State Love

ShelfI was born and raised in Pennsylvania. I love soft pretzels, the Phillie Phanatic, and the rivers of Pittsburgh. I moved to New Jersey five years ago, and while I’ve loved the Jersey Shore my whole life (and spent my summers there for as long as I can remember), I was still resistant to the idea of becoming a “Jersey Girl.”

No offense to Snookie or Theresa Guidice… but Jersey Girl is pretty much synonymous with big hair, leopard print attire, and table flipping these days. (I do secretly love Theresa though, I cannot lie).

dish-053012-necessay-roughness-2Image Source: Bravo TV

Nevertheless, a Jersey Girl I am, thanks to five years of residence, a Jersey-born hubby, and the occasional “aw” sound that accidentally slips into my daily conversations (I cringe every time I catch myself saying “”tawlk…”)

I still take pride in the fact that I know how to pump my own gas. But I also really like not having to do that when it’s cold & rainy, so…womp womp.

I’m a big fan of state & region inspired art, and I’ve got my eye on some Pennsylvania-based art to pay tribute to my roots – like this lovely watercolor print and this rustic wood piece. (birthday hint for any relatives or husbands that might be reading…)

So decided to create my own State Love art to represent the state where I met & married my love! This yellow New Jersey piece was an easy project – using cardstock & scrapbook paper. The little heart is over Hope, New Jersey – the quaint little town where we tied the knot.

StateLove2

To make my New Jersey art, I used this this image of an outline of the state (link will take you to a PDF).

I put it into a Microsoft Word document, and flipped the image so that I could print it directly onto my yellow scrapbook paper, cut it out, and turn it around to have a line-less yellow New Jersey.

NJStateArtI glued the cut out state onto white cardstock, and then glued on a little red heart (just cut freehand from red scrapbook paper). I popped the entire piece inside a white frame matted to 8 x 10 – and boom! Let the fist pumping commence!

ArtworkShelfMy new artwork is hanging out on a new shelf we installed a few weeks ago (there is a long story behind the shelf which I’m sure I’ll get around to telling someday soon…) It’s hanging out with my Gnome Sweet Gnome stenciled canvas, along with a yellow gnome candle from Target, a white “C” and a jar of cute little daisies. I love the yellow & the combination of these two handmade and personal pieces in our living room!

{Wedding Wednesday} DIY Burlap LOVE Bunting

This was a really simple little project that I am very happy with! I plan to hang/display this bunting at the wedding, and will probably use the same technique to make some more!

 

First cut your burlap into triangles of desired size. (I think mine were about 5″ wide & 6.5″ long).

I used Mod Podge (my favorite!) & coated each of my triangles. Once dry, this makes the triangles nice & sturdy, and prevents any outrageous fraying. (The fraying on the edges adds to the charm of the burlap, I think. You could also coat your fabric in Mod Podge and THEN cut, which would really cut down on the frayed edges.

(P.S. I did the Mod Podge part over sheets of wax paper to protect my working surface!)

 

For my stencil, I used Word Art in MS Word to spell out my letters & printed them on some cardstock.

 

I cut out my stencil & set to work painting onto my triangles.

 

 

I used a pouncer and white and red craft paint- remembering to be patient and careful, as always when stenciling!

 

 

I think the firmness created in the bunting by using the Mod Podge helped make the stencil stand out with nice, clean edges.

 

 

The final step was to attach my ribbon – I used my hot glue gun to attach the ribbon to the back of the bunting!

 

 

And that’s it! This was very simple, and I can’t wait to make more with different wording!

 

 

Are you digging that old gate? My mother & I found it in an antique shop on Long Beach Island, and I love it!!

What DIY projects have you been up to lately?

Tell Me How You Really Feel.

Last night, FH and I drove to Sandy Hook, NJ to meet up with Amy Migliore & Lauren Gibson of Focal Point Studios for a little engagement photo shoot. This is one wedding detail were are quite behind on, I realize, but it worked out so well because FH & I both love the beach & summer evenings, so although our wedding is in the Autumn, we got to enjoy another favorite season & build some lovely (and hilarious) new memories.

One of the things I love the most about my future hubby, is his unfailing honesty and commitment to be true to himself. In our relationship, I very rarely find myself wondering what he ‘really feels’ about something, because 99% of the time, he will tell me the truth. (Although, like every good man, he does have a good grasp on the little lies that make a lady feel pretty or normal… even when she is lookin’ a mess or acting crazy.)

Anyway, my point is that I love my FH’s strong individuality (as he loves mine- there are no sheep to be herded in this household). With that said, when the idea of taking engagement pictures came about, my future hubby was very clear about his less-than-thrilled attitude. I imagine most husbands-to-be do not jump at the chance to stand in forced positions, awkwardly striking the “I’m looking at you with a natural, loving expression while people stand around me snapping photos and inside I sort of hate you a little bit for making me do this” pose. Or maybe they do. I wouldn’t know, because I’ve only been engaged to one man, and my man was not excited.

So when I said at the beginning of this post that I love how my FH always tells me the truth about what he feels, I meant it. But I love even more that last night he a) told me the truth about how he felt, but then, b) did it anyway. And tried to smile, and eventually relaxed enough to be his normal, joking, sarcastic, and wonderful self. I was so happy to be taking pictures with such a loving & wonderful man last night. Our photographers were so sweet & made us feel as comfortable as possible.

After we thought our photo session was over, my FH assuming he was driving away to safety, and Amy & Lauren flashed for us to stop – insisting we just had to get out of the car to take a few more pictures because the sunset was just TOO beautiful to miss – my man dutifully parked the car & walked through the dunes to capture just a few more pictures. The combination of Amy & Lauren’s commitment to their artistic vision (and to capturing gorgeous photos for us to cherish), with my FH’s ability to compromise for love the bribe of a giant ice cream sundae when we got home, made for a fantastic evening.

Lauren shared her perspective in a lovely (and insightful look at marriage and compromise) post over on the Focal Point Studios blog, where you can see some of the pictures from our shoot. If you live in the Philly/NYC and are looking for incredibly talented and fun photographers, you simply MUST contact Amy & Lauren! Thanks again, ladies!

Ombre LOVE Canvas Art

Pinterest is full of lovely projects featuring canvas & wood letters. There are some beautiful images here at My Favorite Mix Tape, via Pinterest. Inspired, I enjoyed creating my own set of canvas pieces:

Here are the instructions for your DIY canvas pieces!

On my latest trip to Michael’s, I took advantage of a sale on Artist’s Loft canvases- purchasing a set of four 6 inch square canvas blocks at 40% off. (Yay!)

I grabbed the letters to spell LOVE (these were the cheaper, cardboard versions rather than wood), and scampered home to have some crafty fun. (I do scamper, on occasion).

Step one of my project was to attach the letters to the canvas. I used gorilla glue because it is super strong- like a gorilla.

Though I love the clean look of white-on-white, I was looking for some color to add to my side of the bedroom. While we have plans for the two back rooms that include fresh paint & new color schemes, those changes are further down the road, and I wanted some new decor now. I’ve never been the patient type.

Our current bedding and our curtains feature blues, turquoise and browns. So I grabbed a bottle of Martha Stewart Aquamarine craft paint in the pearl finish.

I love everything ombre, and so I chose to use my Folk Art Wicker White craft paint to gradually lighten my Aquamarine hue for each block. Though I didn’t take a picture to show this step, I ‘primed’ each letter in white before applying the overall paint.

So each block would have its own unique shade, it was important that I thoroughly coated the letter and canvas a full two to three times before adding more white to lighten the paint. (Sorry for the low-light picture below- I was working at nighttime in my poorly lit kitchen!)

I used a couple different styles of brushes, experimenting to see which would cover most effectively. The foam brush was good for a first coat, while the smaller brushes helped get in the corners and crevices. I was kind of all over the place, as you can see, mixing my paint on a random piece of cardboard (and right on my brown-paper-bag work surface).

I was really pleased with the way the different, lighter shades came out on each block.

OMBRE!

I hung my love blocks above my dresser, and love the look.

This view shows how the colors work with our curtains/bedding.

I hope you enjoy! What DIY projects have you been up to lately?

 

(Linking up at Homestead Simple)

Dear Dad

Dear Daddy,

You’ve been a father for over thirty years now, and you’ve been mine for 27. But fatherhood for you never seemed to be a ‘craft’ that needed honing, or a skill that took practice. Of any man I’ve ever known,  I would say you must have been born to be the perfect dad. I cannot remember a time that you did not know exactly what to say or do, and I am able to say with absolute certainty that my father truly does know everything.

Growing up, you taught me the meaning of duty and responsibility. I’ve never known a more selfless person than you. You give your best in your job, to your family, and to your community. Yours was a message of compassion and generosity, as I watched you devote your time to parent groups at school and volunteering at church. You solve problems, fix broken plumbing, landscape, paint and recycle. You are the perfect man and the solid foundation of our happy family. And while being the best father I could ever imagine, you also remain a devoted son and brother, and a caring friend.

You are a giant among men in my world.

Thank you for teaching me, ever patiently, how to drive. Thank you for your stern compassion when I forgot what you taught me and crashed my car for the first time. Thank you for insisting I review the directions and maps before I drove anywhere unfamiliar, and thank you for you patient guidance when I called, lost, for the hundredth time  – knowing I had ignored you, but helping me out without a single “I told you so”. Thank you for showing me how to balance my checkbook, and attempting to teach me financial responsibility. And thank you for bailing me out, with a hundred dollars here or there, when I failed to follow your advice. I know I always promised to pay you back, and I know I only sometimes really did. Again, thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to make mistakes, but teaching me to take responsibility for them. Thank you for giving me rules, curfews, and for always expecting me to achieve my best. Thank you for not giving me $5 for every “A” on my report card,  but for raising me to be intrinsically motivated to do well in school (though external motivators like a prodigy older brother probably contributed to this as well). Speaking of my prodigy older brother- thank you, dad, for never making me feel as though I was not good enough or did not meet up to your expectations for me. I have issues, but confidence in my own abilities is not one of them.

Thank you for helping me move four times. Thank you for reminding me to make my student loan payment, or change my oil. Thank you for taking care of me and helping me whenever I need it, but thank you for treating me like an adult and genuinely respecting my choices (even when they are wrong).

Thank you for offering advice when I need it, and supportive silence when I need that more. Though I have attempted, here, to express through words the many ways in which I am eternally grateful to you, it will never be enough. I love you, and hope that this Father’s Day you know how important you are to everyone around you, and most especially, to me.

Your only daughter,

Laura

My daddy- who loves me & all my weirdness.

Lessons from my Mother [ A Mother’s Day Series]

Today I finish my Mother’s Day Series. On Friday, I began by writing about my amazing Grandma. Saturday, I shared lessons and stories from my wonderful Mommom.

Today’s lessons from my mother barely scratch the surface. I was lucky enough to be raised by my mother and father in the most loving and supportive home imaginable, and I will be forever grateful for the lessons learned about the love, commitment, sacrifice and good humor necessary to raise a family.

Me and my Mother

Lesson #1: sometimes it’s OK not to tell. My parents marriage has been a lifelong inspiration to my brothers and me. They raised us through a clear partnership, never undermining the other or shirking responsibility. My father is an incredibly kind man, who managed my teenage-daughter tendencies with more patience than I ever deserved. My father is also fiscally conservative, and much smarter than I. He tried (is still trying, really) to instill the same values in me, and teach me to be smart with my money. My parents, as a team, worked hard to ensure my brothers and I had everything we could ever need, while simultaneously teaching us how to make good financial decisions. When my mother made an exorbitant purchase, it was usually my fault. And my mother taught me that it was OK to keep those purchases a secret. 🙂

Like every prom, for instance, when my mother repeatedly told me to not tell dad the cost of my dress (or dresses, as was the case one year). And every back-to-school shopping trip, when my mother spoiled me. I’m pretty sure every receipt from those trips was hidden from my father, just to spare him the trauma.

Mom- I’m not sure if this was a good or bad lesson, because occasionally I find myself ‘hiding’ the occasional purchase from my future hubby. But I guess we can agree to keep the secrets (well, since I’m blogging about this now, I guess the cat’s out of the bag…). What I’m really trying to say is- thanks, Mom, for buying me pretty things. (And thanks, Dad, for pretending not to be upset and telling me I looked beautiful).

Lesson #2: don’t be afraid to try new things. My mom put her career on hold to devote her time to raising my brothers and me. As an adult, I finally appreciate the sacrifices that my mother made, personally and financially, to care for her family. Once we were all old enough to look out for ourselves a bit, my mom made the decision to go back to school and become a teacher. Of anybody that I know, my mother was truly destined to teach. She is one of those inspiring teachers whose students remember for a lifetime- and one of the reasons I chose to become a teacher myself.

One of my mother’s greatest traits is her willingness, and eagerness, to continue learning and growing herself. My mom embraces new technology, ideas, and opportunities, and is not afraid to jump into the deep end and figure things out as she goes along. (Speaking figuratively, as one thing my mom did not learn- and likely never will- is how to swim).

My mother’s drive and commitment to her own academic, personal and career growth is an inspiration to me.

Lesson # 3: it’s ok to cry… but try not to.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always firmly asserted her strength and ability to maintain her composure. If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you that she never cries. I am here today to tell you that she is flat-out lying.

Maybe when we were younger, it was true. My mom has a sarcastic edge at times, and does not necessarily wear her emotions on her sleeve. Yet my mother rarely leaves a wedding, graduation, concert, or chick flick with dry eyes. Usually, the louder her assertions that she will not cry, the faster the tears will flow.

I cry all the time. I cry watching the Today Show in the morning. I cry watching Friends re-runs. I cry when people around me cry. I cry when people talk about crying. I’ve always been a crier- I’ve always been a little bit sappy. I’ve learned from my mother that pretending to be tough doesn’t really change anything- things are still going to make you feel sad, or happy, or simply just emotional. The important thing is that your family and friends get you- and love you either way. Whether your a crier who owns it (me) or a crier & denier (mom)… it’s all good.

Lesson #4: be a good friend. My mother is a great friend. She has maintained long and wonderful friendships with many people. Because my mother is still close with her best friend from high school, I look to her as an example of how to be a good friend. My mom makes it a priority to find the time to spend with her friends. She is a thoughtful gift giver, a listening ear on the telephone, and a gracious host to friends for lunch or coffee. Growing up, I observed my mother’s close friendships and learned the importance of being a good friend from her.

I love that my mother’s friends are such an important part of my own life. I know, as people change, move, and have families, that life can get in the way. Friendship is something that requires effort on two sides- though the work you put in is repaid tenfold. I learned through observation the importance of friendship, from watching my mother my whole life. I take inspiration from her strong connections- with both old friends and new- and aspire to be the kind of friend she is.

My mother still has lots more to teach me. Next week, we have a sewing lessons scheduled (since I did not pay attention the first time around). Someday, my mom will have to teach me just how to be the amazing mother she is.

This Mother’s Day, mom, I want to thank you for these lessons and more. You are a daily inspiration to me, and both an amazing mother and friend. You deserve to enjoy a very special day today. I love you!

Lessons from my Mommom [A Mother’s Day Series]

I count myself lucky, among friends and other twenty-somethings, to have two amazing and loving grandmothers in my life. I adore them both, and do not see them as often as I would like. With Mother’s Day approaching, I began a post entitled “Lessons from my Mother”. I’ll share this post on Sunday. While writing, however, I realized I’ve had the privilege of learning from, and spending time with, my two darling grandmothers- and decided to celebrate “Mother’s Weekend”, and share a similar post dedicated to the influence both women have on my life.

Today I will continue my ‘mini series’ honoring the mothers in my life. I wrote about my steadfast Grandma and her love-filled cookies here, and will conclude the series on Sunday (Mother’s Day) with my own mother.

My Mommom (my mother’s mother) is one of the loveliest, most amazing women that I know. My Mommom and Grandfather met in high school.

My Mommom and Grandpop at Prom- 1951

Married now for 59 years,  Mommom and Grandpop raised two daughters, and a whole menagerie of animals.

My Mommom, like my mother, is sharp and witty. I can trace my speed reading abilities up the family tree through my Mother to my Mommom. I wish I had inherited my Mommom’s green thumb, but every plant I touch tends to die. The ultimate DIY crafter, my Mommom’s knit Christmas stockings and hand braided rugs are just a sampling of her abilities.

The stories I will share today paint a picture of my Mommom as the loving wife, mother and grandmother that she is.

Lesson #1- boys will be boys… so let them. This may seem a bit strange, considering my Mommom had two daughters. However, as each day brings me closer to my wedding and future with the love of my life, I cannot help but to reflect on the marriages of my parents and grandparents (all of which are inspiring). My Mommom must absolutely be the most patient and accepting woman that I know. The woman kept a home, perfected a recipe for homemade spaghetti and meatballs, and raised two girls, all while her husband (my amazing, animal-loving, Eagle Scout Grandpop)  ran a mini zoo in the house. By the time I came around, my Mommom and Grandpop had a fairly ‘normal’ collection of pets. Dogs, a couple of parrots, and a hawk in the backyard.

What’s that you say? A hawk is not your typical cuddle-buddy pet? Alright, so maybe that wasn’t so normal. For us, though, a hawk in the backyard at Mommom & Grandpop’s house was simply the norm. My grandfather is a falconer (Yes, that link will take you to the wikipedia page on falconry. Read up.) and so we were used to Grandpop’s hawks. If you find this unusual, however, just wait. When my mother was growing up, my Grandpop’s pets were slightly odder, even, than a hawk.

I’ve heard tales of pet raccoons, baby chicks, an owl and… a skunk. I did a little fact checking, and received this list from my mother:

“When I was growing up we had: baby chicks from Easter that grew into crowing roosters in our back bedroom of our Philadelphia row house, a crow named Pete that could talk and whistle, a raccoon named Snoopy who could (and did) flood the basement by turning on the water, a skunk named Rosebud, 2 flying squirrels (both of which drowned in the toilet), a chinchilla, an iguana named Lizzie, 4 little saw whet owls, and several dogs, but no cats because Mother does not like cats. When Dad got into falconry, they had a great horned owl named Plato and then many hawks, several of which they raised from infancy. A prairie falcon named Sundance learned to fly by flying from lampshade to lampshade in my parents’ living room. Dad trapped a white footed deer mouse in a havahart trap and decided to keep it as a pet. It was pregnant, so soon they had an aquarium full of mice, all of which escaped into the house when Dad took the lid off the cage. We also had hamsters and guinea pigs, but those were normal.”

My mother finished this list with the words: “Yes, your Mommom is a saint.”

I’ve also heard tell of my Grandfather’s tendency to pick up roadkill off the side of the road, and store it in the family freezer. (Hawk food. duh).

I never once heard my Mommom complain about these animals. Is it possible that, behind closed doors, my Grandpop got an earful every now and then? I’d imagine so. Maybe when Snoopy the raccoon flooded the basement, or possibly after the litter of deer mice escaped into the house. Even so- their marriage is now 59 years strong. I believe that my Mommom loved and accepted my Grandpop for the naturalist, adventurer that he is, and did not try to change him. Too many relationships today are marred by one partner demanding drastic changes of the other. I will try, in my marriage, to remember my Mommom’s patience. If my (future) husband spends an entire Saturday playing video games, or disagrees with me on a political issue (that one is not an *if* but a *when), rather than demanding that he change or adjust his personality to better suit mine, I will remind myself: Mommom lived with a skunk.

My Mommom & Me

Lesson #2: even though I can’t knit… I learned a lot. I do not know how to knit. I so wish that I did, so that I could knit scarves as Christmas gifts and baby blankets when my friends become mothers. My Mommom attempted to teach me to knit several times. It never worked. I lack patience. I am easily frustrated when I am not perfect at something right away. My mother tried to teach me to sew several times, with the same results. I grow tired of repetitive actions, cannot control my restless legs, and eventually… throw in the towel.

Despite my complete failure each time my Mommom broke out her knitting needles and beckoned me to join her on the couch, she continued to try. A major factor working against Mommom during these knitting lessons was that she attempted to teach me while we were on vacation. Who wants to learn to knit when the beach is three blocks away? Poor Mommom tried and failed at our knitting lessons for a few summers in a row, before throwing in the towel herself. I could kick myself, now, for not taking advantage of free lessons that would have led to years of happy crafting on my end. Mommom does not knit herself, anymore, and she never managed to teach my Mother (who claims left-handedness as an excuse), so now I need to get it together and teach myself.

Looking back now, I would not change a thing. I would not tell Mommom not to bother, to give up on me. Because on the occasions when we did sit side by side on the couch in our rented beach house, I got to soak up full, un-interrupted Mommom & me time. I got to hear stories of the annual family vacations to LBI back when my mother was a little girl. She shared tales of ridiculous pranks our boy-heavy family would play on one another. She’d sneak me a Werther’s butterscotch candy from her beach bag (they were a daily beach necessity) while patiently modeling the purl stitch. I was lucky, growing up. I was my parent’s only daughter, and my Mommom and Grandpop’s only granddaughter. Despite being the middle child (along with all of the usual neurosis that accompanies children in the middle), I was the logical choice for knitting lessons and shopping trips. And I am so grateful that my Mommom attempted to share her talents with me, because I was lucky enough to get her full attention. Someday, I’ll figure this whole knitting thing out, and I hope I can sit together with my Mommom on the couch and show her.

Mommom and Grandpop with their Great-Grandson (my nephew)