Birthiversary: My Gift for Rick

I wanted to make something for Rick for our anniversary, and I wanted to use pretty much exclusively supplies that we already had. And though I'm not, by nature, the most ooey-gooey romantic person (it's something I'm working on), it is our anniversary, and it is kind of a big deal, so I wanted it to be something sweet and sentimental for my sweet and sentimental husband (remember these love letters?). Here's what resulted:

Here are the details:

{1} The frames are from yard sales and are all roughly 14"x16"; each print itself is about 7"x9".

{2} I made them in this fancy program called Microsoft Word by inserting a rectangle in the size that the print needed to be then filling it with a text box. There is probably another way to size prints in Word...but that worked just fine for me. :)

{3} The lyrics are typed in Piron Stencil v.2 and Sketch Block (downloaded for free from this website and this website).

{4} They're all printed on vellum and, right now, matted on plain white paper. I can change out the paper for a color depending on where we end up hanging them--I'm planning on the bedroom, but we'll see.

{5} The two longer excerpts start in size 20-22 font and get progressively larger.

As for the lyrics I used, the first one is an excerpt from a song that Rick actually wrote for me a couple of years into our dating. Here's a close-up of the fonts I used (Piron Stencil v.2 and Sketch Block):

The second one is my version of a lyric from one of my favorite movies ever: Enchanted. Yes, I am that 25 year old who can sing along to every movie from The Little Mermaid to Mulan AND knows which movies "Why do we even have that lever?" and "I'm a damsel. I'm in distress. I can handle it." and "You're not a lady; you're nothin' but a sister!" are from. (Do I have any fellow Disney nerds who also know?)

Anyway, in the movie, (if you've never had the pleasure of seeing Enchanted--and if you haven't, you must go out and rent it right now, or I might be forced to re-enact the entire thing for you on this blog, and Rick would roll his eyes more than once about that) Giselle has just been lovingly rescued from a malicious troll by Prince Edward, and he sings "You were made..." and she sings "...to finish your duet." Obviously I couldn't put "You were made to finish your duet" in the frame, so I had to tweak it a little.

Aaaaaand the third one is an excerpt from the song we danced to at our wedding: "May I Have This Dance", sung by Scott Krippayne.

So there's my romantic anniversary present. Rick really liked them, and I think I may have even seen a little tearing up, though that is not confirmed. These work for us because music as actually a pretty big part of our lives, and always has been. Both of my parents are music teachers, I was raised on musical theater (we have several home movies of me singing songs from Les Mis, Nunsense, Godspell...), and I was in chorus and marching band and played the French horn from 4th grade to (sort of) this day. Rick has been playing the piano since he got one of those toy keyboards as a wee one and has been playing at church since he was 8. So music is important to us, making these prints all the more special. :)

What are your special songs?


Birthiversary: Our Wedding Slideshow

In honor of our marriage turning three tomorrow (the second installment in our birthiversary celebration!), I thought I'd share something we put together for The Big Day that was the #1 most commented-on feature by our guests: our wedding slideshow, which we played continuously while our guests were arriving at the ceremony. This slideshow was not (or so we were told by numerous guests) "your ordinary picture slideshow." Instead, it displayed the fruits of many hours cuddled up with our photo albums to find parallel pictures of our "growing up" years. We had so much fun putting this together, and our guests had fun watching it. Here are some of our favorites slides:

Our 1st birthdays, held by our grandpas. :)

Here, brother, let me dump some snow on you. You don't look frozen enough.

Rick was miserable because he didn't get the yellow gumball. True story.

Uhhh...Santa on the right? What's up with your tinted glasses?
Just an ordinary day.


Ahem. Side note: If you were to view us playing the piano today (a rare occasion for me, so you must've gotten lucky, or I was being forced at gunpoint to choose between playing the piano and eating slugs) it would look pretty much just like the photo above, except I usually try to save frilly silk dresses and bows for more momentous occasions like washing silverware or visiting the dentist. However, I would, today, still be the one plucking awkwardly at the keys with the wrong fingers and Rick would be the one looking away, grinning, and maybe even juggling flaming swords and clipping his toenails while sounding like a pro. My 10 years of piano lessons have little to show for except the right hand of "Soccer is My Favorite Sport." And even that would probably be a little rough. But am I allowed to brag about my husband? Yes? Great. Hands down (and I'm not even being biased), Rick is an amazingly gifted pianist.  I could listen to him all day.

There are 16 more, but I won't force you that far down memory lane. After all, you did just view a scandalous photo of Rick cross-dressing, and a longer-than-necessary review of my pianophobia. You can probably only take so much in one sitting. :)

What was the favorite feature of your wedding, or a wedding you've attended? I'd love for you to share. :)


It's Birthiversary time!


1. a clever combination of the less clever terms 'birthday' and 'anniversary'
2. the occasion on which you celebrate your birthday, your anniversary, and your significant other's birthday within 10 days of each other
3. an excuse to eat cake and ice cream three times within 10 days of each other

I'm the cute one in the pink. Rick's the cute one trying to play with the fire. Time changes little, no?

True story: I turn 25 tomorrow, Rick turns 25 on July 5th, and our marriage turns 3 on June 28th. We are so blessed to be able to celebrate these milestones with each other, and I'm super excited to celebrate in blog world by sharing some wedding details, gift making, and just a little bit about us that you probably never, ever wanted to know.

Consider yourself warned.

But despite the fact that I am almost a quarter of a century old, one of my co-workers told me today that I looked like I was 11. Someday, I'm told, I will view comments like hers as a compliment. Right now, though, it's just another one of those times when I have to swallow my indignance and simply smile politely, even though I really want to smile impolitely and say "No way, you look like you're 80!", which would be just as obviously inaccurate as the statement she made about me. But I'm not in the business of purposely insulting others, and am not good enough on my feet to think of a poignant but kind reply, especially when my feet have just been informed that they look pre-teen. (Though I'm pretty sure they'd be wearing a couple gargantuan BFF toe rings and glittery purple nail polish if that were true.)

She is approximately the 8,342nd person to tell me that I look like a little girl, not including Tigger in Disneyworld, who makes 8,343. I'll let you decide for yourself, if you're interested in the position of 8,344. Do I still look like this? Don't let the seersucker skirt and Tweety backpack throw you off.

No toe rings and glitter polish for this pre-teen. Of course, I might be hiding them under my saddle shoes.

While you're trying to figure out why glasses that size ever went out of style, I'm off to go work on Rick's anniversary present. I hope to share that with you sometime next week, if all goes as planned. In the meantime...have a happy weekend! :)


True Confessions of an Imperfect Homeowner

I don't know about you, but my house isn't perfect. The curtains I spent an hour ironing last night are still wrinkly, there is still a blue tint in gray paint #2 that we chose for our bay window room, and we didn't make the bed this morning. And you know what? I am totally okay with all of this. Thrilled, even! I am so thankful for all the Lord has blessed us with, and at the end of the day (and this life!) it will not matter how well my pillows coordinate with my couch, how many people comment on my posts, and whether or not my house is magazine-worthy. (Good thing, too, because it never, ever will be.) Projects and blogging are "my thing" not because I want to pretend that we are Super Genius Homeowners Who Can Do It All and Then Some, nor because I want to become A Super Famous Blogger. Very simply, I create and blog because they are a serious and much-needed de-stresser from my days at school. I love that I can write without worrying about a thesis statement, or what the minimum number of pages needs to be, or how to cite that article I found on www.i-don't-really-care-what-sophocles-meant-by-that.com. (Fellow graduates of a liberal arts college, you know what I mean.)

So in the spirit of being a real (not Super) human being who blogs about her projects and her house but knows that she can find joy in--but not obsess and envy over--the things of this earth, I've decided to start a True Confessions of an Imperfect Homeowner feature in which I don't just focus on the pretty "afters," but the little things that let me know that I shouldn't take this "I like decorating my house" thing too seriously.

To get us started, I'd like to take a moment to discuss my cats. More specifically, their fur. The floors, the stairs, the comforter, the curtains, the chair I'm sitting on, my butt when I stand up, Rick's rainbow sherbet (true story)...they're all covered in cat hair. It's the time of year when we sit and sweat, and they sit and shed. Seriously. I don't know how they aren't bald. I've asked them that very question, but they never answer.

I get frustrated with how frequently I have to dust and vacuum every surface unless I want to live in a giant hairball, and I'm not a fan of pulling up the comforter at night (which is dark gray, meaning every little speck of fur shows up--super fine choice, Erin) and inhaling a big blob of fur. I wish my house was just a tad more presentable, and I've been known to make myself crazy right before company comes over. But then I think about how much joy and laughter those two little kitties bring me, and how grateful I am to not be allergic to them, and what would our couch really look like without one of them curled up on it, and how, really, that much fur would be on any comforter: I can just more easily see that it needs to be cleaned on this one. And that's a plus, right? In the words of Legally Blonde the Musical: "Keep it positive." (The song goes on to say something about slapping someone to the floor, but that's not usually part of my mantra.)

I will NOT feel badly about something that just about every pet owner has to deal with. It doesn't make my house any less perfect for us. In fact, it really makes our home MORE perfect for us.

When I tuck myself in at night, whether I'm choking on fur or not, I have to be able to look back on my day and hope that I not only stayed positive and realistic about my life, my house, my plans, but also that I kept my heart where it mattered: my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my family, and my relationship with the Lord, the only one who deserves any glory or honor about the house and gifts that we've been blessed with, ever.

Anyone else have a true confession of an imperfect home to share? :)


Dye + polyester = sad face.

This is the story of a project that did not turn out as planned. It's the story of how polyester, yellow dye, and a giant pot of boiling water took away several hours of my life that I will never, ever get back. (If the word polyester would have scared you away from the beginning, then you are smarter than I.)

We had  purchased these chairs several months earlier with the intention of sewing slipcovers, but when I saw some people in blogland dying fabric, I thought that we'd give that a try first. I figured it would save me the time and energy I'd spend cajoling the sewing machine to cooperate with me.

The fabric on the chairs is 100% polyester. Now, I have read that polyester is hard to dye, so I got the iDye Poly from Joann's. We carefully took the fabric off of the chairs (there were approximately 8,451 staples holding it in place), and then I got busy preparing The Dye Bath. Following the directions like a good girl, I first soaked my garments. (No, that is not a euphemism for "I wet my pants.")

Then, I let my packet of stinky dye mix dissolve in a steaming hot bowl of water.

Then, I dissolved that in my pot of water and put the garments back in. According to the directions, the water had to come to a boil before the "dye process" would be most effective. ("Dye process most effective" may strike you as a gigantic oxymoron when you see how this all turns out.) I would highly recommend engaging in any or all of the following activities while waiting for that elusive boiling temperature to come:

1. Read War and Peace aloud.
2. Crochet curtains for your entire house.
3. Teach yourself Mandarin Chinese.
4. Memorize the entire script of Gone With the Wind.
5. Count the brush strokes on the nearest painted wall.
4. Read War and Peace in Mandarin Chinese while crocheting curtains for your neighbor's entire house.

Aaaaand that ought to keep you busy for part of the time, at least. :)

Once it finally came to a boil, and I was able to express my excitement about that fact like a Chinese version of Scarlett O'Hara, I began the agitation process of stirring my brew. And in case you were wondering, I'm not picking my nose in this picture (though that is another excellent way to pass the time). The dye bath smelled like something you shouldn't spend several hours inhaling.

An hour later, I took out the garments, tossed them in the wash (as per the directions), and then Rick got busy stretching them back onto the chairs. And what do we have? Chairs the color of...margarine.

Mmm, partially hydrogenated butter substitute. Does it make you want toast? No? Okay.

In addition to the fact that they hardly look any different than when we began the entire process (except that they shrunk...which is NOT a plus), "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" is not exactly the look I was going for. I followed the directions to the letter (maybe that was the problem? Has anyone else tried it?) and did not find success. So the moral of the story is that, unless you have nothing better to do with 5 hours of your life, you should not mess with polyester. However, mess with polyester is precisely what someone did when they created these snazzy coordinating outfits:


Now that is polyester I could get along with. In fact, I'm thinking these exact outfits would be ideal for our next family portrait. Thoughts?


A tribute to "DUH" moments (and the end of the school year).

So, I asked on Friday if any of you could identify this symbol that appears 13 times around the perimeter of our pool. Thank you to all who were concerned about our safety, thus pointing out that we should be wary to javelin or eat cotton candy while swimming. We felt pretty good about those clever warnings. Except...then some very smart someone brought it to my attention that the symbol looked like “no diving”…only upside down.

(Insert giant pause here in which I tap my head thoughtfully and wonder how I could have missed that.) 

See what happens when you rotate it?

The problem is that from the deck, (which I’m pretty sure is the point from which I’ve done nearly all of my pool diving) the symbol IS upside down. Leading us less-perceptive folks to think it was some wonky symbol about miscreant electrical lines. Of course, I am sure that once we were actually able to swim in our pool, as opposed to peering at its cloudy Black Lagoon-ness from said deck, we would have figured this out immediately, seeing as how from that vantage point the symbol would have been right side up. This picture is proof of our shrewdness and cunning intelligence, and will surely convince you that we have brains:

Yeah. That's actually kind of embarrassing. I call this face "Monkey Doing Ballet While Holding Back Upchuck." I don't know what Rick calls his face. And he's off taking his boards, so I can't even ask him. Or get permission to post this photo. Buahahaha...

Anyway, I am going to blame my lapse in logic on something completely separate from our pool, our house, and our overall general focus of this blog. As a tribute to the (almost) end of the school year, I am going to blame it on the very true fact that I have spent a year with 9th graders writing the things I am about to list, along with my own commentary. These are NOT made up, so I apologize if your faith in the future generation dwindles after reading. Rest assured that this is only a very small sampling of the statements that parade across my desk, and in no way should they represent the majority of student work, which is, by most standards, usually pretty brilliant. ;)

Drumroll please!

*          *          *

The Best of Grading: 2010-11

 “I would like to be the vladavictorian someday.”
-Words You Should Know How to Spell if You Want to Be Head of Your Class

 “I would have a higher GPS if I studied.”
-How Hard Work Can Elevate your Global Positioning Device from Dashboard to Ceiling

 “To curl your hair, put a handful of mouse in it.”
-Natural Hair Care for Rodent Lovers

 “The two pants won’t let them get married because they hate each other.”
-The Impact Feuding Trousers Can Have on Holy Matrimony

“I liked that virgin better because Leonardo Dicaprio is in it and he’s my husband.”
-The Disturbing Preferences of Delusional Individuals

 “The old version is better because Romeo & Juliet shouldn’t have all that new technology, like guns, cars, and black people.”
-iRace and Other Innovative Gadgets

“The characters faced many testes in this book.”
-What Every Parent Wants to See When Reading a Child's Lit Analysis
(*Please note: that should have been ‘tests’, lest you think I’m assigning literature that is better left in an adult store.)

 “The candy won’t be as bad for me as it will be for you because I’m young and have more anatomy on my teeth.”
-How to Get Rejected from Dental School

“My eyes hopefully haven’t tricked me, for I believe that have just looked into the eyes of a beautiful angle.”
-Pick-Up Lines for the Obtuse and Acute 

“Sour Lifesavers are the best because they are sour but also sweat.”
-'So That's Why My Candy Tasted Like B.O.' and Other Stories

“There are many spices that rely on polar bears.”
- How Extinction Will Impact our Rosemary and Dill Supply

“One of my weaknesses is that I am unorganism.”
-Solid Excuses for the Inability to Locate Your Homework, If You’re a Rock

 *          *          *

Yes, yesterday marked the last official day of classes, which means that it will be another 2 ½ months before I again have the distinct pleasure of snorting my yogurt out my nose while grading. It also means I won’t have anything to blame future "DUH" moments on. So…feel free to misuse words in any and all future comments, just so I don’t forget what it’s like to have cultured goo pass through my nasal cavities.

Weekend Bloggy Reading


Caption Fun: Can you identify this warning symbol?

Today is Friday, June 10th. It's the time of year when I really start wishing that summer vacation could just hurry up and get here. It's the time of year when pools are supposed to be functional, unless they are reformed Black Lagoons who need to now be enrolled in etiquette classes regarding How to Not Be Cloudy. It's the time of year when students show up to their Romeo & Juliet final project presentation with a Scarecrow Barbie doll dressed in a wifebeater and announce that it is Romeo, and that the ratty blonde in the pink jumper is Friar Laurence. In honor of this insanity, I thought I'd host a little caption party, because we like to laugh around here, and I had to contain my snickering during the aforementioned R&J presentation. Which is really difficult when Romeo has an orange nose and Juliet is stabbing herself with a plastic blue spatula. Therefore, without further ado:

What caption should go with this perplexing symbol that appears 13 times around the perimeter of our pool?

We have honestly been pondering this ourselves and, while we have come up with several viable options, we're still not 100% sure. We have thus far eliminated "Do not spin a baton while swimming because it will start leaking toxic waste and turn your head into a disfigured trapezoid." (Good to know, because I have been known to enjoy a few good baton twirls while perfecting my side stroke.)

What do YOU think it is? Please leave a comment with your thoughts! And if you have a pool that is functional, enjoy it this weekend. Just watch out for those nasty toxic batons. :)


Our Pool, the Black Lagoon

When we became homeowners in February, we unwittingly also became owners of our very own Black Lagoon. The MLS listing described this as an above-ground pool. I'd like to make it known that this is a hugely misleading description. Take a look:

Over the past weekend, we began the tedious process of converting our lagoon into a functional swimming pool. This process required use of the words coagulate and backwash. (This is jargon that might seem second nature to any seasoned pool owners out there, but it caused me, a mere novice lagoon owner, to check my drink for unwanted particles.) It also required Rick and my dad--our resident pool expert!--to don their best "Black Lagoon" faces.

At one point, a creepy one-armed ceramic girl with a hole in her head began eerily rising out of the muck and mire. Or...my mom held her there so I could take a picture. I can't remember which.

 Gross, right? I fully expected to wake up Saturday morning and see this:

But apparently the potential swamp critters didn't think the shock, algaecide, and clarifier made for a desirable living habitat, because we were pleasantly surprised to see this instead:

As you can see, it's no longer a Black Lagoon. More like a Cloudy Green Mess of Leftover Leaf and Dirt Debris From the Cover Being Haphazardly Draped Across the Pool for the Entire Winter. Please note: this is not a recommended approach to pool care. :)

We are now trying to battle the cloudiness, which is proving to be a bit tricky. I'm hoping we figure it out soon though, because, quite frankly, it's sort of turned Rick into a version of Swamp Monster, minus the scales and claws...

P.S. Weirdly doctored photo of our pool overtaken by a swamp thing is compliments of too much time on my hands and this website. (In case you want to buy that costume for yourself.) :)


How we made a custom ottoman for $47!

I promised a tutorial for our ottoman, and we finally pulled it together. The entire process was actually pretty easy, and not even that time-consuming. Rick built the plywood frame several weeks ago and we upholstered the entire thing in a few hours. And did I mention that it was only $47? For a giant ottoman in which I can cram a whole bunch of junk and myself? Here’s the cost breakdown:
  • 4 yards of fabric: $12 (it was $3/yard red tag clearance at Joann’s—see why I love that place even though they think I’m crazy?)
  • 1 ½ sheets of 3/4" plywood: $22
  • Polyester batting: $11 for a giant roll, and we have plenty left over to...build an ottoman for every room of the house
  • 3” needle for tufting: $2 for a 4 pack
  • Thread: yanked from the fabric itself
  • Tack strips: left over from another project/free with purchase of Shredded Wheat (this will make sense as you continue reading)
Aaaand here is the step-by-step for how we used all of these items to make this, which we may have high-fived over a few times. :)

1. Build the frame. Rick used 1 ½ sheets of 3/4" plywood to build a box that was the size we wanted (60" wide, 18" high, 22" deep), and then supported the inner corners with scrap wood. He didn’t bother making the joints all fancy with the Kreg Jig since we knew we would just be covering up the ugliness. We could have chosen a nicer grade of wood, too, but it didn’t make sense since, well, we would just be covering it up. The lid is loose so that we can use the ottoman for storage.

2. Wrap the sides in batting. We stapled it to the underside of the box and then just smoothed the rest into place to avoid lumps around the upper rim. We used one layer of batting on the four sides and four layers on the lid so that our tufts would be more prominent.

3. Bring on the fabric! A box like this is really the easiest thing to upholster, especially if you’ve ever worked on a chair or something with temperamental curves. We find it helpful to start from a corner (as opposed to the middle) and smooth the fabric along as you staple. Pull the fabric tight but not so tight that you create little upholstery “love handles.” Here's a close-up of my fabric, which sort of looks like burlap but is much softer.

We upholstered the front and the back of the ottoman first, then used two kinds of tack strips to attach the sides. The first kind is this really exotic tack strip called Old Cereal Boxes Cut Into Appropriately Sized Strips manufactured by Company of Your Choice.

The second kind of tack strip that we used we bought from the store (for an earlier upholstery project), and looks like either super goth jewelry or a weapon with which great torture could be incurred:


Basically, it allows you to nail down the very last edge of fabric so that the raw edge of the fabric is hidden. You fold the fabric under the tack strip and then gently whack it from the outside with a soft mallet to attach it. This step occasionally brings on mild bitterness when being completed in our household can be tricky. See this video for a helpful visual about using tack strips.

4. Tuft your lid. This step is optional, of course, but we like the extra dimension the tufting adds. I actually pulled the thread from the fabric itself and used three strands for each tuft. This not only created a nice thick thread that blended in perfectly with the ottoman, but also didn’t force us to go buy some expensive thread.

We were going to use washers as our anchor for the tufts, but were cheap—again—and ended up using pieces of a cardboard box (slightly thicker than a cereal box). The picture says it all.

So that’s it: our custom ottoman! The inside isn't that great looking, but it is still a good place to store clutter. And cats.

This room has come a long way since April!

Oh--and see those frames above the window? That's our love letter art, which Heather from Dollar Store Crafts was very sweet to feature yesterday!

Hope everyone's having a fabulous weekend! :)

UPDATE: Go here for an improved version of this with new fabric, tufted buttons, and a brace for the lid!

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