Andrea's blog


The Den (Playroom) - Before & After

The "den" or the "playroom" or "downstairs" is kind of a giant holding room for leftover furniture, decorations and lots and lots of toys.  Not quite a living-room, not quite a basement, maybe we should call it a rec room? 

Whatever it is, it's needed some help along the way - and we're not there yet.  But, in our painting marathon of October 2012, we did manage to step it up a small notch. Here's what we did:

Exhibit A: BEFORE (looking down)

Believe it or not, this is after MANY improvements and variations.  Note the lovely cat food containers (on the mantle) that make *great* storage containers. Just keeping it real. We don't apologize for recycling. 

And yes, we have a television in our fireplace. We live in Alabama.  We don't need heat.

Exhibit B: AFTER (looking down)

When we did our big painting marathon, we continued the SW Anonymous 7046 color from the kitchen down the big wall where the mantle is, and used the lighter SW Worldly Gray 7043 color (used also in the entryway and my office) on the other three walls and ceiling. 

Exhibit C: BEFORE (looking up)

We moved our loveseat and chair from the living room down to the playroom and removed or relocated a few of the bigger toys.  The easel was disassembled and turned into a flat chalkboard and dry erase board.  The pink chair was moved back to Ayla's bedroom.  The tool bench moved up to Paxton's bedroom, the basketball hoop to the garage, and that great big "craft" desk (that was ALWAYS a disaster of papers and markers) was donated to Goodwill.

Exhibit D: AFTER (looking up)

We moved the treadmill and deep freezer over to the less-visible space next to the stairs, which has seemed to work really well (both for convenience and asthetics). 

Notice anything else missing?  We removed the railing and the carpet on the stairs, which significantly opened up the room.  Safe? Probably not to code, but it's working for us, so for now, that's how it stays.  Painting the top metal railing the same wall-color as the kitchen helped it disappear, as did painting the door that goes to the garage.

I moved a few of my 12" x 12" frames to the space over the mantle, and with the help of some white spray paint, they pop really well on the dark gray wall.  While I was spray painting, I brightened up the wood "Family" sign and several smaller frames to bring some color to the otherwise dark and gray wall of stone:

We didn't ban Ayla from doing crafts entirely, but we significanly down-sized her desk space in the hopes that it would downsize the mess.  All her papers and coloring books and art supplies are stored in this cabinet, and she works at the little table next to it.   This setup has worked *pretty* well so far.  But still, the floor is often covered in papers and markers.  You just can't hold an artist back. :)

The room still needs some artwork on the walls, a coffee table, and hopefully wall-to-wall carpet before too long (when we'll probably say goodbye to the area rug).  But for now, it's been a step in the right direction  -- more living space, less "junk" space.

Tour Our Home - A.Steed's.Life


Admiring the Finished Product

I spent yesterday morning photographing some finished samples (posters, printables and wrapped canvases) made with the SignsByAndrea Family Rules Art Builder

It's pretty cool to see the finished product of design-it-yourself artwork!

Custom Family Rules Art - Canvas, Posters, Prints -

Custom Poster Print - Signs By Andrea

Playroom Rules Wrapped Canvas - Signs By Andrea

In This House Family Rules Wrapped Canvas - Signs By Andrea

Have you tried it yet?




Reunited with Edison

Ben published an article today for, called "Reunited."  He tells the goose-bump giving story of how our family was reunited two years later with Edison, the sweet little boy whose house he visited in Ecuador.  Read it.

Compassion International is an amazing program -- and it's working!  We can see it in the round little face of this boy who was so ill when Ben first met him, but through the work of the Child Survivor Program, and now the Child Sponsorship program, his is thriving and doing well!

Sponsor a Child Through Compassion International

It's Valentine's Day.  What better day is there to dedicate your love to someone who needs it?  Consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International. 



Places We've Lived Scrap Wood Frame

While Ben was out of town for a few days and the kids were both sick and watching movies, I started itching to do a small project.  I settled on this scrap wood framed print of our personalized "Places We've Lived" subway art.  (It's easy to make your own! Just use the Subway style and add your "locations" with my Custom Family Rules Builder).

Places We've Lived Scrap Wood Frame

It was pretty easy to do, and only took about 10 minutes - truly.

I had already ordered the 8" x 10" poster print through my Zazzle store a while back (though you can also get an instant personalized downloadable version for only $9, and print it at home on cardstock or photo paper).  It features all the important places in our lives together -- which started almost 18 years ago!

Places We've Lived DIY Printable

I had recenly collected a bunch of 4" scrap wood that had some really cool color and grain, so I rough-cut a few boards down to size - three 18" boards for the back, and two 12" boards for the front. They aren't perfect, but that's kind of the point. :)

How to Attach Scrap Wood Frame

I used some brass screws that we had at our workbench in the garage  to attach the front two vertical boards to the three back horizontal boards, and then used more brass screws and washers to wedge a page protector (trimmed down to 8" x 10") onto the front of the board. An 8" x 10" piece of plastic would work well too, but I didn't have any on-hand, and the page protector covers both the front and the back of the print, which seemed like a good idea.

Since the wood was pretty soft, I didn't have to pre-drill, but if it had been harder wood, I'd recommend pre-drilling.

That's it. Then I just propped it up in the corner of our bookshelf and admired it.  (Then I probably had to go clean up some vomit...the kids were sick, remember?)

Easy Scrap Wood Frame

I've been looking to find something substantial in size to put at the top corner of my living room bookshelves that wasn't a vase or a photograph (I have plenty of those!). So, this "Places We've Lived" print and some natural wood seemed like a good choice, since I've started using a golden yellow as one of the accent colors in our livingroom, that I've been slowly working on redecorating.

Decorating Bookshelves

Now if I could just find a coffee table that we both like...



Little Tricks for Little Fingers

When you're little and it's hard for you to write your letters and you get *so frustrated* when they just don't come out right (especially when you have to write a "P" on a whole class worth of Valentine cards), crafty little tricks can come in handy. 

I saw this genious idea on Pinterest the other day, and knew it would be a good way for Paxton to be involved in his Valentines, without making it too hard (and frustrating) for him. 

Just combine small wood alphabet stamps together to spell out the word (in our case it was "Paxton") and put a rubberband around them.  That keeps them together and turns the word into a single stamp.

Rubberband and Wood Alpha Stamps Tip
{source: The Frugal Crafter}

Easy enough for an *almost* four year old...Now that's easy!

Rubberband and Wood Alpha Stamps Trick

Rubberband and Wood Alpha Stamps Trick


Compassion International - Colombia

Last week Ben went on a trip with Compassion International to Colombia with a group of Compassion supporters to check out the work they are doing with the kids in Colombia. 

Today, he published an article on - Compassion in Colombia - that tells a little bit about his experiences, as well as the inspiring story of Jailer - his translator on the trip, who has been a product of Compassion's efforts in Colombia.

Two years ago, Ben went on a similar trip to Ecuador that inspired our family to sponsor a little girl Ayla's age.  Her name is Mercedes.  Then, when Paxton was old enough to have an Ecuadorian buddy, we also began sponsoring a litte boy his age - Edison Ivan.  Through their letters and photos they've become a part of our family, and we pray that through our support and the help of Compassion International and the church in their country that they have success stories as inspiring as Jailer's!

*Most of these fantastic photos are credited to Dan Pritchett - one of the people who accompanied Ben on this trip to Colombia.  His album of photos brings the trip to life!

Other trip companions took great photos too - MeLissa Houdmann has several folders on her Facebook page in a day-by-day account of the trip.


Entryway Before & After

Entry Before & After

We repainted several rooms in our house WAY back in October, but things got kinda crazy in November and December around here, so the "redecorating" had to take a back seat.  We're still lacking several things, but since it doesn't look like things will be "FINISHED" for a I thought I'd post a few photo updates of the other rooms we painted.

I've already shared the Kitchen and Dining Room and my office before and afters.  Now, let's look at the entryway.

Here it was BEFORE:

Entry Way Before

What you can't see in this picture is how dirty those walls are, and how many giant holes there are up there on the wall (next to the B & A).

We painted the walls and ceiling the same color as my office (Sherwin Williams Worldly Gray 7043), repaired all the walls, and cleaned all the baseboards.  Amazing what a little elbow grease can fix!

When we started putting everything back, I decided to take down the plate holders with frames in them and retire 'em.  They've been around a long long time. :)  Instead, we put back our monogram, family tree canvas, and brought in the secretary desk that I'd had refinished not too long ago.


Entry After

Here's a view from the stairway, looking toward the front door. 


Entry Before

and AFTER:

Entry After

The framed print by the door is the original building permit for our house.  We found it in the garage after we moved here, and thought it was pretty neat looking.  The entryway just seems like the right place for it to stay!

I'm still shopping for the right rug for this space, but haven't come across the right thing quite yet...

The two buckets next to the desk aren't exactly a "decorating" choice, but they have been VERY functional - so they're staying! These are the kids' junk buckets.  Anytime we find something of theirs laying in the living room, kitchen, stairway, or my office, it goes in the bucket.  At the end of the day, they carry their buckets upstairs and put everything away before bedtime. 

We've been doing this a few weeks now and it's worked PERFECTLY.  The kids are glad they don't have to put their stuff away immediately.  We're happy there's not junk all over the "adult" areas of the house (especially the kitchen island), and they've been happy to put it all away when it's time to do it. 

Speaking of functional spaces...the entryway is also our school bag and homework central area.  We kept the little board with coat hooks just like it was before.  Four hooks - two for coats and two for backpacks - for two little kids. :)

Entry After

When the kids get home from school everyday, they unload their lunch bags and backpacks and hang them and their coats up here. 

Entry After

Then, I sort all the papers that come home at this desk, and Ayla does her homework at it - we just open the desk up and scoot the chair over for her).  This has helped keep papers and books and "stuff" from cluttering up the kitchen island or my desk and then Ayla has a dedicated space to do her homework.

Entry After

The top dresser drawer of the desk holds folders for each kid, with all the schoolwork we are saving throughout the year.  We also keep the little photo albums that hold all our postcards from Noni, as well as any coupons or flyers that we need to hold onto in the top drawers of the desk.

So that's it. Entry way is mostly done. :)   And it's turned into a functional space, instead of just being a walkway.  Yay.

Tour Our Home - A.Steed's.Life


Girl Scout Cookies for Sale!

So...I *know* Troop Beverly Hills didn't sell "real" Girl Scout cookies (they were Wilderness Girls), but who can sell Girl Scout cookies without thinking about this awesome scene from the movie??

Let the cookie selling commence!  Ayla is now taking orders (via me) for any of the 8 fabulous flavors of Girl Scout Cookies

  • Thin Mints
  • Caramel deLites / Samoas
  • Peanut Butter Patties / Tagalongs
  • Trefoils / Shortbreads
  • Do-si-dos / Peanut Butter Sandwich
  • Savannah Smiles
  • Dulce de Leche
  • Thank U Berry Much

Boxes are $3.50 each and we'll have boxes in-hand as soon as Monday (no waiting this year!) Checks can be made out to "Andrea Steed".

Place your orders here in the comments section or email me at  She (and her troop) will be very grateful for your order!



Buy One, Get One Free Signs By Andrea Sale! Ends Monday!

I am offering my biggest and best SignsByAndrea sale of the entire year.  Seriously. This sale is SO BIG, it only happens once a year! And it's almost over!

Signs by Andrea - Buy One Get One Free Sale!

All of my standard personalized signs are BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE!* through Cyber Monday (11/26/12). There is no limit on how many you can purchase, so go ahead and pick out personalized hand-crafted signs for all the people on your shopping list!  Just add each personalized sign to your cart, and the discounts will be automatically applied -- no coupon code needed!

Start Shopping for Signs Now!

*For each painted wood sign you purchase, you will receive one equal or lesser-valued sign for free.  Custom wood signs are not included in this sale and will be quoted and priced separately. Gift Certificates, (de)Signs posters and canvases and digital downloads are also excluded from this sale.

7 Review

On New Year's Eve last year, Ben and I made a future-friendly and space saving purchase.  We bought three boxes worth of photo scanning from  We took advantage of a great sale and got one box free, but it was still a good chunk of change at $368.00.  Merry Christmas to us! However, when you consider that fact that we crammed 2,255 original photos spanning about 34 years of memories into just one box, and now they're all preserved digitally and backed up in several places -- I think we got a steal!

What We Ordered:

We bought the "Prepaid Photo Scanning Box" at 300dpi.  We could have upgraded to 600dpi if we thought we'd do much enlarging or printing, but mainly, we just wanted to have digitally viewable copies of the pictures for browsing on our computers, tablets, phones, etc., adding them to blog posts, emailing, and so on.  So, 300dpi seemed like a sufficient choice.  Plus, we can still reprint them at their original size with no problem, and even the 3.5" x 5" photos can be enlarged to 5" x7".

Buying a pre-paid box means that you get to cram as many photos as you want into a flat rate box.  That's a LOT of photos.  Like I said...we fit 2,255 pictures (mostly 3.5" x 5", 4" x 6", and 5" x 7") into our first box.  And we still have two empty boxes to fill!

We did not add any additional upgrades (like photo restoration).  We can do that on our end if necessary with PhotoShop or on a photo-by-photo basis.

Preparing Your Photos:

It's not an easy feat to get photos ready to scan.  Well, that's not true. It's easy, just time consuming. 

Paxton's closet is full of about 20 photo boxes and large plastic bins full of pictures, many of them ours, most of them my mom's, but that includes my childhood, so I claim most of those boxes! 

For this first ScanMyPhotos box, we focused on including photos from each of our childhood's through our married life (pre-digital camera). Review - Box full of photos

We'll probably fill one of the other boxes with photos from Ben's parent's house to get more of his and his brothers' childhood and family ancestry, and I'll probably fill the third box with more photos from my mom's photo boxes that include more pictures of Jake's childhood and Mom's activities (since I skipped over those for my first round that was -- All.About.Me.)

We took about 2 weeks and spent the evenings in front of the tv (actally, one of those weeks was when I was doing a No Media fast, which gave me lots of free time to work on it!) to go through photos. 

We tossed duplicates, blurry photos, and totally irrelevant pictures.  That was hard.  I can throw away just about anything, but throwing away pictures was hard.  We did it though! And narrowed it down to 2,255 pictures.

My photos came mostly from my mom's photo boxes. It was kind of painful to pull them all out of the nice and neat and organized boxes that had been so carefully labeled with dates, locations and names.  We had to sort them by photo size, not content when we got them ready to pack into the box.  So they ended up all mixed up.  Ouch.  That was hard.  Will I put them back where they came from? I dunno.  Maybe.  Maybe not. Either way, I know we've reduced the number of photo boxes in that closet by about half, just by throwing away duplicate prints.

The good news is, most people don't have that nice and neat and organized system - so it's just a matter of collecting photos from all over and putting them into like-sizes, and then packing them into the box - like this: Review - How to Pack Your Photos


Then you ship them away -- another completely stressful element of the process.  You pack your entire history away into a box, tape it up as best you can and then just pray and hope that they arrive at their destination safely.  All this stress and work is in the name of preserving the memories, but if something happened to this box...they'd be gone forever...

I literally almost threw up when I dropped the box into the post office package drop.

I recommend getting insurance and tracking on your package.  I forgot to and had a near panic attack when I realized it.  Thankfully, the online chat support at ScanMyPhotos was able to confirm that they did in fact receive my package (their confirmation email sent that same day was caught by my spam filter), and my photos were safe and ready to be processed.

Whew.  My nervous breakdown was avoided.

Then you wait.  It takes about 4-6 weeks for them to scan all the photos and ship them back to you. 

The Finished Product:

Several weeks later, I received an email letting me know when they shipped the box back to me via USPS Priority Mail (with a tracking number).   It wasn't nearly as stressful to have it shipped back to me, because I know that they keep a backup of all the digital files for a while.  So if the box least the digital files could be recovered at this point.

Here it is: Review - Large Flat Rate Shipping Box

And here's what all that work resulted in...a DVD full of ALL those photos!  I immediately put the images onto our external hard drive (which is backed up nightly via Carbonite), and now I can rest easy, knowing that all those images are safe and accessible! Review - A DVD of Memories!

One of these days I'll probably sort through the images and put them into chronological order in labeled folders on my computer, so they'll be easy to find.

Cool, huh?  Wanna see some of the photos?

I mean...this stuff should not be forgotten. It's good stuff.  And now it can live on forever!

Bite the bullet.  Do it.  Have your photos scanned. I'm going to spend this weekend putting together another box full of 'em.  It's so worth it!

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