30 December 2010

DIY Recycled Christmas Gift Tags!

STOP!  REUSE!  RECYCLE!  GO GREEN AND blah, blah, blah...

Seriously though, don't throw your Christmas cards out yet.  I'm going to share with you, a simple little something I do with the Christmas cards I receive.  I think it's a brilliant idea if I do say so myself, (and I do).  I can't remember if it was an original idea of mine or if I learned it from Martha or Erma or on HGTV somewhere.  I've been doing it for years though and I think you're gonna love it too.

This is the simple way I label my gifts each year. I recycle the Christmas cards I receive the previous year.  I cut them in half so it's just the front of the card, write To: (so and so) From: Santa or (so and so) and bam; I'm done!

One of my very favorite parts of the holidays is receiving Christmas cards.  I literally tackle the postman when he arrives at 3:10 pm each day from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  He doesn't seem to mind, however, the tip I give to repair any damage I inflict never hurts. My unbridled excitement is reminiscent of waiting for a long lost love letter.  By the way, just an aside, you youngen's who are all eletronicified really missed the boat on the old fashioned communication known as a love letter.  Not the same when it comes in email form or through Facebook or chat.  It has to be on that ethereal thin pale blue paper, have a real air mail stamp and be SWAK.  (Sealed with a kiss.)

I'm a sentimental sap, in case you hadn't already noted.  I love greetings at Christmas from friends old and new, even the ones I haven't seen in 20 years!  Doesn't matter to me, I'm just happy to stay in touch.  I especially love the personal photos so I can catch up and love-on all those smiling faces.  I adore the photos of kids, families together, and even pets or vacation photos. They are all a treasure to me.  I fawn over each and every one.  Some make me laugh, some make me cry over how quickly things change and they all get a place of honor in my home during the holiday season.

After the new year when I'm cleaning up,  and stuffing all my crap back lovingly placing each decoration back into their storage box, I keep the best for last.  First I roll up the garland and shimmy the angels and mangers and wreaths out the door.  I'm ready and can't wait to lighten my house up by taking out all the extra things.  The tree which looked and smelled so heavenly at the beginning of Advent is now just a trunk with dead needles and drooping ornaments.  I'd prefer to eradicate all decorations the day after Christmas and move right along into the new year but, my family seems to think that Ephinay is a better choice to remove the tree.  Ephinay usually falls 12 days after Christmas but, I hear one can celebrate on 2 January this year so, I'm aiming for that.  Then the DIY happens.

The Christmas cards, they're the last thing to go.  I have a hard time parting with the cards.  So here's how I solve that dilemma.  After I enjoy and share all the beautiful cards and photos with my friends and family by displaying them from the first one to the last all during the holiday season,  I lovingly place the photos in their rightful place in my scrapbook album.  I murmur a simple prayer for all my friends and their families to keep safe and healthy and happy in the new year.  I keep pages of each individual family's photos from the first one they ever send me, to the present.  That way I have watched them all grow up right before my very eyes.

Holy heck, I even enjoy Christmas letters.  The closest I've ever come to writing one myself though is this blog because, who the heck wants to hear how my brand new cottage has leaks in the ceiling AND in the floor, and how if it doesn't stop raining in this supposed to be sunny all the time place I live called Southern California I'm gonna lay right down and die?  That was a rhetorical question by the way.

After saving all the photographs,  if a card was involved, I cut it in half, only keeping the front.  I use my trusty little hole punch and punch a hole which will serve to tie the card onto a gift I will give someone next year.

 There's the hole, right in the corner.  As you can plainly see, my hole puncher is heart shaped.

An ordinary round shape won't do, 'cause I love you more than that.

So there you go.  Do this before you put everything away this year, store them somewhere you can find them next Christmas, and when you go to wrap your packages you'll have a cute, recycled,  To/From label to put on the gifts you give.  And it's one extra thing you won't have to worry about when you're over flustered and trying to get things done last minute next year.  Nope.  Because you've REUSED,  RECYCLED, AND  GONE GREEN, using your old cards in a new fashion and saved some dough too.  Now don't you feel better about yourself already and it's not even New Year's Day yet?

No more buying the same ol, same ol,  gift tags from Target.  (No offense Target, you know I 'll always love ya.)  

Your new cards might just look something like the one below!

Blessings for a new year full of good health, abundant wealth and all the love your heart can hold!


24 December 2010

Sex Ed - Finally!

When my kids were adolescents I tried to give them "the sex talk".  I was very gentle, conservatively starting out the whole talk saying, "We are going to talk about the sanctity of life".  After I spoke about the sanctity of life,  what our family believes in and the values of our faith, it time to explain the mechanics of sexual intercourse.  I had bought a book.  Yes, a book which I thought would put a bit of a humorous twist to a serious subject.  The sanctity of life part was easy.  I used our apologetics books, our pro life books and conversation we have on almost a daily basis anyway.  For the mechanics part I thought having a bit of fun with it would make it less embarrassing for them me.

The talk didn't go so well.  They looked at me with diverse stares.  Everything from stark horror, to hanging their head embarrassment.  One even said to me, "Mom, I'm just not ready to hear this yet".  She was 16!  The other said  in a horrified tone, "Mom, they must have thought of a better way to do it than that by now!"  Um, not that I know of son but,  perhaps we can look for another book on that in the future.

Suffice it to say, I could see that they were not emotionally or age appropriately ready for, the talk, at that point in there lives, and I told them we'd come back to it later when they were more ready.  "If, in the meantime," I said, "you have any questions or hear anything on the playground that seems problematic for you, just come talk to me."

 Do you think it's possible I shelter my kids too much?  Do you get a notion that they are slow learners? Don't answer that.

Fast forward 10 years or so.

Whilst cleaning and organizing my daughters' closet after moving in to the cottage, we ran across THE BOOK.  Although the three I have gathered here, are now ages 23, 20, and 16, I decided maybe now would be a good time to approach the subject again.  After all, one has graduated from University, one is about to complete his second year at University, and the baby is in high school.  Surely now would be the best time to tell them the facts of life.  Certainly they are ready now!  After all, they're out there in the big world every day now and there are some things they just need to know.   It was now, or wait until their wedding days and I thought to myself, "You'll be much too busy dealing with guests, catering people and so on, on the wedding days of your children, to tell them about,  the facts of life."

 So, with a semblance of caution yet motherly advise in tact, (I take my job very seriously) you do know that it's my job to get them from here to eternity, don't you?  We embarked upon the book (again), HOW BABIES ARE MADE.  You can see here they haven't changed much.  The personalities of my offspring pretty much resemble their earlier views clearly at this point in their lives.  Kate has that, I'm uncomfortable, but I see you have cornered me in the closet and I-can't- get-out, expression embedded on her sweet little face.  Cooper is very excited to finally have Mommy read him this story so he can see if they've finally found a better way to do it, by now.  If you'll recall, he's an avid reader and voracious learner and was eager to finally get back to our discussion after all these years.

 As you can see, and may want to note, as this is a fabulously illustrated book, these chickens make it very clear what came first.  Or not.  The chicken or the egg?  Actually, we never did figure it out from the picture.  Matter of fact, we were all more confused than when we started.  Look at my baby still cornered over there on the floor.  We clearly had to close ranks so she could not escape.  Sometimes you have to force a child to listen no matter how they feel about it.  There are just some things a kid needs to know.  She  now defeatedly drops her head into her hands.  She may even be crying.  Let me warn you, sex talks are very embarrassing for some kids and you have to go slowly.  In her case it has taken 12 years to get through it and I'd say she hasn't quite completed the course yet, since she went through this latest bout with her eyes shut!

This part got a little more graphic but, by this point my sonny boy and I were quite enjoying ourselves.  Remember I told you he is a voracious learner?  We may or may not have been crying too.  But they were tears of hilarity!  I just love mommy and son moments, don't you?

When we got to the real people part, they both conceded it was pretty funny.  Kate even looks almost relieved.  I couldn't tell if it was because she didn't have to look at chickens copulating anymore or because the ordeal talk was almost finished.  I can't transcribe the wording from the book here in this post.  I'm sure it would infringe on some copyright law, and besides, this is a G-rated blog.  Their responses weren't exactly my hoped for reactions but, I decided to let it sit for a while and sink in.  Perhaps they'll find the seriousness of it as time goes on and it's more relevant for them.

Then, the baby appeared.  That's her behind me in the white sweatshirt.  My sonny boy became suddenly serious and disturbed.  He was blatantly disgusted with me.  He scolded me bluntly, declaring,  "How can you talk about this in front of the baby!  Close the book.  She's not ready for this yet."  Clearly.

So, I figure in 10 years or so I'll try again.  One thing you learn as you grow older and wiser is that,  it's never wise to rush things.  Life goes by fast enough.  Amen.

Love you more than all the chickens laying eggs, right now!



15 December 2010

Behind The Scenes - Making Of A Christmas Card

Taking the annual photo for our Christmas card.

Behind the scenes.

Oh the stories I could tell.

For now, I'll just start and end with this years card.

Look how much fun (they look like) they're having here.  It was Christmas card time at our household last week.  I've been sending cards out since my babies were babies and I always enclose a photo.

These are four (out of 5) of my offspring who don't have families of their own yet.  These are the four who still have to get their photo taken for THE CHRISTMAS CARD.  My eldest, she has her own family now and she sends out her own card with her family on it.  She gets to experience the Christmas card debacle and the havoc it wreaks for herself now.  I know she will find it just as priceless as I have over the past 34 years.  I always told her, "Do as I say, not as I do," but apparently she didn't listen.

I've sent out photos with our entire family including my eldest and her family but, lets just say, I can only accomplish that miraculous feat very rarely.  It's a boon just getting the 4 yahoos pictured above to sit and smile for the camera.

Honestly, any one of you who have tried to get all their kids to look up and smile all at once, raise your hand.  If you've tried to get your dog (cat, goat, chicken or bird) in the photo too, raise your other hand.  Just look at my spawn trying to use their power of persuasion to get the dog to sit with them. She's scared to death to approach that bunch of hoodlums.

 Okay everybody say, "Happy Birthday Jesus!"

Seriously guys?  Give a mom a break here.  Show me the love, so we can call it a day.

Oh, now that's just perfection.  I just love Christmas card making.  Look what I have to work with.  I mean, who wouldn't love it?  I even tried to get them back into matching PJ's like when they were tots, but apparently my authority only reaches so far.

Are we done yet?

 - I think this one turned out fairly human.  Well, at least it's not heinous.

From our home to yours,

Happy Christmas and Blessed Holidays to all!

The Clan @ "Cottage By The Sea"

09 December 2010

Inside The Cottage Studio

Inside The Cottage Studio

Welcome!  I promised in my last post Welcome To The Cottage Studio that soon, I'd come back to give you a tour of the inside.  So, I'm back to share, and do, please come on in.

Oh wait, first let me share the sunrise with you today.  I wasn't up at 4:30 am but hubby was, so he grabbed my Canon and snapped this photo of our city view to the East.  Goooood MORNING Solana Beach!

Lets step inside the french doors.  The first thing you see is, my desk.  I cleaned it up for ya.  Kinda.  That chair cover is my attempt to soften an ugly old rolling desk chair from Staples.  We've had it forever and so many butts have sat on it, the pleather has worn clean through.  It looks like the Snake River with all the crevices weaving through it, so I thought I'd spruce it up a bit with this thing I found when I started unpacking old boxes.  I think I inherited this soft cotton chair cover from one of my dad's X-wives.  The last one I believe, um, Nancy?  Thanks Nancy.  Anyhoo,  it has a beautifully monogramed "M" on the bottom tip.  It's wasted in this picture but, you just can't, believe the intricate beauty see it.  I don't know, maybe I'll just lose it.  Tell me what you think?

Don't you love the floors y'all helped me choose though?  I love the way they look all warm and mellow just the way I had dreamed of when I was Begging You Here for your trusted opinions.  Thanks my lovely friends;  you done me proud.

Remember me telling you that there are two sets of french doors in the studio, one coming in off the entry of the cottage which is naturally lit with indirect light, and this set which opens on to the courtyard with direct sunlight beaming in?  Well, from here you can hear the ocean and smell the fresh salt air.  It's heavenly.  If I didn't have so much work to do in here, it would be a vacation every day.

From my desk I can see the birds frolic in their bath, the wind blow the palms, and the bright pink of my bougainvillea cascading over the wall.  Just beauteous.  Speaking of beautiful, look at those gifts all wrapped up and ready to go.  Wonder who those are for?  Those gifts are my beginning attempt at the consumerism end of Christmas. I don't enjoy that end very much but my kids tell me it must be done.

In my last post I talked about my unfortunate breakdown in IKEA.  My sweet daughter helped me hold it together, by drawing me a picture on a post-it-note, of what kind of configuration of furniture I'd need to purchase, to fit the space I had.

Not bad eh?  I'd say it ended up to be a perfect fit.  If you'd like to have Kate come outfit your space and prevent you from having a breakdown, just call her at 1-800-save-sanity.  She does have a degree in Industrial Psychology you know.  Industrial Psychology?

Anyway, this is the way the space looks now.  I'm not so great at the planning/building part, but I can rock the 'put a little pop' into it part.  The photos on the far left and right are my hubby and I.  Cuuuuuuute, right?  It looks like we're looking at each other smiling.  Romaaaaantic, yes?  The middle photo is my four youngest kids dressed up for All Saints Day in their respective saint costumes.  That one is just for me.  It embarrasses them which is why I love it so very much, and helps me remember when I want to strangle them, of what little saints they all really are.  Yep.  The last photo is of my best friend Carolyn and I at our college graduation.  A distant memory, but alas, a fine one.  That little jar of blessings up there, is where anyone who wants to can write about something or someone they are blessed by, and place it in the jar for posterity.  Someday, I'll read you some.  They're pretty special.

Moving along, this is the counter part of the unit.  I've covered it with some of the things I use regularly like, thread and twine and rope.  The paint and paint samples are the colors I've chosen to paint the filing cabinet.  It may be a while before I can get to that but, I think it will give the room more of the soft, warm, beachy feeling I want it to have.  I'm going to use both shades and shabby it all together.

I hung wire over the counter where I pin up whatever photos I'm feelin at the moment.  I have 57,000 of them by my husband's count, which, I keep in the cupboard I'll show you in a minute.  Seriously though, this way I can replay my memories.  I can rewind them, re-live them, and just enjoy the sight of them each day!  And, and, they're never the same for too long.  I've changed them out 3 times this month alone.

 I love that the top half of this cupboard is glass.  What I'm NOT showing you behind the other solid cupboard doors, you don't even want to see.  It's all the OTHER stuff.  When Kate was planning my space, she told me that some of the cupboards must be solid.  She said, "That's where you can keep your OTHER stuff."

Whateve, Kate.

I wish these were the keys to open the cupboard.  There really are no keys, any old buddy can just open that door.  It's just a fantasy dream of mine that I could have a place that is sacred only to me.  A place where many little hands and fingers didn't go pilfering through to find treasures stuff for their own use.  Big breath....And God forbid, not put everything anything away the way they found it.  Or away at all.  You moms all know what I'm talkin about.  Oh yes, you do.

These are keys I've collected from hotels in England and Italy and Ireland.  No guys,  I did not steal them, I bought them.  What?  You mean renting the room for the night doesn't include the keys?

On the very tip top way up there.  Those are wee buttons I've been collecting for ever and ever!  If you're nice, when you visit me I'll let you sit on the floor a while and look through them.  It's loads of fun to see all the different styles and colors and sizes.  They feel awesome running through your fingers whether you are reaching right through the jar down to the bottom, or pouring them all out and rifling through the stash.  As you can see I have lots of seashells, sand, tags, markers and staples too.  Hmmm.  Staples.

Kate has banned me from ever buying staples again.  Not because I have so many but, because she now has staplephobia.  What pray tell is — staplephobia.  An uncanny fear of staples after having stapled your thumb to your palm.  Another story post, for another time.

 Ohhhhhh, more treasures.  Colored pencils,  my beloved paint brushes. Wire of every color and gauge, chalk, embroidery thread of every hue, paper clips, clothes pins, paint chips, cotton balls, and more buttons!  Yes, mam, these are all treasures, each and every one.  To the delight of many a little child, I've taken these treasures with me to more than a few art class that I've taught.  Most of these things have been compiled over time, now I just have somewhere to put them!  That is until I die and my kids set them out on the curb for the AMVETS truck.

Look at that bottom shelf there.  It contains glue sticks, markers and candy canes.  Doesn't every granny have candy canes in her cupboard at Christmas time?

So, there you have it, and probably more of it than you can stand.  But for those of you who enjoy this kind of stuff, there's more.

Sorry, I don't talk out loud much so, when I get you all gathered into a captive audience like this I just can't seem to shut up.

Wrapping paper, ribbon and magazines.  How cool is that storage bin?  What a great use of space! Again, Kate's idea.

Directly across from the storage units is my old cottage cupboard.  This is said cupboard which, my husband claims, houses my 57,000 photos.  Now, we all know that couldn't possibly be true.  At least 7,000 of those alleged photos are digital now.  Just don't make me open those doors while you're here, K?

I set the old paned mirror atop the cupboard so that I can take in the reflection from the other side of the room.  It gives me more dimension and light, and besides that I can see my awesome storage units from everywhere in the room then.  Are those graduated by size stacking boxes not fantastic?  Helps me remember what's inside them.  Hehehehe.

Full view.  You're welcome.

Once again, because I love light and dimension, I have placed a large mirror on the wall over the return on my desk area which enables me to see out to the courtyard without even turning around!

This is the area I call my wall of sacraments.  On it I have placed the 1st Communion pictures of all my children as well as My wedding picture and the wedding picture of our eldest daughter and her hubby.  All precious reminders of our blessings and God's love and grace to our family.

 Nuff said.

 Command central.  My son made that darling little note pad as a surprise for me.  It's made from red twine, cardboard, permanent marker and white paper cut to fit and all put together in this clever little package.  I wonder where he got the stuff for this project?  He must have the key.

 Lookey that beautiful blank canvas.  Now that's a sight to behold.  She's just sitting there patiently waiting for me to create something.  Come to mama you gorgeous thing!

This is my feeble attempt at organization.
  (I kinda cleaned out the paperwork so it would look more tidy for the tour.)  Did it work?


 These are the most important things in the studio.  These are my husbands's tide-logs.  These logs tell you all the cycles of the tides.  Where, on any give day at any given moment, a year in advance, the tide will rise and fall.  This comes in handy before you take a walk on the beach!

 So, there you have it.  It's honestly just a small, little room, but it's packed with light and reflection and color.  It's full of love and creativity and dreams, so it lives large.  I just can't write a short post to save my soul.  I've tried.  Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, I've tried!  Thanks for putting up with me.  Now you know where I get in all this trouble get my inspiration from.  I write these little looooong blog posts from this desk, right here.

Now, I  bid you adieu.  Thanks so much for visiting me and taking a tour of my studio.  I apologize again for my lengthy ramblings but, I had a rare chunk of time today which due to the season and all, I may not have again for a while.  I do have a Christmas card to give you.  Yes, you!  You all mean more to me than you'll ever know.  I just can't believe you keep coming back again and again to blog time with me.  I appreciate every single one of you xoxox too.  Y'all get ready, your Christmas card from the cottage is coming soon so, until then...

Love you more than the length of my posts!



05 December 2010

Welcome To The Cottage Studio

Hi guys.  It's me again.  Sorry I've been gone such a long time.  Tis the season to be overwhelmed, and that I have been.  I've missed y'all so much though, and I've had post ideas floating around in my mind for so long, I didn't know where to start!  So I decided to start with some cottage progress. 

Welcome to my studio
Remember my studio? Formerly the room in which everybody piled all the crap the things they didn't know what else to do with.  It's the room on the left, right after you come in the front door?  There is a beautiful set of french doors leading into the room and another set which lead out onto the courtyard. If you'd like to see how that came together and how beautiful it looks take a hop over here, Cottage By The Sea Courtyard

My studio is filled with natural light, making it an artists dream.  I keep my paints, easels, craft supplies, original scripts from when I used to teach and direct children's theater, and just about everything else I own, except my clothes in there.  My clothes live in our closet with my husbands clothes.  We just find it more romantic that way.

My daughter Kate has been residing in the great state of Texas where she graduated from University last spring and then stayed because, she thought her fame and fortune were to be found there her boyfriend lives there.  She came all the way home just to help me organize my studio because she, got sick and tired of me whining about it,  loves me so much. 

This is the drawing my daughter whipped up for me, right in the middle of Ikea the day we went shopping for storage.  In case you weren't here last year when I started writing this blog, I introduced my daughter Kate in my post, Simply Kate.  Beware, it's a long post in which I waxed eloquent went on and on and on, as only a smitten mother can do but,  just looking at the pictures of that darling girl is worth it, in my humble opinion.  

I had so much trouble picturing the space I was trying to create for my studio having a mental break down in the middle of a major department store.  Ikea is an overwhelming place for me.  I don't like shopping, over-stimulation, making decisions, or people.  There are all those things and a jar of Lingenberries in there. I also have a bit of trouble with measuring and math concepts, read, I am a completely underachieving, moronic, defective, dimwitted, dope at math.  So if you will allow me, I'm going to add another thing to my post 22 Things I Know About Kate.  Which, when actually added up turned out to be 23 Things I Know About Kate.  Math.  Ach!  Told ya.  And now, I'm adding one more, so now you will know 24 things about my sweet Kate.

24.   Kate is extremely patient and organized.

On our trip to Ikea to find a solution to my storage problems for the studio,  during after before, I had my breakdown and tried to run screaming out of there, Kate drew the above drawing for me so we could narrow down, what I was looking for, needed, and what would actually fit, in the space. She stuck by me through the designing, loading objects that weigh more than the both of us on to carts, purchasing, then unloading and building said storage.  I am eternally grateful Kate, and I forgive you for your entire teenage years.

These are the directions which came with the storage units.  Whaaaat?  Pictures?  Not a word on them.  Whomever drew the pictures has the artistic ability of a kindergartener too.  Seriously, who is that guy assembling the furniture?  The Pillsbury Dough Boy?

Oh my!  We definitely didn't want that to happen.  I wouldn't even wish that on the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

You think Ikea is a place where you buy reasonably priced storage which is quick and easy to assemble. Okay, well, that's what I was led to believe.  I usually think things will be easier than they turn out to be however, which is why I tackle make my daughter and husband tackle big projects like this one. 

They are a great team.  I love watching them work together, they are both very handy with power tools.

These two make a great team because, they are both logical and patient and good at figuring things out.  Even if their only directions are illustrated with no words.

About 7 hours in, and I'm not including the 5 hours at Ikea, even the most patient of us got a bit frustrated with the process.  Remember, we were into 12 hours of studio remodeling at this point.  So...

Out came the Gnarly Head.

I made my crew a plate of pasta and gave them a bit of sustenance.  Great golly, now I had drunk people assembling my studio.

As for moi and the pups, when I wasn't cheerleading or taking pictures, this is what we were doing.  Don't judge, they didn't even need me to read the instructions since they were only illustrations!  Besides that, who do you think had to clean up that mess when they were done?  Exhausting just thinking about it!

These guys assembled cupboards, drawers, and shelves.  It was, the never ending project of assembly.  We all finally went to bed after midnight and it still took 5 hours the next day.  Lead me gently Home, Father! The entire project took 17, SEVENTEEN, hours.  

This isn't my license plate and I'm not even allowed to root for the Escondido Cougars because my son-in-law coaches for the opposing team, but this sums up my appreciation for Kate.  I recently found it right on the back of a car!  I heart Katie.  Why yes, I do!  And my husband isn't too bad himself.  The man knows how to wield a power tool.

And just because I've been gone from blogland for so long,  I wanted to give you a little peek at baby Abby.  She has grown so much.  Girlfriend is 2 months old now.  I wanted to treat you to a peek of her here with her momma and daddy.


Come back soon because in my next post, I'm going to show you how my studio looks now.  It's been about a month since the storage was assembled and has been completely transformed.  I've now used all my super powers to organize and put the finishing touches on it.  (No math or measuring required.)  Just in time for Christmas decorating and gift making, it is looking more like a studio and less like a dumping ground.  I'm expecting great things to happen in there!



P.S.  Kate is leaving Texas and moving back to California next week.  She has been taking pre requisites for nursing school since she didn't find her groove with a degree in Business and Industrial Psychology.  Industrial Psychology???

Next up for Kate, besides a few good surf sesh's back on her old stomping grounds is... Nursing School.  I know she's going to be a great nurse because of how she signed her last email to me.

Love you more than all the possible sequences of all the groups of nucleotides in replicating deoxyribonucleic acid double helix (don't worry, it's infinite), 

(Right back at ya kid.)