Thursday, May 28, 2015


I have deemed this the summer of the backyard and I'm finally tackling all the little projects in the backyard that never get done because no one sees it. 
Most of them are fun!
Here's one that is not!
I desperately needed to paint the back doors leading from the kitchen to the deck because the wood was starting to rot in places. They were white, but I saw a picture on Pinterest of a house with tan siding and black exterior french doors. I loved the look, so I decided to do that!

But after two coats of glossy black paint, I decided I was wrong wrong wrong. It was like looking into a pit of despair. Or like the Nothing from Never Ending Story.

So then I decided gray would be better. But THIS IS WORSE THAN THE BLACK!! I chose a very blue gray (gray is hard). This is definitely not working. I have one more darker, more grayer gray to try (close to charcoal). If that doesn't work, I need your help--
Should I go back to white? Or should I try to find a good red for the doors? If it makes a difference, everything on the deck is very warm tones.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to start a kids art group

A few years ago, I was feeling frustrated with the after school activity market.
Our budget really didn't allow for me to have my kids in dance/tumbling/gymnastics/piano/whatever.
Luckily, they weren't really interested in any of those things. But I still felt like it was important for them to have some kind of enrichment after school (besides all the fun things we do together, of course!)
Thus was born the idea for a kids art group!

This is the perfect way to keep your kids busy and learning, without spending a ton of money.

The first step to starting your very own kids art group is to find a group of kids and moms that are interested in participating. This group is set up as a co-op, so every household takes turns hosting and providing the project. That means that the more families you involve, the less often each household has to host. BUT (and this is a big but!) if you have too many kids in the group, the quality of the projects you can do goes downhill. We found that 4-6 is the optimal number of kids to involve, but up to 8 is manageable. 

After forming a group, have a meeting to discuss all the logistics. Not only do you need to decided how often and how long to meet (we meet once a week for 45 minutes) but it's important to make sure everyone is on the same page about the projects. In our group, the host chooses what to do and provides everything needed for the project (except smocks). This works for a variety of budgets because when it's your turn to host, you can make the project as involved as you want. Mine have always tended to be on the simpler side and I generally do something based on a technique or famous work of art. I've even included books that go along with the projects we're working on that day (we read "Action Jackson" to go along with this Jackson Pollock inspired project.) Everyone has done something different with their turns.

Our very first art group: splatter painting like Jackson Pollock
Some last words of advice: the most important thing here is for kids to learn and create together. I like to tell my girls that you don't have to be a perfect artist to be an artist and enjoy art. Projects probably won't turn out the way you envision them, and that's ok! Have fun right along with them.

Here's a link to my art board on Pinterest. Have you ever formed a group like this? I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, May 15, 2015

so simple you'll kick yourself

If you have kids, you probably have stuffed animals. I think the average stuffed animal to kid ratio in America is 500 to 1. And if you're like me, you probably beg and plead your kids to get rid of some, just some, of their stuffed animals.

The problem with my kids is, they really do play with 90% of their stuffed animals. They have never been doll people, but stuffed animals are a different story--especially now that my two oldest have discovered Beanie Boos. Yikes. Their room is swimming in little plush animals with gigantic, creepy eyes.

This is not a new project--I did this several years ago, but I think it's a pretty clever idea. We needed a place for all the stuffed animals that would keep them out of the way but still easily accessible.
Exhibit 1: a pile of stuffed animals, cluttering up the floor and resulting in some pretty colorful swear words  slight frustration from parents tripping over toys in the middle of the night.
Exhibit 2: all the stuffed animals neatly and easily corralled inside an empty bean bag chair. Bonus, now there is a comfy spot to plop down and read Dr. Seuss.

Now, maybe this isn't quite as groundbreaking as I thought. Maybe you thought of this on your own years ago, and now you're thinking "Duh, Kate, every idiot has done that." If so, than you probably have other great small space storage ideas--I'd love to hear some!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Falling in love all over again

I'll be honest, one of the reasons I started this blog was out of a desire to stay satisfied and remind myself of all the reasons I love my home.

I love my home. I really do. But after six years, I am starting to look past all the things that I love and only see the imperfections and the shortcomings.
Kind of like a relationship, right?
So now I am making an effort to a) fall in love all over again and b) fix the things that drive me crazy so I don't have to stare at them anymore.

Have you ever been in the same situation?
I've found that the biggest thing that helps is to stop comparing my house to other houses. Pinterest is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can dig a pit of despair from scrolling and scrolling through perfect dream home boards and comparing them to yours. But on the other hand, you can take those awesome ideas and tweak them so that they work just right in your home! 

Another thing I'm doing is tackling all the little projects that have been bugging me for years but haven't seemed like a big enough deal to get fixed--like the two unused satellite dishes on our house with miscellaneous wires draped and hanging all over. No one else seemed to notice, but I hated driving up to the house and seeing those stupid satellite dishes. We hadn't bothered having them removed because they weren't doing any harm (except to my sanity). But when I finally sprang to have them removed, I felt so much better! Just a little at a time. 

Finally, I ask myself what it is I really want. Do I really want to move, or am I just feeling like it's time to move because we've been here our five years? The answer is that I don't want to move--we love our house and our neighborhood!--but I get trapped into thinking that we need to move because that's what we planned. Are we really outgrowing our house, or do I just feel that way because it's how I've been conditioned? That one's easy--we're definitely not outgrowing the house. I don't feel cramped at all!

If you follow me on instagram (you should) you might have noticed that I post lots of pictures of our house with #prettylittlehome. We always say "Goodbye, pretty little home, we'll see you in a little bit!" as we drive away. Even with the chipped paint and the old siding and the baseboards that need to be painted and the tacky 80s metal bannister, we are still so happy to be in our pretty little home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lately I feel like my head is going to explode from all the projects I want to do.
I start one and can barely finish it before I start obsessing over something else. Just ask Jason, he has had to sit through many long conversations (is it a conversation if it's just me going on and on and on) about all the things I want to do and the best way to do them.
I think it's mostly from deciding to stay in our house long(er) term. If we're going to stay, I want to truly love everything about our house and not wait to do some of the projects in my head.

One project I checked off this spring was windowboxes. 
They were easy to make and only cost about $20 for two 4 ft boxes!
Look how much they dress up the windows! The poor before picture is so plain and boring. And the flowers have really filled in more since that picture was taken. I'm loving them!

So what else is on my list?

We're going to rebuild our treehouse to make it have a bigger deck. Right now it's just a small platform nestled between four trees with a slide coming down--well, right now it's a pile of boards on the ground because I took it apart yesterday. It won't be anything huge or fancy when I'm done, but it will be bigger and have a sweet little house frame on the platform. I'm excited to make it a fun backyard getaway for my girls!

I've been completely obsessed with pergolas ever since I saw my friend's new custom pergola that her talented husband built. My dad has graciously agreed to tackle it for me when he comes for a business trip/visit in October, but in the meantime I think I'll just string some patio lights from the house to poles along the edge of my deck. I'm thinking concrete orbs anchoring copper piping to string the lights back and forth.

What projects do you have on your list?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

summer of reading: bingo cards

It's no secret that we are a family of readers. I definitely don't have to do much coaxing to get my kids to read/be read to.  

BUT I love making our summers extra special, and one thing that we do every summer is participate in several summer reading programs.

One of our favorites is the Barnes and Noble program. Stop in at any store and pick up a reading journal (or print one here). After you read any 8 books, you can turn it in and choose a FREE book from their summer reading selection.

Pottery Barn has a similar program, although you have to complete one of their reading lists to receive a free book.

But my favorite summer reading programs are the ones we do ourselves!

This is the fourth summer that we will be hosting a kids' book club for the kids in our neighborhood/area. It's so fun to get kids together, having fun exploring and reading! I will be posting more details about this year's Bookworms events soon. We're doing it a little differently this year, and I'm excited to share my ideas!

Every day we make time in our schedule for reading, both individually and as a family. While Tempe will flop down with a book anywhere, any time, Helena requires a little bit more persuasion. Once she is reading, she loves it, but it's not something she will think to do on her own.

This bingo chart is great for that, because it gets her out of her comfort zone!

They must read for 20 minutes to pass off a square (they don't have to do what that square says for the whole 20 minutes, though) and at the end of the summer, if they have blacked out their whole card, they get a small prize at our back-to-school family dinner. I make sure that everyone gets their card blacked out, because I want reading to be something that we do as a family and something that they feel is an accomplishment. 
Feel free to print my bingo card (or create your own!) to get your kids reading this summer!

More summer reading activities and ideas coming soon!
Please share if you have any fun things you do to encourage reading, creativity, and learning through play during the summers!