Wednesday, March 30

Before and After: Re-decorating My Apartment

When I said re-decorate, I thought we could maybe hang a few more pictures. I had the living room at a happier, more matching place than it had been in for a while. But, deep down I knew I didn't like it. The colors in our couches are navy, green, gold, and a purple-ish burgundy. Deep in my soul, I craved serene and calming colors, like blue.

When my mom and sister visited, they didn't stop at hanging a few pictures. They overhauled the living room, dining room, and the bedrooms. And, they re-decorated my living room with blue and white! 

Way Before
This is how I had my fireplace decorated originally, after we first moved in. 

Then I got this trike at Goodwill, the blue pot from Anthropologie, and the stems from the Dollar store.
This is one side of the fireplace. Both of those picture frames were empty for a long, long time.

This is the fireplace decorated for Christmas.

Mom used the wooden letters I bought at Goodwill, and a picture collage I hadn't found a place for and replaced the butterfly. 
Then we took down the Valentine's Day banner, the things in the corners, and got rid of the old bottle I was using for my green twigs. Then we took down the Christmas lights and replaced the twigs. We moved some flowers from the guest room to the trike, and got some plate stands. This is how it looked after we were done: 
The light-up orchid branches make up the Christmas lights!
Every time I took at it, it makes me so happy! I love those branches, and the vase. The branches came from a decor store just down the street, and the vase came from Pier 1. 
This was before we took down the Christmas lights, so pretend they aren't there. 
I'd like to add some greenery to the corners, something like these topiaries from Simply Designing.
Simply Designing
This is our coffee table. The glass decanter is from Pier 1, the red beads inside are from the dollar store, the marble bust is a Christmas present from my parents, and the rose was a Valentine's Day present from Brian. I used a recycled bottle for a vase. The candle and candle holder are both from the dollar store.

These blue and white balls came from Pier 1 and were $3 each. The tray was a wedding present, and the pebbles were leftover from wedding decorations. I picked out the reed diffuser for Mom and Evi because they needed something to reach $30 at Pier 1 so they could use a $10 off coupon. I picked it because it was blue and on clearance for $3 and mom decided it looked good on my coffee table. The scent is Bombay Blue, and it fits so well!

This is one of the desks we got off Craig's List. I eventually moved that picture closer to the one from my in-laws, like the picture of the couch below shows. 

Guess where we found this blue toile slipcover? Goodwill! 
We also got a pillow there for $1 and slid it underneath to make the seat more comfortable. 

This is an old picture actually, because I moved the picture thats on top of the black bookshelf to the guest room, and put the simplicity cement saying there instead. And I had finally put pictures in the frames. 


This is how it looked after we moved some things from the fireplace over and added a little greenery. Much better!

Here's our couch, with matching purple lamps. Above the couch is our Wedding/Graduation present from my in-laws, a beautiful painting of a couple by the ISU campanile, and then two wedding photos. 


This was perfect, because the butterfly got to stay in the living room. It looks nice with the couch too. 

The blue jay painting was painted by Brian's great-grandmother.

This painting is of an amusement park in Iowa, Arnold's Park. It's by the same artist as the campanile painting that was in the living room, P. Buckley Moss. 

Adding three things to this wall has a lot more impact and looks more put together than one lone picture. 

Now both pictures by the same artist are together! And, the big campanile picture fills the wall better. The green mat looks nice with our bedspread and curtains too.

Great-gram's painting is above the dresser now, as is the brown clock I got at Goodwill. And yes, there are two clocks, because the brown one matches, but it runs half and hour behind no matter what. This still needs some work, but it's getting there. 

I think mom and Evi did a fantastic job. We actually didn't buy a lot of new stuff, just the things from Pier 1. Mostly we decorated with what I already had. If you'd like to do the same, I wrote a post with 12 ways to decorate with what you already have!

Have you ever majorly re-decorated? Have you ever asked for help with decorating? How did that turn out?

Monday, March 28

New Blog Design!


At last it's up! I can't tell you how excited I am! There's still work to be done, like making a new grab button, and making a new facebook page image. But, I did it all by myself and it didn't cost me anything!

Here's how:
I started with a free header from The Cutest Blog on the Block. The chair and roses were already on it.
The pink frame is a freebie from Shabby Blogs. I Photoshopped a different fabric to fill it and added my text.
The brown paper in the background is a free French postcard from The Graphics Fairy.
For the notebook paper, I scanned a sheet of notebook paper, cropped it, and photoshopped it in.

At one time, I had a typewriter in there too, and more papers behind the frame. I like the more simplistic look better, but it took me hours and hours of fiddling before I came to that conclusion.

Hug a Designer
Creating my own blog design has helped me appreciate all that blog designers go through. Custom designs can seem expensive, but they really are a lot of work to put together, so if you have a custom design, tell your designer thank you today and send them a virtual hug.

I'm very grateful to Melanie of Elegant Custom Blogs for my previous design, and now I understand a little of all she went through to make it. If you liked the old design, don't worry, it might be back for fall!

About the Subtitle
Ever since I got serious about blogging last summer, I have struggled to come up with a tag line, a pitch, a subtitle type phrase for this blog. I write about a such wide variety of things. This blog has changed from being a place for me to keep a record of events and keep up with my family, to a place to meet new friends, learn, grow, encourage, and reach out to make a difference. But I still write about my goings-ons and share craft projects and the occasional recipe.

For awhile I came up with "Encouraging and challenging women to fulfill God's purpose for their lives." It's a good purpose, but I didn't feel like it fit with everything I posted, and it was really long, and hard to fit on the header.

This tag line came to me as I was reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I wish I could quote to you the exact moment when I it came to me, but I'm letting my sister borrow the book right now so I don't have it handy. However, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by John and Staci Eldredge discusses at length why beauty matters. Beauty speaks to us about who God is. Beauty says all will be well and gives our souls rest. Beauty invites, captures, and draws the viewer in. God has given us a desire for beauty, because He is beautiful. Beauty comforts and beauty inspires.

But in a life filled with difficult, hard, painful, and ugly things, we have to find beauty. We have to look for it intentionally. Where? In everyday. In the midst of the stress, the pain, the loneliness, the joys, and the blessings.

That's what counting the gifts is about. The craft projects or decorating inspiration is all about creating beauty in your home.
"Every experience of beauty points to [eternity]." 
-Hans Urs Von  Balthasar, via  Captivating

So, what do you think of the new look? What do you think of the subtitle? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, March 25

What We Need To Hear

 After peeling off another too-small shirt I'd squeezed myself partly into, a familiar wave of thoughts crossed my mind: You're fat. And ugly. Nerdy with a side of Geek. 

When I was shopping with my mom and sister last weekend, it seemed that store after store had run out of normal people sizes. I could find fours, twos, and zeros aplenty. And a size I hadn't seen before: double zeros. Extra-extra small. Who could ever wear that size?! Well, my sister could. That's who. 

I felt too embarrassed to leave the dressing room. I compared myself and found myself lacking. If only I had smaller upper arms. If only I had smaller boobs. Then....

Then what? I'd be beautiful? Loved? Accepted?

I know better than that. But sometimes I forget. 

As I sat on the bed that evening, looking through the pictures from the week, another wave of self-depreciating thoughts washed over me. I decided to be brutally honest. 

"Babe," I snuggled up to Brian. "I've felt really, really, ugly and unattractive all day. I just need to know that you still love me and you think I'm beautiful." 

Brian is good at making me feel loved. His reassurances helped. Then the next day, I read a post from Without Adornment, "Self, You are Beautiful," and I realized, "I'm not alone." Her post led me to Jill's I Am Beautiful Project. I love how God brings you just what you need at just the right time! 

"Contrary to what the world claims, Beauty does not diminish with time; Beauty deepens and increases…true beauty comes from a depth of soul that can only be attained through living many years well.” -Stasi Eldrege from Captivating

"The Lord delights in those who fear Him, 
Who put their hope in His unfailing love." 
-Psalm 147:11

I need to be reminded. Often. 

And so do you.

Since I have no finished craft projects to show you as the result of my spring break, I wanted to show you the results of the shopping that my mom, sister, and I did instead. It wasn't easy to take any of the pictures in this post. For one, because I don't have a tripod or someone to take the picture for me, and two, I couldn't get very good lighting on most of them. But aside from the mechanics, I had a hard time not being critical of how I looked. I had to be reminded of God's opinion of me. I had to silence those if only and not enough voices.

Note: The items I bought are in bold, the rest are things I already had.

Outfit #1.

Brown sweater from Anthropologie
Black tee from Vanity
Teal scarf from Walmart
Skinny stretch jeans from Target

You can see what I mean about having troubles with the lighting. But I wanted to include that picture because it shows the scarf better than any of the others. 

It's a very long, soft, and comfy sweater. Perfect for cozy, rainy days, like the one we had last Monday.

My mom actually bought this for me. It was on sale for $20!

Outfit #2
Gray shirt from Loft
Navy blue tank from Old Navy
Jeans same as above
Shoes from Payless Shoes Store

 I love this shirt. It's very light and flowing, and gray is one of my favorite colors. It too was on sale, and I think it was worth the $30 I spent on it. It will also look good with pink, and I wore it earlier this week with a bright yellow tank. So there's a few outfits with it I can make, just by switching the tank.

Outfit #3
Pink and Gray top from Francesca's Collections
Gray tank from Old Navy
Rose bracelet from Claires
Same jeans and shoes

Pink has really grown on me lately! Especially pink with gray. This shirt is so soft and silky, and it has a nice swing to it. I'm having trouble coming up with other outfits, unfortunately. I bought this before reading about coming up with three outfits you can wear with it before buying it. 

Outfit #4

Pink flyaway sweater from Francesca's Collections
Gray shirt from Loft
And the same jeans again
 This sweater was on sale for $11! It's become one of my all-time favorite things to wear. It's kinda interesting, because it is super long in the front!
See what I mean? But in the back it's a normal length. So I often tie the front, and that keeps it from getting caught on things. 

Outfit #5

Retro dress from Goodwill
Belt, I don't remember

Along with all the fancy shops we went to, I took mom and Evi to my Goodwill, and I found this dress. No else seemed to think it was as awesome as I did. I mean, look at the color! It's gorgeous! And it pretty much fits me! Compared to my other project dress, this one's not bad. 

You all had great suggestions for my other dress. Once I get my sewing machine figured out, I will let you know how it goes. What do you suggest for this dress? I'm thinking making it shorter. I do love the sleeves, but I might have to make them shorter.

Over and over, I have to tell God the same thing I said to Brian, "I just need to know that you still love me and you think I'm beautiful." 

What about you? What helps you silence those voices?

Special announcement: I'm in the final stages of tweaking my new blog design! I hope to have it up and running within the next few days, so maybe next time you're here, things will look a little different! 

Also, because of the wonderful comments and questions I've received after Wednesday's post, I've got a few more fashion posts in the works for us fashionably challenged people. Let me know if you have any specific questions you'd like answered, and I'll work them in!

Smart and Trendy Moms

Wednesday, March 23

8 Fashion Tips I Learned This Week

Maybe it's because spring is in the air. Maybe it's because we got our tax refund back, or because I cleaned out my closet. It could be because my mom suggested I make an appointment with a style and wardrobe consultant. 

Whatever the reason, I've been drawn to blog posts, articles, and live chats about fashion this week, and I've learned A LOT. It all started with an email from The Frugal Living Community on Blog Frog, announcing their Twitter party and a live chat. For those of you who are not social media moguls, Twitter parties are when we all tweet back and forth discussing questions from the host of the party, and every tweet contains a hashtag (#) with the subject of the party. A live chat on Blog Frog works just like MSN instant messenger. Both are fun, and they give out fabulous prizes. In fact, I won the grand prize of this crossover bag!
PB and J Boutique, $49.99
I think they picked me because I said this bag is a great improvement on the fanny pack. Or because I mentioned I only own two purses, one for spring and summer, and one for fall and winter.

At both of these virtual parties, we discussed current trends, how we were incorporating them (or not), and shared tips and ideas on how we made fashion frugal.

Now, I'm not the most up to speed fashionwise. Some of these may be old news to you, but I have a feeling I'm not the only fashionably challenged out there! So without further ado, here's what I learned last week:

1. Flared Jeans Are Back (but skinnies are still in)

Some of you may be cheering, but when I found this out, I was crestfallen. I just embraced the skinny jean trend. Here in AZ, and from what I've seen of California, everyone wears skinny jeans, regardless of size or shape. So I finally decided to try on a pair, and loved them! And now I find out I'm just a little behind. The experts and designers agree, 70's flared high waisted jeans are already on the market. The good news is that flares flatter everyone, and skinny jeans aren't going anywhere...yet.

2. The 70's Have Returned (in a 2011 sort of way)
I had an inkling that this was happening, and now it's been confirmed. Good news for you if you liked them the first time around, and still have some wide legged pants and floppy hats hanging around.
3. You Can Mix Brown and Black
And brown and grey, as it turns out. Check out this post from Already Pretty on how to mix neutrals.

4. Pink is Hot
Honeysuckle pink, actually. It's been named "Color of the Year" by Pantone, replacing the turquoise of last year. It's a bright pink, "Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of Honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It’s a color for every day with nothing “everyday” about it,” they say. 

5. Wedges and Chunky Jewelry Are In
Unfortunate for me, because I don't really like either. I have a strong aversion to heels, although I've been told wedges are much easier to walk in.
Forever 21. I actually don't mind this pair so much!
I don't know if a ring like this is very practical for me, but it is pretty.
Forever 21 $4.80
6. Always Buy What Fits Now, Not What You Hope Will Fit Later
I'm all for being optimistic, but when shopping, that's dangerous. If you don't want to be potentially wasting your time and money, buy what fits you now. After all, if you do loose those extra pounds, many times you can get it taken in.

7. Envision Three Outfits With it Before Buying It
This little tip will revolutionalize the way I shop, helping me make the most of my purchases and stay away from impulsive and repeat buys. I don't know about you, but I tend to buy items I like, and get home to discover I don't have anything to wear with it. Then I have to buy more so that I can wear the first item. If I stopped to assess what I already have, I can build off of it instead of around a new piece. I learned this from an article on Already Pretty about Shopping Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them. There's several more good tips in that article too.

8. We All Learn By Imitating 
I learned this from one of my textbooks actually. Aristotle says:
"Imitation is natural to man from childhood...he is the most imitative creature in the world, and learns at first by imitation. And it is also natural for all to delight in works of imitation."
- Poetics
 When you think about it, we learn to speak by imitating what we hear, we learned to write by tracing letters. Fashion, at it's core, is imitation. That's why the same styles are cycled and re-cycled over and over.

Fashion sense isn't something you're born with, it's something learned - through imitation.

This brings hope and a challenge. Hope in that I, and you too,  can dress in an attractive and confident manner even if it's not natural to us. Challenge, because we have to choose who to imitate.

As believers, we need to take every thought captive, so that we don't fall prey to the world's lies that we have to look a certain way, or we'll be unloved. We must remember that the world values outward appearances only, but God looks on the heart, where true beauty lies.

What's your philosophy on fashion? What have you learned about fashion lately? Do you have any tips to share with us?

works for me wednesday at we are that family