A reading of Inspired You by Marian Parsons, aka Miss Mustard Seed

I admit I found this review in my draft folder. I read Inspired You last year as my son was in the hospital.

Inspired You.jpg

Freeing my mind from the digital world of too much information and attempting to rest all at the same time, I picked up a copy of Inspired You by Marian Parsons, aka Miss Mustard Seed.

I do not remember how I came across Miss Mustard Seed. It may be when I wandered into Vintage Market, a lovely shop in downtown Turlock and learned about Chalk Paint and milk paint. Or I may have known about milk paint first. Somehow, someway, I came across the blog Miss Mustard Seed.

There are few blogs I follow regularly. There are even fewer I enjoy consistently. I avidly read anything Al Kresta posts, Catholic news commentator, or Elizabeth Scalia, and I bought book by both of them. If I found a blog by George Weigel I read it as well. These three have in common their Catholic faith, their insightful observations and wit to boot. Miss Mustard Seed is the first and only decorating blog I thoroughly enjoy.

What is it about Mrs. Marian Parsons?

To review why I have become attached to her blog and follow her consistently is also a way to review her book because her book naturally reflects many of the same messages as her blog.

Marian Parsons reveals her authentic self in her writing. Her writing style is good. Her photography is a peaceful feast for the eyes. The combination of the two is not always guaranteed in the blogosphere. She does it beautifully every time. In her tutorials, her stories, she somehow makes it all accessible by sharing her fears, her “just-winging-it,” and her faith in God. She never preaches, simply shares her experience. She is the only blogger I have read who emphasizes that the photograph you see online is not what it looks like in real life or on a normal basis. In her book, she includes photographs showing her home, unedited, and another as it really is day to day. She wants readers to know this is all obtainable. It is one thing to say it does not have to be perfect, and then every photograph is perfect so you walk away, possibly inspired, but not so encouraged. It is another thing to be vulnerable and say, “here is reality.”

While she expressed a difficulty in staying balanced, she expresses some key aspects of balance required when one loves to decorate. She does not hold back sharing the importance of decorating for your family instead of in spite of your family. As a Catholic wife and mother, I have seen my love of decorating and creative projects as a way to make a beautiful space for my family. I would have made different choices or used different styles if it were only about me, but I see this gift and these skills as part of my vocation to be used for my vocation, my call to love and serve the people I live with. Mrs. Parsons views it the same way. She refers to decorating as her love language for her family. What a beautiful concept!

Because it is tied into our vocation, I believe we should always make some effort. That effort does not have to be perfect. It will wax and wane.

I identify with her and I am learning from her. Over 6 years ago I began re-upholstering pieces but never dared venture towards zipper foots, zippers, piping, or slipcovers. One day, I plan on changing that largely in part because of her encouragement and the clarity of her instruction.

So thank you, Miss Mustard Seed!

Little changes update

With building the bunk beds (see post: The Triple Bunk Bed), the antique guest bed needed a new home, so she has moved into the nursery. I appreciate having a bed and covers in the same room as the baby for late night/cold night nursing. It also helps as our four-year old, half of the time, does not nap but the two-year old still does. Attempting naps with both kids in the same room led to truncated naps for the two-year old. So now the eldest naps in the nursery, if the baby is not already asleep.

IMG_6432The painted blue desk has found the perfect home beneath our diy reclaimed wooden arrows. I draped a table handkerchief (a piece of fabric too small to be a table cloth) over the top as an accent.

IMG_6430I hung art on the long wall. A picture of Our Lady holding the Infant, an antique mirror that belonged to my grandmother and The Scream by Edward Munch. While this may seem like an odd combination we can interpret it in this way. On the left is how I want to feel, on the far right is how I feel at my worst, and in the middle I can check and see how I feel at the moment. The colors also work with the overall scheme (the true motivation behind the selection).

IMG_6431IMG_6438It’s a small room but we’re making it work.

Outside the cast iron, candle chandelier from Pottery Barn is finally in place!

IMG_6425I requested this as a Christmas gift when we lived in a large open home that lacked a chandelier in the proper place above the dining table. It worked for us in the next house when the chandelier was in an incredibly awkward spot. Our home now makes sense, so there seemed to be no place for this beauty, until I saw the potential of our front patio.

In order to ease the use of this, my father rigged up a pulley system. He hung two eye hook using toggle bolts, and connected them with a strong metal chain.

IMG_6429From the center of the chain is a small pulley, which is guided down the side of the window. Now I can lower it if I want to light the candles. I’m not sure when I’ll want to light the candles, but it’s an awfully good idea regardless.

IMG_6428I’m ever so excited that this will complement our new wrought iron fence!

The Triple Bunk Bed

12/16/15, Monday

While in college I found I love organization and clutter free areas. It calms me down and gives me space to think. For me, the kids room has been a cluttered nightmare as we made do with a double size bed for one and a twin size bed for the other in a 10×12 room. I avoided the room as I avoid our also-cluttered office.

Originally I planned on a bunk bed from Ikea that also comes with a trundle bed. This  would create a sleep space for all three. Then one day I came across these plans for a triple bunk bed. The idea looked so good. After some mulling over we decided to go for it. This weekend my husband has been working hard to put it together while I paint here and there with Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint in Paris Grey. This light neutral color, very similar to the walls, will help this massive furniture item not consume what the eye beholds upon entering.

Today was a wonderful day of work. The sun was out. The air was warm. My mother-in-law came to visit and played with the older kids while we worked. Everything went smoothly for my husband as he progressed along the plans, which he had converted from word to pictorial format. I finished the day with painting all the pieces I could.


IMG_6422My daughter pumped the clamp while my husband drilled holes. He’s a master at finding ways for the kids to “help.”

Wednesday, 12/18/15

My husband has been working on the beds by himself. With large families or families with little children, to me it seems like if you have a project and the timing is right, you have to go for it. It isn’t always possible to bring in outside help whose schedules will match with the mystical window that occurs when both spouses are home (if both spouses work, as in our case). We only have one day off in common so President’s Day weekend became the choice opportunity. Unfortunately we all were sick, except my husband. Nevertheless, progress still was made!

Reflections: the chalk paint has been amazing! One coat, that’s all it needed. I purchase the Soft Wax (Clear) by Annie Sloan. It will be first time using that but the paint needs to be sealed. How to take the time to cure it…I don’t know, one step at a time. The paint is a little more blue than the wall color, I’m not sure I like how it works with the teal bedsheets. Again, one step at a time.

Two beds are in place, the second still needs to be bolted. The plans we use have the beds close together, so it’s rather awkward fitting if you are using a regular mattress. It will work for our toddler but we’ll have to re-evaluate and re-work in the future either by taking out the bottom supports (the mattress then being on plywood, on the floor) or raising everything else. My daughter was disappointed to have to sleep on the floor again, but I pushed her bed under the bunk. She was happy to feel she had a hiding spot.


2/19/15, Thursday

Creating good design is intoxicating to me. It might be the fuzziness of my mind with this cold, but I feel awfully excited about what is taking place in the kids’ room, and that is a first. The first two bunks are up with mattresses in place. We pushed the structure as far over as possible but with enough room left so my husband can still bolt in the third bunk. This is the moment when we start to see the finished project in view.

IMG_6445 IMG_6446The teal sheets provide the necessary pop in s space of very soothing color, too soothing, I think, for my personality. The black and white duvet covers keep it calm and in touch with all the gray.

Today, the duvet cover I’ve been hankering after from West Elm is one sale with free shipping so I’m going to make the leap and purchase it. Ultimately my daughter will happier having flowers over having the alphabet on her bedding, although I could go either way.

IMG_644812/20/15, Friday

It’s a small room so it will take some doing to get a decent photo, and until my health returns, I won’t be up for the task.

Updated impressions: We closed the gap from the second level bunk to the wall, so the overlap is much less awkward. I like the heights a lot. It puts both kids easily within reach for comforting (everyone is sick!). Currently my daughter does not use the ladder, which I think is because the wood is so much thicker than her little hands. We might put some handles that she can grip to get up. Currently, she steps on brother’s bed to get to her’s (even during the night!). We’ll see how this changes when the third bunk is installed.

The website refers to this as a weekend project. It very well may be if you don’t have small children or everyone is in good health. Overall, we’re very pleased and excited by this week-long project.

Update on the Chalk Paint: while adjusting the beds, my husband pulled on the second bunk, which scraped hard along the nook/groove in the wood posts (I hope you didn’t come here for technical wood-working terms). The movement did not chip or scratch the paint! To me, requiring only one coat and the -already seen- incredible durability justifies the price. I buy my paint from Vintage Market in Turlock, CA where the ladies are wonderfully helpful and friendly. It’s an amazing store with great prices and awesome diy inspiration.

All that’s needed now is bolting the third bunk, some paint brush-work and waxing. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to take rest seriously because this cold has worn out its welcome.

Oft-neglected Office Overhaul

Dear Reader, if you have ever seen photos of the my home interior you will not recall photos of our office. Our office is that place, that place inside the home of any family with young children where the children are not allowed. It is the, how you say, dumping ground of all things we do not want them to eat, tear apart or stab each other with (I do acknowledge there isn’t anything I would like to stab each other with).

You may also know, perhaps, that I am not very good at taking before pictures. I can take a thousand after pictures, but I somehow get so very excited about the process of overhauling that before pictures never cross my mind. I prefer to avoid looking at the before situation, why photograph it? Here is the best I could find of our office.

IMG_4850This was when we first moved in. As of two weeks ago, a wood antique desk was there at the open wall above; the circular table has its second home since moving out of the office; and I use, rather, store the chair that had no home (not the one pictured, that one is now blocking the fireplace).

IMG_4849My husband’s side was largely the same as what you see here.

I avoided the office. I could not sit and type while holding the baby so I used the kitchen counter to read, distract, write emails. My desk became so cluttered I rarely went in there. In anticipation of our tax return, I began planning.

There were a series of options. I realized I needed a counter-height desk and my husband needed more surface area. We would use 100-year old wood my father possessed to create book shelves to go all the way up to the ceiling and to form desk tops for us. I decided I could buy kitchen cabinets from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to use as the base of my desk. We would buy Ikea parts for my husband’s desk base.

Then came a night of insomnia. I gave up on sleeping, went online and found this guide on turning an Expedit 2×4 shelf (of which we have three) into a standing desk.

The next day, thanks to pre-planned grandparent-babysitters, we made the 90-minute drive to Ikea, took the short cut to the marketplace and made it out in a little over an hour. Once home, I emptied our desk and antique dresser (used it for storage) contents into drawers and emptied the antique dresser. After a rant about not being sentimental about out furniture, selling these chairs which I reupholstered in preparation for marriage…

IMG_5136I decided to hold onto the dresser (used for storage) and keep it at my parents house, where they have unlimited storage space.

IMG_4244I bought it at a estate sale just before marrying. The woman I bought it from recalled being at her grandmother’s house as a child, opening the drawers, and handling the delicate linens she stored there. How a child could open those bottom drawers I’ll never know because they are heavy. It isn’t a very functional piece, but I realize I am sentimental about these pieces and will be careful what I choose to sell/give away.

Now, we’ve only got the books stacked on the floor, Expedit shelves on there sides with drawer inserts (mine on legs, my husbands without feet thus far). The room, for all it’s floor clutter, feels more open and clean to me. My storage system is taking shape with room for my sewing machine, cubby for my sewing box, a craft cubby. I am thinking I want a small filing cabinet next to my desk, but I want to move slowly.IMG_6337

After all, this weekend, we’re building a triple bunk bed!

Reflections while reading Only the Lover Sings, Chapter 1




As a child, there was just something different about me, different from the rest of my family and the people I met at church or at school. I hardly knew what that difference was. I enjoyed play outside, like any child. I had a deep imagination and richly patterned tapestries put together during that play. In 5th grade, a friend received attention in class for writing a poem. Desiring the same attention, I began to write poetry. I wrote and wrote and wrote and the thing became something I desired for its own sake. In 6th grade, I began to write stories. I fancied myself a great novelist, destined to be famous. This was an important development from my days of singing loudly in the front yard while I swung on my play set, imagining a radio producer would drive by and discover me.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. Deep imaginative worlds. Richly patterned tapestries. My play dissolved, as is common, in junior high; the writing continued. I did not see at the time how much of myself I put into the main characters of these stories. The stories had to reach 100 pages, because that was the predetermined length I set for myself that would make it a real novel.

In 7th or 8th grade, while staying over at my best friend’s house I stayed up late speaking with her brother, a year or two older than she, who was two or three years old than me. There was something about that conversation, which I can no longer remember, that changed forever how I wrote. I learned about detail and description in that conversation. Now my tapestries were no longer patterned only in my head but on the computer screen as well.

With my conversion came an inclination to scruples and rather than my visions of grandeur, I pictured writing as a gift bestowed by God, an emotional outlet, a fantastical escape, a gift which he might choose to take away at any time. Each story I finished, I feared it would be my last.

One day it was my last, a story I began while serving as a missionary, which, if you have been reading this blog are familiar with. Called A Girl and Her King, it follows my adventures in prayer, not much else. It is neither descriptive nor imaginative, I think, but felt inspired as I wrote. I’ve not written any fiction since, though I have since learned that God is not the type of giver I once imagined him.

Beyond that story, which is a treasure to me, there are only three stories I would care to look back on. The first is called Mary’s Fairytale, about a girl who has no family and whose young brother whom she cared for died suddenly. She is alone and searching for meaning in the world. She finds Christ.

The second is Velveteen. The main character, also a girl, also lonely, at odds with her sister, who seeks meaning and purpose, a place in life where she is wanted and useful. She longs to see again a girl the family fostered for a short time who ran away. The girl represents everything the main character wants, the freedom to think and dream in a world where reality has made dreams unbearable.

The last is The Story of Marin. This story was an enigma to me for a long time. I find genuine ugliness in it, hopelessness, and sin. I shared the storyline with a fellow missionary, admitting that I had no idea how to finish the story, it seemed hopeless. I discovered the potential of relationships while serving that year, and in that sisterhood, I discovered a fulfilling relationship much needed by the main character. That relationship became a place of hope to lead her out of the darkness of her life.

In that year of missionary work, I also encountered people, in Oregon, who opened my eyes to the possibility that there were others like me: artists, poets. What is it exactly? That ability to see the world differently that makes some tasks others like so un-fulfilling and other tasks which bore to some to tears utterly engaging?


Josef Pieper seems to have some answers. In our book club we have begun reading Only the Lover Sings. In the first chapter, or essay rather, better yet, reflection, he explores the meaning of leisure and the claim by Aristotle “We work so we can have leisure.”


“For nothing less it at stake here than the ultimate fulfillment of human existence.”


“There do exist activities that are meaningful without being either work or mere respite (from work, for more work).” These are the liberal arts which are meaningful in themselves. Leisure is not mere play. It is the thing that sets us apart from animals. He does not say this here, but it is the thing that comes after the first few levels of the hierarchy of needs are fulfilled. It is the purpose for which we continue to invent machines to ease life’s burdens. It is art, as he calls it first, the liberal arts and they are the work that is meaningful in itself, not work done out of usefulness, to serve some other good.


He gives us two preconditions for work to be meaningful in itself.

  1. Receptive openness and attentive silence (unlike the concentrated exertion of work).
  2. Man’s willing acceptance of the ultimate truth “awareness of being in harmony with these fundamental realities and surrounded by them.” This acceptance enables man to celebrate a feast, to engage in leisure.


“Wherever the arts are nourished through the festive contemplation of universal realities and their sustaining reasons, there in truth something like a liberation occurs: the stepping-out into the open under an endless sky, not only for the creative artist himself but for the beholder as well, even the most humble.”


This was my experience writing. This was art for me. Though my imagination has cooled and the fantasies calmed, I still look at the world, look out my window and see the spiritual interwoven with the physical. I can sit and gaze, it does me no harm to do so, causes me no boredom. I decorate to create an interior space in which I can do this, gaze at the wall and take in the beauty of a particular color, or the shape of an arrangement.

And I write again. I photograph again. I look for the image, wait for the word to come, seek to find that inner voice which spills so willingly out my fingers while I type. It comes too quickly for my typing skill and so my words are usually riddled with errors. Oddly enough, the same happens when I write by hand.

I do not know if I should share more of my writing. I look back on it as child’s play, as I do the games with imaginary horses I played during recess on the playground. I’m not plagued with those visions of grandeur. Rather, it is a blank slate; I do not know what to think about it, except that it is special to me. Your responses are helpful. Your comments welcome. It is a pleasure for me to spill some digital ink before you, and I hope a welcome gift for you.

Considering new projects while making adjustments here and there

Following Christmas came more colds. The baby started with a cough and it slowly made it’s way around the family. I was knocked flat (or wanted to be) for two days. So I now continue to travel on the road of sleep deprivation towards recovery. One day…one day. Here are the minor changes that took place in the mean time…


In this photo you can see our wild one in her pack-and-play, a rare treat these days. I bought a new rug on clearance from West Elm, which is now under the piano. It replaced a rug from overstock.com which looked great in the online photo. It had less than perfect reviews but I decided to take a chance. What a mistake! I’ve hated it ever since so this $70 cotton dhurrie was a delight to purchase and receive. I very much enjoy paying $70 for rugs. I think the $700 ones are beautiful, but I don’t think I’ll ever go there. This one is contemporary, won’t shed, won’t irritate baby’s skin and as blues are my primary accent color for the room, it’s perfect!



For our Nutcracker Christmas party we moved our re-purposed antique radio away from our entryway station into the corner. The corner now feels so much more complete and I have a new surface to decorate. I still have guilt over painting this beauty, but I admit, I do personally love the way it looks. We removed the radio and the kids used the hole as a cubby/hiding place. I think it’s important to create opportunities like that for children.


Our entry way is simpler now. Typically we have tried to have a place to drop keys and my husband’s wallet. This is the current set up. Low table for my purse (in this case a doll leg) and a toy basket (not that the toys are in it).



Those are minor changes. More joyfully, I stopped by our local consignment shop, Selective Consignments in Hughson, CA. I noticed these beautiful antique chairs some time ago. At $250 for the pair they were well beyond a splurge purchase. Today’s treat for me? The sign read: “MAKE OFFER.” Not knowing what to offer, I spoke with the owner. “Oh those chairs from the 1930’s?” What? I admit my pleasure at discovering that, yet again, I unknowingly am drawn to items from the same Art Deco period. What will he take? $100 for the pair. Yes!

They have a new home. They are in the right scale to match two other wood chairs we have. I can finally get rid of the too tall, spindles-poking my-pregnant-stomach chairs. I’m not pregnant now, but I resent them for all the times it happened.






IMG_6144No scratches. No splitting. The pink faux leather isn’t our style, though I secretly like it against our gray walls and am planning pink as an accent color for Spring. Nevertheless, I promised my beloved I would reupholster them, so I think I’ll do all our chairs in a solid indigo outdoor fabric.

I’ve finished painting an estate sale rocking chair with Napoleonic blue by Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. Chalk paint is amazing. I’m absolutely hooked. My difficulty with painting furniture has ever been that I hate prep work. If you feel the same, chalk paint may be just the thing for you. In Spring we’ll move the rocking chairs to our front patio area.

The next project on my list: paint the vintage metal folding chairs with chalk paint, arms in Pure White, body in Napoleonic Blue. These will go in the back yard, around the circular table, painted white, which belonged to my great-grandmother. I imagine a Parisian scene, blues and whites. It will be my imagined version anyway, which mysteriously does come together, though no one else may know the reference.

The project on our list: redoing the office and kids room. For the office, built-in cabinets and shelving, custom desks for my husband and myself. We’ll piece his desk together from IKEA, create shelves with brackets and 100-year wood my dad obtained from someone remodeling their home, and mount kitchen cabinets along the top of the wall (I’m thinking they’ll come from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore). For my desk I’m thinking I will use cabinets, again hopefully from the ReStore, and have a counter height desk which will make sewing and work, while holding the baby, easier. At this time I never use the office for that reason. For the kid’s we plan to purchase bunk beds from IKEA, create some bookshelves using an old pallet, and finally have some space in there again! These projects made possible by our tax return. I am grateful.

As this new year rolls along I hope you also have some exciting projects planned. Good luck!

Christmas time has come and gone

Yesterday, in the Catholic Church, we celebrated the Baptism of Christ, which marks the closing of the Christmas season. For all of you who find yourselves saying, “I just hate Christmas to end” I think the answer is the Catholic way. We spent Advent in preparation and anticipation. Following Christmas we have the octave of Christmas. In this case “octave” means it is basically Christmas every day for eight days. The octave is held within the traditional twelve days of Christmas which lead up to Epiphany, when the Wise Men from the East found the Christ child, and another week of revelry we call the Christmas season. There are beautiful feasts and beautiful traditions, all rich in meaning, symbolism and ripe for reflection. This was our first year successfully incorporating traditions we’ve dreamed of into our family. We didn’t achieve everything. I over did it with the crafts. But we are finding our way and every step forward is a beautiful step, especially considering we both come from families whose Christmas traditions have more to do with December 25th than the entire season.

Here are some photos of how the decorating adapted throughout the season:



Our tree was beautiful, a beautiful temptation for our two year old so we brought out our “corral” which is a sort of octagonal baby fence. We did this past the two years. Each year I like the look less and less. This year I supplemented it with a couple white tablecloths. It helped, if you can believe it.


For Christmas my mother gave me an exquisite silky, indigo, beaded pillow from Pier 1.


A little before Christmas I received spousal permission to purchase this print “A New England Winter” by Currier & Ives. The perfect frame was purchased from Michael’s. You can’t see it is here but it has a sort of rustic wood textural finish to the frame, which complements the rustic setting of the print. The print is doubly special to me: it represents the vision of winter I have in my head and connects to our dishes, purchased during our time in Virginia, also Currier & Ives.


The Nutcracker had a comfortable home atop some vintage red wood boxes.


With the arrival of the Currier & Ives print, the vintage ornaments moved from the mirror to the chandelier.


On a shopping trip in Walnut Creek I found this star at Pottery Barn on clearance for $6. I don’t remember ever seeing it in the catalogs. It is not technically a tree topper, but I used some florist wire and viola!


I began this post sharing the development of our family traditions. Let me return to that.

Hot chocolate! Our favorite is the peppermint hot chocolate from Trader Joe’s made with real dark chocolate and a subtle peppermint taste, perfect for enjoying but not overdoing it. Do we give it to the children? Not yet. This year we used chocolate flavored “shakeables” from Melaleuca, a nutrition shake for children. See the delight?





Then what is a festive season without a party in household? This year, acclimating to life with many children, we hosted a Nutcracker Christmas party. I made a purple tutu for my daughter, and dressed myself in a lavender skirt made from a bridesmaid dress. My daughters eyes widened with joy when she saw me dressed up, hair styled in a bun ready for the party. Naturally dressing her happened with great excitement immediately.



We borrowed a television from a friend and moved the furniture for movie viewing.



Set out treats and made room for guests to bring potluck, cultural dishes that have meaning to them, highlighting the different cultures presented in the ballet. We moved the tree to the bay window behind in the dining table. This will be the tree’s home next year.




See how the Christmas lights reflect off the windows? I was so pleased with the change.



Hot apple cider plus a sparkling rye punch, courtesy of a Real Simple recipe.



And children!


The party was so delightful. I’ve learned to let go of a lot. It can’t be fancy with every detailed planned and transformed. Keep it simple. Keep the work light. Keep the kids in mind. Keep the desserts up high. It was a great success. We were also so pleased to introduce our friends to the Nutcracker ballet. We want to host these movie nights every couple months or so, as a way to bring the culture of our heritage to our little town. Ballets, operas, classic movies. There is so much to choose from. It’s a sort of artistic evangelization we have long discussed but not quiet been ready to embark upon. I think the time is now.

Thank you for letting me share with you! Soon I’ll post some photos of the little changes coming soon to our home!

Mental prep for the seasons

About a week ago our 7-month old started waking every 45 minutes. This happened for two nights in a row. The second night we experience two some blessed hour-and-a-half stretches. Soon after her first tooth in the top row came through. It takes a while for me to catch back up on sleep, thus that lack of creative work and creative writing. But, so as not to neglect you, here is a look back on Thanksgiving and Christmas decorating. Naturally I have been reflecting on the past as I plan what we will do in this new home, this new year.

I love Thanksgiving. I love feasts and I love setting the table for those feasts. Last year we hosted Thanksgiving which was a decision good and bad. The good? Take a look…

DSCN3041I ordered a dark blue with gold-painted table runner from West Elm after seeing it featured in Real Simple reasonably priced (thus beginning my current love affair with West Elm; I’ve purchased one thing since).

My wonderful husband spray painted pumpkins from our patch with gold, silver and bronze paint. I laid out dark blue damask stripe napkins and found some walnut branches from the clippings outside. For me that last step “made it.”

DSCN3043I used brown velvet ribbon to tie the silverware together, laid on top of the napkin and silver chargers. Half-yard pieces of fabric from Rainbow Fabrics (a local amazing store) grounded the centerpiece on the oval table. I used to love to do the formal settings with silverware all in its proper place, but with the advent of toddlers such a setting never makes it straight to dinner time.

DSCN3044The bad, or rather difficult from that Thanksgiving came with having two children under age three and being pregnant with the third, hosting not one, but two sides of the family, and having a generous family member bring a bird that was too big for the roaster. So not all things worked out. Both sides of the family are more casual than our little nucleus of a family, and did no revel in the use of china and real silver. Other than the table settings, I have more “difficult” memories than good. That’s life and learning. My secret to hosting parties now: don’t cook! It seems to go smoother that way (read: less stressful). I’m also not hosting Thanksgiving this year. Instead, in our little family we plan to have an un-Thanksgiving menu on Wednesday: rotisserie duck, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and Brandy Alexander Pie. We’ll still be thankful, but with a new menu, the day before, and do the family thing on Thursday.

After Thanksgiving comes shopping (as you know from my previous post). I am Catholic. As a Catholic, the Christmas season follows Christmas with the 12 days of Christmas (Christmas day to Epiphany, celebrating when the Wise Men brought gifts to the Infant). Prior to Christmas is Advent, a time of preparation. So we prepare, but we don’t pretend it’s Christmas.

That’s all well and good, but I also grew up in the world and its difficult to hold off on certain decorating, certain music, certain food (read: candy, cookies) because it’s all so sentimental and wonderful. No snow here means the outside doesn’t get decorated into a winter wonderland, so its up to the interiors to fulfill the job.

The compromise: winter decorating.

In reality, I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins, and as I write this, I’m not sure it matters because my preferred decorations are rather neutral. Early in our marriage my husband stated he would like a blue and silver Christmas tree. I began the search. Along with an antique store angel, here is what it came to last year. We bought a $25 tree and placed it on a table with a kid-gate around it to protect the ornaments. Not sure how to solve this dilemma this year: new house, greater child mobility.

photo 2 More from last year. In my love of antiques, I added a silver Christmas tree on this side table with silver tapers.

photo 1I made wreaths for first time using Christmas tree clippings, juniper and olive branches. We (my husband) spray painted found pine cones and I made the creche the focus for the room.

photo 3

I like the effect of the bright red satin bow. This year I’ll make them again, only better because I know more, and without juniper because I hated working with it and we don’t live near a juniper tree anymore.

photo 5I did my best with that home to make an “entrance.” There were no wood doors, only sliding glass doors in this dogtrot style home. For the exterior, along with crazy-expensive-to-run Christmas lights (definitely investing LED this year), we put up a giant Charlie Brown Christmas tree. If you look carefully you can see the red ornament at the end. I suppose I did that two years ago because I recognize the tree in it from our “come-and-cut” adventure. Come and cut in the cold and rain with your infant bundled and moby-ed. I think we had more fun going to Tracy Trees the following year, run by a Christian family here in town.

IMG_3821So this year we’ll go to Tracy trees, I’ll make at least one wreath and possibly a holiday (holy day?) banner, like this, and some German glitter homes like these. I’d show you more but the children are hungry and I can’t reveal all my secrets, now can I? More to come.

Projects! Projects! Projects!

I’ve been bursting with projects lately and ought not have waited so long to share. I suppose this would all go faster if I took pictures with something connected to the internet, but I don’t so I’m finally getting to it now (and not without a tussle every now and then with my toddler son!).

The dining room curtains are up, recycled from two homes ago. They are different lengths but since it is symmetrical and somewhat hidden by the table and chairs, I can handle the difference.


I picked up a desk on the side of the road after dropping off our daughter at preschool. It was in two pieces, vintage looking. The paint was a sweet light yellow, but one side had been spray painted black, and did I mention it was in two pieces? I got it home and my husband put it back together. I joyfully perused Vintage Market, a local shop full of beautiful rustic, vintage decor, and a carrier of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. I purchased a very small jar of Louis Blue and went to work. The paint was amazing! One dip in a jar of water, one dip in the paint jar, each brush stroke clung beautifully to a glossy messy previous paint job.


The vintage blue look is sweet and perfect for my daughter’s room. I returned to the same Vintage Market and purchased four drawer pulls that coordinated beautifully.


See the light blue lines on the knobs?

The success of this project has made me more eager to look out at yard sales and estate sales. I picked up a rocking chair for $20 at an estate sale and this table at a yard sale for $10.




I got my husband (on a good day) to do a few more projects for me. We took some old wood siding from my parents’ house. I painted it the same orange as the wall in my son’s room. The old wood allows the texture to show through without the paint covering it up. The man cut it and nailed it onto the wall to form arrows. I love the look!


My love hung two shelves in the bedroom for me. In my mind, the shelves and items on them ground the framed prints so everything looks more complete.


I am still working on how to arrange items on the right-hand shelf. The “memories” box is very important to me as it is identical to the box which our second miscarried baby was buried in and it holds mementos from the pregnancies of both miscarriages.


I’d love to have a St. Joseph statue on the shelf as well. Our only St. Joseph statue was beheaded in the last move, which is gruesome to write about and slightly disturbing to look at.

I have my eyes more and more on that master bathroom. It is a mess. It has never been painted. The walls have a funky texture that is very good at catching dust and never letting it go. I would like to paint the walls a subdued mint green (very light). The plan is to some how (likely paying someone) have the large mirror cut into two smaller mirrors and use more of the redwood siding removed during my parents’ home remodel for a frame. The wood is painted gray, very “chippy” as they say. Rustic and, if you will, shabby chic, although I hate that term.

While I dream of that remodel, I have been joyfully making lamps for our bedroom. My mother gave me a group of ribbed-glass wine bottles. My father drilled a ¼ inch hole at the base of each bottle.


A lamp kit from Home Depot made the transformation easy.


I picked up three lamp shades from World Market for eight dollars only to find the circular frame that rests on the socket to be weirdly large.


A quick perusal online found ten dollar lamp shades at Target. I will take apart pillow cases from the discontinued bedding collection to which our comforter belonged and using a hot glue gun, fit the fabric to the shade for a printed, coordinated lamp shade.



Since the fabric is cotton and white with a colorful, abstract-floral design I think they will be lovely!

Other the lamps there is one other project I’m nearly prepared to start. With three kids it takes ages to collect the materials I need! I have a pair of white curtain panels from IKEA. I plan to stamp gold leaves on them like confetti, copying a pair of curtains I fell for on the Land of Nod website. I can’t promise pictures coming soon, but I can promise the best intentions!

Come and stay a while

It looks as though I never posted pictures of my daughter’s room once made over. I painted the walls with left over Collanade Gray (Sherwin Williams color mixed in Clark & Kinsington paint). Before moving to Minnesota in college a print store was going out of business and I found this beautiful print for $5. IMG_5190My father made a frame for it using redwood siding he took off the house following a remodel. Shabby chic before it was chic.


That plaque below was a thoughtful birthday gift from my best friend.


We have an ABC duvet from IKEA and pool colored sheets (or turquoises if you like) to complement the picture and the cool gray walls. Hello kitty is a ballerina here.



I placed my paternal great-grandmother’s wood table with a floral blue and green tablecloth in the corner so my almost-four-year old can have a play place out of reach of her troublesome almost-two-year old brother.


That wild green chair you see in the corner of the photo is getting a gray makeover as well so it can be more versatile. That make over is halfway completed at this point. With little children everything but the children moves in very slow time…


Everything in the room was complete and I was so pleased, and then to make things crazy again we bought a furniture set from an antique dealer who sells pieces he refinishes out of his house on a very busy country road. What a find! A double-size Art Nouveau (read: turn of the century, beautiful organic detail on wood) bed.




My daughter now has a princess bed to sleep on, which will function as a guest bed when company comes. We had the delight of being able to host my husband’s best friend and best friend’s wife. I added our Calvin Klien Queen size “Dahlia” comforter and an extra pillow for our guests. Unfortunately, I failed to take pictures and now the comfortable is back being stored on a guest bed in my mother’s house.



Along with the bed came a vanity and a “gentleman’s dresser” which has it’s home in our walk in closet. Here are some photographs of the vanity. Given the ages of my children, I plan on attempting to use it next spring. The mirror is a little cloudy since it’s the original glass. I’m not sure if we’ll need to change that to make it functional, but it sure is charming!




There are some changes to be made to wall decor in the master and my son’s room. The interior is nearly done! I am taking my time. There is much to do during the autumn season with birthday and holiday parties.

I’m falling more in love with this home as time goes by. I believe the home we live in is more than just a building. I strive to reflect that in my decorating. It needs to have warmth and peacefulness, art and imagination. It should be personal but have a quality that is universal in order to make it accessible and feel like home to those who enter. And that last piece is so very important to me and my husband as well. That he should share my love of hospitality is a joy for me, even though he is the never-say-anything-you-don’t-need-to-say type. We love opening our home to people.

When we first walked into this house, I felt something move my heart. The people I shared this with did not seem to understand. But I believe a spiritual connection to one’s environment can exist. Couldn’t the Holy Spirit move my heart to tell us that this is the place. This is the home our children will grow in. And it’s been beautiful. From the functional lay out to, what’s more important, our amazing neighborhood and neighbors. That is something that seems to me nearly impossible to predict and it’s been perfect!