laughing, living & believing

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A Few Favorites for National Children’s Book Day

You, Who Rock the Minivan

Animal Photos and Spring at the Zoo

Five Last-Minute Creative Easter Ideas

A Real Mom’s Kitchen — Cassandra Creates Eclectic Vibe on a Budget


A Real Mom's Kitchen

Today’s Real Mom’s Kitchen belongs to Cassandra W. She’s a MOMS Club® friend of mine and I have visited her 50s eclectic vintage vibe home many times so I kind of knew what to expect from her kitchen, but learning the story of its transformation was a lot of fun.

a real mom's kitchen - cassie

A Real Mom's Kitchen - Cassie

Other than being a stay-at-home (most of the time) mom, Cassandra is an actor, wedding planner, graphic designer, belly dance instructor and adjunct professor. Makes you tired just reading it, doesn’t it? So where she and her husband had the time to remodel anything, I’ll never know; but this kitchen is testament to the sheer will of a do-it-yourselfer. “My whole kitchen is DIY,” Cassandra admits, and from top to almost bottom (because they haven’t yet tackled the floors) this kitchen has felt her creative touch.


From the deep purple walls, glossy black countertops and once light oak cabinets, this kitchen has seen quite the transformation and hours of sweat equity. The countertops alone received six coats of color and two coats of a poly acrylic. One of my favorite transformations is the back splash, which is painted a nice bright white. Want to know what it looked like before? Just take a good look at the floor. . . yes, I said floor. Apparently the previous owners had painted the back splash to match the floor, but Cassandra rectified that little decorating misstep rather quickly.

 What I love most about her kitchen is the unusual shape that is so unique and makes for a rather large space, but Cassandra’s favorite thing is the island. This storage and work space at the far end of her kitchen was a complete DIY build from items found at one of her (and my) favorite places, Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. She pieced together a reasonably priced and functional island with a granite top by shopping at this second-hand builder’s warehouse, and the result is beautiful.


Speaking of granite tops, Cassandra admits she likes the look of granite but the jury is still out on what she will buy when the time comes to replace her current countertops. As far as stainless steel goes, her response was a definitive, “Oh yes;” although she admits that the new black stainless steel is quickly capturing her heart.

“I’m all about unique,” remarked Cassandra, and I’m sure she will build on this decorating approach as she tackles her list of coming projects for this room. She wants new countertops, back splash and knobs, but also high on her list is to remove the old wall oven unit and install a new floor.

 While this busy mother of one adorable almost two-year-old girl named Dahlia seems to find time to express her creativity in her home and work, she admits that cooking is not one of her favorite things to do. “If we could afford for me not to cook, we would do that more often, ” said Cassandra, but she also added that with a tight budget she has learned to enjoy cooking more than she used to. Making food for her daughter is one of her favorites, but planning meals on a weekly basis has also helped take the “brain power” out of preparing family meals.

Luckily, Cassandra is sharing one of her favorite go-to recipes with us as we wrap up her wonderful DIY kitchen tour. It’s a homemade spaghetti sauce recipe handed down from her grandmother, and Cassandra uses it for everything that calls for a red sauce, like spaghetti, pizza, etc. I personally can’t wait to give this one a try.

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Foggy Day Doesn’t Stay That Way


Yesterday was heavy. At least that’s how it started. I snapped this foggy day photo off the back deck before I took my little guy to preschool and couldn’t believe the fog was still so thick after eight o’clock. It was a good thing I took the photo when I did, because by mid-morning the sun was out and we hit the upper 70s for this wonderful late-winter, open the windows, play outside kind of day.

I Take My Coffee With a Sharpie Shamrock Mug

shamrock mug

Okay, I’ve wanted to try this Sharpie technique for quite some time now, so with a Michael’s coupon burning a hole in my pocket I picked up a Sharpie oil paint marker in the perfect St. Patrick’s Day shade of green and went to work on one of our white coffee mugs (we have an ample supply, which drives my husband crazy. . . but that’s another story).

I was so excited that this Sharpie shamrock mug project turned out like the picture in my head, and it even made it through the dishwasher cycle as I held my proverbial breath. When my husband walked in and called it “cool;” well that just settled it, I had to share. So here’s how this cute little project goes..

shamrock mug


  • Coffee Mug
  • Sharpie Oil Paint pen
  • Contact paper
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Scissors or Die-Cutting Machine with shamrock cartridge
  • Pen and shamrock shape, if you don’t have a machine that will do this for you.
  • cookie sheet
  • aluminum foil


  1. Wipe down a clean coffee mug with rubbing alcohol to take off any soap residue or finger oils. Let dry.
  2. Trace and cut out your shamrock shape on the contact paper, or if you happen to own a die-cutting machine and appropriate cartridge you should definitely go with that. I used my Cricut machine and Small Talk Frames & Tags cartridge (ha, just like it was made for me) set at 3 inches to cut out a contact paper shamrock.
  3. Stick the shamrock shape on the mug in your desired location, burnish the edges with your finger to make sure all the edges adhere to the mug.
  4. Prime your paint pen per manufacturer’s directions and practice making dots before you start on your mug. The pressure you use will determine the size of your dots.
  5. When you’re ready to start painting your mug, start making dots with the paint pen all the way around the edge of the contact paper first. You will want a solid line of dots around the entire edge so that when you remove the sticker you will see a perfect outline.
  6. Continue making dots to fill in gaps and work your way outward. This is where you get to use your creative license, because you can make your dots as far apart and away as you want. Just keep going with the dotting until it looks right to you.
  7. When you are finished painting, remove the contact paper and allow your mug to dry for 24 hours.
  8. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place your mug upside down on the foil.
  9. Place the cookie sheet and mug in the oven, set it to 425 degrees and start baking. It’s important to put your mug in the over before it starts heating; otherwise, your project might crack.
  10. After the temperature reaches 425 degrees, bake for 30 minutes. Remove the VERY HOT mug using a pot holder and set it on the stove top to cool or just let it cool in the oven if you’re not making dinner anytime soon. Let it cure for 24 hours, and it should be ready to go.

I decided to test the durability of my shamrock mug by washing it in the dishwasher after a couple of days, and it actually held up pretty well. I think a few dots washed off (probably because there were so many layers), but it held up pretty well. I since have hand washed it in warm soapy water and it seems to be holding up well. The back of the mug just has a hand-written saying that held up really well in the dishwasher, but I’m just saying automatic wash at your own risk. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the outcome and durability of this fun little project. This is one you might want to give a try.

sharpie shamrock mug

Industrial Whimsy Equals Spring Rustic Wreath


DIYspringArtWelcome to my little stop on the DIY My Spring! blog hop sponsored by Hometalk. If you visited yesterday, you know I promised to reveal my rustic wreath made from an old $8.00 metal spool I found antiquing with my sister this week in Oklahoma. . . and here it is!

When I saw this old rusty thing in the antique store, I just knew it would make a cute wreath, and with a little help from Mom (she’s the most awesome bow maker I know) and a few adders from Michaels (all on sale), we came up with this super cute Easter wreath that brings a bit of whimsy to this industrial find.

rustic wreath spool

Here’s what the spool looked like when I found it at The Cranberry Merchant in downtown Claremore. This rusty old thing once housed a medium-gauge wire, known only because there was still a bit left behind. I decided to leave the wire on the spool for authenticity’s sake.

By the way, folks, if you’re looking for a good antiquing destination in Northeast Oklahoma, you should probably give this small town a try. Wills Rogers Blvd is lined with antiques shops, small boutiques, coffee shops and cafes; there are also other shops and good eateries sprinkled throughout town, like The Rusted Rabbit and The Pink House tea room.

rustic wreath

A not-so-quick trip to Michael’s supplied all the other goodies for this wreath, including some grapevine wrapped carrots, cute orange ribbon, a metal painted bunny and a magnetic wooden initial letter. Now let me tell you, picking out all my goodies for this project was by far the most time-consuming and difficult task of this whole thing. Once I got all the parts and pieces home, Mom and I put everything together with a bit of floral wire and a dab of hot glue, and that was all it took.


I picked the orange ribbon because the carrots weren’t orange and that just didn’t seem right. The bow also adds some much-needed color to the project and who doesn’t just love polka dots. The  magnetic initial letter was a bonus since it stuck right to the metal rabbit I found. Of course, it’s our family initial, but I’m thinking some folks might think it stands for “spring,” and I’m okay with that. Although you can’t see much of the carrots, I really like those rustic veggies and think the grapevine kind of mimics the wire on the spool. I gotta say I’m pretty in love with the way this little rustic wreath turned out, but I’m also thinking about how to change it up to suit the next holiday’s décor.

If you are looking for more spring inspiration, you’ll definitely want to visit other bloggers at the DIY My Spring blog hop listed below and watch for the hashtag #DIYMySpring.



One Little Pig and a Rustic Wreath

My little guy and I have been in my hometown for a few days to celebrate my sister’s 49th birthday. Oops! Sorry, sis, I let your age out of the bag. *grin* Anyway, other than eating every bad thing in sight and enjoying the gorgeous weather, my sister and I did a bit of antique shopping in downtown Claremore and I found a couple of fun little things to take back home.

The first item was this little ceramic pig designed as a place card or business card holder. It’s definitely not an antique, but I have a thing for pigs (it must be the Razorback in me) and I plan to use it as a recipe card or Bible verse holder.

pig card holder

My best purchase of the day was this $8.00 rusty metal spool designed to hold wire. In fact, some of the wire was still on it. I immediately thought it would make a cute rustic wreath for my home, so I snatched it up. I’m happy to say it does indeed make an interesting wreath, so you’ll have to check back here tomorrow to see how Mom and I dolled it up for Easter. Until then, happy weekend!

rustic wreath spool

From Belly Buttons to Live Births



Last week on our way to swim lessons my son and I started talking about birds, mammals and cold-blooded creatures (thank you Dinosaur Train). Somehow that led to the question of how elephants have babies and my response that they had babies the same way humans do. This of course led to another question by my five-year-old son. “How do babies come out of belly buttons?”

Hmm, how to proceed here??? I carefully and concisely explained that babies didn’t come from belly buttons, but that mammal mommies have extra parts between their legs from which babies come. Mind you, all this while walking into the natatorium. My answer seemed to appease him and I was fairly comfortable with how the whole conversation unfolded. . . for the moment.

I later left my husband in charge of getting our guy home from swim lessons and ducked out a few minutes early for a craft class with a friend, and I honestly thought no more about the baby conversation until I called home later that night. On the other end of the phone, hubs said the rest of their evening went well except for the one poor parenting moment that he would tell me about when I got home. My response: ” Noooo, why don’t you tell me now.”

So this is how the whole after-swim-lessons thing went. My husband and son had a nice conversation about floating and sinking and hubs explained about lungs, holding your breath and such. Well our curious little guy wanted to see pictures, so when they got home my husband pulled up some pictures on the iPad and they looked at the lungs, hearts, etc.

So far, so good. Just wait.

My husband left our son looking at the photos and went to the kitchen for a few minutes, until he heard screaming from the other room. He ran to where our son was still quietly watching the iPad and saw that our little guy had somehow ventured to a new page and was witnessing a live birth. Yup, stirrups, screaming, crowning head and all. If that won’t give a boy, and his son, nightmares, I don’t know what will.

On the other end of the phone, I was briefly speechless. And that doesn’t happen much, y’all. I mean, what do you say? Poor parenting moment? Yes. Glad he made the mistake and not me? Yes. How do you fix it? Haven’t a clue.

All I could think of was that in just a span of a couple of hours my poor child’s innocence had been ripped from his adorable little head and he now knows that babies do not indeed come from belly buttons. I wondered how to explain his future questions. I wondered if he would have bad dreams. I wondered if he would ever want to have kids of his own. I wondered, I wondered and I wondered. . . and then I dutifully scolded my husband and reveled in the fact that thankfully this scar was not one of my own making. Isn’t that how parenting works?? The parent that does the least amount of damage, wins. Right?

It has been a week; our son has not mentioned the incident and neither have we. Maybe he is mightily trying to repress what he witnessed or maybe he’s satisfied because now he knows. At any rate, I keep thinking about that old saying, “the truth will set you free” . . . or might make you a priest.

photo credit: African Elephant 1 week baby with mom at Wild Animal Park in Escondido-167 3-18-09 via photopin (license)

A Playing Dough Kind of Day

playing dough

It was a play dough making kind of day! With a gray chill in the air, my little guy and I decided to hole up at home, crank the heater and have a little fun.  My son requested orange dough the other day, so I snagged a cheap box of said-colored gelatin during my last grocery shopping trip and was thankful to have it on hand.

My little guy loves to mix all the ingredients for this gelatin-based recipe and even stir for a bit, but it doesn’t take long for his little arms to get tired and relinquish the spoon to mama. I really don’t blame him; even my arms get tired before the dough completely cooks. The key to this recipe is to just keep stirring as it cooks — it will set up, eventually.

playing dough

If you’re looking for some creative ways to spend the last several chilly days of winter, you might give this playing dough recipe a go. It’s not cheaper than buying the original stuff at the store, but it is a lot more fun.

[yumprint-recipe id=’8′]&

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