Refinishing my deck

I hate that I haven’t been sewing lately, but I have been accomplishing other projects. My mother in law has transformed her backyard into an oasis of fun in the very short time she’s been in her new house. This inspired me to whip our own backyard into a more useable, enjoyable place. First things first – a trip to Home Depot was in order. I may have overdone this bit.

so many projects!

I started with our old, dried out deck. No one goes on this deck – splinter, bug and bird poo haven that it is. So I got to work. First step: Power washing. I don’t know if our power washer is wimpy or what, but I had to basically hold the nozzle against the wood and go back and forth over each 5 inch by 2 inch section three or four times to get the 10 years of grime and mildew off the wood. I can’t imagine trying this without a power washer.

deck power washing

years of dirt

As I power washed, I also used some Behr deck soap. I can’t remember the name now, but it’s a kind of total prep soap before applying stain. I put it right in the power washer and used a hard-bristled broom to scrub tough spots as a washed. The resulting clean deck was such a HUGE difference!

clean deck, ready for stain

Now to go about the staining. I used Behr Semi-Transparent Natural stain and Behr Solid-Color in Gettysburg and Atlantic. If I didn’t live in sweltering Texas in a very snobbish subdivision, I would have painted the whole thing Atlantic (the dark blue). It’s a gorgeous color. But I threaded the needle – adding some color and decoration, but keeping the thing mostly boring and neighborhood-approved. I used brushes to paint the whole thing. It was a big job – but I think using the brush was also worthwhile. I did chicken out and only do one coat of the stain. By the time I got to the end of the deck, I couldn’t imagine going back and doing the whole thing again! So I’ll just save that second coat until next year.

Behr stain in natural, gettysburg and atlantic

I probably should have used the Deck Over product that fills holes and flattens out splinters, but I really wanted the wood grain to come through on most of it. So we may still encounter the occasional splinter. But it’s such a big improvement.

That’s it for part one of my Spring improvements – more soon!

30 May 2014, 4:39pm

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10 Tips for Healthy Homemade Pet Food

The companies that produce commercial pet food use many clever advertising tactics, but it’s hard to know for sure the quality of the ingredients going
into the food you buy off the shelf. Because of this, many pet owners are turning to homemade foods for their furry friends.

Making your own pet food requires some knowledge of dog and cat nutrition as well as a willingness to find the best ingredients. Here are a few tips to
help you get started:

Understand the Difference

Dogs and cats have different animal nutritional needs and the
foods you make them must reflect this. A combination of meat, vegetables and starches works for dogs while cats require a high-meat diet to support their

Talk to a Professional

Find a knowledgeable vet and ask about recipes, ingredient proportions and nutrients before starting your pet’s new diet.

Strike a Balance

Dogs can eat a diet of about 50 percent meat with 20-35 percent carbohydrates and 10-15 percent fat. Cats, on the other hand, don’t handle carbohydrates
well and should consume diets that are mostly meat.

Include High-Quality Meats

Cats and dogs need quality animal protein to stay healthy. Butchers and farms are your best bets for obtaining clean meats that provide optimal nutrition.

Choose Pet-Friendly Veggies

Dogs love vegetables such as zucchini, carrots and squashes. Adding these to your homemade food creates enticing flavors and improves the nutritional

To Grain or Not to Grain

Some sources say that neither cats nor dogs should have any grains at all. Others maintain that dogs can handle well-cooked complex grains such as brown
rice. It’s generally agreed that cats do better on diets with as few carbohydrates as possible.

Consider Supplements

Certain pet-specific supplements can considerably improve your pet’s health and alleviate certain maladies.
However, before giving your pet any supplement, it’s important to talk with your veterinarian to make sure you’re selecting the right one that will help
your pet and not harm it.

Know Which Foods to Avoid

Some human foods are toxic to dogs and cats and should never be included in a homemade diet. For example, chocolate and grapes can be deadly for dogs. Ask
your veterinarian for a comprehensive list.

Seek Out Recipes

There are many resources for well-balanced pet food recipes that you can go to for guidance. Recipe books and websites offer meals created by professionals
and well-educated pet owners alike.

Cook in Batches

The easiest way to ensure that the food you make lasts is to cook large batches, portion them out into containers and store them in the freezer. That way
you’ll always have a well-balanced, homemade meal on hand for your pet.

Take it One Step at a Time

If for some reason your pet doesn’t immediately take to homemade food, don’t get discouraged. You may have to try a few different recipes to find what your
dog or cat likes best.

Consider these tips and take the time to research before switching your dog or cat to a homemade diet. Also, it’s important to transition to the new food
slowly rather than switch diets immediately. Your efforts will be worth it when you create a delicious source of balanced nutrition that Fido and Fluffy
will love to eat.

26 Feb 2014, 10:05pm

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Custom Framing Your Kids Art – 3-D Art in Acrylic

The following is a guest post from Laura Jajko, VP of Marketing at American Frame.

The latest custom framing project that we took on was an interesting one, which required a three dimensional piece of art which was to be protected and displayed between two pieces of acrylic. In this case, it was a paper fish that was brightly painted and lightly stuffed!

custom framing your child's artwork

The look that the customer wanted to achieve was the appearance that the fish was actually floating between the two pieces of acrylic by hanging it from a piece of string from the top of the frame. Within this tutorial, we will show you exactly how we went about framing this 3D art without having to use a shadow box.

In essence, the technique involved creating a kind of faux shadow box, when all was said and done. To complete the task, we needed the artwork itself, as well as a metal frame, two pieces of acrylic, and some EconoSpace spacers.

The steps that we took were as follows:

  1. Take the acrylic and peel the protective paper from one side. Wipe the area clean of any dust particles that may have settled onto the acrylic’s surface through the use of an anti-static cleaning brush. Set the artwork, face-up, onto the acrylic.
  2. Measure (twice) and cut the spacers. Make the cuts for the spacers meant for the long sides first, then make the measurements and the cuts for the spacers for the shorter sides. Cutting the spacers will require scissors, wire cutters, electrician’s pliers, or a Stanley knife.
  3. Peel the protective paper off the spacers and attach them to the acrylic’s edge. Keep in mind that spacers have a matte side and a shiny side. If you are using a matte frame, place the matte side inward. If you are using a shiny frame, place the shiny side inward. We stacked the spacers three high for this particular project to ensure that the artwork would not be crushed between the two pieces of acrylic. Make certain that you select a frame that will be deep enough for the acrylic, the artwork, and the spacers, combined. The frame rabbet measurements as well as those of the thickness of the framing materials can all be found on our website.
  4. Once you have stacked all of your spacers, then the outcome will be a kind of faux shadow box. Peel the protective paper backing off the unused piece of acrylic. Don’t forget to use the anti-static brush to clean the surface of dust and other particles. Place the exposed and dusted side of the acrylic down on the spacers stack.
  5. Since the desired look was to have the artwork hanging from a string at the top of the frame, we made sure to attach the string to the outside of the frame stack. In order to make certain that it was secure, it was taped to the spacers using a piece of linen tape, trimming away the excess.
  6. The last step was the removal of the remaining paper backings from the back and front of the frame stack. All of the paper should be removed at this point. Give the acrylic a cleaning if It appears that there is any dust or debris on it. Assemble the frame’s three sides and slide the stack into the track that is formed. Set the last piece of the metal frame into place and attach by tightening the backing angles to that final side.

This fun stuff is all that was needed for the three dimensional artwork to be displayed in a faux shadow box and secured into a metal frame.

This post was written by Laura Jajko. Laura is VP of Marketing at, the nation’s leading online source for custom frames, mat board, archival digital printing services and picture framing supplies. For other inspiring picture framing and design ideas, visit her blog, A Good Frame of Mind; and join her on Twitter @laurajajko and Google+.

This is a sponsored post – and I think it’s a great idea.

8th Birthday Celebration

For his 8th birthday, my sweet son wanted to have a food drive. So we sent out invites asking friends to bring a few bucks for a present and a food item for the food pantry. I wasn’t sure how he would feel not having a pile of presents to open like at every other birthday, but the whole thing was awesome. We had his party at the Tae Kwan Do studio and it was super fun, and then we took the 67 lbs(!) of food he collected to the food bank a few days later. The TKD instructor gave him a special “community” band for his TKD belt. Very awesome. What I loved the most was that everyone helped to make a big deal out of his food drive idea, which just encourages his giving heart even more. It was a wonderful birthday. And he’s being very patient with the money that his generous friends (parents) gave him – waiting until after Christmas to pick out his birthday toy.

I feel like I should tag this with #firstworldproblems, but we have so much. A safe neighborhood, good friends, plenty to eat. I worry sometimes that my kid’s easy existence is setting him up for trouble as an adult, or somehow not preparing him for real life. But this whole experience has put my mind at ease a little. He was excited to drop off the food, and still excited to have a little money to get a toy after Christmas – excited about both. And that’s fair, right? What more can I ask?

Here are some photos:

Cake and party favors

TKD training

Cutting the cake with a sword

I especially love this one of Grandma’s excitement about the sword!

Dropping off the donation at the food pantry


Lots more pictures here:

Skylanders party

Working on some goodies for my son’s 8th birthday. He wanted skylanders, but we’re doing a party at a place that provides everything (food, plates, napkins, etc.), so there aren’t so many opportunities for decorations. Also, he doesn’t like regular cake, so I’ve got to somehow turn a pumpkin bundt cake into a skylanders cake?! We’ll deal with that later. Here’s what I came up for the goodies…my kid is crazy about the loom bracelets, so we made one for every kid and used some cardstock and avery stickers to make these little things.

8th Birthday

8th Birthday

8th Birthday

Craft Room: New storage!

There’s a corner of my office/sewing room that is getting a little Hoarder-y. I’ve finished a couple quilts lately and kind of thrown all the cut away batting/scraps on top of this bin. And then I bought some fleece and felt for doll construction and some wovens for scarves and some vintage table cloths and I think you’re getting the picture. That pile is getting CRAZY.

Hoarder corner

So we got this pretty dresser this weekend. It was brand new – possibly the 2nd brand new dresser I’ve ever bought in my life. I don’t know what came over me! But there we were, in the pretty princess little girls section of Rooms To Go, and the sparkly knobs were just calling my name.

It was right next to the Cinderella carriage bed with the sparkly netting. Do you know what I’m talking about?

So here it is (imagine angels singing):
New craft room storage

When I started the dresser search, I went to Goodwill first. They pretty much never have any good furniture at our Goodwill, but I wanted to try. So of course, they didn’t have any good furniture, but they did have a roll of home dec-weight pink and brown houndstooth fabric for $10! I can see the original Hancock’s tag inside that says it was originally $17+ a yard. There are at least 5 or 6 yards on this roll!!! SCORE! Who knows what I’ll use it for – at this price, I might use some of it as stabilizer! Who cares?!

So with my new houndstooth, I have the perfect canvas to make my own ironing board to top whatever dresser I find.

So we got the dreamy dresser, and I got some 3/4″ plywood at Home Depot cut to the right size and my handy staple gun out…

Ironing board

And 4 layers of cotton batting and one layer of insul-bright and one layer of bargain basement houndstooth later, and I have an AMAZE-BALLS new storage dresser and ironing board!

All done! Ironing board dresser

Can you tell I’m excited?

31 Dec 2012, 2:23am
blessings Crafts sewing

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Handmade Holiday part 2

I finished up a few more gifts and sadly, forgot to take pictures of a bunch of them! Lots of pouchies for neighbor and teacher gifts, and of course, I didn’t take any pictures. But I used this super cute and simple pattern: The Pleated Zipper Pouch from

Then I bought a couple patterns from this super cute Etsy shop:

I finished the Big Doll in about 4 hours! Just in time to be a gift for my 1 yr old cousin :) Here’s Kinley’s big doll – I think she loved her.



We had a beautiful Christmas in Miami with lots of family. I hope your holiday – whatever you celebrate – was also wonderful!


Handmade Holidays underway

Got a little sewing done this weekend. I’m finishing up the binding on baby Erik’s (my gorgeous new nephew) quilt – finished pictures coming soon on that – but here’s a little preview.

Baby Erik's quilt progress

Also made some ornaments for family members. I used the awesome pattern and tutorial by Elsie Marley posted here. Super cute and simple. The best part about her pattern is that she sews the gingerbread man down to a felt rectangle and THEN cuts him out! So much easier that cutting two gingerbread men and sewing them together around the bite marks. Very smart!

Oh no!

And finally, I got to work on a zipper pouch – I needed a gift for a man…hope it’s manly enough! I used this super simple tutorial by posted here. I’ve made quite a few box pouches, and they were all kind of a pain. This tutorial was super easy. The key is that the inside is unfinished. But since I’m not crazy about all those little threads and stuff, I think next time, I’ll add a 1/2 inch to the length on one side when cutting the fabric and do french seams. I also added a handle by jamming a little rectangle of fabric into my corners before I squared them off. I’ll definitely use that tutorial again!

Zipper pouch

Zipper pouch

I also made these pillow cases a few weeks ago for some ugly leather pillows we have. It’s funny, now we use those pillows all the time – it seems like someone is always putting one behind their back. I swear no one ever used them before. So that makes me happy!

Some new pillows for the tv room

Happy Handmade Halloween!

We had a great Halloween party with the neighbors. Flat-bed trailer with hay, Thriller on the stereo, at least 20 kids and 1000’s of pieces of candy!

Here’s this year’s handmade costume. I took an XS ladies’ sweat suit from Old Navy, cut it way down and embellished. Introducing the Lego Ninjago Green Ninja – a little before and after action!


Hope your Halloween was awesome, too!

I also took this picture with my phone…no idea what happened, but it’s very creepy!

23 Sep 2012, 10:20pm
blabbery sewing

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Back to school…for a few weeks now.

We’re finally hitting a groove around here. My boy has been in first grade for a few weeks now – our schedules are starting to mellow out and become common place. I’ve been working out! (Seriously, this is big news.) Not just working out, but working out 4 days a week with some consistency. I’m also drinking body by vi shakes – on to week two starting Monday, and I’ve lost 5 pounds. We’re not taking it too seriously – a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch and then pretty much whatever we want for dinner. I know I should be doing a good, balanced meal for dinner, but we’re still working on that.

I’m sad to say that I didn’t sew a thing for about 4 months! And then, we had Meet the Teacher night and we found out that the new teacher is an Aggie – well, luckily, I already had some A&M fabric in my stash. The stash is SO out of control that there’s a chance I could sew something for any university in the country, but that’s a whole other topic. So anyway, we ventured to Walgreens – one of my favorite places to shop – and picked up everything our new teacher might need. An emergency kit, if you will. And I sewed her up a little pouch! My neighbor said I was buttering her up. To this, I’ll plead, “maybe.” But the teacher is adorable – her second year out of college, she seems to still be excited about her work and loving the kids, and I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. So here’s her Aggie emergency kit. I think she liked it :)

Teacher gift - first day

Teacher gift - first day!

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