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I want to tell you why I love my town. Better yet, I want to show you photos of my town. Pictures are better than words any day…don’t you agree?

My husband and I moved here in 2002 and rented an apartment for about 2 years. We moved here because … well, it was cheap. $700 for a 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment was a steal. And for a poor newlywed couple, that was perfect.

We live in an old steel town in Pennsylvania. It was the home to a booming industry (making steel of course) decades ago and has since morphed and changed since those days. One thing that has survived is that vintage feeling – the homes especially. If you live in the “town” or “borough” as we Pennsylvanians call it, you can practically walk anywhere to get almost anything you would need. Pretty cool.

As I walked my daughter to her bus stop and home every day this year I would sometimes pause and remember how fortunate I am. I can walk to the library, grocery store, park, movie theater, restaurants galore, hairstylist, and so much more.

The older I get the more I realize it’s important to bloom where you are planted. We are trying to do that on our little stretch of neighborhood. It’s hard because our culture really has infused in us – in me – this idea of doing things for yourself and not really thinking about others much. Our family desires to fight that a little. I want to know my neighbors. I want to give meals to them. I want to interact and break bread together. I want to know their names and their pets’ names. When you live in a town like I do that’s a little easier. My challenge to myself is to intentionally love those around us. To pause more. To smile way more. To converse more (I believe my husband thinks I need to do less of this though).

So here are some photos of our town for you to enjoy. It’s just so charming…

imageI love the rounded doors on this home. So unique and rare to see these days.

 

 

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This could be – maybe – the house of my dreams. Just maybe.

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This is one of my favorite homes near us. I love the old brick and the newer looks that were added to it.

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Our town held a huge Pumpkinfest this year. It involved a lot of pumpkiny things but the best was the pumpkin derby. You know…when you take pumpkins, stick wheels on them, dress them up a bit and race them downhill. Everybody does this right?image

 

Yep we let our kids ride their bikes (and we walked) to the pizza shop. Love.

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These planters are newer to town and line the “downtown” area. I believe these were either created using some old steel from the town or made to simulate that look. Either way the rustic/vintage/weathered look is pretty cool.ryan pub wreath

 

A local downtown business puts these beautiful fresh wreaths up on their doors at Christmas time. So festive!Snowy yard The home above still heats using old fashioned wood. The owner can be found outside – winter or summer – splitting logs and cutting firewood so he has enough to heat his home all winter long. See all that wood stacked up in the background. I am also a fan of the old wrought iron fence.

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Psyche. Tricked ya…the above photo wasn’t actually shot in my town. This beautiful shot was taken this summer while Mr IG and I got away – sans kiddos – to Malibu, California for a dear friend’s wedding. We decided we should go sea kayaking on the Channel Islands and so glad we did. Just making sure you were paying attention. Bravo, you passed!

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Living In A Gadget-y World

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Living in this world of hi-tec stuff is hard. Hard because there’s always a faster, sleeker, cooler thing to buy. Hard because those toys are expensive. Hard because kids covet just like adults and want, want, want. 

We’re not poor (far from it when you compare to a third-world country). We are not rich. We are like most people and somewhere in the middle. Mr IG loves gadgets and toys. He gets that from his father. Heck, I like some of those things too.

But…keeping up with the tech craze is nearly impossible not to mention un-frugal (I think I just invented a word).

Living life with intention in our world means finding a balance. Sure we have a TV, we even have cable, a Wii we hardly use, a Pop Box, an external network drive (whatever that is…in fact, I’m not sure I even called it by its proper name), a GPS and a few smart phones. The list of what we don’t have is probably longer. iPad – no. DVD player – nope. Speaker system in our house – nada. More than 1 TV – afraid not.

Here’s how we approach this topic. In everything we purchase or spend time on, we want to make sure it serves a purpose. Do we need the item? Is it going to help us store photos, for instance, or create an easy and cheaper way to back up files? Is it cost-effective? Are the reviews of it okay? Do we plan to have it for several years – like, is it going to outlive it being cool and popular right now? Does it promote exercising our brains instead of turning them to mush?

Another fellow blogger recently posted that 46% of Americans for Christmas this year plan to get one of their children some kind of tablet reader. Reading is great and if you can use that to help promote reading I think it’s wonderful. Our kids have those Leapster Explorer game consoles. They love playing them but we have to limit it. If they sat and played with them for hours on end I think their little brains might slowly start to lose their ability to connect with adults. I want my kids to connect with people. Heck, I want to connect with people.

I mentioned before that we only have 1 TV. It’s in our Living Room. We don’t have a finished basement (I laugh at the idea in our 114 year old home!). We do not have a TV in our bedroom. A long time ago I was watching one of those addictive HGTV shows and the interior designers said that the bedroom needs to be the oasis away from all the chaos. I sort of took that to heart. I can’t have a TV in my room if I’m trying to make that a place to get away from it all.

Our kids LOVE watching TV and we sometimes let them. I have a job that allows me to work from home and there are times when the TV is my mommy’s helper. If I need my kids quiet, their favorite show (currently Wild Kratts will do the trick just fine) is the perfect remedy.

But it’s pretty amazing what happens when that TV is off (and they are getting along). They create. They play. They have so much fun. I love watching how creative they can be. A few years ago it was standard to have the TV on a lot more. I don’t know why that’s what we did, but we just did. Maybe it was their age. Maybe it was my job at the time. Maybe it was both. And I have no idea why we stopped turning it on but we just did and it’s pretty cool (most of the time). Sure, I have to intervene more than I’d like to teach them how to get a long or behave or forgive or apologize. Sometimes I get annoyed at that too. But hopefully more of the time I get to delight in how interacting teaches them how to communicate. How to talk to people and make eye contact. I want my kids to be engaged. To be aware of their surroundings. TV is certainly not all bad, but it’s pretty crazy how their blinders go on as soon as a show is on. They don’t hear me. They don’t notice me.

So that’s how we do it.I know it doesn’t work for everyone but this is how we try to do life with – and without – gadgets. If you are pining for that newest and greatest toy maybe this will help you decide whether it makes sense for you or not!

My husband was kind enough to build a piece of furniture with the sole purpose of hiding my ginormous printer. See how large and in charge it is…

20130529_155234And it all started with an innocent trip to Home Depot. Our 4 and 6 year olds were happy to help pick out the wood.

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The walnut (below) for the top was carefully and meticulously created. As you may recall from the farm table post before, this wood came from my grandfather’s attic in Virginia. It probably should be my husband writing about this process because I am sure to botch up how he did this but since I’m the blogger, you are stuck with me. I only watched in awe as he labored on this for weeks. You need wood, wood glue, clamps and sand paper. To get the really fine smooth feeling he used 400 grit of the wet/dry sandpaper on the final coat. I also think he used an antique oil finish which is an oil/varnish blend. It really turned out marvelously. The bottom sections are plywood and solid wood (see above) that was painted and then distressed with sandpaper. When necessary a dark stain was used on the exposed wood underneath to make the contract more distinct. The doors are solid pine.

CYMERA_20131023_194630The faux drawer look was made using thin pieces of plywood that were cut, sanded and glued t0 the front of the doors. The way he configured them when it’s all closed it looks like individual doors.

CYMERA_20131031_113026And here is the man of the hour. My hero and the love of my life. Gushy, I know, but it’s true. And just in case you didn’t know he is Duck Tape Man as his shirt indicates.

CYMERA_20131101_210134In case you’ve never used clamps before, this is how it works. 🙂

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And here is is mostly finished!

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CYMERA_20131104_142758And if this isn’t enough to get you started, because obviously you will WANT to make one of these now, you can go on over to Ana White‘s website at http://ana-white.com/2011/04/apothecary-media-console and check our her plans and photos from others who have created similar projects.

Happy furniture making, y’all!

Our dining room table

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Well after a solid 6 months of hard work my handy husband has done it again…he has built us a few new piece of furnutire. This time a custom-made farm table. I say “farm” table but who’s to really say if it’s a farm table or just a regular table. All I know is that my husband took planks of walnut from an attic in Virginia and transformed it into an absolutely beautiful table for our family.

Often when asked how he does these masterpieces he will respond much like Sherlock Holmes…you know, that simple answer that drives you crazy. But instead of replying,

Simply elementary

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he exclaims, “it’s just basic geometry.”

For him perhaps, but for the rest of us there’s fortunately help out there. Try Ana White‘s website. She provides plans for pretty much any DIY furniture-making project you could think of. Other DIYers also post their photos and plans that are a great resource. Mr. IG (Intentional Girl) did consult some of these throughout the planning stages to give him ideas for the legs and what type of wood worked best.

Without further ado, here she is…

Raw wood…

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After wiping with a tung oil…

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After a coat of a polyurethane blend…

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Upsidedown to attach legs…

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Kids enjoying a meal on the new table…

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Here it is without chairs since its easier to see this way…and because I have a special project planned for my chairs so I don’t waste perfectly good chairs (Frugal Girl, I’ve been listening!). Stay tuned for that project soon…

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P.S. this look of distressing the legs (above) was more difficult than orginally thought. He ended up needing to add stain to the areas he distrssed to help the edges pop a little more…

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He let the stain sit for a little while and then wiped off with a cloth.

Vacations are awesome

The family

Sweet Lily

Jumping Steph Ben

 

Jumping Craig Steph

Craig and Steph

In case you were wondering where I’d gone, we are traveling. Leading up to this 2-ish week vacation out west I was busy getting ready and all that pre-vacation nonsense that happens. School finished, work was crazy, but we are here and LOVING IT.

Here are a few lovely photos for you since photos are better than words sometimes.

Talk about intentional living. Yes we are spending money. But yes we are building memories, spending time as a family, enjoying God’s beautiful creation, turning off the TV, mostly turning off the phone (this part is hard for me) and just soaking it all in.

In case you are interested, we started in Phoenix, AZ and drove up to Sedona for a night, then Grand Canyon and now we are in Zion National Park for a few days. Next on the stop is Bryce Canyon, then Arches, and last we will end our time in Estes Park, Colorado.

Cheers!

 

The wonder of spray paint

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I am amazed with spray paint lately. It takes a drab item and transforms it into something amazing. This end table for instance. It is cool buy had chipped away in areas where the veneer had weakened. It looked tired. I had wanted to refinish to the original wood but quickly realized that would never happen.

Sanded it down first…

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…and then took out my can of Rustoleum Heirloom White spray paint and here we are.

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Here’s the finished product. I’m just personally proud of having finished a project. Last minute decision to distress the edges. In case you’re interested I used 220 grit Norton sandpaper.
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This will go in my daughter’s room next to her bed

Yesterday I decided to take a stab at giving the kids’ bench a revamped look. I neglected to realize that it needed some regular maintenance. I incorrectly assumed that the sealant from the store would have held up longer. And I’d be wrong.

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I sanded the wood down. It had gotten reallt moldy looking from the rain. The left two planks in the above photo show what it looked like after I sanded it down. To the right it’s what it looked like after I wiped Danish Oil (walnut stain) on it.

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Here’s what I used to finish the wood.

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And voila the finished product. Now I need to wait 72 hours to seal with polyurethane.

Hope the kids enjoy watching fireflies and birds on this bench over the next few months!

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That chandelier doesn’t look like anything special, does it? Feelings about that are likely to be higher once you see all the dust and gunk caked on that bad boy. Oooh. Gross. Toss it and buy a new one, right?

Nope.

Nothing a can of spray paint and a handy little gal can’t handle.

Step one, take the light down, place on a sheet or tarp. Make sure painting is done outside due to fumes. I read other peoples’ tips to cover the light sockets with tap or something. Getting paint down in that space could prevent the light from working.

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Make sure you clean off all that dust and dirt. I used a wet papertowel. No need to use chemicals if you don’t need to {my theory anyway}.

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I purchased Rustoleum’s Painter’s Touch (2x cover) Black Flat spray paint. I should have primed it but I forgot to get it at the store and honestly didn’t feel like going back. A chandelier doesn’t get touched a lot so I figured I was safe to perhaps put some extra coats on and call it a day.

What do you think?

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What do you think?

Trying to keep things out of the landfill has been fun today! You too can do this. Just takes a can of spray paint and a few hours.

Before After Chandelier

 

A Pinterest Birthday Party

So this year I was really inspired on Pinterest to try some new DIY birthday decorations and foodie additions to one of my children’s birthday parties. It was much cheaper than other methods, looked cooler, and I think made him feel really special.

Want to see exactly where my inspiration came from? Okay! Check out my Pinterest Board where you will find all the people who helped make the party come alive.

The Cake:

The cake was completely stolen borrowed from various Pinterest images/blogs. It’s really amazing what others do. It’s truly a blessing. It’s that sense that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel AT ALL. Some other person WAY more talented and brilliant than myself came up with some ideas (probably stolen borrowed from some other fabulous crafter before them) and I get to sit back and benefit from it. It’s truly amazing when you think about it. Other than the time and energy to get the supplies and put it together, it’s rather inexpensive. Everything except for the mast and sails was edible. As in, you could eat it.

What do you think?

Pirate Cake - IGI will tell you how I started. Used a regular Duncan Hines Lemon cake mix. Baked it in a 9×11 Pyrex glass pan. Used a second box and baked it on a few small containers I had lying around to make some of the higher layers. I ended up cutting the pieces to fit it together and just made something work. We used photos of pirate ships to figure out how much and how high to make the various levels. I cut the front of the boat into an arrow shape. Then I started icing. You can buy icing in the store (Wilton sells a big tub of it at Michael’s for $16.99) or you can make it from scratch. I chose the Wilton’s Buttercream Icing recipe on most of their cake pans and doubled it. I used their gel icing coloring – Brown, Sky Blue, and a mixture of Skin Tone, Copper and Brown to make the sandy beach color. The sides of the boat were a darker brown than the top. And then I just started adding M&Ms, Graham Crackers, Hershey’s bars, and those little silver balls are these little candy pieces I had. Wished they were gold but I was committed to using what I had. I did find some ice cream sprinkle topping in the pantry so I added that to the beach to make it look like sand. The fire on the beach was made with miniature Hershey and crunch bars left over from Valentine’s day (shhh) and the fire was made from a Swedish Fish, of all things. My husband graciously agreed to make the mast and sails. He went online and found the image and printed it out. Used a wooden skewer to poke it through and then had the sugar cone resting on a piece of chocolate somehow. The board it’s sitting on is one of those cardboard cake boards you buy in the store and I just wrapped it in foil.

Next on the list (below) is the Watermelon Shark. I had every intention of doing this, but in the end, yep, you guessed it…My wonderful husband got out the knife and went to work. In all fairness here, his brain is better at this kind of thing. The most difficult thing was scooping out the watermelon without mauling the entire rest of it. You can’t see the sign, but the Pinterest person wrote the sign next to it as “Shark Bites”. I thought that was so clever I stole borrowed it too.

Watermelon Shark

The beverages were the easiest, by far. The bottles I found at IKEA by accident. Wasn’t sure if i would add sand to them or what. And pretty much everything got an extra dose of twine or rope to make it seem more rough and pirate-y.
Beverages

My favorite part was probably the “loot” we offered the kids when they left. Recently we were hiking with the kids so we decided to start picking up sticks for the  swords as we walked. It wasn’t that much more work and just required some forethought. The two pieces were held together with… yep…twine. The material was one of my favorite things. IKEA! Who knew IKEA had red and white striped fabric as well as black and white polka dots. At less than $8/yd and only needing 2 yds of each, this was excellent. I turned them into bandanas (I used pinking shears and cut triangles); girls got polka dots, boys got stripes. Score! Next for the eye patches. Black felt and elastic. Super easy. These were part of their favor but they got to wear them around the party so that was cool too.

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My hope is that my little post will help you plan your next party. As they say, sharing is caring. Enjoy!

 

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Thanks to the internet (and quite frankly Pinterest for helping me find things on the internet) I am happy to say that “Project: Paint The Bathroom Door” was a huge success. It was difficult to allow the 5 year old to help but since she was so eager, I thought I should let her so she can learn early how do be a DIY‘er herself. Is it really ever too early for this?

I have The Pretty Handy Girl’s blog/website to thank, specifically her post titled “How To Paint A Door (The Professional Way) that allowed us to get one small project completed on the bathroom renovation. I feel as though I can hardly call it a renovation since it’s been months since we did anything on this. But, since it’s still ongoing, we press on. Can you believe we have used a curtain (yes a REAL CURTAIN) as our door since last summer? Our only bathroom. Yes, a curtain.

We figured since we are hosting a birthday party we needed to probably get a door on that bathroom. I mean, I suppose people wouldn’t mind pulling a curtain across as “privacy” but I was pretty sure I’d be mocked forever and ever and Ben scarred for life as people refused to let their children be friends with him. Nothing like hosting a party to get some fire under our rears to get cracking on the projects.

Two of the most helpful tips from her website were to give me some kind of order for painting the doors. I always feel overwhelmed about where to start and where to stop and which way to paint – with or against the grain. The second thing it helped me with was telling me to use a roller first and then smooth it out with a brush. Genius! And let me say it worked marvelously.

So, below we have our lovely door hinges. Can you tell which side I spent countless hours scrubbing and which side was the “oh snap, we need to get that paint off and get the door backup STAT!”? But, alas, it’s a hinge. I will go for the shabby-chic look I think – or at least that’s what I will tell myself to make it okay. Who looks at hinges anyway? [Okay, I do, but whatever…]. If you want to know how to get paint off metal hinges, it’s no walk in the park. We used the toxic paint stripping stuff (yes, not green at all) and then proceeded to let it soak for hours and then used wire brushes and flat edged tools like chisels and screwdrivers to chip all remaining amounts of paint. Wear a mask and make SURE you get the special kind of gloves that resist chemicals. Don’t want that stuff eating away your flesh or anything.

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And Voila, we now have a door on our bathroom. Isn’t she beautiful?

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