Dreaming of Spring and Love

IMG_6906

This past week February arrived in a flurry of ice and snow. While I appreciated the snow days the blizzard brought, I have reached the point in winter where I start dreaming wistfully of spring and looking for ways to add some bright colors (yellow in particular) to the house.

Valentine’s Day is also coming up this week. While I understand that some people really hate Valentine’s Day, complaining that it was created by Hallmark for the sake of consumerism, or that it highlights some people’s loneliness in painful ways, or that it tries to cram romance into a single day rather than spreading it out throughout the year like good relationships should, I have always loved the idea of taking a day to intentionally celebrate those you love (including friends and family as much as significant others). Every year I try to find little ways to celebrate the day, whether with special treats in the morning or handmade cards for friends and family.

So last night, wrapped in a sweater with snow piled high outside, I made this simple, cheerful heart garland to hang above our front window.

IMG_6909 IMG_6917

I began by cutting a whole stack of hearts out of old magazine pages, specifically choosing pages that featured warm yellows, oranges, and pinks, as well as bright florals. I interspersed these with hearts cut from the old hymnal I bought at the thrift store two Christmases ago, arranging them in a long line on the table to alternate the colors and patterns the way I wanted.

Then I sewed them all together, adding hearts from the stack as I went along.

It was so easy! Once the hearts were cut out, the sewing part took less than ten minutes. I foresee more sewn garlands coming up in my future…

IMG_6901

(P.S. It looks pretty great with my homemade curtains — which I still love)

Advertisements

“I Can Make That Myself”: Laundry Detergent

IMG_1052

I’m not sure how long ago I first heard about someone making their own laundry soap, but it sounded so simple — and so cheap — it just made sense to try it. When my friend Kristina posted on our photo blog that she had tried it, the idea seemed even more credible. But then school and work and moving and life in general kept me so busy that every time I reached the end of a detergent bottle, it was just easier to grab a new one from the grocery store and tell myself that maybe I would try making my own after that one.

With life settling down a bit since graduation and our move (and my success with making my own dishwasher detergent), though, I became even more determined than ever that I need to try making my own laundry soap. This week, with my last bottle of laundry detergent balanced upside down to let gravity pull down the final drops, I decided that now was the time.

In typical fashion, I researched a variety of recipes and read through pages of comments, perusing arguments about the pros and cons of each recipe, method, and ingredient until I began to second-guess the whole idea.
In the end, though, I settled on a small batch of powdered laundry soap to try it out (rather than the five-gallon bucket of liquid laundry soap). I started with this recipe, but ended up adding the rest of the bar of soap after noticing how much more soap other recipes called for in proportion to the borax and super washing soda.

IMG_1042

DIY Powdered Laundry Soap

2 cups Borax
2 cups Super Washing Soda
1 bar of Dr. Bronners soap (I used the citrus scent)

1. Grate the bar of soap, using the food processor (you can also do this by hand, but several reviews I read suggested that the food processor makes it finer and therefore easier to dissolve, even in cold water)

2. Add the Borax and Super Washing Soda to the food processor and process until fine.

3. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Use 1/4 – 1/8 cup per load.

IMG_1049

I have only done laundry once since making this, but so far it seems to be working well. The clothes smell clean (though I can’t smell the citrus of the soap) and don’t seem to have any residue.

Sewing Curtains (the Easy Way)

Over the past two and a half months since we moved, I have been slowly rearranging, replacing, and adding touches to the house to make it feel more welcoming, more like home. Sewing new curtains for the living room/dining room was near the top of my list of projects when we moved in. When we agreed to move into the house, Maggie had already hired a friend to sew fabric blinds for all the windows. After she finished the upstairs blinds, though, I asked if I could sew my own curtains for the first floor to let in more light and better match my vision for the space.

After searching for curtain ideas and feeling dissatisfied with the heavy fabrics of most curtains, I stumbled across this photo on Pinterest:

Curtain Inspiration

The bright light and colorful yellow edging caught my attention and became the inspiration for making curtains. I knew I needed something that offered some privacy (more than sheer curtains), but still let in plenty of light (an essential for me in a home space).

After some searching, I found a good deal on mini pom pom fringe in bulk from this site and ordered two spools. I bought five flat twin sheets from Wal-Mart, all in plain white. I cut open the ends of the hem to allow a curtain rod to pass through and re-sewed the edge to make it neater, which ended up being the most complicated part of the project (with the last two curtains I finally realized that I could just fold over that top part and not have to rip open any seems, which was so much easier). Then I measured and hemmed the bottom so it reached just to the floor. Finally I sewed the trim along the sides (if I had more of the trim I would have added a row of the trip along the top seem as well, but I only had enough for the sides). After pinning (and re-pinning) the trip to the first several curtains, I finally discovered that it was a lot easier to sew on and actually stayed smoother when I didn’t pin it.

IMG_9062IMG_9069

The stitching on the first couple curtains turned out pretty rough as I figured out the rhythm our housemate’s sewing machine (I’m not even going to post a picture of the horrible stitching on the back of those first curtains, even after tearing it out a few times), but by the time I finished the final curtains, things became a lot smoother and straighter.

IMG_9054IMG_9063

In the end, uneven stitching and all, I felt pretty proud of how they turned out. The white and yellow brightened up the room considerably, giving it a clean, peaceful feel, and the curtains drew together the two rooms.

IMG_9068

 

“I Can Make That Myself”: Dishwasher Detergent

Several of my friends (including Kristina) have tried making their own laundry detergent. Hearing their descriptions of how cheap and easy it is has placed making my own laundry detergent on my list of things to try this summer (once I finish off the bottle of detergent I currently have).

In the meantime, though, the house we  moved into has a dishwasher (which I have come to appreciate far more than I expected). When the sink leaked, soaking the box of dishwasher detergent that we found in the cupboard when we moved in, I started to wonder whether I could make that myself as well. Some research online quickly revealed that I could.

I found one article that compared six different recipes for powdered dishwasher detergent, which I found helpful. Based on that article, I chose the following recipe:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

IMG_8145

1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
½ cup kosher salt
5 packets unsweetened lemonade mix

Mix all ingredients and store in a tightly sealed jar. Use 1 tablespoon per load, or 2 tablespoons for extra-dirty dishes. Makes 42 loads.

Cost: 2 cents per load
IMG_8151 IMG_8913

The verdict? It was super easy to make (it only took a couple minutes to measure the ingredients and mix them together) and seems to clean our dishes well so far. My own issue has been with the citric acid in the lemonade mix making it clump over time (which you can see a bit in the second photo above), which a few of the recipes I found had warned that it might. So far its still been usable, but I may look into some solutions for that with the next batch I make.

Photo Collage

This branch of fabric leaves has hung in our dining room for the past year or so that we have lived in this apartment. I hung them last fall, loving the burst of color they added to the room. And then I just never replaced them (mostly because I never got around to making something to hang there instead and hated the idea of leaving the frame empty). The other day I saw this pin on pinterest, though, and finally got inspired.

I chose some of my favorite photos to print. This afternoon I lay them out across our sunroom floor, arranging them inside the frame until I was happy with the arrangement. I hammered tacks into the side of the frame, stringing thin wire between them, and then clipped the photos to the wire with clothespins.

The finished product is less rustic than the inspiration photo, but I like it. It’s nice to have something different hanging there now. And the photos remind me of beautiful things every day.

In other house decorating news….this weekend I succumbed to the pumpkin craze and bought two for our living room.

The Fruit of a Little Time Off

One of the perks of my current job is two full weeks off in August, followed by a week of meetings, orientations, and preparation for the fall semester. My family will be visiting for most of the second week (yes!), but this week I’ve found myself with more free time than I’ve had since I was unemployed last summer. I’ve squandered some of that time just relaxing — browsing pinterest, reading, and wandering through the park with my camera — but I’ve also done some babysitting, visiting with friends, and helping friends move.

I did take one one larger project this week as well: painting our kitchen. We had nearly a full gallon of yellow paint left from when we painted at the Tracy House (we over-estimated how much paint we would need for the living room there), so when we’ve talked about using it to paint the kitchen since we moved in — almost a year ago now — but never actually did it. In a fit of cleaning and organizing this week, though, I pulled out the paint and decided to go for it. I finished most of the kitchen in just a couple hours and then completed the rest today. Though it was a relatively small change, it really added some life and warmth to the space.

The kitchen before:

And after:

(This is probably the cleanest the kitchen has ever been, by the way, and perhaps the cleanest it ever will be)

The Here and the Now

Though I have been pretty silent here again lately, I have not been completely absent from the blog world. For the past few couple weeks I have been working on launching a photo project with some friends back in Toledo.

I have been mulling over the idea of taking on a photo challenge for several years now. The idea first began to grow when a blog friend, Brooke, launched her “A Year of [Newly-Wedded] Mornings” project, chronicling her first year of marriage with a photo each morning. The photos were lovely, simple glimpses into the quiet moments at the beginning of her days. She shared that she was inspired by another blog started by two friends living on opposite coasts who shared a photo each morning (they later did an evening project as well and now are in the middle of a weekend project). I liked the idea of challenging myself to see and capture beauty every day, but I also loved the idea of using this as a tool to maintain and strengthen friendships over distance. When we moved over 700 miles away from most of our friends and family, the idea grew even more appealing. I wrestled with the limitations of my point-and-shoot camera at the time, though, and so set aside the idea for a while.

When I bought my new camera, though, I resurrected the idea and shared it with some good friends back in Toledo who, along with sharing a passion for community, creativity, and adoption, also love photography. Together we brainstormed ideas and put together the blog, deciding to focus on the beauty of each season. We’re three weeks into the project now and have finally worked out the formatting glitches.

And so, without further ado, I’d like to present….

(Click the picture to go to the blog)

New Things

I know I’m overdue for a garden post (it’s coming, I promise), but first I wanted to share about one of several exciting purchases recently….

A car? Yes, actually! We did just buy a car, the first one we have owned since we got married and the first one that I have ever owned in my life. It still feels novel that we can simply get in the car and go places rather than shuffling through bus schedules, lining up times, and waiting out at the stop. After years of walking, carpooling, and taking buses, this is a big deal for us.

The other big purchase for me, though, was a nice camera. A Canon Rebel  XS, to be specific. I have been wishing for one for years, but just couldn’t justify spending that much on a camera when we didn’t have a car. A couple weeks ago Derek and I looked at our budget and our savings, though, and decided that this summer we could look into it. Just a few days later my friend Jeff announced that he was selling his for a good deal. Amazing! It arrived yesterday morning and I spent the afternoon playing with settings and snapping around the house. I have a lot to learn about what the camera can do but I am enjoying experimenting so far.

Here is a sampling of pictures from yesterday:

So this might mean I might be posting more often again, now that I’ll have fancy new photos to share….maybe….

Sonroom

This is my fourth weekend off and I’m still relishing every moment of free time, especially now that school has started again. For the past few weeks we have taken advantage of this shared time together to do some things that we’ve talked about doing for a while. Last week we went thrifting. The week before we went down to the River Market, stopping at the Chinese market, Middle Eastern market, and spice vendors to stock up on some international seasonings and discount vegetables. And my first weekend off we painted our sunroom.

We have talked about painting since we moved in….almost six months ago now. Our school and work schedules rarely left us a full day off together, though, so our painting aspirations were pushed aside. Once I switched to working Monday through Friday, though, we resurrected the idea.

One morning in particular I woke up, distracted by crafty things and ideas for how to fix up our apartment while I was trying to spend some quiet time with the Lord. I was a bit frustrated about my inability to focus on the Lord and finally asked Him if there was a way I could possibly meet Him in the place of dreaming about beautiful spaces.

As it turns out, there was (imagine that, ha!). I begin thinking about my long-time dream of creating a space that combined prayer and hospitality, a dream that had fallen by the wayside for a while as I pursued work with children. Soon that led to thoughts of our sunroom, a space I had most often used for quiet time with the Lord. And all of a sudden, I found myself filled with dreams and ideas for turning the sunroom into a prayer room, filled with light and worship with its wide windows looking out east over the city.

(This was the original state of our sunroom:)

The more I dreamed about it, the more I could feel my spirit stirring as God responded to my invitation to meet me in that place of making beautiful space. So that weekend we bought paint and painted the room. It’s a relatively small space, with lots of windows, so we were able to finish the primer and first coat on Saturday and a second coat on Sunday.

 

As we responded to God’s invitation in this new year to return to intimacy with Him, consecrating this particular space in our house felt like a physical representation of our desire to consecrate our time to Him as well.

Since we finished painting, I have been adding to the room little by little. On our thrifting trip a couple weeks later I found a large sheet to cut in half to make curtains (I was inspired by the warm colors and old wood of this sunroom).

This chair in the corner came from the neighbors across the street at the Tracy House. They gave us some stain to fix it up, too, but I think I actually like the look of the old, weathered wood.

As we get more time and inspiration, I’m sure we’ll add more to the room. We’ve talked about possibly getting wall lettering to put Isaiah 56:7 (about how God will make them joyful in His house of prayer) on the wall. I’ve also though about making some toilet paper tube wall art (something like this). And eventually I want to repaint the red room divider (which we found by the side of the road and carried about fifteen blocks and up three flights of stairs; my husband is a trooper).

For now, though, I’m enjoying spending my early mornings in the rocking chair, with my bible, journal, and cup of coffee.

(By the way, I titled this “Sonroom” because one morning God described it that way, promising that it would be a place where we come to know our identity as His sons and daughters)

Deck the Halls with Strings of Paper

This is by no means a recent project, but it’s simple and pretty enough to post now anyway.

I made this Christmas anytime garland over Thanksgiving break when I found myself with a whole week without classes and a craving something creative. I’ve recently become enamored with garlands as a way to add simple color and interest to a room. So I cranked up the Christmas carols and followed a tutorial from education.com. All you need is paper (any kind will do), scissors, a stapler, tape, and a needle and thread. The tutorial gives a very specific size of paper to start with, but I decided that mine didn’t need to be so exact so I started with various sized rectangles cut from magazine papers (by far my favorite colorful medium to use for crafts). It meant that my stars did not end up uniform in size, but I liked that.

After I had finished making the stars, I threaded them together and hung them on our mantle. With all the busyness from school, work, changing jobs, and traveling home for Christmas, this ended up being the only Christmas decorations I put up this year, other than our collection of Christmas cards. I liked the color it added to our mantle, though, and left it up even after Christmas was over. Because stars aren’t strictly for Christmas, right? That’s what I thought :-).