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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I know I've been such a teaser blog, showing projects I start and then never follow up. I've actually finished the projects but just didn't finish up by posting them to the blog. And that is just silly. I have no excuse, other than my life hasn't included much computer time lately.

If I am being entirely honest - me saying I haven't had computer time isn't me saying, I've been WAY too busy for the computer. It has more to do with my birthday present I received in November. My husband bought me an e-reader, a Barnes and Noble Nook. I've just had so much fun snuggling down with my inherited snuggie (my mother-in-law didn't like it, oh but I do) and a million books at a touch of a button.

But once the holiday stuff is boxed away and the visits and recitals and the wrapping and gifting and baking and feasts are over, I know I will long for blog time once again. I promise to be back with my bedroom updates and some past craft projects that I photographed but never posted about.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all who celebrate so, and a wonderful weekend to everyone.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Photo Update on the Hogwarts room...

After three days of painting I feel too tired to make sense, but I wanted share a bit of what we've done so far. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and I am very tired of painting faux stones on the wall, but it is starting to really come together. I think it will all be worth it. I'll be more sure after it is finally done and my muscles stop shaking. Here is a sort of lazy, picture-heavy update.

 Blue skies.

This is the part where I got nervous, facing the highlight and shadow colors for the 'stones'. I pretty much almost lost my confidence and said, "Let's go with the dark gray, cave-like walls." Because I thought there was no way I was going to be able to make these two colors look like stone.

Saving the old murals. My husband couldn't bring himself to paint over the creepy cheshire like cat and reading mouse. I painted them on the walls when my kids were small and there used to be a little playhouse in that corner. Now this is where the closet organizer is, and the little creatures peek out from behind the clothing. The green is the old color and the dark gray is the base color for the stones.

 Real window and new mural windows.

My hand isn't naturally creepy and shiny, I'm wearing rubber gloves.  :0) This is what I've been doing for the past three days. I used this tutorial. I highly recommend it! But I also recommend only doing one wall in stone. Not three. Or have more than one person in the home on stone duty.

 I've been doing a little bit of this too.

Yes, those are shower curtain rings. Makes the curtain slide better since we are using them for closet 'doors'.

 A peek at a castle wall. A small but dramatic room, I think.

 Peek at a castle window.

A peek at a very excited boy. :0)

We are quite a bit further along than these pictures, but it is dark out now and the whole thing doesn't photograph well without the sunshine to help my flash out a bit. I think I might wait until it is done to share more photos, because we are so close to the WOW stage. Just a few days away I think. I know I have to be done by Saturday because we are planning to get a Christmas tree this weekend (both yay and uh-oh) and I need to have my boy's bed moved out of the toy room by then!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wish me luck!

Today I'll be doing something like this, or this, and maybe like this if things get crazy. One good thing about having small bedrooms is that they don't take that long to paint. I'll take before and after photos, I am looking forward to that actually. This project has been a long time coming and is actually the last project on my 2010 to-do list!!! Woohoo! I should actually post a few before/after shots of all the bedrooms I've done this year. I don't think I've ever shared the transformation of the teen boy room to the young girl room which was pretty fun.

We've been prepping for the big Hogwarts inspired room redo for a long time now. I have a bunch of stuff stashed away that I've picked up on clearance here and there and can't wait to see how it comes together. Some of my favorite things are the dark red curtains that I'll use for the closet and the windows. The closet curtains I found on clearance for $4.50 each! The window curtain was more since it is an energy saving/blackout curtain, but it was only $12. My next favorite things were lantern like candle holders that I found in the garden clearance center for $1.47 each. I'll put some of the led flickering candles that don't get hot in them which are like 50¢ if you buy them after a holiday.

I guess I have as much fun finding stuff as cheaply as I can as I do when it comes to the actual room redo process. We even got the paint on a 40% off sale. I bought a utility closet type rake/mop holder during a home organization sale for $10 at the beginning of the year. Can't wait to see if it works to hold our ridiculous collection of nerf swords. If not I'll use it to actually organize our utility closet. :0) Oh! I almost forgot one of the best things. At some point we found the most perfect bedspread with a sort of crest on it, complete with sheets, pillow cases and shams all for $29.99. I am getting excited!

I think it makes the whole room transformation even more exciting when it looks awesome and yet doesn't murder my bank account. Sure, it takes more patience to do it that way, but since there seems to be a never ending series of projects to do, it doesn't hurt to put off one project until we have the stuff to do it properly. Of course it helps to have a patient son!

Well, the husband is busy with the pre-painting prep and giving me those long sort of glances like he can't believe I am blogging when we are about to get this party started. So, see you all on the flip-side!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Projects and projects and projects...

Over three straight weeks of checking things off my 'to do' list and I am still not done. But I've clawed my way through the dread pirate projects and am now happily immersed in the fun things like drawing on the walls and calling it work...

And playing with pretty paper. :0)

I am hoping to have pictures of this current project all finished tomorrow. If the mod podge and sunlight is willing that is. It has been rather dark and gray in Michigan lately, and my camera needs help from the sun to function well. And so far this project has proven tricky to capture the colors. But I'll try because somehow photographing it makes it seem properly finished. Must be the years of blogging habits ingrained in me.

I have been a busy girl. A busy, busy girl. I got sick of 'someday' never being 'today'. A book I was reading flipped a switch in my head and I got up one day and got busy. But before I get chatty about it I am going to stop and save it for another post. Because while I am so happy with the progress, I am also so very tired. So on that note, I am off to bed to dream of what life is going to feel like with a blank 'to do' list. Wow, right? Goodnight!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Possible?


I'm on a quest to cut our food budget in half each month and yet, eat better. It sounds impossible, but I've been bad about buying more than necessary the last few months and we've been eating out too often, so there is quite a bit that can be cut from our current budget. Still it will be like going from 60 to zero...

Still. It is time. We are ready for phase three of our adulthood which hopefully will involve saving enough to buy the house/property that will see our kids into their own adulthood and us into retirement. So the challenge will be worth it.

Suggestions?

* Photo is of two tiny clay houses that our Cousin Traveling Amy brought back for us from Brazil. If I could I'd shrink us down and move into them. They are so cute.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning about the Circle of Fifths...







My kids with their awesome piano teacher 'Miss Melinda'.
We love our music Saturdays!

My kids learned a fun game that helped them remember which sharps and flats belong in which keys. I learned why I was told to memorize scales back when I was taking piano lessons in high school (never too late to round out a lesson I guess). All in all a successful and fun music day last Saturday. We have another one tomorrow... I was supposed to make another set of the cards. Guess I better get going on that. Oops.

"A simple way to see the musical interval known as a fifth is by looking at a piano keyboard, and, starting at any key, counting seven keys to the right (both black and white) to get to the next note on the circle shown above. Seven half steps, the distance from the 1st to the 8th key on a piano is a "perfect fifth", called 'perfect' because it is neither major nor minor, but applies to both major and minor scales and chords, and a 'fifth' because though it is a distance of seven semitones on a keyboard, it is a distance of five steps within a major or minor scale.
A simple way to hear the relationship between these notes is by playing them on a piano keyboard. If you traverse the circle of fifths backwards, the notes will feel as though they fall into each other. This aural relationship is what the mathematics describes." - Thanks wikipedia.

In speaking about his renowned theory of relativity, Einstein* said:
"It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception."

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ... I get most joy in life out of music.”

Circle of Fifths: a link, another link and another link a really good chart and site.


*NOT comparing my kids to Einstein here. Just marveling in the connectedness between things, and I feel these quotes relate that to mathematics, physics and music. Intuitively I've always understand  patterns in verbal and visual areas, at least things that are verbal and visual for me. (For some people math and music are very visual. They can practically see it in shapes. I think my daughter is a bit this way.) But only recently since I've been studying mathematics in a different way from the way I avoided it back in school, have I learned that this cool pattern thing, this connectedness thing - it is the same in math. It IS math. Patterns are the language of math. I've always loved patterns that present themselves in life. I always connected these with art, music, words though. But now it is math. And I feel like a little kid trying to drink it all in. I always thought I hated math. I was so wrong. 

I thought I was ready...

I'm not. Oh what a difference ten days can make.

Edited to add: I just looked at posts last year to see when it first snowed enough to stick on the ground in 2009. Not until December! We were still hiking in our light jackets at the end of November last year. No wonder I am feeling a little shocked to look out the window and see the promise of chilled toes. Not that snow in November is any mysterious thing in Michigan. Not mysterious, but not entirely welcome either. Off to find my slippers and more than likely, bake something. Nothing like warm pumpkin bread to help me stare in the face of winter without wincing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roasted Beef Mushroom and Barley Soup!

Again I come here with so much to say. But the temperatures outside dipped into the low 30s today, so instead I am going to blog about what consumes my thoughts every winter... Food! I would be really good at hibernating. I am sure of it.

Anyway, I made beef barley soup tonight and I had to share the recipe. It is so easy and so good - if you are a beef barley sort of person that is. I got the initial recipe here... Roasted Beef Mushroom and Barley Soup Recipe from Everyday Food. Except I actually got mine from the magazine. I love that little magazine.

I searched for years for a good beef barley recipe, because it is my husband's favorite. I could just never get it right. Then I found this and we were quite happy with the results. And I am happy because it is the simplest recipe for the soup that I've tried yet. I've made quite a few changes to the linked recipe though.

I use leftover pot roast for the meat instead of steak. I am sure the steak is awesome, but this way I use up the leftover pot roast. I also just use whatever onions I have on hand. Throw in some carrots, because we like carrots around here. I chop extra carrots and onions the night before when I am getting them ready for the pot roast, and just throw them in a bag to wait until I make soup. Throw the meat, mushrooms, onions and carrots on a tray and mix with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 450ยบ for 30 minutes. Stirring it up at least once in the middle somewhere.

Mmmm.... It is hard not to just eat this stuff and forget the soup part. But once it is all roasted, throw it in a pot with broth. I use beef broth and the recipe calls for chicken. I'm sure both are fine. I slowly bring it to a boil and then throw in quick cooking barley. Lots more than the recipe calls for.  In fact. I use a lot more of everything than the recipe calls for. That's just the way I roll. (Not a pun aimed at my stomach, but it could work that way... sigh.)

The only reason I could take a picture at this point instead of digging in is because it was way too hot. Even my kids like this soup, and that is saying something. And please keep in mind, I am no food blogger. I just really like food, and like sharing good recipes when I stumble on them. Not trying to be the next PW or anything, so ignore my green tinted photos taken under kitchen lights. Thanks.

Honestly, it is probably not the best beef barley soup out there. But it is pretty darn good. Awesome on a cold day, and so easy to make. It turns leftovers into something that rivals the initial meal. And the whole family will eat it. That makes it share worthy in my book.

Tomorrow is Friday!!! It has been a long week here. I am so happy to see the weekend approaching. Happy almost weekend!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Hermione and Harry belong to me. The cute little Toy Story characters are my nephews. It started out raining but cleared up pretty quickly. We were grateful for costumes that worked nicely with many layers of warm clothing.  What you can't see in the photo is that under the robes my children are also wearing Gryffindor sweaters. Thanks to a daddy that spoils them with store bought costumes as much as their mom does with handmade ones. What can I say? We love Halloween around here.  Costumes, people handing out candy freely and walking around outside under the stars with friends and family. What is not to love?

The children weren't the only critters in our household to have Halloween fun this weekend, however. As usual, my husband and I attended one of the best Halloween parties on the planet. I am lucky enough to have a friend who is Queen of Halloween. She decks out her home for the holiday so amazingly that it deserves to be the focus of a tv special or something like that.

This year my sister and brother-in-law joined us at the party and were a welcome addition to the evening. We dressed as the crew from Scooby Doo.  The party even had a photo booth set up. How cool is that? I'm glad for these pictures especially because the ones taken in the low light of the party turned out less than flattering for all involved. 
Check out my husband with hair! Quite a cute Shaggy if I do say so myself. :0)

Whew! Now I guess it is just weeks until that white stuff covers the ground and Christmas music starts playing at the stores. Wow! How did we get here so quickly?!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

I have so much to blog about...

But right now there is only room in my brain for this... The colors just wreck me.









Gale force winds expected tonight and tomorrow. So goodbye leaves. The good news is maybe I'll regain the ability to form words again. Autumn in Michigan humbles me. Okay, I'm signing off before I get all double rainbow. Have you seen that video? WOW. But you know, I sort of get it too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It is autumn. So we are here...

We are soaking in every bit of color possible. This year's color show is just kicking off. While it will be hard to beat last year's perfectly orchestrated blaze of color, this fall is certainly nothing to complain about. Such wonderful weather to walk in. And the cool air after the humidity that was this summer, is enough to make me weep with gratitude.



Birch wreckage. I love birch trees. Their papery white bark just makes me feel all warm and happy inside. Like world peace is possible or something. Seriously. That is how much I love birch trees. Even tumbled piles of birch trees. I made my family stop and pose here for a million pictures. Alas, I cannot share them because they all have smarmy "Oh great she's making us pose by birch trees again" looks on their sassy little faces. I guess the love of birch does not pass through the genes. It must be earned.

I had to include this photo because it shows the adorable habit my son has of copying my husband. He watches him out of the corner of his eye, and poses himself to match his daddy. It is constant and heart melting.

 They never wait for me when I bring the camera. I wonder why.


 The giant orange tic tacs that guard boaters from going over the dam.


I think we are about a week away from optimum color barring major wind storms. Autumn color is a fragile beauty and so fleeting. One minute brilliance and light, the next whiteness. Whiteness and cold. I am never quite emotionally ready for winter. However, winter does mean cocoa. And baking, warm pjs and early bedtimes. Certainly each season has its up side. I am a Michigan girl through and through and love having four distinct seasons to move me through the year. However, you may need to remind me of this later when I am grumbling from underside of February, okay?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Halloween Practice

I ordered what I thought were three temporary scar tattoos, one for Halloween and a couple extra just to make sure I don't mess up on the one. What actually arrived? Three PAGES full of temporary scar tattoos. I guess I didn't read the fine print. :0) My kids are not complaining.

I admit though, that this Halloween season finds me a bit tiny bit bummed. Not in any real way, but in the missed crafting opportunity sense of bummed. I LOVE Halloween, and I love making costumes. My family sometimes tolerates this practice. Sometimes not.

This year it was three against one for the store bought costume variety. I wasn't even allowed to make Hogwarts capes. Sigh...  There is always next year. It does seem to be an every other year thing. Last year I got to muck about in material and glue to my hearts content...


Halloween 2009 Gandalf and good witch costumes.


The year before the kids had a blast in store bought Jedi costumes, etc.  Which I just discovered I never blogged about. But here's an action shot. Can't beat a light saber battle on a fine fall day, right?

Halloween 2008 - The year of the Jedi Knights

I also didn't blog the 2007 costumes which were of the handmade variety. Sage was Katara from Avatar - The Last Airbender and my boy was Zuko as the blue spirit. I was also a complete fail at taking any kind of decent pictures. Almost all I have is this lamish attempt at a tutorial post on making the blue spirit mask two different ways, which probably shows my ridiculous mania when it comes to making costumes. (Hence a reason my husband tends to vote for purchasing the darn things.) Though here are some shots that I am including because my kids look so little. The years sure fly.


All chubby with layers under his blue spirit ninja costume. Oh my gosh, he was practically still a toddler here! I didn't get one photo with his hood up and mask on or of my girl standing. Bummer.

Oh, who am I kidding? Store bought or handmade costumes... Either way, they are fun and it is something they can use for a long time after the holiday. And getting to wear them in public while collecting a ridiculous amount of candy and treats? Awesome! I love this time of year.

Wishing everyone a wonderful autumn season and Happy Halloween to those who love it too!