Touches of Spring

Although spring is one of my favorite seasons, I haven’t always decorated for it. Even as I collected some spring decorations over the years, I haven’t always gotten them out. But this year I was inspired by seeing blogging friends’ spring decorating, and I was just so glad for spring to come this year, even though we haven’t really had a harsh winter, that I almost couldn’t help bringing some springiness into the house.

This little table sits just inside the front door, and I was especially pleased with the decorations on top:

IMG_0117

IMG_0118

The little flower arrangement on the left I got from a thrift store years ago, and the arched box on the right was a gift from Jason and Mittu some years back. It’s meant to hold Willow Tree figurines and has shelves inside, but I don’t have any that small, and don’t really want any more than I have. But I just like the box. Sometimes Timothy will tuck things in there, and sometimes I’ll put something in there for him to find. Those two are on the table year round except fall and Christmastime. The ceramic water pitcher I got at a thrift store years ago, and the little flowery bunny was a Hobby Lobby purchase a while back.

IMG_0120

So cute!

The little pedestal is new this year.

IMG_0119

I got the idea from Laura’s lovely spring decorations. I couldn’t find white like she had, but Hobby Lobby had these in pink, blue, yellow, and green, and they had all their spring merchandise 40% off last week. They had a package of ready-made nests with these eggs in them as well. I was originally looking for white or blue eggs, but liked these.

For a long time I avoided eggs and bunnies around Easter, but after a while I felt that they are fitting for spring, and spring is a picture in a way of the resurrection.

This is in the dining area and is a favorite. I forget where I got it.

I had wanted to come up with a new wreath or something for the front door – or actually for beside the front door. Our door has an oval glass insert which doesn’t seem conducive to wreaths or other decorations, and a little hanger was already installed in the brick next to the door, so we use that. In past years I’ve used this:

Roses and Hydrangea door ornament(That’s an older photo on a different door). I liked it, but somehow it looked funereal to me. Plus roses and hydrangeas aren’t blooming yet, so I wanted something a little more springy. I wrestled with whether I wanted it to look like spring in general or Easter in particular. On some of my shopping excursions last week, I looked around to see what was available. I definitely wanted tulips, but there were almost none in the fake flower departments, and what I did find, I didn’t like. I guess I should shop earlier in the year for fake spring flowers! After walking all around a few different stores, I finally found one lone tulip bunch at Hobby Lobby, a few half-off sprays at Joann’s and a small cheapy arrangement at Wal-Mart that I harvested to put together for this:

I don’t remember where I got that green pocket holder years ago, but I love it. It’s nice to just toss things in without having to use hot glue or a form to stick the flowers in. I had been considering the idea of a wreath with tulips and a little nest nestled in, and maybe I’ll try that next year, but for now I like this.

I ended up with some leftover flowers after all of that, so I put them in here:

I had an egg on a pick leftover from a flower arrangement years ago and found a package of them at Hobby Lobby, and tried a few of them in the pocket arrangement above, but it just looked too busy. I think if the flowers had been all one color, it would have worked better. I debated about whether to put any in this little arrangement, but finally settled on just the one.

In addition, these two are out year round, but they do look springy!

This is beside my kitchen sink. I don’t remember where I got the little pitcher: I’ve had it for years. But the flowers were just two picks from Home Interiors. I do change the flowers out for fall and Christmas.

The lighting wasn’t ideal for this photo – the sun was streaming in blindingly, but when I closed the blinds and turned on all the lights, it wasn’t quite enough for a clear shot. But anyway, the cloche with the bird nest in it was from Cracker Barrel (I think I may have hinted at it for a gift for Mother’s Day one year. 🙂 ) And the little birds were on sale at Hobby Lobby a couple of years ago. The little plaque is metal and I think came from a Christian bookstore in SC.

I enjoyed working on this last week, and now I feel sufficiently springy inside. 🙂

Save

Decorating Quiz

I saw this link to a quiz about decorating style at Hydrangea Home. My results:

Barbara, you are a Country Classic

You have a naturally refined sensibility with an appreciation for tradition and history. You value beauty, craftsmanship, and family heirlooms, but you like to open things up with pretty, easy-going pieces like painted wood or distressed furniture, lovely florals and other patterns, and bunches of fresh flowers that give your home a breezy, relaxed feeling. You love unique finds, have a thrifty, creative side, and can make these things work together.

You value comfort. Your home is a warm and open friendly place, and you feel happiest when everyone is cared for and relaxed in your space. Elements like pillows, throws, overstuffed furniture, and good lighting set the mood. You may also enjoy layering different fabrics or mixing patterns to create a cozy effect.

Pretty accurate, I think.

You can find the quiz here. Let me know your results!

Finished Projects!

Some of you who have been here for a while may remember some years ago my showing this fabric that I had gotten for curtains and asking advice about them.

CIMG2048

I am ashamed to say how many years that has been, but it was before we moved to this house {blush}. Thankfully the family room here had the same number of windows similarly sized.

My biggest holdup in any kind of project is deciding what to do. My inspiration for using toile and check came from seeing the combination at a friend’s house years ago. I knew I wanted a valance that used both but had trouble deciding how to do it: toile on top, check on top, which pattern to use, trim or not, etc. After thinking about it every which way I possibly could, I finally decided on what I was inclined to do in the first place.

First I’ll show you the valances that were here when we moved in:

BEFORE: Old Valance

BEFORE: Old Valance

BEFORE: Old valance

BEFORE: Old valance

I apologize for the lighting in all of these. It was an overcast day, and even with all the lights on I couldn’t get the lighting right, then my phone camera kept wanting to focus on the window. These valances were all right – in fact, up close they had a lot of nice detail. But it was lost there on the window, and the beige valance on beige walls was pretty blah.

So this is what I came up with for the new valances:

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

AFTER: New valance

IMG_0008(1)Eventually I want to make curtain panels as well. But I need to make a date with my husband to hang the rods for that. 🙂 This was a good stropping place for now.

I used this McCall pattern. I gave some thought to just adding a strip of the toile to the bottom of the check fabric rather than making the double valance that was called for, and in some ways I wish I had: even though these were attached, it was like making four valances rather than two. I did lengthen them a couple of inches from what the pattern specified.

When my dear husband was helping me hang them, he asked if I had ever thought about making them professionally. I thought to myself, “Oh, my dear, if you only knew….” I make way too many mistakes to sew professionally. I tend to do the dumbest things when I sew. For instance: the pattern called for a 1/2 inch seem. So instead of placing the fabric to the left of the 5/8″ guide mark on my machine, I placed it to the right, and then thought that seemed like an awfully wide seam allowance that was just going to be cut off. Then I realized my mistake, thankfully before I had gotten too far. There is a pretty major mistake with the lining on one, but since it was the lining and not in front and not obvious, I left it. But I did know what to watch for when I made the second one.

Seam ripper

I won’t bore you with all the flaws, but there are plenty. Thankfully they came out looking relatively well for all that.

At one point I wished I had the buffalo check that’s so popular these days, but since I already had this on hand, I felt like I should use it instead. But then, I told myself, if the buffalo check is trendy now, it might not be a few years from now, and the regular toile and check combo is fairly classic. Yet when I got these done I thought they looked more country-ish, which I am trying to get away from, rather than classic. But I am telling myself that’s just my imagination and they do look classic. 🙂

I also wanted to make a couple of pillows, mainly to tie the room together but also because I have a couple of old ones that are about ready to be retired. I got the idea for this one from here as well as instructions for making an envelope pillow.

IMG_0009

I really liked doing an envelope cover rather than stuffing  a pillow! I went back and forth with whether or not I liked this as much as I thought I would, but it does accomplish its purpose in tying the room together, I think.

IMG_0004

I also made the front and back for another one, based on this one seen on Pinterest (I found the other one originally on Pinterest as well). I was originally going to add lace like that one has, but decided I liked this design:

IMG_0010

I’m trying to decide whether I want to put cording around the edges or not. I’m going to see what Hobby Lobby has and then decide from there. But it shouldn’t take to long to finish up either way.

I love the trim, which I learned is called gimp, and thought it would be the easiest part to deal with, but I found it’s a little hard to keep in place – it kept wanting to pull over while I was sewing. And I did learn not to stretch it while sewing! I did that in a couple of places on one pillow, which made the fabric look a little puckered, but thankfully it evened out with pressing.

There’s one more I’d like to do, as well as the longer curtain panels, but this is a good stopping place for a week or so. My oldest son is coming in this weekend, and a very special grandson is having his first birthday next week, so I need to turn my attention to other pursuits just now. 🙂 With trying to get these done I haven’t been to visit you all like I normally would, and I hope to catch up soon.

Around the house

I got a few gift cards for Christmas and enjoyed spending a couple of them earlier this week. One was to Amazon, and I splurged on a couple of books, one of them the annotated Pioneer Girl book, which contains the autobiographical manuscript Laura Ingalls Wilder which was the basis for the Little House books. I don’t usually spend so much on a book, but doing so with a gift card seems justifiable. 🙂 Unfortunately they were out of stock, and I don’t know if I’ll receive it in time to read for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge next month, but I’ll enjoy it whenever it gets here.

The other gift card was for Hobby Lobby. I had a couple of spaces around the house I had been wanting to decorate, so I set off to see what I could find. This is what I came back with:

IMG_1016

Everything was on sale except the XO picture, and I had a 40%off coupon for that. The item to the right is a shadow box. I wasn’t in the market for one, but I really liked it when I saw it. It was half price and the only one of its kind that was in good shape: otherwise I probably would have waited and thought about it for a while. I do have a place I am planning to put it once I decide what to put in it.

The XO picture I bought primarily for the frame – no offense to the artist. 🙂 One day as I was folding clothes in the laundry room, I thought the space over the washer needed something. I don’t want to put a lot of time and money into decorating that particular room, but I want it to look pleasant as I spend so much time in there. Then at the first of the year when I was transferring all the important dates from last year’s calendar to this year’s, I saw a calendar page that would be perfect for that room. Its size wouldn’t fit a conventional frame, so I’ve been looking around for a frame that would work, and this one looked like it would.

It was a little more tedious to take the backing off the frame than I had anticipated, but eventually I got it done. The calendar page had to be cut down a little, but most of it fit:

IMG_1017

The calendar, by the way, is a 2014 one called Living Faith by Joy Hall. Her art is new to me, but I love it and really enjoyed this calendar last year. I’m glad to be able to keep a piece of it out to enjoy year round.

I was originally going to put it on this same wall but further down above the washer. But it just seemed like it would look better down with the other things I had there.

IMG_1019

IMG_1018

The Precious Moments cross stitch was done by one of my sisters some years ago and says “Loads of Love.” I confess that’s not how I usually feel about laundry, but it’s a reminder to me. 🙂 The piece underneath is wooden and says, “Everything comes out in the wash.” I got it years ago from a catalog. The framed calendar page says, “Clothe yourselves with kindness,” Colossians 3:12, and is another reminder I frequently need.

I was pleased with how it all turned out.

The smaller square piece in the top photo says “Let Your Faith Be Bigger Than Your Fear.” I put that in an empty spot on top of my desk:

IMG_1021

The flower arrangement was another Hobby Lobby purchase from years ago and has been there with the candle holders (currently without candles) for some time. The little angel was in a dish garden that my mom had sent me way back in college. The little pedestal I got at a thrift store and just put up with the Faith piece yesterday. I’d had it for a while but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it – it just seems to fit there now. I’ll probably put something else on it besides that leafy stem, but I just grabbed what was at hand.

Unfortunately that side of the desk doesn’t match the other…

IMG_1022

…but the utilitarian stuff doesn’t fit into the cabinets and it needs to be nearby.

This little alcove is off the dining area, and this is my main view from where I sit at the table, so I’m happy to spruce it up a little.

IMG_1023

I don’t usually get bunny things, but I do like pink roses, and this was just too cute, not very expensive in the first place, and on sale. I put it on a table that sits just past the front door.

IMG_1025

Everything on this table was a gift except the flower arrangement, which I got at a thrift store, and the little bunny. I started to wait to put the bunny out til Easter – but I like it too much. 🙂

So there you have a peek into my newest decorations. It was a fun time shopping for them and then setting them out. And I still have $12 left on my Hobby Lobby gift card! 🙂

Book Review: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

HomemakingEven though I’ve been discussing The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club, I wanted to write an overall review to have one post to refer back to when discussing the book. Too, I thought perhaps some who weren’t interested in reading the weekly chapter summaries might enjoy perusing one smaller review.

The basic theme of the book could be summarized in this quote from it:

“If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation” (p. 109).

As a teen I struggled with whether the desire to look “pretty” and dress nicely was a fleshly one, and as a young woman I had the same struggles in regard to wanting an attractive home. Was it a waste of the resources God gave me to use them in such a way, or would it be in better keeping with Christian character to buy bargain basement items, no matter whether they suited me? Were decorative items wasteful and selfish or an enhancement?

It helped me greatly to realize that God could have made the world simply functional, but he made it beautiful as well. Another help was realizing that the Proverbs 31 woman dressed in “coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple,” the finest in her day.

I read Edith’s book as some point during this time, and I remember feeling so relieved that my natural inclinations were okay. She discusses the principles above, and the principle of balance: we have to keep our artistic desires within the context of our finances, our season of life, our responsibilities to our families and our calling in life at any given point. It’s possible to go overboard. Yet within those contexts, God gives us great freedom of self-expression which in turn can be used to glorify Himself and draw others to Him.

She discusses in turn (these are all linked to my discussions of each chapter):

The First Artist (God’s creativity)
What Is Hidden Art?
Music
Painting, Sketching, and Sculpturing
Interior Decoration
Gardens and Gardening
Flower Arrangements
Food
Writing
Drama
Creative Recreation
Clothing
Integration (of different races, ages, cultures, etc.)
Environment (the type we create in our homes or with our personalities)

She does concede that in some cases we may only be able to cultivate an appreciation for some of these areas rather than a talent in them, and she acknowledges that probably no one can incorporate all of them at once, but she makes a strong case for each one and brings out a variety of ways to employ them in our homes.

The book isn’t flawless: some of its examples and illustrations are a bit dated (it was originally published in 1971), sometimes Edith can get just a touch preachy, sometimes she goes on and on with examples when we’ve gotten the point already. But overall it is great encouragement and inspiration to employ creativity. I enjoyed perusing the book again.

I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art’ (p. 213).

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club: Chapter 14; Environment

tea_table(Graphics courtesy of Julia Bettencourt)

We’re discussing The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer a chapter at a time at  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris.

The last chapter of the book is “Environment,” and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it at first. Edith had promoted involvement in nature and decried the “plasticness” of her era earlier in the book, so I assumed this chapter would be along those lines. But I suppose that would have been a bit redundant since she had already discussed those things, and I was delighted to find she was referring instead to the environment each of us creates through our personalities, outlook, etc., as well as how we keep and decorate our homes. Perhaps some would understand this better as an aura, though not in the New Age sense of the word.

I marked many long paragraphs in the book that would be too much to reproduce here, so let me see if I can pick out a few of the key thoughts.

We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us. The effect on them is something they cannot avoid. We should have thoughtfulness concerning our responsibility in this area. We should be artists in doing something about the environment we are creating – artists before God, of course. We have His help because we are artists in this sense, in the hands of the Holy Spirit; for if we are Christians, He is dwelling in us, and we can ask for His power to help us.

Here in this life, a Christian should be an environment which is helpful to the people with whom he lives. This is not just a matter of dress and tidiness but also of character and spiritual life. It is worth considering what sort of an “art form” we are. What sort of an environment do we drag in with us? How do we affect other people in their attitudes toward that which we are supposed to represent? (p. 212).

“We are either being what the Holy Spirit would have us be, or we are hindering His work in us and through us. As God created the world, He was creating an environment for man which, we are told, was ‘good.’…It was a good environment before sin entered to spoil it. But Christians, who are restored to relationship and fellowship with God, should ask that they might be an environment that is conducive to others wanting to come to God (p. 212).

I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art’ (p. 213).

I was just thinking today, not for the first time, that I get frustrated at sentimental prose which seems to indicate that one can either have a clean house or spend quality time with kids, and of course the more godly person chooses time with kids. But does it have to be either/or? Sure, there are times we get too task-oriented and have to remind ourselves that people are more important than to-do lists. But I think one of the best ways to avoid this dichotomy to to integrate fun and family time into work. I appreciate that in the Little House on the Prairie series, and though I’m not a big proponent of Amish culture, I do like that both in the home and the community people pitch in together to work. In that way children learn the satisfaction of seeing a job well done, learning new skills as they grow up, and fellowshipping with others at the same time. My mother-in-law was a great example of this: until she started to decline, she always had a cheerful industriousness about her, and I appreciate that that rubbed off on her youngest son. I’m afraid I let my own negative attitude about work rub off on my children, but on the other hand I think they do have pleasant memories of working on projects with their dad in particular.

One of Edith’s examples in the book is that of roommates and how the slovenly habits of one affect first the mood and then the motivation of the other. As Edith said in some of the quotes above, our “environment” can either lift someone up or drag them down.

It goes without saying, too, that ‘The Environment’, which is you should be an environment which speaks of the wonder of the Creator who made you (p. 213).

I want to thank Cindy for hosting this book club. I gleaned much, much more out of the book by just reading a chapter a week, writing up thoughts about it, seeing what others had to say and pondering sometimes different perspectives or emphases, and then thinking about it all through the week before the next chapter, than I would have just plowing through on my own. I am thinking that this extended working through a non-fiction book is a much better way or retaining what I read.

This has been at least my second time through the book – I may have read it more times than that, but I can’t remember. I’ve enjoyed going back over it once again.

Two projects done

I finally got a couple of projects done in the sewing/craft room I had been wanting to do for some time.

For a little background first, my original sewing room in our old house looked like this:

Old sewing room

It had been Jason’s room, so, he had chosen the wall color, and I loved the way my pink and white stuff looked against it. When we moved to our new house, all of the walls were beige. They were in fine condition (and we were tired!), so we didn’t want to paint, plus it was a much smaller room, and I thought darker colored walls would make it look even smaller and cave-like. But I liked the color combination of dark blue, pink, and white, and decided to try to incorporate them in the new sewing room.

Last year we got this futon, and I bought the throw somewhere online:

Photobucket

It hasn’t been easy finding that color combination, though, in fabrics.

Pretty much from the first time I saw this idea on Pinterest of using a fitted sheet for a no-sew curtain, I was fairly sure that’s what I wanted to do. The hard thing was deciding on fabric. I couldn’t find any sheets I wanted to use for it, so I figured I’d just buy a length of fabric and put elastic at both ends (the elastic helps it pouf). At first I thought I’d go for something pink and rosy, but just couldn’t decide. Then I thought maybe I could mimic the futon, darker blue with a pink design. I looked for darker blue fabric with roses on it in multitudes of places – to no avail. One day after I finally decided on storage containers for the closet, I went out to the shed to retrieve some fabric I had stored there, and was thrilled to find a piece of blue with pink roses on it that I had forgotten about. The blue wasn’t quite as dark as what I’d had in mind, but when I laid the fabric on the futon, I saw the blues matched almost perfectly. The length wasn’t quite as long as a twin sheet, but it was long enough. I hemmed up each end and then threaded a length of elastic through it, and voila:

CIMG5853

I keep fidgeting with it, trying to decide if the ribbons are straight and evenly spaced, but overall I am pleased. I think it would look better on a rod-type curtain rod rather than the regular curved one. There is enough ribbon left for bows but I haven’t decided whether I want them – I don’t want it to look too “sweet” or juvenile.

The other project was a bulletin board. We had had one in my mother-in-law’s room at one place, but during one move we just never got it back up, and at her current place there is no room for it. It was faded and scratched up, but I thought I could paint it and cover it with fabric.

Once again indecision was my biggest enemy in trying to decide whether to paint the wood pink or white and what kind of fabric to use. I finally decided on white for a frame, and after finding the fabric for the curtains, decided to go with dark blue with just a little bit of a pattern on it.

I forgot to take a “before” picture, but here is a “during” – I had painted the back and sides and was getting ready to start the front:

Barbara's Cell phone pics 148

I had seen an idea at Mary Beth’s for covering a bulletin board with fabric and using a butter knife to tuck it in around the edge. That worked great.

CIMG5850

I had originally wanted to criss-cross some ribbons over it (like this), but decided it was small enough and the fabric was tight enough across it that it should be ok. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case – when I raised it up, the fabric started to move a bit. So it’s just pinned up there for now til I decide what to do. I know a thin layer of glue, like a glue stick, would probably keep it on, but I don’t know how it would work for pinning through. (I should have looked up Mary Beth’s tutorial again before I started – I see she used hot glue around the edges.)

I also found a rose applique that had been sitting in my sewing desk drawer for years and thought that would be a nice crowning touch, so I glued it on.

CIMG5851

So here is that corner of the room updated:

CIMG5854

I’m almost ready to show you the whole room – still have a few things to do. 🙂

One of my next projects needs to be a new sewing machine cover: the red here doesn’t go with the pink and blue, and it is stained and old-looking. New decisions to make….