Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Coin "Tiled" Mirror Frame

During our snow days a few weeks ago, I finished a project that I've been planning to do for a while.

Several months ago, I bought an IKEA mirror at the Goodwill.  It looks something like the one below, except with a completely flat frame.  When I bought it, it was turquoise, which although lovely, was a bit brighter than what I wanted.  So I spray painted it antique gold, then lightly with a silvery champagne color and hung it up.  I've been wanting to bring more silvery tones into my living room, but it just didn't look good.  I liked the shape, but not the color.  Also, the flat frame just looked too contemporary for my shabby chic/junk market/aspiring Miss Mustard Seed-style living room.  So I left it on the wall and just felt cranky and confused whenever I looked at it :).
SONGE Mirror, silver color Diameter: 28 3/8 "  Diameter: 72 cm
One day, one of my friends, Genevieve, hemmed and hawed, finally summoning up her courage to tell me: "Uh--promise you won't be offended--but I think that mirror doesn't look so good there..." We do decorating projects together and bounce ideas off each other all the time, so this wasn't completely out of the blue, but it was pretty bold of her to say.

I laughed in surprise--I wasn't at all offended, and we we brainstormed about what to do with the mirror.  Then Genevieve, genius that she is, reminded me of my plan to do a table top of international money something like the penny counter I had pinned a few months ago.  What about putting the money on the frame?


 I knew this was a good plan instantly.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  By the way, this technique would work on any other flat surface (picture frame? small table? etc.?) you want to cover with coins.  The guy at nubcakes.blogspot.com used resin and a framed counter, but I knew I didn't have the time to do a project that was quite that intense/messy/smelly/required somehow adding a lip to contain the resin all around the edge of a round mirror.  

So I went with what I had on hand (or could borrow from Genevieve).  I absolutely loved how it turned out.  

Pretty cool-looking, right?  Despite the lame pictures?  I need to invest in some better equipment for taking low-light interior photographs in Washington. A light scoop?  A tripod?  (Gulp) a different lens?  I am not exactly experiencing sun-drenched rooms this winter.

Anyway, technical difficulties and insecurities aside, here is the tutorial:

Other than a surface to decorate (flat mirror frame?  picture frame? etc.?), you'll need:

  • Silicone adhesive (I used Dap Clear Silicone Rubber Sealant)Mod Podge CS11245 8-Ounce Glue, Hard Coat
  • Modgepodge Hard Coat
  • Foam brush
  • Lots and lots of coins (more than you think you'll need--I was literally raiding my kids' piggy banks--I did pay them back, don't worry...)
Step 1.  Arrange your money on the surface in whatever way pleases you.  I kind of sprinkled all the international money evenly around, making sure to make the silver/copper balance roughly even, then filled in with American money.  Incidentally, I put all the American money heads down unless it had a year that was significant to our family (birth years, year my husband were married, years we graduated from high school, etc.).  My kids liked helping me find coins that had special years on them.

Step 2.  After you have it all arranged to your satisfaction, start using the adhesive to stick the coins on.  You might experiment with how much sealant you need.  I found about a pea-sized dollop was about right for a dime--more for larger coins.  Do all the coins.  It took me about two hours to do all of mine spaced out over a day or so.

Step 3.  When you think you are done, pick up your frame and turn it upright.  If you are like me, a few coins will fall down because you forgot to glue them.  Better to find this out later than never.

Step 4a.  Let the sealant dry.  I left it overnight just to be safe.  Then break out your Modge Podge Hard Coat and foam brush.  Brush a generous coat over the top and between the coins.  Don't worry if it looks a bit gloppy (see picture below).  It will dry just fine (see other pic below).  Just spread it all out there.  I was a little conservative around the edges, though--I didn't want any drips.

Step 4b.  Let the first coat dry completely.  Then add two more coats, letting them dry thoroughly between coats.  Voila!  You will be done and have a unique, valuable (har har) home accessory to be proud of.

A few braggy pictures:



Let me know if you try this technique.  I'd love to hear how your project turns out!

I'm linking up to:
Home Stories A2Z

Not Just a Housewife's Show Me What Ya Got

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Portland Getaway

Hello one and all,

The snow melted--and just in time.  We've had a weekend getaway to Portland planned for a few months, and were hoping/praying for clear roads.

Aaron's been hankering (yes, hankering) to see Jimmer Ferdette play some basketball in the pros, and since Seattle doesn't have a pro team anymore (sniff, sniff), the Portland Trailblazers are the closest we can get.  We stayed over night at a hotel downtown (thank you, Hotwire).  The kids loved swimming in the pool Monday morning.

We had a great day eating at some fun restaurants, shopping a little and doing some fun things for the kids.  Aaron and the kids went to the game with his brother and our nephew, and Lucy and I went to Target (a pitiful lack of imagination, I know) and picked them up when it was over.

All in all, a great little mini getaway.  And I've got the pictures to prove it :).

Sawyer didn't want to come in the pool at all.  Here Sophie is trying to convince him that the water's fine...

He had a great time throwing the ball around and lurking poolside. We probably need to get this kid some more swimming lessons.  He needs to feel the fear and swim anyway :).

 Lukas in midflight.  Most of my pictures of him are blurry.  His nickname is Forrest, because everywhere he goes, he's a'runnin'.

Lucy and Aaron exchanging some loves.

We ate breakfast at Tasty and Sons.  The food was scrumptious.  I forgot to take pictures of it because I was too busy eating...

 The interior of Tasty and Sons has a cool, urban loft vibe.  Loved it.

We stopped by the Doc Marten store.  I haven't been to a dedicated Docs store since I used to go to the one (now closed) in Covent Garden when we lived in London.  I deliberated about some pewter flats, ultimately deciding no, and took a picture of these gorgeous cushions.  I think Sarah from Modern Country Style has one in her dining room. I may have to shamelessly copy this style and make one for our family room.

 Cool old building.  I am a sucker for them!  This one was for sale, and I had a fun time imagining what it looked like inside, and how if money were no object, I could convert it into a block of posh flats.  Yes, I know I'm a little strange.... :)

 Lucy on the swings.  You can't tell, but she is actually swinging in this picture.  She is the most daring baby we've had and loves to go high on the swings.  Heaven help me!

 Damon performing feats of skill and strength.

 Sophie taking the shorter but harder path into the playground.  She's so cute.  And I really wish her jacket came in my size--isnt' it darling?

 We have been hemming and hawing about tile design for our master bathroom shower.  We stopped into Ann Sacks tile and saw this display.  Both of us love it.  Miracle!  I'm not sure if this color scheme is the one we will go with, but at least this is progress.  Woo hoo!

We ate lunch at Hot Lips Pizza and couldn't resist an opportunity to ham it up.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  Sawyer had a great time with this pulley and in the water engineering area (as you can tell from his shirt).

Cool view from OMSI out to the Columbia River at twilight.

Over and out,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snow Days

One of the great things about living in Western Washington is that it doesn't snow very often.  The weather is rainy, sure, but it is also blessedly mild.  You can practically wear the same clothes all year, just adding a jacket when it gets cooler and subtracting it when it gets warmer.

However, when it does snow, everything grinds to a halt.  Most cities do not have snowplows, you see.  It's probably hard to justify expensive equipment that you typically only need once a year at most.  Without snowplows, and with temperatures that are usually trampolining around freezing, it means that the snow on the roads melts during the day and then freezes at night.  The treacherous road conditions are compounded because so many drivers are inexperienced snow drivers.  Really, once it starts snowing, it is better to just stay home if you possibly can.  People try to keep enough groceries on hand so they won't need to go to the store.  After that, you kind of burrow in for a few days.  It kind of reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder's description of her childhood winters in Little House in the Big Woods.

Little House in the Big Woods Book and Charm (Charming Classics)

As a child growing up in the 19-80's, snow meant tuning into a special AM radio station where the announcer would read off all the school districts and whether they were cancelled or delayed.  Delayed meant school would start a few hours late--which was better than nothing.  But cancelled is what you really wanted. Cancelled school meant a surprise holiday with built-in entertainment in the form of playing in the snow.

In addition to school cancellations, most activities that are not essential just get cancelled when there has been any kind of snow accumulation.  So snow in Western Washington means you have an excuse to stay home and get cozy.  Sigh.  Staying home and getting cozy is my favorite thing to do no matter what the weather.  So what could be better?  

My parents live in a semi-rural area, so snow storms when I was growing up often meant power outages.  We heated our home with a wood stove, so we were still warm even if the power went out.  We could cook on the wood stove as well--we had one memorable Thanksgiving where had to cook our turkey we on the top of our wood stove (moistest ever, by the way).  It was both cozy and fun to feel like we really were Laura Ingalls Wilder, stuck at home because of the snow, cooking on a wood stove.  Although maybe my mom has different feelings about those power outages...

My family had a great day yesterday.  The kids who were old enough spent the day playing in the snow with friends, coming in to de-thaw, then going out again.  It's was like a party out there with all the neighborhood kids coming out to play in the snow.  Usually, the wet weather means everyone in the neighborhood digs into their houses like moles and we don't see each other until the Spring.  I enjoyed the luxury of not having to go anywhere for a change, and just plain puttered: helping the kids, doing laundry, making copycat Great Harvest bread, making homemade bread crumb mixture out of leftover pita bread, cleaning the kitchen, making granola and decorating a mirror frame for my living room.  I love puttering around my house, and snow days let me do it to my heart's content.  Here's a sneak peek of what I'm doing to my mirror frame:

We learned some important things yesterday.  For example, Nutella hot chocolate is delicious.  And Washington snow is much wetter than Utah snow.  Playing with friends is fun.  Taking some extra time to love my home and get caught up on chores makes me feel happy.

We lived in Utah for about 15 years.  There, snow is an expected and regular part of winter.  For the most part, life goes on as usual, and it just means inconvenience--only extreme weather gives you a break.  I'm grateful to live where I do and to have an excuse to slow down and enjoy my family and home once in a while.  Thank you, Mother Nature.

And today?

It's another snow day.  Oh yeah.   

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Year

This year started a little strangely because of my Dad's stroke.  I think my whole family feels like we are in limbo emotionally.  One of my sons summed it up when he said, "I keep wondering if I'm going to come home from school one day and I'll find out that Grandpa died."  So there we are--needing to go about our daily routine, but feeling preoccupied with our worry for my Dad.

He's been transferred to a skilled nursing facility closer to my parents' home (but farther away from me).  They are hoping that being somewhere a little more low-key will allow him to rest and get more energy so he will have the strength to do more aggressive physical therapy and get some mobility back on his left side.  We are all hoping he can get stronger so he can get better.  He's made a little bit of encouraging progress this week, so I hope he can continue on that upward path.

I've realized that I do need to go about my normal life as much as possible just to keep myself emotionally healthy for my kids (and for myself).  For me, that includes making some goals and resolutions and plans for the new year.

I usually am not a person who likes to tell other people about my plans and goals.  I guess it's mostly because I prefer to have my failures be private affairs :).  But I think it is useful to list a few things I'm planning this year in different dimensions of my life.  A little accountability might be good for me.  So here goes:

  • Be more conscious of what and how much I'm eating.  I need to treat my body better, and overeating/eating junk makes me feel tired and cranky.  Food cannot solve my problems (except maybe chocolate...;) ).  I'm using a great iphone app called My Fitness Pal to track my food/water intake.  LOVE it.
  • Do 30 minutes of heart healthy exercise a day--either take the kids on a brisk walk to the park or do some cardio with DVDs or the Wii.
  • Do as many sit-ups and push-ups as I can in a row before getting into the shower.  My husband did that all year last year, and it is amazing how that couple of minutes really does make a difference in terms of muscle tone.  I know it is not a perfectly balanced strength plan, all you awesome exercisers out there, but doing something is much better than doing nothing.  Ah hem.  "Nothing" being where I am right now in terms of strength training.
  • Continue reading the scriptures and praying daily.  I just feel better and live better when I do.  In the immortal words of M.C. Hammer, "You've got to pray just to make it today."  Storytime: One of my friends gave another friend that quote in vinyl lettering on a cute wooden block as a joke birthday present.  It was HI-larious.  The thought is true, of course :).
  • Organize one area in my home at a time, starting with the most problematic area first and working methodically.  I've already posted about my chicken-with-its-head cut off approach to doing lots of things, and it's not really working organizationally.  At all.  I'm starting with my laundry room.  It was clean for about 2 days in October, but it is pretty much back to this again.

    Ugh.  Kind of overwhelming, but one step at a time, right?  I'm babystepping, I'm babystepping as I sort through my clutter...


    • Decorate one area at a time.  I am starting with my living room, since that's the one I notice when I walk in and the one I've been working on, anyway.  Starting on a project that is already half-way done is always a shot in the arm. Incidentally, why is a shot in the arm a good thing, anyway? Ouch...  

    Here's a sneek peek of a few things I've been doing in there already:


    • Brainstorm with my husband about what is most important for each child right now and work on doing that thing.  For example, one of my kids is feeling kind of insecure about his/her abilities despite the fact that he/she is a great kid and very talented.  We need to concentrate on helping this child feel good about him/herself--giving him/her opportunities to shine, give lots of positive feedback about his/her abilities and talents right now.  Look for the good things and compliment him/her.  Anyway, you get the idea.  Each of our kids has unique needs and this will help us focus on meeting those needs.
    • Figure out a reasonable system that encourages our kids to be more responsible and self-motivated with their chores, homework, etc.  I've considered the Eyres' approach (in a nutshell, after the age of 8 kids "earn" money toward essential things--if they don't fulfill their responsibilities, they don't get money for clothes, activities, eating out, etc.), but I'm still torn about whether kids should be paid to do work for the family.  Hmmmmm. 


    • Start a book group.  I had the very best book group in Utah with some dear friends, and I miss them (and it) so much.  However, long-distance book groups don't work that well, and I know that having a focus for my reading and people to discuss it with makes me happy and will help me make and strengthen friendships.
    • Put a little more thought and effort into date night.  We do go out every weekend (one of the joys of having kids with such a large spread of ages is that we have built-in babysitters), but sometimes the only thing I know for sure is that I want to go somewhere away from my house, without my kids

    Well, I think those are enough to start with, don't you?  I'm excited to be working towards some positive outcomes for myself and our family.

    What about you guys?  Have you set any resolutions you feel like sharing?  Or are you like I normally am and keeping your resolutions close to the vest?

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    My Dad's Hands

    A (blurry) picture of a picture of my family when I was about 5 or so.  You can see my Dad's hand on my shoulder.
    A few days ago, I received a call from my mom at about 10 p.m.  She was at the hospital with my Dad.  He had a stroke as they were leaving the women's minimum security prison where they do church work and was rushed to the hospital.

    He was transferred to a big hospital in Seattle that night.  The clot of blood in his brain that caused the stroke had burst.  Now it is just a matter of keeping his blood pressure down, waiting for his body to absorb the excess, and hoping that he can heal.  His left side has been greatly affected--he can't wiggle his toes or fingers, move his arm or foot, or feel touch on his left side.  He is very, very tired, and his speech is slurred.  He can't eat normally yet, and gets most of his calories via a feeding tube that gives him what the nurses jokingly call "chocolate milkshake."  

    His doctors and nurses are very capable and kind, and between my mom, my brother and my nephew, he has had around-the-clock care.

    I've been to visit him three times so far.  The first day, I felt fine.  In fact, I felt bad that upon leaving the hospital, my thoughts immediately turned to what I should make for dinner for my family.  How can a person simultaneously cope with something huge and be worried about dinner at the same time?

    The second day, what is going on really hit me for the first time.  When I came in his room, he woke up a little.  As I approached his bed, he reached for my hand with his right hand and pressed it to his lips.  I sat down next to him, and tried to make small talk as he held my hand.  He made a couple of jokes in his slurred speech about how he's felt better, and then grew quiet.  His eyes were on me, although he seemed to be struggling to focus.  Finally, his eyelids started to close and he fell asleep.  

    He fell asleep holding my hand. 

    We held hands as he napped, and I looked at his hand on mine.  The IV tape made the skin under it look whiter and smoother than the rest of the skin on his hand and arms.  I let my mind wander.

    When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by my Dad's hands and arms.  They were so much bigger than mine, first of all.  I remember when my whole fist could fit curled up with his big hand all around it.  His hands could  do amazing things like drive a nail in a board with one blow of his hammer, but still manage to do gentle things like deftly remove slivers from my toes when I spent much of the summer barefoot.  

    Dad's arms were always so strong.  When he came home from work, we ran to meet him and jumped all over him like a pack of playful wolves.  After we grew tired of the tickling and play wrestling, he sometimes caved into our demands that he flex his muscles.  When he did, all four of us hung onto his biceps, trying with our little fingers to flatten his muscles.  It never worked, but that was okay--we all ended up in a heap of giggles, so proud of our papa's strength.  When he would give hugs, they were big, strong hugs that blew half the wind right out of you.

    The other thing that made his arms interesting to me as a kid was his tattoo on his right forearm.  I know tattoos have become so common that they are pretty ho-hum these days, but when I was growing up, tattoos were somewhat rare and spoke of rebellion and a checkered past--both kind of fascinating to contemplate, especially in your own dad.  On warm summer days, I liked to watch him fold up his long shirt sleeves carefully to 3/4 length--about 2 1/2 times--just enough that you could just see his tattoo peeking out under his cuff on his forearm.  It always made me smile/snicker to hear little children see his tattoo and ask, "What's that?" and then hear his classic reply, "That's a mistake.  It's just a mistake."

    Dad worked outside in the days long before sunscreen was a given.  He wasn't a shirt-off kind of hooligan when he worked, so that meant he always had a ragin' farmer's tan.  When we went swimming as a family, we kids were always amazed at the impossible contrast between his forearm and his upper arm.  He always pretended to think it was funny when we teased him about it. 

    Maybe some of the most tender memories I have of my father's hands are when he would hold each of my newborns with such gentleness and expertise.  He liked to hold the babies in front of him and look in their eyes, talking to them in a quiet voice.  When my oldest was born, we were actually living with my parents since the baby was due right after the end of a school semester and before we were heading off to an overseas internship in Germany.  When Brendan was finally born, he was fussy and I was inexperienced--we were a pitiful pair.  My Dad had just had a hip replacement, so he was something of a captive audience.  He would willingly hold Brendan on his lap, and gently keep his binky in his mouth so I could grab a quick shower and feel sort of human again.    

    His doctors can probably cite cases like his where patients have experienced recovery, but also those who have not.  I feel like at minimum, our family has been put on notice, and it is a blessing to be able to have more time with him.  However, if this is his time to go, I feel ready to say good-bye if I need to.  I love him, and he loves me.  We have a little understanding, the two of us...  

    And I know that this is not the end for him or for our family--he's just closer than we are to a glorious beginning.  He is truly in God's hands.

    In the meantime, his hand still feels warm and comforting as it holds mine.  I don't know what the next weeks and months will bring, but for now, that is enough.