Earth Laughs in Flowers

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*Earth laughs in flowers*

***Disclaimer***I get a little transcendental this time of year. Proceed with caution.

Behold! Some chalkboard art for you to celebrate this soggy first day of Spring!

This quote is not, by the way, from ee cummings, even though the interweb—and apparently some etsy artists–attribute it to him. And the context is not as cutesy as the quote lets on. Please don’t take poetry out of context, people.

The quote is beautiful, but the poem is rich. Hamatreya was published in 1846 and likely inspired by the Vishnu Purana (a Vedantic creation mythology) in which Maitreya learns of the creation of the Earth and the folly of the kings who lay claim to  Earth even though their “perishable frames” are “blinded with deceptive notions of individual occupation.” And how all of those who held the notions of possession of the Earth “have ceased or will cease to be” in “this ever-enduring world.”

“Earth laughs, as if smiling with autumnal flowers to behold her kings unable to effect the subjugation of themselves.”

The turn to Spring reminds us of rebirth and regeneration, but let’s try to remember the Earth-song in turn and show gratitude to Earth. Let’s feel how small we are. How little we have and how fleeting it is. Let’s all take a moment to understand that those who try to rule us have nothing more than we do, no greater grasp on life, no greater or lesser stake in the Universe. Our states, our holy sites, our parks, our skyscrapers, our yards…humans are, indeed, “Earth-proud, proud of the Earth which is not theirs.” Our true connections can be formed only when we internalize this reality.

Those daffodils are a chuckle at the folly of human pride. I’m glad Nature has a sense of humor.

But Emerson says it better, check out the poem below for your daily dose:

Hamatreya

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint,
Possessed the land which rendered to their toil
Hay, corn, roots, hemp, flax, apples, wool, and wood.
Each of these landlords walked amidst his farm,
Saying, “’Tis mine, my children’s and my name’s.
How sweet the west wind sounds in my own trees!
How graceful climb those shadows on my hill!
I fancy these pure waters and the flags
Know me, as does my dog: we sympathize;
And, I affirm, my actions smack of the soil.”
Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds:
And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough.
Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.
They added ridge to valley, brook to pond,
And sighed for all that bounded their domain;
“This suits me for a pasture; that’s my park;
We must have clay, lime, gravel, granite-ledge,
And misty lowland, where to go for peat.
The land is well,—lies fairly to the south.
’Tis good, when you have crossed the sea and back,
To find the sitfast acres where you left them.”
Ah! the hot owner sees not Death, who adds
Him to his land, a lump of mould the more.
Hear what the Earth say:—
                EARTH-SONG
          “Mine and yours;
          Mine, not yours.
          Earth endures;
          Stars abide—
          Shine down in the old sea;
          Old are the shores;
          But where are old men?
          I who have seen much,
          Such have I never seen.
          “The lawyer’s deed
          Ran sure,
          In tail,
          To them and to their heirs
          Who shall succeed,
          Without fail,
          Forevermore.
          “Here is the land,
          Shaggy with wood,
          With its old valley,
          Mound and flood.
          But the heritors?—
          Fled like the flood’s foam.
          The lawyer and the laws,
          And the kingdom,
          Clean swept herefrom.
          “They called me theirs,
          Who so controlled me;
          Yet every one
          Wished to stay, and is gone,
          How am I theirs,
          If they cannot hold me,
          But I hold them?”
When I heard the Earth-song
I was no longer brave;
My avarice cooled
Like lust in the chill of the grave.

Quick Bathroom Refresh

Well, hello there! All those snow days last month gave me cabin fever and cabin fever makes me want to change things up. So, last Thursday during the ice storm, I started to tackle our hall bath. It’s the kids’ bathroom, so it was by no means getting an overhaul, just a refresh on a budget.

Here are some pictures from the day we moved in and, aside from hanging a shower curtain, this room has looked pretty much the same for the last two and a half years. Nothing horrible about it–well, except maybe that red wallpaper on the light switch thing, that was pretty horrible. Thankfully the previous owners took the toilet paper holder, towel bars, and mirror that coordinated with the light switch covers because, honestly, I was not going to be able to work with those.

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Now let me tell you a sad story about paint. I endeavored to mix my own paint color again, as I have done with a few projects in the past. So, I sorted through my 50 Shades of Gray (intentional reference) paint in the garage and chose a few favorites. When you mix paint, you have to mix a large enough portion to do the entire project because if you run out, you’ll never be able to mix the exact proportions again. So I started with a good portion of white paint that I’d been storing in our master bathroom. But when I went to mix in the greenish-gray that I’d intended to use, the paint was gloppy and separated. No matter how much I stirred the paint, I couldn’t get the paint smooth. Then I opened 3 or 4 more cans of paint that I could mix, figuring that was just a fluke, but ALL OF MY PAINT was ruined. Every gallon, quart, random sample, and even all my touch up paint…kaput.  Apparently, latex paint can survive one or two freeze/thaw cycles, but the last few weeks of bitter cold was too much for all the paint in my garage. PSA: Don’t store latex paint in your garage over harsh winters. The More You Know.

In addition to the white paint I had been storing in my master bathroom, I also had some gray paint left over from the fireplace brick and downstairs vanity in Restoration Hardware Slate. Even though it wasn’t my initial plan, I had to do something with this paint I’d already mixed, so I added the Slate paint color and just ran with it. Some of the gloppy paint in the mix had to be sanded out between coats but, aside from that extra step, the paint went on well and the new color works well with the rest of the grays in the house.

So, painting aside, we did a few more updates in the bathroom. The first one I want to tell you about is the grout painting. I bought this stuff at Home Depot for $12.97.
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To apply, you basically scrub it into the grout joints with a toothbrush and wipe the residual colorant off of the tile with a damp sponge. The tile will look hazy, but you can go back over that after it’s dry and buff the haze out. So here’s an example of what the grout looked like before using the GroutRenew. It was an off-white that had turned yellow with…age. Yeah, let’s go with age. Not because it’s in a bathroom frequented by little boys. Anyway, no amount of scrubbing with bleach gave me the desired results.

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And here’s the tile after the initial application (but before I wiped the haze away).

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The gray grout really ties in nicely with the gray walls and drops the 80’s beige-ness of the room down a notch.

We also did the following to spruce up the bath: (with budget breakdown)

-Spray painted the drawer/cabinet hardware ($0–on hand)

-Spray painted the shower curtain rod ($0–on hand)

-Spray painted the floor heat register ($0–on hand)

-Purchased a new light fixture to replace the builder brass job ($42 Home Depot)

-Purchased a decorative/functional shelf ($18 Home Depot)

-Framed out the mirror using crown molding ($15 Home Depot)

-Replaced the showerhead with a water-efficient model ($15 Home Depot)

-Added new printable bathroom art in frames we had on hand ($0–sources: here and here)

-Hung existing shower curtain, rug, towel hooks, and accessories ($0–on hand)

-Replaced the outlets, switches and covers with white ($10 Home Depot)

Adding the GroutRenew our bathroom refresh budget came out to $113 and took us about two afternoons to complete.

Now for some grainy (sorry, hadn’t had my coffee yet) photos of the finished product.

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A Case For Depletion

I’m striving to live a life with less in order to have more of what’s really important. In my thoughts, this extends to every choice I make. The fear of not having “enough” is crippling and drives excessive consumption.

We are pushed to buy things that we might need someday or we feel like we need to “stock up” on. The truth is, for most of us, we have enough already. Too much even. And the opportunity to possess something is not exclusive in our culture. Anyone can buy anything anytime. Even if they don’t need it. Even if they can’t afford it.

I like to feel a little need every now and then. I like to wait until my refrigerator is near empty (except condiments, of course–those multiply overnight). Depletion forces me to think creatively about my limited resources, discourages and limits excess waste, and encourages appreciation for what I have.


Let’s bring it to the back to the cul de sac. Let’s talk about laundry. I don’t know a single person in charge of a household who enjoys laundry. Laundry is an overwhelming, filthy, seething monster we shove behind closed doors in our messy closets and laundry rooms. Sometimes we relent and let him sleep on the bed. But why is laundry such a monster? Why have we allowed laundry become such a chore?

Well, contained in my five-bedroom house, I probably have 20 dinner napkins, 20 dish towels, 30 bath towels/washcloths/hand towels, 9 sheet sets, and let’s conservatively estimate that each of my 5 family members has 150 articles of clothing (if you think this isn’t conservative, I dare you to count your clothes). That totals up to about 900 items that require (let’s be honest) picking up off the floor, washing, drying, and storing after regular use. And I’m not even counting the items that only need to be laundered occasionally.

What I also have is a machine in its very own room in my house that I can shove a bunch of my dirty stuff into, drop in some store-bought (or homemade, because I’m so crazy) soap, and press a button, and in 30 minutes, my laundry is clean and I haven’t gotten my hands wet. Whoa, the future! And I have a magic drying box, too. How could I possibly complain about laundry when I have a machine to do the work for me? Even if I didn’t have a washing machine, I would want clean clothes, and I would wash them however I could. But what if we chose to have less? Less clothes mean less laundry. Less to do. Less guilt. Less decisions. Less stress. More appreciation. Better quality. More time.

This all gets especially absurd when you realize that–get this people–of the 7 billion people in the world, only 2 billion of us have a washing machine to complain about. (Watch this TED talk.)


So much of this “need” we feel is self-imposed and artificial. Or closets and drawers are teeming with clothes and we only wear 20% of those clothes 80% of the time. And even that 20% is more than we “need.” We fill our schedule with pointless meetings, to-do lists, shopping lists, and planned leisure.

What would happen if you erased everything in your calendar? Tore up your to-do lists? Said “no” to that meeting you know you don’t really need to attend? Erased half of your emails? A void would happen. The absence of stuff would happen. A limitless, albeit weak, black hole would emerge. And with it, a gravity to continue to chip away at the non-essential in order to find the essential. Because buried deep in that black hole where your shredded to-do list vanished is the space to think, appreciate, live, breathe, and above all, create.

Weniger, aber besser. Less, but better. In design and in life. In decision-making and in the allocation of our precious resources, no truer words have been spoken. Innovation lives in less.

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Geometric Wall

I really really wanted to go to IKEA today. Had it all planned out. Even though I don’t need anything at all and I have about 100 other things I could do with my resources today. But, the universe conspired against my plan by giving the littlest critter a stomach bug yesterday, which means my plans for today began with decontaminating the house so the rest of us don’t catch it. Anyway, he made a quick turnaround this morning.

The critter put it best himself when he said, “I had a bug in my tummy, but it’s gone now. I killed it.”

So, I did about as much cleaning as I could stand this morning, lit a few scented candles (which is exactly like cleaning) and called it a day.

I made my shopping plans because I must have wanted to do something creative around the house. When I get that little itch, I can maniacally knock out a quick project. Today’s mania resulted in a fun accent wall in the office.

The inspiration for this project came as I was perusing blogs awhile ago. In my perfect dreamland I live in a Scandinavian home abroad, not unlike this one on Weekday Carnival.

In this post they were about to say goodbye to this geometric wall, sniff sniff. I haven’t looked to see what they put in its place, but I have no doubt it’s awesome AND I appreciate their desire to continuously recreate their space.

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My office is still lackluster and cobbled together, so it has become a place to test run ideas, since it’s more of a marginally-used room. It is the front room of our house–I guess you could call it a “formal” living room, but the idea of a formal room doesn’t jive with modern life, does it? Who formally entertains anymore anyway? I digress. Other than this quick photomosaic I made and a yard sale mirror I refinished, the walls of the office are painted a neutral gray (Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore—it’s a super-neutral, go ‘an getcha some). And don’t get me wrong, neutral is great…until it’s not anymore.

Begin Operation Banish Boring:

I grabbed my blue painters tape and went bananas. No measuring, no drawing, just slapping tape on the walls to make various geometric shapes (mostly triangles). Keeping asymmetrical made the project feel more creative. I got six sample pots of shades of gray and blue and went for it. I tried to keep the look balanced, taking steps back every now and then. I wanted the negative space of the wall to flow, so I didn’t fill in every shape with paint. From gathering materials to cleaning up this project took me no more than an hour. Cost: $0DSC_0193_0002 DSC_0210_0019

I was so excited to remove the tape and I love the results!

DSC_0244_0053 These colors are a little more true, but this room is dark most of the time. (mental note: add overhead lighting to the giant house to-do list)DSC_0253_0062 DSC_0265_0074

Watch out for little creeper photobombs!

More DIY Wall Art on the Cheap/Free

Today I’m sharing 2 wall art projects that I completed as part of my “nothing new” August. I spent the month of August consciously not buying new things. I made one exception for school supplies for the two older critters who were returning to school, but even for them I made sure to raid our craft/office supply storage first.

During that time, I painted two rooms with leftover paint (the master bathroom and the littlest critter’s room). The project helped me to take a look at my house and my projects with fresh eyes. Sometimes I go into Lowe’s with grand plans and end up buying way more than I need and getting far ahead of myself. Not to mention buying something “because it’s too cheap not to pass up.”

The first project took me about 15 minutes and uses these giant flash cards that I bought probably 5 years ago. No lie. I’ve had them stuffed in a drawer, totally unused, for 5 years. Maybe longer. I disgust myself. They were a Martha Stewart alphabet flash card set that I picked up on sale of course from either a craft store or a discount store. It’s been so long I don’t remember where I got them. I also used my stash of binder clips and maybe an eighth of my ribbon supplies to swag and hang the cards in the little critter’s room. Boom, done. Why didn’t I do that sooner?
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The second project is something I pinned awhile ago, then after looking at it I realized I probably had everything I needed to hack it myself in my garage. Cue Glinda, the good witch.

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So here’s the inspiration for the project.

abfc6cdb97ffeb66459b179fdfbd9934I would link it up but I don’t know who made the sign because the original Pinterest link is empty.

So I gathered a leftover piece of stained poplar board from our open shelving and found a font I liked on the internet. Man, I love browsing fonts. It’s called Market Deco. Then I spaced the letters out on Photoshop. I knew I wanted the letters to be about 4-5 inches tall. I printed out the letters, cut them out, and spaced them on the board. Then, I traced them with a pencil.

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I used a small paintbrush and a test pot of paint (Benjamin Moore Moonshine if you’re interested). But the color is so light gray that on a dark background it basically looks white. I hand-painted the letters that I had traced and let them dry overnight. I wasn’t too fussy with this because I knew I would distress the whole sign. The next day I grabbed a hammer and some sandpaper and just wailed away at the sign. Sanding down the paint made a huge difference in the overall did-it-myself appearance. I used the hammer to pound the edges and put some dings on the front of the sign. Here’s a tip for distressing–get to a place where you feel it is adequately distressed then go 10% past that. You’ll be glad you did. When you have created something it is easy to under-edit. I’ve found it’s better to push just past my “done” point so I see more dramatic results.

Back to the wall art, I reused some picture hangers from a frame destined for the trash on the back of the sign and attached them with screws and a level, then hung it on the wall in the kitchen. The big pantry wall needs a little something extra to fill the space, but this works great for now.

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I’m really happy with the results and so glad I just got up the motivation and finished these projects. Both projects were free from on-hand materials and took maybe 2 hours active time total to complete.

Excuse the blurry phone photos. If I went for the nice camera I may have never gotten this post up!

I’m always looking for new ways to make impact wall art for little $$, so please comment if you have some fresh ideas!

The Summer of My (dis)Content

Over the last 18 months, I have embarked on multiple monthly challenges. Many of them have been about food or health (examples include: giving up gluten, going vegan before dinner, exercising every day, scheduling all of my doctor’s appointments, keeping a gratitude journal). I wanted to see how I felt during and after all of these “experiments.” And I made some mental notes about each exercise, but I never really tracked or journaled my progression. And so, it is difficult to differentiate the end from the means or define my goal in trying these new habits/lifestyles. But, I think it has come to me finally…my goal is to live more intentionally.

Even if it comes off as a little crazy or trendy (gluten-free) or extreme (vegan) or unorthodox, all of these experiments have helped me gain some perspective in life. If my goal was singular (to lose weight) then I could have a plan of action and set up habits that were in line with that one goal.

But to live a life of mindfulness? To live with intention? That’s a sticky end to pursue.

Let me back up to the eve of my discontent. I was several months postpartum with critter #3–a busy, curious, fierce critter. The husband had started a new career. I had left my side hustle before #3 was born because I lacked the passion to continue in the same capacity as before. We were moving to a new house (which I planned to renovate) and renting out our old house (which I would manage, and eventually come to evict our first tenants after a tumultuous 6 months). My life was FULL.

And to be honest, it was full of things that left me feeling pretty blah. I felt myself giving all my time and thoughts and attention to things I didn’t care about but felt obligated to do. If it was a straw that broke the camel’s back, I was a camel looking up in the clouds who saw nothing but bales of straw ready to drop. I was a WRECK. A hot mess. As a result, everything in my life was suffering–my self-confidence, my health, relationships, finances, motivation, passion.

But before you go feeling sorry for me or trying to console me, I want you to know that it’s only in typing this in the past tense that I can feel any distance from that time in my life. Here we are 2ish years later and I’m still only slightly less of a wreck. And I’m putting this out into the world not because I feel unique or alone in this struggle, but because I know I’m one of many many many who feel this way. Dare I say most of us?

In fact, my story almost doesn’t feel personal.

It feels UNIVERSAL.

I count myself as lucky because it hasn’t taken a tragedy to have this lightbulb moment. Or maybe it has, maybe feeling “blah” about life is the tragedy?

[Kevin Spacey’s voice in your head]
“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.” -Lester Burnham, American Beauty

Somebody’s Watching Me

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I’m never surprised to find a critter in my garden. But this little fellow’s red eyes caught me off guard. Especially because I almost picked him up. I can’t help it. He was nestled in my cantaloupe plants eating a strawberry from my neighbor’s patch–and he looks just like an unripe cantaloupe!

Anyway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show off my garden. My yard is a HOT WEEDY MUDDY MESS, but I’m fond of my garden.

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I chose to square foot garden in raised beds. Last spring we built a fenced area inside the fence in our backyard to keep our oafish Bernese Mountain Dog out of the way. We have very little light in our yard so we tried to capitalize on the one sunny spot we do have. We built a compost pile last year, a rain barrel (through a class with the county), and one 4×8 raised bed.

This year we added another 4×8 bed and I put some squash in a galvanized bucket I had for the hose. Improvisation is crucial to gardening!

With two beds I can alternate spring, summer, and fall crops and (hopefully) keep the kids fed 3/4 of the year. Or at least offset the crazy grocery bills.

To square foot garden, you divide your bed into foot plots. I did this by driving nails every foot into the side and weaving a clothesline around to make a grid, or rows. Then go to a square foot gardening website and see how much space each plant needs. For example, tomatoes and squash need one whole square foot of your grid, but basil can be planted two to a square foot, spaced evenly. This really helps me maximize space and weed effectively.

I’ll add a square foot gardening website link and the app when I edit this post.

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Here’s a few shots of my rain barrel, some compost volunteers from last year (squash or cukes maybe?) and my squash in a tub.

This year I’ve got lettuce, peas, kale, squash, cantaloupe, tomatoes, chard, okra, cukes, basil, parsley, mint and some other random herbs spread about the yard.

What have you planted? Anyone else love edibles but hate other gardening?

Any red-eyed critters watching you weed the garden?