Or perhaps I should name this,  “Dining Room Before. And After: Prepared for a Dinner Party”. That’s too long for a title anyway. But that’s the gist of these pictures. I was going to do before & after pictures of this room anyway, and then during preparation for my husband 30th party I snapped these pictures. And no, my dining room is not set up for a dinner party every day! :)

It has been SO FUN to decorate this home on a budget. Other than blinds/shades for the windows, and light fixtures, I tried to not buy much at all to decorate with in this house. Unless I made it myself, then I allowed myself to buy items to make it with. Or found it at Goodwill, or a cheap antique shop, or something. You know, where I could justify it. :)

I was thinking the other day, and wondering what this house would look like if I would have had unlimited resources to work with. But then I thought some more, and said to myself that I think it would not look much different. I might have shopped at high-quality, high-dollar antique stores, maybe. But I think the basic look would be the same. But then that’s today. It seems like “my style” [whatever that is] is always emerging, developing, changing… :)

Because, I like uniqueness. Originality. I like it that I didn’t just walk into a store to buy my stuff, and that a lot of things here are unique to me, and to this house. I like to make a lot of things, because that makes it more unique. More one-of-a-kind. That’s just what makes me tick. :)

So, not sure why I said all that before a dining room, because there’s only so much a girl can make for a room like that!

But here, it is.

Welcome to Room #2 of the house tour.

BEFORE:

There were walls everywhere. These were the first to go. The rooms are quite small even without the walls now, but it makes everything *feel* so much bigger. If you can trick your mind like that your comfort level is much higher. :)

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Behind that wall in the first picture – in the tearing out process.

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Fireplace #2 of 5 in the house. Blue paint is not original to the house, so I didn’t ruin historic value in this century-old house by painting it!

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Lovely blue trim. And I didn’t get a picture of the ceiling, but it was a light sky blue too.  Someone really liked blue, is all I can say!

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And AFTER!

[if you remember from the living room post, this is opening from one side of that room]

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I found the bike/bakery shop/flower pictures before we got married at Michaels or A.C. Moore. My grandmother framed it in an inexpensive frame, then had a friend glaze it to make it look like an oil painting, but it’s really a cheap poster.

We painted the fireplace mantel and brick under it a pure white, and I love the fresh look that it gave!

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A few antique-joint finds on Saturday…

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These paper balls were hung especially for the dinner party. My theme in decorating was “Garden Party Indoors.” I looooove outdoor parties, but it’s just not possible here most of the year. 100 degrees and 100% humidity for an outdoor party just isn’t very enjoyable. I tried it one year, and dripping sweat and buzzing mosquitoes just wasn’t very pleasant. Trust me on that one.

This was a little challenge for me to know how to pull off my theme without it being too girly for my husband 30th party! Afterward I kept asking him, “This wasn’t too froufrou for you, was it? It wasn’t too girly?” And he kept assuring me that no, it was good. :) Although when I mentioned keeping those paper balls up there permanently he got a little scared and said he might have to find another place to stay. :)

Martha Stewart gets the credit for the instructions on how to make these balls. I had read tutorials online, but was thoroughly confused. Martha Stewart to the rescue. In three easy steps I had made these balls and was so delighted! I would have made hundreds of them by now if I would have known how easy they are!

This girl has made something similar, only in flower shape, that are so beautiful. She was a main inspiration for me wanting to make these in the first place!

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These window panels were inspired by Pottery Barn Teen. A few friends and I were looking at a catalogue one day and said, “We have got to make these!” I found fabric on clearance for $1.50 a yard, so spent about $20 for fabric and thread. I made these with a different twist than the ones Pottery Barn sells, but got my idea from them.

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The Pottery Barn price was $68 per panel. Unbelievable difference. :)

The wide trim was present in the house when we bought it. I LOVE it.

I cut bamboo rods for curtain rods for these panels, like the ones in the living room. This saved me about $50 doing that, because these were free from our old backyard. I did have to buy the brackets to hold the bamboo rods, which ended up being about $10 at Home Depot.

The bamboo Roman Shades come from Kmart. I love this purchase. I think it really dresses up the room, and I love the different textures and media.

This old door was in the house as a laundry room door when we bought it, but in too poor a condition to actually use. I couldn’t  bear to throw it away, and one day had the inspiration to put it in here. The chalkboard dresses it up a bit, and is a fun place to write notes, menus, or inspiring quotes.

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[yikes, should have pulled the dead leaves off my “friendship plant!”]

This chandelier was a bargain I found on craigslist. (I know, right?! Who could even bear to part with this kind of beauty?)  It’s the Pottery Barn ‘Celeste’ which was selling for far less than store/catalogue price. I was one happy girl to pick this baby up! And I was trying not to appear over-eager as I handed her the money and drove off, totally beaming!!! This was one deal I couldn’t BELIEVE I actually found on craigslist. I loved the bit of glamor it added to the older historical elements in the room.

 

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Dinner Party Details:

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The centerpiece was three simple green arrangements. This was just an elephant ear leaf in a milk glass vase. I love milk glass. My Aunt Grace has collected them for years, and the past three years I’ve picked up pieces as well when I find them cheaply.

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This potted arrangement was given to me after a dear friend’s wedding. Isn’t it beautiful?!

The vase in the background is filled with magnolia leaves and an old magnolia flower pod.  Also in milk glass.

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More paper balls:

 

Dining Room 2

 

Dining Room 1

 

Place settings:

Silver chargers were found at garage sales and discount stores, for around $1-2 each.

White place settings: Pottery Barn outlet, on sale. They’re called “Suppertime.” I purchased a set of 10 dinner and salad plates with a gift card given by husband a year and a half ago. I LOVE these. They feel special for everyday, but for a more formal dinner they look the part as well. And they hold up splendidly with years of use.

Goblets: you can find these for $1 each at Dollar General. Walmart, Pottery Barn, and other places sell them as well, for a bit more money.

White cloth napkins: found at garage sales, goodwills, re-use-it shops.

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Mix-matched chairs. The table set was a wedding gift given by my parents, but for a larger party I have to pull out every chair I have around the house!

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And can you believe that I forgot to take any pictures of the actual party?! No food or people pictures. Sad sad sad. I was feeling very scatterbrained at the last minute. That’s my excuse. :)

Here’s the final before:

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and after:

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Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Wishing you all a lovely day, wherever you may find yourselves… Feeling a bit somber this week, thinking of my sweet friend who suddenly lost her father a week ago. Tragedies like that always remind me to hug a little tighter, tell people that I love them more often, and just put life in perspective so much. I ache for my friend, who has to find a new normal, and learn to live without someone who has always been part of her life.

And while I hurt for her, I’m reminded, for myself, to treasure today. Even if my kids are cranky. If they spill pink nail polish all over the floor. If they cry over every little thing. If they won’t take long naps. If they put flour in the sugar container and sugar in the flour box. If it feels like I just can’t sweet my floor enough, it’s always dirty from kids’ crumbs.

Because those are all just inanimate things. Just things. And these years of raising children are such a small part of the time span of my life. So love them well, Mrs. Yoder. Kiss them, and hug them, and laugh instead of getting upset, and take time to read that same book for the hundredth time. You don’t know how long you will be able to hold them, and cuddle and kiss them. You don’t know, so treasure today…

~clarita

 

 

I may have lived in the South for four years, but let me say, I am still in open-mouthed awe at the trucks these people like down here. Or maybe “awe” isn’t the right word. Perhaps “amazement” is a better word.

We were driving in a small southern town within several hours of where we live, when we drove past this truck. “TURN AROUND!” I said, in  shocked tone of voice, not believing what I thought my eyes had seen. Dear, obliging husband turned around. And we both stared, open-mouthed, and then I remembered my camera and whipped it out.

“Oh nooooo!” Groaned husband. “You’re going to put this picture on xanga, and everyone is going to think that southerners are soooo redneck!”

Yes I will put this on xanga, but I will make a disclaimer and say that not *all* southerners drive a truck *quite* this big. Only half a big. :)

Need I even say that we live in Redneck Country?!

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Wow.

That’s all I can say.

WOW.

~clarita

 

 

Wow, it’s been a good past couple of weeks.

-Celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary (this was more like 2 months ago!).

– A 10-day trip back home (I still think of Pennsylvania as “home,” even though Georgia is “home” to me too. But Pennsylvania is “back home.”). Just so great. I came back feeling so blessed and overwhelmed by the family and friendships God has given me. It’s not a matter of if I have family and friends to see when I go back, but rather how much time I have to see people – which is never enough, and there are always people I wish I could have seen that I wasn’t able to, and the people I did see I wished to have seen more of.

– Celebrating my husband’s 30th birthday! This is what really made my weeks fly by, because I felt like I was planning his birthday for months! Maybe more on this at a later date.

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Olivia is walking! It took her a while to discover she really could do this, but now she is toddling all over the house. I love the word “toddle.” It sums up wobbly baby legs, balance challenges, and baby grins all in one. And lots of bumps and bruises. Don’t forget those.

 

It’s been a busy but happy time. This morning I thought to myself, “I am just so happy to be alive today.”

Part of that had to do with the fact that my girls slept in until  9:30 (!!!!), and I was able to have a few HOURS (hours, not minutes) alone before they awoke. That definitely is a reason to be happy. :) [And I wish I knew what I did right, so that they could sleep in again like that!]

And then, because I had some time alone with my God, I felt ready to greet them. Happily greet them, as I heard little feet pattering on the hardwood floor. Ready to greet them with long hugs and snuggles, and say, “I’m so happy to see you!” and really mean it, rather than thinking, “Oh, why did you get up so early today??!” :)

And now, at 2pm, they are just recently gone to bed because of sleeping in so late. And I have a bit of quiet once again… I love quiet.

_____________________________________

But now, here’s to celebrating 5 years of being married!

The Man.

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The Lady.

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This post is looking back over the past 8 years. Remembering when the love first began between Ben and me. This is going to be a nutshell version of a very veeeeery long story. :)

I was 19 when I first met him. He was hardly 22.

I was independent, loved being single, and wanted to be single until I was 30 because I loved where I was at so much. Marriage was NO WHERE in my near future.

However, I was fascinated by his crystal-blue eyes, easy-going personality, and slow southern drawl. He first noticed my curly hair and long eyelashes. :)

We had never met before, but were thrown together in a group of about 60 Bible School students for 7 weeks. We interacted, became friends, but he was seeing another girl at the time and I thought that was that.

Meanwhile, I was mapping out my next five years,which included mission trips to Africa, Colorado, Asia, as well as furthering my education. And was I ever excited. However, God started speaking to my heart and softly telling me not to view marriage so adamently. Asking me to surrender my dreams for the future, and to trust His plans, even if they were different from my own. This was such a difficult thing for me, because I really did not want to get married soon at all. But my answer to God, through much wrestling and struggle, was, “Yes, Jesus, I will do what you want me to do, whatever that is.”

 

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Several months later, Ben asked my dad if he could date me, and after a few months of dad com municating with Ben, Ben and I had som contact through phone calls and emails. This is a really reeeeeaaaallly long story, one that I’m not going to go into detail now, but after some months my answer to Ben was “no.” Interestingly though, my heart was opening to the idea of romance , and even of marriage sometime in the future! Even though I did not think this would include Ben.

We parted ways, heartbreaking to both of us because of our friendship, but my heart was not ready for him. Over the next year, I dated another man, thinking Ben was a person of the past, and excited about where God was taking me.

But for unknown reasons, God did not give me rest with staying in that relationship. It was mysterious to me, and had nothing to do with the man himself but only the way God was leading me.

Heartbreak again. I wanted to make a vow of celebacy for the next two years just so I wouldn’t have to even think about love again! My parents refrained me, much to my (then) chagrin. They did allow me to make a 6-month commitment. Looking back, I think they really wanted me to get married! Ha!

Shortly after that, I spent two months in Central America with my sister, Jana, and two friends. Antigua, Guatemala, was where we studied Spanish, and central point from which traveled all over the country! Great times!

During those months in Central America, my heart was strangely drawn to Ben again. Wondering why, wondering how, but my heart was restful that if God had something for us in the future He would bring it to pass.

Ben asked again, brave man. And this time, almost two years after we first met, we began dating. This time my heart was ready for him, and delighted to be entering a journey alongside him!

I was 21, he was 23.

We dated long-distance of 800 miles, seeing each other about once a month for a weekend. He shocked me when proposing after only 8 months of dating, but my answer was “Yes!” Our engagement was 5 months long, two months of which I was away from home living with my widowed grandmother in Florida and then on a mission trip to Africa.

[In Africa on a mission trip, 3 months before our wedding. So neat that we were both able to go!]

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Funny FUNNY looking back at these pictures! Makes me laugh, like, did we really both change so much?!

[He joined my extended family campout while we were dating.]

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I was 22 when we wedded, he was 24. Such a happy happy day…

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[working on our first house, tearing wallpaper off…]

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And now, it’s five years later.  A lot has happened in those five years. We lived in Pennsylvania, we moved to Georgia, Ben and I taught school, we had a baby girl, Ben taught another year of school, I had another baby girl…

And before we were married, people would talk about the work that it takes to have a good marriage. I would listen and politely nod, but think to myself, “They must not have the kind of relationship that WE have!” Five years later, I can honestly say that a good marriage DOES take work – hard work, and lots of it.

It’s been a wonderful, crazy, mysterious, fun, scary, beautiful, frustrating, amazing journey together! There are challenges we’ve faced that I never would have imagined, yet glad that I didn’t know about beforehand. This journey together is one that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and yet one that makes me need God more than anything in the world. This is a sacred journey, one of commiting my life to one man, until death do us part.

Because it’s in that covenant that God is revealed. We don’t bail out when it’s tough. We’re in it together, thick or thin. Easy days, fun days, hard days. We’re in this for life, and we’re going to give it our best shot. We’re going to love each other, forever…

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Really cool/funny thing about this photo shoot a few weeks ago: It was taken very impromptu after a day at the beach, and my sister Claudia Barkman took the pictures. She overheard an older couple talking as they walked by. “Wedding?” asked the man [did he not see the BROWN dress?]. “No, engagement,” said the woman. We had a laugh about that later. And thought, “Awwww, we still look like we’re engaged!” while wondering what the couple thought about the two babies playing in the foreground…! :)

I’m the lucky woman who gets to be with this man!

How Lucky I Am

Happy

 

 

Lovin'

And, somehow, two people make more people… :)

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Daddy & Olivia

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It’s a forever kind of love…

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… even with the sometimes long days of childen who are[n’t] getting along well…

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Forever, Baby!

~clarita

 

 

 

Quite a few people have asked to see pictures of our house – before and after.

And while I LOOOOVE our little house, there are parts of me that are hesitant to bring it public.

Like, when you do that you really make yourself vulnerable.

What if people don’t like my style and think it’s cheezy? Wonder what I think I am, posting pictures of our house? Like, if I post pictures I must think it’s cute but what will people think of that? And, what if people think I’m shallow and self-absorbed if I do a little house tour? What if they don’t like my projects and don’t like me?

But, for the sake of my friends who have asked, and because this house has been such a blessing from the Lord, and an incredible gift to us, I want to share it. Our four years in a rental house where we could not do anything to fix it up was all part of God’s plan, teaching me to be content, and now, everything feels like such a HUGE gift! I am so much more grateful for this house because of having lived somewhere for several years where my hands felt tied. So how can I *not* share what God gave us and what my husband did an amazing job restoring?

Perhaps I should give a little background as to why I love to take time in my home…

Back before I ever got married, I made a list of things that I want my home to be like one day. This is one of them from my
Mission Statement 2003:

“… I have a heart to create a “heaven on earth” for my family: be for my husband the “home of his heart”; wholeheartedly love my husband and support him; love my children; create an atmosphere that promotes intimacy with God and a hunger to grow and learn; prepare my children for their destinies…”

“… I have a desire to serve others in an atmosphere of beauty in my home…”

And I would tell my newly-married husband five years ago that I want him to come home to his throne. :)

So that is why I do what I do in my home… This is not for everyone, but this is for me personally.

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Little House Fun Facts:

– Was built in 1906, so it’s a little over a hundred years old.  Just what Husband and I both LOVE!

-This house was a foreclosure when we bought it. TERRIBLE condition, and thus had been on the market for quite a while.

– Ben bought the house when I was out of state for two weeks, so I never saw it beforehand. He told me about it, of course, but I had to trust his judgment! This is the 3rd house in 2 different states we’ve lived in since we’re married, and I didn’t see any of them before we rented or bought them.

-1300 square foot is what the contract said the house size was. Very small. But I think they forgot to add the room in the back, which would add another 300 sq. ft., but still keeping the size around 1600 square foot.

-hardwood floors throughout the whole house, except tile in the laundry room which we added.

– 5 fireplaces. Yes, five. That is not a typo. One would be fun. Five? Well, it sure looks cute, but it’s been challenging for me to decorate all five without them looking the same, and like I ran out of ideas (which I did).

– 2 bedroom house, and we added a stairway with the intent of adding 1-2 more bedrooms upstairs sometime in the distant future.

-Ben worked for 3 months straight on this house, restoring it, replacing floors, tearing out walls, fixing it up… Can you say ‘genius’?? His work is incredible…

-I have a laundry room INSIDE my house!! Haven’t had that for four years! Excitement reigns!

So that gives you a little bit of background into the house.

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The room I’ll show you today is the living room. You walk in the front door and this is the room you come to.

Before:

Tiny room, tiny doorways, very closed-in feeling. I was seriously
depressed for 3 days
after I saw this place and realized what we were in for!!

the way it looked when I first saw it. the dead of winter and freeeeeezing cold.

Christmas 2009 577

February 2010 158

January-February 2010 064

March 2010 004

After:

Tore out the bookcase,
tore out the fireplace insert then made the fireplace workable,
tore out two walls,
added the wood beams,
tore off the old brick on the fireplace and had new antique brick installed,
added crown molding,
refinished wood floors…
Still waiting on the fireplace mantel! :)

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new brick on the fireplace

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Ben tore out the wall with the tiny doorway and opened it up, added the beams, I freehanded the verse. I used this font, because I love serving my Jesus and having Him as my Life, and don’t want it to look like a formal, cold  thing!

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looking into the dining room, no peeking!

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by the front door – purse holder, key-catcher…

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When I get started on something, I kind of become a broken record. Here are some

Silhouettes: Take Two

Making pillows this time. Used my same pattern from before on black fabric.

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After it was cut out, I “painted” all the edges with clear nail polish so they wouldn’t fray. There’s probably some “real” stuff to use, but hey, this is what we used to use on pantyhose and it worked to stop runners! Ha!

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Glued it with fabric glue to white pillows I had already made.

Once again, slay me, oh, slay me!

Olivia’s silhouette

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Zoe’s silhouette.
The frames I had before and come from Walmart – $3 each. They’re plastic, but when you group them it hides the cheap look. :)

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And
Canvas Mats: Take Two

See, I kind of get stuck on something and can’t leave.

16×20 stretched canvas – 2 pack at Walmart for $9. These aren’t the greatest quality, because the staples show on the sides rather than being stapled on the underside. But they worked for what I needed them for.

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I painted the sides and on the top a certain width to make my “framed” look. And covered up the staples to where you don’t see them.

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And glued 12 x 15 pictures on top… Cheap frames for such big pictures! Gives it a “drama!” look with the big black edges.

These three pictures are compliments of Claudia Barkman Photography. :)

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I LOOOOVE this poster. I saw it in a magazine and ordered it on Etsy. Isn’t it perfect for a mother with two young children?! There is a cool story behind the poster too, has to do with Britain during WWII and posting these signs all over to keep their citizens from worrying about invasion.

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These numbered pillows inspiration comes from THIS talented woman… She’s just got creativity flowing out of her veins,  I tell you.

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I like the red pop of color against a mostly neutral room. “That really makes a statement!” Husband said. Yes it does! This mom-who-is-sometimes-frazzled needs a statement like that to grab me all day long. :)

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Outdoor greenery brought it. A little hard to decorate this without the mantel in place.

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One of the doorways that got opened up and wall removed.

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So, that’s the living room! Once again,

BEFORE

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and

AFTER!

Bamboo curtain rods are cut from our old backyard.

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Those silhouettes of my daughters flanking the fireplace just are too much for me… okay, okay, enough already! I’ll try to not bring more silhouettes to you in the future! :)

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Rug comes from Craigslist, which comes from Pottery Barn. WHY someone would sell these to buy Persian rugs is beyond my comprehension…

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And that’s the living room.

Cheers if you stuck with me. I didn’t think there would be so many things to even show about the living room!

But didn’t my husband do a PHENOMENAL job?!

I think he’s incredible!

-clarita

 

 

We’ve been living in the new-old house about 6 weeks now. That’s given me time to work on some projects, get the main decor up in the house, and F.I.N.A.L.L.Y.  put the last of my boxes up in the attic. With no boxes sitting around anymore, it finally feels like we are settled in. At home. And wow, does that ever feel good!

I am able to just be at home most of my days, without running what felt like a million different places each week… My kids are able to be on a normal schedule, take normal naps (not just in the car running to and fro), and does that ever make for happy children. They held up very well through the busyness of restoring the house, but now that we’re settled, they are just so happy. Sweet babies. I’m so glad life is a little more normal for them again.

Getting settled in… Sure, there are so many little fun details to add so many different places, but the main house is set up. Ever so fun. Seriously, ever so fun. I’m like a little kid in a playhouse, I tell you. :)

I’ll get an idea and then can hardly sleep until it’s acted upon and up on my wall or wherever it’s supposed to be. Husband laughs at me, because we’re very opposite. I get an idea, I act on it within minutes if possible; he gets an idea, he stores it away for the future. :) It’s good, we balance each other out, and he keeps me from overworking!

This week I’m having time for fun little side projects. And somewhere I got an idea to make silhouettes of my girls for a certain room that was lacking an eye-catcher. And I couldn’t stop smiling, because I saw the finished product in my head and thought it would be soo stinkin’ cute!

So I took some pictures of the process, just in case it turned out. And I’ll let you judge. I’m the mother of the silhouette children here, so my opinion is completely and unashamedly biased. :)

I took a side profile picture of both of them, put it on the computer, then enlarged it to the size I wanted. Then I traced the head shape onto copy paper…

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Zoe is at the age where she is wanting to be involved in every project I do. Sometimes it’s a little much, but I really want her to learn to love to do creative things, and she’s only going to learn that if I let her work with me and make it a fun time…

Olivia doesn’t want to be outdone by her big sister. Even though she is disaster in a 12-month old body when it comes to stuff like this. :)

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Then traced it onto black cardstock paper…

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Then glued it onto these canvas boards. They come 3 in a pack for $6 at Walmart. I used the flat instead of the raised canvas because they were cheaper.

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Nailed these tacks on the back to hang it on the wall, and wound wire around them. Added two on the bottom as well so the whole mat will stand out from the wall and give it more of a 3-D look.

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But then it needed a little edging. The wall is colored, but the white mat board against the wall needed a little “umph” to let it make the statement I was looking for. I looked in my messy attic piles of boxes but I didn’t have 2 – 11 X 14 frames to put them in. And I’m trying to decorate my house with not spending much money at all, so I didn’t want to spend $30 to buy the frames…

So I just taped the edges and painted about 1/3” on the sides and bottom to give it sort of a framed look.

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And put them in the Candy Shop bathroom – it’s the one the girls use. We call it that because of the colors – so many people have walked in and said, “Oh, this looks like a vintage candy shop!” We chose the tile because I wanted a more vintage-y look in there with the clawfoot tub. This room was a mere shell that was part of the laundry room… Before & after pictures another time!

Zoe – age two. Love this so so much. Her open mouth makes it look like she views the world while gaping. Her tousled hair…

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Olivia, age one. Little tiny nose. Little tiny head. Little hair forever falling down across her eyes.

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Can you say darling?? I stood in the bathroom with my hand over my heart after they were hung, making all sorts of ooo-ing and aaaa-ing noises. :)

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Zoe’s finished product. She wanted it right up there with the big girls.

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Slay me, oh, slay me!

Silhouettes of my two girls are more than I can take in cuteness levels!

Making - silhouettes 015-1

Button-nose girlies, do you know how much I love you? Your silhouettes are darling, but YOU are what makes them darling!

And perhaps one day you’ll stand with your hand over your heart, being slain by the cuteness levels of one and two year old silhouetes, thanking me for these heirlooms.

clarita

 

 

 

This is for those of you who have seen biscotti pictures on my blog and asked for the recipe. :)

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There’s no great secret – I just got this recipe online, I think. It takes a little bit of time to make, but oh so worth it! Take it from me – I’m not much of a baker, but I’ve had biscotti on hand almost every single day since November of last year when my friend Bek first sent me some. That’s dedication. My morning fix.

To sit in my living room, surrounded by soft morning light, soft music, soft couch, in the mornings before my children awake, and to sip hot coffee and have a delicious biscotti… Ahhhh, this is the start of a good day!

 

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

2 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
(don’t forget this… like I did once. ruins your batch. :( )
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
(I usually cut in half)
3 eggs
3 Tablespoons amaretto
 (almond flavor, which I omit and add  1 Tbs. vanilla instead because I’m not an almond fan)
1 Tablespoon water (mixed with 1 Tbs. instant coffee if you want mocha biscotti)

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl wih electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add liqueur and water. Gradually add flour mixture.

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1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus 1/2 cup for coating
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Stir in 1 cup chips and the almonds.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Divide dough into two parts. Spread each half  on a greased baking sheet with floured hands, shaping into a log about 4 inches by 12 inches (this takes a little experimenting to get the shape right: too thin = too flat, but too thick = too fat because it will raise? rise? (someone help me out!)  a bit from the baking powder.) I fit both logs on cookie sheet the short way.

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If it helps you shape them, greased a sheet of wax paper and roll the dough back and forth in that until you get the desired shape. I did this for a long time.

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(I did say two logs. Below is a double batch, just in case you were wondering.)

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Bake approximately 1/2 hour, until the top of the logs are firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool.

(I made big batches, thus the long way on the cookie sheets. I’m really going to confuse everyone…)

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Cut each log with serrated or electric knife into 1-inch thick pieces. Return slices, cut side up, to cookie sheets.

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Bake until the top of slice are firm and hard to the touch. Turn slices over and bake again until cookies are completely dry. Cool on wire racks (or countertops on cookie sheets).

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Side notes: I usually do the second baking overnight on warm or 200 degrees. It never burns that way, and I don’t even have to turn them over.

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Final step: ice and decorate as you desire! The fun part, even though it takes a little time.

I drizzle a bit of olive oil over the chocolate before melting it in the microwave.

You can ice just the bottom…

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… or you can be creative and add fun words or names of boys to send to your sister. :) I used a plastic sandwich bag with the corner cut off for this, since I don’t have all the fancy shmancy baking items.

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Another kind of biscotti with white chocolate.

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And it makes a lovely gift! Leftover chocolate is great for throwing a few strawberries on the plate.

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There are endless options with biscotti. Take the basic recipe and add your favorite cookie flavor: lemon, white chocolate macadamia, orange and cranberry… I also double the recipe all the time – we go through the biscotti so fast around here since both of the girls already ask for it, and I love to give it away.

So there it is, ladies with a biscotti craving! Have fun with it!

 

 

 

Olivia Caroline celebrated her first birthday a few weeks ago. Actually, more like a month ago. I’m still trying to play catchup from the past half year so there are no birthday pictures yet. Actually, not sure if there will be.

But I had been wanting to take her one year pictures sometime. You know how that is – always thinking the next day will be a better time, etc. etc. etc.  I really didn’t know when I was going to do it, since I’ve hardly taken pictures all year and all. And I just got done telling a friend that I’m coming to terms with my amateur photography-ness, and realizing that while I enjoy taking pictures, I sure can’t go professional with it.

[At the same time, I have a lot of PROFESSIONAL photographer friends on xanga and elsewhere, which is somewhat intimidating. But not really. Because if I do it for fun, surely you all are okay with that, right? Me not pretending to be that great and all. And me knowing that you guys really ARE. :) But if you ever have any tips for me, like if I do too much editing, or not enough, or too much sharpening, or too much coloring, blah blah blah,  I REALLYwould like to have your input. I really won’t be offended. :)]

And on top of it all lately, God has really been convicting me of taking TIME with my kids.

The quote, “GOOD IS ALWAYS THE ENEMY OF THE BEST” keeps running through my mind.

Because right now, there are a million good things that I can be doing.

Things like fixing up my little house and making it cozy… Projects, projects, projects. I have an endless list of ideas that I would love to do.

But in just the 3 weeks that we’ve been living here in what was a bare-bones house, I already have found myself short-tempered with my children and soooo exhausted when my husband comes home that I don’t feel like I have energy left for him. NOT GOOD.

I’m trying to learn when those good things are okay (I’m talking projects & doing things) and when I just need to let it go and spend time with my family. Maybe it even means taking a rest in the afternoon so I have more energy for Husband… Today it meant staying home from the pool when a lot of my friends were going. :( That was sad, and I reeeeeeally wanted to go, but I knew my girls needed this afternoon at home because of how our week is planned out after this…

Anyway, all that to say, these pictures were taken on an evening when I was sooooo tempted to stay inside and work on a sewing project – panels for my dining room windows. But it was one of those choices where I knew I had to decide between my family or my projects. And because this has been such a big battle for me lately, I decided to go outside with my girlies and husband.

Was I ever glad I did! These pictures are priceless now. I’ll always have them. And I wouldn’t have remembered the evening if I would have stayed inside with my sewing machine. What kind of companionship is a sewing machine anyway?

The photo-shoot was spontaneously done because of the lovely evening light…

And here is Miss Blueberry Eyes herself… such a precious Lovey.

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Does she have killer eyes or what?!

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The blue chair wasn’t exactly the prop I was thinking inititally. I was thinking “girly-victorian-y” sort of look. But I don’t have anything like that, and this chair fits her personality much better.

Very girl, loves playing with her baby doll and giving it a little bottle, hugs and kisses,  but loves to tear around and be such a monkey. She is a tease, and loves to have a good time. Perhaps more of a tom-boy, as was her mother?

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[Yes, I am aware of the grass on her mouth. But tell me, what one-year old does not put grass in their mouth?]

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At one:

-still crawling, although walking comfortably around furniture

-has 3 teeth

-can still fit into size 1 shoes (!!!!!!!)

-on her birthday she weighed 17 pounds, 15 ounces. She is our petite little one!

-talks a little bit: mama, dada, bye-bye, all duh (all done), da-doo (thank you) tee-ta (kitty cat). Started this darling little thing: “Maaaaaa-ma! Mama! sadfkdhlgk asdnhlkj asldkfjlkdfjd fa GA GA GA.” Calls my attention, jabbers in an unknown tongue for a while, then always ends, “GA GA GA.” I just want to eat her up when she does that. :)

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Blueberry Eyes for sure… Both girls have blue eyes, but Olivia’s are much darker blue than Zoe’s.

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And there is our Sweet Baby. How we do love her!

 

You  may wonder why there are no pictures of Big Sister. Like I was ignoring her or something mean like that.

Well, there are Reasons. Yes, there are.

I thought  she was doing this:

[We have a huge dirt pile in the front yard for beautifying purposes to the yard. Not to the child.]

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When in fact, she was doing this. IN THE FRONT YARD. Did I ever mention we live in town? Well, now I mentioned it. Busy mother so engrossed in Baby #2 that she is completely unaware of Baby #1.

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Yes, the picture is small ON PURPOSE. Blurring is not intentional although photo quality is not the point in this picture. This mother is still mortified. WHAT must the neighbors have thought??

I can just see the headlines in their mind:

“New family moves to town! Mother sprints about the yard that is mostly dirt –  not grass (notes that grass is VERY unmowed as well) –  taking pictures of one child from strange angles while her other necked child races up and down the dirt pile, making sliding boards and jumping gleefully from top of it to the grass below. Make sure to keep a close eye on this new family…”

Sigh.

But goodness, how I laughed after I got over some of the embarrassment… MY CHILD  – doing this in the city?? OMW….

Oh, the life with two kids two and under… :))))))

How I love it
[most days at least!]

Happy Monday!