Small Group Fall Gathering

We are blessed beyond measure to have a Small Group at church of people we love to pieces. Nothing sweeter than friends who encourage you in life and faith, and most importantly, who crack you up. There’s no lack of laughter when this group is together. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

IMG_4584Our amazing leaders are a husband and wife who have been in the lives of Mr. S and I for many years now. Since we were 19 and 20, they’ve taught us God’s word and hosted various groups in their beautiful home.

This weekend was her birthday (and our anniversary), so we decided to have some fun! We went to Shuckle’s Corn Maze, then everyone headed back to our place for some goodies, hot chocolate, spiced apple cider, coffee, pumpkin cake, cupcakes, and cookies were all enjoyed.

I think birthdays are the perfect excuse to have a little lot of sugar, don’t you? IMG_4581.JPGIt was so much fun to get our little apartment ready to host people who have hosted us time and time again.

IMG_4585.JPGCinnamon stick for cider and marshmallows for hot chocolate were the first things on my shopping list.

IMG_4583.JPGA thoughtful parent gave me these sweet paper tags, and they have brought me so much joy. Today, they were labels. They’ve also been place cards for dinner guests tied around napkin rings. I can’t wait to use them for gifts, too.

I searched desperately for pumpkin creamer, but alas, none could be found. IMG_4586.JPGNext was a local pumpkin patch. We played some games, and one couple was hilariously lucky and seemed to win everything. We took a hayride, watched the boys fly out of the biggest slide you’ve ever seen, picked out pumpkins, and got lost in a corn maze.

IMG_4587.JPGOne of the sweetest little baby girls you’ve ever seen in her Mamie’s arms. She took it all in and was probably the best “attraction” of the whole outing. 🙂 IMG_4563.JPGOne of our wonderful couples is expecting their first child. It is such a blessing to be able to rejoice with them! IMG_4594.JPGThe whole group! These faces make me smile.

IMG_4588.JPGWe gave one of our Bible teachers (the birthday girl) a card, and a dinner-and-a-movie date night. 🙂 My friend presenting a cupcake was the mastermind behind that idea. IMG_4589.JPGShowing her (happy-go-lucky, energetic, superhero, break-dancing) grandson the card. 🙂 IMG_4590.JPGLucy was thrilled to have a living room full of people. I was thrilled to have a living room full of people who tolerate and enjoy my hyper little pup.

Thankful to share life and celebrate seasons with these folks.

So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Romans 12:5

Fall Around Here

Friends, I am yearning for Autumn to arrive. It has been a long, sometimes difficult Spring and Summer (whose lessons I wouldn’t trade for the world), but good things are in store, Lord willing, in this season.

Before Mr. S came along, this summer-loving “brown” girl couldn’t stand Fall. It meant the end of summer, no more of that sunblock smell (the best perfume there is), and the beginning of Tennessee winters. You may laugh if you’re from the North and think our winters are mild, but my Southern California roots couldn’t disagree with you more. Over 15 years in Tennessee and I still don’t like the cold.

My fair-skinned, blue-eyed man, though, LOVES a crisp chill in the air. He enjoys jeans, jackets, blankets, bonfires, s’mores, hot chocolate, and homemade pumpkin anything. Somehow, his adoration of the season has totally changed my mind.

Sorry for the dark pictures. In low light, my iPhone just doesn’t cut it.

IMG_4308.JPGI resisted going full-out Fall until mid September, but caved today and picked up these pretty little pumpkins. IMG_4310.JPGI swung by Mom and Dad’s on the way home to lop off some Japanese Maple and Magnolia branches for my little wooden “toolbox.”IMG_4306.JPGI nestled the pumpkins into the foliage. I love the slight tinge of purple just being revealed in a few of the maple leaves and the lovely rust on the underside of the magnolia leaves.

Magnolias are truly a favorite of mine. I adore driving by Vanderbilt’s campus downtown and admiring the majestic, giant ones lining the streets. IMG_4312.JPGIMG_4314.JPGIMG_4316.JPG

IMG_4196.JPGIMG_4318.JPGIMG_4304.JPGLooking forward to scarves, boots, plaid, cozy sweaters, knit throws, nature walks, cooler afternoon runs, apple cider, and all that loveliness.

Options…

Big changes around here!

I said “goodbye” to our huge entertainment center. It was pretty and functional, but I was ready for something much smaller and wanted to make room for another chair (what’s a living room for if not for hosting loved ones?).

The entertainment center, cherry coffee table, and matching side table all went to Brother’s first home! Yes, he bought his first place. And he’s got just the skills to fix it up and make it truly special.

IMG_3754.JPGI got a brand new, beautiful hutch for our dining area, so the little dresser-turned-buffet has become our entertainment center! Here’s an Instagram screen shot… IMG_4151I love this cozy reading corner for morning Bible Study and evening rest.
So the new challenge is what to do on the opposite side. And I swapped out the slipcovers from white to beige. I guess our seating follows the no-white-after-Labor-Day rule, too! 🙂 IMG_4153

 

In favor of symmetry, I can purchase an identical chair for the right side. It would be comfy and cozy, though I might skip a second ottoman at first to ensure that the room would still feel spacious.

IMG_4152.JPGThe second option would add texture and a natural color I love, but at a much smaller scale. I could include a small accent table for a drink, though. I am afraid, however, that the scale would be out of proportion…

So, soothing symmetry or added interest? I can’t decide! If you have an opinion, please share! 🙂

Also, I’m SO ready to add some fall coziness, but with temperatures in the 90’s, I’ll hold off a few more weeks.

Table Completed

The day has come! Our new table is in place, and I couldn’t be more grateful! photo (4)Here’s a look back at our first table! This table served us well for nearly three years. It was a moving sale find that cost us under a hundred bucks. I did (and do) love it, but there were a few reasons it wasn’t “just right” for us.

First, it was bar height. As we increasingly have little ones over at our place and look forward to children of our own someday, we realize this isn’t the most family friendly option.

Secondly, It wasn’t ideal for company (and we L-O-V-E having people in our home). The leaf was destroyed before we owned it; the previous owners’ dog had chewed right through it! To entertain, we had to use the leaf and cover it with a table cloth, plus add additional less-than-comfy counter stools.

Thirdly, it needed some TLC. The poly topcoat was failing after some less-than-careful care. If we’d kept it, I planned to sand, touch up dinged corners with a wood stain pen, and completely re-seal the thing.

Lastly, and absolutely in dead-last where importance is concerned, it just wasn’t “me.” Certainly no reason for a major overhaul, but I do enjoy the pursuit of pretty. 🙂 
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After the table found a loving new home (its new owner, by the way, style it adorably and made me realize how cute it really was), we were left with four lonely chairs I wrote about here.

They’re definitely “trendy” despite their classic shape because of the wood’s finish and upholstery in linen. I know that my tastes will drift a few years down the road, so I’m glad I got a fantastic deal on these. When the time comes, I won’t feel guilty when I swap ’em out! I can already picture some lovely Windsor chairs down the road for a distinctively American feeling (don’t tell Mr. S these chairs are quite French, or I’ll have to immediately give them the axe). 😉  IMG_2741

And here is the table my dad, brother, and I created (can you guess which one of us was the least helpful?)! I am crazy about its look, but more importantly, I love that it was made with love! It turned out better than I could have imagined. Best of all, it cost us about $200.00 in materials–the deal of the century for a solid wood piece of loveliness.

Brother and I designed it together, and enjoyed sketching out everything from leg styles (we chose a huskier size than normal to give a substantial feel, but went with a traditional look) to the Golden Ratio (we are that weird). Though we considered lots of things when designing it, our most major concern was overall size. We decided on its size because of the space we have now, and because we think our first home will probably just have a small eat-in kitchen. Anything larger may not fit! If, down the road, we also have a larger formal dining room, we’ll purchase a larger table. 🙂
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The top is made of a series of boards skillfully selected, perfected, and planed by Daddy. He carefully cut away knots and imperfections that would interfere with the structure of the table while letting me keep the little dings and marks I thought were beautiful. I also learned how to align the boards with the end grain going in different directions to prevent warping over time. It is truly amazing how much wood moves over time with changes in temperature and humidity and Dad made other structural provisions with that in mind.

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We chose maple ,a nice hardwood, for the top stained it in a cool tone (Dark Walnut by Minwax), and sealed it carefully with polyurethane. We wanted a surface that was durable and ready for daily use. I adore the way the stain looks with the pickled finish on the chairs. Dad carefully showed me several options for routing the edge, and I think we chose well in the end!

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We chose to save money on the base by purchasing softer, more affordable poplar. I painted it with a matte shade of white (while I adore dark and gleaming antiques, I’m much too casual of a girl for all that). The boys patiently let me paint it myself, and didn’t even complain when I insisted on taking the time to apply many super thin, drip-free coats. It’s still waiting for me to slather on Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax (just what I have on hand, but any brand would do if you want to do this yourself) for extra protection.IMG_2750

See those deep, diagonal lines? We left ’em on purpose! Dad and Brother planed the surface by hand. It’s hard work, and they did it not once, but TWICE!

In a frustrating turn of events, after I carefully stained and sealed the top, our last coat of poly was a nightmare–it dried with bubbles you could see when light shined across the surface, and it appeared cloudy. After much strategy talk, we decided to bite the bullet and totally strip it down to bare wood. This meant hours of extra planing and sanding. A lesson in patience to be sure.

Though we could have made it perfectly smooth (we did the first time), this time I insisted on keeping the marks of their second round of hand planing to remember the hard work they put into the table, and because I love the homemade feel it gives the piece.
IMG_2760Momma and I enjoying a breakfast of apple-smoked sausage, fresh apples, and a strawberry-banana-mango smoothie as the first meal enjoyed at the table.

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Other delights this weekend included finding an ironstone pitcher for a song while antiquing with a friend, the arrival of my new lesson planner for next school year, a glorious sunset by a loving Father, and a fun couples’ baby shower.

I look forward to sharing meals with family and friends, happily sewing, creating art, and (prayerfully) doing kids’ homework on our table in the years to come.

Hope you’ll come “sit a spell” with us, too!

 

I’m linking up:

  DIY Showoff: That DIY Party

Alabama Finds

I’m happily home again from adventures in Alabama, and ready for some big, exciting (to me) projects to tackle this summer.

I mentioned in this post that Mr. S spoiled me during our time in Birmingham and let me get some unique items for around the house. Being a lover of all things home-related, this sent me over the moon. 🙂

IMG_2489Remember when I asked you to guess which pillow I chose in this photo?

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Well, I chose the Tennessee pillow! Mr. S and I truly have a love affair with our state. Even though I’m a transplant, I can’t imagine anywhere sweeter to live. It’s where I met my husband (who says “yes ma’am” and melts my heart), my best girlfriends, and so many other women who have shaped my life. For Mr. S, it is home in every sense of the world, and when he’s away, he longs for it. Once again, I’ll share our favorite song about it. 🙂 IMG_2535

We also discovered these dried artichokes. Odd decor item? Perhaps. However, I love their natural color and texture. They’ve found a semi-permanent home on our buffet.

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I confess that we have World Market right here in town, but I couldn’t resist this chair pad that I knew would match my painted desk chair perfectly. 🙂 I also grabbed a few ceramic baking supplies while I was there.
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Some sweet Baby’s Tears for our nightstand. I have my fingers crossed that its care will be easier than my Maiden Hair ferns (though they’re still thriving).

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And, best of all, this beautiful mirror! It is currently hanging over our bed. The color is a muted grayish-green (difficult to capture on camera). IMG_2547 IMG_2549Lucy the Beagle approves!

It’s so fun to put together things slowly over time and to surround ourselves with items that bring back memories of special people and places.

Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

 

Mother’s Day 2014

We had some “getting ready” to do around here, both in preparation for summer and for Mother’s Day, which in some ways feels like the truest beginning of the warm, humid weather to come. The first day of Spring and Easter can still be pretty cool, but with upcoming highs in the 80’s and 90’s, it feels the heat is finally upon us.  I can sense the fireflies, porch fans, and sweet tea (my favorites of summer) creeping closer… DSC_0042

Daisies, a gift from a beloved student during teacher appreciation week have replaced the faded hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils of early Spring with its scattered frosts.DSC_0049Once-blossom-less petunias are now putting on a show in the planters Brother built and stained for me from scrap wood. DSC_0112I’ll take a moment to share that I am displaying Mr. S’s flag with pride. It flew over the Police Academy during his time there, and it brings me joy to remember that, whether he is away from home for police work or serving around the world, he is doing what he loves. I love that the Lord gave him such a servant’s heart. I take comfort in knowing whom he serves, from the American flag patch on his uniform’s shoulder (symbolically leading the way into battle), to his current favorite scripture, “And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner.” With the recent loss of yet another Metro police officer Mr. S truly respected, along with some military commitments upon us, I am clinging to these things even more dearly than usual. 

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We’ve switched from a thick comforter to a light, white quilt.DSC_0110

Since our table is under construction, we were left without one for hosting Mr. S’s parents for Mother’s Day. Thankfully, my parents’ neighbors came to the rescue and loaned us a folding table for the day. I had too much fun setting the table late at night. DSC_0070DSC_0078

Roses from a very special student and her family. I looked at them, and smiled to think of her recent baptism I was blessed to witness. DSC_0055

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We made a little “coffee bar” of sorts, as the only people who drink more coffee than we do are my in laws. 🙂 That’s an impressive amount. I take it black, but delight in the prettiness of laying out creamer and sugar.

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The menu for the morning was kielbasa, biscuits, gravy, and plenty of fresh fruit, DSC_0102

O.J. and milk served from a pitcher somehow felt nostalgic.
DSC_0099Warm biscuits. That’s more than enough for a stand-alone sentence in my book. 🙂

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The closest claim I have to motherhood for now. 🙂

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Our guest of honor arrived with some pretty fun accessories. She is a jewelry lover! DSC_0124DSC_0149

Rick’s wonderful dad sporting the beard he was rocking long before the Dynasty boys… You can read about his amazing role in Mr. S’s life hereDSC_0146

We know where he got those baby blues! This is a mother who fiercely loves her son. She is not only a mother to her three children, she also has an extra special place in the lives of several grandchildren, too. There’s no end to her generosity.

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Next, it was off to my momma’s place to celebrate her sweet, perfect heart. A little graduation gift for Brother was also tucked away inside a card.  DSC_0170

If you’re not a dog person, you might be thinking this one gets too much attention. You’d be right. DSC_0177

All three of us are thankful to have this beautiful woman in our lives. To say her heart is made of gold would be an understatement. I cry just thinking about her patience, peacemaking, laughter, love, and more. If you’d like to have a great conversation about things that truly matter, just sit down with this lady. DSC_0187

The boys captured a four-legged escapee…DSC_0191

Brother, whose graduation I’ll have to share soon, ran barefoot to save little Lucy.
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Mr. S soiled his jeans sliding “baseball style” to catch that energetic pup. DSC_0207

Momma and her handsome boys. 🙂 DSC_0210Her children rise up and call her blessed…” Prov 31:28a 

20140511-203847.jpgWhite, “lacey” cotton hand towel with an embroidered “G” for Mr. S’s mother, a linen pair embroidered with “N” for mine.

 

Table: Apron Complete

There’s progress on our table!

Brother and I measured and cut 8 tenons (two per apron plank) last week.

These are apparently the easy part. Even though I was comfortable doing calculations, scoring, and marking, I was pretty nervous about making such crucial cuts. Thankfully, my brother wasn’t nervous at all and did a fine job. 🙂

It was essential that they were cut well to ensure they’d fit snugly inside the mortises.

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Here’s a diagram in case you, like me, hadn’t heard of a mortise and tenon joint before.

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Dad and Brother cut the much trickier mortises in each leg, and now the apron and legs are assembled.

We decided to save money on the (pine) legs and (poplar) apron, so they’ll receive coats of fresh, white paint.

It seems to be a trend to build your own furniture from pine or other cheap soft woods, then stain it.

Luckily for me, Dad educated me about the difference in finish on soft and hardwoods. That blotchy, uneven look is not really desirable in the world of woodworking, apparently.

Since I wanted a natural wood finish on at least part of the table, we’ll construct the top from a hardwood, stain it, and seal it. We’re settling for hard maple, which is a cheaper hardwood that will still be suitable for a tabletop. 🙂 This wood will accept a stain more evenly than pine or poplar, and (theoretically) hold up a little better over time.

Maple is apparently still tricky to finish. So far, I’ve ready that seasoning the wood (from about.com: “[wood should be] acclimatized to the environmental surroundings in which the project will be used permanently”), sanding with progressively finer sandpaper (giving special care to the edges), and using a pre-stain conditioner will help to minimize uneven absorption.

I’m so thankful to have two guys with years of experience, plenty of know-how, and willingness to spend hours blessing me. 🙂