How to Paint a Chalkboard Tree

I’ve been busy CREATING up a storm lately. And I have a ton to share. But THIS project is my favorite. It’s the one that has been slow cooking in the back of my mind for a year. Projects can be like that.. you have an idea and a sense of the “look” of what you want to achieve. But getting from idea, to concept, to design has a lot more to do with what you’re trying to achieve. And that’s the part I was stuck on: what am I trying to achieve? I knew I wanted a tree silhouette. I knew I wanted it to be simple and flexible and active. But there was a lot of blank space in between. Then, one day, it came to me in a flash of inspiration:

CHALKBOARD

Enjoy!

watch it grow from blank wall to finished mural

watch it grow from blank wall to finished mural!

A few notes BEFORE you get started:

- You need a PERFECT flat, clean surface. This wall was dry-walled last year (after we moved in) and it still required a lot of prep (filling and sanding) before I could start

- Lightly sand the entire wall surface that will be painted

- Wipe it with a damp sponge or cloth

- Let it dry

Prep is the hardest part. But it’s also the most necessary part. You will see the bumps (which I have on this surface) if you don’t take the time to prep it.

Step 1: layout the design

Step 1: layout the design

Step 2: Roll it once

Step 2: Roll it once

Step 3: Roll it twice

Step 3: Roll it twice

Step 4: Remove the tape

Step 4: Remove the tape

Step 5: Add details like a clean outline and small branches

Step 5: Add details like a clean outline and small branches

Also, if you get a creative block, I recommend wearing a fun outfit when you paint.. it works for me every time.

Step 6: Paint the leaves. Play around with the design in the beginning

Step 6: Paint the leaves. Play around with the design until you find a pattern you like

Painting a Chalkboard Tree Step 7: Add more leaves

Step 7: Add more leaves

Step 8: Take a step back, look at the painting, identify  spots that need to be developed further, keep adding branches and leaves until you love it

Step 8: Take a step back, look at the painting, identify spots that need to be developed further, keep adding branches and leaves until you love it

Tree Step 9: Wait for the paint to cure. This is the worst step, so I added decals to the wall and waited SEVEN days.

Step 9: Wait for the paint to cure. This is the worst step, so I added decals to the wall and waited SEVEN days for the chalkboard paint to cure.

Step 11: Cure the Chalkboard Paint by rubbing the side of chalk along the entire surface of the tree. Erase it.

Step 11: Cure the Chalkboard Paint by rubbing the side of chalk along the entire surface of the tree. Erase it.

Painting a Chalkboard Tree Step 11: DRAW!

Painting a Chalkboard Tree Step 11: DRAW!

 

PLEASE let me know if you make this or have any questions and PLEASE link or send pictures! If I get a few, I’ll do a follow up post with your projects and links to your blog.

 

XOXO,

Julie

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Happy To!

Today is the day Max turns TWO! And I can’t help but feel a major sense of accomplishment for meeting this milestone.

I know, I know. It’s HIS birthday, not mine.But being a mom makes birthdays different.

In many ways, it’s OUR day. It’s the anniversary of a BIG day, a day filled with emotion, a day I’ll never forget. His day. My day. The day our family came together (my mom, his parents, Chris, and I) and – so help us – delivered Max safe and sound.

I could list a thousand things I love about this little person. Each day truly feels like a gift with him. And I love that. And I am exercising all of my memory-keeping strategies to remember all of it. For birthdays, I think letters are best. Letters and a hundred photos. Maybe a small photo book. Maybe an album…

;)

Max 0, 1, 2 Photos

Max at 1 week, 1 year, and TWO!

Dear Max,

You’re TWO! And I’m SO excited about it. When I asked dad what we should get for your birthday he said “nothing. he doesn’t even know what birthdays are” (typical dad thing to say). So I turned and asked you, “Max, what do we do on birthdays?” And you said “HAPPY TO!” (which translates to “sing happy birthday!”) and “OPEN PEAS!” (which translates to “OPEN PRESENTS!!”). Sometimes mom gets it right.

Cool kid!

Cool kid!

Life with you is SO much fun. Do you know how funny you are? You make jokes. Like when you build a car out of Legos, but put some blocks on the bottom of the car so the wheels don’t touch the table. And then you bring it to me and say “won’t go!” and pretend like you need my help. I know you don’t. And I know why you do it. And I laugh and love it Every. Single. Time. (which is about twice a day). But sometimes your jokes are even funnier – and strike deeper – than you can understand.

Just the other night, we read “Dinosaur, Roar!”, which is a book about opposites. When we got to the page about the fat dinosaur you pointed to his belly and said “mommy!”. I said “oh, NO, mommy is NOT fat!” and you laughed and said “mommy, fat! mommy, fat!” and pointed between the dinosaur belly and my belly to get the joke across. Dad and I laughed until we cried. And the next day I went to the gym and ran 3 miles, did 150 squat-jumps (which are hard), and exercised until my entire body hurt. But I’m really happy you did it. You have a way of inspiring me to push myself when I really need it.

Like that time, when you were only a few weeks old, and I – desperate to leave the house – took you on a walk. I was so happy to get out of the house (newborns and c-sections have a way of keeping you at home for weeks) that I lost track of time. About a mile from our house you started crying for milk. Every time I jogged, you stopped crying. Every time I took a break, you cried again. And so I ran through discomfort and exhaustion to get us home. Because that’s what moms do. And because hearing you cry tears a hole right through me. Not that you cry much these days.

You are a really tough kid. At first glance, this can seem like a good thing, because moms hate hearing their kids cry. But you NEVER cry. Never. Yesterday you fell 5 feet to the ground at the playground, “brushed it off” (that’s what we call it), and climbed up again. This would be remarkable for many kids, but for you – it’s just another day at the park. You climb everything. You run everywhere. Nothing is too difficult. You seek out challenges. You explore. You are dangerously adventurous. This scares the other parents who don’t know you. They run to your “rescue” when you’re in a precarious position. They “save” you when it looks like you’re going to “fall” (I put that in quotes because it seems like it’s all part of your plan).

Climbing Max

Climbing Max

For a while I worried that you couldn’t feel pain. Like your brain wasn’t wired correctly or something. But then the summer came, and you wore shorts, and you continued to run everywhere. And you fell, a lot. You skinned your knees. You got “boo boos” and showed them off to everyone. You stuck your fingers in them to make them bleed more. And if I was a different mom, and if you had a different dad, I would worry more. But I know me, and I know dad, and that’s how I know you’re okay. You might not show it, but you feel pain. And you learn from it. And that is awesome.

You are also a gentleman. This is a quality I sincerely admire in you. And something that dad is VERY proud of. When you were just 20 months old, we went to an indoor play place to get out of the house. Often when we go there, you find kids and insist on playing with them. They don’t always get it. Sometimes they fuss. Sometimes they complain. Sometimes they even push. One morning, you were SO intent on playing with this one little girl in the play kitchen, inside the play house. When you initiated play with her, she squealed. This surprised you. You looked right into her eyes with this hint of concern like “are you okay?” You tried to give her a hug. She resisted. You offered her a toy. She softened. You found a fabric FLOWER. She accepted. And you got that hug. And you played for a half hour. And I melted.

You are an expert hugger. This is a quality you get from your dad and your meme. When I first met meme, I was not a hugger. But after years of dating your dad, and years of “hello’s” and “goodbye’s” with your amazing grandparents, I eventually gave in. I am now a hugger. I hug friends even when they don’t expect it. And I hug you 300 times a day. Every time you leave a play space, you hug your friends goodbye. This is especially true with Emma, Tenzin (who you call “Teddy”), the daycare staff, and – of course – Salsabiel. Sometimes she even gets kisses. And, again, I melt.

I wish I could find a way to talk about the other 5,000 things that I love about you. Like our morning routines, waking up to your little feety pajama footsteps in our room, the way you are SO excited to see “MIMI!” every morning, then run away when she gets here, the way you say “MOMMY!” emphatically to get my attention, as if I have a hearing problem, or how you talk about “Daddy” and his motorcycle and how it “goes fast”, or how you insist on exercising the full limit of every boundary you are given (is this the line? am I over it now? how about now??), or how you love to ride your tricycle in the driveway, or how you want to do everything yourself – like putting on your pants and shoes, but then need my help, so I try to sneak in without you noticing.

I’m sure, years from now, there will be so many things that I will wish I did differently, but the one thing that I will never regret is having this time with you – every day – and the 300 hugs, and 100 kisses, and 10,000 moments we have had together this last year. I don’t regret a single moment. And I’m so excited to see who you will be this year. And every year.

Love you.

XOXO,

Mom.

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Vegetable Barley Chicken Stew

Vegetable Barley Soup Recipe

Vegetable Barley Soup – Slow Cooker Recipe

I’ve been on this wonderful cooking and creating kick, thanks to half a month barred indoors with the first cold of the school year. There are only so many days I can lay around resting and hydrating before I need to start DOING things again. And I’ll be honest, it’s been an impressive comeback. Three new yummy recipes in one week? I’ll take it!

Vegetable Barley Chicken Stew

  • 1 qt (32 oz.) Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 2 cubes Chicken or Vegetable Bouillon
  • 2 large Carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks Celery, chopped
  • 1 medium Onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 6-8 small Red or Purple Potatoes, quartered
  • 1 1/2 c. Barley, dried
  • 1/2 bunch of Swiss Chard (can substitute Kale or other hearty greens), chopped
  • Cooked chicken*
  • 1 t Garlic Powder (or to taste)
  • 1 t Onion Powder(or to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • 4-12 c. Water

This can be made in a crock pot (slow cooker) or large dutch oven. In both recipes, add water to your preference. I tend to make stews over soups, so I use about 4 c. less water than a soup would use.

Crockpot/Slow Cooker instructions: Add everything except the Swiss Chard and chicken to a slow cooker. Add at least 4 cups of water, be generous. Cook on low for 6 hours. After 6 hours, add swiss chard, chicken, and more water (as needed). Season to taste. Cook on high for 1.5 hours.

Dutch Oven instructions: Heat 1 T olive oil in dutch oven on Medium. Add onion and celery and cook until  mixture starts to brown. Add garlic and cook another minute or so to release flavor. Add approximately 1 c. of chicken or vegetable stock and stir until pan is de-glazed. Add remaining ingredients (except chicken) and cook on medium-low for approximately 1-2 hours, depending on volume of water and speed of cook top (we have a very slow electric range). Stew will be ready when carrots and potatoes are tender. Add chicken about 10 minutes before stew is ready.

 

*This is a long footnote that should be its own post, but here it goes: Every week we buy a rotisserie chicken, eat it for dinner one or two nights, then boil off the chicken (to make chicken stock). We pull the remaining chicken bits off the bone and save them to make a chicken stew. This is the only way I’ve made it so far.. and if

 

If you try this recipe, leave feedback in the comments below!

 

XOXO,

Julie

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#100 Happy Days

#100HappyDays is a free photo documentation project designed to inspire people to start noticing what makes them happy every day, be happier, be thankful, be optimistic, and all sorts of good stuff. If there is one thing that all this life documentation has taught me, it’s that the small, everyday moments – routines, habits, meals – are the things that make up who you are. When we acknowledge and celebrate those small moments, we’re celebrating ourselves. You can learn more about the project by visiting the 100happydays.com website and sign up for free!

 

This is the tenth installment of #100HappyDays and I love this project.

100 Happy Days 10

100 Happy Days 10

This was the week leading up to my sister’s wedding. LOTs of excitement. Lots of bright, light photos. Lots of selfies. It was SO. MUCH. FUN!

In between pre-wedding festivities – like girl’s night out at the DryBar in Boston and dinner and drinks at a hip joint downtown – Max and I ventured to Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. where I was free to wander and indulge in their exquisite – and diverse – collection of art and artifacts. And we picked a color to paint the house. And the boys tried on their ring bearer outfits. And Max and I had some down time at an indoor play place.

What a week!

I am reeling. It was wonderful. And I can’t wait to show you more!

 

XOXO,

Julie

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A Dream is Never Too Big

A Dream is Never Too Big by Baby Jives Co

A Dream is Never Too Big art print by Baby Jives Co

We all have our favorite social media follows: some are beautifully photographed, some have inspirational ideas, some are perfectly written, some are just.. awesome. Baby Jives Co. is a small handmade baby mobile company that I discovered when I was pregnant with Max. In the last couple of years, this business has taken off. I love following them on Facebook and Instagram because the style, the photos, the products are SO inspirational.

But, until now, I haven’t purchased any of their products.

Our story is a familiar one – we’re renovating our house, we’re saving after the big home purchase, we’re focused on other things, blah blah. But when this opportunity came up – it was too perfect to miss:

This month – for the next two weeks – you can get a downloadable version of the art print “A Dream is Never Too Big” for $5 AND support the fight against childhood cancer over at PS I Adore You. There is something about collaborations like this – a small businesses and an awareness organization/shopping site that gives me the warm and fuzzies. Check out the rest of their – always changing – amazing lineup of gear for kids and moms. LOVE IT!

Baby Jives Co is SO talented and SO amazing that they’re actually up for the Martha Stewart Living “American Made” Awards this year. You can vote for them here: http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/89661/crafts/baby-jives-co

And you absolutely should!

 

XOXO,

Julie

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APB Smoothie (Acai-Pomegranate-Blueberry)

On one of my wandering adventures this summer I came across a coffee shop and, in a moment of weakness, ordered a random smoothie from the menu. It was one of the best smoothies I have ever had! Since then I have tried to recreate the magic of the APB Smoothie and – until now – have been unsuccessful. So I called Jaho Coffee in Salem, Mass. and asked what their secret was.

It’s a fruit puree mix.

Bugger.

So I got back to work, mixing a series of ingredients to try to get that perfect blend. I think this recipe is close, and I also know it could be better. But on a hot day, or an afternoon when you need a little pick me up without the calories, this won’t disappoint.

Enjoy!

Acai-Pomegranate-Blueberry Smoothie

Acai-Pomegranate-Blueberry Smoothie

Acai-Pomegranate-Blueberry Smoothie

  • 1 c. Frozen Blueberries
  • 2-4 ice cubes
  • 1 T. Honey
  • 1 c. Acai Juice
  • 1/2 c. Pomegranate Juice

I used Sambazon Acai Juice and POM Juice (purchase according to how tart you like your juice.. I tend to purchase sweeter blends).

Here is my theory: I think with the right frozen berry sorbet, this will be absolutely divine. If you have a combination that works, please share!

 

XOXO,

Julie

 

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#100 Happy Days

#100HappyDays is a free photo documentation project designed to inspire people to start noticing what makes them happy every day, be happier, be thankful, be optimistic, and all sorts of good stuff. If there is one thing that all this life documentation has taught me, it’s that the small, everyday moments – routines, habits, meals – are the things that make up who you are. When we acknowledge and celebrate those small moments, we’re celebrating ourselves. You can learn more about the project by visiting the 100happydays.com website and sign up for free!

 

This is the ninth installment of #100HappyDays and I love this project.

100 Happy Days #9

100 Happy Days #9

The middle picture would be more aptly titled “goodbye, summer!” but I’m still not ready to talk about that.

This summer was AWESOME. The weather was perfect. The days were long. Everything was easy.

We visited historical homes and counted frogs in the Roman-eque garden. We swam in historical ponds. We sought out culture. And bike rides. And smiles. And when we were tired, we rested … together. It was as easy as breathing.

And though our days are still warm, and I’m forever grateful our routines are back, I’ll miss this summer. I miss it already.

 

XOXO,

Julie

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Meet Cal

Cal First Day of School 2014

Cal First Day of School 2014

Hi, Blog! Meet Cal. He’s my 6-yr old nephew: an incredibly sweet boy with a world of potential. You’ve probably seen him before in pictures, or mentioned in stories, or photographed on Instagram. We live in the same town and spend a lot of time with him.

But you probably guessed that.

What most people in my life don’t know is that he’s more than just my nephew. I’m his guardian – or co-guardian – along with my mom. I’ve been writing this post – in some form or fashion – for almost a year now. And I’m finally ready to “out” myself and start talking about it. So here we go.

His mom, my sister, left him on a Saturday night while we were getting pizza.

In October of last year, there was a lot happening in our family. We moved to a new town. We were doing major renovations to our home. And we shared a 3-bedroom apartment with my mom, my sister, my nephew, our two dogs, our active 1 yr old, and Chris and I for FOUR weeks. It was hot. It was crowded. It was difficult. But it forced us to see how Cal was being cared for. And we got worried.

One minute she was here, the next she was gone.

And just like that, he was in our lives. And that’s the way it’s been for almost a year.

Cal is a kindergartener. He is loving and kind. He loves the color orange, animals, the train, his friends at school. He wears glasses and is learning to read. He loves “craft time” and often insists on it. He counts past 20. He loves his cousin Max. He loves “helping” around the house. He hugs and kisses and loves and thanks EVERYONE who is kind to him. And that is why he wins over every teacher, every care giver, he has had.

Cal is also learning impaired. I hate that term, but it’s the best way I have to describe it. He’s not autistic. He doesn’t have a specific term for his diagnosis. He’s just .. Cal. And Cal doesn’t always feel like pottying on the potty. And he has trouble listening in school. And he can’t follow instructions unless you’re quiet, calm, and clear with him. And he drools. And he is difficult. And stubborn.

And we have had a lot of catch up work to do. When he first came under our care, he was barely speaking. He didn’t know letters or numbers or how to write. He was rough with other kids, with Max, and our dogs. He never listened. He played in the street no matter how many times we told him not to. He wet his pants regularly. He had a dozen cavities. He wouldn’t eat. And some of that still persists. And we’re working on it.

We have had so many moments in the last year where we have honestly asked ourselves if we could really do this. To be fair, it’s a huge undertaking to take care of anyone else’s kid. And when they have a host of baggage, it’s pretty easy to say no. But I think we honestly asked ourselves that question so many times because of the weight of its meaning.

And it’s not until we start listing alternatives that we realize – YES. Yes, we can do this. And we have to do this. Because we love him.

There are also a lot of awesome parts. Little stuff, like when he makes Max laugh while we’re waiting in a long line, and big stuff, like when he tells us how happy he is. And I can’t wait to share all that stuff. Because we all have battles. We all have challenges. And seeing others work through it inspired me when I needed it most.

lots of smiles

lots of smiles

 

XOXO,

Julie

 

 

 

 

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Happy Labor Day!

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

A friend posted this weekend: “when did Labor Day include fireworks???”

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do like the new tradition (and so do the kids)!

 

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

XOXO,

Julie

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The right answer to ‘how is the baby?’ and why we have kids in the first place

The right answer to ‘how is the baby?’ and why we have kids in the first place was just re-shared on the archived Offbeat Families website. And, yes, I’m still bummed the website is no longer active. I love the conversations in the Offbeat community. They’re so.. honest. down to earth. real. offbeat.

Photo credit: Chelle of Mello Rose Photography

Photo credit: Chelle of Mello Rose Photography

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