Valentine’s Day 2018

I can’t believe it’s already February!  Valentine’s Day is just around the corner…

I know there are two camps of people when it comes to this holiday, but I honestly love Valentine’s Day.  I always have.  I don’t believe February 14th is just about romantic love.  While it can be about romantic love, for us it’s also about the love we have for our family and our children.  It can also be about celebrating the love you feel for your best friends, and don’t we usually do something special for our child’s teacher on Valentine’s Day? I think it’s so much fun to have a day to celebrate the love we feel for all the special people in our lives.

Our family has always celebrated Valentines Day at dinner with our favorite little valentine’s – who are now definitely not so little anymore.  They are pretty much adults, and this year they are both very far away at college.   So, another first this year – my first valentine’s day in 22 years without any kids at home:(   Yeah.  I know what you’re thinking…stop that.

Our tradition has been to make a “fun” dinner that everyone agrees on and try to shape some part of it into a heart.  Heart shaped pizza became our staple.  Maybe it is at your house too?   And dinner has always, always,  been followed by a decadent chocolate dessert.  Because I also fall into that camp – Valentine’s Day must include chocolate.  This year I already know dessert will be a chocolate mousse pie by yours truly.  I’ll share the recipe and some photos in a future post.


So, without any kids at home I’m planning a little further ahead this year.  Since our kiddos will be enjoying their day at school, I’m putting together some Valentine care packages to mail so we can be with them in some small way.   I hope they’ll enjoy their treats from home and share with friends.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed,  I’ve scattered some simple card ideas throughout this post.  If you like one of them I hope you’ll find some time to make your own version – and please share if you do:)  I just used card stock, scrapbooking paper, stamps, a punch and a glue stick and got creative for an hour.  These are my favorites so far.  I had so much fun I’m definitely going to be making a few more!    I think I need to work on a few more “guy” cards, don’t you?

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!  And I hope it includes chocolate;)



This little guy has been our whole family’s valentine for the last 13 years:)

Time for Change…


A quote was dogging me for months last spring.  I know you’ve heard it,  “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates”  Over and over it appeared.  I felt like it was everywhere.

At the time I’d been volunteering for years with parents and teachers, trying to improve our large urban school district.  Unfortunately, anyone involved with public education today knows that means spending a lot of time in a “negative space”,  often speaking at school board meetings, and to politicians, who look at their computers while you’re talking, and pay more attention to parliamentary procedure than to the students and parents they represent.  It can be aggravating and disheartening – but students are important to me.  So I kept working.   And the quote kept appearing.  By October of last year it really had my attention.  I  committed it to memory.

I started to wonder if it was some kind of sign.  Maybe it was encouraging me to build something new in education? But what?  We had tried so many things in the past six years.   It was always one step forward, two steps back.  Ugh!  I call it the dance of educational frustration.

Then, a few chance meetings.  The first last summer with an artist on a trip to New England, and another, the following month, with a freelance writer while discussing an article. The positivity and excitement I felt during those discussions were so refreshing!  I started to wonder if it really might be time for me to make a change.  Maybe I needed to stop working in education?  But I had put in so much time and effort.  Part of me didn’t want to stop while another part was eager to work with such optimistic people in an encouraging space.

I can only imagine what I was feeling at this point was something akin to what it feels like to be in an abusive relationship.  I wasn’t happy.  I was tired of banging my head against a wall,  and yet I didn’t know how to quit.  I wanted it to work out.  In my case to make a positive difference in public schools in Georgia.  In my mind I think I knew it was time for change, and yet I kept showing up, hoping things would improve, knowing full well they wouldn’t.  I’m sure I’m not the first person to have felt that way.

Leaving started making sense to me, but I didn’t want to let people down.  I spoke to a few close friends about how I was feeling.  All the while that silly quote was bouncing around in my head.  How could I possibly focus on building something new and positive and when I was spending all my time trying to get school board members, who refused to listen?  I think at one point I actually said out loud, “OK. Talk universe. I’m listening.”

In my personal life my mother has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for the last 19 years. It has been a difficult and emotional journey.  Those of you who are helping to take care of parents who are ill while bringing up your own children (the sandwich generation)  know it can be stressful, especially when you don’t have siblings around to help share the burden. (I have to say here my husband and my kids have been amazing and patient and helpful.  I am very blessed.)

I have sadly, and sometimes angrily, watched my mother’s health deteriorate in more recent years.  Due to this, living a positive and creative life has taken on more importance for me.  I know life is short and precious. My mother, who is now  in a wheel chair,  often says I rush around too much. “You’re so busy! Just slow down!”  But, because of my experience with her disease I feel a sense of urgency about life.  I need to do things now, because someday, hopefully a long time from now, I may not be able to.

So during this time of raising my children, volunteering in education and helping take care of my mother I’ve spent any free time  I had working on creative projects.  Being creative has always been the way I recharge my batteries and renew my spirit.  It somehow allows me to think through even complex problems and come up with new solutions.  Maybe it’s just getting away from the actual dilemma and turning my analytical brain off for a bit.   I had always loved the ability to think outside the box and create something new.  And then it hit me… like a lightening bolt.  “The secret to change is to spend all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  I had been building something new every time I had a spare moment.  In those moments I always felt positive and uplifted and I often wished I had more time to spend on it.  Ok, universe I hear you.  But, what was I supposed to DO with this knowledge?  Was this a path I was supposed to take?  And if so, how?

So I started by connecting with other creative women and asking questions and I’ve discovered that women are truly born creators.  For goodness sake we have the ability to bring human life into the world;)   Whether it’s having children, creating a home or pursuing a career -making something new is a part of who we are.  It’s in our DNA.  I think we all have it whether we believe it or not.  And there are countless ways to express it.  The creative moms I’ve met are filled with an energy and positivity that is catching and encouraging.  I never felt that dealing with school systems and governmental bureaucracy.

As I embrace this new path I’ve realized that being creative somehow feels like breathing to me.  I’ve found that some creative endeavors have been easy while others have absolutely taxed me.  I think the feelings we have are a kind of emotional roadmap.  Maybe it’s our soul, or some kind of divine spark,  trying to lead us in the right direction.  I know others feel the same way.  While I’ve moved on from some things I’ve tried,  I’ve become even more passionate about others, and I feel encouraged to dive deeper.  At the center of everything I have felt drawn to over the years has been the  manipulation of color and texture and making something new that didn’t exist before.

Being creative is a passion for me.   Even if I go a few days or a week without putting a brush to paper or wax to a board,  I find myself thinking about an idea, making a sketch, or noting some colors or patterns I’d like to try together.  These days I’m spending a lot more time on it.   I primarily work in encaustic and watercolor right now, although I still like to play with acrylic on canvas from time to time, and I’ve committed to making at least one quilt a year;) I’m sure there are other mediums I haven’t yet discovered that I will try at some future point.  (Ceramics maybe?)  I just know that somehow I’m on the right path.  I no longer feel negative and frustrated.  I look forward to getting up early in the morning, even on the weekends, making coffee and seeing what my day holds!  What I am spending my time on feels right. It makes me happy and I hope I will remain healthy enough to do it for a long time.

So, this year I not only hear Socrates words, I am embracing them.  I will “spend my energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” and see where it takes me.   It’s a totally new venture for me, and I’m equally nervous and excited to explore it.  I’m committed to being creative every day  – whether that means creating a piece of encaustic art, or watercolor, making greeting cards for my mother to sign to keep in touch with friends,  creating a new cookie recipe, building a headboard, or blogging about this creative life.  I’m going to focus positive energy on building it.   I hope this will allow me to connect with more women who are finding themselves on a new path.  Maybe we can encourage each other to build something new.

Below is a photograph of an encaustic piece I’m currently experimenting on with several types of ink.  I’ll let you know how it comes out in a future post;)

I wish you good health and creative thoughts!



Easy Spring Note Cards

My daughter called me from Boston yesterday to say, “It’s SOOOOO C-O-L-D!”.  I said, “I bet!  It’s cold here too.” She replied, “No. You don’t understand.  It’s 16 degree cold.  It’s like minus 2  degrees with the wind chill!”  “Uh, yeah,” I said.  “It’s definitely not that cold here. I bet you can’t wait for spring!”

It seems like it’s been an unusually cold winter this year, even in the south, and I know lots of us are craving a little spring at this point.  Well,  I can’t really do anything about the weather, but I figured I’d send my daughter a card to assure her spring will come;) (The warm weather is just going to take a bit longer to reach her in Boston than to reach us in Atlanta.)

So, I broke out the new Fishers X-Large Fern punch I bought at Joann’s last week (They were 50% off- $7.99)  and some chartreuse and green paper I bought to try with it.

I love the way the ferns come out with this punch.  Really nice quality!  It takes a little effort, but if you’ve used a punch before, you’re ready for that.  Still, it totally beats trying to cut out the little suckers!

I cut a few pieces of 5X7 card stock and then punched randomly.  Once I had punched a few pieces I decided to see what they would look like if I put another color underneath the cuts-and used them as a kind of “relief”.  And you know what?  I liked it.  I mean, I liked it with just the plain white underneath.  I even liked the one I did that had some of the punches going off the side of the page.  Nothing I ever do seems to be simple, but this was so simple.

I used an Elmer’s extra strength glue stick and mounted the green paper to some white card stock I had.  I like the clean modern look these have.  I used both colors and punched just the bottom of one and then all around the sides of the other.  I think I spent 15 minutes total on these cards.  I realize I could have made them a little more perfect…but honestly I kind of like that they are imperfect.  Handmade is imperfect;).

Well, it’s a balmy 27 degrees in Boston today…but whoa…only 9 in Oklahoma at OU! (I can’t even think about that wind chill.)  I think I’ll send one of these to each of my kids with a Starbucks gift card.  Which, (how lucky am I?) will coordinate with the colors.  That way they can stop on their way to class and grab a cup of hot cocoa or coffee to warm themselves up – a hug in a cup;)

Above are the four cards I made today.  I hope you’ll find a minute to break out a punch you might already have and make some spring cards.  I’d love to see what you make! So, please feel free to share your creation here:)

If you like the punch I used you can order through Joann’s here .

Stay warm everyone!  Think spring!

What is the BEST wallpaper remover?

What is the best wallpaper remover?  You’re not going to believe me when I tell you, but you should, because I have more wallpaper removal experience than any mom should be allowed to have;)

When we bought the house we currently live in, the inside was covered with dark wallpaper that we both disliked immensely…ok…hated.  We hated the wallpaper.  So, very soon after closing, we began the monumental task of soaking and scraping, and slowly worked our way through several rooms.  We tried several different wall paper removers like this one and  a wallpaper scoring tool like this one  to let the wallpaper remover soak in better, but it was always smelly and unbelievably time consuming!  Until we discovered the BEST wallpaper remover ever!  Are you ready for it?  DOWNY fabric softener!

We’ve been regulars at Home Depot since we moved to Atlanta and are on a first name basis with a couple of the guys there – I won’t say who because I don’t want anyone to get into trouble for this.  One Saturday we were standing in the aisle complaining, yet again, about taking down more wall paper when one of the guys we knew said, “Don’t waste your money.”  I’m sure we looked confused.  “Well, if we don’t use a wallpaper remover, how are we going to get all that glue off?”  He leaned in, gave us a big wink and said “Do y’all have any Downey?”  What? Was he serious?! “You mean fabric softener?” we asked.  “Yep!  That’s the one.”

Our wallpaper whisperer had been a paint and wallpaper guy for many years.  He told us Downey was the only thing he used.

The directions he gave us were as follows:

  1. Put on a pair of heavy dishwashing gloves.
  2. Then put the hottest water you can get out of the tap into a 5 gallon bucket – about 2/3 full.   Ad several capfuls of liquid Downy fabric softener. (I use April Fresh:).  Now mix it together.
  3. Soak a large sponge in the hot water/Downy mixture and then, starting at the top of the wall, wipe over the wallpaper with a very wet sponge.  Slowly, work your way down to the bottom of he wall going back and forth horizontally in sections about 3-5 feet wide.  (We usually do about a 5 foot wide section.)
  4. Soak your sponge whenever you feel it is getting too dry.
  5. Then move to the next section of wall and repeat.
  6. When 5- 10 minutes has elapsed for the first section go back to it and start peeling the paper.  If you need to soak your sponge and put a bit more of the hot water mixture on as you work your way down the wall.
  7. Do this for the whole room.  Change the hot water mixture when it gets too “gluey”(if that’s a word).
  8. Once you have peeled the paper go back to the first section and just wash off any remaining glue that remains so the wall is nice and smooth.

We still use a wall paper remover tool like this one  to scrape some wallpaper where necessary.

Downy works GREAT – better than any of the wall paper stripping products we have tried on the market.  It also smells much nicer than anything you can buy at the hardware store. So…bonus!  We’ve been using Downey ever since that day at Home Depot and we won’t ever go back.

Give it a try for yourself! Let me know what you think!

A Farmhouse Table & Outdoor Dinner Party

A few months ago I started thinking about hosting and outdoor dinner party. Fall is my favorite time of year, and although the color in Atlanta is not what it is in my native New England, the weather can be beautiful well into November. Why not take advantage of it?  We get together often for dinner with friends and I wanted to change things up (I know…so not like me! LOL!)  We always start by hanging out in the kitchen and move to the dining room to eat because it’s the only table that can fit six or more. I started pinning photos to my Pinterest board to get ideas.

First, we needed to figure out what to use as a table. We’ve had this outdoor set for about 12 years.

It’s super heavy and durable, and it’s perfect for 4 people, but a little tight for 6 adults. (The table top also squeaks like crazy because it’s a little broken;). I also had more of a “farmhouse” theme in mind. But, what could we use?  I didn’t want to buy a new table.  Time to get creative!  We had this a 45 inch wide rectangular table in the basement that I refinished years ago, and now use to hold my painting supplies.

We knew we needed something a little bigger (to fit 6-8 people).  We decided we could use the table as a base and just make a larger table top.  Love it!  Lee found this post on my DIY Woodworking board on Pinterest to make the table.  He tweaked the plans to be the size we wanted. Here is a picture of us (aka: him) figuring things out in Home Depot.) I love this guy<3

We spent about an hour looking through boards they had in stock. They needed to be straight, not warped, and the idea girl wanted some character – knots and wood grain.

We probably went through 50 boards before we settled on the ones above. (Bless my patient husband!) We laid them out to get a sense of what it would look like.

Once we got home I spent some time laying the pieces out the way I wanted them put together for the final table top and then my hubby got to work cutting the boards and making the pocket holes with his Kreg jig. He put gorilla glue over all of the edges of the wood that would be connected with screws and then screwed the wood together.

This is the underside of the table. If I haven’t mentioned it before, my husband is an engineer. I realize there are an awful lot of pocket holes here:)…and we ran out of screws at one point…but this table top is NOT going to coming apart on ust;)

Since we were using a soft wood (pine) I decided to use a water based wood conditioner first.  It prepares the wood so that it doesn’t suck the stain in so quickly and end up being “blotchy” looking.  I did some test strips on some scrap pieces first.  Based on those tests, I was actually afraid it would resist the water based stain I selected a little too much, but it honestly didn’t. It worked out great! I would highly recommend using a wood conditioner before you stain pine, and I will absolutely use it going forward.

My husband gave the whole table top a good sanding with the orbital sander and then wiped it down really well.  This is a picture of the top of the table with the one coat of the water based wood conditioner we used in natural.

I wanted the table to have a light grayish-brown, weathered look – kind of like Restoration Hardware. Below is a picture of the table with one coat of the water based wood stain we used in Walnut.  There were two areas that didn’t come out the way I wanted, so I got the orbital sander and sanded the top of the table very lightly and very randomly. Then I wiped off the dust with a dry cloth and wiped over the whole table again with the (very) wet rag I used to wipe off the initial coat of stain.

Here is what the table looked like after it dried.

Sidebar – I’ve been painting some “whimsical chairs” when I have the time, and often drop into GoodWill or a local flea market to see if they have anything. The week of our dinner I found these 4 chairs at Goodwill for $26.92. (Can you believe I hemmed and hawed about them for about a half hour before I decided to buy them? Yeah…sometimes I think too much!) Although they are missing a few pieces, they were fairly sturdy. (I’ll figure out a way to fix them at some point in the future.) I figured I could wipe them down and sand the seat a little and we could use them for our dinner.

Here is a picture of the table with chairs I found at Goodwill to see if it would look ok for dinner. (I like it!)

The picture below provides a good view of how the new table top  sits on top of the old table. It is attached with blocks of wood and screws so it wouldn’t move if people lean on it – meaning all our dishes wouldn’t go crashing onto the deck;)  The engineer gets all the credit:)  I had one old chair and added the chairs from the GoodWill.  I just sanded the seats a bit so that they didn’t have the splotches of old paint on them like they did when I bought them.

We added a final chair from the kitchen to the other end of the table. (I am actually really liking this mismatched chair look!)

Here is the table set for company, including a few blankets to use in case it got cold. (In Atlanta that’s anything below 70 degrees:))

We had a lot of fun making the table together and we had a great night with friends whom we adore!  I hope there will be LOTS more opportunities to use this table!





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