Sunday, March 31, 2013

Can We Say it Now, Mama?

We survived the Vigil Mass and the boys were unbelievable.  No meltdowns, crying, fighting, and my momentary sweat of panic when I walked in and realized I had forgotten the whole giving everyone LIT CANDLES thing was alleviated when not one of the boys started anything on fire.  The liturgy was beautiful.  So so beautiful.  And all through the beginning in the dark church, David and Michael kept leaning in and pseudo whispering, "can we say it now, Mama?"

And when it was time, oh, how we said it!

Happy Easter, friends!!  
He is risen, indeed!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs!

Preparing to celebrate the holiest of days.
The gift of life redeemed, life worth living.

Starting with the red egg and going clockwise:
Brown egg in beet juice
White egg in beet juice
Brown egg in boiled yellow onion skins
White egg in onion skins then boiled turmeric
White egg in boiled turmeric
Araucana egg in boiled turmeric
Natural araucana egg undyed
White egg in grape juice 
Araucana egg in grape juice
Brown egg in grape juice
White egg in blueberries

Several tablespoons of vinegar was added to each dye to help it penetrate the shell.  Natural dyes don't penetrate as completely as synthetic so you have to handle them carefully or the dye can scratch off.  But in my opinion, they are so much more beautiful than the fluorescent looking eggs!  

There's a few other combinations and variations in here as well as several that marbled naturally.

John Paul's cracked while cooking and did this when we dyed it!

The masters at work.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Week Goings On

This week I've been taking a step back from the blog and quieting a bit.  It seems that many others in the blog world are also feeling the need to breathe a bit more of the fresh real world air.

But...just a few notes from the week to record and share...
We began our Passion Cross at the beginning of the week.  Each day we read the Scripture that corresponds to the ornament and hang it on the cross.  Next year I plan to begin it on Passion Sunday rather than Palm Sunday.  That way there is one ornament to do each day and we can focus on that one aspect of the Passion rather than trying to get two done a day.  (Note to self:  Write down the Scriptures used for each ornament so that you're not scrambling to find them once the kiddos are finally sort of quiet and somewhat settled.)

We're getting a bit of Lenten cleaning done as well.  Each day after lessons we're focusing on one or two rooms to deep clean and reorganize.  As the years go by I'm finding my standards of what is clean are getting just a wee bit lower.  And that's a good thing.  There's only so much we can obsess over do at a time and the scythian nature of cleaning with four little children takes a bit of the satisfaction away anyway.  But it still feels good to have the windows clean and the baseboards wiped.  I'm trying hard to  assign more to the kids and not just do it myself (because it is SO much easier and efficient to just shoo them away and do it myself...but it is more important for them to learn how to work cheerfully and do their part for the family.  Repeat to self.).  One down side to this plan is that I now want to repaint every room in our house.

Today we'll once again have our family's Seder Meal.  It's become an important part of our Holy Week.  (UPDATE:  HERE'S WHY WE NO LONGER DO THE "SEDER" PART OF THE MEAL.)  We do a simple version but it's such a powerful way for adults and children alike to enter into the Triduum.  We'll eat with our "sandals" on our feet and leave for The Mass of the Last Supper after.  I was able to score an organic free range leg of lamb at half price at the grocery store a few months ago so into the freezer it went and right now it's marinating and getting ready to be roasted in just a little bit. I've never been able to afford the actual roast and always settled for lamb chops so it made me happy to find that deal one morning!  Here's hoping it actually tastes good.  

This morning I made the haroset to go with our meal.  The dish symbolizes the mortar used by the Israelites when they were enslaved in Egypt.

Super simple:

3 apples diced
1/2 cup walnuts chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. sweet red wine (though I just had white so I used that)

Mix it all up!

See?  Easy.

(If you're interested in more pictures of a past Holy Thursday dinner, click here.)

Thankfully, both Luke and David are taking a nap at the moment so hopefully our experience at Mass tonight won't be too harrowing.  

Friday will be quieter as we observe the Lord's Passion.  No screens, no treats, a day of penance and prayer, as much as possible with little ones.  More cleaning and of course, the liturgy of the Passion at 3 p.m.  We may attempt to watch The Passion of the Christ in the evening after the kids are in bed.  It's such a hard one to watch, though, and there have been years where I just couldn't do it.

That's all for now!  May you have a blessed Triduum and may our hearts enter fully into this sacred time and be transformed by His abundant grace.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday at the Gardens

We ended up at the Botanical Gardens this afternoon because it sort of sounded maybe like a Palm Sundayey thing to do and because we needed to get out of the house.  Can you die from cabin fever?  I'm thinking yes.  It was a fun Catholic nerdy moment when we got there and realized that their main atrium is The Palm House.

Obligatory palm photos

I want to see them start handing out those types of palms in the corner there at Mass.  How awesome would that be?  The boys were a little miffed that people at church this morning weren't waving their palms during the procession.  I can't blame them.  I would have been waving mine but instead was playing a rousing game called entertain the Lukebabe by letting him plunge his hand down your shirt and hide your lip balm and then plunge again to retrieve.  It's a fun one.

Look at all the colorful things!  Let's pretend it's spring!

David:  "This is Little House and we're pretending we're moving to the prairie."

Thirty seven seconds of checker playing

Looking at...dirt.

"Mama, I'm gonna go fight the dinosaur!"

Teaching moments caught on film

Michael:  "Mama.  I see a VERY silly thing over there."

Chocolate and Coffee...a girl could live in here quite contentedly.

Playing with the camera
(I've decided that we *need* one of those banana trees in this house.)

It did feel so good to get out and the boys were all genuinely excited about a trip to the Gardens.
I'm praying that this week be steeped in His grace for our family and yours.

And because all the cool kids are doin' it:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Kitchen Project - Faux Marble Counters Sort of How-To

 (For more before pics and full room pics of the kitchen, click here.  And I think I have one more post after this and then I'll stop yammering on about the kitchen.  Promise.)

I didn't think these counters would happen.  In fact, during the process, I may have shed tears and wailed dramatically to my husband that I just. can't. take it anymore with all the aplomb of someone suffering far greater things than being tired of painting their countertops.  Like oh, say, martyrdom.  
I may sometimes have a slight flair for the dramatic.
I don't really ever want to think about the project again.  (See?  Dramatic.)  BUT being the sacrificial person I am and it being almost Holy Week and all I will suffer through it for the sake of my readers and perhaps a Googler or two who may benefit from my pictures and random commentary.  What can I say?  It's who I am.  I'm sure there's a high place in heaven for such acts of love.

I won't say that it was a super fun project, but I'm pretty thrilled with how they came out.  Are they an exact replica of Carrera marble?  No.  But do they give the look of it without being too tacky?  I think so.  Does it look way better than before?  Definitely.  Did they cost about five gajillion times less than us installing real marble counter and backsplash?  Yes.  In fact, I'm estimating they cost me about $40 to do and that's with buying a few things I didn't end up using.  So I'm going to say it was worth the temporary wailing and gnashing of teeth.

We debated butcher block counters from Ikea.  We had them in our last home and they are extremely affordable, look great, and were of great quality.  But we had the backsplash issue.  Our counters were a seamless laminate all the way up the backsplash and I did. not. want to mess with tiling or figuring out a new backsplash.  I'm just not up for that kind of project right now...and the counters were in very good shape so I didn't feel like I could justify the expense anyway.  I didn't hate the countertops.  They were easy to clean and smooth.  They were just an ugly color.  I knew I could paint them with countertop paint and be done with it but I didn't think a solid white would look right and I was really hoping for the light and white kitchen look.

That was a long explanation to say that I started wondering if I could somehow faux marble the counters.  I love those all white kitchens with the marble counters and white cabinets and I figured if it was a complete flop I could always just paint over it in a solid charcoal black and live with it.  After a few searches I found this tutorial.  Exactly what I was looking for!  She even has a detailed video of how to do it which was super helpful and her post was my jumping off point.  I used many of her techniques but also had to change things up a little as I went.

I don't have detailed pics of the process because of the tears and teeth-gnashing and "I never ever ever ever want to think about this project again" and all.  (It's sort of like childbirth...the memories are just now beginning to fade.)  (I'm really selling this, aren't I?  Don't worry, you are probably more artistically inclined and perhaps you have a smaller space you are doing thus reducing the wailing time.)

It was REALLY helpful to have a few squares of marble tile to use as my inspiration.  They weren't real marble but a Carrera looking ceramic that I picked up at Lowe's from the clearance rack.  It really helped in eyeing the color and guiding my painting.  I also googled images of marble that I liked and used those to help guide me.  It helped me see that real Carrera doesn't have "perfect" veining and coloring and has all sorts of variance and weird fissures and things and that's part of what makes it beautiful. It helped keep me from getting too patterny and reminded me that I didn't want my veins to look too perfectly spaced and faded.  (Does that make sense?  Probably not.)  

Here's what I used:
Rustoleum Countertop Coating 
Untinted Kilz primer*
Black acrylic craft paint* 
Old 2" paint brush*
Various small artists brushes*
Variety of rags (old t-shirts, washcloths, flannel pieces)*
Small foam roller with several covers*
1 Qt. Minwax clear Polycrylic in Gloss finish
Sponge brush
Fine sandpaper*

(*already had these on hand)

Here we go:
-I painted the entire counter surface with untinted Rustoleum Countertop Coating.  I don't know if I needed to do this but I did not want to run the risk of completing the project and then having it chip and peel right off because the paint couldn't bond with the laminate.  The countertop paint is made to adhere to the laminate.  

-I then went over all of it with a coat of Kilz primer.  I probably could have just started the marbling on the countertop paint but I didn't have enough of it to give the second coat that it needed.  I figured the one coat was enough to bond to the laminate and it was.

-I mixed up my gray in a container (white primer and a few drops of black acrylic) and poured some white primer into another container.  Looking back, I wish I would've done something to make the gray a little less blue-hued but it's probably something only I would notice.

-Time to start marbling.  Here's where it gets fuzzy.  I followed her clouding and layering technique with the gray primer and the normal primer except that my feathering brush was just not giving the look that hers was.  Probably because it wasn't an actual feathering brush and an old brush from something we did years ago that I found in the garage that kind of sort of looked like the brush she was using.  (Tip:  If you're going to do this, don't be lazy.  Get an actual feathering brush.  You'll likely have way less teeth-gnashing.)  The sponge wasn't working either and just looked...sponged.  So after trying several different techniques I ended up doing some sort of weird combination of making the "cloud line" then using a soft rag in small circles to "cloud" it out and soften it.  Sometimes I would use an old paint brush and feather.  Then I would go over it with a foam roller and the white primer.  I did this many many times to build up a lot of layers and give it depth, being careful to make sure the edges of the cloud faded nicely and didn't have unnatural looking lines.  Honestly, with this whole process I just had to keep stepping back, asking myself if it looked okay, and if not just figure out how to fix it with what I had on hand.  Looking back, it's all a big blur on how I actually did it.  I don't know.  I think I blacked out.  Anyway, now that I look at it, I should've added more clouding but at the time it looked so dark that I got nervous.

-Once I was happy with the marble "background" I would use a smaller brush (taken from my five year old's painting supplies) and work in the first layer of veins, following the basic movement of the cloud.  Then lightly go over that with the roller, just enough to soften it without completely covering it.  I did this a whole lot of times as well, sometimes getting frustrated and redoing whole sections because I didn't think it looked right.  There were several times during the whole process when I would look at a section and LOVE how it was turning out...then five minutes later I would look at it and think it looked awful.  It was a weird experience.  I think when you're looking so closely at it you see every single line and variance and analyze it to death when really, you're not going to be doing that when it's all said and done.

-Once I had a section I was happy with, I would use the real feather that was really cut off of one of our hen's wings (useful for more than eggs!  Score!) and pull out tighter darker veins using her veining technique.  If I wasn't happy with it, I would fade it out with the roller and try again.

-When it was totally done and I felt that it looked as good as it was going to, I gave it a once over with the fine sandpaper.

-To finish it off, I sealed it with the Polycrylic.  It currently has two coats on it but I'm planning on doing one more.  It's been a challenge to get the Polycrylic to lay right.  I wanted a smooth glass like finish but it just isn't at glossy as I was hoping and it is very hard to not have brush lines show (using the foam roller looked even worse).  Wet sanding in between coats has helped a lot but still not as smooth a look as I wanted.  That said, I think the somewhat glossy finish played a huge part in making it look like real marble.

So there it is!  Please ask questions if you happen to have them after this kind of lame pseudo-tutorial.  Also, if you are thinking of doing something similar, definitely check out that other site because it is way better than my explanation.  

Now, pictures!

See?  I didn't do a horrible job at matching it!

I think this shot shows how up close you can definitely tell it's not marble!

You can see in this picture what I mean by the sheen and how that takes away from the marble look.  Short of drastic measures, I can't figure out how to get something to have a perfectly glossy glass finish.

You can also see that I should've done more clouding on some parts.

One of the parts that I think looks fake.  This was also the last section I did and I think I was just losing patience with the whole thing.  I'm over it.

Larger view (that you've seen before)

The end!

How are they doing?
Two plus years later and I've decided we will be replacing the countertops as soon as we can.  I love how they looked but I definitely should've found something that could seal them better.  The three coats of polycrylic weren't enough to protect highly used areas.  Areas that are most used and wiped now have small peels and the paint on the edges have worn.  There's also a place where a guest accidentally put something hot directly on the counter and it began to peel the paint.  In hindsight I would definitely find a stronger epoxy product to seal them better and I should've reapplied it after a year or so.  But they did look great and they were worth the money saved for the two years we got out of them.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real} with Mud


I've had a hard time finding pretty these days what with all the mud and cold and never-ending winter and feeling boxed up inside the house for months on end.  So I wandered around the house and found my little shelf I put together last year after our big trip.  I don't think I ever posted pictures of it but it makes me smile when I look at it.

I saved something (rocks, sand, pinecones, shells...) from each place we visited and put them in various bottles and jars labeled with the place and date.  Cheapest (and prettiest) souvenirs ever.  I'm hoping to build onto it somehow if and when we are able able to add to the collection.


Our seeds arrived!  Which means we can at least dream about spring, even though it feels like it's never ever ever ever going to come.
So not only does St. Clare Seeds offer organic, non-GMO, inexpensive seeds from a small Catholic company, they ship super fast!  If you go there, tell them I sent you!


I know the picture itself is not that funny.  But when I talked to my sister on the phone after posting pictures of our kitchen makeover, she asked when I had the new counters installed!  She and my brother in law thought we had gotten new marble counters!!  And while I love marble countertops, I don't think I would ever in good conscience be able to spend the thousands of dollars they cost on them!  I just thought it was funny that she thought I, cheapskate that I am, had had a complete personality transplant and splurged on marble.
You guys.  It's PAINT!
I'm glad it's fooling people, though, because I'm happy with how they turned out.  I'll post more detailed pictures in the next few days.  And then you'll definitely be able to see that real marble it is not :)


Our muddy cold drab spring-less yard from the window (because I'm too much of a wimp to actually go outside):

And some mud for Cari.  Complete with newspaper flyer that blew into the yard.

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