler’s games in a way that most adults can’t.

He read me endless Little Critter books, and our favorite Christmas book was “Santaberry and the Snard.”  He played countless games of Pop-O-Matic Trouble with me, even though I wasn’t a very good sport and would run off crying if I lost.

Whenever I got a stomachache at school and called to be picked up early, he’d usually take me to his work in the P&A building at Clemson.  Sometimes he’d bring me a little cup of Dr. Pepper because “it was what the doctor ordered.”  Anytime I forgot something I needed for school, from elementary all the way through high school, I’d call him and he’d run home and get it for me.

Once I started middle school, I made him late to work nearly every day.  Mama left for work at the crack of dawn, so he drove me.  He teased me for putting makeup on as we rode—“This is a pickup truck, not a beauty parlor.”  But I am thankful for the time we spent riding together in his little cream-colored Ford—from when I was six and so excited to be riding in a brand-new truck, to the last time before I started driving myself in high school.  The summer after I graduated we got in that same truck and rode up to Clemson University, where he helped me find all the buildings on my class schedule so I wouldn’t be lost during my first days of college.

My father was creative and artistic, but this usually manifested in silly, small ways.  When I was little I hated taking a bath.  One night when bath time was unfortunately near, he said “I’m going to go draw your bath.”  He ran out of the room and came back with a pencil and a piece of paper.  A couple of minutes later, he handed me a sketch of a smiling little girl peeking over the side of a bathtub.  “Jenny’s bath,” just to make me laugh.

Most people have no idea what a beautiful singing voice my father had.  He never sang in public, but at home when I as little, he made up what he called “Little D songs”—D stood for daughter—and he would belt out improvised tunes about how sweet and cute I was.  Though he obviously had a gift for music, he never played an instrument.  He did, however, whistle.  Every day of his life and always perfectly in tune, he whistled his favorite hymns and Christmas carols year round, especially “Sleigh Ride.”

He was also great at doing impressions.  Dozens of people were skillfully imitated around our dinner table, but none more often or more lovingly than my maternal grandmother, Mama Susie.  Daddy was hilariously accurate and had the spot-on facial expressions to go with the voices.  It warms my heart to see that my eldest daughter, six-year-old Suzi, picked up on this talent of his and is refining it herself.

My parents’ loving marriage of 47 years was a blessing to us all.  The day before my father died, my mother told me about a vision she’d had in the chapel.  She saw her own hand, holding a few smooth, sparkling river stones, blue with silver flashes running through them.  Jewels the likes of which you’d never find on Earth—an otherworldly, heavenly treasure.  She heard God tell her to give them to Him, and she passed the precious stones into God’s hand.

My father was a treasure to us—to my mother, his best friend and wife, most of all—but the people we love are not treasures that we get to keep forever.  We did not know how long we would get to keep my dad, especially after his illness began nine and a half years ago.  At one point he was so sick and we were so sure we would lose him that Jordan and I considered getting married a few months early in a little hospital room in Greenville, just so I could have my dad at my wedding.  His recovery was a miracle, and as heartbroken as we are to be without him now, I will always thank God for the last nine and a half years.  Despite his illness, he did so much living in those years.  We walked down the aisle together at my wedding.  We spent one incredible week at Disney World, a place he dearly loved.  About a year later I got to see the look on his face when I told him he was going to be a Grandpa.  He made an amazing grandfather, and I’m so thankful that Suzi, Ivey, and Robert knew him.  He rocked my babies to sleep, took them to the park, and read them nursery rhymes.  It was also in the last decade that he realized how much he loved his Scottish heritage.  He was so proud and handsome in his Wardlaw tartan kilt, and he loved it all so much he wanted to share it with all of us.

Losing my dad has been the worst heartbreak of my life, but I have found comfort in these memories and I hope you do too.  And please—sometime this weekend when the mood strikes, take a minute to whistle your favorite Christmas carol in memory of my sweet dad.

~Jenny~

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A healing, cleansing spending freeze: Our thrifty history

Jordan and I started the 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero challenge on December 29, and I thought I'd write a few blog posts about it.  First, here's a little history.

A few years ago, we realized we were pregnant with our second child, and we knew we wanted a homebirth.  Actually, after our experience with our firstborn, Suzi, we needed a homebirth.  The problem was that homebirth was not covered by our insurance, so we would have to pay it all out of pocket, and all before week 36 of my pregnancy.  Our midwives told us that anything not paid by the 36-week mark could be put on a credit card... but we didn't have a credit card.  In the months leading up the the payment deadline, we were ridiculously thrifty.  We didn't go out to eat, not even fast food.  We cancelled our trash pick-up and started hauling our own garbage to the dump.  I cut my own hair and Jordan's.  In the end, we did it.  We experienced a beautiful homebirth that ended in meeting our wonderful Ivey Deidre.  It was all paid off on time, and it was so worth it!

But that wasn't even the best part.  I had been working 20 hours a week while my parents kept Suzi, our older daughter, who was about two.  I dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom, but we weren't sure we could afford that.  However, the money I made while I was pregnant with Ivey was all thrown into paying the midwives and other birth and baby expenses.  It soon became apparent that my staying home was not an impossible dream!  We made plans for me to quit near my due date.

The greatest gift we received during those months of extreme thriftiness was creativity.  We would run into space and storage issues, and instead of running out to buy new furniture, we'd pick up an old $5 bookshelf, spray paint it a pretty color, and make it work.  When we needed comfy, easy-to-clean seating, I used a couple of blankets we had to fix our hand-me-down loveseat.  (We'll buy new furniture someday.  Probably when the kids are in college.)  Rather than spending big bucks on gifts for friends and family, we got crafty.  One Christmas we made nearly every gift we gave, and I'm quite proud of some of those projects.  We learned new skills.  My husband now makes delicious beef jerky, and I learned how to make almost anything out of an old wool sweater.

About a month before Ivey's first birthday, we got a wonderful surprise.  We were pregnant again!  Unfortunately, we had to save up to pay a midwife out-of-pocket again--and this time, only on my husband's income.  So, even though we hadn't gone nuts with our spending after Ivey's birth, we now had to buckle down again.  This made for a period of years that we were extremely thrifty.  Our son Robert had a wonderful homebirth, by the way.  I am now a happy, if overwhelmed, stay-at-home homeschooling mother of three.

I have mostly happy memories of our prolonged spending freeze, but it wasn't all fun times.  We sometimes missed out on social opportunities.  On Sundays after church, some of our friends went out to eat at a local restaurant, but we had to go straight home.  Playdates at places like Chick-fil-A were off-limits.  Most of the people I knew had smartphones, cable TV, and other luxuries many people take for granted.  One fellow stay-at-home mom I knew thought nothing of grabbing fast food meals or running to Target during the day to kill time with a little retail therapy--things I couldn't do.  I was quietly annoyed with people who complained of money problems (or worse yet, called themselves poor) while buying new iPhones, eating frequently at restaurants, enjoying cable TV, vacationing regularly, and buying copious amounts of unnecessary stuff.  I know some of them thought I was crazy for being so obsessively thrifty, but that was okay, because we were debt-free and it was working for us!

Let's fast-forward to now.  It's hard to explain what happened, but it started with several changes that gave us more breathing room in our budget.  As a result, we started eating fast food again.  We signed up for a credit card, bought those smartphones we'd been wanting, and recently got cable TV.  Our grocery spending gradually increased, and we began doing things the convenient way instead of the thrifty way.  Having more money to spend feels amazing at first, but it's shocking how fast you can get used to it.  Now I am one of those people who annoyed me several years ago--texting on my iPhone, watching cable TV, eating fast food, buying a ton of stuff, and wondering why there's still month left at the end of our money.

When I read about the Living Well & Spending Zero Challenge, I knew it was for us.  What I most want to achieve through participating is a reset of our spending habits.  I know how thrifty we can be and I want to be there again!  We are keeping our smartphones and our cable TV, but there are a few areas in which we can improve.  I plan to post about them soon.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Halloween Decorating DIY: Spooky ceiling streamers

It's been incredibly busy over here lately!  We've been homeschooling, doing a little fall cleaning, and participating in various activities, like our new homeschool co-op!  Also, my first season as a rostered skater with Upstate Roller Girl Evolution just ended Saturday.  I wrote on the URGE blog yesterday about getting back into running.  Other than that, we've been decorating for Halloween!  We're having our yearly Halloween party soon, so there are a lot of decorations going up right now.  I thought I'd share about one idea I tested out tonight.

 Have you seen these things?  They're non-edible stretchy, gummy skeletons.  I found them at Wal-Mart.  Not every Wal-Mart has them, so if you see some at yours, lucky you!  I bought some for the kids, and it didn't take six-year-old Suzi long at all to discover that they stick to the ceiling.  If you just toss them up there, they stick good and you have to pull them off.  The kids threw all their skeletons up to the ceiling and laughed like hyenas.  Anyway, we noticed they don't really hurt the ceiling, aside from perhaps pulling off a tiny bit of the "popcorn."  (You might want to test out an inconspicuous spot on your ceiling, just in case.)  So I thought, wouldn't they be a great way to hang streamers?!

 I got a couple of rolls of black crepe paper, stuck a skeleton on like so...

And then stuck it to the ceiling!

 I repeated that a few times.  For a finishing touch, I crumpled each streamer up toward the ceiling and then let it fall back down.  Done!  As you probably gathered, it cost less than $10 and only took about 15 minutes to do this.  Suzi the tiny Halloween guru says it's "ah-mazing!"

It's kinda spooky!

Glad to have that done!  Now I'm off to watch The Haunted Mansion with the family and decorate the rest of the house!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A lofty goal: Creating more space in our bedroom

Jordan and I have a king-size bed.  After our second child, Ivey, was born, we decided we wanted to upgrade from a queen, and when Robert was born 20 months later, we certainly were glad to have it!  Unfortunately, though, it took up a good chunk of our bedroom.  With no garage and not very many closets, we were feeling crunched for space, so we recently decided to take action.

Before we thought of doing anything in our room, we got our oldest, Suzi the Artist, a twin-size loft bed with a long desk underneath and put it in our craft room.  Now it's a Suzi/craft room, which works out since Suzi is so frequently doing crafts.  No pictures of that yet; the whole room needs a good decluttering!  But Suzi loves it and it solved several space issues we were having.  When we saw how well that worked out, we wondered:  Why not loft our king-size bed?

Yes, it's possible!  We googled and found lots of inspiration.  This bed by M.C. Woodworks is one of my favorites.  There are also a few examples of loft beds with stairs that open to offer easy-access storage space!  It took us two weekends to get it done, but here is our finished project.



Yes, she's wearing bunny ears.  She's thinking of being the Easter Bunny for Halloween.  Ha ha!


On the other side of that curtain of pretty fabric is...

Steps with storage underneath!  They are close enough to the wall that getting in and out of bed is safe and easy.  They do not flip open--we decided against that.  But there is still a good bit of storage space underneath them that we can access from underneath our loft.



We didn't spend much money at all on the things we put under our loft.  First we have our two nightstands, which we obviously can't use as nightstands anymore.  We added an inexpensive white shelf for books.  A few months ago we found a dining room chair with broken legs on the side of the road, and removed the legs completely, planning to turn it into a swing.  Until we can do that, it'll serve as seating under our loft.  The kids love listening to records on my 1980's Fisher-Price record player, especially while they relax in our hammock, which we found at a yard sale for $3!

So, after a couple of weekends of thinking, planning, hard work, and a little reorganizing, we now have a brand new (and much needed) area to hang out and relax, where there absolutely could not have been one before.  It was so worth it!


P.S.  We aren't experts and you could probably find a really good, detailed tutorial somewhere else, but if you want to know more about how we made our loft, shoot me an email or leave a comment.  It really wasn't that hard!

Monday, July 29, 2013

How to love your little artist--without spending a dime

I have a craft room that I love... most of the time.  Because it's the one room of the house that no one lives in and company does not see, a lot of junk gets shoved in there.  Company will come, or we'll need to move something that we don't really have a place for, or I'll neglect to clean up after a project or five, and bam!  It's a crap room instead of a craft room.  As of yesterday, it was quite crappy.  So I decided to fix that.

Yesterday morning, a little while after I started this project

On Saturday afternoon we went to pick the kids up from my mom's house (they had spent the night), and when we arrived the girls were making things out of modeling clay.  Suzi (6) had spent hours sculpting a couple of little teacups.  She was so proud of them.  We were getting ready to leave soon, so she put one of her cups on the table and went to wash the clay off her hands.  While she was gone, either Robert (2) or Ivey (almost 4) squashed one of her cups.  She was heartbroken and furious.  Clenched fists, screaming, crying...  It was terrible.  No one should have their art destroyed.

Suzi had a desk at our house, and even though it was counter-height it still was not completely safe from the littles.  I have known she needed a better space of her own for a long time.  We would love to give her a room of her own, but we'll have to add on to the house for that to be an option, so it'll be a while.  I decided to do the best I could for now.  We recently got rid of a ton of stuff we didn't need, which opened up some spaces in the craft/crap room.  The natural light and view of treetops and sky was too much for me to resist.  I decided to set up an arts and crafts nook for Suzi in that spot.

I sent a big pile of fabric to Goodwill, thinned and consolidated craft supplies, moved stuff around, and vacuumed.  While I was at it, I set aside a bunch of scraps, fabric, beads, buttons, and other things for Suzi.  By mid-afternoon it was looking awesome!  I kept the door closed so Suzi had no idea what I was doing in there.  After she was in bed I cleaned off her desk and moved her stuff to the new space.

Here's one more look at the before pic (blech)...


And here's how it turned out!

Late last night, after I finished

When Suzi woke up this morning I took her up to her new space and she loved it!  I made a little reveal video a la Clean House but my voice sounds weird so I won't share that.  There are enough craft supplies on that shelf to keep her busy for months.  She's been up there all morning creating things in her pajamas, and keeps discovering new little things tucked away in the baskets and bins.  I even gave her some Sculpey clay so I can bake whatever she makes, and it won't get squished anymore!


All hers now

Not a bad view, and you should see it at sunset!


The first thing she made was a little sweater for her "dog," Petey, out of a sweater sleeve.  There have been at least five other projects since then, and when I go check on her she shows me what she's done and pauses to smile and say "Thanks, Mom.  Thank you for everything!"  I feel like a fairy godmother.  Robert's naptimes are going to be awesome because (sometimes) I'll get to spend them crafting alongside my little artist.  And I didn't spend a dime!  Why didn't I do this months ago?!