A Different Take on Giving This Christmas…

Ok. Before I get started, let me tell you what this is NOT. This is not some amazing philanthropic endeavor, or way to feed 10,000 families in a starving land. Honestly, I wish I was sharing that kind of news, but this is a much simpler idea I’d like to share to help spread the art of giving right in the four walls of your own home.

If your family is like mine, Christmas goes a little something like this: Mom pays careful attention to amazing details of her children. She has listened and taken stock of the desires of her family’s heart for the last 2-6 months. By the time the holidays roll around, she has an amazing list of all the great things she plans to buy. She then tells the hubby, who nods in appreciation and acceptance of these great ideas and after her thoughtful hunt and purchase, she then finds great wrapping paper, stockings and gift bags to present these lovely trinkets on Christmas day. Meanwhile, the kids are ESTATIC with anticipation for yet another joyful season of GETTING!!!! Christmas Day rolls around and Mom sits back and watches her successful gathering session pay off with excitement and happiness for a day where each member of the family feels like someone took the time to consider EXACTLY what THEY wanted, and made those wishes come true. Some amazing moms even yield the credit to a big man in a red suit as the benefactor of this great extravaganza… 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

WELL… after watching that scene for the last 17 years, our family has agreed to switch things up a bit. First of all, I have really been into the idea of enjoying experiences vs. THINGS. As I get older, I have come to realize how short-lived the happiness of obtaining items can really be. It is a plight that sends many into debt and even depression after realizing once you get “IT”, there is always a desire for MORE… “IT” is never enough…  and “IT” never gives the lasting high created by memories or experiences that leave a lasting impression, a lifelong memory or moments for reflection and growth. Over the years, I have come to replace high ticket items, technology, and great trinkets, with opportunities of adventure and togetherness.

While our family will take another trip this holiday season, we will still attempt to give them the “gift under the tree” experience, but this year it will be with a bit of a twist. This year we have set a spending budget of $400. Each member of our family will pull a name from our family of four. They will keep that name a secret. For the next several days THEY will conduct research on their person. They will study them. Listen to them. Consider the desires of their heart. On December 15th, we will wake up early and venture out to the mall. Each family member will get $100 in cash. They will then be responsible for searching for great gifts for their selected family member. As the mom, I will be on hand for advice or guidance if necessary, but it is up to them to make this a memorable experience for their person to enjoy on Christmas day.

I love this idea because it does several things:

  1. It allows EVERY member of the family to appreciate the art of GIVING as well as receiving. I SOOOO love to give. Though our family is a family of givers, I hope our children will see how great the entire giving experience is and make it a part of everyday life.
  2. It helps everyone appreciate and understand the importance of a budget. Though we would LOVE to give a lot more, we must spend according to what we have. Apple can’t determine that amount, we must. There is no joy in giving when you have to pay for it for the next several months. I love that we can share this experience together. Look for deals! Find the sales… Make that money stretch!
  3. It requires everyone to consider another’s desires over their own. They will have to conduct the necessary research in order to be successful in their experience. Too many times we are so wrapped up in our own wishes, we fail to consider anyone else’s.
  4. It takes the weight off one person producing for everyone. Though I thoroughly enjoy the Christmas hunt, purchase, wrap and presentation session, it is a joy I would like my family to practice as well. Especially as my kids are getting older, it will be imperative for them to learn the art of giving for their current and future relationships.
  5. It is a reminder that we all get things throughout the year… All the time!!! We can’t possibly buy EVERYthing for EVERYbody in one month… (Whoever came up with such an idea??? 🤔🤔🤔 lol!)
  6. It helps highlight the idea that the family trip is our true Christmas present. Our undivided time together and the adventures we will share will supersede any thing we could wrap and place under a tree.

As a country, the secularization of Christmas has created a “get” mentality in many of us. A lot of our giving is out of obligation vs. the genuine desire to share. Many of us go into debt to meet unrealistic expectations and fail to see the true beauty in what this amazing time of year is all about. While we will still decorate the tree and enjoy the lights and holiday music, I am hopeful to help create experiences that spread love, joy, peace and the true beauty of cheerful giving, (within a budget of course) that will help produce memories that last a lifetime. Happy Holidays to you and your family. Here’s to all the wonderful ways you choose to celebrate God’s love this holiday season! 😊😊😊😊😘😘😘

Photo: Bplans

DIY: How to Decorate a Teen Girl’s Room: A Space of Inspiration

Every child wants a place where they have ownership. A place of belonging. A place that has their distinct signature that says “ME.” It should be a place of freedom, where they can let go of their inhibitions. It should stimulate creativity and inspiration. A place where they can always feel welcomed and celebrated.

As parents, we may not be able to provide this kind of space in their classrooms, on the bus, in the locker room or even at church, but we CAN give them that space in a little corner of their world… their bedroom.

I have 2 teenagers. I recently redecorated their rooms to fit a more age appropriate palate. As they develop and evolve into the awesome young man and woman they will become, I want their décor to reflect some of the attributes I mentioned earlier; to create a place to help make their journey memorable and special for them. I was able to accomplish all of this by applying one simple rule:

CELEBRATE THEM!!! Use colors, materials, signage, posters, fabrics, bedding, rugs, pictures, initials, lights, art, trophies, medals, furniture, and ANYTHING else you can find to honor and inspire THEM!!!! THAT’S IT!!!!! I will share with you just how I did that for my daughter and also my son.

It challenged every level of my creativity to capture the complexities of my teenage daughter’s personality in one setting. (She’s an athlete, yet slightly girly, she’s an old soul, yet slightly trendy, she loves the bible, yet finds inspiration through literature and other figures she admires, etc.) However, it was fun to see it all come together.

For the first time, I didn’t paint the walls. Instead, I went with a Denim and Rustic Meets Pink and Classic theme… WHICH IS SO HER!!!!

I made a garland window treatment out of various pairs of blue jeans, lace, burlap and ribbon as a cool focal point. I did this by simply cutting the fabric and tying it to a hanging twine.

I hung my staple signage over the window to reveal a message specific to her. “BE YOU” seemed applicable so I chose metal and wood letters to drill into an old slab of barn wood.

When I couldn’t find the perfect center piece for the window, I decided to simply hang an old pair of her favorite Converse. Strange perhaps, but SO HER!!!! Under the window, I added a bench from Overstock.com for additional storage and seating and found a couple fun pillows at Ross/TJ Maxx to compliment the space.

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Though there are great teenage chairs out there, I replaced her old polka-dotted bean bag with a classic denim chair I found on sale at the Pottery Barn Outlet, and then I handmade a chunky yarn blanket as an accent to add texture.  I imagined this space being a special spot she could read or enjoy quiet time, so I hung a full-length inspirational canvas tapestry of a quote from Maya Angelou.

To compliment the proportion of her full-size bunk bed, she and I found large letters from Michaels, to spell her name. We bought sample size paint pots of various denim colors and painted and distressed each letter a different shade and added flowers around it for a nice touch.  For her bedding, I chose a simple pink cotton coverlet with lace to allow the pillows and other elements of the room to pop more.

Of course, every teenage gal needs a full-length mirror to create amazing outfits. But of course, I couldn’t let it be just any old space. In a world that constantly tells them they are not good enough, I wanted this space to be special. To add sparkle and shine, I simply used Christmas garland and décor to give this space the pizazz it needed.

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Finally, over her dresser, instead of a TV, I added a large corkboard where she could add pictures, ribbons, awards, reminders or anything of importance to her. Next to the corkboard are shelves to serve a similar purpose. This is HER space. Over time, she can add artifacts that are meaningful to her to showcase her heart. Above the corkboard are paintings from one of our favorite artists, Kelly Rae Roberts. Each piece is a portrait of a beautiful girl with beautiful colors and expressions that coincide with colors and themes I used throughout her room.

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Overall, I was thrilled to see this room come together. Teenagers are very complex. It can be challenging to capture all the beauty of their heart and mind. However, I took my time, and worked hand in hand with her to create depth and breadth that represented the essence of her spirit. When I see her in her special space, it makes my heart happy that we could create a place for her to feel free and comfortable and celebrated and respected and loved. Ideally all this energy will transfer to her heart. It will follow her into the corners of her world and every place she dwells. And she will have a bit more confidence to share that beautiful heart, mind, and spirit with the rest of her world…

Whatever the age, or gender of your child, may you capitalize on their strengths and interests and showcase all the elements that celebrate them. You don’t need a huge budget, just a way to fill their room with everything that makes them sparkle and shine!!! 🙂

Christmas Family Road Trip : 1400 Miles to the Mile-High City… Experience is the Greatest Gift…

I just had another birthday a few weeks back. Traditionally, I use this time to capitalize on a super travel experience with my husband, at which he and I whisk away to a fun destination and enjoy a few kid-less days of rest, rejuvenation, and reflection in preparation for another awesome year. We set a budget and GO!!!! Though I generally enjoy this time IMMENSELY, this year, I kinda didn’t want to be away from the kids!!! WHAAAATTTTT????!!!! Turn down a once a year getaway??!!!!!… I KNOW… I KNOW!!! They are getting older so fast… and I kinda just wanted to be with them. SO, I forfeited my 2 person trip, and turned it into a 4 person trip. HOWEVER, I STILL had to stick with the same budget. YIKES!! This made things kind of tricky. I had to stretch this budget, yet still come up with an AWESOME vacation plan.

After careful consideration and research, I decided DENVER would be the PERFECT spot. Neither of us had ever been there, and we’ve seen and heard amazing things about it. The only problem was, the flight from Atlanta to Denver x 4 consumed 90% of the budget. So, I had to again get creative… And that’s when the family road trip idea was born.

The trip would be 1400 miles which would take about approximately 21 hours by car one way!!! WHAAATTT!!!???!! That’s a total of 40+ hours on the road (not even including the driving once we got there)!!!! YIKES!!! We’ve done a 4-6 hour trip before and even broken up a 10 hour trip over 2 days… but 21 HOURS!!! OMG!!! I talked it over with my husband and then carefully presented it to the kids. They were BEYOND thrilled to not only be considered for the trip, but SO up for the ride!!!!! YAAAY!!! It was settled.

Over the next several days, we calculated gas, time, places to stop (on the way there and on the way back), and of course our anchor spot in Denver. We decided to drive our own car vs. renting one, which created so much wiggle room in the budget and gave us tons of financial flexibility. We stayed in great hotels, ate super food, shopped at great malls and boutiques, explored new terrain and enjoyed awesome adventures. We bonded. Talked. Read. Thought. Slept. And sometimes just sat in silence. Overall, we had the time of our lives. Here are some pics and details of our 10-day cross country family road trip from Georgia to Denver and all the great stops in between.

Day 1: Friday December 22, 2017: Today was the kids’ last day of school and my daughter had a basketball game that evening, so we planned to leave at night and make the most of the trip while everyone was sleeping. After the game, we shut down and secured the house, loaded up the truck, said our family prayer, and FINALLY, at nearly 11:00pm, we took off for the first 12 hours of driving.

Day 2: Saturday December 23, 2017: After 10 hours of driving, we made it to our first stop: St. Louis, Missouri. The kids woke up, we all stretched our legs and ate a nice breakfast before our 4 hour drive to Kansas City, where we stayed for the night.

Day 3: Sunday December 24, 2017: We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a nice (free) breakfast at the hotel, and a quick family walk. We then picked up some snacks, filled up the tank, and grabbed a souvenir Starbucks mug to add to my collection before starting our next 9 hours on the road. The drive was beautiful. We talked, laughed, listened to music, and reflected on the birth of Christ on our Christmas Eve drive. The kids read their books and even watched a couple Redbox movies to help the time fly by. We stopped at a Chinese Buffet to stretch our legs and fill our bellies before all the restaurants shut down for the holiday. We FINALLY made it to Denver that evening. WE WERE THRILLED the room and the area was as beautiful as it was online when we booked it. ANOTHER SCORE!!!

Day 4: Monday December 25, 2017… CHRISTMAS DAY!!!!! What a great day it was. Of course we began the day with reflection on the birth of Christ. We then enjoyed another great free breakfast and relaxing time around the hotel.

Day 5: Tuesday December 26, 2017: Today was our first real day out in Colorado. After recommendations from some of the locals, we decided to make the 30 minute trip to Boulder. We had an AWESOME time.

Day 6: Wednesday December 27, 2017… MY 41st BIRTHDAY!!!! Today, we decided to paint the town RED!!! We didn’t have a set agenda (which sometimes is the best) but we knew we were going to take the 1 1/2 ride to Breckenridge. What a super day!

Day 7: Thursday December 28, 2017: This was our last full day in Colorado and probably my FAVORITE day of the entire trip. We ventured back to Boulder to hike the Flatirons, which is are huge rock formations just east of the Rocky Mountains. The trails have the most BEAUTIFUL views of the city and are surrounded by mountains.

Day 8: Friday December 29, 2017: We packed up the truck and began the 12 hour drive to Branson, Missouri. Though it may have been a little tough to leave this awesome place, I was full from the rich experiences we had while here and happy that though we were departing, we still had a few goodies left on our journey.

Day 9: Saturday December 30, 2017: Today is officially our last day of fun off the road. We ate a super breakfast, let the kids swim a bit, and even went on a small hike while checking out the sites in Branson. It was a lite day, in preparation for an amazing night…

Day 10: Sunday December 31, 2017: It was the last day of the year and the last day on the road. We woke up early the next morning and headed back for Atlanta. I know this was a super long post, but I can’t reflect enough on the amazing time we had together. Over the years we have done the theme parks, visited beaches, lakes and mountains, voyaged on cruises, and other super destinations, however, I have to say this may just be my absolute favorite trip of them all. We bonded. We loved. We adventured. Many people that knew of our trip asked if we had family in Denver? Was there a reason for such extensive travel? The answer is no. We had a desire to see new terrain, a plan and a budget. We were fueled by the excitement of the unknown and we have memories to last a lifetime. My kids are getting older. I want to take every opportunity possible to make these moments count. While I love the idea of giving gifts and buying presents, I will cherish this amazing experience, it was my greatest gift of all…

DIY: HOLIDAY DESIGN ON A DIME

It’s December, and ‘tis the season to DECK THE HALLS!!!!! If you are like me, you have been waiting for this awesome time of year and are ready to express your excitement by giving your space a wonderful holiday facelift!!! Of course, you too have probably been bombarded with the images of homes covered in tinsel and garland from front porch to back yard, from above the stove to the bathroom in the basement!!!! How in the world can ANYONE keep up with that????  If you have been following my blog, (WHICH OF COURSE YOU SHOULD!!! 😊) you know this is only our 3rd Christmas in our current home. Though it has been SOOOO tempting to go Christmas-decoration-crazy, buying new Christmas eye candy for every room in the house, I have had to take a much more conservative approach.

Holiday decorations can be VERY costly. I’ve seen single ornaments cost as much as $21!!! Not to mention pillows and hand towels and wreaths… WHEW!!!! Decorating an entire home from scratch can cost more than all your Christmas gifts combined. And though décor is indeed an important part of any holiday experience, we can’t let it consume the majority of the holiday budget. So. I have come up with a few ways to spruce up your home without breaking the bank!

  1. Inexpensive must haves: Lights, wreaths, burlap, ribbon, and flowers are sure to give any space a holiday boost. The best part is, you can find all these items for less than $5.00 at places like Walmart, Hobby Lobby and Michaels. (SEE PICS AND DESCRIPTION)
  2. Items to build on: Instead of jumping right into the latest $300 Christmas duvet and sham set, or chunky yarn blanket, look for holiday sheets, throws and pillows. Places like Ross, TJ MAXX, Marshalls, Target and Walmart, have some very affordable options to suit any decorating style. (SEE PICS AND DESCRIPTION)
  3. The fancy stuff: Just because you want to maintain a healthy decorating budget, doesn’t mean you have to forfeit having name brand/fancy items for your home. If you see an item that you REALLLY love, wait until right after season and purchase it when it is a fraction of the cost. You may have to wait until next year to enjoy it, but it will be worth it to have it at a reasonable cost. (SEE PICS AND DESCRIPTION)

It is super tough to see the Deck the Halls XLT version on social media, in magazines, stores, and even at friends’ homes. However, one of the greatest parts of this season is the fact that it is built on memories. Whether you are in a studio apartment, have the basement floor of your mom’s house, or a 6,000-square foot home with a new family, take your time building on the traditions, decorations, gatherings and all the other beautiful things that make this season so bright. Whether cooking an amazing meal, searching for the perfect gifts or hanging ornaments on the tree, when you do it with love and to the glory of the one who gave us the greatest gift of all, it will translate to all who encounter it.  In the meantime, may you enjoy this wonderful holiday season!!!

HOW TO TEMPER YOUR TURKEY TIME… Tips to Reduce Holiday Indulgence :-)

Ok. We are just a couple days away from the incredible holiday season!!!!! Awesome days filled with joy, peace, laughter, rest, and fun. Great memories are made with all our FAVORITE things to enjoy; football, family, friends; time off work, and the best of all… SHOPPING AND EATING of course!!!! I tell you, I am an AVID Black Friday shopper!!! I will be out there with the BEST of them searching for a super steal (yeah right… do they really exist???? But I WILL be out there nonetheless!!!) and of course will enjoy a wonderful FEAST on Thanksgiving and Christmas day!!! However, I have learned over the years the good old adage “a moment on the lips, equals a lifetime on the hips” to be SOOOO appropriate during this season. We can actually apply it to not only food, but spending as well. Here are a couple ideas to consider when making choices about eating and shopping during the holidays.

For the sake of establishing my point, let’s look up the definition of 2 words. 1st indulge. Indulge simply means “to take unrestrained pleasure in.” 2nd temper. Temper means to “restrain. To serve as a neutralizing or counterbalancing force to something.” Ok. So, the teacher in me is coming out. Lol.

Here’s the deal. Holidays are a time for great indulgence. We will all be tempted and most likely give in to eating without restraint and sometimes spending without restraint. We will be welcomed REGULARLY with treats, candy, cupcakes, muffins, lattes and other goodies each day. I mean, sugar is lurking on EVERY corner! At work, church, friends’ houses, school celebrations, holiday parties, etc… The Thanksgiving Day dinner alone will be loaded with DELICIOUS appetizers, meats, sides, desserts and drinks!!! HALLELUJAH!!! And we will commence to filling our bellies until we look like the stuffed turkey lying on the platter!!! We are quick to tell ourselves… “Oh, it’s the holidays… go ahead and indulge!!” FOR SURE!!! I get it!!! IT IS THE HOLIDAYS!!!!!

We do the same thing with spending. We have Secret Santa gifts to buy, Amazon is having super sales, phones have no more memory, everyone in the family needs a SUPER-DUPER gift, and shoot, while you were out looking for your mom’s present, they had a buy one get one 20% off sale, so you had to get one for yourself as well!!!! I KNOOOOWWWWW!!!! AND… It’s the break and the kids need something to do, so why not Disney, or at least the movies, dinner, a theatre production, and ALLLLLLLLL those great goodies. Everyone is coming over to your house, so you must UPGRADE your otherwise ANCIENT Christmas décor… I KNOOOOOOOWWW!!!

This has all become the beauty of the celebration. At this point, it wouldn’t be the same without it. However, we have to get real with ourselves. We run wild during this time only to spend the next few months cleaning up the mess we made, or even worse, ignoring it. Our credit cards are smashed full and our waist takes an unrepairable hit! I can admit, I have come back from many a holiday break weighing more than 5-8lbs more than when I started!!! We drudge through to New Year’s with yet another promise to get it all back in order… uuuggghhh.

Perhaps there is a better way. Simple temperance during this time can save us a ton of headache in the months to come. How can we do this? Here are some simple ideas to help temper your spending and eating during the holidays.

Temper your eating:

  1. Treat yourself, but limit yourself to one plate only. (No 2nd’s/No doggy bags!!!)
  2. Load your plate with double the amount of veggies, salad, soups over everything else.
  3. Commit to an extra workout regime during the month of December.
  4. Don’t arrive starved. Have a healthy snack or drink 2 big glasses of water before going to any holiday party (it’s tough to overeat when you are already full!!!)
  5. Bring your own favorite healthy option to the party… EAT THAT!!! 😊

Temper your spending:

  1. Make a holiday budget based on cash vs. credit.
  2. Get creative with your gifts, décor, and recreation (cook/bake/DIY-type gifts/board games/light viewing etc.)
  3. Don’t be afraid to say NO to commitments beyond your budget.
  4. Condense gift buying (Everyone pull a name. This is the person you will buy for this year.)
  5. BUY USED (You can always give gently used video games, books, toys etc. instead of the brand-new version)

I KNOW. I KNOW. This all seems to take the fun out of the experience, BUT ultimately, you have to get your mind, will and emotions in check. Let them know who’s in charge!!! If you make it a practice to operate in discipline during the most DIFFICULT of situations, there is no temptation you can’t completely obliterate!!! You can DO THIS!!! Trust me, your waistline and bank account will be much better off because you used wisdom and restraint. In the meantime, remember what this season is all about. Though you have a heart to give the most and best, though you want to enjoy great memories and times with loved ones, it will be much more enjoyable today and tomorrow when it is done with love and self-control.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOUR CREW!!! 🙂

 

Photo cred: Pinterest

DIY #9: HOW WE MADE OUR OWN WALKWAY…

Well here we go! If you’ve been following my blog, (which you SHOULD of course!!! 🙂 ) you know that my family and I had a home built in the North Georgia mountains about 2 years ago. We had an awesome builder, however, he did not include a walkway that led from our driveway to the front door. For a while that had been fine, however, after a very rainy season, and the grass not quite growing in yet, the water began to wash the dirt from the mountain onto our “rock” walkway. Of course, this meant that my kids, my dog and everyone else that came over were dragging mud or dirt ALL over the house!!! Uuuggghhh!!! We immediately contacted our builder who gave us a price ($3000-$3500) to complete the task. Though this seemed to be a bit steep, we set up a budget, a date and were excited to get underway.  Unfortunately, we waited, and waited and waited to no avail. DOUBLE UUUGGGGHHH!!!! Sooooo, I sat with a couple girlfriends one afternoon, and during our “girl talk” (if you could ever imagine) we discussed the idea and the “ease” of using pavers to create a beautiful walkway. “THAT’S IT!!!!!” I thought!!! I could go to Home Depot and price out some super pavers and as always… DO IT MYSELF!!!!

Though Home Depot offered an amazing variety of paver options, I counted up the cost, and it was waaaaaaaay too high. So, after searching on Amazon, I found the Quikrete Brick Walk Maker!!! It was PERFECT!!! Now this was something I could do! Use the molding to create a pathway!!! I ordered the mold for $24.99 and while waiting the couple days it took to get here, I looked on YouTube and studied the materials I needed and created a configuration that would work best for us. Simple right????? UUUMMMM…. NOT QUITE!!! Considering the area we had to cover, this was quite an adventure, and after 3 months, our walkway is finally complete. While we are certainly LOVING the results, I decided to put this blog together to help guide you through our personal process to help avoid the bumps along the way. Here are the 3 steps we took:

  1. The first step was to use the mold to create the bricks. We used a 60lb bag of quikrete. I bought an $8 mixing tub for mixing and an $8 trowel to level the mix and of course kept my hose very close to make the necessary consistency. It would seem you should over fill the mold with mix in order to create a thick/strong brick. That is not true. Fill the mold, but don’t over-stuff it. This will make the top of the brick uneven. Some people rent a concrete mixer for this part. Though that would come in SUPER handy, we did it the old-fashioned way, with a shovel. Let each mixture set for 5-10 minutes and carefully remove the mold. We proceeded to mix the next bag of concrete while the current one was setting. That helped keep the pace going smoothly. Repeat this process for each brick. Be sure to line the mold next to the prior brick in order to accomplish a patterned walk. Don’t be afraid to add curves as long as the distance isn’t too far from the adjoining brick.

2.  Once you have designed your configured path or patio, you can prepare to prime and stain your bricks. I love this part of the project, because there is a super selection of colors and shades you can select from. Go to the paint/stain section of your local Home Depot to choose the color that works best for your space. Many people add dye to the bricks while mixing the concrete. I like staining afterwards because it is MUCH more cost effective and gives you a greater selection. The prime and stain manufacturers advise you to wait 30 days until your concrete has cured before starting this process. We didn’t quite wait the full 30 days, but perhaps at least 15 worked for us. We primed first and stained it a charcoal color one day later. The prime goes on easy. I used a paint brush, but you can use a roller as well. You really can’t mess this part up, so enjoy this opportunity to be creative.

3.  Finally, once the stain is the shade/tint you like, you can add the SAKRETE PermaSand for a “grout” effect. We found this item at Home Depot as well, however, it was quite costly at $20 per container. Because we had so many bricks to fill, I could have easily used 8-10 of these. However, I decided to buy Quikrete sand topping mix for the bottom portion as a filler. I poured the sand in the grooves of the bricks to about half way. And THEN added the Permasand as a sealer on the top portion. I then swept it into the cracks. The directions will tell you to use a leaf blower to remove all excess sand from the surface. We did that and lightly watered the sand and watched it harden. This was a great part of the process because you can see the contrast of the grout and the color of the bricks. It is a great signal that the project is almost complete.

Once the grout has dried, you can enjoy your paver patio/walkway etc… Contrary to my initial plan, this is not an overnight project. It is indeed labor intensive, but I admit that most of the job was done by me and my 14 year old daughter in 90 degree temperatures. If we can do it, surely you can. The key is making sure you take your time. Do not rush this process. Loading the quikrete concrete itself has to be done in stages (depending what car/truck you have) because you don’t want to ruin your struts. Mixing that mix is tough and doing too much in one day, can put undo strain on your back. TAKE IT SLOW. When done well, it will be a super cool project you can enjoy and reflect on for years to come!!!!

SWIPER NO SWIPING!!!! A New Year’s Resolution Suggestion…

Looking for a great resolution for 2017????? What if: you decided that starting 2017 you will live debt free? What if you cut up your credit cards and decided to make all purchases with cash/debit/check only, got out of debt and stayed out???? Sounds difficult I know.

My awesome pastor taught a series at church WAAAAAY back in 1998 about living a life free of debt, maintaining a budget and basing your spending on one salary (after tithes and offering). Since 1998, my husband and I made the decision to tithe and give offerings faithfully, live on his salary alone and to not charge or finance another item ever again. With the exception of a mortgage, (we have a payoff plan for that too!!! Lol!!!) we have maintained those goals without compromise… not for a car, my master’s degree, furniture, vacations, jewelry, clothing… NOTHING. It took a TON of sacrifice, delayed gratification, buying used, and strategic budgeting… But I tell you, we have never missed a beat, never gone without and have gained the true freedom to do exactly what we are called to do.

Many people ask me how I retired at age 37? How we were able to pack up and build a home in the mountains, travel regularly, buy a brand-new car in cash, give generously, etc… It really doesn’t make much natural sense. My husband and I come from low income families. Both of us grew up on welfare. When people see us now, they would never know. I am careful to share our story with others because our success is not based on traditional methods of education, intellect, some great investing scheme. We didn’t collect an inheritance, win a settlement etc…

Simply put, His ways are higher than ours. We’re not perfect, and never claim to be. But He is… When we were led to live debt-free, we simply obeyed. And God simply provided. I dare you to trust Him with your finances… With EVERYTHING!!!! You will soar to places beyond your dreams!!! I hope this blesses someone today… Happy New Year!!!! 🙂

DIY: #2 Chalkboard Panels: Operation Decorate the New House on a Budget in Full Affect!!!!

If you haven’t read my prior posts (boy, you are missing out!!! :-)), I will remind you that we recently downsized and built a new home and are tasked with decorating it on a very tight budget. Ok, so I admit that this was among the first projects I completed. I finished it in October, however, it is probably one of my favorite pieces and I must say we use it daily. It is a panel of chalkboards. They are HUGE and take up most of the wall in our dining room. I know there are a ton of chalkboard models out there, but this was an original piece to accommodate an interesting space, so my husband and I kinda winged most of the project in order to figure out our unique design and all for the less than $75.

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We went to Home Depot and purchased 4 chalkboard panels. They were $10 each. On the same trip, we measured the perimeter of the chalkboard and had them cut several pieces of thin wood to attach to each panel. We also cut a large piece of wood to act as the base for the piping. Later we came back with new measurements to purchase the piping and flanges to attach the panels to the board. Our dilemma was, how to hang the chalkboard panels to the piping. We scoured Ace Hardware and found some clamps with screws that allowed the panels to hang.

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Once I stained the wood for the perimeter and painted the wood to use as a base, I charged my husband with the difficult task of drilling it all to the wall. That may have been the most challenging part as once all panels, perimeters, clamps and screws were attached, they were hung by one piece of plumbing pipe…and they were extremely heavy!!! YIKES!!!  My husband used his bulging biceps to miraculously drill the loaded pipe into the wall… and VOILA!!!!! Our newest replacement to sticky notes and refrigerator magnets!!!

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I use the panels daily to write reminders, words of encouragement, scriptures, weekly menus…you name it!!! I think the kids feel really special when they wake up to a sweet note left especially for them. Not to mention a welcome note to guests when they visit. One of my FAVORITE projects to date!!!! 🙂

“I Want to be a Baller’s Wife!!!!!”

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“I want to be a baller’s wife!!!” I remember this being a common response from my female students when discussing future endeavors post high school. With so many opportunities, talents and gifts the girls had before them, I was disappointed that they were reduced to this option.

Oh, what is a baller’s wife you say? Well, I’m no Webster or anything, so don’t quote me on this, but my definition would be: an opportunist, a woman who latches on to a man at the height of his career with hopes of optimal gain.  This idea really bothered me, especially with the continual images on cable TV of seemingly wealthy women living a life of excessive glamour, fame, prestige and drama. I guess I can’t direct all my frustration on the Housewives of Atlanta (or the like), when Disney and other big name production companies have been pumping our heads with these images for decades. The Cinderella story, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty… the idea that somehow a man is going to sweep an otherwise distressed damsel out of her misery. Save her. Take her on his white horse and whisk her off to a life of wealth, ease, and happiness.

Well, what’s so bad about this? I mean a man is supposed to be the provider, the protector. He is supposed to take care of his wife and children right? Of course he is, however the baller’s wife leaves women burdening the man with excessive provision. Burdening the man with rescuing her from all her problems. Burdening the man with relief from debt and other financial stressors. If we consider God’s plan for man and woman, it would change the entire trajectory of the mate selection process.

First of all, a man should have his stuff together. He should know his purpose in this life. After careful examination of his gifts and talents (over several years) and close relationship with God, he should know what he is called to do. Every step he makes after high school should line up with him getting closer to that calling. Unfortunately, men too, are inundated with the overwhelming requirements to gain status, wealth and a name. They settle for a goal with monetary reward vs the goal of fulfilling the call on their life. Ultimately this leaves him to a life of complacency, regret, envy and lack of true accomplishment.

God knew that men would struggle with accomplishing their true purpose alone, so he created a woman. A woman is called to be a help mate. One who will work hand in hand with her husband to help him achieve the call on his life. They then, would enjoy success, fulfillment, wealth, and wisdom from the journey together. There is grace on this plan. Though it is contrary to popular belief, it works. If a woman was working on herself spiritually, emotionally, educationally, financially, getting her stuff together, she would not need a man to rescue her. She would be willing, and able to provide her husband with the help that he needed. Unfortunately, if a husband is distracted from his calling to perform the tasks of paying off his wife’s debt, working around her insecurities and making sure she is whole, he can’t possibly be all he is called to be. He is forced to use his entire check/salary to feed her whims. Her desires for $400 purses and drawers of makeup and racks of shoes used to fulfill her deeply rooted insecurities that are camouflaged as desires/needs. Unfortunately, this never works so it is wasted effort.

After 17 years of marriage, I guess some could say I appear to a baller’s wife. My husband is a robotics engineer, and a minister of music. He works from home, earns a nice salary and has provided a comfortable life for my children and me.  The difference is… He didn’t wake up like this!!! Lol. I met him in college. We were married soon thereafter and all the while, I have been by his side, hand and hand, helping him to make decisions that help lead him to his goals. Helping him with the behind the scenes tasks that allow him to shine. As he pursues the Word, he has all the components that allow him to fulfill his dreams with ease, which ultimately benefits us all. They say behind every great man, is an amazing woman. I believe that to be true. And any married woman can attest to the idea that her husband probably couldn’t put a good looking outfit together without her help.

My main point is for women to understand that they are designed to help their mate. It is not the other way around. The provision that a man will provide is a benefit of him reaching his true potential. But he needs you to help him do it. Often times, we are so willing to put the attention, time, care, effort into the visions of our bosses at work, in order to help him/her fulfil their vision for the company, yet we are reluctant to help our own husbands. Help him. Your efforts are not in vain. They will not go unnoticed. Whether you are a stay at home mom holding down the fort, or you help pack your husband’s lunch each day, help fill out resumes, or make necessary sacrifices for him to go back to college, there is grace on your ability to help him become all he is called to be.

While the Cinderella story, the woman standing on the sidelines at the basketball game, or the ladies on the hot reality TV shows seem glamorous, if you study them carefully they are merely a facade. A complete counterfeit of God’s real plan. We should strive to become all God has called us to be, so we can help our mates become all they are called to be. Together, with God at the head, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. There is no enemy or weapon formed against us that can prosper. And THEN, the happily ever after can commence… 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

DIY: Operation Decorate/Accessorize New House on a Budget in Full Affect!!!

So…we have been here for little under a year; our cabin retreat in the mountains. We sold all of the furniture from our last home which means we are completely starting from scratch with furniture, accessories etc… I love the challenge of that because, not one piece of furniture from our last home would physically fit in here, but it also wouldn’t stylistically fit either. The style and size are TOTALLY different. I love that I am able to put my unique stamp on this new home and take it one room at a time. I do have a small “renovation budget” if you will, (and I do mean SMALL) so I have to make each dime of that stretch. I love that challenge as well because it forces me to get creative.  This home is a custom build. Most every square foot of it was made by one’s hands, so I must admit, I am merely accentuating the beauty that is already here. Not to mention, we are smack dab on the top of a mountain, which needs no accentuation what’s so ever…

My latest piece is a barn wood sign over my master bedroom window. I plan to create a sign with a personal phrase over each major window in all the rooms. Interestingly, they all face the mountain so therefore my goal is to put a cherry on top of each amazing ice cream sundae.

This is our master bedroom. After careful consideration, I chose the phrase right out of the bible: 1 Corinthians 13:13 … but the greatest of these is love. I toyed with other ideas, but love is a theme throughout our home and I thought what better place to reference love than directly from the scripture.

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I went to the local antique junk yard and bought an old 8ft piece of barn wood.

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I painted it white. However, I wanted the wood to show through, so I added water to the paint to thin it out a bit. wp-1460700113866.jpeg

I then ordered some rusted metal letters from Etsy (LOVE LOVE LOVE ETSY!!!). I considered the size and wording and ordered accordingly.

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Once the letters arrived, the greatest task was measuring. My husband and I measured the size of the letters against the length of the (uneven) board and glued them accordingly. I attempted to hot glue them, however that did not work, so we used industrial strength wood glue to attach the letters to the board.

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After the letters dried, we finally drilled the sign to the wall. In order to maintain the integrity of the old wood, we used the holes that were already in the wood and successfully drilled it in. And Voila!!!!… our finished product!!! 🙂

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