Thursday, January 19, 2012

Designing Snow

I love all kinds of design.  Even with snow!  It's a fun architectural medium to work with and great for the imagination.  Yesterday and today the girls and I worked on a snow fort.  I shoveled and they patted and molded it.  And before long we decided it wasn't a fort - it was a castle.  And not just any castle, but "Cair Paravel" - the castle in Narnia.

Last year, none of us would've thought to name it this.  But over the past year my husband has read the entire Chronicles of Narnia to them.  It made quiet an impact on their little imaginations!  Even my 6 year old (who at times would get restless listening without many pictures to help), loves talking about the books and making up her own Narnia adventures.  So here she is, pretending to be "Queen Lucy the Valiant" standing before her throne in her Narnian castle of Cair Paravel.

Snow is great for the imagination!

A Free Goody Bag

What do you do with your kids when you are waiting... in the car, in Dad's office, in a long line?  Honestly, I am not usually prepared for these moments.  I may have something in my purse or at best a diaper bag with that one token toy that my child is now sick of.  I usually end up pulling out a pen and receipt from the bottom of my purse for them to draw on, or keys to rattle - and that is the best I offer.

Until now.  Here's a free project that took just a few minutes using stuff we already had.  Call it a Goody Bag, a Bag-o-Fun, or a Mom's Lifesaver.  Its going with me from now on.  This is what I used:
  • A sturdy little bag - small enough to fit in a purse. Mine is an extra make-up bag I got with a gift for Christmas. You probably have something similar not being used.  Even a zip-lock bag will do.
  • A little notepad for coloring on.
  • Stickers
  • Crayons - not "good" ones, but crayons I don't mind losing or breaking.  Some are restaurant crayons that I take home with me since I learned they just throw them away.
  • Playdoh - little cans from party favors & stocking stuffers, we already have the same colors in big containers at home.  So into the Goody Bag they go.
  • A small board book - preferably old, and not the favorite book (in case it gets lost).
  • A little toy - this will probably rotate regularly with whatever the latest happy meal toy is.  Again, something small that I don't mind losing and I can change out frequently.
It all fits!  My advice would be keep it simple and small. (Anything is better than an old receipt and a ball point pen!) I didn't pack anything with a lot of little parts, or things my kids will make a mess of. The last thing I want is to clean up a bunch of little things once I'm done waiting for that prescription to be filled!  I won't be dumping the bag out for them, but probably handing out one or two things at a time.  I have four kids and this little bag will be plenty for all of them.  Again, simple is key.

Here's some other ideas you could use (depending on your kids' ages) to fill your Goody Bag:
  • Matchbox cars
  • Polly Pockets
  • Small markers - for older kids
  • A toy phone
  • A little book
  • A flashlight
  • Suckers - we have a few free ones from the bank (another car-line we wait in with kids!)

You can find a plethora of ideas on line too (lists, activity pages, crafts, etc)! Just a few ideas to help you in those tough moments.  Its so much easier for kids (& mom!) to be cheerful if they have a little something to keep them happy.

A happy heart makes the face cheerful...
~ Proverbs 15:13 ~

A Winter Wonderland

As the news is reporting "Snow-magedden" for the whole North West, I am giddy to be in the middle of it with the rest of my northwest friends.  I love the way a blanket of snow transforms everything: yards become blank canvases, trees look lacy, and everything is a little more peaceful in the muffled quiet.  Here's a few pics of the winter wonderland in our own yard.  Enjoy!

We call this tree "The Old Woman" in the winter when she's all snowy.  Can you see it?

A view of our yard from the Dining Room window.

The trees that line our driveway - hence our home's name "Cottonwood Grove"

More lacy trees.

The tree house (and just beyond it, the sledding hill!)

These pictures were taken with just a few inches of snow.  Now we have about a foot of white stuff, so there are many adventures to be had today in our winter wonderland!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Several years ago, I learned how important the kitchen sink area can be for a mom with kids.  Everything else in the house can be dirty.  But if my kitchen sink is clean, I feel better. Before and after meals, washing my hands all the time, cleaning everything - I am staring at that sink all day!  So why not make it look pretty?  

For this snowy January I'm decorating with pine cones and snow. Just a little bit of decor - because I like a clean look after all the Christmas stuff comes down. But the kitchen sink is one place I prioritize.

I like using apothocary jars because they protect candles and decor from splashes AND they don't block any light from flooding through the windows.  For Spring, I'm thinking of replacing the pine cones with some mini flowering bulbs or primroses.

So today, as I stare out at the freshly falling North West snow, I'm glad to invest a few minutes on this corner of the house.  Because if my kitchen sink is shiny and clean, it helps me keep the rest of the kitchen semi-clean.  And let's face it, if the kitchen is clean, the rest of the house doesn't feel that bad!

You can read more about this "Shine Your Sink" theory and more from The Fly Lady.  I'm telling you, she rocked by world and changed the way I manage clutter!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Barn Wood Wall

Have I told you all that I've been working on designing our offices at Resonate Church over the last few months?  I was waiting to post anything about it until it was TOTALLY done.  But that is slow coming.  And I can't wait any longer to share one of the projects that actually is complete - a beautiful barn wood wall!  I was first inspired by Katie's wall here and Austin's wall here.
Katie's wall (r) - with short pallet planks.  Austin's wall (l) - with long salvaged planks.
These inspiration pics just kept burning inside me, until I couldn't stand it and had to create this somewhere!  Enter our Lead Pastor's office. He wanted it warm, but still similar to the colors and the mid-century-modern style that we are doing in the rest of the office suite.  I thought a barn wood accent wall would be a fun new twist on the mid-century wood paneled offices of the 50's and 60's.  It also perfectly reflects our rural location of Pullman.  So enough talk, here's how I did it.

First I had to find barn wood.  Although I could've asked around at a lot of local farms (I scouted a lot of piles of old barn wood!),  I chickened out and looked around our barn.

Bingo.  I found 5 very old pallets and a few long planks of wood.  (The barn is getting cleaned out so it was perfect timing to re-purpose this old wood!)  They were all varying lengths, widths & thicknesses, and colors - but that's all good!  All the better for my wall.

I quickly took them to our garage, so giddy that this treasure was right under my nose. (Picture me dragging them down our driveway saying "Mine! All mine!") The pallets were so dirty and smelled like hay & manure.  So a good cleaning was in order.  

But first I had to dismantle them. Ugh. Easier said than done!  Rusty nails and screws and old wood, meant that a hammer wouldn't work.  And a drill wouldn't work. As you can see from the picture above, the only way I could take them apart was with skillsaw!  Here was the pile I was left with:

And here's the scrap pile of 2x4s that they were cut from:

Next, I prepped the wood.  I removed all those pesky rusty nails with a hammer and pliers. Then, since the skillsaw was a rather sloppy cut just to get everything dismantled, I trimmed each plank's end with my miter saw for a nice square cut.  Oy, my girly hands were getting tired at this point!

Now I could finally clean the wood & get rid of the lovely manure smell.  I scrubbed the loose dirt off with a dry scrub brush, then sanded everything with a sander & medium grit sandpaper.

This was my favorite part!  After a light sanding, the wood not only got cleaned up but the beautiful mill work patterns began to pop out.  I had to be careful not to over-sand, or I would've lost that distressed look and the different textures of each plank.  But I also couldn't under-sand, or it would've given splinters to anyone who ran their hand over the wall.  And it still would've smelled like manure.  So take note: sand lightly!  Here's a close up:
My precious barn wood was finally ready to go onsite and be installed. Phew!  I brought my miter saw, nail gun, level & tape measure so I could cut-to-fit each piece. I marked lines on the wall where the studs were, so I could nail each piece securely.  Then, starting from the bottom baseboard and going left to right, I began nailing each piece, leveling as I went.
 As you can see on this left side of the wall, the planks are all flush against the corner.

On the right side, I left it open until I was done.  Then I measured and cut each piece to fit.

I also left odd spaces around outlets and conduits for last.  Then I cut small scrap pieces to fit in these gaps.

Once the wood was installed, I addressed the small spaces between the planks.  Notice in the above pictures, you can still see some white peeking out from in between the boards?  As mentioned before, Katie's barn wood had thin plywood veneer behind the planks.  Instead I used wood-colored caulk and smoothed it in any gaps where I could still see the white wall.  Caulk comes in tons of colors these days, so I bought tan and almond to see which one matched my wood best.  I ended up using tan colored Dap caulk. It worked really well, and saved me the time & cost of installing plywood.
After this big weekend project, here's the final product that greeted the staff on Monday morning:

I'm so happy with it!  I love the combination of short and long planks of barn wood.  I love the different colors, textures and sizes.  Its greyed and weathered, yet warm enough that it looks great with the rusty orange wall and warm wood bookshelves that are on the adjacent walls.  Its also doubles as a tack board (but is much cooler than your basic office cork board!) - perfect for an office!

Stay tuned for more of my design projects around the Resonate Church offices!