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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

5 Year Blogging Anniversary RECAP

Wow, it's really hard to believe it's been 5 years since I started blogging!  Michael is actually the one who introduced me to the blogosphere.  He had a blog, and we had a baby blog for Samuel.  So I started blogging on My Space.  My Space, y'all!  Dude!  I remember having terrible insomnia during my pregnancy with Levi, so I started blogging.  I later imported all of my posts to blogger.

Some of the other bloggers that started around the same time as I did:
Thrifty Decor Chick
Simple Mom
Stuff White People Like
Stuff Christians Like

...and many others that have been way more successful than my little blog.

You might be asking yourself why I continue on with such little success.  Meh, you gotta point.  But I've always said that this is just a hobby - a creative outlet.

I read enough good blogs to know how I can make my blog more successful; I just don't want to do it.  I really didn't ever want it to take away from my family or my home.  The whole thing is just a little time consuming to go from a blog that your family and friends enjoy to a blog that brings in an income.  And to make any amount of money at all on a blog, you have to do a LOT of busy work. It's more beneficial for our situation that I not take away from Michael's work experience (we're so 1950s, and I totally love it).

Okay, so now that the disclaimers are over (disclaimers, by the way, that my art professors NEVER let me give when I showed my art), let me take your down a little trip down memory lane.  I'll show you some of my favorite posts over the years.  This is NOT an exhaustive list because it started taking kind of a long time to look through all of them, and I was getting anxious to hit "publish".  ;)


Poop - pretty self-explanatory, this one

Big Baby - nothing like a little pregnancy hormonal rage

We think kids are a blessing - This was a pretty unforgettable moment.

Poop Mud (funny life lesson at the end)

Life Lessons That Stick Out

Love and Tornado Alley - Nothing like a tornado to make you think about life and the ones you love

Super Mom in Hindsight - Wisdom from empty-nesters

Having Christmas Bliss - I have thought about this post for every holiday since I wrote it, and it has brought me so much joy out of holidays that I used to be so stressed out with.

Finding Contentment in My Home - This only sticks out because it involves me eating my own words.

Projects Fails

Lamp Overhaul - I totally miss the way it looked before.  I should have left it alone.  The result was kinda cheap looking.  It taught me to only change something up if you are CERTAIN that it will improve its look by doing it well and not hastily.

Nailhead Ottoman - I LOVED this...until Samuel was jumping on top of it and broke it.  It taught me to think about the durability of things for their uses before jumping into a project (punny).

Favorite Projects and Recipes

I literally love every single recipe on my Recipes page.  They are all amazing ( me, at least).  My goal, however, is to get better at food photography.  I'm studying up, so get hungry!

Living Room Before and After - Mostly because of the curtains, but I love everything about it. 

Yellow and Grey Wedding - This wedding was so much work, but I was so proud of the way it turned out.

My Second Favorite Overall:

To dispel any rumors... - This post should have never happened...using good judgment. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't have written it at all. But when I see that post in the sidebar of my blog as the third most viewed blog, (not just because of Google searches like the first two; a gadget does the list, by the way, I don't personally look up the stats), I look at it with the same sort of affection that you might look at a terrible scar on your body. I was in a time of my life that caused a lot of self-reflection that, as a result, made me very raw and broken at my defects of character. I learned a lot, and I changed a lot after that post. And I have this post to look at as a symbol of healing (as ongoing as it may be) from those insecurities and shortcomings. ** And that's all I will say about it. ;) **

My Favorites Overall

 - These were a 3 part series, but it was one big move of God in my life for which I'm truly grateful.  It caused a bit of a stir in my family, but all in all I think they respected it for being the journey that I'm on.

If you're a new follower, a long-time follower, a fellow blogger, or a family member or friend, thanks for following me on this adventure of life and learning and growing with me.  I am truly honored and humbled to write words that you would want to read.  

And remember that you can always like me on Facebook and follow my boards on Pinterest!!!

Love ya; mean it. ;)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Reclaimed Wood Wall for the Loo

DISCLAIMER #1: I apologize in advance to all of you who just can't stand the sight of a toilet in a photo.  There's was little way around it for this post.  ;)

DISCLAIMER #2:  I never call it a loo, but it just looks cuter than bathroom.

Let me just tell you how excited I am about this project.  I LOVE it!!!  I know these reclaimed wood walls are a bit trendy; I'm just hoping they're not the paneling of yesteryear.  Oh well, if they are.  I still love them.

Okay, so let me show you what it was like before.  Well, sort of.  I plan on showing you all the wonderful before and after pics of the whole bathroom, but this is AFTER we put the tile in and took the wallpaper off and painted.  So don't comment: Oh gosh, I bet you're ready to paint those walls.  ;)

So do any of you have a nineties house with weird ceilings in the bathroom that don't really make sense?  Well, we do, and we have this little loo area with my bar doors that no one likes except for me.

Well, THIS is what I was stuck with for a long time.  Talk about a prison!  Yuck!  The wallpaper even looked dirty.  Oh I'm SO glad to see that gone.  

So then it turned into this.  A nice clean slate - emphasis on clean.

Mandy Jean Chic
So then I saw THIS on Pinterest, and I knew that would be perfect.  So if you want to make your own,  here are a few of my a nutshell.

I used a bunch of scrap wood that a friend gave me, and it was all different colors and lengths.  The only thing that matters, obviously, is that they're all the same thickness.  Measure your wall width, then go to town cutting the length over and over again.  I made a few of them cut in the middle or at random places just for a variety.

It seemed like I was cutting forever, so I measured out the amount of wood that I needed and marked it on the floor of the garage.  As I cut, I would put my pieces down on the floor, and I just kept going until I got to that mark. 

Then, I threw out all of my plans because even the best laid plans will have a wrench thrown in them when the painter can't come when you want him to (I cut the wood before the painter finished), and the plumber will come on a different day than I planned, so I had to do it with the toilet there instead of gone (which turned out to be better because I wouldn't have had clearance behind the tank anyway - CHECK ON THAT BEFORE YOU START).  

I had written the order onto the back of each board, which would have been nice, but it didn't work with the toilet there.  So I just improvised, and it was totally fine.  

I kept going to the top of this wall and didn't mess with the sloped area.  It works best that way because you don't want to see it from the outside since it's behind a doorway.

And this was the finished result.  I LOVE it.  I'll probably hang something on it, like a light wreath, but I'm not concerned with decorating right now through these renovations.  

Wood floors are going in next week - ACK!!!  I'm so happy and excited and ready for the stress.  I hope I can blog along the way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tipsy Tuesday: A Blank Slate

"Tipsy Tuesday", "Annie's Blessed Nest", tips, decorating, inspiration

Have you missed my Tipsy Tuesdays?  I sure have.  ;)  Well, here's one for old times' sake.

"How to Create Decorating Inspiration When You're Stumped", "getting inspired to decorate", "decorating from a blank slate", "blank canvas"

I was talking to a friend the other day about her kitchen, and she was saying how she's never really loved her kitchen.  You know how that is, right?  You get to a certain point, and you're like, 'Meh, it'll do.'  Then you wait for inspiration to hit, for the element that will really put it over the edge and make you LOVE it.  And then 6 years goes by in a flash, and you were never really in love with your kitchen.

This friend of mine has had it the same way for years, and it's really hard for her to imagine what she wants.  Well, since I'm in the middle of all these renovations, I was telling her that a HUGE inspiration for me is when I have a blank slate.

I'm actually really excited about packing up the house in a couple of weeks when we get the floors done, because that means I get to totally redecorate my entire house and correct any mistakes that I may have made but didn't have the energy to change.

SOOOOO, if you're feeling stumped, here's my suggestion:
1.  Get a box or a laundry basket or whatever, and just start packing things away.  Take things off the walls, off of shelves, off of the furniture, etc.  Heck, even take the curtains down if you want.  Keep going until it feels clean and blank.   
2.  Keep it that way and don't put anything back for at least 3 days.   
3.  Don't think about the way it was for those 3 days (at least).  But get on Pinterest and make yourself a board for that room and start pinning away for what your DREAM room would look like if cost, time, and energy were not factors.  (P.S. Here's some Pinterest help if you're a newbie.) 
4.  After your at least 3 days are up, then brainstorming on how to start making things a reality starts:

  • Do you like the foundation of the room - the wall colors, the window treatments, the flooring, the furniture, etc?
  • Can you remember what you had on walls and on the furniture before?  What of the things you packed away do you miss?  Why?  What of that stuff are you glad is put away?  Do you need or want to replace any of that stuff?  (Can you sell any of it to recoup the cost of buying a new one?) 
  • What are the overarching themes of the things that you pinned onto your Dream Room Pinterest board?  Would that style fit your lifestyle?  What are some ways that you can implement that style into your home?  
5.  Now go for it! Your plans can be grand or tiny, as long as you get closer to your vision than you were before.  
I'll be doing a LOT of decorating from a blank slate in the coming weeks and months, so I'll keep you posted.  If you want to see all my inspirations, then have a look at my boards.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Our Anti-Busy Life

I've been thinking a lot lately about the struggle that all of us parents have with just how involved to make our kids.  We just started our 6 year old in Cub Scouts, and we are SO excited about it (I just wish my second born could join now, too).  It's the one organization that seems to match our family's values and goals the best out of any other sport or lesson that we could have tried.

The hubs and I have struggled ever since having kids with the balance of just how involved to make them.  There are SOOOO many things that kids can do, starting during infancy and continuing on indefinitely.  There are a ton of very good activities and worthy pursuits, but they all beg for your precious spare time, focus, and hard-earned money.

So somewhere along the way Michael and I decided that for us any pressure we feel to be overly-involved is just that wonderful, all-American desire within us to keep up with those Joneses.  You know how it is:  Sally has her 4 kids in 2 sports each, music lessons, and is on the PTA board, so I should definitely be able to fit in another sport here or there since Sally seems to be able to juggle it all so well.  Plus, she probably totally thinks I'm lazy and don't love my kids as much.  

It's a horrible trap to get into on any level, and I just hate when I fall into it.  It's never worth it.

Now that doesn't mean that we don't allow our kids to be a part of anything.  (We've done a load of swim lessons, T-ball, soccer, and, like I said, we just started Cub Scouts.)  It just means that as a part of our goal setting and defining our values, we try to see which of those activities will serve our family (and the individuals in it) well and which don't.

We're constantly having to reevaluate things as the start of each new season begins and signups for the dozens of sports and whatnot loom around every corner.  But I tell ya what, being less busy but more purposeful is so much more fulfilling for me than being crazy busy and flailing.  And I would argue that the kids seem to thrive more on purpose rather than impulse.  

What do you think?  Do you feel even the slightest tinge of pressure to keep up with all of the busyness out there?  If not, how do you stay intentional in your family's pursuits? 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Movie Review: Les Miserables

"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review",
My one sentence review of the 2012 film version of Les Miserables is that this is a beautifully intimate musical film with some major casting issues but still definitely worth seeing.

I LOVE musical films.  Some of my favorite films are Moulin Rouge, Across the Universe, and Nightmare Before Christmas. I just love them when they're done right, but they're hard to do and not come across as a Disney film.

The difference, however, between Les Miserables and these other films is that the others are very fantastical.  There is a veneer over them that makes the willing suspension of disbelief easier because they're not quite as in your face and intimate, so you can separate yourself from them a little more easily and buy into the storyline.

This film version of Les Miserables, however, is incredibly intimate and raw.  There is definitely no veneer.  There's hardly a movie screen; you feel like you're breathing the same air.  The willing suspension of disbelief is accomplished effortlessly through the purity of the shooting and the organic and unstrained acting.

The singing was all done during shooting instead of in a sound room, so the acting is carried out beautifully through their voices.  There are long, uncut, almost awkwardly inmate songs that allow the actors to skillfully surpass any musical bias that you may have and touch your heart.  The shooting style with its wide-angle lens closeups creates an intimacy that confronts you.  It doesn't tell you what to feel, but it asks you to determine for yourself what you're feeling.  It's brilliantly shrewd.

I could go on and on about the beauty of this film.  The set design, cinematography, costume, editing et. al. is all perfect.  You can see why they decided to shoot the film in such a raw fashion.  Cliche alert, but you're definitely transported there.

"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review", "Jean Valjean", Hugh Jackman
After all of this praise it pains me to say that, in my very humble opinion, their only two mistakes in this film were colossal overestimations in the casting of two brilliant actors: Russell Crowe (cast as Javert) and Hugh Jackman (cast as Jean Valjean).  I LOVE these two men.  They're brilliant actors and just gorgeous; I was thrilled to hear they were cast in these roles....but then I heard them sing.
"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review", Javert, "Russell Crowe"
Source - Universal Pictures

Now these guys do sing and have done well with their voices before.  But for such large roles, I don't think that their voices were polished enough for the task at hand.  Their acting was spot-on - perfection - so many layers and confliction and purity.  I even enjoyed watching Russell Crowe the most because he had the most layers and conflict in his character.

But their voices were a just huge nasal nightmare.  Just awful.  (Others have told me that they liked them, but I seriously can't see how.)  I'm sure they were coached, but there's not enough vibrato in the world to cover singing out of your nose.

I think if people were honest with themselves, they'd admit that they want to like Hugh Jackman's singing voice more than they actually do think that it warrants their admiration.  In the film he mostly sounded like he had a head cold, and Russell Crowe sounded like the only thing he listens to on the radio is early 80s rock (but only when he's drunk).  (Evidently he has sung in a rock band for the past 30 or so years, but I doubt you own any of his albums.)

There are a few times where their singing was good (Crowe's mostly when he had to sing strong songs), and at those points I found myself cheering them on.  But for the most part, I just had to try to ignore that it bothered me so much.

"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review", Cosette, Marius
Cosette and Marius - These two {{sigh}}...just perfect.
Despite those very large flaws, all of the other casting was literally perfect.  At first I was quite confused as to why Anne Hathaway was cast as Fantine (I guess I just don't like her), but then I heard her sing.  Wow, she has a beautiful voice, and her acting was perfection (overuse of the word, I agree).  And there could be no one better cast than Amanda Seyfried as Cosette.  She was just perf----wonderful and amazing, too.

I could go through the entire cast list and say of all of them that they were just perfectly cast (well, except for the priest, but that was a small role), which is why I'm just dumbfounded as to why Jean Valjean and Javert, the two MAIN CHARACTERS, were so poorly cast (by musical standards).
"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review", "Master of the house"
Talk about perfectly cast, Helena Bonham Carter (I always love her) and Sacha Baron Cohen as the innkeepers was just genius.  These two were hilarious, and their timing was impeccable.  You loved them and hated them at the same time.

I could go on because there is so much to say about this film, story, actors, etc., but I will just restate my original one-line review: this is a beautifully intimate musical film with some major casting issues but still definitely worth seeing.

ETA: Don't hate me.  These are simply opinions about a motion picture.  Love you.  ;)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Snowman Party

"Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"

It's official.  My baby is 2.  I would say I can't believe it, but I really can.  He didn't stay a baby for very long - crawling at 4.5 months and walking at 9.5 months.  Nonetheless, he's my baby, and he's growing up.

We had his birthday party on Thursday night, and since he loves "no-men", I threw him a snowman birthday party.  Which, by the way, is excellently timed for great clearance sales.  ;)

So the first thing I needed to do was find a cake recipe that wasn't going to make me sick from sugar overload after the holidays.  Well, I found one, but it kind of sucked.  It was a good banana bread recipe, but it didn't make for a very good cake.  BUT the soft icing topped with coconut made for an adorable snowman. The buttons are cake candy decorations that were on clearance at Walmart.  The scarf is fruit leather from Aldi with decorative frosting as the plaid.  And the snowflakes were peppermint pretzels on clearance at Walmart.

"Snowman Cake", "Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"

Then I had to make it snow.  So I threaded some cotton balls up and taped them to the ceiling.  I enlisted the help of my 6 year old to help me make some paper snowflakes, and I also bought a few felt snowflakes on clearance.  When my 2.5 year old niece came in and said, "Look, it's snowing!" I definitely did a mental fist pump.

Then I searched the web for some games, and I put my own little spin on them so that they'd fit our crowd.
"pin the carrot on the snowman", "pin the nose on the snowman", "Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"
Our first game was pin the carrot on the snowman.  Pretty self-explanatory, I'm sure.  

"snowman door", "Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday", "pin the nose on frosty"
The only kicker was that the adults were forced to play, too.  ;)  And toward the end, after I spun them around 3 times, I didn't point them in the direction of the door.  The kids loved it.  Free entertainment.  

The next game only required a couple of rolls of toilet paper.  Simple: girls against boys (aunts and uncles helped), and wrap the daddies up like snowmen and put three buttons on them (anymore was too much for my little ones).  The first team to finish their roll of toilet paper and buttons won.
"Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"
The dads here are playing up how beat down they were by the game, but that seriously made it even funnier.  The kids loved it.

As the chaos ensued behind him, the birthday boy was oblivious to it and sneaking some more snacks.

"Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"

The next game had two rounds.  Round one was for the kids, and round two was for the grownups.  We had three minutes to decorate an ice cream snowman.  The kids' winner was chosen by whomever had the most stuff on it.  The grown up winner was chosen by the kids.  We played this game right before we cut the cake so that we could eat them at the same time. 

"Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday", "ice cream snowman game"

"Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"

Little bit was definitely more interested in finding his way into the snowman buttons (Mini M&M's) than anything else. 
"Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"

And of course the party favors were fun to shop for.  I basically just shopped Christmas clearance for all of the snowman stuff.  Behind the stuffed snowman and buckets are a snowman cookie decorating kit, a snowman s'mores and hot cocoa kit, a snowman cake pop kit, and a random Thomas bath set that I knew Isaac would like.

"Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"

It was a fun party, and I think everyone enjoyed it.  I know this guy did.
"Snowman Party", "snowman birthday party", "winter birthdays", "january Birthday"

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lucky '13

Happy New Year, y'all!  I'm pretty excited about 2013.  As I was journaling about it this morning, I was thinking about making some resolutions, but eh, we all know I need to lose a few pounds and get going with my running.  I'm on it (except for last night when I ate too much).

So I was thinking about the coming year and what my challenges might be and how I might tackle those preemptively.  For instance, we'll be doing some remodeling at various points throughout the year, like the whole month of February we'll be packing, then getting our wood floors in, then cleaning and unpacking - the whole exhausting mess.  And when we did this with our last house I gained 5 pounds!

Having the foreknowledge, however, should mean that I should be able to prevent this.  Sooooo, in January I need to make double the food and freeze the other half to eat in February.  Sounds like it should work, right?

Another major thing that's happening this year is that Levi will be going to kindergarten.  I simply can't believe he's that old already.  It's much more bittersweet than I thought it would be.  I would really like to take advantage of this last Spring with him at home.  Hopefully my health will continue to improve so that he has opportunities to live life away from the front of the TV.  I'll be looking for ways of making this Spring meaningful.

We'll, also, most likely, be getting a high school exchange student next school year.  There are some obvious challenges in that, so I'd like to read up on that whole experience to make her transition into our family as smooth as possible.  I also get to decorate a girl's room - yay!

Anyway, I should get started on breakfast and stop stalling now, but I do hope that you have a few minutes today to think about your coming year and the challenges it might hold.  Jotting down some solutions to those foreseen challenges may prevent some unnecessary stress.  Just puttin' it out there.  ;)

Happy New Year!!


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