Friday, March 28, 2014

Welcome Spring!

According to the calendar, we are in the season of "spring."  Most of us - in the northern half of the U.S., at least - have yet to experience much spring-like weather.

I know that our friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin are enjoying a lovely fresh layer of snow, but here, we finally have a day that feels like spring: chilly but warm enough to dispense with the parka, rainy but with occasional sun peeking through.  

(Basically, it's like England's weather, year-round.)

So, I've put a few spring-y touches around the house, like a new chalkboard sign,

a bunch of white tulips on the dining room table,

and, perhaps most shocking and dramatic of all,

I removed the little snowflakes from the mantle and added a pretty, pink wreath on one side.

Okay, not dramatic or shocking, but even subtle changes can help.  Right?  

I can't say that spring has sprung here, but I can say that today spring feels like a definite possibility.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Meandering

Well, I blew my wad last week and have nothing so exciting as baby showers and "cloffice" spaces to post about this week. 

I thought, though, that I would meander through the house and show you a few small improvements I've made over the last little bit.

This little improvement isn't mine to brag about, but it is awfully nice to see: sunshine pouring in the dining room windows.

This little space is what a hopeful real estate agent might call the "breakfast nook."  

In reality, it has rarely been used for breakfast, and is usually piled high with papers and detritus.  

(I had just spent considerable time cleaning this up before I took the picture last week.  I'm generally an over-sharer, but I don't want to horrify anyone with the full extent of my messes.)

I knew the table wasn't right for the space and, pretty soon after we moved in, knew we needed a round pedestal table in that space.  So, I have occasionally searched Craigslist over the last several months, watching and waiting.  Last week, I found it.

It fits the space much better and will, hopefully, make the space more useful.  In fact, Will ate breakfast there yesterday morning.

My next idea for the space is a built in bench under the windows, but that can wait.

I also broke out some white paint (found in the basement from previous owners - love the price of $0) last week and finally painted this basket. 

I know this picture must be driving my OCD friends crazy.  Yes, the basket is crooked and off-center.  But, perfection is boring.

I also painted this $3.90 mirror from the thrift store.

Very cute and cottage-y, don'tcha think?

So, that's a quick meander through some minor improvements at Chez Shaw.  

Hope you are having a wonderful Monday.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Closet Makeover

One of the things which has not really had a home in our homes since we lived in Dayton (more than ten years ago) is all of my craft/sewing/scrapbooking stuff.  It generally lives in badly organized, deteriorating cardboard boxes in the basement, and if I want to do a project, I have to dig through all of the boxes, pull out what I think I might need, lug it upstairs, take over valuable real estate on the kitchen table, make a mess and then, when it's supper time, either put everything away - including the unfinished project - or leave it all out to hinder the rest of our lives.  Now that I am not homeschooling or working outside the home, I would like to get back into those activities a little more, but the current arrangement is not ideal.

But even in our larger house, every inch of space is used already!

Time to think creatively.

This closet sits under the stairs in our living room.  It is too far away from the front door to be a useful coat closet, so we decided to use it for board games.  And then, of course, it became a handy catch-all for various homeless items, like candles and violins and fireplace tools.

Sadly, our kids almost never play board or card games, so I decided to pull out the few games they do occasionally play, and pitch the rest. 

Can you see where this is going?

I forgot to take the before picture of the full-to-bursting closet, but here it is cleaned out, or nearly so, and ready to be made fabulous.

Here is one of three stacks I pulled out of there.

(The games we kept have found a new home in the storage ottoman in the living room.)

Once I pulled everything out, I grabbed some drawer units which were frittering away their time in the basement, and all my craft stuff, and started filling it up again.

I decided not to paint it.  The white paint is fairly new and does make the tiny space a little brighter.  

I did do one painting project, though.  I have had a can of chalkboard paint hanging around for just forever, but had never found the "perfect" project for it.  Until now.  The inside of the closet door was the perfect space to try my hand at one of Pinterest's biggest customers. 

I sanded first (and ended up pulling off the most recent layer of paint) and taped the space I wanted to fill.  

I then painted two coats of chalkboard paint, following the directions on the can for drying times, etc.

Unfortunately, when I went to pull the tape off, the door paint and the chalkboard paint came off with it!

Not a very pretty edge.  So, I touched up the edges with a smaller brush, going free hand.

I decided to just live with the small amount of white paint that came off the rest of the door.  It only shows on close inspection and I'm able to live with imperfection.  Clearly.

Here is the chalkboard, done and ready for chalk.

First, though, here is the inside of my new craft closet!  It is a tiny work space, so I will still need to use other spaces for my larger projects, but it is something, and it is mine. Mine, I say!

Actually, I can't even say that as my kids have already utilized the space for homework. 

Oh, well.  It serves the purpose of corraling my craft stuff, so I'll be happy with that.

And here is the chalkboard, treated and decorated.

Not a hugely crafty make-over, but a very useful one, with a little bit of "pretty" thrown in for fun.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Baby Shower

Here, at last, is the main event for that memorable day: the baby shower.

We went for a Beatrix Potter/English garden theme, but we tried to be subtle about it.

The English are nothing if not subtle, so we put aside our American love of all things gauche (Pepto-Bismol pink was out), and tried subtle for a change.

I made the little banner.  I'm afraid it was a little too subtle - it didn't really show up very well - but it was cute, if I do say so myself.

I hung baby dresses on the room divider. 

The yellow one on the top right was brought back for wee baby Anne by Uncle Steve when he was in Morrocco.  The white one below it was worn by little Katie.  The others were worn by other Copeland/Shaw babies.

Katie's friend, Julie James, made these sweet bouquets for us.  She took inspiration from Peter Rabbit and put parsley in the arrangements!  So cute!

We had cupcakes (of course), butter mints, nuts, three kinds of hot tea, a yummy citrus-y punch, and macaroons made by a friend of Katie's.

Each lady brought a tea cup and there were some beauties!

"Aunt" Nancy had a lovely devotional for us.  She had a series of little presents for Katie to open and each gift had a spiritual as well as physical significance.  Very sweet.

Then we moved to present opening!  Here, Katie was opening a pair of onesies that Johanna designed and made for Baby Donaldson.

Sean came toward the end and got in on some of the present-opening action.  

In all, there were about 27 ladies there, including Evie.  It was a wonderful mix of ladies who have known Katie since she was born and ladies who only know Katie as the elegant, talented Kathryn of the Pittsburgh Opera Chorus.  

And Baby D. is now well-equipped to make her entrance in a few weeks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Birthday Brunch for the Birthday Girl and Baby

I promised baby shower pictures next, didn't I?  Well, let's stick with the chronological order here and talk about what happened that Saturday before the shower. Then, maybe, we'll get to some shower pictures.  Tomorrow.

(Hey, I'm a mom.  I know delay tactics.)

Saturday morning, early, Johanna, niece Maggie, and I went to the church to set up for the shower.  We rearranged furniture, set out dishes, frosted cupcakes, and I don't know what all.

At 11(-ish) we dashed out the door to drive to Cranberry for Katie's birthday brunch.

Katie turned 32 years and Baby Donaldson turned 32 weeks.  

(There might possibly maybe be some Aunt Worship going on for my elder daughter.  Ya think?) 

We convened at Perkins and had a lovely time.

Here's the whole crew (and me behind the camera).

Happy birthday!

Hard to believe it's been 32 years since I was called out of class to take a phone call from my dad, telling me I had a little sister.

Ooh, I'm a little misty.  Love that girl.

I love this picture of my mom and brother.  He knows how to make her laugh.

This cutie tried on Grandpa's cap.  Sorry, Dad; it looks way cuter on her.  

Next time: shower pictures.  Really.  

Monday, March 17, 2014


Anyone who knows my extended family knows that my sister-in-law is the baker/caterer.  She does a lovely job every time.  The most beautiful birthday cake I've ever seen was one of her creations - a flower garden with a white picket fence - all edible. It was a shame to eat it!

But for my sister's baby shower a couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law was not available to do the honors, so I decided to attempt cupcakes myself.  I had no pretensions of mine turning out as delicious or as beautiful, but I'd do my best.  

I used recipes from Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

I made chocolate (of course)... well as lemon and vanilla.  I knew I would end up with more than we needed for the shower, but I figured I knew some little people who would be happy to clean up leftovers.

This is the face I got when this little person wanted to be picked up and her cruel mother decided to put down the fresh-from-the-oven pan first.

I made cream cheese frosting to go on all of them, but I tinted it three different colors, one for each type of cupcake: pink for chocolate, yellow for lemon, blue for vanilla (only the frosting had enough yellow in it from the vanilla that the blue turned green!). 

This is how they turned out.  Simple; nothing fancy; I know my limits!

Sadly, I wasn't really impressed with the flavor.  None of them seemed to have enough.  And they got very dry very quickly.  

But the ladies at the shower seemed to enjoy them, and I was glad.

And they were made with lots of love for my sweet "little" sister whom I love so much.

Next: pics from the baby shower.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Like a Lion

Well, March has come in like a lion.

Not so much in terms of weather, although last Sunday was a bit hairy, but in terms of repairs, inconvenience, and expenses for our family.

Last weekend, Micah, Johanna, Sam, Evie and I headed west, to Beaver Falls.  My chief aim was to host a baby shower for my sister, Katie, and being desirous of getting to our destination with minimal exhaustion and stress, I decided to throw caution to the wind and keep the kids home from school on Friday so we could make an early start.  

We left about 11 a.m. and - from my perspective - that's early.   We reached my parents' in good time and all went well.

For the entire week leading up to this, Mom and I had nervously watched the weather predictions and prayed that, for once, the weather persons' fluctuating predictions would land in our favor, like a cosmic game of Spin the Bottle.  

Saturday, the first, we were kissed by sunshine.  Watery and thin it may have been, but it was sunshine.

 The whole family met for brunch at Perkins to celebrate Katie's birthday, then the ladies went to the shower, then Sean and I took Katie to a surprise birthday dinner at Cadillac Ranch with friends.  

But I have no pictures of any of this because my laptop cord is broken and I can't unload anything from my camera until I get a new one!  

That's okay.  It gets worse.

We watched the weather again and decided that I should try to leave early Sunday morning and miss the worst of the snow headed our way.  

We woke up to slippery roads and heavy snow.    I hemmed and hawed and finally decided to stay.  The kids were almost sure to have a snow day on Monday, anyway, so they wouldn't miss anything, really.

By noon the snow had stopped, but we didn't know that it would stay stopped, so even then we did not set out.

Not that I minded a quiet day with my parents and a chance to attend church at College Hill RP!  Not at all.  It was quite nice.  And much better than being stuck in a hotel room in the mountains with four kids and a dog.

So that's okay.  It gets worse.

Monday morning, we started out in good time.  I stopped at Sheetz for gas and BFCaT for coffee (no chance for Oram's on this visit) and hit the turnpike for home.

About an hour later, I had the cruise control on and noticed that the engine was racing as we went up a hill.  It settled back down again so I made a mental note to get it into the shop when we got home, and drove on.  Not for long.

On the next hill, the engine raced again and then, suddenly, the gas pedal was rendered useless.  The engine was still on, but we had no forward propulsion.  

I was able to pull onto an off-ramp and get off the road.  Unfortunately, it was the very busy interchange where I-70 meets the turnpike, so we had semis whizzing past us every few minutes, but I prayed and called AAA.

Very long story short, we were towed back to Monroeville to a Honda dealer who said the transmission was dead, but they could repair it for $4560 and a week's time.  

All things considered, we decided to junk it, but the Honda dealer wouldn't take it unless we were trading for something else from them.  

Finally, after four hours in the dealership's lobby with four kids and a dog, with the van situation still not resolved, my dad came to our rescue in a rented minivan and drove us all the way home to Philly.

And on top of everything else, the snow storm which had prevented our traveling on Sunday had left little damage in Philly and the kids missed a day of school, after all.  

On the bright side, we had AAA and therefore a free tow; we were still close enough to my parents' for them to help (and eventually our brothers to help locate someone to take the van for us); it was a business day, not the weekend; the kids were well behaved and patient throughout; and no one was injured.  Besides the van.

Dear old Goldie.

Only 139,000 miles; you were too young to go.  But we trust your new owner will fix you up with a new transmission and you will live on.

I truly am thankful that Saturday's events were untouched by the subsequent stresses, that we had some extra time with my parents, that my dad was willing and able to drive us home, that our brothers (Tom and Dave) cheerfully pitched in to find us a buyer, and that we returned home, safe and sound.

Let's hope the rest of March is more lamb-like.