Andrea's blog


Framed T-Shirt Art Tutorial

You know I have an affinity for favorite old t-shirts.  I simply cannot throw away a sentimental shirt.  Especially the Chicago Fire Department shirts that my dad has given us.  We wear them till they literally start falling apart, I alter them to fit better so I'll wear them more, and now I've begun using them as wall art! 

Paxton has grown out of his animal-themed nursery.  So gradually we've been turning his room into a more big-boy room.  He already had a giant fire station (Kidkraft Deluxe Fire Rescue Set) that he got for Christmas last year, plus several larger fire trucks, so we decided to continue that theme.

Lucky me. :) I had several old authentic CFD t-shirts and a few red record album cover frames that made the perfect (and cheap) wall-art project for his big boy room.

Framed T-Shirts

This t-shirt framing idea would be really cool in a teen's room - maybe to display old sports team tees or jerseys, or favorite concert t-shirts, etc.

I used several different t-shirts for all the frames.  The back design for three of the shirts were put into these red frames.  I took the backing of the frame out, wrapped the design on the back of t-shirt around the wood backing, and placed it in the frame.

Next, I cut the rest of the t-shirt off and secured it to the board with good ol' duct tape!  No one sees the back -- it's okay that it's not pretty.

Framed T-Shirt Tutorial

I still had the front emblems from the t-shirts leftover that I didn't want to throw away, so I used those in some smaller frames that I had spray-painted red.  I used duct tape again to attach the fabric to the the back of the white photo mat.

Framed T-shirt Logo

Framed T-Shirt Logo

I like how this 5-minute project turned out, and I think it gives his "big boy fire station" room a more grown-up feel. 

Fire Station Bedroom

I still have a few projects I might work on to finish off his room:

  • maybe a custom-painted sign that says "PAXTON FIRE DEPARTMENT" to go below the t-shirt frames
  • or a fire-bell lamp above his bed
  • paint the walls
  • add a big life-sized dalmation figurine at the foot of his bed
  • a white ladder shelf above the bed on the side wall
  • and wouldn't it be cool to have a brick wall installed alongside his bed? (okay, I probably won't really do that one). 

But for now, this is a good upgrade (along with that headboard I got from craigslist & the little red dresser that was about to be tossed in the trash by my neighbors - a good sanding and a fresh coat of glossy red paint, and it fits right in!)

Fire Station Bedroom

He seems to like it too.  That's important, right? :)


Color Run 2012 - Birmingham, AL

Remember that one Labor Day morning when we got up super early and it was raining like crazy, and we dressed up crazy and then piled into the car with all our friends to go run?  I do. :)

All dressed in white from our heads to our toes.  Janel was our fearless driver for team "Runbow Brites", navigating through rain and traffic, weaving us into prime positioning.  It still took us an hour to get there!  But perhaps that made the anticipation more fun.

Leslie, LaDonna, Nichole, myself & Janel all became lifelong friends in that fun little hour of driving. We also learned that Janel fits right into the Barber Motorsports Speedway! hah!

I'm all in when an event involves getting dressed up.  Costumes are so fun - bandana do-rag, a cheek tattoo, tall socks, and an armband (to hold my phone, which was safely protected by a zip-lock baggie).  Ben made fun of me, but I fit RIGHT in!

Across town, the rest of our team was getting ready too.  Say hi to Tom & Kortney:

And the lovely Deb (and her boy Wesley--who was a spectator this time):

Amazingly, we ended up parking right next to Zach, Ben, and Jonathan (who took a shorter route and got there at the same time as us...even though they left 30 minutes later).  

Here we are...already getting wet, but still sparkly white:

Once we all finally arrived, and managed to find each other (we hooked up with Tom & Kortney and Deb once we got to the race), we hopped into the starting line, and were on our way!

I managed to catch sight of Ben, Zach and the kids as we were running by toward the start of the race -- cold, shivering and wet little color watchers:

The 5K race went pretty quickly.  It rained the whole time, we got pelted with color several times along the way, and we arrived at the finish line about 30 minutes later, completely soaked -- and mostly colorful.

Just to make sure, we got an extra dose of color as we unloaded our own color packets at the finish line.

We tried hard to locate all our team members and get a team "after" photo, but this conglomerate will have to do. 

There were just too many people, too much rain, and the kids (and dad's) were not so interested in sticking around in the rain much longer.

In some ways, the rain was wonderful. We kept cool, and the water felt great while we were running.  But, since the rain made it hard for our spectator families to enjoy themselves thoroughly (or take many photos) it did make the whole event feel a little rushed. 

It was lots of fun, but I would have liked to savor a little more of it, dance to the music, and take more photos (of course).  Thank goodness for husbands, facebook, and smart phones!  In the midst of the rain and powder, we managed to get some pretty good shots...without breaking any cameras.

I'd totally do it again.  But I think I'd hope for better weather next time! ;) Thanks girls for coming on this crazy ride with me!


Sweet Home Alabama Clear Pebble Magnet

In need of a quick personalized gift this week, I decided to make use of some oversized picture pebbles that I inherited from my mom's craft stash (you can also buy them here: 20 Round Clear Glass Tile Wafers) and make this cute little "Sweet Home Alabama" magnet for a friend who just moved to the state.

Easy Teacher Gift

It was easy to make. 

I just picked the background paper (a yellow gingham) and cut the "sweet home alabama" text from black vinyl on my Silhouette Cameo Electronic Cutting Tool.  Simple monograms or labels like "Shopping List", "This Week's Calendar", etc. would be cute too.

Then I glued the clear pebble to the design using E-6000 Med Visc 1-Ounce Adhesive (best adhesive for the job-hands down!). 

Once the glue was dry, I cut around the edges to remove the excess paper. 

If your patterned paper is thin, you might want to also glue a piece of white cardstock to the back too.  Otherwise, it's possible that the magnet and glue will bleed through your patterned paper.  That's no good.  It looks terrible. Trust me. I know. ;)

Picture Pebble Magnet Tutorial

Use the same glue to attach a heavy-duty magnet to the back of the design. These work well: Magnum Magnetics Corp ProMAG 3/4" Round Magnet 50-Pack

I added a little black ribbon around the outside of the pebble and tied it at the top for a little bit of extra decoration, gluing it in 4 spots, so that it wouldn't fall off.

Large Picture Pebble Magnet Gift Ideas

To wrap it all up, I just used a piece of tulle and ribbon. 

DIY Christmas Gifts

Tada! An easy, customized, finished project.  These make GREAT teacher and grandparent gifts at Christmas -- and it works especially well with photographs.

Picture Pebble Magnets

Supply List:


One Week In...

A little bit of reflective rambling about the first week of school:

Admittedly, I like schedules. I like routine. I like to know what to expect.   However, I also like to think I'm pretty good at being flexible and going with the flow when necessary (that's what makes trips like this work!) But, overall--I think schedules and routines are good and they generally suit me well.

So, imagine my surprise, when this first week of school came around and actually got going...I've found that I'm a little bit out-of-sorts and...bored(!).  Getting up at 6am everyday and completing about 15 tasks by the end of breakfast had been WAY forgotten over this wake-up-late, get dressed when you feel like it, watch-a-lot-of-television summer. 

I've noticed that I've spent a good part of each day this week making sure I'm ready for the next section of the day--which means I'm wandering a little aimlessly inbetween because my mind won't focus on what I could be doing NOW. 

It's funny, because I dread the summer arrival when both kids will be home ALL DAY EVERY DAY, all the fighting, the noise, the messes, and overload of kid-themed activities.  I anticipate with excitement when they'll head back to school to see their friends and go to their classes.  I'm thrilled that I'll have more quiet work time by myself, and that then I can focus, create, and produce more easily.

So, how come now that I have all this quiet, my brain feels like mush and I can't focus on anything?  Waking up too early? Too many days of exercise? Too much schedule to keep straight? By 3:00 when Ayla comes home and Paxton wakes up from rest time, all I want to do is stretch out on the couch and veg out till bedtime.

I'm sure this feeling will pass quickly - it always does, and then I'll be back to my get-er-done self, but for this week, I think I spent a lot of time with a blank stare on my face! 

So, I'm wondering if anyone else goes through a week or two of bewilderment at the beginning of each school year?



7 Weeks of Less - STRESS

I just finished a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  Read on to see how it went!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  4. WASTE
  6. MEDIA

The Rules:

Ha! This should be interesting, because it's the week I'll be packing and getting myself and the kids ready for a month-long trip to Chicago to visit with family and live out of a suitcase, sleeping in campers, hotels and basements.  If planning for a 4 week trip with two children across the country with a business to run while you're gone doesn't sound stressful, I don't know what does. 

To reduce stress during this time, I want to try a variation of what Jen Hatmaker did with several set-aside times throughout the day to pray and refocus. I'm not sure I can do all "Seven Sacred Pauses", but I'm going to commit to four of them and each day I'm going to dedicate 5 minutes to each prayer - which I realize is nowhere close to an hour, but these are baby steps:

  • (7:00 am) The Awakening Hour: Remembering God's goodness and complete control over my life and trusting in Him.
  • (11:00 am) The Hour of Illumination: Honoring Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and recommitting to giving my life away in service, love, and peace.
  • (2:00 pm) The Hour of Wisdom: Praying for wisdom and perspective.
  • (6:00 pm) The Twilight Hour: Expressing gratitude and serenity during the witching hours.

I think I'll set alarms. 

The Wrap-Up:

Though this week wasn't *hard* necessarily, it was definitely effective.  Having an audible reminder on my phone made me stop and pause several times a day to be thankful for what I have, ask God for help where I was struggling, and to pray for the people around me.  I wouldn't say my prayers were anything spectacular or particularly profound, but at least 4 times every day, I acknowledged God and his participation in my life. 

As you can see, I changed my set times a little bit, and I'm sure I didn't pray a full five minutes (or sometimes even a full minute), but still, i'm happy with the strides I made!

The kids even participated with me and they'd get excited when the alarm would go off and ask "Is it time to pray?"  Then they'd help me and we'd take turns saying what we were thankful for.  Most of our prayers went something like this (with plenty of other fun things added in):

Thank you God for our family, friends, and our trip.  Thank you for keeping us safe.  Please help us to obey, make good choices, and to be kind, respectful, helpful, and loving.  Thank you for Jesus and for the sacrifices he made that let us be forgiven when we make mistakes. Amen.

And you know what...even in the midst of packing and getting ready for a very long road trip (AL to IL), a holiday (4th of July) and sleeping in new places, we managed to stay pretty stress free. 

The main exception was the day Paxton was a total disaster (the 4th) and getting into all kinds of trouble, and Ayla had a major meltdown about some green beans.  I'm pretty sure though that stress week and all that prayer helped me get through that day much better than I would have otherwise! 

Especially on those long driving stretches (while the kids were watching movies in the backseat), I found myself starting to talk to God without the reminder.  Though, I'll admit, I often got distracted and started more prayers than I finished.  Perhaps that's the true meaning of "Pray Continually?"

My biggest takeaway from the week was that I'm much more comfortable praying, and more comfortable praying verbally with the kids, which I think is so important. 

I turned off my alarms today, but I may turn them back on if I find myself slipping out of practice.  It's good for me to lean on God a little more and myself a little less.  This week (though I certainly wasn't perfect), I found myself to be calmer, more patient, and a little nicer and less cranky than I can often be.  I don't think that's a coincidence.


And now....7 Weeks of Less is over.  I'm sure I'll hold onto some of the principles I've practiced and learned and am glad I did it.  Thanks Jen Hatmaker for the inspiration!  It has certainly sparked a lot of interesting and thoughtful conversations for me in the past several months.



7 Weeks of Less - MEDIA

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm 6 weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  4. WASTE
  6. MEDIA

The Rules:

  1. No Facebook (except SignsbyAndrea-related)
  2. No Pinterest checking and surfing. 
  3. No blog reading. 
  4. No television. 
  5. No Netflix or Hulu.
  6. No radio. 
  7. Just telephone, email and texts for communication.
  8. No magazines or books. (added later)

I'm actually looking forward to this week.  I spend entirely too much time surfing the web, reading blogs and checking pinterest and facebook again and again and again and again.

The Wrap-Up:

WOW.  I'm a click-addict.  In a big-bad-way.  I use Facebook, checking my web site stats, email, Pinterest, and blog reading as an escape from my world, an "out" of my head, and as a way to avoid thinking about important things or talking with the people around me.  And I use it a LOT. 

This week was my hardest week yet, and the biggest felt sacrifice so far.  While I gained a lot of extra time by not checking in on those things all week (in addition to not watching television or movies), I tried pretty hard not to fill that time with other types of distractions.  So, I didn't allow myself to read books, plan a bunch of all-day playdates or call everyone and their brother just to chat.  I did however work on a photo organizing project in the evenings.  I mean...I needed SOMETHING productive to do. 

But truly this week was eye-opening for me.  Maybe not life-changing (addicts take a LONG time to be completely reformed), but definitely eye-opening. 

In a lot of ways, those web sites, movies and social media outlets are my largest form of entertainment everyday.  They're fun.  I like it.  So this week, I felt like everything was all work and no fun, kind of like being grounded as an adult.  That daily entertainment often serves as my "count to ten" moment to distract myself from frustrations with the kids or my to-do list, etc. and helps me calm down.  At the same time, those very same things probably cause just as much stress as they relieve by making me feel like I have to be "in-the-know" about so many not-that-important things.

Am I going to quit Facebook & Pinterest? Not a chance.  Will I try to back it down a notch (or two)? Yes.


Day 1 - Sunday, June 24, 2012

My morning routine of checking email, reading blogs, facebook, checking pinterest. Um...yeah, that only takes about 3 minutes now, when it used to take 30.

I only accidently clicked on my Pinterest bookmark once.  Thankfully, I had Ben block both Pinterest and Facebook from working on my computer.  Then even if I mess up...I can't go any farther. Kind of like parental guidance controls.  Only I'm the parent.

This afternoon, Ben watched a movie. I took a nap and took Ayla to Toys R Us to pick out a birthday present.  No radio allowed in the car.  So she talked...a LOT.

Ben said that he noticed this afternoon I was acting kind of crazy and jittery, like I needed a click fix and didn't know what to do with myself.

Tonight we started going through photo boxes so we can put together some boxes to ship off and have our photos scanned. That was actually a lot of fun, going through old pictures. This is the perfect week for that kind of project.

Day 2- Monday, June 25, 2012

I watched Kailyn & Isaac this morning, so with the exception of about 45 minutes at my computer this morning, writing and posting a newsletter & sale for SignsByAndrea, I didn't have much computer access anyhow. We spent most of the morning driving all over B'ham with four kids.

This afternoon, I took a nap (or tried to), but then spent a good portion of the late afternoon wandering. I didn't want to work, didn't have a project...and would normally have been on Pinterest or Facebook. 

Tonight I took the kids to a Girl Scouts party and we all played outside and had real person-to-person interaction and fun. :) Good to have on no-Media week. 

After the kids went to bed, I went back to weeding through photos while Ben watched a movie in the other room.  

So..I'm definitely feeling this fast.  I miss Facebook.  Then Pinterest. Then blog reading.  Then music in the car.  In that order.  But I have LOTS more free time...

Day 3 - Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Worked all morning.  Paxton played with a babysitter.  I spent the majority of the time in the garage with earplugs in while cutting wood with my new miter saw. media necessary there. :)

Day 4 - Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

My Fitness magazine came today.  As I was eating lunch I found myself leafing through it, getting totally engrossed in the ads (which were all Olympic themed)...  Then I realized "THIS IS MEDIA!" And it pained me to close the magazine and set it aside until next week. :(

Tonight we went to a BBQ with some people from church at an apartment complex for some men who are getting back on their feet after troubles with addiction, etc.  It was a nice social event, and a great evening for all of us.  Personal interaction (in person) is nicer than media-assisted interaction. 

Day 5 - Thursday, June 28th, 2012

So, really starting to wonder what I'm missing on Facebook & Pinterest.  Would LOVE to sit down and watch a movie tonight. I've found myself wandering around the house aimlessly.  I'm officially completely addicted to clicking links on my computer.  I spent most of the day adding thumbnail images to my blog since Ben helped make a few upgrades to allow images to show up with my latest posts, etc.  So that fed my "click" addiction.  But it was very apparent when I kept on clicking on....I like to click.  I like my computer. I have a hard time knowing what to do on it without Facebook & Pinterest...which means I probably spend an OBSCENE amount of time at those two websites.  Perhaps I need some sort of intervention...not just a week-long fast.

I find myself itching for Sunday.  I'm ready to go into Verizon and get a new smart phone and data package and can't wait till Sunday to do it.  So that then I can have Facebook & Pinterest at my fingertips all day, no matter where I am?   I definitely have a problem!

The truth is, I can tell that I use those "media" outlets as a distraction, a way out of my own head and immediate surroundings.  A way to avoid thinking about important things or dealing with something I don't want to deal with.  It appears that I generally let those media outlets dictate what I think about or how I plan my day, because without them I feel a little lost, not sure where to turn next. 

Day 6 - Friday, June 29th, 2012

Today I was cranky.  It's a Friday thing...I'm always tired and cranky on Fridays.  So are the kids.  That meant when I went to the Rec and ran, without music, I was stuck in my cranky head.  Not a fun place to be. 

We spent the early afternoon at the mall while Ben gave blood at the blood drive.  Funny how this 7 Weeks of Less made me completely un-phased by all the stores in the mall.  It's entirely possible that there is nothing n that entire mall that is "needed".  Talk about excess.

Day 7 - Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ironically, I've spent a good portion of today (my last day of no-media week) planning to buy a smart phone with a data package.  I want one before my month-long trip north next week so I can stay connected for work while I'm away from my computer more than normal.

I'm also considering staying up till midnight to watch a movie and check Facebook.

Scratch that. I decided to watch a movie at 8pm and save my next Facebook/Pinterest check for Sunday afternoon - after church.  Compromise.  Still cheating, but it's a compromise.


The Blog about the Blog

So, since this is media week in my 7 Weeks Of Less and I've been self-banned from Facebook, Pinterest and reading any blogs, I've been working on a few upgrades on my own blog instead (with Ben's help).

First, you may notice that the home page got a face lift.  Now you can visually see the most recent posts if you're a logged in friend or family member or the most recent & most popular posts if you're a visitor:


Next, you'll see that that the side bar looks a little different --------->

Now there are small thumbnail images with my Latest Blog Posts and Most Popular Posts.  Cool, huh?

Plus, I've been adding thumbnail images to the archives as far back as 2007:

Blog Archives

I've enjoyed going through LOTS of old posts and remembering all the things I've written about over the years...watching the kids grow and remembering all the projects I've worked on. 

And look! Even the Related Posts below each blog post have thumbnail images too. 

Lots more eye-candy. I like it.  Thanks Ben for your help!

PS. I miss Facebook.


7 Weeks of Less - SHOPPING

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm 5 weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  4. WASTE
  6. MEDIA

The Rules:

7 days of no spending - on anything other than bills that are due. Plus, I want to find places to cut spending.  I guess I better be sure the car is full of gas before this week starts!

The Wrap Up:

Another failed week -- not so much because we spent money (which we certainly did), but because I'm having a really hard time associating the "fast" with the reasons for why I'm doing it.  This week it was too easy to justify spending because it seemed silly and inconvenient to put a purchase off for a few days just because of this experiment.  It only seems effective to do the fast if I decide NOT to spend the money at all, which in some cases, I could have (Ayla's birthday party photo book) and other case I couldn't (the car repairs).

But to be honest, instead of wanting to spend less, buy less, etc., this experiment has done the opposite and made me feel as though normally I do critique every purchase I make, and I should just let up a little already!  It's completely having the opposite effect on me, which I'm SURE is not the goal...

Maybe instead of choosing Jen Hatmaker's 7 areas of excess, I should have more carefully examined my own life and where our excess really is.  That's probably why food week really WAS effective for me.  We like food -- and a large variety of foods at that.

Perhaps media week, which starts in 5 1/2 hours, will be more effective for me. I vow to be more dedicated to the cause than I have the past two weeks.  Goodbye Facebook & Pinterest. I will miss you.  But perhaps I'll have time to actually MAKE something instead!


Day 1 - Sunday, June 17, 2012 - I succeeded in buying nothing today.  But not because of my own willpower.  Instead it was because our friends, who were in town visiting, bought us lunch at Pizza Hut.

Day 2 - Monday , June 18, 2012 - Evidently I missed the point of this week.  But because it's just a "week" and not a lifestyle decision, it seemed silly to put off purchases until next Sunday when I had the time to take care of them today.  So...I managed to buy a couple of things:

  1. A Shutterfly 8" x 8" photo book of Ayla's birthday party.  I had a coupon for a free one that expired on June 30th and I had the morning to throw it together.  So I did.  And paid $11.72 for the extra pages (over 20) and shipping. 
  2. Reserved a hotel room for my friend's wedding in July.  I guess technically I haven't paid for that yet...
  3. I wrote a check for Paxton's first month of school in the fall.  Technically that doesn't come out until August though either.
  4. We also moved some money around in our accounts today to fill up our savings, which is just good money management.
  5. Plus we had to pay 6 months of car insurance which was due this month (which actually saves money month-to-month).

Day 3 - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Honda has been overheating some.  Turns out it's leaking coolant.  So that costs money.  We had to pay that.  I suppose we COULD have waited until next week to take care of it, and driven the Avalon in the meantime.  But, then we're just being legalistic and not getting something taken care of that needed to be done as soon as possible.

See what I mean about this SHOPPING fast being hard?  Putting it off for a week isn't really beneficial.  You'd have to instead do without the purchase completely, which isn't realistic (in this case). 

So, we picked up the car and paid for it. It was running on empty, so I had to stop and get gas before I headed to Target to do some grocery shopping and to pick up some medicine and toiletries we needed.  $$$.  Lots of spending.  I guess my total # of locations for shopping is up to 6 now.

Perhaps this week should be about justifying my purchases! That's what I seem to be doing...

Day 4 - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Yay me! I successfully bought nothing today!

Day 5 - Thursday, June 21, 2012

It was decided we would go to Chuck E Cheese tonight as a reward for the kids for making strides towards staying dry at night.  We had to go before the coupon expired on the 23rd.  So we went tonight.  It definitely counts as an unnecessary expense.  I participated.

Day 6 - Friday, June 22, 2012

Our car payment cleared today.  That's a bill.  Doesn't count.

Day 7 - Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ben went to Target today and bought some food and other things we forgot when we went earlier this week. Technically, I wasn't there.  I did request Cheese Its and kettle chips though.



7 Weeks of Less - WASTE

I'm in the middle of a 7 week experiment inspired by the book 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. I'm calling my journey 7 Weeks of Less.  I'm 4 weeks in.  Read on to see how it's going - and join me if you'd like!

  1. FOOD
  2. STUFF
  4. WASTE
  6. MEDIA

The Rules:

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  This week I will find ways to be green and more environmentally aware.  I like to do these things and regularly practice a lot of "greener" things, but know I can improve and make better choices such as:

  1. Drive less (ie. exercise at home instead of the rec if I don't have any other errands to run, combine errands to one outing)
  2. Use fewer napkins, paper towels, and other one-time-use conveniences like zip lock bags, plastic bags, etc.
  3. Recycle more. Find a place to recycle glass especially and be more diligent about getting papers, cardboard, plastic & aluminum to the recycling bin instead of the trash
  4. Think of second (or third or fourth) uses for items before they become trash
  5. Fix things that might otherwise be thrown away.
  6. Save energy and resources by turning off electronics, lights, the water, etc. when not in use. 
  7. Take out the trash & recycling, roll it to the street & back, etc.  Normally this is something I leave for Ben to do..I'll take responsibility for it this week as a physical and visual reminder of the waste we produce.

The Wrap-Up:

Okay, so this week was mostly a giant failure.  Yes, I tried to recycle more things, and be aware of the trash I threw away.  And I was in charge of bringing the trash and recycling to the street and taking it out to the trash bins. 

But overall, I was preoccupied with plans for Ayla's birthday party (and enjoying several days sans kids since they went to Auburn for a few days with grandparents). 

So, I often forgot to bring by reuseable bags into stores (though I did shop at Sam's this week, which meant I had to use my own bags) and drove several extra hours because we were dropping off and picking up the kids from their trip. 

Plus, Ayla's birthday party was on Saturday which produced all KINDS of trash (and recycleable cardboard), and it was pretty painful to watch perfectly good food and drinks be tossed in the trash by a bunch of 6 year olds.

And I won't lie...this 7 Weeks of Less experiment is getting old and kind of boring to me.  How on EARTH did Jen Hatmaker (and her family) survive 7 full months of this?


So, since I was such a slacker this week...I didn't journal. At all.  Instead I'd like to offer a few "green" solutions and ways to save energy and be more efficient.  Some of which I do, some I don't (but probably should).

  1. Recycle aluminum cans, paper, plastic & cardboard (picked up weekly at the curb...doesn't get any easier than that).
  2. When you make a trip out in the car, look for efficient ways to take care of several errands in one trip, rather than making several trips out a day. 
  3. Use reuseable divided containers for packing lunches instead of zip lock bags, paper bags, and plastic utensils.
  4. Use refillable water bottles instead of buying juice boxes or bottled water.
  5. Keep a bunch of reusable bags in the car to use when you go shopping (at ANY kind of store!) 
  6. Shop at Aldi or Sams where they don't offer plastic or paper bags at all! (or charge for them).
  7. Instead of buying individually packaged containers of snacks, buy big bags and refill a reuseable container.
  8. Say things once.  Don't waste your words.
  9. Instead of using paper towels (or napkins for that matter), keep a drawer full of bar rags (we buy ours at Sams) for wiping off counters, drying your hands, cleaning the house, etc. Then just wash them with bleach.
  10. Recycle glass and plastic bags at the Target recycling center.
  11. Reuse plastic bags as trash liners.
  12. Buy used.  Used cars, used clothes, used furniture, used toys.  No need to buy new when the gently used is just as good, cheaper and less wasteful.
  13. Start an herb garden. 
  14. Save misprinted papers, fliers and old worksheets for scratch paper.
  15. Turn off the lights and open the blinds during the day for natural light.
  16. Use fans instead of blasting the air conditioning (but keep the AC on to some level...let's be reasonable...we live in Alabama).
  17. Save energy by keeping a "goes up" or "goes down" bucket next to the stairs.  Then take the stuff up on your next trip up.  Why can't my kids get on board with this???
  18. Any "green" tips you want to add?

Next week is Shopping week.  I don't even think I can do it.  I can't even fathom how...God help me figure out some way to benefit during that week and make it applicable.



There's nothing like a deadline to get a long-term home improvement project finished up.  Ben has been chipping away at a landscaping project in the front and back-yard since about March.  But with Ayla's birthday party on the horizon, he wanted to get it finished up -- and he did!

It began with this vole-infested shed at the back of our yard that needed to be hauled away:

While the kids and I were our of town for Spring Break, Ben and his brother Josh took a sledgehammer to the shed and hauled it off into this lovely dumpster that sat in our driveway for about two weeks.  The day it arrived was a very exciting day for Paxton!

When we got home from our trip, the shed was gone (as was the rotting deck in the backyard, a grill and a couch that had past it's prime.  When a dumpster is available, you better make good use of it!)

In addition to tearing down the shed & deck, Ben spent HOURS and HOURS working on grading the dirt in the flower bed, adding a french drain and gravel, and putting in edging to set the groundwork for a large flowerbed.  It's a shame I can write all that work into just one sentence.  It was a massive undertaking!

Next, we had a huge pile of dirt delivered to put some good soil down for our flowerbed.  The kids had a blast in that dirt pile...who wouldn't?

Once all the dirt was down and graded for good water drainage, we covered it with weed-blocking paper and left it for about a month or so while we were busy with everyday life.

Then one week, we noticed we were about to have gorgeous, unseasonably cool weather and knew we had to get on the ball to get these flower beds finished.  This was our chance. It was time to get digging. 

So we headed to Home Depot and bought up a ton of perennial flowers and bushes and spent a very long Saturday digging about 100 holes in our yard!  Needless to say...we were exhausted at the end of that weekend.  But...after adding some mulch over the top, we finally had our finished flower beds:

The backyard isn't the only area that got a little facelift.  Ben followed the same process on the front flowerbeds too:



Now comes the hard part....keeping them alive!

Hopefully our work (mostly Ben's) won't be in vain, and these few intense days and weeks of work willl pay off over the years and we'll see all of these flowers and bushes growing back year after year.

Next yard project (who knows when???) will be making some level ground in the back yard for kids to play...might have to hire professionals for that big job!

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