Goals this week

my willow tree 'bouquet'
Thinking about what I’d like to get accomplished this week– here’s what’s on my list:
1. Fertilize the lawn and weed flowerbeds. I’m so much looking forward to having flowers to cut for the table. The other day, desperate for freshness, I cut some branches off the willow tree, and decided they looked kinda pretty on the dining table.
2. Organize a corner of the kitchen. The microwave shelf is looking cluttered and so is the top of the fridge. I’d like to store more in the pantry and less out in the open.
3. Organize the pantry. It is getting its empty late-spring look. That’s lovely for being able to store things (most of the year it is full of canned goods) but random items don’t look as pretty as do rows of jars, so I need to be a little more thoughtful about how I put things into it.
4. Sort the cupboard that holds storage containers. I actually did this yesterday, and threw away a bunch of containers that had no lids, and also put together what still matched. Found a few items to add to my young-adult/new-kitchen/giveaway box. There’s lots more space now!
5. Address and mail Lidya’s graduation invitations. She graduates in 6 weeks!
6. My big splurge of springtime: make an appointment with the electrician to have a new ceiling fan installed. We are finally replacing our 20+ year old white-and-brass fan with something wood-toned. SO excited.

What are you hoping to do this week?

Contentedness and decluttering

My decluttering project After a winter of much busy-ness on my part, the other day my youngest daughters and I plowed through a ridiculous amount of chaos in their bedroom.   I don’t care how often you tell a kid to clean their room, there’s just nothing like mom sitting there in the chaos with you to inspire real actual deep cleaning. Half a day of work produced ten kitchen trash bags of giveaways/throw-aways, AND a whole fresh level of bedroom happiness in my girlies.

That lovely space-finding success inspired me to do more.  I decided to once again aim to give away/throw away 40 bags in 40 days– you can find the details of that challenge here on Clover Lane.  I think I’ve blogged about it before.  Today I went through my side of the closet and came up with another bag full of giveaways, and when the teenagers wake up this morning, they will each be handed a bag and asked to fill it. I’ll peek through what they decide to toss just in case something might be useful for a younger one, but the vast majority of the time, we miss giveaways not ONE bit.

It is amazing how much bigger a space can feel when you just get rid of what’s cluttering it.  I honestly breathe a little deeper and feel a greater sense of peace walking into a clean space. It’s such a simple way to rejuvenate a space that maybe is feeling tired or full or overwhelming. And it’s such  a simple way to find greater contentment with what you have.

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.One of the places I’ll be working today is in our library.  Some books I’ll donate or offer to our adult kids.  Others I’ll list on paperback swap, so I can let the younger kids pick some new books.  I’m thinking it’d be nice to have a shelf or two in the library empty enough to display something pretty.  Do you have any decluttering projects in mind for your house?


A cupcake tip

I’ve spent the day traveling to Atlanta to be at my second Created for Care session this year.  Though I’ve heard the main sessions already before, the speakers were so awesome last time that I’m really looking forward to hearing them again.  Plus I get to pick another breakout session to attend– very fun.

I’m wiped out from my 3:50 AM wakeup call, and my all day travel, which finished off with a nice hour or two of Atlanta traffic at rush hour in the rain.  But I wanted to share one quick idea that my 9yo and I cooked up together a few weeks ago.  One day she was SOOO eager to make cupcakes.  I tend to avoid cupcake-making like the plague– mine always end up messy and gloppy, with bits that cook to the edges of the cupcake tins.

Cupcake-making for little hands

CupcakesBut there she was, begging to make cupcakes.  So after we’d whipped the batter up,  I dug around in the cupboard and found a squeeze bottle with a big spout.  Then I poured the batter into the squeeze bottle and she was set to go!

The squeeze bottle gave her the perfect amount of control over the batter.  She could go from hole to hole easily, with almost no dripping, and was even able to add little dabs of batter after all the holes were filled to even them all out. With this tip, I think I won’t have to avoid making cupcakes anymore.

And as you can see by the smile on her face, she declared our little discovery a great success.









My hubby’s project

New bed!

Just had to share a link to my husband’s post about the new bed he made for us. Didn’t he do a great job?  He made the bed from walnut that he milled himself years ago.  Makes our bedroom look so upscale that I hardly recognize it.

Also, for any of you curious about what I picked out of my latest batch of Stitch Fix goodies, I ended up sending back the black pants and the grey sweatshirt. The pants were too spendy and the sweatshirt was just too ordinary for the price.

I’d been on the fence about the striped tank top since it is bare in back and I’d only wear it under a sweater. But then I realized it looks adorable with a t-shirt underneath it. (At least I think so?) Here are a couple tee’s I tried with it that I think look cute. The navy tee especially is good because the neckline matches perfectly.  It’d also be great with a plain white tee, I think.
tank with tee's underneath

In any case, being able to wear it over a tee makes it a much more versatile piece for me.   :)    I decided to keep it, along with both the navy cardigan and the green top. I’ve already worn all the items at least once, and I’m really happy with them.

What’s new with you this week?  Hope none of you are separated from family in the terrible storms in the South.

My (current) favorite things


Madeleine Bag from Imagine Gnats

I think I mentioned before that our family decided to change up our adult gift exchange and go with a ‘My Favorite Things’ theme. Each adult brings 3 of something that they enjoy in the $5-$15 range, them we stick them all on the table and everyone takes turns picking one fun goodie til everyone has three little gifts.

I’ve been going back and forth trying to decide what I’ll bring, and finally I decided to make some small bags using a favorite fabric just like the fabric I used to make myself a computer bag years ago. The bag has worn like iron and still looks nice, despite many trips to the coffee shop and quite a few airplane rides as well.

I did a bit of hunting on Pinterest to find a cute (free) bag pattern. Since I had a bunch of fabric remnants, I was hoping to find a pattern that would showcase two fabrics side by side. I wanted something medium sized, and I wasn’t too hot to mess with sewing in a zipper.  Finally I came across the Madeleine Bag Tutorial featured on Imagine Gnats.  It comes complete with a downloadable pattern and lots of picture to make the various steps look reasonably understandable.

Cutting out the pieces for three bags at once, and ironing interfacing took me a couple hours one evening.  The next day I spent about three hours doing the actual sewing, and here’s what I ended up with!


All three bags together used maybe 2/3 of a yard of the brown fabric, and another 1/3 yard of each contrast fabric.  Since I already had the interfacing, and the contrast fabric  (I love to grab remnants at Wal-Mart when I see them) the project was super affordable.

The body of each bag is about 10×10 inches — big enough to hold a reasonable number of items without being so cavernous as to lose items.

3Bags (1)


Here’s the inside of the brown paisley bag.  I added a snap at the top edge of each bag and reinforced the lining with a bit of the brown ‘leather’ so that the snap wouldn’t rip through.

Interior - paisley

Each bag is fully lined with the contrast fabric, and has an inside pocket big enough for a pen and a cell phone.

Interior - yellow bag

The brown stripe might be my favorite. I really like the way it goes with the ‘leather’ on the outside of the bag.

Interior - striped bag

Here they all are side by side. These are so cute that I am seriously tempted to make half a dozen more, if I could find the time.  Maybe next Christmas?  I might need to make one for myself too.  Now that I’ve done the pattern a few times, I’m pretty sure I could whip one out in an hour or so.  Such fun!3Bags (5)

 Which would you choose?

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Christmas table runner

Table runner

I told you that the table runner ideas below inspired me to make a table runner of my own.
In considering both of the ideas, I really liked the overlapping ‘forest’  in the one on the left, but since I was planning on using it on the dining table, I didn’t really like the idea of the trees being upside down to half the people at the table.  The idea on the right does solve that problem, but as cute as it is, it was just a little too symmetrical for me.  I also tend to put candles or some other type of display in the middle of my table, so I wanted to leave that center section plain.


Thinking through it, I decided to make my runner with applique on the ends. I still may add some sparkle on the trees for a little Christmas spirit.

This project was really pretty simple.  The cutouts consist of six green triangles for the trees and 6 brown rectangles for the trunks. I repeated the same three-tree design at both ends.  Before sewing, I ironed the shapes in place with a fusible craft interfacing called Wonder Under.  Basically it is a double-stick interfacing that you iron on in two stages, first onto your shape, then after peeling off a layer of paper and placing the shapes where you need them, ironing again.

This isn’t essential– you can pin the shapes in place– but the interfacing fastens it down nice and securely so you can then easily zig-zag stitch around the edges of the design. The interfacing also adds a nice weight to the design so that it lays nice and flat. I went around the design 3 times to fully cover the edges and prevent fraying.  You could do it with a decorative stitch if you want.

Table Runner

Below is a closer view of the trees.  I was especially happy with the fabric I used for the trunk.  I bought it to make a computer bag several years ago.  I found the fabric at WalMart.  It is designed  to look(kinda) like tooled leather.  I wasn’t sure how well it would last, and in fact suspected that the brown would wear off quickly– it kind of looks like flocking.Table Runner closeup

Well, I’ve had that bag for years, and have dragged it ALL over the place and the fabric is still in perfect condition.  I liked it so much that I just grabbed a couple more yards to make a Christmas gift.  It is only $8 a yard, and just has a really nice design and feel.  There are several designs available, actually.  Anyway, end of WalMart commercial.  But if you’re feeling crafty and looking for something fun to sew with, you might check it out.

I ended up being pleased with my table runner too.  I might still add some bling– stars or maybe some little red birds here and there.  Not sure.  But this is as much energy as I had for it yesterday, and I am really enjoying it on the table already!  This final picture shows the color most truly.  Don’t you think the center tree at least needs a star on top?



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Christmas Crafts

I am ALREADY fantasizing about the blessed beauteousness of three weeks with NOOO school over Christmas.  If you’re a homeschool mom, you’re probably right there with me, right?  Every year over Christmas break I try to make time to do some crafts with the kids. Sometimes they’re things that would make a good gift.  Other times it’s a new Christmas decoration or an ornament for the tree. Here are a few things I have earmarked to try this December.


Isn’t this Peppermint Monogram Wreath adorable?  I’m sure I’d have at least a couple kids volunteer to help me with this project, since it involves candy. They might even like to make a smaller version for their bedrooms.

Peppermint Wreath



These duct tape notebooks would be a good friend-gift, or just a fun thing to make for yourself.

Duct Tape Notebook

These patterns for making snowflake shapes look like a lot of fun. Click on the photo for more ideas.

Snowflake Patterns

I found the photos for this final project on Pinterest, but then when I clicked through, the links turned out not to be good.  But I’m thinking we’ll try this with a fine point paint pen, and some matte-finish ornaments. I’ll be checking the thrift store first, since sometimes you can find ball-ornaments there.

painted ornaments

Planning any crafts this holiday season with your kids?

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Photocredit: CanYouStayForDinner.com

I want to try these lovely Buffalo Chicken Rollups  (from Can You Stay For Dinner) with these gluten free wrappers.

We tried this Indian Lentil Soup (from Green Kitchen Stories) the other day and really liked it.

This Dark Chocolate Coconut Pudding (from An Edible Mosaic)  is on my list to make tomorrow.

These Nutella Cheesecake Pots look completely yummy also!

knit tunic

And just for fun, here are a few little-girl clothing projects that I pinned recently:

This  knitted tunic pattern  (shown at right) is darling!

I’d love to make this ruched leg warmers for my little girl.

And this sweet crochet crochet turban pattern makes me think I really need to learn how to crochet.  The darlingness!






Moveable chicken house

Check out the moveable chicken house that John designed and built for our chickens!  It has wheels at one end so that it can be moved around each day.  There’s a built-in feeder, a roost, and four nesting boxes, and the structure is big enough to house half a dozen chickens.  You can see construction details at John’s blog.

Chicken house

How we added shade to our patio

Patio CoverLately we’ve been having all our grown kids over for lunch on Sunday after church. Sometimes we eat outside, and now that the weather is getting warm, I’ve been reminded of just how hot our little back patio and deck area can be on a sunny day.

Our long-term hope is to someday cover the patio and deck with a roof, and perhaps even convert it to a sun-room/dining room. But the budget isn’t there at the moment, and so John and I have been noodling around some affordable temporary solutions.  After pinning a couple dozen patio ideas on Pinterest, we decided to add a couple posts to the end of our deck, and string some shadecloth on wire in a way that would allow us to open and close the cover as needed.  This video was very helpful, and goes into details about the hardware and wire needed for this project.

Here’s the space before we got going. The patio and deck combined are about 28 feet long, so it’s an ideal place to set up tables when we have a bunch of people over for a visit.  But as you can see from this picture taken midday, there’s almost no shade.
Patio with deck extension

Our patio needs shade!Here’s another picture taken from the yard looking into the patio area, complete with laundry hanging in the sun to dry. You may also see the volleyball net in the upper yard, and the new posts  lying on the deck.  Those 4×6 by 12 foot posts were the beginning of the framework that John built to support one end of the shadecloth support system.

John mounted the two posts in concrete at the end of the deck, and then bolted them to the deck framing.  Then he sandwiched the two posts between two 2×6′s, and added some decorative pieces across the tops of the 2×6 cross-members.

Then it was time to string three long wire cables from there to the fascia of the house just above the gutters.  Since John’s post-and-beam framework is taller than the gutter area of the house, the cable angles upward from the gutter area to the new bean, which causes the cover to hang just above the gutters, not in them.

Wire on which we suspended the shadeclothHere’s a closeup view of the wire cable.  We secured the loop at the ends of the wire by pounding ferrels with a hammer and added turnbuckles on one end of each cable so that we could make the cable nice and tight.  (Again, check this video for hardware details.) I ordered this 24ft x12ft shadecloth from  the Greenhouse Mega-Store.  It comes with reinforced edges and grommets every couple feet around the edges.  Overwhelmed by fabric!

What it doesn’t have is a way to attach the center of the shade cloth to the center wire.  We knew we didn’t want to simply rest the shade cloth on top of the wire, as we were afraid the wind and the weight of the fabric would wear it out.  I also had to fold over the middle of the shade cloth to narrow the width from 12 feet to 10 feet, which was the proper width for our patio, then sew it down so it would stay put.  You don’t know fun til you’ve tried to keep 24 feet of fabric straight in your sewing machine, sewing lines as straight as possible, trying not to break needles or thread too often.

Loops in the reinforcing tape into which we threaded keychains.

A trip to the fabric store produced some sturdy polyester reinforcing ‘tape’.  Tape is a misnomer– I actually had to sew it down the whole 24 foot length of the fabric  (down the center where the fabric was triple-layered) folding over bits of reinforcing tape every couple feet so we could hook in key rings.

Shade4To the left you can see how I sewed down the reinforcing tape and made loops where the key rings could hook in, and to the right you can see how the key rings looped onto the cable.  Key rings also got threaded into every grommet on the long sides of the shade cloth.  We threaded the key rings onto both side cables.  Then it was time to hook the ends of the cables to the eye bolts that were attached to the framework at the end of the deck.


On most of the connections we used carabiner clips, but one cable ended up being too long, so we opted not to use a snap clip there. Instead John opened the end of the eye bolt just enough to thread the cable into the eye, then screwed the eye bolt back tight against the beam.Shade6

We also hooked the key rings at the corners of the shade cloth into the loops at the ends of the cables to keep the corners of the shade cloth from sliding down the wire to the center of the patio.

Finally below you can see the finished shade stretched out over the patio.  It is not deep shade– if we need to replace it in the future, I’ll probably opt for 80% shade cloth instead of 60%.  But it cools the patio down beautifully and is a welcome relief from the blazing noon sun.

Shadecloth at noon

Above is a picture taken around 110:30 AM today, and you can see that the picnic table and the patio walls are already in the shade.  The shade gets deeper as the sun rises in the sky, covering the whole wood deck by 1PM or so.  You can see the swings that John also mounted on the framework. Now we can sit and visit while also swinging little children in the shade.  Fun!

Later in the afternoon

To the right is a photo taken in late afternoon.  By this point the house shades the patio, but the sunshade continues to provide deck shade, as well as some shade in the rocks where we usually have other seating.  It even keeps sun off those house windows, which should keep the house cooler.

Still on my list is to reseal the deck.  I’d also like to sew some cushions for our wire and our wicker patio seating, probably something yellow and bright green to tie in with the house paint and with our bright green doors.  I’m also thinking about adding some more potted plants back here.  Altogether with wood and wire and shade cloth, the whole project cost us about $350.  We’re thrilled with the way the shade makes the patio a nicer place to be, even in warm weather.



 Shade-loving cat

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