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Cheap and Easy Kitchen Update

I live in a farm house built in 1850. It had an addition in 1901, and 2012. The kitchen was updated 1987! 1987!! My mother-in-law, bless her heart, sanded, stained, and varnished every one of these doors herself. It was a gigantic improvement over the from metal cabinets, a hole in the middle of the floor, wallpaper to these beautiful oak cabinets 40 years ago, but everything is showing its age. It’s challenging for farmers to update what seems “good enough”. It is also hard to realize that 1987 was truly a lifetime ago! I’ve been wanting change in the kitchen for a really long time, but as a stay at home mom and Classical Conversations director, I don’t bring in much money. I also have next to no home improvement skills and very little interest in learning them at this point in my life.

kitchen DIY before update kitchen backsplash cabinets
Look at my tiny puppers in February 2018! She’s almost a year old now!

After a lot of thought, I realized that one of the things that bugged me the most was the cabinets over the peninsula. They blocked the way of talking to anyone on the other side of the counter. They blocked the  natural light coming in the  sliding glass door. They are dark wood, making the entire room look darker.

It occurred to me, maybe I would like it better if I just took off the doors! Then I can see the light and the people. I can handle unscrewing things, even if I’m not super great at it. I can never seem to make the electric screwdriver work, so I unscrewed all the doors by hand. I had already KonMari-ed a lot of my kitchen junk, so I was able to put pretty things in the now open cabinets.

 

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Some of my grandmother’s and mother-in-law’s vintage Pyrex is now on display.

Another thing I wasn’t very fond of was the paint  or outlet covers behind the sink and counter area. It was always dirty even when I had just cleaned it.  On Amazon, I found some press on tiles that supposedly you can cut through with scissors. I thought this seemed like a project I could handle. As it turned out, you CAN cut through the tiles, which come in a 12×12 block made of 1/2 inch squares of reflective abalone shell like material, IF you cut between the tiles. I soon discovered however, that my measurements come in the middle of the individual squares. When you try to cut through the actual tile, it shatters into a million pieces and is extremely challenging to cut at any rate.

I persevered although, it took me for freaking ever and confirmed why I really hate DIY home improvement projects.

Cheap and easy kitchen update diy backsplash cabinet
In the middle of the epic (for me) tiling project

I’m really happy with how it turned out though. Even if I couldn’t finish it by myself, even if there are lots of mistakes and crooked areas, and even if it took a lot longer than I hoped, I would recommend the tiles. I would also recommend these simple little changes to update an older kitchen. What do you think?

kitchen sink back splash window silver outlet covers hanging pans
All neat and tidy. For the moment.
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Farmhouse Decor: Cheap and Easy

I live in a 170 year old farmhouse on a working farm.  A genuine farmhouse kitchen in real life is slightly different from the farmhouse decor on Pinterest. One of my promises on my blog is to always be real-to show you how it really is single momming during spring planting, with six kids and a puppy, and  not having a lot of money to buy the perfect farmhouse decor.

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The wall behind my breakfast nook

I’ve been working on updating my kitchen. I have carpet in my eating area from 1987 y’all. We have had a lot of changes in here in the 15 years we’ve been married and I’m finally in a place to learn how to DIY on my own to make even more!

This post contains affiliate links, which help me keep my kids stocked with books and food, all at no cost to you!

This wall has been blank since Christmas when we hang our advent calendars there, until Brielle, my 11 year old took two signs off the porch and threw them up on the nails. I started kind of thinking about what I wanted and decided I love the current trend of a collage. I don’t think I’m done yet, but here’s what we’ve got so far.

Here’s what my kitchen looked like in 2008! I have changed it so much over the past 10 years, even I can’t believe it!

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Abide in my love John 15:7

One of my besties gave me this sign and it’s just perfect.

cheap and easy farmhouse decor farmhouse kitchen real life farmhouse old house hobbit subway sign lord of the rings decor
My children are homeschooled hobbits, for real.

I made this sign because homeschooled hobbits live around here. I’ve been thinking of inexpensively selling some of the prints I make. Let me know how that interests you!

The frame is from Goodwill. I took the cardboard off the back and wrapped it in regular 11×17 typing paper and taped the print on there.

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My son drew this when he was 8 1/2

My 9 year old drew and colored this for me last year. He followed a tutorial from Art for Kids Hub, which we adore!

The white frame is from Goodwill. I spray painted it white, and my impatience and mistakes made for some perfect distressing and crackling. Here at Yellow Barn Farms,  I don’t even have to try to achieve the cheap chic look-that is just how I roll 🙂 I get that worn, farmhouse look accidentally.

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A real life farm house kitchen

The Farm Fresh sign is from Target’s Dollar Spot. I got the bird sign at Michaels on clearance with a couple of smaller matching ones. I didn’t even plan for it to be in the kitchen, so it’s especially crazy how it matches so well. The phone on the wall belonged to The Handsome Husband’s grandma. She was a rural telephone operator in the 40s and 50s. My diva dog dish is actually an old fashioned hors d’oeuvres server from Goodwill. The color is Tropical Heat by Behr.  All the paint in my house is Behr.  It’s my absolute favorite.

We bought the nook benches at Oak Express and long ago outgrew the table. This one was a Craigslist find on which The Handsome Husband put high gloss bar epoxy resin so it would hold up better to the constant beating our furniture takes. I love it. It looks like glass and the children have to try really hard to scratch it.

It doesn’t take a lot more time to thrift some of your ornamentation or furnishing and update your decor with inexpensive and quick little changes. I’d love to hear how you save money when you decorate!

 

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How to Tell Whether Children Live Here

Pull up to my house and you’ll immediately know children live here.

The bikes, scooters, and roller skates littering the driveway might be your first clue. It also could be the 25 foot high tree house, complete with homemade rock climbing wall and fireman’s pole. Possibly it’s the hole in the yard under the tire swing in the maple which will inform you of the tiny inhabitants here. The glitter in the flowerbeds might tip you off. The hammock in the apple trees doesn’t necessarily scream “Children live here!”, but the humongous pile of cut off branches nee fort/climbing apparatus/hideout could.

Children make huge messes

A half buried pan, leaf covered glove, long abandoned boot hiding under the pussy willow near the door perhaps show that children live here. Cushions removed from the deck swing and piled under the fireman’s pole, jump ropes tied in the crab apple, muddy-ish, wet clothes hanging from the clothesline, sidewalk chalk art empty abandoned bubble bottles all make known those small and ever present humans we call our own. Doubtless the swing set and playhouse are dead giveaways, but the homemade wooden raft leaning on the windmill and the pile of mateless boots nearby may lead you in the right direction.

Come up to the front door, and…careful! Don’t trip on the many cottage cheese containers filled with sand and carefully lined up on the step and forgotten. Just step over the dolls and Cinderella slippers and Nerf guns lying abandoned on the stoop. Ring the bell, and listen for the chaos of “I’ll get it!” and thundering, laughing footsteps as the little people race to answer your call. Open the door and push aside the puppy toys, shoes, and jackets. Ignore the pile of gloves and scarves, and instead turn your glance upon the smiling shining small ones who as delighted to see you as they would be Santa.

Listen to their exuberant greetings, and  lean in for the snippets of what’s important to them. They’re all talking at once, so you have to pay close attention. This one telling you about her loose tooth, that one describing how the puppy scratched her finger, the other one wanting to show the puzzle he’s been working on, while another one takes your hand in his small one to acquaint you with the rotating car track he invented.

You’ll likely see crumbs on the floor, spiderwebs in the doorways, toys and stray socks strewn among the books and crayons cluttering the floor and table. That’s how it is here. Ignore the (possibly intentional) chemistry experiment decorating the counter.  Walk past the table littered with books, writing apparatus, likely a few attempts at paper airplanes and K’Nex motors, stickers and bits of torn up paper (always bits of torn up paper!)  Accept the cup of coffee from me, settle yourself down on the couch (feel free to move that sweater and that toothbrush) and allow my children nestle into you as you open the book they’ve brought you. Revel in their solid warmth, and pudgy bodies.

Bend down and breathe in the scent of their sweet, likely sticky, faces, and notice how they smell like sunshine and snow. Touch their dandelion puff hair. Cup their petal soft cheeks in your hand as you listen. Join them in their smallness, and at the same time, in their larger than life vitality. Look into their trusting eyes and listen, while they talk and talk and talk.

Marvel at their innocence, their guilelessness. Wonder at the depth of their acceptance and love for you. Admire their cleverness and take part in their view of the world. Be inquisitive about everything they want to share with you. Be fascinated by their perspectives. Have no agenda.

Ignore the childish detritus which is so abundantly apparent when you approach my home. Pay attention to the children.

Look. Listen. Children live here.

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KonMari Life

I read The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up in January, and have watched several YouTube videos about the KonMari Method, and minimalism in general. I have been incentivized to change my life!

I haven’t done her program to the letter exactly how she describes, but what I have done has been fantastic!

I’ve done most of the kids’ clothes, mine and Kevin’s clothes, all the books in the entire house, a lot of our homeschool supplies, and some of the kitchen. As a mom of many, it would be impossible to do it exactly as she lays out in the book, and knock out all of the “odd and ends” for example, in one day. I try to tackle one category of things or a room every other Friday.

I had the goal of fashioning a creative environment to use as an office. I want to blog more. I want a space of my own. I also am taking on a job within our Classical Conversations community which requires more responsibility and record keeping, so I needed a spot for that.

I’m lucky enough to have a studio already. Sort of a glorified closet, it’s a small room on the south side of the upstairs. I love the natural light in here. I used to scrapbook in here, and I still sew and make cards. My needs have changed considerably, and all of the things I’ve been keeping have inched their way farther and farther from the wall until there wasn’t much room at all. And, with all the clutter, it does not invite creativity.

After a hard day’s work, I ended up with this: 

Much better, but it was still sort of cluttery, especially on top of my drawers, and with the sunlight I loved so much, I couldn’t see my computer screen due to the glare.
I made a few purchases to decorate it a bit, AND cleaned out our entire storage room to make room for Kevin’s steel guitar you see in front of the window. 
Now I truly have a Fortress of Serenity. I have a room I love to be in and a room that is once again useful and welcoming.

If you need motivation to change your life, I highly recommend The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up!
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Becoming Minimalist: Easy Pantry DIY

I’ve been purging a lot lately.

Getting rid of the past feels good! Getting rid of the junk feels good! Getting rid of all those maternity clothes feels amazing!

I saw a post on organizing your pantry a while ago, and I finally got kind of started on that project. I don’t like investing a lot into my organization though. Spending tons of money on baskets and glass jars for my pantry just doesn’t ring true to my miser’s heart. I’ve been putting a lot of it in Mason jars, but often those aren’t big enough so it’s still not really helping.

Then I saw a Pinterest post (probably) on making your own “baskets” out of cardboard boxes and rope. Brilliant.

So for the price of several glue sticks and a couple pounds of jute twine, I was able to go from this:

to this:
I just used construction paper with white colored pencil as labels. These are up high in the pantry so all you can see are the “baskets”. It really helped a lot, but I’ve got a ways to go 🙂
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Autumn Mantel

Our old farm house was built in 1850. You would think being built before the Civil War and only being a few years younger than the first school in Iowa, that it would have a fireplace in every room. Not so. Our builder was apparently an up-and-comer and put the newfangled wood burning stoves in instead. We used to have two chimneys, but the part sticking up out of the roof have been removed and covered up, better for leaks, but not so great for aesthetics.  We have the brick part of our chimneys, plastered over still in parts of the house. Anyway, no fireplace.

I think it should have a fireplace, don’t you?

 And now it does.

Kevin did some welding for a friend of ours who is completely gutting a house and he gave us the fireplace. Although it’s gas and not wood and while I’m not keen on the brass, it will be warm and cozy and inviting once we get it up and running. It’s currently missing a few pieces because Kevin had it in the garage at the same time he was painting some pieces to the family closet and ooops! Oak trim got heavily misted with  white paint.

We are still waiting on our plumbers (yes) to run a gas line and hook it up for us.

I couldn’t wait any longer to decorate it. I am not a huge decorator, mostly out of practicality (and I’m also cheap). The down low places never stay ‘decorated’ because of the small ones and the up high places get undecorated pretty quickly when they get cluttered up with stuff taken away from and put out of reach of the small ones.

But my mantel will be sacrosanct.

For fall, I decorated with a lamp we had on an end table, a cake plate with a pumpkin and field corn. I leaned a window original to the house against the mirror. I put some pheasant tail feathers my dad saved for me in a triangular shaped jar (which happened to have dirt in it from a science project). In a vase we got for our wedding I put an oak tree branch I snipped in our yard and put some stuffed pumpkins in front of that. Cost: $0.

I love my autumn mantel. It makes me happy whenever I look at it. And I really like to be happy.

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window shopping

And for doors, and trim, lighting, sky lights, sinks, a shower, toilet, ideas for mud rooms and the family closet.

I’ve been googling like a mad woman tonight, when I should have been watching Supernatural, Season 1.

 Oh, Sam and Dean, you’ll have to wait another night for me to join you.

The boys were glued to the window most of the day watching the cement truck pour for our addition. It was rather interesting, I’ll admit. Today’s unschooling lesson: Construction 101. Our kitchen slider now opens onto  a four foot drop, but you can still get to an island of ground if you’re agile.

We’re going to start framing in next week! It will be wonderful to have a second bathroom! Then the five year old probably won’t have to go in the ‘little potty’ in an emergency.

That’s fascinating for Denton, at least. He willingly sits on the potty, but has only gone twice. Still, progress. I’ll be happy if he’s poo trained by the time the baby comes. Wet diapers are not a big deal to change, relatively.

Stuff I found:
arched interior doorway

archway between family closet and laundry room
pocket door and trim
pocket door for bathroom
only inside a cabinet

would want this inside a cabinet

delicioso asiento junto a la ventana    (delicious window seat)

window seat inside the family closet, storage under the bench

:the office
windows for the office
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mud room storage, I like this floor, or a herringbone brick
door from deck to laundry room?

door from laundry room to deck

As a completely unrelated aside (even more unrelated than Denton’s potty habits) (well, it’s related because of google), I also learned how to do the African khanga carry, and discovered Iowa City has a baby wearers group. Too bad I don’t live there.

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The Toy Situation

I’ve been reading a lot of Imperfect Homemaking lately.  I find her completely inspirational. Kelly is the mom of 5, 5 and under; the youngest two are twins! She crafts, organizes and loves Jesus. She says she keeps her house about 70% clean  about 70% of the time–I love that, and can relate to her on so many levels. Did I mention she’s inspiring?

Look what I made time to do today: 

 I’ve been meaning to make toy bin labels for oh, about a year. Or longer. I had labels on some stuff in the form of jotted notes on scratch paper jammed haphazardly in the pocket of some of the toy bins, or a sample of the contents in the pocket; but didn’t never made time to make it pretty. Plus, not everything had a label, and as Kelly says, “A basket without a label will soon be a catch all for anything and everything.” (even though I used quotes, that’s just an approximation of what she says, but the concept is there.)

Aviana asked me what I was doing.
 I asked her what it looked like I was doing.
She replied, “Making labels to organize the toy bins.”
I told her, “Exactly.”
She responded, “I don’t think that’s going to help.”

Well, I hope it does. A mama can dream, right?

Besides making the labels, I emptied out the “toy box” in the living room, finding an amazing amount of missing pieces to many many different sets of toys. Including a single dart for Cadrian’s dart gun. I love making that boy happy!  
The  toy box is just supposed to be for a few large trucks and Magnadoodles and a few of Denton’s big toys that don’t fit on the shelves, but it doesn’t have a label 🙂 so it quickly becomes a catchall for everything that gets picked up from the living room floor.
 I’d rather have them in the toy box than on the living room floor. Or under the couch. Or behind the couch.

The black and white labels are a free printable from Lily Jane Stationary and the color ones I just made by finding a picture of what I needed from Google images and using Publisher. You can make the photos bigger by clicking on them.

And because I’m always curious about things like this, here are a  few details:
 The first picture is in the kitchen, where I supervised Aviana making cookies (which I didn’t do very well apparently, since she misread 2 1/3 cups of flour as 2/3 of a cup–that first batch  of cookies was rather flat), and frequently interacting with the boys.

The next two pictures are the toys. This is basically all the toys we own. I didn’t take pictures of the train table, or the dress up area, or the aforementioned toy box. We also have a tote of wooden blocks and another of Duplos. The girls each have a couple of dolls and some clothes for them.

The middle picture is in Cadrian’s room. His room is on the first floor, off the living room so it is also a convenient play area. In the cabinet below is the Animal Train, some big wooden cars and trucks, and the Wedgits.

The last picture is in the family room upstairs. The top drawer locks (and in fact won’t stay shut unless it’s locked) and holds DVDs and VHS. Yes, we still have VHS. They’ re only $.25 at library sales :-D.

The bottom drawer has a shape sorter and a bunch of upcycled water bottles with colored and/or glitter water (lids glued on) that I made for Toddler Bowling when Aviana was about 18 months. I can’t believe how those things have lasted, and how they remain a favorite toy, and how they are never, ever used for Toddler Bowling.

Our toy philosophy is open ended, imagination based play. We like wood and God made materials whenever possible.  We like the idea of less is more. If a toy isn’t being played with or asked for, or it’s just dumped on the floor repeatedly and walked away from, we donate it. I have a hard time with this especially if the toy was a gift or I bought it new. Toys should be an asset to children’s play, not play for them or direct their play. Play is the work of the child. We believe our home should enhance the imagination and fantasy of the child. (This is essentially the Waldorf philosophy of education.)

It’s sad to me how children aren’t playing any more–evidence to me of this is the example of Tinker Toys. We have a new set and a vintage set. The new set is marketed to preschoolers. They’ve changed the diameter of the ‘sticks’ and of course, lessened the complexity of the projects. Our vintage set was marketed to ‘tweens’. My guess is that most tweens aren’t playing with Tinker Toys anymore, but are playing with electronics. I think this is a grave disservice we’re doing to our children. Tweens are still very much CHILDREN and should be PLAYING.

Play nourishes children, and the toy situation should keep their imagination flourishing so they can grow to be healthy, creative, well rounded adults.

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A new addition

Not the baby kind…although we’re still working on that one. 😀

We are trying to figure out how to make a laundry room, a family closet, an office for the Kevin ~the farm~, a bathroom with a shower, and a mudroom. We have a room between our kitchen and garage we refer to as the summer kitchen (it used to be a true summer kitchen) that is 11×15 and we possibly would be able to add on to it another 18×15. We are having SO much trouble figuring out how to make everything fit and still not be crowded. How do people do this?

Our 162 year old house has a lot of square footage, but among its many drawbacks, has only one small bathroom, no well planned entryways, teeny or nonexistent closets, and no good storage. It’s not designed for modern living.

 Any ideas? Anyone? Anyone?

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