Weed it out

Tips for your garden and your heart:

I’ve been mulling over a thought this past week. Sometimes little inspirations or philosophical notions hit me like a beam of light from above. (Cue angelic chorus) Whether the light is heavenly, I’m not sure – but the ideas come to me all the same.

Helena and I were sitting on the front walk playing “catch” with our friend’s son. He is two. The ball rolled into the grass and he trotted over to retrieve it. There, along the sidewalk edge – several weeds (I hate to say) caught his attention.

“Want to pick the weed?” he asked, sweetly.

I laughed, out loud. Obviously this kid’s parents had been teaching him about yard maintenance.

I graciously obliged and the three of us began picking weeds along the walkway – some of us more efficiently than others.

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I thought, “Awesome! I can babysit and do yard work at the same time!” Yeah right. It lasted a few minutes until he got bored and started running towards the street. Helena went the other way, crawling up our railing-less, concrete porch steps. Awesome.

Don’t worry, I caught them both at the same time with my long, elastic arms.

So when did this inspiration hit me? It was during the two quiet minutes before chaos broke loose. We were making our weed pile on the sidewalk and I noticed the kids were basically just popping the tops off the weeds. Bless their hearts.

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Fortunately, I have the benefit of being married to a lumberjack/gardener extraordinaire. So I’ve been schooled in the art of weeding.

Grab the weed by the base. Get down in there. Your fingers are going to get a little dirty. You might need to do a little twisting, rocking – but soon you will feel that root loosening – now pull straight up.

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It’s the root that you’re after.

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A feeling of satisfaction washed over me as I successfully uprooted that sucker, and I thought, “What other areas of my life need to be weeded?” 

You can go as deep as you want with this analogy:

Weeding in your garden and in your life takes maintenance – or before long it will be overtaken by something you didn’t intend to be there.

You can’t just hack off the tops of your problems – they will just keep coming back.

Weeds are strong and invasive like our vices. Greed, lust, sloth, anger. You didn’t mean to raise a crop of the seven deadly sins, but here you are…

You didn’t mean to eat the whole package of Oreos/Watch the whole season/drink the whole bottle of wine – but you did. (Ok, I did.)

What weeds/vices in your life need to be uprooted?

Or maybe it’s not a vice – maybe it’s something that was good, but has taken over ground meant for more important things. Maybe you need to do a little weeding to bring more balance into your life.

In two weeks I start a new part time job at my school. There were so many things I loved about being an art teacher, so many things I will miss – but at this point in our lives my full-time career was taking up too much precious earth. I want to make room to plant new things with my daughter and with our family.

Weeding is not easy. Sometimes you give up after two minutes. Sometimes you need to get out the shovel.

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But keep at it, my friends. We shall overcome!

 

Chalk top

As of Wednesday afternoon, our coffee table is no longer topless…

Let me break down the steps for any of you who are curious – or want to paint something with chalkboard paint that probably shouldn’t be painted.

First, make sure you have a cute helper to display your supplies – Vanna style.

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Don’t worry, Helena was just pretending to clean. There was no child labor or exposure to chemicals involved in this DIY project.

Ok, just one more because she is so cute!

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Once Helena was out of the way napping, I began by thoroughly wiping down the glass with cleaner to remove all the crud and fingerprints.

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It’s important to have clean glass so that the primer will adhere. (It’s also important to have clean glass so people will not judge you when they come over to your house.)

Next, I removed the glass and carefully carried it out to the garage where Micah had rigged up a “work table” out of empty garbage cans and some old wood. Sometimes it pays off to have junk laying around – and to have a husband who will complete feats of engineering at your request  😉

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I was itching to bust out that chalkboard paint, but I rolled on a thin coat of primer first.

 

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I gave it a day to dry and then gave it a very light sanding.

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Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – it was time to whip out that black gold.

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Oh yeah.

 

I continued to use my small roller and painted a single, thin layer of chalkboard paint. Then let it dry 24 hours as per the paint can’s instructions.

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Rinse and repeat 2 times. Except don’t rinse.

 

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Three coats and three days later, she was ready…almost.

While poking around and doing “research” on pinterest, I had seen something about “seasoning” a chalkboard. I found a great tutorial here. Basically, you need to smudge chalk all over your board before you draw or write on it for the first time – otherwise it will leave a “ghost” mark and you won’t be able to completely erase it.

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To begin, I used the side of a piece of chalk and began to cover the entire board, moving vertically.

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Voila!

Then I continued to rub chalk in the opposite direction, going horizontally this time.

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To finish, I used a cloth to buff the chalk off.

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I love how the chalk brought out a slate like texture in the paint.

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Once the “seasoning” was done, I carefully carried the glass inside. I was really worried I wouldn’t love it…

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But I did! 🙂 (I feel like it looks like an old school chalkboard that someone made into a coffee table! Why didn’t I do this sooner?!)

The only thing left to do was see if Helena loved it too!

While I was waiting for her to wake up from her nap I christened the table by doodling a blog logo and setting up a little vignette. I probably should have used that time to do the laundry or get started on dinner – but this was more fun.

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And before long she was up…

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…and doing some doodling of her own! 🙂

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We did a little name writing,

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heart drawing,

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and of course, chalk tasting. 🙂

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I think she loves it too.

 

p.s. A little disclaimer here… While I think our table looks awesome right now, and I hope it continues to do so – the verdict is still out whether it will hold up over time. I will probably use coasters just in case – but I doubt a little spill here or there will hurt it. I will definitely post an update down the road to let you know about wear and tear.

Please share your chalkboard  painting projects with me – I’d love to hear all about them! Seriously. I’ve got 3/4 of a can of paint left. Entry wall/pantry door/squirrel outside my window – I’m lookin’ at you. Nothing is safe.

p.p.s. Thank you,  Julie for the chalk board paint – thanks to you this project was officially free!

 

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Golden Granola

I found a container of oats in the back of our pantry the other day. Micah and I have been setting goals for cutting our grocery budget and doing better about using up what we have in the house; so I made an apple crisp one night but was still left with about 5 cups of oats in a can stamped 07-14. These oats needed to find a home in our bellies quick, or they would find themselves in the compost.

 

So, I asked my mother-in-law for her famous granola recipe, and she graciously obliged! (Get out your notebook, pin this, or whatever you need to do because you are going to want to make this!)

 

Here is our cast of characters:

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Just look at those classy, store brand ingredients! 🙂

 

You will need:

A 9×13 dish – Oven @ 250 degrees F.

5-6 cups oats
1 cup chopped pecans (I had chopped walnuts in the fridge, so I used those instead)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup (also did not have this…use whatchya got!)
1/4 cup butter, melted
First, butter your 9×13 dish.
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Next, add your dry ingredients straight into the buttered dish. Start with 5-6 cups of oats,
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1 cup chopped pecans (or other nut),
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1/2 tsp. salt,
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1 tsp. cinnamon,
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and a 1/2 cup of brown sugar.
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Now stir together.
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The last two ingredients are your wet ingredients – 1/4 syrup and 1/4 melted butter.
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I poured my syrup right on top of my butter and popped them into the microwave for about 30 seconds so they would melt together.
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When the mixture is melted, drizzle over dry your ingredients.
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Stir together until well coated, making sure the syrup mixture does not sit on the bottom (as it might burn – and miss the opportunity of making it into your mouth)!
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Bake for 30 minutes at 250 degrees F.
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Stir once or twice while baking.
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After 30 minutes, turn the oven off and leave your dish in there overnight or for several hours. This will give your granola that crunchy texture we all know and love.
To store, place your granola in an airtight container.
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Serving suggestion:
Enjoy with milk, fruit & yogurt, or as an ice cream topping! This morning I was craving a parfait, so I got to work making a dent in that big jar o’ granola.
*Bonus Recipe: Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
Rinse small berries or cut up fruit such as strawberries, peach or nectarine.
(This picture makes my mouth water – I had been eyeing this nectarine all week & caught it at the perfect ripeness. It’s the simple things, ya know?)
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Layer fruit, yogurt and your homemade granola in a cute dessert dish that coincidentally also came from you mother-in-law. (Thanks, Mom!)
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Enjoy!
Thank you, Jayne Putman for sharing your delish granola recipe! Feel free to add corrections and variations in the comment section 🙂
Does anyone else have a recipe or trick to use up things that otherwise might go to waste?

Prime time

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Black and blue #thesimplepalette

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Happy Monday, my lovely readers! I’m back with a quick progress update on the chalkboard coffee/play table. After doing a little more research and getting some great tips from thoughtful friends on facebook (and Katie Bower when she kindly replied to my comment on her chalkboard table 🙂 ), I decided to prime the glass first. My biggest fear is that the paint will begin to scratch off or chip after a few good table poundings from Helena via her new wooden hammer.

So with the added step of the primer it seems this weekend project has turned into a week-long project. Also with this mid-summer air being so thick with humidity I’ve been giving everything a little extra dry time.

On Saturday I started off with some Zinsser primer we had laying around in the basement. It clearly said, “Primer For All Projects” on the front. So, that means glass, right? Keep your fingers crossed, guys!IMG_20140726_135631_086

 

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The chalk board paint instructions said 24 hours to re-coat, so I did my first coat on Sunday and just completed the second coat this afternoon. The little foam roller I’ve been using lays down a pretty thin layer, so I’m thinking I may even need a third coat. Riveting stuff, I know.

I realize I could probably be using more professional products – but for some reason I’m determined to do this project using things we already have on hand!

What, you don’t use paper plates as paint trays?

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The good news is, if this combo of primer and paint doesn’t hold up, I can flip the glass over and try a different approach! (i.e. maybe I will go out and buy that spray primer!)

 

In other news, Helena is enjoying the unrestricted access to her toy baskets!

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Just look at that face! She’s like, “What the heck did you do to our table, Mom?”

 

Well, I hope to be back soon with a finished table and a more detailed account of what worked (if it does)! Has anyone else ever taken extra steps on a project that paid off in the end? Hopefully this is one of those things!

 

A weekend project

Ok. Time to bring a little more levity to this blog. I’m about to roll my sleeves up and get my DIY on. That’s the plan for this weekend anyhow.

I figured if I share my plan with you I might have a little extra motivation to actually do it.

So, we have this coffee table… We’ve had it ever since my sweet mother-in-law snagged it on the side of the road for us when we were newlyweds. I loved the rustic wood tone, but didn’t fancy myself a glass-topped coffee table kind of gal. However, we did consider ourselves house poor, having just put all our (Micah’s) savings into a down payment – so I wasn’t about to be picky.

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I figured we’d replace it down the road but we never did get around to it. It kind of grew on me. As long as I wiped it down periodically the glass top added a nice airy vibe to our small living room.

These days, however, I feel like it’s giving off less of an airy vibe and more of a smudgy, icky vibe.

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It has basically become Helena’s play table throughout the day. We do not have a playroom and since her bedroom is on the second floor, she plays in the living room while I cook, clean and sew (ha!) on the main floor ;). So of course her hand-prints get all over it and rings from her sippy cup accrue and by mid day it needs to be wiped down again. Not my idea of a good time.

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I keep her toys in baskets under the table so she can easily pull them out and play on the floor or table. Genius, I know. However, I don’t like how you can see all the toys through the top of the table. (I’m still in denial that a kid is taking over our house – so I try to hide it as much as possible)

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So, instinct says – time for a new coffee table. But… that’s not really in the budget right now. So I’ve come up with a plan of sorts to make this a fun play table for Helena, but also a nice/unique coffee table for us adults to use as well.

I’m one of those people that wants to put chalkboard paint on everything. (I wanted to chalk up our old refrigerator back in the day – but Micah quickly nixed that) So naturally, chalk board paint came to mind as a solution for our table. How fun would it be to have a table that is actually OK for your kids to draw on – or to keep score when you are playing Rummy 500 with your husband (or when your sister Tabitha comes to visit and wants to play canasta all night long)!

All kidding aside, I really do want our home to be a creative place – not pretty and stuffy. I want to raise Helena with creative experiences and opportunities like this. For now she will probably just eat the chalk… but eventually I think she will enjoy a little self expression 🙂

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My plan is to remove the glass and give it a few coats of that velvety, black chalk board paint. I’ll leave the wood alone for now – bite mark and all. (Adds a little rustic charm, right?)

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Hopefully I will be back on Monday with a finished table…or an update at least. This could totally be a flop, I know. I’ve looked around the internets and have seen a lot of coffee tables adorned with chalkboard paint – none of them glass though :/

So we shall see… If you have any tips on painting glass, using chalkboard paint, or feel the need to stop me before I ruin my table – please do tell!

 

Let them eat dirt…

With the recent cutback to our income, we’ve had to get a little creative with meals…

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Kidding!

 

 

Helena found a terracotta pot on our front porch this morning that was just right (Goldilocks style).

Like a moth to a flame she was drawn to it (and all the dirt inside).

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She was so captivated by it that she sat still for several minutes trying to experience it in every way. Tasting the dirt (of course), dumping it out, filling the pot with dirt again – crumbling it between her tiny, chubby fingers.

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I was struck with the thought that she was so content to just sit there, playing in dirt. Not a pretty artisan toy we picked out for her at the farmers market. Not a shiny plastic gadget with lights and sounds. Not an ipad.

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Now I won’t be a naive young mother and assume she will always be like this. I am sure the day will come where she is no longer content to watch the ant crawl along the driveway as her sole form of entertainment. But I am relishing in the fact that she does now.

I want to be more like that. To be content without all the gadgets and shiny pretty things that I am constantly “pinning” and telling Micah, “We NEED this! WE NEED ALL THE THINGS!” This is hard because it is totally my hobby. To make things pretty; better. I am always trying to improve our home – constantly moving things around, re-arranging furniture. Micah calls it puttering.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to improve your quality of life. (Like finally find a home for that picture frame after moving it for the 7th time.) Or trying to make your home a beautiful oasis for your family. What bothers me is becoming consumed by always wanting more.

I’m hoping this new season in life will teach me contentment & spark creativity. What is it that they say – Necessity is the mother of invention?

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p.s.

don’t worry, we feed Helena other things besides dirt.

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Resignation

Yesterday morning Helena & I drove over to school to sign some very important papers.

The ball point pen pressed into the duplicates as I scrawled my signature on the final line, next to the date. As I re-read everything carefully, she began to squirm in my lap. I gave her a cracker and she stood at my feet, happily swaying. I looked down at her. “This is for you, baby girl.” I felt relief, fear, excitement as I set the pen down.

I walked down the hall to my “old” art room, peering in the dark glass. I had forgotten my key. A lump rose up in my throat. “Did I make a mistake? Am I throwing my career away?” A beautiful reminder began to wriggle in my arms once more and I talked myself down. “This is for you. I will not regret this on your first day of Kindergarten, as you graduate High School, on your wedding day…”

I will be back to sort through stacks of warped tempera paintings, wobbly pinch pot towers and the infamous junk drawer in my desk. I never did get that under control…

a beautiful reminder
school parking lot selfie 🙂