Gazebo? More like gazoinks-bo!

(I've been watching too much Parks and Rec...but I won't be stopping anytime soon.)

We were lucky enough to have yet another 70 degree day today! I spent the majority of the afternoon outside and in the garage, working to spruce this house up for spring. Agenda: pull weeds, paint the shelves Deric built a few weeks ago.

Side note: I thought plants/weeds weren't supposed to grow in winter?? If so, our nasty onion-grass weeds didn't get that memo. Those suckers were a foot high.


Twenty Four

Birthday 2012 was definitely one to remember. Combined efforts by Deric, my family, and my friends made it just a really good, fun, happy day...which is all I need. Plus, it was 70 degrees out. That makes everything so much better.

Deric and I celebrated over the weekend. Birthday stop #1: Jet's Pizza. Deep dish pizza and a Coke for $4, and literally a one-minute drive from our house. Its a deadly combination.

Stop #2: Kan-Pai for dinner. No pictures, as I was literally scarfing down my fried rice and chicken (both doused in an ungodly amount of shrimp sauce).

As per last year, we continued our pretty-much-new tradition to make our own photo booth on my birthday.

Yesterday was my actual day of birth. Sadly, Deric worked so the only sad part of my day was that I didn't get to spend much time with him. But the rest of the day was great. ;) Started off with lunch with a good friend (dang, no pics!). Spent the afternoon (the 70 degree afternoon, remember) at the park with another good friend and her two adorable children. Said children both picked out a balloon for me, which was so sweet. Followed up the park with Menchie's...delish.

Deric and I had to celebrate over the weekend because last night, we attended a banquet for his middle school basketball team. (Not surprisingly, they're just as awkward as when I was in middle school.) And to top off a fantastic birth day/weekend, I chatted via Facetime with my parents. How'd I do that? With my new iPhone that my parents so graciously gifted to me! Best ending to a great day, even if it did mean I got hassled by the Verizon guy to buy every dang accessory in their store. Credit card swiper-thing? No thanks.

(So yes, you can expect many, many more pictures to be showing up on this here blog-- such as this one, my Instagram test run-- thanks to a better phone camera.)

Birthday #24, you were awesome. Thank you so much to all my wonderful family and friends who a part of it! Love you all!


I Think I May Be Crazy...

...because I let Sarah talk me into doing the Cooper River Bridge Run (a 10K race) in just five weeks. This is crazy because a 10K is 6 miles. I currently max out at 2.5 miles. There is no way I'll be running six miles by the end of March...or ever. I should also mention that the run goes over a bridge (hence the name) and its approximately 1.5 miles up the bridge. Ouch.

So we definitely will be running and walking this race. I'm pushing myself to get back to three miles by race day so that I can say I at least ran half.

On a more positive note, thoughts of this race definitely get me motivated to run more. Let's hope this motivation stays with me, cause this could be the first year I actually do something to get in shape for the summer! (Usually that motivation hits me a week before we go to the beach...not so productive.)


Bird Chirping Weather

The high today is 75 degrees. 75! In February! I promptly threw open every window in our house as soon as I got home.

We won't talk about the high of 50 for tomorrow. Yeah, let's just ignore that.


what 7:00 am at a lock-in looks like

 breakfast of champions. not pictured: boxes upon boxes of cold pizza. at least 20 two-liters, most of them mountain dew. cookie trays. cinnabon. mini donuts.

a Pixar movie to keep the masses calm and quiet so their parents don't want to kill us when they pick up their jittery, caffeinated middle schooler.


80s Night

The women at church get together once a month for Girls' Night Out. Each month, a different woman hosts the party and its never the same thing. In the nine months we've lived here, I've been to a town-wide scavenger hunt, Bingo, a campfire, an ornament swap, and a few others I can't think of at the moment. This month was 80s night.

Normally, I'm not big into costumes. But I happened to luck out (for once) at the local Goodwill and found the best/worst dress. The best because it is definitely from the 80s and perfect for the occasion. The worst because, well, its from the 80s.

Before the shindig, I went over to Melanie's so she could tease my hair. I hate hairspray, teasing, and gel so I knew I wouldn't be able to tease my hair big enough on my own. Melanie had no problem doing it for me. She also had no problem applying a liberal amount of blue, pink and yellow eyeshadow. I just took deep breaths until it was over. ;)

The result:

Melanie, with innumerable accessories. Its no surprise she won best costume!

Me, not so accessorized but certainly linebacker-worthy. Can you believe those shoulder pads?? They were literally two inches past my shoulders. I'll never understand it. Sadly my 80s hair didn't last long, despite tons of hairspray and gel.

A group shot:

As much fun as it was to dress up for one night, I am honestly so thankful I didn't grow up in the 80s. I was awkward and dorky enough without old pictures of bangs, shoulder pads and tight-rolled jeans to haunt me. :)



Love According to Preschoolers

Every month, I find some sort of themed handprint or fingerprint art to send home to parents. This month, of course, was Valentine-related.

We read a book about all the reasons a little boy loves his mom and then started thinking about why we love our moms and dads. 

Some of the answers:
I love my mommy because she eats with me.
I love my daddy because he plays Star Wars with me.
I love my mommy because she does homework with me.
I love my daddy because he rides bikes with me.
I love my mommy because she buys umbrellas. 

This Valentine was probably my favorite. I snickered while writing it, wondering what Mom and Dad would think. 

(In case you can't read it: "Sophia loves Mommy because she's the best hotdog maker. She loves Daddy because he's a good exerciser.")

Cute, no?

Happy Valentine's Day!


Perfectionists Don't Make Good Painters

For Christmas, my mom gave me a coupon to an art class at a local studio, Spirited Art. I went on Monday with my friend Katrina, and it was so much fun! I learned a lot about painting, but I also had plenty of time to talk with Katrina.

When we arrived at the studio, we had some time to look at all the paintings that have been done by... people... I don't know. The staff, other newbies like us, Monet, Van Gogh? Whoever it was, the paintings were impressive. As was the huge color wheel made from paint chips. (I bet that was so much fun to put together.)

You chose your class based on the painting you want to do. There was a full wall calendar set up so we could preview the upcoming month. (Katrina's done the Knoxville skyline you see on the 18th and her painting was amazing!)

When class started, we began with the outline of the painting. The girl teaching the class had traced these out for us to save time. Can you see the faint pencil marks?

I took pictures in between each step of our painting so that I can remember later how we did this. I've never done a painting that required blending or layering colors, so this was all new to me.

Even in the beginning stages, I struggled with my tendency to be a perfectionist. The first thing I noticed when I got the canvas? The lines to the door and the porch aren't straight. For the rest of the night, that bugged me. And as we brushed our gold paint over the canvas, I tried so hard to make the strokes even and the amount of paint balanced. (Clearly, that didn't happen.)

With every step of this painting, I worried and I stressed that it didn't look "right". Not only were the lines not straight, the shading on my porch didn't look like a real porch.

As I painted the horizontal lines to create the wall, I struggled to make those lines perfectly straight and even. But I didn't have time to do anything about my imperfect lines before the teacher moved on to the next step, so they stayed as-is.

Blending quickly became my worst nightmare. Was there too much gray? Not enough gray? Did it blend into the brown? Did it look realistic? Again, (and thankfully) the teacher moved to the next step before I could make my painting worse by trying to fix it.

With each added color, I asked those same questions: too much gray? not enough? Sometimes to myself in my head, sometimes out loud to Katrina. Every time I asked, she assured me that it looked great. And then she'd ask me if her painting looked okay, to which I would respond-- "It looks great!"

(This is why you need friends when you try new things.)

(You should have seen me when I was directed to put blue on my porch. "Blue?! Who's porch is blue?!" But then I told myself to shut up and I did it.)

This painting was good for me. I've always wanted to learn to paint an actual picture. The paintings I usually do are words-- easy, one color, perfectionist-driven paintings. Paintings that take me months as I tediously make every line perfect. Paintings that aren't messy or smudged in any way, but are also boring in that respect.

I tried, one night, to make myself "just paint". Take a blank canvas and some paint and go to town. See what happens.

It was not good. I ended up painting a pattern of straight strokes in different colors. That was as 'free-spirited' as I got.

So this painting was good for me. It was good in that I learned some techniques for painting, but it was better for me in that I was forced to create this painting quickly. There was no time to fix lines, no time to make even strokes. No time to be perfect. Just enough time to paint. Just enough time to add 'burnt sienna' to the wooden walls before moving on to highlights in the top corner of the door.  (We were not actually rushed, mind you. The class lasted 2.5 hours. But for me, this was warp speed.)

After this class, I feel like I've accomplished something. In a very small way, I've relaxed those perfectionist tendencies I have. I've made myself come to grips with the fact that this painting is far from perfect, but I can still love it. That I don't have to make something perfect in order to be proud of it.

I'm trying to make this realization come about in other areas of my life as well. My house doesn't have to look perfect in order to be a home. My cooking doesn't have to be perfect in order to cook for others. My relationship with God doesn't have to be perfect in order to teach middle schoolers about Him. I don't have to be a perfect person before I have kids so that I can be the perfect mother (crazy, but sometimes I find myself striving for this). On the same note, Deric and I don't have to have the perfect relationship in order to one day be good parents.

God isn't looking for perfect. He knows it is impossible for me to be perfect and I'm thankful that He doesn't expect it from me.

All He wants is for me to do my best with the resources He's given me, and He'll do the rest.



Write Them on the Door Frames

I started this painting four months ago. I sketched out the verse sometime in September and began painting shortly after. Then, Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas barged in, and the painting was forgotten...shoved in the closet of my 'craft room' (or my I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-this-stuff room, whichever way you look at it).

But now, with the holidays over and endless rain outside, the painting is finished! I actually finished it in early January (which was four months, not five) if you're checking my math. I have no earthly idea why paintings take me so long to finish. They're a great, mindless project to do while watching Burn Notice on yet another rainy afternoon. But I tend to start a lot of projects all at the same time, when I really should start and finish one project before starting another.

Oh, and I should mention: During the course of this painting, I started and finished another painting. That second painting even got hung before I finished the first painting. I'll show you that one later. Right now, I think the first painting deserves to go first, since it had to wait for so long. Fair is fair.

In real life, the dark writing is navy blue and the lighter blue is very close to the blue on the wall.

I've decided that displaying Scripture around the house is my way of carrying out this verse..

Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9

I haven't developed the habit of continually thinking about or talking about God's word. Deric and I are getting better at talking about it more often, but I want to get to the point where God's words are on my mind the majority of the day. Seeing His words on a canvas on the wall helps. Some days, I bypass the canvas without a second thought. Other days, the words hope and faithful jump out at me. Its a quick, encouraging reminder that God really is faithful in His promises.


Sewing My ABCs

I thought I'd show you how I sewed the alphabet for Oliver's first birthday.

You've probably seen a fabric alphabet before. (If you're on Pinterest, I know you've seen this before.)

Nevertheless, here's the behind-the-scenes for the alphabet according to Ashley (and Chez Beeper Bebe, whose tutorial I used).

1. Find a basic font and print it out. Or do what I did: lay your paper over your computer screen, and verryyy lightly, trace the letters. (My printer's low on ink.)

2. Cut the letters out. (I know, rocket science.) Flip the letters over and trace onto fabric. This makes it so you sew the backside of the letter rather than the front.

3. For each letter, make a sandwich. Two pieces of fabric with enough batting in the middle to make them squishy. Make sure you've got at least half an inch extra fabric and batting around the letter to make sewing much easier. You won't have to worry about running off the edge of the fabric.

I lucked out at the store and found this Christmas "snow" for .94 cents so I didn't have to buy expensive batting. Shook off the glitter and I was good to go.

4. Disregard step two and trace the front of the letter (it really doesn't matter-- I covered the pen with my stitches). Pin the fabric + batting together. You'll notice I don't have much extra fabric around the letter. I had to redo this letter because while sewing I accidentally ran off the edge of the fabric, resulting in the batting sticking through the stitches.

 5. Experiment with stitches. I practiced with the letter L since its a simple letter. I tried a straight stitch and zigzag. Straight stitches were easier, but zigzag looked better. Plus, I think zigzag will be more durable over time. Maybe, maybe not. I used a bunch of fabric from my scrap bin, so I had to learn which fabrics frayed and which ones didn't. Unless you're a master seamstress and therefore aren't reading my tutorial because you know what you're doing, I recommend sewing a few experimental letters.

6. Once you've decided on fabrics and stitches, get going. Twenty-six letters takes a while. Turn on music (or watch Burn Notice on Netflix) and sew away. I did the straight letters first until I got comfortable enough to sew curves.

7. Once you've sewed your letters, cut each letter out. I cut about an eighth of an inch from my seam. I tried to sew the letters so that the batting didn't show, but I couldn't make it work. I just did my best to cut nice clean lines so the letters didn't look sloppy. If you look closely, you can see the batting peeking out. No big deal. Add Fray Check around the edges if you like.

8. Stretch out the kink in your neck and back, and you're finished! If I'd had time, I would have sewn a simple drawstring bag to keep the letters in. But considering I cut out the last few letters on the way to the party, a bag didn't happen. Marissa, I'll let you take care of that. ;)

Like I said before, my tutorial obviously isn't comprehensive. If you're looking for a more detailed tutorial, check out Holly's tutorial-- she made her letters magnets. Or Stitching in the Dark's--she sewed a basket to store her letters.

This is a great project for practicing your sewing skills. Seeing as I still have trouble sewing straight lines, I should probably work on a few more alphabets!

P.S. Mom, I think you should know I used part of my Rugrats pillowcase for the S and the V. It was a tough sacrifice to make, but I did it! ;)