Sunday, July 28, 2013

An Easy DIY Upgrade to an Old Set of Tray Tables

See this paint chip? 


It caught my daughter's attention in Home Depot.  It earned my approval while viewing its diminutive three-square-inches in the natural light of her bedroom.  Then I took the plunge, bought a gallon, and painted her entire room.

Cue that moment when you realize that a paint chip has cruelly tricked you.

Instead of washing her bedroom in a refreshing, soothing aqua, the paint drowned the walls and cast an unnatural glow, as if an overzealous beach house accidentally had vomited in her bedroom.

We returned to Home Depot and selected an entirely different hue: this time, a light lime green.  It's both cheerful and fresh, and her bedroom is now the perfect location to set one of the tray tables that I recently refinished.

You see, a set of old tray tables has been gathering dust in our basement for years, but then I stumbled upon this tutorial at DIY Inspired and immediately thought, I can do that.  Because I'm idealistically confident that way. 

The result?  Tray tables that once looked like this:


now look like this:


I feel happy just looking at them.




(For those of you who are interested in the details, the stencils are from Martha Stewart.  I bought them at Michaels with a 50% off coupon, and I got the paint for free at Lowes thanks to coupons for Valspar paint samples.  If you're short on supplies, using any leftover wall paint that's sitting in your basement or garage also would work nicely.)

To think that these tables were languishing in my basement all along!  Their potential has finally been revealed, which continues to support my assumption that there's something about painting -- about turning something drab into something delightful -- that's good for the soul. 

So, what do you think about the tables?  Have a favorite color combination?
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Off My Own Beaten Path


My two older children were invited to play with my niece and nephew, leaving me with just Kerrinton, our three-year-old, for the morning.  Together we ran errands, but once I crossed the obligatory items off my responsible adult list, she and I spent the remaining time at a park.

It wasn't the park that we typically visit, nor the other two parks that we occasionally visit.  I drove instead to a neighborhood that I've passed through only once or twice before, one I vaguely remember having a small playground.

I've heard it said that joy can be found by shaking up your typical routine.  Even as a person who thrives on relative predictability, I still appreciate inviting change, however small, into my life.

Sometimes that's just taking your child to a different park on a typical Thursday morning. 

Despite knowing that I was in my small community (a place where driving "all the way across town" takes under 20 minutes), standing in this new location made me feel gloriously disassociated; I could have been anywhere.  (I experience this same untethered feeling when I arrive in a new airport.)

Before picking up my other daughters, Kerrington and I drove down several side streets near the park.  We wound our way through neighborhoods where the ordinary lives of people unfold: taking out the trash, bringing in the mail, cutting the grass, sweeping the sidewalks.  Yet to me, there was a delicious novelty about it.  The unfamiliar roads, the inviting path of an unexplored garden, the pleasing shade of a well-established oak tree -- all of it kindled something fresh in my soul.

This summer has been a time where I've stepped back and slowed down.  I needed to.  I've read and prayed and quieted myself and listened.  With my professional responsibilities largely on hold until the fall semester begins, I've been able to step off the hamster wheel and remember how good -- how necessary -- it is to be, just be, in the presence of God and to enjoy beauty for beauty's sake.

A heaviness that I've been carrying is lifting off my shoulders, and like ground after a drought, I feel that parched areas in my life are being saturated, that cracked places are being softened, and that rough ways are being smoothed.

This morning, the breeze didn't blow more gently and the sun didn't shine more brightly at this park than at our typical park.  But simply because I wasn't at our typical park, perhaps I noticed them more.

May fresh breezes blow your way today, too.
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Image compliments of net_efekt (Flickr.com)

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

And I'm Still Undone

Yesterday I stood in the shallow end of our local public swimming pool, trying to keep tabs on my three daughters.  This is a task easier said than done; children in a crowded pool scatter as rapidly as the seeds on a blown dandelion puff.  You've got to be hawk-eyed to discern your own sopping, bedraggled kid from the others.

A friend noticed me and stopped to talk.  We observed a few pregnant woman trying to beat the heat and several moms with young children -- really young children.  Little bitty infants -- ones with burp cloths and without neck control.

I had been thinking it, but my friend said it first.  "It seems like a long time ago when that was me."

She was right.  The infant stage has passed for us, and in many ways, it already seems like a former life.

My youngest, now three, catapulted herself down the slide and waved at me.  She's always in motion, racing to keep up with two older sisters, an amalgamation of sweetness and third-child toughness.

As we left the pool, each of my children followed behind me.  My youngest dragged her towel behind her on the parking lot blacktop and finally raised her arms to me -- her signal that she wanted to be carried.  Those flip-flops had carried her as far as she could go.  I hoisted her onto my hip and re-situated the pool bag, towels, and floaties I had been lugging.  She she lowered her head onto my shoulder, her chlorine-damp hair against my neck.

And then she did it: she slung her arm around my neck in a tired hug.  For whatever reason, I can remember when my daughters, as babies, first wrapped their arms around me.  It undid me then, and it still undoes me now.

The baby stage might have passed, but in some fashion, they'll always be my babies.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Freezer Pops


Title: Freezer Pops

Subtitle: Summer's Fifth Food Group

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Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Only Scary When You Don't Know How It Ends

I overhear my children talk as they're watching a video.  It's one they've seen before, and they're coming to a suspenseful scene.

My five-year-old grows nervous.  "I don't want to watch.  This is scary."

"It's only scary when you don't know how it ends," my eight-year-old responds, matter-of-factly.  "You know that everything works out, so you don't need to be scared."

I'm sweeping the kitchen floor as she says this, and I mull over her words: "It's only scary when you don't know how it ends."

I've been fearful lately.  I have friends who are wrestling with profound problems and hurts: personal challenges, relational difficulties, financial setbacks, emotional struggles, and health issues.  My heart aches for them.  I face mountains of my own that drain my hope and energy, leaving me discouraged and weary.

I don't know how these situations will end -- any of them -- and it's scary.  I'm not prescient.  I can't peer into the future and know with certainty that they'll resolve satisfactorily.  My perspective is limited.

Yet, I do the one thing I know to do: I rest on the promises of God. 

I remember Jesus' invitation: "Come to me, you who are tired and weary, and I will give you rest."  I meditate on God's plans for our lives.  I cast my cares on the Lord, trusting that He will sustain me.

It's a strange paradox, perhaps.  On one hand, I don't know how these stories will end; on the other hand, I do.  Regardless of how particular circumstances unfold, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

God knows how our stories end, and He's promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age.  He's not scared.  I'll follow his lead.


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Friday, July 12, 2013

Then I Became a Mother!

My desire is to get the book into the hands of as many moms as possible to spread the encouragement, humor, and enjoyment that readers already have discovered in its pages. 

Reader Reviews for TIBAM:

"I got so caught up in it, I couldn’t put it down."  (Stacie Nelson, Motherhood on a Dime)

"Hysterical and spot on!  Robin Kramer has the uncanny ability to use the written word to mentor a mother's heart.  A must read!" (Jennifer Mullen, Mosaic of Moms)

"This beautifully written book is the perfect gift for any expectant mother of mother or young ones. Poignant, funny, and even rueful at times, Robin Kramer's prose captures the tumult of emotions new motherhood brings in lovely vignettes. As a mother of two, I often found myself nodding in agreement, laughing out loud, or tearing up in passages."  (Jessica O'Hara, Amazon review)

"This book is a fresh and honest look at what it means to be a mother. Robin Kramer's writing is honest, funny and compelling."  (Mom of four, Amazon review)

If you're a mom looking for a great read, check out Then I Became a Mother.  It's a perfect gift for expectant moms, or any special mother of young children who could use a laugh and a dose of encouragement!

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What I'm Reading: Bunkers Down

I take great pleasure in an orderly life.  When my schedule is orderly, when my closets are orderly, when my children are orderly -- at those moments, I pause, take a deep breath, and think, All is right with this world.

Not surprisingly, this state of orderliness is elusive, normally lasting anywhere from 13 seconds to 24 hours before life manages to rear its messy head.  This is why, even in midst of mess, I am training myself thank God and realize, It's all going to be alright, disorderliness included.

Summertime, despite its glory, is a perfect time for disruption to schedules and routines.  This is why I loved reading this post from Ami at Bunkers Down about summer routines (or, rather, the lack thereof.)

Check out her post: "Finding My Summer Groove: Weeble Style."  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What I'm Reading: Live with Flair

I read an excellent post by Heather Holleman at Live with Flair today, and its encouragement resonated deeply within me. 

Are you in need of strength in any area of your life?  (Really, who isn't?)  Be bolstered with these words of wisdom: "The Thing You Need Strength For."

Enjoy, and do not be dismayed!

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Homemade Curtain Weights (what pennies and paperclips can do)

When I was younger, I regularly volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.  Over summers I raised rafters, drywalled, and painted house exteriors on week-long work camps.  On Saturdays during the year I spackled and painted at a local Habitat house.

Although I didn't realize it then, these rudimentary construction experiences gave me confidence with the DIY projects I face as a homeowner now years later.

Of course, I'm still learning small tricks of the trade.  For example, while recently hanging curtains rods I discovered one strategy that makes drilling virtually mess-free.  Simply stick a bent Post-It to the wall directly below your drill marks, and the Post-It will neatly catch the dust when you drill.


As for those newly-hung curtains throughout our house?  They transformed our rooms, making each space feel polished and finished.  (In my husband's words, "It looks like grown ups live here.")  Yes, we're finally all grown up.


But there was still one minor problem with our newly matured spaces: several curtains didn't drape well at the bottom.  Because the fabric was lightweight, the edges billowed outward instead of falling neatly downward.

While brainstorming an easy and inexpensive fix, I designed these homemade curtain weights by stacking a few pennies, gluing them together, and adhering them to a paper clip.  Each weight costs only four cents (literally), and they unobtrusively fasten to the curtain's inner hem. 

easy DIY curtain weights

Given that paperclips are naturally malleable, you can bend them to suit your needs.  While securing my weights, I simply dropped the weight into the open hem and left one prong of the paperclip exposed on the inner (non-visible) side of the curtain panel.

homemade DIY curtain weights

If you look closely, you'll see that I tuck that exposed prong of the paperclip underneath one of the stitches for added stability.  As a final precaution, I also pinch each paperclip tightly closed to prevent the weight from sliding out of the hem.

DIY homemade curtain weights

The result is that my curtains now drape beautifully, as you'll see in the picture below.  As an added bonus, if I'm ever desperately short on petty change, I instantly know where I can find a stash of coins.
 
DIY Homemade Curtain Weights

Feel free to explore some of my other favorite DIY projects and hacks below:

Maximizing Office Spaces: DIY Desk and Hiding Unsightly Computer Wires
Frame It: Creative Ways to Fill a Picture Frame
Giving New Life to an Old End Table
How to Stencil Perfectly Every Time

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July!  Today, I'm giving thanks for those who have served and are serving in our military -- for their sacrifices, for their dedication, for their lives.

And today, I'm giving thanks to God for His freedom, which is indescribable. 


Enjoy this day with your family and friends, and be blessed!

Image compliments of Stefano Brigio (Flickr.com)

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Little Changes Make Big Results

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I began a series of house projects: hanging curtains in our bedroom, painting the dining room, and cleaning and organizing the garage and basement storage closet.  It's been extremely gratifying.

During the fall and spring semesters, I don't have the opportunity to tackle these types of larger projects.  (Next up is painting the girls' bedrooms.  We're currently debating the merits and drawbacks of various paint chips with our five-year-old, who's convinced that it would be lovely to paint her bedroom a shade of pink that would make Pepto Bismol blush.)

In the interim, I'm finding that little changes to our house can make a big difference, too.  For example, I recently bought an inexpensive oil and vinegar bottle to dispense my dish detergent.  Nice, isn't it?


I also recently found a small wicker basket to use as a caddy to stash our remote controls.  Those remotes look like they were made for that basket.  (At least this is what I think.  The remotes seem to think that there were made to burrow deeply between the couch cushions to escape the light of day.)


As for this functional, but rather bleh, tray table?  I've got plans to give it a little love, and I promise to post pictures once my work is done.  (Update: see the after pictures here.)


Have you done something in your house -- whether large or small -- that's made a big difference to you? 

If you're ever looking for home improvement blogs, consider checking out DIY Inspired, a blog that I recently discovered that has tons useful tutorials, and Living Rich on Less, which is written by a lovely blogging friend of mine, Susan Penning.

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