Sunday, September 30, 2012

no turning back

Alternate title: If I make it through this week with my sanity still in tact, it will be because God flooded me with an epic amount of grace. And because of Starbucks.

We ripped up our kitchen yesterday. It was a now or never kind of thing. Either we moved forward with this project in the next two weeks or we wait until Andrew gets back from deployment. Next summer. I would not like to wait until next summer.

I'm not gonna lie, people - it wasn't pretty. It still isn't pretty. We've hit snags and hiccups and roadblocks and we're not even close to being finished. BUT. I just keep telling myself that my house will most likely look a lot different this time next week.

Or you'll find me huddled in the basement with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. Regardless, things will be better than they are right now.

Things that I am thankful for:
  • A husband who knows what he's doing or can at least figure it out.
  • Baby gates.
  • Friends who bring me coffee.
  • Google. (Example: How to install water shut-off valve?)
  • Little boys who don't mind hanging out in the pack-n-play while his parents work.

 Maybe the next time I check in there will be new cabinets installed? Fingers crossed! :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

(diy) pallet art + touches of fall

This beauty was a long time coming.

Andrew and I have long admired all of the pallet creations that are popping up everywhere. We had planned to build a daybed out of pallets, so we got about 10 for free from Lowes and hauled them home for that project. That was about four months ago.

I had been reading more and more about the health concerns of using shipping pallets, due to the chemicals they're treated with and the potential dangers involved when keeping them indoors. But we planned to seal the pallets with SafeCoat (which is a poly used to prevent outgassing of these types of chemicals) so we felt okay about that.

Then we got them home and started trying to build with them.

For one thing, they were a beast to tear apart. And secondly, I realized that it would take a lot of time/effort to make sure everything was sufficiently coated with the poly if we couldn't tear them apart. So after lots of deliberation, we scrapped the daybed idea and Andrew just went to work trying to get a few good pieces that we could use for something else.

Like I said, there was no easy way to do it, so he just used his circular saw to cut between the nails and we ended up with a pile of pieces, anywhere from 8" to two feet long.

We had been looking for something to put over our mantel in the living room - something big and bold, but sort of neutral so I could change up the things around it from time to time without worrying about anything clashing. We just wanted an anchor piece - much like the shutters and mirror we had at our house in Charleston.


Anyway, this is the longest back story ever, but we finally dreamed up a plan to build a massive wall-hanging out of these pallets.

The first attempt was kind of a fail because when we put it outside to dry after we'd glued the pieces down, the sun warped some of the wood so that they wouldn't lay flat. And then the Liquid Nails didn't cure as a result.


Another month later, we tried again and this time it was a success!

We just cut a piece of plywood to size and then placed the pieces in a staggered pattern on top of the plywood. Once we got it how we wanted it, we went crazy with Liquid Nails, clamped it all down and let it dry overnight (inside this time). The next day, Andrew put a bunch of screws in the back to reinforce everything, sealed it with the SafeCoat and voila! It was hanging over our mantel that evening.

The pallets were free and the plywood came from a pile of wood Andrew rescued from the side of the road, so the only cost was in the Liquid Nails. We used four tubes, so it was about $15. Not bad!

I love the imperfections of the wood and the varying colors. It's just such an interesting piece and we find ourselves staring at it, inspecting all of the details. I think it's beautiful.

And did you notice how wonderful it looks with my fall decorations?

Fall is popping up in other areas of our home as well, like the dining room buffet:

And of course, you can't forget about Henry and Harriet, who I brought home from Hobby Lobby two years ago.

   It sure is happy around here :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

no whining here


Confession: I sat down to write something whiny.

The last few days have been challenging (to say the least) and I currently find myself angry with a lot. The approaching winter season, unreliable customer service, the Navy, AT&T, the IKEA kitchen department, Rudy, sleepless nights and runny noses. I'm mad at all of it.

But there's no sense getting myself worked up over any of those things. I'm going to write a Thankful List instead.
+ I'm thankful for a husband who has a well-paying job that keeps us all safe and free, even when he's not around to enjoy it.
+ I'm thankful for cell phones and the internet and electricity and heat.
+ I'm thankful that my baby can fight off a cold and that he'll let me snuggle him a little more in the process.
+ I'm thankful for a dog that lets me know when a stranger is too close to the house.
+ I'm thankful for coffee. Oh man, am I thankful for coffee.
+ I'm thankful for family who will travel far and wide for first birthdays.
+ I'm thankful for an able body that can clean and cook and do the laundry and make stationery and read and write and sit in the floor to play with toy trains.
+ I'm thankful that I'm no longer a slave to the things that try to steal my joy. Amen and amen.
+ I'm thankful for a beautiful, beautiful day.
I feel better already! Let's trade the complaining for warm and fuzzies, shall we?

I'll work on it if you will :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

grace for today (and tomorrow) (and the next day)

Yesterday was not a good day.

It was the kind of day that made me incredibly thankful that His mercies are knew every morning. When my head hit the pillow, it was such a relief to know that there was a new day waiting for me when the sun came up because yesterday? It was a big, fat fail.

I've been thinking a lot about grace lately. I've been reading through Galatians and Paul talks about how if he were to set grace aside and not talk about it, then what Christ did for us on the cross was in vain. That's intense. 

As much as I receive his grace and survive on it, I rarely acknowledge it and let it really do its work in me. I fight and wrestle and cry and grow pretty restless because I'm trying to do it all by myself. And he could really do so much more through me if I just backed off a little bit. 

What a life-changing thing, that grace. Both in the big picture and in the day-to-day.

I'm doing a Bible study with the #SheReadsTruth community and one of the recent questions has been sort of turning me inside out, in a good way: 

Do you ever feel the tendency to praise God for his grace, without letting it transform you?

Um...every day.

My goal and my prayer is to start letting it transform me. I don't want to get to the end of the day and merely thank him for the grace that got me through it, but I want to let it do the work in me that it's meant to do. I want it to teach me how to love my husband better. How to dive deeper into the relationships I'm building here. How to let go of my tendency to seek approval from others. I want it make it easier for me to give others the benefit of the doubt. And to make me more selfless. And to give me patience when I feel like all I'm doing all day long is trying to keep my son from busting his head open on the coffee table.

Stuff like that.

I want it to transform me.

So here's to tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day. Here's to new mercies and abundant grace. Here's to the joy we have in knowing that his grace will never leave us where it found us.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

two sundays, three food festivals

Tis the season for good food, apparently. I'm used to all the yummies coming out over the summer months down South and I was a little disappointed not to have anything on my calendar as June, July and August ticked by. But then SEPTEMBER came. And September is where it's at.

Two weeks ago we went to a Greek Food Festival and The Taste of Mystic. Last weekend, we went to the Garlic Festival and it was just as awesome as you could imagine.

Jack was the perfect tag-a-long. He sampled a lot of what we had and was especially fond of the tortilla from our fish taco and the Thai chicken on a stick. That's my boy.

When he wasn't sneaking bites from my plate, he was just being all cute and stopping people in their tracks when they walked by his stroller. Typical. Unfortunately, it's rare to have Andrew around on the weekends for something like that, so it was nice to take advantage. I do love those boys, especially when they're together.




Monday, September 17, 2012

eleven months with jack

My sweet boy,

How did we get here? Almost one?! You're so big.

We're seeing so much of your personality these days. We're learning how you think and what sorts of things interest you and what makes you laugh. It's so fun to watch you explore and learn and experience.

You smile and laugh so easily. That's always been a trademark of yours and I love it. You're into everything and we've started baby-proofing certain things, like the door to the basement stairs and the poison-filled cabinets. You like to open and close doors, empty baskets, pull books off the shelves. Typical baby things, but you don't know that. You look at me like, "Did you just see this cabinet door open?!" and I feign excitement because then I see the twinkle in your eye change from wonderment to pride and I like feeling like I've built you up just a little bit more. Then we clap, which is another new trick of yours that you really like. It makes me laugh when I hear you clapping for no particular in the backseat of the car.

The things that make you happiest are, really, the things you've always loved: me, Rudy, your daddy, food and the giraffe that lives in your crib. And if he ever makes a trip out of your crib, you beam. Lately, you've especially enjoyed your baths. You splash and laugh and dance and make your daddy and me laugh so hard that we can't breathe. Those little family moments are my favorite, so thank you.

You'll eat anything and some new favorites this month are whole wheat tortillas, toast, cheese sticks and black beans. We really don't hesitate to give you anything. You ate some of our gyro at the Greek food festival last weekend like it was no big deal. You big boy.

When it's time for a diaper change, you cry like you're completely devastated. I think it's because you'd rather be roaming around the house. You've started pulling up on things and your favorite spot to hang out is the front door where you can watch the cars drive by. When it's the trash truck, nothing can break your concentration and you crane your neck to look until it's completely out of sight. 

You know what we mean when we say ball, mama, daddy, Rudy or Cheerios. Your response to, "Do you want some Cheerios?" is "mmmMMMmmm!!!" and that always makes us laugh. 

You like kisses and when you're being held, you hold back.

You're just a lot of fun, little boy, and we love you. A whole lot.

Saturday, September 15, 2012 giveaway winner!

I picked a winner using and it was...

I'll be passing your info on to to work out the details! Hooray!

PS: I got all of my notebooks in the mail yesterday and they are way super cute. Now I just need to practice self-control and not start on one before my current one is filled up...

Friday, September 14, 2012

ten random things (v9)

There's much to say, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring this little ditty back. Ready?

1. I'm prepping for another craft show. Except this one is much bigger (i.e. thousands of visitors) and requires a lot more investment on my part (i.e entry fee, tax permit fee, tent purchase, etc). I'm excited about it, obviously, but also a little overwhelmed at the amount of inventory I need to crank out between now and October 6. AND I'm hoping that it pays off. Thankfully, Andrew will be here that day and will be able to help run the booth/watch Jack. More details to come!

2. I've taken a break from cleaning this week. Aren't you proud? I swept once because Jack's little knees and palms were covered in dog hair and I have to draw the line somewhere. But I'm working on being a little more laid back and only tackling what's necessary (laundry) and what bothers me the most (dirty floors). That was a good tip from my friend Jenny - just deal with what bugs you and let the rest go!

3. Today is the last day to enter the giveaway! $50. Do it. Enter here:

4. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Jack loves his daddy. Almost every morning, he crawls out of his nursery and down the hall calling for "dada." It's sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. Those two are buddies, for sure.

5. We're making progress on the kitchen! If you can count contractor meetings and new appliances as progress, and I think you can. The refrigerator doesn't fit in the original spot (oopsie) but that's okay because we're reconfiguring the layout of the kitchen anyway. In the meantime, there's a fridge in the middle of my kitchen (oopsie) which is propelling the remodel along even more quickly than before.

6. Fall is legit in New England. This time last year, I'm pretty sure I was wearing shorts when I put up all my fall decorations. And I'm definitely sure that I broke a sweat. Something about 85 degree weather in SC just doesn't scream FALL IS HERE! But in Connecticut? It's been cool during the day and chilly at night. We're making soups and wearing sweatpants and covering up with blankets in the morning. Oh and also? The leaves are changing.

7. Food festivals are also legit in New England. I kind of stuck my nose up at the food culture up here because I was missing my local shrimp and grits and my sweet tea and my fried things. But these folks can throw down, too, just in a different way. Last weekend (oh PS: I have pictures to share from last weekend! Noted.) we went to two festivals within 3 hours - the Greek Food Festival and Taste of Mystic. We had gyros and baklava and fish tacos and crab and corn chowder and thai chicken and ice cream and OMG. It was so good. This weekend is the Garlic Festival which I'm super intrigued about.

8. There's some traveling in my future. I can't say when or where, for security reasons, but there's an excellent chance that I'll be meeting up with Andrew while he's on deployment next year. In a foreign land. It's going to be EPIC.

9. I'm starting to plan for a certain little boy's first birthday next month. We've got lots of family coming in to celebrate and I'm excited for that weekend to get here. And you know there's going to be a theme, obviously. More on that later :)

10. I'm making a quilt. For my boy. For his birthday. Wish me luck.

PS: There were going to be pictures with this post but someone (side eye, Jack) just cut his nap short.

Happy Weekend, Y'all! :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

life with a 10.5-month-old

(Technically, he's past the halfway mark, but I can't bear to admit that just yet.)

Jack has been such a blast over the last few weeks. Every day, we see a little more of personality and it's been so fun. It sounds ridiculously Leave it to Beaver-ish but we sort of just sit around and enjoy him and laugh and high-five because of how awesome he is. And cute. He's WAY cute.

Don't get me wrong, we have our moments of despair. He's a teething baby-on-the-go with a case of separation anxiety and a strong will, so there's bound to be some times of tears and trouble. But I've usually forgotten about that by the end of the day. It's a gift we mothers have, I think.

So what's he up to, you ask?

He's learned what "no" means and will shake his head back and forth when we say it. And he's remembering what's off-limits. He'll crawl up to something forbidden, then stop and shake his head at it. The other day he crawled off when I wasn't paying attention and when I went to find him, he was sitting in front of Rudy's water bowl - shaking his head.

Yes, it's as cute as it sounds.

And he does this thing when he's eating where he pretends like he's going to give you a bite of whatever is in his hand and then at the last minute, snatches back and eats it himself. He thinks that is HILARIOUS. He gets this little sly twinkle in his eye right before he does it, too. Then he just laughs and laughs. He did it to the dog yesterday but we're trying to break that habit because, well, that's how you lose a finger.


He also carries things around in his mouth when he crawls. I don't know where that came from but if wants to keep a toy with him, he just chomps down on it and goes on his way. In this picture? It's a hair clip that he pilfered out from the bathroom cabinet.

Tonight, we were goofing off before bed and I was laughing and he was laughing and all of a sudden, we were just laughing together. Not at anything, just together. He's turning into a little person. When did that happen?

Oh, I could just squeeze him.

PS: Thanks for all the advice and feedback on that cleaning post last week. There was some good stuff in there and I'll probably do a follow up post.

PPS: Don't forget about that $50 giveaway - open until Friday!

Friday, September 7, 2012

a housekeeping s.o.s.

Can I get an amen?

I'm kind of drowning in housework, y'all. And I'm getting mega-overwhelmed.

On the surface, it's not that bad. There are no dishes in the sink, there's minimal clutter, I vacuumed yesterday. But lurking behind my closed bedroom door are baskets full of laundry that need to be put away. The bathroom needs to be scrubbed like whoa. The floors are disgusting. 

I know that those things probably seem minor, but I just feel like I'm always behind on something. It's not just the laundry. It's the laundry and the floors and the fact that I could write love notes to Andrew in the dust on our dresser. Before Jack and before I quit working, I could knock out my housework on a Saturday morning and have my feet up by lunchtime. It's amazing how quickly things go when there's not a baby underfoot.

Not any more, my friends. Not anymore.

And I feel like I shouldn't even be complaining because I do stay at home all day so I should have plenty of time to get it all done. But there are obviously other things (read: babies) that fill my time and trying to balance that with my list of chores is not working out so well. I have come to hate housework. HATE. And I honestly didn't used to be that way. I kind of liked cleaning my house. ::hides face in hands::

Yesterday, as I was begrudgingly cleaning the living room, I was thinking that if all the people in my life who ask me what I want for Christmas every year pooled their money and got me a maid for a year, I would cry out of gratitude and relief. You think I'm kidding. I actually almost teared up just thinking about it.

It would be THE BEST PRESENT EVER. Because right now, I feel completely overwhelmed and trapped by my housekeeping duties. I hate it. There are so many other things I'd rather be doing. 

Here are my two main challenges:

Sweet Rudy. He tracks dirt inside. He sheds. And sheds and sheds and sheds.

Crazy Sweet Jack. He's not so much the source of the messiness (yet) as much as he is a deterrent from dealing with it. I can only get so much done while he's napping and if he's awake, I have to confine him to the high chair long enough for me to cross something off my list. Otherwise, he'll make a beeline for something that is not meant to be covered in baby slobber.

Essentially, what happens is that things pile up and pile up and pile up and then I try to deal with it all at once. Which is never good because a) I can't get it all done and b) it makes me a crazy person. I'm thinking that I need to break it down into bite-sized chunks. Do a load of laundry from start to finish every day, instead of 10 loads once a week. Clean the floors one day, the bathroom one day, and the kitchen after dinner every night. Something like that.

And it sounds good in theory, but can I really keep up with it?

So, my question is this: how do you keep your house clean?

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS TYPE-A. Someone please tell me how to get a handle on this.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

(a giveaway!)

Let's talk stationery.

I'm not ashamed (at all) to admit that while I love my simple little die-cut designs, there's a lot out there that I really like but could never do myself. There are so many different creative approaches and skills when it comes to stationery design and I'm not going to pretend like mine is superior or the only way to go.

For example, I have a teeny crush on Dodeline Design's stuff, especially her adorable wedding invitations.

If only I knew about Sarah when I was planning my wedding!

And even though there have been times that I've designed other things (like our Christmas cards or a certain baby's upcoming birthday invitation) I've also turned to other, more professional sources to get the quality just right. Especially when it comes to anything with photos - my printer is just not up to the same standards as many others. 

So when contacted me and asked if I'd be willing to do a review/giveaway, I was 100% on board because I actually love their stuff. I really appreciate the fact that their mission is to find good designers and sell their products. So it's all unique and interesting. It feels more personal.

I mean, how cute is this birth announcement? With the scalloped edges? Love.

Or these thank you cards. How sweet would they be for those post-wedding thank you notes?

And I really, really love all of their Christmas cards. They're stylish and contemporary and still festive. Not at all cheesy. Cheesy Christmas cards make me sad.

I also really like that each card can be either flat or folded, you can customize the interior/back text and you have the option of making it a little mini-book of pictures from the year. I haven't seen any other sites with that many options for each design, so that's nice.

As for me, I'd like to think that I'm on the ball and ready to start thinking about Christmas cards but I'm absolutely not. In the meantime, they have a ton of non-stationery items to choose from like journals, photo books or 8x10 prints.

And because I'm nothing if not a notebook hoarder, I decided to snag a couple of journals for my stash. There are a whole lot of customization and personalization options with those as well, including your choice of lined pages, graph paper or blank pages. I have a borderline inappropriate love for graph paper notebooks, so you have no idea how happy that makes me.

I picked out these three journals and am waiting for them to come in the mail. Aren't they so fun?

All of that talk about, but what's in it for you? A $50 credit, that's what! 
You can use it on either their holiday cards or their fabulous journals. Or both!

The giveaway is open until Friday, September 14 and you can earn up to three entries:

For the first entry, just visit and tell me what you're thinking you'd spend your credit on.

For an additional entry, spread the word! Post it on Facebook, blog about it or tweet it. Just leave a comment back here letting me know how you spread the word.

And finally, have you liked us on Facebook yet? Now's your chance and that's your third entry :)

Good luck, friends! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

kitchen talk

Hey y'all. Welcome to September!

By the way, the longer we're in Connecticut, the more I'm painfully aware of how often I say "y'all." I feel like people are JUDGING ME when I use that word. It's too bad, though, because I can never stop.

Anywho. I haven't been so good about keeping you all (Y'ALL) apprised of all the house changes we've made. And we've made a lot of progress since this post:

  • The living room is mostly done, with the exception of some decorating updates I want to make. But when does that ever really end? 
  • The sunroom is beautiful! It just needs some curtains. 
  • Jack's room has been repainted and rearranged and only needs one or two more things. 
  • The bathroom is finished, which you saw here
  • Our bedroom is done except for art on the walls. 
  • The den/guest room space downstairs is done for now.
  • My studio is as finished as it will ever be, considering the fact that it's also a stash-room for when company is coming over and I need a place to hide things :)

So with all of that, maybe I should update that house tour so you can see where we are? Hey, there's the motivation I've been looking for to clean my house!

But there's one thing noticeably missing from that list. The kitchen. My poor, pitiful, small and outdated kitchen. We've spent a lot of time over the last six months dreaming about that kitchen. Talking about how we can change it. Researching and pricing out and making notes.

And folks. Those dreams are about to become a reality. There's a really good chance that the Castrodales will have a new kitchen by October. Can I get a what-what?!

As of this weekend, we've finalized the budget, mostly finalized our choices of cabinets, countertops and finishes and purchased new appliances. Now we just need to figure out when to take on the reno and whether we're going to hire help or not. But the ball is moving and it makes me super happy.

Here's what we're thinking: white cabinets, butcher block counters, stainless steel appliances and a reconfiguration of the layout that gives us a lot more counter space and a lot more storage space. I'm so excited that I'm actually losing sleep over it. It's that good.

Like I said, we already got the appliances. After lots of research, we snagged a refrigerator, dishwasher and range at really great prices thanks to Lowes' Labor Day sale and our beloved military discount. We also made a trip out to IKEA where we decided, once and for all, that their cabinets are the ones we want. I'll probably dedicate another post to that to talk about how we landed on them, but just know that they are beautiful, they are cheap (but not cheap) and they are SMART. They make the most of small spaces and get so creative with storage solutions. Major points.

Wondering what it's going to look like? Well let me show you. Thanks to their handy 3D Kitchen Planner, we got a visual on what it will be like when we turn this:

into this:

EEEEEEE! I'm so excited.

I'll do my best to keep you informed along the way. We get the appliances next week and I have a feeling it's going to be like Christmas morning up in here.

What about you? Any kitchen renos in your past, present or future? Any tips to share?

Monday, September 3, 2012

free shipping on labor day!

Well, hello. We're having the most perfect long weekend together and it's done my heart good. 

I wanted to pop in and first, let you know that there are lots of new designs in the shop. I never did tell you that, did I?

There are note cards and birthday cards and fill-in-the-blank thank you cards for the kiddies. It's all pretty cute, if I do say so myself. 

And the other thing I wanted to tell you is that you can get FREE SHIPPING if you use the code LABORDAY at checkout. 

Here's the link again. You're welcome :)

ALSO: Marvelous Prints is on Facebook! So legit. Like us over there to keep up with more updates and possible coupon codes! 

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