Weekend Wrap-Up

It feels sacrilegious that I’m writing our weekend wrap-up on Sunday morning, but that’s sort of how the whole weekend has felt.  We had an awesome dinner with friends on Friday night, but Jason and his mom have had to spend the entire weekend (and nearly every weekend this summer) out at his father’s house preparing it for sale (we’re under contract!), which has made for a weekend that, frankly, feels a lot like the middle of the week.  I’m not complaining, but it has lent a different feel to the days, particularly since A loves her Daddy so much.

We did sneak in a lovely dinner last night (pizza on the grill) and a quiet early evening together before A woke up for an hour.  When she did finally go down, she slept through the night for the second time ever, so this Mama’s keeping her fingers crossed that it happens again.

Since the summer is slipping away so quickly, I wanted a quick list of things that I’m hoping to accomplish this week.  Not having to drive into work should definitely help with the getting things done, but it’s also that time of the summer where I usually start devoting my mornings to lesson planning again, so we’ll see how it all goes.

  1. Put away A’s Swing.  She hasn’t used it in more than a month, but it’s still set up in her bedroom and taking up a TON of space.  We’re thinking #2 needs to wait a year or two, so it’s definitely not something I want under foot until then.
  2. Re-cord the living room entertainment system.  There are so many wires behind our bookshelves, and A has taken to trying to get them.  I also need to figure out some kind of charging station for the laptop because the old cord across the living room floor to the coffee table is an accident waiting to happen.

    I love this idea from HGTV

  3. Wash the kitchen floor.  Seriously.  Scrub it on hands and knees.  Because if A isn’t crawling on it, she’s licking it like her best friend, Abby the Dog.
  4. Find a solution to the mail on the kitchen table nightmare.  So much mail.  So little organization.  I’m thinking some sort of organizer I can hide away in my kitchen closet.  Ditto for a purse hanger.  I need somewhere other than the floor to set my handbag when I come in.
  5. Put together Katie’s Bridal Shower gift – I’ll share this one with you after her shower on August 2.
  6. I doubt I’ll get to it this week, but I bought 15 yards of fabric in April, and my living room still has the ugly Roman shades that have been up since… Jason bought the house ten years ago.

    Fabric Swatch – Waverly Swept Away

  7. Finish Week Three of T25 – Weeks 1 & 2 are complete.
  8. Keep harvesting peas.  Yesterday, I picked, shucked, prepared and froze two quarts.  All during nap time.  I’m hoping to do a Preserving the Harvest blog post on how to freeze peas that taste sweet and fresh all year long.

What are you hoping to accomplish this week?  Amelia is working hard on standing up in her crib every chance she gets!DSC_0085


Painting a Tree for the Nursery

When we found out we were pregnant, one of the first things I knew was that I wanted a mural of some kind in the nursery.  Something soft and calming, and – most importantly – something I could do myself.  Given that the carpeting in the room is green and still in great condition, warm blue walls and a tree seemed like a reasonable choice (even before we knew we were having a girl). 

That said, once we knew our little one was a girl, I wanted something a little more floral, particularly since the nursery prints we chose focused around gender neutral images of animals native to our area: foxes and skunks and squirrels.  I’ll have a more complete nursery post up once we hang the curtains later today, but I thought starting with the tree would be a good idea.  Now, in order to paint the tree where I wanted it, Jason and his dad had to do quite a bit of work preparing the room and sheet-rocking the north wall, which I hoped would make the room cozier and more complete. 

The former guest room, when we were using it as a guest room.

The former guest room, when we were using it as a guest room.

Cleaned out for baby...

Cleaned out for baby…


It took about one day for Jason and his dad to install the sheet rock, and during that time, his mom put down a coat of primer over the existing teal-green paint.  We decided to paint the room with Benjamin Moore’s Riviera Azure 822, which has soft lavender undertones, particularly in the late afternoon.  While I had thought about buying their Aura paint, we went with the Regal Select Interior paint in eggshell and were perfectly happy with its coverage and low VOC status.  My doctor had already nixed my helping with the painting, anyway, so it wasn’t as though I was being exposed.  I was surprised how little the paint smelled (they did keep the windows open) and how quickly any remaining smell dissipated. 

Sheet Rocking: Day 1

Sheet Rocking: Day 1

It took almost a week for the sheet rock mud to dry and be sanded away properly before Jason and his mom could complete a second coat of primer and paint the room (they did two coats, just to be sure of coverage).

Benjamin Moore Riviera Azure 822

Benjamin Moore Riviera Azure 822


Once the paint dried, I started working on the tree.  Now, I’d looked at TONS of trees (you can see evidence of this over on my Pinterest site), but I’d fallen in love with the “Tree of Life” print from Ruth Baker.  The problem was that with humidity fluctuations here in the summer and winter, I didn’t want to be constantly replacing bits and pieces of a tree on the north wall of my nursery.  Add in toddler hands that might want to peel it off, and I knew I had to paint it, myself. 

Ruth Baker Tree Decal

In addition to this, there were parts of the design that didn’t really fit with my image of the nursery.  I didn’t love the roots at the bottom, the birds were a bit cartoonish for my taste , and the colors didn’t quite match our palette.

So I got to work on creating my own using a few simple tools.  I purchased a Bohin Mechanical Chalk Pencil from Amazon, knowing that I needed it for a quilting project I was already working on.  This tool was invaluable, as it allowed me to sketch my tree trunk before I painted it; and as soon as I was done and the paint was dry, the chalk came right off with a dry rag.  I also purchased two stencils, one of birch leavesand another of flowers.  You could freehand these if you wanted, but I found a stencil much easier to use. 

I started by sketching my tree in chalk on the north wall of the bedroom.


I know it’s difficult to see, but there is a tree sketched here.

Using simple, matte acrylic paints from Walmart and Michaels, I created a base coat on the entire tree and then mixed in some black and started shading around the edges to give the tree some depth using a few paint brushes that we’d picked up at a craft store.

Shading for Depth

Shading for Depth

DSC_0294This process took an afternoon.  Notice that I didn’t add every little branch.  I painted most of the smaller bits in after I started stenciling on the leaves and flowers.  The problem I encountered stenciling (using a variety of small stencil brushes) was that I was trying to do WAY too much at once.  I had all of my lighter flower colors out; I was trying to switch back and forth between flowers and leaves, and I was up and down over and over again, which is not so much fun at 26 weeks pregnant. 

Initial Stenciling

Initial Stenciling

So I quickly changed tactics and painted all the leaves, followed by all of the flowers, which gave me better control over where colors were being distributed.


Completed Tree

After two days of work, I was left with a floral tree that matched the other colors in the nursery and completely fulfilled my vision.

Coming soon… adding the trim to frame and finish the room!



Hosting a Homestead Wedding

Jason and I got engaged in January of 2011, but long before that, I knew that I wanted a backyard wedding.  I had this image in my mind of a hayfield with just the ceremony site mowed out: simple white chairs, a rustic arbor, country flowers.   I had no real experience with wedding planning beyond an interest in wedding blogs like The Broke-Ass Bride, Green Wedding Shoes and Wedding Chicks.  I had a lot to learn.

One of the most stressful parts of planning our homestead wedding was lining up the vendors.  I knew we’d need tents and chairs, though I had no idea just how much tents and chairs for 100 would cost (roughly $1,500).  Beyond that, there was food to consider.  I definitely wanted to work with someone local, but it was hard to find someone willing to cater to an outdoor wedding for 100 in July that was 15 miles outside of town with very few options for electricity and water.  I was lucky enough to discover the catering branch of our local U Maine system, which produced delicious meals for under $15/plate and offered a reduced child’s rate.  They were also more than willing to help us with linens and extra glassware rentals to cut back on waste.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
Tents and chairs… well worth the cost.

Strangely, the least stressful part about our wedding was the marriage, itself.  I’ve said this to a few of my friends, but marrying Jason was the first big decision I’ve ever made that I was 100% certain about.  I couldn’t wait to be his wife and partner, and my confidence in that really carried me through the piles of mundane tasks that awaited us.

There are a few things that I feel we did right that saved us time, money and anxiety.  By allowing ourselves a full, 18 month engagement, I was able to do all of the big planning (tent, food, dress) a year in advance, allowing for a much more relaxed few months before the event.  We also decided to eschew the wedding planner that several family members suggested we get.  While this meant having to deal with more of the details, myself, it saved money and really let me interact with my own wedding and ensure that nothing got too out of hand.

By hiring a local caterer who served on china, glass and silver outside and choosing two kegs over bottles of beer, we were able to create no more than two 30 gallon bags of trash (including gift wrap), despite the number of guests and scope of the event.  We were careful to recycle what we could, but this lack of trash was important to me.  I was also careful in creating wedding signs that could either be passed forward to friends getting married or used around our homestead.  The Christmas lights are being donated to the school I teach at for an event I host every year, and the cupcake tower has already been loaned out to another bride.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
One of our many, reusable wedding signs.

Jason’s family provided all of our flowers, from the wild flowers on the tables to the four huge buckets of white hydrangeas from their gardens that provided bridesmaids’ flowers and dressing for our homemade arbor.  This not only saved money but provided a really nice connection to those we love as we were able to integrate them into our ceremony and the day.  And rather than doing vases on the tables, we used quart mason jars for the wild flowers and pint mason jars for the dianthus that held the table numbers and can, ultimately, be reused.

And despite numerous horrified family members and friends, we successfully made our own wedding cake (117 cupcakes and a small cutting cake).  We used as many local ingredients as we could, and it was, surprisingly, the least stressful part of the entire day.   I plan on writing a full post, including recipes, next week.

Photo by Allison Emmerich
Homemade Wedding Cake

So what did we learn?

Our friends were invaluable.  My best friend Allie and her boyfriend Dave came early and may be one of the only reasons we managed to dress the tents on time the day of the wedding.  They not only helped us set up the ceremony site and take care of the chickens leading up to the event, but they also wrangled kids, ensured that a few early (and late!) photos got taken, and generally did everything that I didn’t have time to think of the day of the wedding.  And Allie reminded me to drink water.  Constantly.  Invaluable.

Photo by Allison Emmerich (tripod)
Best friends really do make the difference in wedding planning!

Give yourselves extra time!  Nothing happened quickly or easily the morning of the wedding.  I was so glad that we’d planned for a 4 p.m. ceremony because with only four of us doing initial set-up, it was a miracle that Allie and I got out the door at 11:30 a.m. to drive into town for hair.

Count everything you rent.  Somehow, during our rental process, five chairs disappeared.  Since the manifest was signed without counting the chairs, we ended up paying for five chairs that I’m pretty sure never got dropped off at our home, but there was really nothing we could do.

Have a casual rehearsal dinner.  We wanted an outdoor rehearsal BBQ that was as low-key as we are.  It allowed us to invite the close friends we’ve made who were not in our bridal party and kick back with family and friends from far away.  It is still one of my favorite memories of the weekend, and the kids in our bridal party had an awesome time with the ring bearer’s gift: a kite.

Photo by David Todaro
Perfect Rehearsal… and look at that sky!

Pen up or send away animals for their own protection.  Although our flock regularly free ranges, everyone spent the three days before the wedding cooped up in their outdoor tractors because the last thing we had time to do was chase chickens.  In addition to this, we opened a basement window so the cats could go in and out as they pleased and sent Abby (our Australian Shepherd) to Jason’s Mom’s house for the weekend, as she has a deep love of both cupcakes and running in front of cars – it just wasn’t safe to keep her on site and I was more relaxed knowing that she was relaxing at her grandmother’s.

The chicks on wedding weekend. Note: they were in their indoor coop the day of the wedding. They were one of many stops for the children at the event.

Let go of your expectations.  Some things didn’t work out the way we’d planned, but at the end of the day Jason & I were the only ones who knew.  We got married.  We had one of the best days of our lives together with our family and friends.  Letting go of some of those early expectations was the best way to have fun and relax and enjoy our new life together.

The day after.




DIY Stenciled Wedding Signs

This weekend, Jason had to go help a friend move, so I was left to my own devices and decided that it was time to get some of these DIY wedding projects on the road.  I have a pretty specific image of what my wedding is going to look like (imagine: wide expanses of open fields, country antiques and bouquets of wildflowers).  I’m even toying with the idea of inviting all of my friends with little girls to dress them in white so they can tumble down the isle as impromptu flower girls (if they are so inclined) ~ nothing expensive or crazy or planned, just a small gaggle of girls (ages 2 – 7) making it down the isle to sit on a blanket and color while the festivities are taking place.

That said, I wanted to start with something easy.  I’ve had an image in my mind for a while.  Since we live in the country, I intend to have our guests park along our dirt road (there’s a half mile of it, uninhabited up past the house and a quarter before you get to the house), so when they approach the house, the driveway is open but for a refinished parlor stove (see Wednesday’s post!), blooming with Million Bells, and a tall sign post directing them to the ceremony, reception, etc…

I looked everywhere at signs (you can evidence of this over on Pinterest), but I finally settled on simple black and white (nature will be providing most of the color).  On Thursday morning, I went to Lowe’s and stocked up on 3/4” x 2”x24” pine craft boards (for under $2 each).  Now, this is a place where you could exercise thrift; however, I really wanted to start these this weekend and I didn’t want to spend hours cleaning up old barn wood.  And while some people make beautiful, rustic barn wood signs for their weddings; I wasn’t really looking for “rustic” in this part of my decor.

If you want to make your own, they are super easy!

Large Sheets of Paper for Planning
Ruler (I used a quilting ruler from my rotary cutting board)
Wood (cut to desired lengths) – For these signs, I used five pieces of 3/4”x2”x24” Pine
White, Satin Paint (I used a water-based paint)
Regular, Flat Paintbrush
Letter Stencils
Black Acrylic Paint (For Letters)
Stenciling Brushes (I ended up using the smallest in my package)
Masking Tape

Planning Steps:

  1. Using your paper, letter stencils, ruler and pencil, block out the size of your signs.  Then make templates for the words you would like to use (I used these for orientation on the boards, NOT the actual stenciling).  While, initially, I thought this step was just for practice and something I’d only do for the first word or two – it allowed me to center the words on larger signs and recognize places where I had to be careful with spacing, lest I run out of room on the boards!
  2. Sand off the edges of your boards, rounding them.  For me, this was just a personal preference.  The boards, themselves, looked so sharply square that they lacked a handmade look.  I first used rough sandpaper, then a smoother sandpaper, for a soft, stain-y finish.  Later on, I found Jason’s Dremel tool with sandpaper attachment and sped up the process a bit (honestly, I think this tool might be my best friend during my DIY projects over the next few months!
  3. Next, I painted the boards with a satin white, water-based paint.  I chose to go with satin because I wanted a bit of gloss but not so much to cause glare in the sun.
  4. It took three coats to properly cover the boards, but  I found that the paint dried so quickly that by the time I got to my last piece, I could start on the first piece again (this step took about an hour).

Stenciling the Signs:

  1. In order to get the signs just-so, I drew a thin line with a pencil and my quilting ruler 1/4” up from the bottom of the board, then traced each letter on with pencil.  This gave me an opportunity to see where everything was before I began to work with the paint.  Before I painted, I removed the line underneath the letters with an eraser.
  2. When I finished this step on all five signs, I covered my coffee table in newspaper and laid out each sign.
  3. Since my stencils were of individual letters, and not complete words, I applied the stencils to the signs letter-by-letter, using masking tape to hold them in place and giving each letter  space to dry to ensure that nothing bled over (Imagine the word: LOVE ~ I would place the L & V first, stencil them, let them dry, then place the O & E).  As such, working on five signs at once gave each letter time to dry, since they required at least two coats of paint, applied with proper stenciling technique.  The hearts required four coats of paint and touch-up with a detailing brush because of their size).
  4. Proper stenciling technique requires you to dip your stenciling brush (with its flat, round brush) in the paint, then to scrub most of the paint off onto a  piece of paper or paper towel before applying the almost-dry brush to your stenciling surface, which allows a more uniform coat of paint without the risk of “bleeding” onto your other surface color.  Using an acrylic top color helps because acrylics dry quickly.
  5. Once the signs were dry, I touched up any mis-steps with the white paint.

Voila!  My first five signs!

After finishing these, I decided to add eight more signs (at only the cost of the wood, since I already had the paint.  My total cost per sign came out to about $3, and I’m super excited to someday be able to hang the Jason & Jessica sign above one of our wedding portraits.