Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rustic Garden Sign

I made this rustic garden sign for my sister in-law's birthday gift.  She loves to tend to her plants, so I thought this quote by Audrey Hepburn would make a perfect keepsake for her!  I used wood scraps that we had been storing in our garage.  They aren't exact in thickness, but I think it worked out perfectly, because the center piece was a little thicker, which emphasizes the word "garden."  Here's how I did it:

1.  I cut all of my pieces to the same length.  I used a thin bead of liquid nails in between each board for extra support.  Wood glue would work, as well. 

2.  I used 1/8 thick scraps on the back to connect the boards together using short screws ( probably about 1" in size)

3.  I flipped the sign over to the front, and marked off a square with painters tape.

4. I wanted my letters to be white, so I painted the first layer with white acrylic/latex paint.  I used a high gloss because that's what I had on hand.  Let that layer dry.

5.  While that was drying, I cut out my letters using my cricut machine and black vinyl.  You could use store bought letter stickers, just be sure to size accordingly based on the size of your sign.

6.  Once the white paint was dry, I added and arranged my vinyl letters.  Be sure to really press down hard and remove air bubbles, so no paint seeps underneath.

7.  Then, I painted over the top of the letters with a high gloss black acrylic/latex paint.

8.  I used a hairdryer to speed up the dry time just enough so that the paint was not runny.  Then, while the paint was still slightly wet, I removed the letters carefully with the tip of an exacto knife which was very pointy and easy to slide underneath the letters without smearing. Once the paint was dry, I had to do just a little touch up of some of the letters where black had seeped through a tad with a wet and dry end of a Q-tip.  I also had a white paint marker for any spots that needed it.

9. I added craft wire to the back for hanging purposes and topped it off with a ribbon on the front.

I plan to make a huge version of this to hang on the fence around my own garden!!

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Baxter: The Miracle Dog

I believe whole-heartedly in miracles.  Maybe its because I have experienced so many in my short lifetime.  I've found they come in forms you probably wouldn't even consider:  events and feats of strength are the big ones.  But I know there are so many other forms:  a random person that you meet, somehow finding the right words in your mouth to say to someone who needs it, a butterfly or animal that appears at the right time, a disease (yes I believe diseases can be miracles), dreams, and even our pets.  Miracles, no matter how great or small they may seem, are all the same: a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency (from Webster's dictionary) .  It's amazing how the more you start to take notice, the more frequently they begin to occur

This is one of those many miracles  that I have begun noticing.  This is the story of Baxter, our little gentleman.  Baxter's life began at the old animal shelter in town, that has since been rebuilt.  My mother has volunteered for them for years, doing everything in her power to help animals.  Its her calling in life.  I lovingly call her the "patron saint of lost animals" because somehow, animals find her and she either finds there original home, or finds a new, better home for them.  That, in itself, is a miracle.  I can't tell you how many "weird" instances have come up where she somehow had run into someone who knew an owner that was missing a pet, or had seen one running, goes out to catch it, and the owner winds up in front of her house where their pet is kept safe.  When you follow your true calling and what comes naturally and lovingly within yourself, amazing things start to happen.  Just like when she rescued Baxter from the shelter.

Baxter had been at a home that had a baby.  His nails were kept far too long and somehow the baby was scratched.  That's how he ended up at the shelter.  I believe a lot of times, animal's pick their owners, and that's exactly what happened the day my parents adopted Baxter.  Somehow, Baxter knew that he would be choosing companions that would take care of him and love him no matter what, with everything that they had in him.  Its almost as if he had a sense of what may be in store for him.
Baxter is thought to be a Pekinese and Chihuahua mix.  Pekinese dogs tend to have problems with their legs.  Baxter's front legs began turning outward as he grew, so his feet are almost like little flippers.

Because of the way his front legs have grown, his back end is raised up quite a bit higher, which makes for a big dip in the middle, putting stress on his spine.  You would have never guessed anything at all was wrong with his legs and back.  He could run and jump just as fast as any of the other dogs, despite his funny little walk.  He just adapted, he knew no different.  

So about a month ago, when he was unable to walk one day, a sense of dread invaded my parents.  They had dealt with this before last year, only this time, they feared the outcome would not be so favorable.  Last year Baxter had a spinal injury, causing him to lose the use of his back legs for less than a week.  He was given steroids, which eventually seemed to help, and sure enough he was back to racing  down the hallway and through the yard, just like the other dogs.

This time seemed much more serious.  It was obvious he didn't feel good, and the steroids and pain medicine did nothing to help his mobility.  For two full weeks, Mom and Dad carried him everywhere. They cut a pool noodle in half to help lift his back end when they were outside with him so that he could go to the bathroom.  He seemed depressed and so did his buddy Blue, the blue merle Australian Shepherd.  They knew something was desperately wrong.  Eventually the pain meds started kicking in a couple days before his follow up appointment.  Baxter started scooting himself around the house with his front legs, and his eyes began to brighten again.  Was it possible that he could continue a fulfilling and happy life scooting around all the time?  That's what my parents began to wonder as the day approached for their follow up appointment at the vet.

Mom and Dad had decided before getting in the car that they would follow through with whatever the vet suggested.  They would never let their beloved dog suffer if that's what his future would be.  Overtaken by the heart wrenching feeling of not knowing the what the future held for their loving little miracle dog, they set off.  Mom brought treats in the car for him, and he took them warily, which was unusual for him.  He sensed their anxiety and dread.  

When they arrived somber at the vet, bracing themselves, they were relieved to hear that she wanted to continue his treatment.  She said they don't put dogs to sleep just because they are blind, and they could definitely work with Baxter to help him adapt, because he was no longer in any pain.  Immediately the weight was lifted, and a worried little Baxter became the happy, relieved, and spunky little Baxter that he always was.  It was as if he knew exactly what had happened and now he could be free to start adapting to his body in is own way!

He's a very expressive dog with many faces.

The vet recommended finding him a little cart for his back legs that would let him be mobile. She also wanted to keep him on the steroid to see if it will continue to help with the inflammation on his spine.  A friend of my Mom's, Shelly Doyle, hooked her up with a cart that strapped around his belly and back legs.  At first he wasn't too sure about it, but then he took off!  We found some different types of slings online that would be little easier to use than the pool noodle when taking him out to the bathroom.

I made this sling for him last week...

 It's padded and lined with a little cut out so there is no mess.
 I used nylon material thats easy to clean and webbing for the handles.
 This is much easier to grip and use one-handed and saves the back!

I could not believe the difference in him within a weeks time since I made this sling.  When I was there before, it almost seemed like he was trying to use his back legs in the cart.  Then, as he would use the sling outside, it propped him up enough to where he could try to move his legs his self.  Dad says its his "physical therapy."  Which, really, it has been!  Not knowing exactly what his injury entails, its hard to say what the outcome will be...but he is back to about 90-95% right now.  Its amazing that over the past month, little Baxter has gone from a dog with a spinal injury, to a survivor!  We can never know how much pain he has endured and worked through to build up his strength again and push past using the cart, just so he could do it on his own.  He is still walking a little crooked, as you can see here, but he is getting there! He ran from the back of the yard to me today when I got there!  I couldn't believe it!

I don't think its a coincidence that Baxter happened to end up with my Mom and Dad.  I don't think its a coincidence that my Dad was offered a job that allowed him to retire 5 months early.  I don't think its a coincidence that the job didn't work out, and he retired as planned.  He was able to stay home with Baxter during this enduring time, and give him all the love and care that he could possibly give him.  Medicine doesn't heal the body.  The body uses the medicine to help heal itself.  Love is healing.  Love heals the body on levels we will never understand.  The love my parents give Baxter, and all of their dogs, helped him to heal.  This, my friends, is a beautiful miracle.  

Start to notice miracles like this one.  They happen everyday, all around us.  Especially in our our own homes and with our own pets.  Its seems as though we are saving them, but it turns out, they are the ones that are saving us.

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Salted Caramel Syrup for Coffee, Lattes, and Hot Chocolate

Living on a tight budget sometimes forces me to get creative.  Like recreating some of my favorite indulgences: Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks being at the top of my list.  At $5 a pop, who can resist that sweet and salty goodness that tastes like a cozy fall day?  Well, we are resisting as much as possible, with that extra $10 (if Jared and I both go) staying nestled snugly in our wallets.  This is not a low calorie version, but it sure is nice every once in awhile!

Salted Caramel Syrup
1 Cup of Sugar
2 Cups of Water separated
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

1.  Add the sugar and 1 Cup of water to a heavy bottomed sauce pan.

2.  Set heat at MEDIUM heat and stir every now and then until it comes to a boil.

3.  As it comes to a boil, stay very close by.  Stop stirring once it begins to boil.  The sauce will start to thicken and change color.  You want to watch this carefully so as not to burn the caramel that is forming.  Mine took about 10 minutes, but this will vary depending on the pot used.

4.  As it begins to change color you can brush down the sides with something like a damp pastry brush, but again, no stirring.  Once the color becomes a light AMBER color, remove the pan from the heat immediately.  

5.  Carefully add in the last cup of water, being cautious that the mixture is extremely hot and can splatter.

6.  Return to heat for a few seconds while stirring, until mixture becomes a liquid.

7.  Add 1/2 salt, and remove syrup to a heat safe container to cool.

This is how I make my salted caramel mocha:

Salted Caramel Mocha  Coffee/Latte/Hot Chocolate

1 shot of espresso/ or 3/4 Cup of Coffee/ or all milk for hot chocolate
Appx. 2/3 of a cup of heated or steamed milk (I heat mine in a tiny pot on the stove until it just starts to bubble)
1 Tablespoon of Chocolate syrup (Here's my homemade chocolate syrup) or hot chocolate powder.
2 Tablespoons of Salted Caramel Syrup

Mix those all together and stir, just leave out the coffee or espresso for hot chocolate and use all milk.  Adjust according to taste. You could top it with whipped cream, caramel sauce and a pinch or two of sea  salt to make it really authentic!!

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Ironing Board Cover with One Yard of Fabric

Spray adhesive has been one of my favorite tools ever since I discovered it, which means I make a mess all over the place. Especially on my ironing board.  It was covered in the battle wounds of projects from the days of yore, smattered with hot glue strings, sticky with fibers of burlap, and literally seeping glittery goo.  This thing was begging to be patched up with something other than an old towel, or put out of its misery.  

So I broke down one night, and took about 20 minutes to make this little cover with a yard of fabric I had laying around.  If you have a normal sized board, you could just double the fabric.

1. Flip the board upside down.  Use the board as your pattern.  Measure out about 2 1/4" from the edge and cut all the way around.

2.  Press under 1/4' all the way around and then sew using a zigzag seam.

3.  Then fold over another 1" and press.

4.  Top stitch to hold your casing that you just created in place.

5.  Leave about a 1" opening at the widest part of your board, and make sure to back stitch it closed.

6.  I used a safety pin and attached a piece of cording.  You could use string or twine, whatever you have that will be long enough to go all the way around your fabric.  Run the string all the way around until it comes out the other side.  Then place the board top side down onto your cover.
7.  Pull the strings tight and cinch your cover around your board.
 Pull it tight to make sure its secure.  Mine came out just a little shorter than I wanted, (probably because I had just under a yard, but tried to make it work anyways.) So I used a safety pin to secure it underneath.

My ironing board is so much happier now, and I can really tell by her sassy new fierce attitude.  She shows those wrinkles whose boss!!  Happy Friday!!

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Thrift Store Lamp Redo

I've been wanting to get a couple of lamps for down in my basement to put on both sides of the couch.  I came across these little beauties at at thrift store for $5 a piece.  While I wasn't in love with the color, I was in love with the shape.  I knew some glossy spray paint would fix them right up.

I went to find some affordable lamp shades, and even the affordable ones seemed expensive!!  These leopard print shades were only $5 on clearance at Wal-Mart so I snatched them up.  Had this been an article of clothing, I definitely would have left them as is.  But I wanted it to be a little more stream lined next to the other colors and patterns already in my basement decor.

Using the same technique I used to make my Fabric Covered Bins which you can find HERE, I used spray adhesive and covered the shades with some white fabric I had on hand first, and then covered over that using the same spray adhesive and using light colored burlap for texture.

I love how sleek they are, the glossy black color really shows off the design much better than the gold and mauve did.

Here you can see how I just tucked the fabric inside the shade as I went along.

These lamps are now very classy looking and are similar to something you would find in a high end design store, but for only $10 a piece!

Now head out to those thrift stores and rummage sales and add a little bit of light to your home decor!
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