4.27.2013

DIY Paint Chip Chandelier Mobile

I've been a busy Mama-to-be lately, nesting and crafting like crazy!  My most recent endeavor was a DIY paint chip chandelier to be used as a mobile above Baby's crib. 

I found this tutorial from the "Hey, Gorgeous" blog on Pinterest and fell in love with the pretty ombre colors and waterfall-like lay of the cut-outs. The instructions looked simple enough and well within our budget ($3 for a mobile? HECK YES!), so I decided to take it on.

{1} Gather your supplies.
First I chose my color scheme. While the project I was referencing was a gorgeous pink ombre, since we don't know Baby's gender I couldn't go with something quite as gender-specific. Instead, I opted for rainbow ombre - ROY-G-BIV minus the indigo.

After choosing my colors, I sheepishly grabbed literal fistfuls of paint chips and stuffed them into my purse, wondering how many other Pinterest-inspired girls and women and had also raided the Menard's "Paintspiration" displays. I snagged five of each shade - 120 chips total - and ended up using EXACTLY all of them. I think, though, that if I repeat this project in the future I will spring for card stock-weight scrapbooking paper in the desired shades at Hobby Lobby. I know those paint chips are *technically* free, but I couldn't help but feeling like I was doing something seriously sinister since I wasn't planning to use them for their intended purpose.

After successfully avoiding eye contact with every employee in the paint department, I made my way to the lighting department at the front of the store. Once I broke the spell those stupid glitter lava lamps had over me, I turned my attention to the lamp shades and picked up the most neutral, simplest mini lamp shade could find. BONUS: At $2.97, it was also the cheapest.

You will also need a paper puncher in whatever shape you desire (found in the scrapbook section of your favorite crafting store), thread, and tape.

{2} Punch your chips.
I got home, organized my chips into neat little piles, and got to work punching them. I used a burst-shaped punch that is typically employed to make brad covers for scrapbooks; it was way cuter than plain circles and way less feminine than pretty, scalloped edges. 
Now, you may think this would be the most tedious part, but you'd be wrong. The next step is what, sans-nesting energy, I think would have made me throw in the towel.

{3} Tape, tape, tape.
After all of my medallions were punched and in order, it was time to string them up to prep them for hanging. And THIS is the worst part (aside from nabbing the chips from the store) because unless you want the chips to twirl as they hang - revealing the bar codes, text, and color names that are printed on their backsides - you really have to go to town with the taping. To me, this is even more of a reason to go ahead and spend the ten or so extra dollars at Hobby Lobby and just buy some colored card stock instead. In fact, I like the spinning effect, if not for the uggo backs of the paint chips.

ANYWAY, I set out my little colorful bursts in the order I wanted them to hang, backsides up, laid some white thread out across the line of them with one end long enough to attach them to the lamp shade, and began taping.
I taped each burst to the thread, and then with a teeny tiny piece of tape, secured each chip to its neighbor to stop them from spinning like tops. It took several episodes of Destination Truth to finish, but was worth it to hide the backs of the chips. 

After all that nonsense, I was so focused on just getting this project finished that I forgot to take any more pictures of the mobile in progress. Sooo...we'll just blame it on "Mommy Brain," ok? Ok.

{4} String 'em up.
After that feat was accomplished, I hung the lamp shade upside down from the ceiling, so the widest part was closest to the ceiling and the narrow area was facing the floor. In the tutorial I was referencing, she had a nicer shade with metal ribbing, but because I was overlapping my chips slightly, I opted to go for the cheaper shade without the ribbing. This also saved me a step, as I didn't have to cut out the fabric from the shade to expose a metal foundation. 

Since I didn't have metal ribbing to work around, instead of tying the strings of colors to the lamp shade, I used a needle to pierce my shade from the outside and pull the thread through, taping the hole and a little down the thread on the inside of the shade to hold it in place. It worked like a charm! I hung the chips along the bottom, narrower area of the shade first and trimmed the excess thread as I went. Then I repeated for the top of my shade.

{5} Add your finishing touches.
When it was all done, I cut out a little guitar from some coordinating scrapbook paper I found among my crafting supplies and hung it from the bottom part of metal loops where the light bulb would pop in. It adds nice movement to the mobile and pulls together all of the colors really well. 

Then, I cut a length of thick coordinating ribbon from my stash and looped it through the top part of the metal loops in the center of the shade in order to hang it. 

Voilà! Now, while this project was not as fast or painless as I thought it would be, it was WAY cheap and I really am in love with the finished product!

While I would take on this project again, I'd definitely hit up a crafting or scrapbooking store for colored card stock instead of going the paint chip route. Not only would I be sparing myself the embarrassment and moral quandary of nabbing 100+ paint chips, but also I would avoid spending tedious hours taping the bursts all together. Nobody should have to cut up that many pieces of Polly Pocket-sized tape. Seriously.
 
Until next time...







Next up on the DIY to-do list: A Chicco-friendly car seat canopy!

4.26.2013

DIY Natural Deodorant Recipe


OKAY GUYS. I'm not a crazy, green conspiracy theorist, I promise! But with how much I've ended up loving natural deodorant AND after finding a very cheap, easy alternative to the organic, store-bought brands, I just had to share. 

Why Natural? 
This past summer, I started using Tom's Natural Deodorant instead of the aluminum and chemical-filled deodorant sticks that I had routinely picked up at the store since Mother Nature played what is the cruelest joke ever on the human female body (i.e. puberty)

Why the change? With our struggles getting pregnant because of my whacked-out hormones, I learned a lot about how my body works and how sensitive and interconnected the body's wiring is. More importantly, I learned that a lot of what I was putting ON and IN me was mimicking estrogen, making the whole PCOS imbalance even worse - this included the necessary, daily application of B.O. blocking deodorant. So, I made the switch to natural deodorant and ended up growing to LOVE it! In fact, I found that after a short adjustment period, it ended up working BETTER than your typical deodorant stick.

Now, I will admit that there were about 4 days that I was about to give up on the natural stuff because it just didn't seem to be working as well. Put bluntly, my armpits felt like the Florida swamplands - damp, sticky, and not-so-pleasant on the senses after a full day of activity. 

What I came to realize, though, is that my body had rewired itself to expect those chemicals every day, so the same way using Chapstick necessitates the need for more Chapstick, using OTC stick deodorant actually made the goings-on under my arms worse. Once my pits went back to their natural state, though, I sweated less, I smelled fine even without deodorant, and I felt better knowing I was avoiding putting unnecessary chemicals on/in my body. 

I know this isn't an option for everyone, but for me, using natural deodorant has been a WONDERFUL change! So I was content to pick up a stick of Tom's from the drugstore until a friend of mine mentioned making her own natural deodorant (using these recipes). Given my love for essential oils and saving money, I just HAD to try it. I made a few adjustments, and came up with a recipe I absolutely love!
________________________________________________ 
Healthy Homemade Deodorant

What you'll need...














• 3 T virgin coconut oil
• 2 T virgin shea butter
• 4 T baking soda
• 2 T corn starch
• Several drops of your favorite essential oil (optional) 

Additional necessities...
• small glass jar (for melting & mixing)
• saucepan & access to a stovetop
• stirring utensil (I like to use a plastic utensil so I can just throw it out when done) 
• old deodorant stick


How to do it...
 - Place your coconut oil & shea butter in a glass jar. Heat water in a saucepan, and place your jar in the saucepan to heat the oil & shea butter mixture until just melted. Doing it this way cuts out the need for a double-boiler and allows you to use a dedicated jar for mixing up your deo.

- Remove from heat and add baking soda & corn starch. Mix until smooth.
(I didn't have a small jar for the first step, so I had to pour my melted mixture into a small mixing bowl for this step).

- Add your essential oils if desired. Lavender, mandarin, lemon, rose, or sandalwood are good choices. I used 9 drops of lavender and 4 drops of lemon and really love the combination!

- Let cool completely and harden slightly before pouring into your old deodorant stick to harden completely. I got antsy and ended up hardening mine in the fridge to expedite the process once I poured it into the old deodorant stick.

________________________________________________
 
And that's literally all it takes. Easy, painless, and mega-cheap! 

A few notes...
With this recipe, there's no need to store it in the fridge to keep it hardened ordinarily; however, if it's a hot summer day and you don't have the AC running, it may be a good idea to stick it in there to avoid a meltdown. Along those same lines, I have a feeling this deo won't travel well (flying or in the summertime) because of the melty nature of the coconut oil, so you may want to pack up the Tom's for that Caribbean vacay.

Keep in mind that a little goes a long way with this stuff and it does melt a little on contact because of the coconut oil, so there's no need to apply it with a heavy hand. Just give those pits 1-3 gentle strokes, do your best running man to "rub it in," and then go on your merry way. I've found that I actually like the temperament of this recipe because it goes on super easy and you don't get the weird pilly crap that sometimes materializes with normal deo sticks (i.e. Degree & friends).


If you do try this recipe, definitely let me know how it goes!  Share your scent combos, thoughts, and adaptations below.

Happy Friday!

4.18.2013

Rain, rain, GO AWAY!

...and do not come again 'til May!

So says all of Central IL as basements, parking lots, and busy intersections become ponds, lakes, and rivers. I would share pictures of this calamitous event, but I've been staying safe and dry in my second story apartment, praying that our unfinished basement, which houses our washer and dryer, doesn't get any more damp! However, with the forecast for next week predicting rain, rain, and more rain, I'm fully prepared to be at least toe-deep in nasty, dirty water at some point in the next 7 days.

SO, what is a girl to do when she's stuck inside all day? (well, other than working on photos from last Fall's engagement session, which was sidelined until recently because of my LOVELY hyperemesis gravidarum).  

Try out some Pinterest recipes, of course! 
_______________________________________

Up first:  SWEET POTATO BISCUITS

These. Are. Magical. The sweet potatoes add an immense amount of moisture to the finished biscuit, and the flavor is subtle but delectable!  Warning: THESE ARE NOT LOW-GI. But because I'm pregnant (see: crrrravinggggs!) and we have a bag of sweet potatoes sitting in he pantry waiting to be used, I chose to give myself a pass from my normal low glycemic index diet.

You will need... 
1-1/2 c mashed cooked sweet potatoes (1-1/2 cups = ~2 large sweet potatoes)  
2-1/2 heaping tsp Truvia (or 4 heaping TBSP sugar)
2-1/2 c all-purpose flour
8 tsp baking powder (I was out of baking powder, so I subbed my own mixture: 2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda.)
1 stick of butter, softened
4-8 tablespoons milk
Cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

First, you'll need to prep your sweet potatoes. Wash and peel them, then cut them into cubes to cook. I boiled them in about a TBSP of cinnamon and a tsp of nutmeg. It flavored them EVER so slightly and made the house smell wonderful!

Cook them over medium-high heat until fork-tender. Let them cool a bit, then mash those puppies up with a whole stick of softened unsalted butter. Make Paula Deen proud.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and baking powder (or substitute mixture), followed by the cooled potato mixture. Mix to make a soft dough, then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in.
 

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth. Roll the dough out to just over 1/2-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. If you don't have a biscuit cutter, the ring from a canning jar will work just as well! Place the biscuits on a greased pan.

Bake for about 15 minutes, then try not to devour them as they cool!  
Serve warm with butter, cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, or honey.  
Makes around 15 delicious biscuits.
(Adapted from Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Biscuits recipe. Click here for original recipe.)

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Equally Delicious:  ASPARAGUS GRATIN 

I have yet to meet a vegetable that isn't improved by cheese sauce and garlic. Mmmmm...

You will need...
1lb asparagus
1-1/2 c vegetable broth
1-1/2 TBSP unsalted butter
1 TBSP flour (I used whole wheat)
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 c Colby Jack cheese, shredded & divided
Garlic salt to taste
Feta cheese to top (optional)

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler to low heat. Cut woody ends off of asparagus and cook, covered, on your stove top in the vegetable broth for 2-4 minutes, until tender.

Remove asparagus from skillet onto a plate, then reserve 1/2 cup of vegetable broth from pan.  Discard additional broth.

Melt butter in now empty skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in reserved broth and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and add 1/4 c Parmesan cheese and 1/2 c Colby Jack cheese. Mix well. If sauce is too thick, cut with milk, 1 tsp at a time until mixture is the desired consistency.

Pour sauce mixture into broiler-safe pan (NOT Pyrex or glazed Corningware - metal pans with no rubber grippers work fine). Line asparagus in pan and top with garlic salt, reserved Colby Jack cheese, and Feta cheese.  

Broil until cheese is golden and asparagus is tender, about 4-8 minutes.  
For an extra-special treat, you can also add bacon crumbles or sautéed mushrooms before broiling!
 (Adapted from an Epicurious recipe I can no longer find. I had altered it enough that I 
decided to delete the pin and just saved my own recipe instead - sorry!)
  _______________________________________

WE enjoyed these sides with some delicious crunchy breaded Pollock fillets 
(courtesy of our local Kroger!), but they could easily pair well with other meat selections, too.

Bon Appetit!

4.10.2013

Reflections on the Journey to Our Miracle

I always knew it in the depths of my heart: all the struggles we had getting pregnant would turn out to be an immense blessing in the end. 

The countless doctors' appointments (and opinions), the innumerable books and blogs, the late-night cry sessions and faith-building trials, and super-strict lifestyle changes weren't just preparing my body to create new life. All of these things were preparing us for the REST OF OUR LIVES. It's an insight I was thankful to have while we were still weathering the storm, but now, enjoying the fruits of our labor, it is a truth that I am becoming even more amazed with over time. 

...two pink lines...
Like every good Pinterest addict (yes, I confess...), I had every intention of telling the hubby in a "cute" way when God blessed us with a child, but when it came right down to it, I just couldn't hold my emotions in long enough to come up with a plan of action.

Instead, amazed that our hard work had finally paid off and our prayers had been answered, I began laughing and yelling uncontrollably at the 2nd pink line that appeared that morning. As it slowly began getting darker, my shouts grew louder. "Come here! COME HERE! I need to show you something!"

"What," he retorted, "Have you got a really big turd in there or something?" My husband is hilarious.

I pointed to the test laying out on the bathroom sink. "That's a 2nd line. THAT'S A 2ND LINE! I'm not seeing things am I?! Oh my gosh! It's happening! IT'S REALLY REAL! WE'RE PREGNANT!" The morning (more like all-day) sickness followed shortly after and our excitement continues to grow with each milestone (including late-night chow-downs and those lovely strong, swift kicks to the ribs).


...so, how did you do it?...
Calm down, I'm not going to go into all the lovely details here - after all, I don't want my brother-in-law to lose his lunch reading about the inner workings of his crazy sister-in-law's body. So, suffice it to say that I was broken.

After a year of trying with no good fortune and one very early miscarriage, I saw a doctor about our struggles. She told me I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a hormone disorder, but because it was not "textbook" PCOS (I didn't struggle with weight, crazy excessive hair growth, or other typical symptoms), it would therefore be very hard to treat the symptoms I did have and even harder to get pregnant. I was told in that office visit that it was very unlikely that I would have a successful pregnancy without considerable medical intervention and/or expensive infertility drugs that may or may not be covered by insurance. 

I was crushed. And that's when I became even more broken. Because then, I was not only broken in body, but in spirit as well. 

I was silently angry with God and decided to take things into my own hands instead of trusting His perfect plan. I still loved the Lord, don't get me wrong, but I didn't give it all to Him; I TOLD myself I did, but I didn't. I clung to this diagnosis like a jealous thief and in the catacombs of my heart, I fooled myself into thinking I could fix things all on my own.

I read all the books and joined all the internet forums and completely changed my lifestyle. I started a strict, hormone-balancing, low glycemic index diet, changed my exercise routine, and began using aromatherapy and self-acupressure sessions to get my brain and the rest of my body "talking." And you know what? It worked...mostly.

Even though I got my body to work fairly well on its own, we still couldn't catch a break. It took one breakdown and my hubby's very stark reaction to open my eyes to the only barrier that was left: the one around my heart.

I prayed fervently for God's direction, and constantly He asked me, "Do you trust me?"
"Yes, Lord, of COURSE I trust you!" I would reply.
"No, you don't. You need to TRUST me."
And so it went for some time. I was so confused with these conversations, because I had tricked myself so well into thinking I had given Him control, while still clinging bitterly to my problems. 


Then, on a twilight walk one night over the summer, something struck me deep in my heart, and my eyes were suddenly opened to how bitter and angry I had become, hidden so well by the routine I had adopted. I stopped in the middle of the trail and cried out to God. I wept and prayed, and my burden felt lifted. God wanted me to TRUST Him FULLY with ALL of my being, and I finally understood what that meant.

The next day, I spoke with our pastor about being baptized (I was raised Catholic and was baptized as an infant, but had never taken the plunge of my own free will as an adult), and a week later I was baptized - an outward sign of my inner, complete devotion to Christ.

Two months later, we spied two pink lines in the window of a pee stick. 

...a purposeful puzzle...
Looking back, I understand why the journey HAD to unfold the way it did. I needed to be broken down and built back up as a new, better person, both physically and spiritually. Not only that, but all of the learning hubby and I did to make changes in MY life prepared us in ways we never thought possible to reach out to other people and help them in THEIR lives.

The road we had to travel to be blessed with our little miracle has not only made me more comfortable in and educated about my own body and made hubby a more compassionate, understanding, and amazing partner, it has also helped him to reach out to students in a way he never thought possible (or remotely comfortable). When female students have issues that arise because of "that time of the month," he doesn't make them feel ashamed or more uncomfortable as many male teachers have the propensity to do, however unintentionally. Instead, he always has a stash of chocolate at his desk and most of them now know the reflexology points on the foot to help ease those lovely monthly discomforts. 

Add to this the scores of students, Moms, and women I've met along the way, both those who have helped me and those whom I have helped, and the picture comes together. God is so good and His plan, however difficult it was to navigate at the time, was ALWAYS perfect.

...a poke to the nose...
So, now more than half-way through my pregnancy, what was it that inspired me to finally blog about this journey?  It was my wonderful, amazing, compassionate, hilarious and selfless husband.

At our first-ever Childbirth Preparation class last night, Dads-to-be (and even a few Mommies) squirmed a little at the detailed anatomy lesson and feverishly jotted notes as the instructor rattled off facts and fiction about reproductive mechanics and pregnancy. As for hubby and I, we would distract each other to share an inside joke and flash a knowing smile - we know this stuff backwards and forwards by now. 

And it was then, in that moment when he reached up to poke the tip of my nose with his index finger in the middle of class, that I realized how blessed we are to have had the struggle we did to finally sit in that room with about a dozen other pregnant ladies and their partners. That is not to say that we don't still have a lot to learn, but I stand in awe at all the ways that God has already prepared us for the journey into parenthood.

Only 94 days until we meet you, Baby D, and I can tell you this with certainty: you are already a miracle to us and loved beyond measure.  - Psalm 139 -