March 30, 2015

These Spritz Jumbo Easter Eggs caught my eye at Target a few weeks ago. (They have Black and White as well as Pink and Blue - all sold individually.) At $3 each I just couldn't say no! Target also has chalkboard paint, decorating kits and more to go with these eggs but I had different plans the minute I saw them. I picked up these two:

Jumbo Easter Eggs

I quickly got to work on my Silhouette Cameo and cut out simple shapes in Silhouette Gold Vinyl.

Vinyl Jumbo Easter Eggs

These were just so easy to make and I love how they look!

Flower Jumbo Easter Egg Decor

Chick Easter Egg Decor

The only other Eggs I've seen this size are carvable ones at Hobby Lobby but they weren't on sale and cost $13 each. Looks like they are $5.99 each on sale this week.

Silhouette Shapes:
Chick Silhouette #17101
Flower Medallion #12628

March 23, 2015

I was at Hobby Lobby a while ago and this really cute chalkboard there tempted me. I loved it - but in between putting it in my cart and the checkout I for some reason briefly forgot my disdain for chalk. I REALLY dislike it. I don't even want to touch it. So imagine my surprise that a chalkboard made its way to my house.

You all know what happened right? It sat blank for weeks until finally I bought a liquid chalk marker and attempted to write a nice little quote on it in chalk. That was messy and funny looking. So I searched for a printable but it's a weird size frame. I actually found a few prints with this quote from Corrie Ten Boom: "Happiness isn't something that depends on our surroundings... It's something we make inside ourselves." I wound up just making a printable because of the odd size.

Happiness Chalkboard Printable

Happiness Chalkboard Printable

How Do I Make My Own Happiness?

Last week as I was preparing for my lesson in Relief Society (this is the lesson here) I was reminded of this printable I made. The lesson was on Living Joyfully in Troubled Times. Am I living my own troubled times? Yes. Am I living joyfully? I like to think I am or that I'm at least trying to. But I still needed this message.

Heavenly Father has blessed me with so much peace and happiness even though my Mom only recently passed away. I loved this quote from the lesson:

"Happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God’s will for us—and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small."

For me accepting His will does not mean that I understand it - it means I trust in Him to make all things work out for my good - even when that seems impossible. I trust His promises. I believe in Him. That can be difficult for many people. Faith can take effort to grow. I don't understand why my Mom had cancer, why she had to leave this mortal existence so soon. I do believe that Heavenly Father has a plan for her and a plan for me (and all of us), I believe that I will someday be reunited with her. I also believe that as I obey His commands and try to do His work that He will bless me with happiness, peace, and perhaps understanding. I have to make that happiness for myself though. No one can make it for me.

I didn't have time to play this video during my lesson - but Elder Nelson shares this message so beautifully that I hope you take the time to watch it...

Want to print this for yourself? Think of anyone who could use this reminder? You can download the printable below.

FREE FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY - By downloading this file you agree to the following terms: This file is for use in your own creative projects; not for commercial use. Please do not sell or offer this download as your own. Please do not distribute this file to others, but refer others here to download it for themselves instead -- my files are given freely for download from my site only. Thanks for your understanding! If you have questions about the use of a file please contact me through email.

DOWNLOAD HERE: 8.5x11" OR 8x10" OR 11x14"

Enjoy the file. If you use it please send me a photo or share the photo in my Flickr Group here.

March 12, 2015

Before we bought our new house I said something that my husband recorded. I promised that I would not buy furniture for the new house until 6 months after we moved in. Just to clarify, it was my own idea, but my husband held me to it. I realized after we finally purchased the house and moved in that moving from a 1400 sq/ft home to a 2500 sq/ft home might mean I have empty spaces for a while. The first week we moved in I was already ready to go buy different furniture. I really wanted a few things for different rooms that I *thought* couldn't live without.

As the months passed and I searched for free solutions I realized that a piece of furniture that had worked in one room in our old house would be better in different room in our new house. An end table we didn't need any more in the living room became a night stand in the guest bedroom. A bookcase from the old toy room became storage space in the office and so on.

As I slowly started rearranging and organizing I also started to purge. The previous owners had left behind a huge old sectional I was more than happy to use in the toy room until I could buy a new couch. I soon came to realize we barely used it and it just took up play space. I was so glad I when we got rid of the old sectional that I hadn't bought new couches for that room. I would have regretted that. In fact it reminded me of the time we bought a new leather couch for a small room in our townhouse and then sold it just months later. It took up so much space and really overwhelmed the space.

I also quickly got rid of (or sold) three desks the previous owners left behind, an old treadmill I tried using that just took up space for months until we moved it to the garage, several kitchen appliances I never used, and a few other things. It kept surprising me to realize I was getting rid of more things than I ever thought possible. When we put a closet organizer in the boys closet we moved the storage drawers we had in there to the garage for tool storage so we didn't even need to build shelves for that.

By the time I reached the 6 month mark I didn't really want to buy new furniture! The first purchase I made about 8 months after we moved in was shelf from IKEA for the toy room. I needed something after I moved the larger shelf to the office. The boys had that same shelf in their bedroom and I later moved it down to the toy room as well so I have two of these for storage in there. It's a large space and these shelves work great.

(Kallax Shelving Unit $64.99)

Another purchase that I made around the same time was some very shallow shelves for my craft room. They were to hold my fabric (which I have on mini bolts) and were the perfect depth at just under 8" deep. The fabric looked really good on it too. These were also from IKEA. After getting a closet organizer in my craft room I'm only going to use one of these now. The other one I'm going to re-purpose soon - either that or sell.

About a year after the move, we decided that our computer desk was just too small (my husband and I both have a PC and it only fit one). Eventually we plan to have a built-in office space. We decided to buy cabinets and table top from IKEA to make do until we knew exactly what we wanted. We brought a set of Alex Drawers from the Craft Room added on the 2 Alex storage units and 3 more Linnmon Table Tops spending about $150 total. It looks a little something like this:

Looking at everything I purchased. I'm almost laughing. All from IKEA. All white. Trust me - my house is plenty colorful. These all just worked.

It's now been 2.5 years since we moved in and I've only spent $320 on furniture! I do have plans to build and/or purchase one or two items in the coming years but even that is more plans to upgrade not plans for more!

I'm SO glad I made that 6 month promise. It made me squirm in the beginning (especially when I saw amazing Craigslist deals) but it saved us money and made me focus a lot more on storage space and organization than I would have otherwise. We have put closet organizers in two closets and minimized furniture purchases even more by doing that! I actually have another shelf that I'm about to get rid of and have plans in the works to steal furniture from one room for another. Yes that's the way I roll now!

Have you made any large purchases after moving and then regretted them within months? What furniture could you not live without?

March 11, 2015

Renos Renovations! Ha ha. #RenosRenos is what I've been using on social media for the last few months. It just fits. We've been doing some incredible things around the house since we bought it just 2 years ago. Let me start by explaining that this was one of the most well maintained older homes that we had seen. No updates, no remodels, and only one coat of paint. While it wasn't the look I loved it was in incredible condition and I was OK with the floor-plan but let me be completely honest: We bought it for the yard. Finding 1/3 of an acre lot was just impossible on new homes and buying a lot and building just wasn't going to work in the area we were searching in. We found one lot the size we wanted and it needed a LOT of work. So here we are. Renovating our home to make it what we want.

This post is wordy. It's more about the decisions and/or problems we faced when we decided to renovate. My hope is that this will help others with their remodeling decisions.

The boys bathroom has been a torture/distraction/project for me over the last 6 months. But that seems to be the story with all our renovations so far. I have to confess there have been moments where I have looked back fondly on my life as a tenant when all I had to do was move in and decorate - that was fun. Then I start to remember the down side to renting and face the renovations with renewed strength and energy.

I've shown very few photos of the house but let me show you the bathroom I am talking about.

(Bathroom The Day We Moved In)

Problem #1 - Face Lift or Gut Job?

Looking at the before pictures you might think the answer is obvious. Gut job please!! The decision wasn't quite that easy though. Removing the tub meant more work, more time, and more money. The rest was an easy choice to get rid of.

After almost two years in the house we knew that the boys bathroom was urgent. Kids can be really hard on a house. Especially one built in 1979 and never updated. The vinyl on the floor in front of the tub was peeling up. The toilet was wobbly and honestly it seemed like the floor was starting to rot around it. I also worried about the floor under the tub. Everything was dated and the tub had to be replaced - it was too shallow (13" depth) for splashing kids. A local bath company came and gave us a $6,000 quote just to do the tub alone - re-fitting it with a new outer shell. I wasn't excited about that idea - I wanted to rip everything out and be very confident that the hidden areas were in good shape. But leaving the tub would have made doing the rest of the remodel ourselves an option. Eventually we decided on complete demolition. It seemed the safer option (because then no possible rot would go unnoticed) and less work on our part.

I am very glad we went this direction. The floor was going bad around the toilet and a little on the front edge of the tub. What a relief it is not to worry about one's safety on the toilet!

Lesson learned: Follow your instinct. Or in this case - go with the gut! It really didn't cost that much more to completely rip out and re-do everything and now it is worry free as well as beautiful!

Problem #2 - Materials!

Oh my goodness. It took a lot of work to find what I was looking for. There are endless vanities, flooring, tubs, tiles, faucets, and everything else you could possibly need to renovate a bathroom. Part of me wanted to have someone provide me with a shopping list and just have it over with. The other part of me was thrilled to shop and imagine. I will confess, the latter side won that battle. I love finding something and knowing it's just right. Trust me - even finding the right toilet was exciting. Am I the only one?

For those of you at a complete loss - is an incredible resource for home design. I have spent a lot of time saving ideas onto various boards. It really helped me visualize my ideas.

Of course there were other setbacks as well. When you shop without a contractor's advice you may make mistakes. There are different types of tubs to go with different surrounds. My tub was designed for tile or panels - not direct to stud panels though. Thankfully most things can be returned. Also - that mistake wound up costing less in the long run as the tile I chose was cheaper than the surround.

Lesson learned: Ask for advice from someone who really knows what they are doing and make sure products will work together. If you don't understand ask more questions until you do. You will be glad and save yourself time and money when you know before you shop.

Problem #3 - Timing

I'd like to say that this hands down has been the most frustrating of all. Not because of the people I've had to deal with - but because of the time frame I've had to deal with. I started shopping in July last year and here we are in February finally finishing this project up. Life happens folks. You know how it is. But when you rip out a bathroom only to have EVERY single weekend be one that you're either away or work can't progress for one reason or another it gets CRAZY! Especially when your kids are using your master bath and you now have tooth paste smashed into the carpeted bathroom. Seriously?! Who carpets bathrooms?! Then you have guests and have to share the master bathroom. (We all survived unscathed - but I really felt bad for my guests.) The bathroom was gutted in November folks. Early November. And now it is almost done 4 months later. And this wasn't a DIY project.

Another note on timing: Even with contractors it's still work to schedule everything.

Lessons learned: Life happens and you have to be patient with the timing of everything.

Problem #4 - Hiring Help

The first question I always ask myself is "Can we do this?" Sometimes that answer is no! As a DIY addict I know my limits. I know how much work I can realistically take on myself and as a busy mother with a huge amount of personal drama in our lives I knew there was no way we could take on the project ourselves.

Oh my goodness it's crazy to think of all the times I've blundered when it comes to getting someone to do work. Working on our yard was DRAMA. This was not as bad - thankfully - but we have had our setbacks. Hiring someone we knew was not bad - he worked hard and did a great job. But the drawback was timing. He could only work weekends. His available weekends and ours just didn't seem to coincide. He finished the demolition and some of the flooring repair and then we searched for a plumber. It only took us 3 tries to get one to come. The plumber installed our bath and changed out things for the new toilet. He did a great job too - but he really didn't like my bathtub. It was a different style than he was used to. I LOVE my bathtub! It is so pretty and modern and I am totally jealous of my boys bathroom right now. But because it wasn't what he was used to it took him longer to install - plus he damaged it in two spots and didn't tell me.

Finally after a few months of looking we met a contractor at the Home Renovations show in Seattle. He's busy - but he does a LOT of different things and he was just the right kind of person for us to work with. VERY very soon I will be able to show the completed bathroom. I absolutely LOVE it!

In two instances the contractor did something I didn't quite like. The first time I was frustrated. I knew it meant more work for them and more time. But I knew I just couldn't be happy with it. After worrying and stressing about it and even talking the first problem over with my husband I brought the issues to their attention. Both times I received a positive response and the issues were resolved without complaint, without any problems whatsoever. That sure made me happy!

Lesson Learned: Take time to find someone who fits with you. Don't be afraid to say what you need or clarify things either. Renovations can get really overwhelming. Don't be afraid to stop and say something doesn't work for you but also be prepared to compromise on solutions. Sometimes there is a reason things were done differently then you expected.

Have you done a remodel or had someone do one for you? Feel free to add your input in the comments section. We have a lot to learn from each other about this and I'd love to hear about your experiences!

March 6, 2015

Just over 3 years ago my Mom went in for a routine surgery. She had a lump in her arm. The day she went in I was already worried. I had a really strong feeling something was wrong. I am sure Heavenly Father was preparing me. I was in Sacramento visiting my in-laws the day of the surgery. I hated being so far away - but looking back I see what a blessing that really was because my husband was right there to support me instead of at work. The surgery was to remove a portion of her blood vessel in her arm that had a clot. They would be replacing it with a portion of vessel from her leg. What was meant to be a routine surgery ended up several hours longer than normal and when she woke up from surgery her life was to never be the same. Mom had cancer. Leiomyosarcoma. It wasn't a clot in her blood vessel and the prior 2 years of trying different medicines to help break it down, suffering through a lot of pain and side effects from the medicine, the brushed off blood test, the Dr. and the three radiologists who misdiagnosed it all weren't enough to point them in a different direction. It wasn't until she was in surgery that they realized the gravity of the error. We suspect that she had to be resuscitated during that surgery too. But we may never know for sure.

It was hard to watch her in complete shock. Trust me when I say she tried very hard to be positive through everything - but as if the utter devastation of hearing the word cancer wasn't enough - she got to learn that hers was aggressive and it had been misdiagnosed for years already. It was a hard blow. Through all the stress and emotion she struggled to be patient with the Dr. who had misdiagnosed her, with the dysfunctional BC medical system (Canada), and with cancer and all of its mysteries and unknowns. It is apparently very common for patients to get PTSD from being diagnosed with Cancer. She sure did. There were so many times she felt helpless. What would you expect? The Dr.'s told her there are few options and offered very little support.

The first Dr. she visited insisted she amputate her arm. He insisted it was her only chance. She refused to just take his word for it. She consulted the Cancer Care Society in Seattle, WA to get a second opinion and was told that amputation might not be necessary. Eventually Mom had a second surgery on her arm - because the margins weren't clear from the first surgery. (The fancy way of saying they didn't get all the cancer during the first surgery.) That surgery took its toll on her. It made the use of her arm very difficult. The seamstress in her died. She couldn't even look at most of her sewing stuff. She gave away her sewing machine, cleaned out her stash of crafts and cried when we bought our new house and I showed her my new sewing room. She knew things would never be the same. It broke my heart to know she couldn't do many of the things she loved so very much. Gardening was also very difficult. We planted her flowers for her in the spring but part of me wondered if she would really be able to appreciate it.

Soon Mom began to refer to Cancer as "The Big C". It seemed very fitting. Radiation therapy was hard. It made her so sick and there were side effects. All the while her anxiety started to increase and her heart began racing with more frequency. (Something she suffered from on and off for many years prior to her diagnosis.) She tried many holistic remedies, changed her diet based on nutrition classes she had taken and even tried several alternative therapies and massage therapy.

Eventually, after many Dr.'s visits and seeing many various specialists Mom found a Chemotherapy that they were willing to let her try. Her heart condition had eliminated so many options on that front and even this Chemo was new and involved great risk. Her first round of Chemo she went into complete shock and had one of the worst reactions the hospital staff had ever seen. They gave her some more medicine and tried one more time later that same day. It helped but again she had another severe reaction. Dad said he had never felt so close to losing her. They were given the choice of attempting it one more time a few weeks later and after much thought and prayer decided against it. (Much to the relief of the Dr. and medical staff.)

The cancer continued to spread aggressively. Her liver, lungs, pelvic area all had lumps. Eventually it was on her back, arm and many other places. August last year Mom got very ill and after a brief hospitalization was sent to a hospice. It was a beautiful place and one that she had hoped to be able to get into when the cancer became too much for her and Dad to deal with on their own. After a few weeks she felt ready to go home. Just days later she fell and broke her pelvic bone. Actually, they think it was already fractured, but that her fall made it worse. She quickly returned to the hospice.

I can't even write about the visits I had with her there right now but I will tell you that she was in a beautiful place and surrounded by the most amazing, supportive staff. She could not have been in a better place. We were there for American Thanksgiving and many other times in the last few months. Much of November and early December I spent up in Canada assisting my Dad with her care. My siblings all did the same. We took every effort to visit with her, help our Dad, and make the best of the little time we knew we had left with her here.

On December 9th Dad called me to let me know she was fading quickly. One of the awesome nurses there called shortly after him and asked me to come right away. That night I drove the three long hours to the hospice. It seemed to take forever to get there. I visited shortly with my Dad and, though Mom was unresponsive, I bid her farewell. The next morning, on December 10th, 2014, she passed away.

I can't say that my life changed that day. It had changed a long time before that. I had lost my Mom to Cancer already - it was just the final farewell to her. Even so - the world seemed to freeze. Pressing emotions - ones that I had carried for months and years - all came crashing in. But this was what I had been preparing for. And despite the crashing waves of hurt I still had to get up, keep going and be there for my Dad and family. The only thing that carried me through those next few days was Heaven sent strength. I do not know how I would have made it otherwise. I know the prayers of many, many people were buoying us all up. I look back on those days that followed, as we prepared for her funeral and see so many miracles, so many wonderful angels that touched my life forever and know that Heavenly Father was taking care of us all.

My Mom was an extremely private person - we were all able to recognize her fear of others talking about her. She was raised to be private. Out of respect and in order to not hurt her - I never talked about this on social media. My siblings never did either, and I assume it was for the same reasons. It has taken a lot of effort on my part - being a blogger and someone who writes as a means of therapy - to not write about my experiences. In fact, I struggled in the last year to continue on with my blog because when I sat to write a post I really just wanted to share this story. But I couldn't. I have been so careful that even now it is hard to write this story. I don't want to hurt people by telling her story but I need to put it in words.

I know that Cancer touches the lives of so many. I know it well. My husband lost his mother to Cancer when he was 16. It seems we are all very much affected by it somehow. Cancer sucks. The Big C can be cruel. However the beauty, the miracles and the personal growth that I have experienced because of it still have my mind reeling. I have much to learn. I have slowly begun to heal. I am slowly wrapping my head around a new normal. I have relied a lot on my faith, and found strength through Christ, knowing his atonement was not only for my sins, but to help heal my pain. I am already experiencing firsts and while some days I am fine - sometimes I still cry. I love my Mom - she was and is one of the most wonderful people I ever knew. I am so blessed to be her daughter. I miss her very much, but I rejoice knowing she is in Paradise, finally free of pain, and waiting for me there.
{Photo Credit: Umbrella Tree Photography}