Monday, August 27, 2012

New (School) Year's Resolutions

Yeah, yeah.  We all make New Year's Resolutions.  Which have most likely fallen by the wayside at this point - Let's be honest.  But since I have become a mom of school-aged kiddos, I find myself focusing much more on School Year's Resolutions instead.  Like the January promises, this end-of-summer swearing (and I'm not talking about the 4-letter word kind) is aimed at making 'our' lives run more smoothly and seem more balanced, though of course this only happens if I can actually stick to them - Rats!!  There's always a catch isn't there?

Well, today is 'our' first day back-to-school and in an effort to keep myself accountable, I am putting my New (School) Year's Resolutions down on paper, virtual paper anyway . . .

1.  I will manage our evenings and mornings in such a way that we make the bus!  And that was my big 2nd grader above, boarding said bus this morning, so we're off to a good start - Yay!!  Where does the time go . . . .

2.  I will use my 4 hours, 3 days-a-week of pre-school for Snacks (my big boy!!) to clean house and to prepare for Girl Scouts and CCE in advance, so that afternoons can be spent focused on my kiddos instead of scrambling to complete lesson plans and prepare activities.  This one should be possible . . .

3.  I will get up, shower and get 'dressed' each morning, regardless of whether or not I have plans outside the house that day!  I will focus more on my appearance in an effort to be 'Cute Mom On-the-Go,' thus enabling me to run up to school for lunch with Sheep on a whim, etc.  Get ready people!

4.  I will make sure that I get in at least three days of boot camp each week, even if it means giving up something else to make it happen!  This can only be good for everyone in my house!

5.  I will not commit myself to any more volunteer activities than what I have already committed to this year so that my (unpaid, Speed reminds me!) commitments do not take time away from my family!

6.  I will have dinner either prepped or planned for my mother-in-law on girl scout nights, so that we're not scrambling to figure out what we're eating at 7 o' clock, making unhealthy choices and abandoning our evening routine once a week!

7.  We will start each school day with prayer.

OK - I'm sure that's more than enough . . .  Do you make new school year's resolutions?  I'd love to hear what they are.  Leave me a comment and let me know!

I hope everyone has a GREAT first day back and a wonderful school year!

Sharing this sassy story at Mop it Up Monday, Overflowing with Creativity

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Recent Reads

Summer vacation provided  us some much needed down time and for me, there's no better way to relax than with a great book!  Speed bought me an e-reader for Christmas - nothing fancy, but boy is it dangerous for a bookworm like me!  It's just a leetle too easy to click the "Buy" button and grab the next great read without feeling like you've even spent any money and before you know it, you've got quite a tab racked up.  It's also easy for me to forget about dinner, the dishes, the laundry (the children) once I'm into a book, so I really do have to pace myself.  During the school year, I'm usually so overwhelmed committed that reading is relegated to a few chapters before bed as a reward for a day well-done (Yes, it's true.  I have to coax myself into housework by dangling a book, but whatever works, right?!). But summer had me (and the kids) indulging all day - and it was divine!

And yes, I read the Fifty Shades Thrill-ogy ('Suburban Porn' my friend called it, even as she was recommending it to me - ha), but frankly they ended up being nothing more than a 21st Century Harlequin Romance IMHO and I've never been into those.  So here are some alternatives I recommend for your nightstand instead!

Gone Girl: A Novel
Gone Girl

Definitely no fairy tale ending to this story about love and marriage here, but I TOTALLY agree with the reviewer who called this book "un-put-downable!"  Cleverly told from two different points-of view, this book is full of characters you will hate and admire at the same time.  I don't want to give anything away, but it will either make you sleep with one eye open or have you handing it to your spouse as a cautionary tale.  All I can say is GO. READ. THIS. BOOK!!

 My background as a genetic counselor probably drew me to this book, but you don't need a medical degree to understand or enjoy it!  In addition to an intriguing story about the life of twins and medical missionaries, this novel introduced me to an era in world history that was previously unknown to me.  The descriptions of life in Ethiopia and of the country itself were simply captivating and the insight into the life of the foreign medical student I found compelling.  Vargese left me wanting to know more, about many things, after reading this book.

The Kitchen House: A Novel
The Kitchen House
I love stories about the antebellum South and this novel did not disappoint!  It's a sweeping, Gone With The Wind-type novel about a young Irish girl, orphaned on her trip to America and left to grow up as an indentured servant (a white slave) on a Virginia palntation.  This novel was a very fresh take on an old topic.  It also brought to focus aspects of agrarian life that i had not really considered before.  I thought the ending washastily done, but perhaps that's because I really wanted to stick around a while longer with these characters and was sad to see it end.  In some ways it reminded me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, another of my all-time favorite reads.
Heading Out to Wonderful
Heading Out to Wonderful
I really enjoyed the first book I read by this author, A Reliable Wife, so I was pleased to find he had something else to offer!  This book doesn't have as many twists and turns, but is every bit as good of an examination of human nature and the things we do for love.  I'm always intrigued by what I call a 'Man's Love Story' because the male perspective on realtionships is foreign and entertaining to me at the same time.  Goolrick also does a fantastic job of grounding this novel in a powerful sense of place, with great descriptions of both the geography and its inhabitants.
The Light Between Oceans: A Novel
The Light Between Oceans
I just finished this book and it was simply wonderful.  Set in Australia  after World War I (seems like all I ever see these days are books set in and around WWII, so that in itself was refreshing), this book delves into the world of one couple's love, loss, sin and redemption.  As a mother, this book broke my heart and made me squeeze my kiddos a little bit tighter when I put them to bed last night.  Perhaps it was just my own back-to-school, letting go jitters, but I was completely swept up in the emotions of these characters . . . and enjoyed every minute of it!
What have you been reading lately?  I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stenciled Burlap Wall Art Tutorial

Back in the Spring, when I was 'Junkin' in Jammies', I practically stole acquired some great old frames that I had no idea what I would do with, but knew that I could not pass up!  One of them turned into a sassy little message board for my kitchen and a much larger one I set aside for a back porch art project.  And there it sat, through June, July and most of August, while the kids and I busied ourselves with all things summer!  Truth is, I knew I wanted to do something on burlap, but I was a little stumped about what I wanted it to say.  But with summer coming to an end and our back-to-school prep in full swing - it hit me!


The PERFECT wall art for our favorite summertime destination:  our own backyard!

This project was quick, easy and fun to do - so here's how ya get 'er done!


Frame of your choice
(I chose plastic since it was going outdoors!)
Craft paint - pick your color
Small brush
Thin piece of wood cut to fit
(You can have that done at your local home improvement store if
you can't slow Speed your husband down long enough to do it
and they'll do it for free!)
 Spray adhesive
Poster board
Craft knife
Paint pen (optional)

For the Frame:

Remove any inserts in the frame and cover your work area to paint.  This happens to be my dining room table - ha!

Using a small brush and craft paint, apply a small amount of paint to your brush and brush across frame.  I use recycled meat trays for easy, disposable paint trays.

This 'dry brush' technique allows some of the color underneath to show through.  This technique works well on frames with lots of molded detail.  I considered painting another color underneath first, but I liked the gold.

Let dry completely before inserting your art!

For the Insert:

Lay your burlap out with your wood that has been cut to fit on top and trim burlap close to the edges of the wood.  Spray wood with adhesive and then cover with burlap, working from the center out to smooth out any wrinkles as you go.  It took more adhesive than I thought it would . . .

For the Stencil:

This might be another 'ghetto graphics' tutorial, but it worked for me without a lot of headache (but a fair amount of hand-ache) by the time I was done.  There are plenty of other stenciling techniques out there, but this made the most sense to me for some reason.

First decide on your phrase and font style.
Then print them out on your computer using your word processing program.

Geesh - Looks like someone needs a pedi!
Anyhoo, once you like the size and layout, grab your poster board.
I simply affixed my lettering to the poster board with good old-fashioned Scotch tape.

Looks good!  Now cut through the letters and the poster board using your craft knife.
I did this on a self-healing cutting mat, but if you don't have that, make sure you put something underneath so you don't ruin your surface while cutting!

Make sure you save the 'insides' on your letters for stenciling!

Does anyone else have to work in these conditions?!

Once you've completed your stencil, remove the paper and lay it out over the burlap covered insert and start to paint!

After seeing the positive ravings about Sharpie paint pens, I decided to buy (invest) in a package of them and let me just say - "I'm hooked!" 

They really do work great and made this job easy-peasy without having to worry
about bleed through since my stencil wasn't vinyl, etc.  Yay!!

Almost finished!!

Paint might have done a 'darker' job, but I'm certain it wouldn't have been as clean.

Now, just insert your burlap-covered, fabulously-embellished , one-of-a-kind wall art
into your beautiful 'new' frame and along with the last taste of summer . . .


It's Overflowing

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Clever Chalkboard Planter

I thought I'd take a minute this afternoon to showcase this quick and clever planter I spotted outside the Girl Scout House during camp this summer (which is such an affordable and fun opportunity for girls by the way, even if they're not Girl Scouts)!

Isn't it cute?!

Last year our Daisies took on the challenge of sprucing up the outside of the scout house with fresh mulch and flowers, only to have it ruined by one of the worst droughts on record in the Lone Star State.

Planter box last year (before)

Still, it was a great opportunity for them to 'take action' in their community and practice their teamwork too!

This turned out ot be A LOT of work for these little Daisies (and their moms)!

An older troop came through this year and freshened up some of the paint at scout house, choosing to use chalkboard paint on the planter box outside.  I've seen chalkboard paint all over AND on almost everything, but I haven't seen it used this way before.  Needless to say - I was impressed!!  Then again, girl scouts are some smart cookies!

After - with some decorating by some brownies at camp!
What can I say - Gril Scouts Rull!

And how fun that the message can be changed for different events, such as our upcoming girl scout rally later this month.  I can't wait!!

I can definitely see something like this done on a planter box at the front door with a welcome message to greet your guests!  As long as it's protected from the rain, you won't be like me and having to redo your sign every other day.  Although it has occurred to me that since it rains every time I redo the message on my chalkboard at the front door, perhaps I am responsible for keeping Texas out of the drought that seems to have hit the rest of the country this year instead.

Your welcome!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer on South Padre Island

I know it seems like FOREVER since I've shared any adventures with you, but Speed and I decided to take a technology break when we left for vacation in July and let me just say - so worth it to be completely and totally present for these most precious memories! 

I had actually packed my laptop for the trip, intending to blog, but it was a seven-hour drive to our destination and somewhere along the way, we decided to turn off the computers, the e-mails, even the phones and go old school instead.  The truth is, I enjoyed it so much I've had trouble finding the gumption to get back to it!  But since my scrapbooking days seem all but over any more, I realized that blogging might be the only (semi) organized peek at their childhood my kids might have - so I'd better get busy!

We spent a month last week, I mean a week last month
on the 'Texas Riviera', enjoying literally everything summer!

'Bubby' lub!
The tide was up on the last day and brought some seaweed with it,
but otherwise the beached were clear. {LOVELY}

Say "Cheeeeeese!"

We didn't take the sand castle classes offered all over the island, but I think we did alright!

The sea shells we collected were so different than any we've ever seen on Galveston Island and very cool!
We took home lots and we've got some crafty ideas for them too!

We LOVE the beach at sunset!
We drove down to the north end of the island and paid the $5 to enter the 'park area'
AWAY from the condo crowds - well worth it!!

No pics, but when the sun went down we spread out some quilts in the back of the truck and tried to find a few constellations.  While Snacks fell asleep, the rest of us enjoyed a view of the stars that's just not possible in the city!


Am I the only mom who can't seem to keep clothes on her son?!

The Sea Turtle Rescue Center is located on So. Padre Island
and you can see all kinds of sea turtles up close and personal there! 
If you're lucky, you might get to see a hatchling release as well!

Reading on the beach - MY personal favorite!  Like mother like daughter!

Hmmmmm . . . I guess we drank it all so there wasn't a picture, but trust me, it was good!

We stopped a Bobz World for souveniers on the way home.
It's true what they say - "You gotta see it to believe it!"

About the only thing we didn't enjoy was Schlitterbahn, even though we were staying at a condo with a better view of the resort than the Gulf! Don't get me wrong, we love 'the Bahn,' but at only 2 years old, we knew that a water park wouldn't really be "the Hottest, Coolest Time in Texas" for Snacks. At least not for the price. So we decided to play it by ear and only go if Sheep was beside herself, begging. Luckily, the beach and the pool seemed to satisfy her, because she didn't even ask, even though we walked past it on our way to the water every morning. {SWEET} Which means . . . . in addition to the all the food and the fun we found, we've got one more great reason to go back some day!