refinishing our floors

The floors are done, hip hooray! 
We ripped out that shag and were thrilled to find a beautiful birch wood floor that may or may not be original to the house (1876). It took a solid week to pull out the decades'-worth of carpet staples and even longer to sand off the stubborn varnish that a previous occupant had applied around their area rugs. Once we got down to bare wood, we sponged on a whole lot of wood conditioner, stained with a nice dark hue (Minwax Jacobean), and sealed with a couple of coats of poly. We plan to add a couple more coats in summertime, but 2 days in a hotel right before Christmas was, well, plenty.
Now we're on to drywall, trim, and (finally!) paaaaaaint.


christmas day in the morning

It was good. It was low-key. It was lovely. Santa brought a black cat named Mischief and the girls just about flipped their wigs. Richard had them close their eyes when he went to get it, and when he came back Maren accidentally peeked and couldn't contain herself -- "a CAAAT?!??!" They love that cat and she loves them.

Church was wonderful -- makes me wish Christmas were on a Sunday every year. There were beautiful thoughts and testimonies of the Savior, and wonderful music too. And just being together with our ward family, so many beloved friends, on such a special day, even for just an hour, was so wonderful.

My friends Bryn, Martha, and I sang, too. Want to hear? We recorded this a few days beforehand. Switching up the tune was Bryn's ingenious idea. And can I just say that I really really want to play the gee-tar like Martha someday. 

Merry Christmas, friends! I hope yours was a merry one, filled with hope and peace!


joyful noise

Christmas came early, WOOHOO!
For some reason I don't really blog about piano,
but it is a big and happy part of my life.
And thanks to my amazing, generous, wonderful man, I finally have my very own.
It's nothin fancy, but believe me, it's been here 5 hours 
and has already brought so much joy.
It's wedged in the kitchen between the bathroom and the pantry
until we start/finish drywalling the dining room next week.

Christmasey posts and home improvement updates coming soon, mkay? 
{hope your merrymaking has been beautiful!}


once you pop

Our dining room had some really awful white wallpaper going on. 
The other day I pulled off a piece...
and kept pulling...
and kept pulling...
and pretty soon the room looked like this.
5 layers and 12 decades' worth of wallpaper.
{you know I would have kept that retro rose wallpaper if only there was a way...}


home at last.

 Made it. 
We are here. 
Our stuff is here. 
Whether our sanity came with us is questionable. 
There's been a whole lot of ripping, sanding, painting, and uncovering going on--
as in, What do you mean we can't get the box springs up the stairs?
Hope your Christmas is off to a beautiful start.
See you soon?

sisters in service: elizabeth giuliacci

Welcome to Sisters in Service, a series designed to lift, inspire, and motivate us to celebrate the (many!) different ways we can serve our brothers and sisters while we're here on this earth. Each post spotlights a project or idea that's lifting others, serving the Lord, and changing the world for good!

Hang onto your panties, friends, 'cause my big sis Betz is here today. 
{and I had to bribe, wheedle, and whine for months to get her here. ahem.}

Can I gush for a minute?
Betz {alias Elizabeth} and I were not terribly close growing up -- she is 7 years older than me.
But as soon as I left home and was suddenly on my own...
As soon as I had a baby and realized I had no idea what I was doing...
As soon as R & I started making scary life decisions that didn't exactly please everyone...
This chick was there for me with a bottle of formula in one hand, a tissue in the other, limitless availability on the phone {despite 5 kids to raise and a billion piano lessons to teach}, and the endless assurance that "you are totally normal, I promise," whenever I started freaking out. 
She knows her beans, people.
{love you, Betz.} 

So just what is Betz's big service project? Read on...

What do you do all day?
I am a mother to 5 of the most beautiful children in the whole world.

Have you always pictured yourself as a mother?
Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be a mother. THIS is my dream job. I believe that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." I know I can be with my family forever. Not just until they leave for college or they get married or until I die. This is my dream job for eternity.

And it's all peaches and cream, right?
Nobody told me how HARD it was going to be to have this dream job! It's so NOT about me. It's all about someone else ALL the time, 24/7. There is no break. Someone ALWAYS needs me, and someone is always calling "Mommy, mommy, mommy..." 
{seriously, cutest little italian babies ever, hello? and her man works for the giants, which is totally rad.}

So how do you juggle the needs of 5 kids, your husband, and yourself?

I don't know. I just do. People say they don't think they could do it. Yeah...actually, you could. This didn't happen to me all at once. I had (thankfully) one child at a time. And each time I was about to have a baby, I panicked. I was sure I wouldn't be able to do it. And each time, I was made equal to the task. 

What gets you through the hard parts?
For me, the ONLY way to make it is to read the word of God, and have a solid relationship with Him through prayer. That's when my home is blessed with the Spirit, and that's when I feel hope and peace.

What's your advice for new moms?
Don't read the mommy books! Just go to the mother's lounge at church. Everything I needed to know, my friends who had 5 or 6 children knew already...

Any last words?
I wear a lot of hats. I'm not always fabulous at all my jobs all the time (there's that one time I completely forgot to go to my child's Student of the Month assembly), but I think my cumulative score is pretty good. There are times when I look at my children and feel certain that I've known them much longer than their mortal years. I catch glimpses of who they can become and I hope I am equipped to lead them there. Motherhood includes a lot of guilt. But when I pour my heart out to my Heavenly Father about all my shortcomings as a mother, I feel a warm, gentle feeling that lets me know He will help make up the difference.

Thanks for coming over {finally}, Betz!
I think it is hard to remember that motherhood is service.
That we don't need to be beating on ourselves for not going out and saving the rest of the world all the time. Having a gaggle (or one or two or whatever) of little souls to teach and save is a big job in itself, thankyouverymuch. 
And please, let's not forget that, as a wise woman once put it, "Motherhood is more than bearing children...It is the essence of who we are as women." You don't need to have kids to be a mother. All of us can be part of "the Lord's secret weapon." Cool, huh?


chicken pesto pizza

Hello friends! We're busy packing, demo-ing, moving, and unpacking this week, so I've got some lovely little pre-fab posts up my sleeve. Hugs, kisses, be back soon!

Dee lee cious.
{is it too early after Thanksgiving to talk about food?}

The pesto in this case is spinach + walnut, which was very tasty, though I really want to try it with basil pesto when summer rolls around again. My advice: spread the pesto thin and sprinkle the cheese on thick.

And cook it hot hot hot. Mmmm-mm.


learning time: crayons and colors

Happy Thanksgiving week! We're busy packing, demo-ing, moving, and unpacking this week, so I've got some lovely little pre-fab posts up my sleeve. Hugs, kisses, be back soon!

Since it's gotten colder, we've been spending less time outside and more time inside... watching TV.
I love me some Spongebob, but not alllll the time.
{besides, his laugh really is horrible.}
SO we've started doing learning time, sort of a mini home-preschool.
The girls love it and pester me every morning until it's finally time for learning time. 

Every day I have a little theme picked out, usually based on a library book. 
Last week we talked about crayons and colors, and it was fun.

{can you imagine doing that job?}

Historically I have not been a big crafts-with-kids person, but learning time is changing that.
There are zillions of ideas online. I like this site.

The night before, I dyed some macaroni (mix 2 teaspoons rubbing alcohol with 6-8ish drops food coloring and mix with 2-3 handfuls uncooked macaroni in a ziploc bag; rinse out the bag, make another color, and let it all air dry on plastic wrap or wax paper) for a rainbow project.

I printed this coloring page at 120%, then the girls painted it with watered-down glue and stuck on the macaroni {I brought out one color at a time to avoid mass chaos}. I sort of wish I would have just divided a piece of cardstock into 6 equal rectangles; the skinny curves were hard for ms. M to navigate.

This week we're doing Thanksgiving stuff. So excited.


guest post: i'm thankful

Happy Thanksgiving week, dear Marigoldlets! 
I know you are busy with pre-holiday schemes and dreams,
but if you have a minute, pop on over + see my post on
over at I'm Thankful Week hosted by Jenn at Ruffled Sunshine.
Sound good? Good.
See you there!


eeping out + signing off

We are closing on our house today!
We will sign in our work jeans, head straight to the house, and put the poor shag out of its misery.
But it will be OUR ORANGE SHAG.
So I am going to sign off for a week or two. I have some extra posts up my sleeve, though.
'Cause I don't want you crying yourself to sleep over this or nothin'.


Happy Thanksgiving week, beautiful Ruffle-lets! 
I am so excited to be here -- Jenn is my favorite, did you know?
Thanks for having me over today!

I knew right away what I wanted to write about for this series, but I kept pushing it away.
really, amanda? lame. obvious. booo-ring.
But I just can't push it away. I think it would eat a hole in my head if I kept it inside any longer.
And so today...
I am thankful for the gift of 
c r e a t i v i t y .
And I'm not talking about the sewing/mod podge/stamping/scrapping kind of creativity
{though that is nice, too}. 

I'm talking about the creativity we each were born with--
The creativity that lets you make 
a smile -- a bouquet of dandelions -- a symphony of crackling leaves -- a jump-on-the-bed wild rumpus --
--that lets us make joy.
{children are so good at knowing this intuitively.}

Here is what I believe about creativity:
I believe that we are the children of the most creative being in the universe.
and whether our talents lie in friendliness or flowers, concertos or kazoos, 
I think we've each inherited some irresistible want
even if it's just a joyful noise on a little red kazoo.

Loves + hugs + I hope you are having a marvelous week of creating!


loulouthi go anywhere bag

I am IN LOVE with this bag.
{although, have I ever made anything from this Anna OR that Anna that I wasn't in love with? no. no I haven't.}

So let me tell you all the great things that everyone else has already said about this pattern:
It is well-written. It is the perfect size. It has lots. of. pockets.  

It probably isn't the right bag if you like to tote around everything + the kitchen sink. 
Otherwise, it's the right bag. Trust me.

{For kitchen sink-toters, this one is nice, which I blogged about here and have been using almost constantly since then.}

I made 2 changes to the Go Anywhere bag: one, I used a visible magnetic clasp for the main bag, which was just personal preference. Two, I used fusible fleece interfacing for the main bag, and I'm so glad that I did {I first used it on the Birdie Sling}. It gives the bag just the right amount of heft and sturdiness.

{I guess I was really worried about making sure you saw the inside, too.}
Bravo to both my favorite Annas!


fear + dream ::meet:: simple + beautiful

Happy Monday, sweet friends!

I'm over at Simple + Beautiful today sharing my recent journey of mine 
where I overcame one of my fears in pursuit of something a whole lot better.
Ms. Melinda Joy is a beautiful + kindred spirit, not to mention a very old friend.
Go get to know her -- you'll be glad you did.
Hop on over and say hello!


once upon a thread inspiration: the house that jack built

You guys! Are you making anything for Once Upon a Thread??
It kinda snuck up on me last time, so I didn't participate -- but this time -- look out.
The details are still fuzzy, but here's my {delicious} inspiration, 
from this thrifted 1967 version of The House That Jack Built.

Amazing, isn't it??
I want to live in that house.
And speaking of rats, can I just say that I killed 8 mice while Richard was gone.


dear fear, meet my dream

I've got some fears. Oh yes I do.
Sharks. Large spiders. Bad accidents. Parenting toddlers.
Starting an all-girl bluegrass band.
{I know. whaa?}

It's been #1 on my list of dream/fears for a loooong time. 
I want to be in an all-girl bluegrass band. 
Except that I can't play the guitar. or the banjo. or the bass. or the mandolin. I don't know how to play by ear. I can only read music...some of the time. Except that I don't really know my chords, either. Or really much theory at all. And I stink at counting. And just who is going to be in this all-girl bluegrass band of mine, anyway?

I mentioned this dream/fear to my friend Martha one day. She laughed, then said it was awesome. A few weeks later, she called me. Let's get together and jam, was the gist of it.

And I thought, But I can't play the guitar. or the banjo, bass, or mandolin. I don't know enough music theory to say what key I want to play in, and I can't play by ear. But the pull and tug and promise of a dream fulfilled was too much to pass up.

 I found an old hippy named Bill with an autoharp for rent -- 'cause the autoharp seemed unthreatening enough. I drove almost 3 hours {one way!} to get it. It's the easiest thing in the world to play -- so easy, in fact, that boy howdy and hot dang, I think I'm going to get myself a guitar and learn how to play that sucker. The joy of singing along to Yankee Doodle with my little ones is just too much to hand back to Bill along with the autoharp when the rental month is over.

Speaking my dream out loud -- Martha's encouragement -- Bill's autoharp -- have given me courage.

And just like that, I am brave.

And even though I can't play the guitar, or the banjo, or the fiddle, and I couldn't tell you a diminished seventh from an augmented seventh, this dream is mine, with all the joy and none of the once-lingering insecurity.

I'll invite you to our first gig.

Your turn, should you feel so inclined.
Which of your fears are getting in the way of your dreams?
What excuses have you been clinging to like sinking life boats?

Are you ready to speak your dream out loud?

Be brave and share with us!
And don't forget to stop by sometime -- I'd so love to see you around.
Thanks for having me, Ms. Melinda Joy! 
{You are my favorite.}

gallery: colorful knit socks

Time for socks!
There weren't any socks in the laundry basket for months and months
{except for semi-damp Army socks, that is}
and now they are everywhere.
I used to knit & made a pair of socks that I still love to wear.
I was working on them on a flight to visit my parents {pre-kids, obviously}
and the really old lady sitting next to me said, "You must have the patience of Job."
All these gorgeous socks make me want to pick it up again!


pattern review: simplicity 2594

My sewing mojo is back with a vengeance, and this little pattern is just what did it.
Fast, simple, and really satisfying.

Difficulty: intermediate; some familiarity with attaching a yoke is useful
Time: one evening, start to finish, including pre-washing and cutting fabric
Fabric: cotton sateen from Liesl Gibson's Lisette collection, purchased at Jo Ann
Special techniques: cutting pieces on the bias, pleats, gathering, yoke
Version: A, without the belt

Other notes: This pattern reminds me the Oliver + S Ice Cream Dress, only for grownups (and with a cowl neck, obvi). There are also pleats on one shoulder, which I (((love.))) The cotton sateen doesn't drape quite as nicely as I thought it would; it still looks ok, but I like to wear it with a cardigan or light coat to help smoosh down the cowl a little. Next time I plan to use something drapier. The dolman sleeves are very cute, but they are very roomy in the underarm and I will wear a little shirt beneath it in the warmer months. The pattern instructions for attaching the back yoke are a little confusing and it took a bit of head-scratching to figure out, even though I had done it before on the ice cream dress. I do like the fact that this top completely covers the booty-crack zone {mine is always escaping}.


happy little moments

loving the organized chaos of tape-shape games on the floor 
coloring more than ever as the wind blows colder and the days get shorter
double-suckering it on Halloween night
recovering from Maren's {blessedly} brief encounter with whooping cough
strumming on my newly rented autoharp -- and loving our new daily singalongs 
thrilled with Erin's new blog header, designed by yours truly
still giggling about Lizzy's teasing comment {and little sister's horrified response} while Maren was sitting on the potty: "Maaaa-ren, there's jeeeellyfish in the potty..." 
grateful for Rachel's thoughts about why we like what we like -- and do I really like it?
chopping my hair today after a 4-week attempt to grow it to chin length
wondering what will become of the bushel of apples that somehow made it onto my kitchen counter
excited about Katy's Once Upon a Thread project coming up this month
even more excited about a certain man of mine who's coming home tomorrow after 4.5 solid weeks in Army training
savoring the well-timed message of this video {which also made me cry} -- it's time to slow down.

{psst... don't forget to link up to the pin-did challenge if you've done something Pinterest-inspired lately!}


mini tutorial: layered lace skirt

I saw this delicious little lace skirt in the little girl's section at Target a 
few weeks ago and it has been on my mind ever since...
I thought it would be pretty easy to knock off, and I was right!
This is a good beginner's project, if you're just getting your feet wet.. err, oiled.. with your sewing machine.

I cheated and didn't gather each layer of lace like the original skirt. It makes for a different end result, but I still like it a lot. Using a skirt that fits your child as a guide, cut two rectangles of jersey. I angled mine in a little so that they're more like trapezoids. Depending on the size of the skirt, cut about 12 strips of lace. They should be about 2 inches wide and long enough to cover the width of the skirt. You may need more or fewer strips for your skirt, depending on its size.

Place one strip of lace flush with the bottom of one jersey piece. Sew the lace to the jersey by stitching a straight line across the top of the lace strip. {pins help. a lot.} Pin the next strip of lace to the skirt, overlapping the two lace strips just so that the upper strip covers the line you just sewed. Stitch the second strip down. Keep going until you've covered the whole piece, then repeat with the other jersey piece.

Trim off excess lace and sew the two short sides of the skirt together so that you have one long piece of lovely lacey fabric. Cut an elastic waistband to fit your child. Gather the skirt so that it is the same length as the piece of elastic you just cut. Sew the waistband to the skirt, right sides together. Flip the waistband up, then sew the short sides of the skirt together. Tack down the top layer of lace in a few places, if necessary.

I'm not sure how to do the top layer so that it wouldn't stick out. Maybe using a lining would somehow help that? I'm kinda ok with it since their shirts will cover it up anyway.

You could get all fancy and hem it or even add that lining, but let's not get carried away.
I will probably hand wash them so that the lace won't get too frazzled,
but they will only wear them to church, so {theoretically} they won't get too dirty.

She looks so old! When did that happen? Is it the turtleneck?