Monday, November 29, 2010

Chalkboard Paint-oh how I love thee!

I have a new obsession. It is chalkboard paint. I want to put it on everything. Well, not really everything but I'm sure Fred feels that way. He thinks I've gone crazy since the last few projects I've done involve chalkboards in some way. I just really think there are some creative things you can do with it, and after perusing the Internet I've seem some inspiring ideas and am just itching to try them.

But for now I am sharing with you my two most recent chalkboard paint creations.

This project was used for Mason's birthday party. I originally wanted to make a sign digitally but being so busy it just wasn't coming together. On one of my many shopping trips to Target, I came across this mirror in the clearance section. It was bright magenta and just really awful looking, but it was only $2 and I thought, I can just spray paint the pink white and make this a chalkboard. Which is exactly what I did. (After it was all done I thought that I should have gotten some before pictures to show the transformation, but you live and learn). I thought it would take many coats to cover that pink and Fred didn't think it would stick to the plastic but it only took two and worked great. And the chalkboard paint worked perfectly on the glass. I know I have to be careful cause it still is glass and breakable which is why it will have a permanent home in my craft room. The sign worked great for Mason's party and now I can use it for jotting down ideas for scrapbooking and other crafts.

This one came about after some creative Internet searching. I've seen these mini clipboards at A.C. Moore and just thought they were so cute and wanted to buy some but not sure of what to do with them other than use them as mini clipboards (which, yeah that would be cute), but I wanted something a little more creative. So I stumbled upon this post about travel clipboard chalkboards she made her children. While she used regular size clipboards, I immediately thought of the mini ones and ran out to grab one and give it a try.

For both of these projects, I decided to use the chalkboard spray paint as opposed to the regular paint. Seeing as I didn't have much luck with the magnetic paint I tried in my craft room. It doesn't hold anything and is really a worthless brown section on my wall. Most people said the spray paint for these small projects works better and I have to say it worked perfectly. I am impressed with how well it covered and how easily it was to make just about anything a chalkboard.

As always, Mason had a say in the details. He gets so excited over my projects and is so eager to help with anything these days. I love that attitude about him. He picked out this owl paper and it's been sitting in a special place for months. I thought this would be the perfect project to use it, because eventually I know it would make it into his hands and he would be able to draw on it, practice writing on it and keep himself busy in boring situations. Well at least that was my hope. But mostly I intended to use this idea as a memo board to jot down messages, a phone number, etc.

To make this, I unscrewed the metal clip and set it aside. Then I spray painted the entire clipboard. I used two coats and alternated the direction of spray. That is key to making sure you have a smooth, even surface. Then I let it sit for 24 hours. Once dry, I measured and cut the paper and attached it with adhesive. Then Mason helped pick out the ribbon (orange of course). I ran it through my xyron sticker maker and attached it. Then I gave it and the paper a once over with Mod Podge. The felt owl came as a sticker and I added that last. I tied a pieced of chalk to string that was tied to the metal clip I reattached once the board was dry. Mason promptly broke the chalk in half. The directions tell you to condition the paint by covering the surface once over with the chalk and then erasing, which I did, but I think on larger surfaces that would be too difficult and really messy. I think it would work just fine even if you skip this step.

I think it came out rather nice. I just need to find a place to properly hang it where Fred won't look at it and go nuts, that it is just one more thing hanging up in the house. Maybe I should just leave it in the car for Mason to use. Either way I think it came out nice and I totally plan on making some more.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

November Thankful

This year I got so busy, I didn't participate in the daily November Thankful as I did last year. I loved documenting the little things I was thankful for each day, but I feel there is a need to take a different approach. Why do I wait till November to reflect upon the gifts I have been given in this life, to be grateful for who I am and what I have? I recently got the Live Creative eZine from Christine Kane. In it she talks about Gratitude as being a way of life, a practice. This is how I have been feeling lately; a want, a need to live a life of Gratitude. I want to be more aware of what is around me, to really be here in the present moment. Stop worrying about my past or what my future might hold. To be my own validator of my life and stop worrying about what others are doing, or how my life compares. I want to understand that I have a translation of life situations and they are my own choice. And those choices I have made and these changes I have gone through, have all brought me to where and who I am today.

I wanted to share with you just a few of these moments.

At my son's 4th birthday party, my Father told me that his Sister recently sent him a package full of poems that my Grandfather wrote when he was teenager. My Dad thought that I would like them and he was so right. Despite my busy life, I found a snippet of time to sit down and read a few of them. In reading his words, I felt a closeness to my Grandfather I never achieved during his years alive. In fact, I barely knew my Grandfather at all. By the time I remember meeting him, he had already had a stroke (I think maybe even two) and lost all function and feeling to the left side of his face. I was only like nine or ten years old, so young and had never had a full encounter with someone with a disability. I was unable to communicate with him well and I found him a bit scary. That was the last time I saw my Grandfather alive. I often think about how I missed my chance to ask him about his life. But now through these poems (and the letter sent from his sister) I feel I have gotten a second chance and I am grateful. Because, I never knew my Grandfather had aspirations of being an artist and musician. Growing up, I read and wrote many poems. I had dreams of being an artist, though I can't draw very well, but really shine in photography and other crafts. I often wondered where I got my talents and I realize I now know and had so much more in common with one of my Grandparents than I ever thought before. I am so incredibly grateful for my Aunt for sending this to my Father, and for my Father acknowledging how much I value our family history to pass them on to me. And in doing so, giving me a piece of my Grandfather I never had before.

This year is the first in which most of Fred's family is living on the east coast, and in the Northern Virginia area. It has been an unexpected joy to have everyone so close. My family and my husbands. I think more for Mason and Sophie, that they get a chance to really know their Great Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. Holidays are sure to get a new twist, which I am actually looking forward to. Mostly I am one who loves tradition. In tradition we find comfort. For the last 18 years my family has kept a tradition for Thanksgiving. It started when my sister, Kerri, and her family moved to Ohio. We would travel each Thanksgiving holiday to visit. Instead of having a cooked dinner, it was a small house, we went to The Old Country Buffet. We liked it so much, it stuck. Even after my Sister moved back to Virginia, even when my other sister and I graduated from college, even when I moved out to live with Fred. We still went to The Old Country Buffet. But now, for the first time in 18 years we will have a sit down, cooked dinner at home. Well, not our home, but Fred's Grandparents new home. There will be 22 of us and I am so looking forward to spending time with everyone. I am not one who handles breaking with tradition and stepping out of my comfort zone all too well. But this year, I have felt more than most, a need to be with family. To spend as much time as possible in the company of those who love us. Who knows, if all goes well, maybe this will become a new Thanksgiving tradition.

Life has been an out of control emotional roller coaster the last few years. Marked with a few dark and desperate moments I wasn't sure we'd make it through. Yet, somehow, I am constantly reminded of the strength of the human spirit and the power of true and honest love. I am shown that we are full of mistakes, each and every one of us, but it is in the simple fact that we chose to work through them that really matters. I think back to my wedding vows and feel a profound thankfulness that I have this man, my husband, with whom I share my life every day. And for our two children who constantly teach me, and help me be a better person.

I truly am lucky in this life I live and I want to remember that, each and every moment of each and every day. I hope to keep some sort of daily gratitude of my life. Whether that be a simple mental note, or a physical one jotted down on a napkin, or even a whole blog post or scrapbook page. Living a life of Gratitude seems so much more fulfilling than not. During this holiday, as you reflect upon the things you are thankful for in your life, think about what that means. To live a life of Gratitude and start living it today.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Productivity with Creativity

I've been up to some creative projects lately. Something I have totally missed doing over the last several months. I absolutely love to make things. Things for myself, and especially things for other people. In fact my holiday gift giving is going to be 90% handmade, or creative gifts this year.

I got the idea for the art display above from The Creative Crate. Very inspiring creative projects over there. Go check it out if you have some time. I originally wanted to cut out the quote using my Cricut machine, like Erin did, but found that to be difficult. I didn't like the font cartridges I had and the vinyl for the machine is expensive. So I searched and searched the Internet and ended up buying the vinyl quote from one of the stores on etsy. I then took fish eye hooks and placed them in the wall and strung picture hanger wire between them. I used small clothespins that I found at A.C. Moore and painted them white. However during that process I decided that spray painting them would have been way easier. Noting that I purchased white spray paint for future use.

I love this idea because now that Mason is in Preschool, he brings home artwork every Friday in his backpack. Since our stupid stainless steel refrigerator is non-magnetic. Who knew stainless steel wold not be magnetic? I don't have a place to display all this wonderful art. Now I do. The best part is that Mason feels so proud to have it all displayed in a special place, in our family room with all the other toys and kids stuff. Each Friday we rush home to open his backpack and see what new art we can display. Already it's been filled up and I am running out of room; twice the capacity you see in the photo and think I need to make yet another row. Mostly though, I really enjoy sitting at the table or on the couch, looking up and seeing all my son's creativity staring back at me.

Speaking of Preschool. In the previous post I mentioned how incredibly busy I am with all the room parents duties, fundraisers, permission slips, parent connection committee, etc. I sort of anticipated this year being a bit crazy, so I figured I needed some sort of organized area for all the school stuff. Enter the SIC.
This is what Fred dubbed it anyway. I call it the School Information Center. It's a small section of countertop in our kitchen that I cleared away for all the important school stuff that comes home. Important dates go on the calendar, such as school closings, field trips, etc. Important notes, such as bring in $2 for grocery store trip and make sure orange shirt is cleaned for picture day, go on the chalkboard. Important papers to be signed or filed, go in the metal file basket (the most important on top with sticky notes). Anything else, like invites to the PCC social or ornament exchange get tacked to the board. It really helps keep things in perspective to be all in one place and in plain view where I spend most of my day.

To make this center I repurposed an old cork board I had down in my craft room. I painted it white, then covered the cork with coordinating scrapbook paper, using Mod Podge, to make it look pretty instead of boring. I then put a layer of Mod Podge over the paper to help with wear and tear. The chalkboard is a vinyl piece I picked up at A.C. Moore but you could do the same with chalkboard paint, and make it any size and shape you want.

For the calendar, which is like a dry erase board, I used a cheap picture frame I picked up at A.C. Moore. I spray painted it black then used the glass as my base. On the inside I used a permanent marker (which wipes off with some alcohol), to make the grid. I then used rub-ons I had in my stash for the word, MONTH, and stickers for the days of the week. Voila! A dry erase homemade calendar, way cheaper and a little more elegant than the ones you get at the store. Once again I got this idea for the calendar over at The Creative Crate.

This project has been in the works for a really, really long time.

I can't remember exactly when I got the idea that I wanted to make a mobile for Sophie, possibly when she broke the hand-me-down airplane mobile that played twinkle, twinkle; the one I so very much adored when Mason was a baby. However, sometime in March I searched for ideas on how to make it and gathered supplies. I know this because the photos I took of the butterfly mobile I saw at Pottery Barn on my camera says it was March. I used that as inspiration, and while Sophie was still a lump laying on the floor, I spread out my supplies, turned on reruns of Cold Case, and assembled my creation. And then it sat in Sophie's room for 7 months until I decided to finally hang it up a few weeks ago. I found some butterflies with alligator clips at Michaels, and the green wreath with pink crystals was on sale. I then used clear jewelry wire to hand the butterflies from the wreath. It turned out rather nice.
This is how it looks in her room, hanging above her crib. She seems to love it. Even saying something that sort of sounds like butterfly, while pointing to it at bed time. I think it looks great in the room. Adding a little more girly to the nursery as we decide how to prepare it, or the guest bedroom, for her big girl makeover.

I have a few more projects that I've done, dealing with chalkboard paint. A post on those is in the works so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime I am reveling in the time I have with our family and this holiday of gratitude. Mason is out of school this whole week (ugh!) so I am stocking up on numerous crafts for us to do relating to the season. Keeping a preschooler and a toddler occupied for 24 hours is quite a feet and I imagine that the t.v. will play a big roll this week, as well as some Wii, and a few movie nights might make an appearance.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

I never knew...

When we first signed Mason up for preschool I had a whole different idea of how I figured things would be as opposed to how they have turned out. Here are just a few of the things I never knew before becoming a mother of a preschooler:

I never knew that sending my son to preschool would make me want to go back. What fun, creative things they do each day and how exciting the teacher makes each lesson.

I never knew that three hours is really not enough time to get anything worth while done.

I never knew that I'd be twice as busy.

I never knew that signing on for room parent duties would put me in the role of leader, or that I'd feel so overwhelmed with the work. Taking on more than I could handle once you added on volunteering with the Parent Connection Committee. Note to self: you don't have to be supermom. Your kids will know you love and support them. Next year, room parent is enough.

I never knew I'd be so nervous at picture time and then anxiously awaiting their return, only to be brought to tears at the grown up little man staring back at me.

I never knew I'd look forward to planning, preparing and bringing in snacks for his class.

I never knew that watching little 4 year olds parade in their halloween costumes would be the highlight of my day.

I never knew I'd be so scared of parent-teacher conferences.

I never knew I'd see my son write his name after only two months.

I never knew the excitement of Fridays and a red folder would bring. To see what new art project he brought home and proudly hang it in our family room.

I never knew the extra amount of laundry I'd have on my plate, due to finger paints, play doh and god knows what else coming home all over his shirts.

I never knew that during sharing time, when asked what they are thankful for; my son would say he is thankful for parks, cars and his teacher.

I never knew how much Fred would love this school.

I never knew the joy of going to pick up my son and seeing his smile as he runs into my arms. Or the happiness of my daughter having her big brother back home as she reaches across the car to hold his hand on the way home.

I never knew I'd be so surprised by the explosion of my sons imagination and creative play. Or my new found inspiration in being crafty at home with my kids.

Mostly, I never knew that preschool would be an opportunity for both Mason and I to learn, build confidence and independence and really, truly grow.

So, yeah, that's where I've been this past month. Up to my eyeballs in preschool. Writing and sending emails. Going to meetings, taking notes, checking the yahoo group. Remembering fundraisers, soccer class on wednesdays and classroom events. Dropping off and picking up. Having family visit and preparing for holidays. Having our deck rebuilt and screened in. Coordinating teacher gifts, pot luck feasts, running endless errands and attending birthday party after birthday party.

Phew! I'm tired just reading that. How about you?

Mason hasn't had a proper "grandma sunday" in over two months and we haven't had a weekend to just sit and breathe. Not to mention the state of domesticity. The house is a mess, the laundry impossible to keep up and the fridge looking a bit empty. Getting some "me time" has gotten more difficult and things like my blog, facebook and twitter have gotten neglected. Everyday it is one more thing on the list and one more minute of me trying to hold it all together and not be a raving lunatic. But then, I take a step back and think; it's all just a part of the next step in motherhood.

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