Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Three Years! (How We Dated Long Distance)

Photo by Limelight Photography

In case you did not know, I met my husband online. As in, create a profile, upload a picture, browse, connect, date. Survive awkward moments. Rinse, Repeat. Find someone who sticks.


I know this is now a very common fact, but I still find it hard to believe about my own life. Three years ago today, Drew sent me a simple and thoughtful message and I became the luckiest girl in the world.

We lived 300 miles apart while we dated, and we were lucky that our distance was drivable in only a handful of hours. Anyway, it was, I think, the second long-distance relationship for each of us. My first ended not so well, but with Drew it was like a dream and the only reason that it ended was that we got married! Drew and I have spent a handful of nights apart in the last eight months and the quiet evenings and dinners cooked for one harken back to when we only saw one another a couple of weekends each month. Despite the limited in-person dating time, we both agree that we probably spent more time “together” getting to know each other because of the distance than we would have if we lived in the same town. We look back on that time physically apart as a true blessing.

“Back in the day” a long-distance relationship would have consisted mainly of letter writing, which is really quite romantic. We were thankful, though, to have access to many of today’s technologies that make dating across the miles so much easier. Long-distance dating isn't for everyone, but for the right person it is absolutely worth it! So how did we make it work? Here is some of my advice for how to have a fun dating relationship over the inter-webs:

Take advantage of all means of communication available to you: email, texts, phone calls, video chat, snail mail - We especially loved having the ability to video chat in the evenings. There was no pressure to talk the whole time, either; sometimes I had work to do, or Drew would take a nap. It was just nice to know that the other person was “there,” and life felt as normal as we could make it.
Evidence: Drew napping while I was probably grading papers.

Learn your love languages – In case you didn’t know, there are five of them. Understanding what makes you feel loved and how you can best show love to someone else can have a very positive impact on your relationship. As it turned out, Drew and I had almost identical tendencies in our love languages. It will be interesting to see if we change over the course of our marriage. Use a love language survey to spark conversation!

Plan movie dates – We would often rent a movie together online, or find one on tv or at Redbox. Then, we’d get on video chat and watch the movie together. Syncing up the audio can be a little tough, but volume adjustments or headphones can alleviate annoyances caused by delays.

Watch favorite tv shows together – This is pretty much the same as the movie dates. We would either watch shows on tv or catch up with them on Hulu. Having those shared daily experiences make a long-distance relationship feel more “normal.”

Make the same dinner- A few times we picked a recipe to make “together.” We each went to our respective grocery stores to get the ingredients and then we’d video chat while cooking and eating.

Play games online – How many competitive hours did we spend playing Words With Friends? SO MANY. Play a game in one evening or over the course of a week. Either way, it is tons of fun.

Ask questions – Drew is excellent at this whereas I am terrible. He was so curious that he sent me an email nearly every day that posed at least three questions about every random and serious topic. We got to learn a lot about each other and his questions came in handy when he used them as part of his marriage proposal.

Plan what you’ll do when you are together – Give yourselves something to look forward to! Just because the relationship is long-distance, it doesn’t mean you have NO time together in real life. Of course, distance plays a great role in the amount of time you'll have, but I was really lucky that Drew was happy and willing to do A LOT of driving. Get excited about it! Make plans!

There are a lot of ways to carry on a successful long-distance relationship, and each couple has unique circumstances and approaches to making their experience special. For us, it was all about spending quality time together (which is one of the five love languages) and truly learning to understand each other and show love across the distance. Living apart for nearly two and a half years has made us so grateful for all of the days we have gotten to spend together in our newlywed life. These three years have flown by and I can't believe all the things that we have accomplished together. I can't wait to see what is ahead in the coming years!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tutorial: Old Pants, New Bag

I spend a lot of time copying other peoples' crafts and projects; it's a great way to learn different skills and it's much easier to work when you have a solid example to help you. I therefore consider it an intellectual victory when I develop a creative idea of my own. It is highly likely that someone else has already done this exact re-purposing project, but I don't care. I did this all on my own. I am a big girl.

Drew and I went to our friends' for dinner the other night. They recently got married and this was our first time seeing them since their wedding and move to a new apartment. We bought a bottle of wine, chosen entirely for it's cute label (and because it was a Riesling and that is the best), and because I didn't want to just fork over a bottle of naked wine, I turned to my fabric stash to come up with something to sew into a bag. I noticed a pair of pants that Drew said he didn't want anymore and I thought to myself, "If I use a leg from these pants, the job is half done!" And so I present to you this tutorial so that you can do the same.

Just so you know, the pictures for each step are above the instructions for that step. Picture first, followed by instructions. Got it? Good. Go!

Step 1: Lay out your pants nice and flat. Place your wine bottle on the pants to get an idea of how much you need to cut. I wanted to have a nice big cuff on the finished bag, so I cut a bit above the knee, as you can see in the photo above. Make sure you only cut through one leg, unless you are wanting to make two bags at once.

Step 2: Turn your cut piece inside out. Line up the edges that you cut, and sew across the pants using about a 1/2 inch seam allowance. This is going to be the bottom of the bag.

The next steps will have you box the corners of the bottom of the bag. The picture above is the result that we are going for, but I wanted to show you before I explain it, in the hopes that it will help the whole thing make sense. You might also want to read through all of steps 3 and 4 before you begin working on it. Here we go.

Step 3: Grab one of the corners of the bottom of the bag. Pinch it so that the seams on the bottom and the side lay on top of one another. I like to peek inside the bag to make sure the seams line up; the picture above is my awkward attempt to show you this perspective. See how the arrow points to the matched up seams?

Step 4: Once you have your corner adequately pinched and lined up, make it nice and flat. Take a ruler and make a mark on the seam of the bottom of the bag. The larger your measurement, the wider the inside of your bag will be. My wine bottle was about 3 inches wide, so I figured if I made my mark 1.5 inches away from the end of the seam, it would turn out about right. Then draw a line across the corner, perpendicular to the seam, like I did in the photo above.

If you want to make sure your corner is exact, you can measure along the hypotenuse of each right triangle created by the bottom seam, the line you drew, and the edge of the fabric. Enjoy that trip back to geometry class? If I confused you I apologize, just check out the photo above. Measure from the corner to the drawn line along the edge of the pants. I had 2 inches on both sides, so I knew I was good to go.

Sew all the way across the line you drew, and repeat this process to box the other corner.

Ta-da! Congratulations! You boxed your corners and the hardest part is over!

Step 5: Cut off the excess on your corners.

Step 6: Turn your bag inside out. It was at this point that I realized this color of pants turned into a bag that looks very much like the brown paper bags grocery stores use for wine and liquor purchases. How appropriate!

Step 7:  Turn down the cuff of the bag, insert the wine bottle, and tie it up with a ribbon. You are all done and ready to go!

Since I used men's pants, I probably could have fit two wine bottles into the wide bag, although I did like the baggy look. I imagine women's boot cut or skinny pants would fit one bottle more snugly. This whole project, including taking pictures, took less than 30 minutes, and maybe even less than that. So easy and so cute!

P.S. In case you are curious, the wine is called Junebug Riesling, we got it for $9.99 at Target, and it was delicious- light and refreshing with a hint of sweetness!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Peg People: Tips and Tricks

I have said it more than once: I am obsessed with painting wooden peg people. If you have been following my February-Peg-A-Day, then you already know this. If you are my friend on Facebook, then you may be sick of it. If you follow me on Pinterest, then you have been through the inundation of peg people pins. But really, can you blame me? They are adorable. My husband can attest that on more than one occasion, gleeful giggles have escaped my mouth upon showing off a completed peg. (For example, I just gushed over Hermione.)

The first time that I put paint to a peg, I was convinced that I was going to make many mistakes and that I’d waste peg after peg until I was happy with the final product. But it was not so! I am pleased to declare that with a little bit of proper prior peg people painting preparation, the possibilities are endless for anyone who wants to get in on the action. And I am someone who has trouble with stick figures, so I really mean what I am saying here. 

And you know what? Take one look at Etsy or Pinterest or a Google search and you will see that peg people range from the simple and rustic to the elaborately detailed. Your pegs don't need to look like someone else's, you just need to love them and they will be perfect.

I have shown off my pegs enough that I think it is about time that I shared my secrets. Without any further ado, here are some of my best tips and tricks:

1) Buy good pegs. It is easier to paint if the wooden surface is smooth and high quality. I personally buy from Casey’s Wood Products, but I know there are Etsy shops and other online sources as well.

2) Buy good brushes. If you want to do a lot of small details, make sure you have the brushes for the job. I have discovered that I like having separate brushes for white paint; I got tired of finding streaks of other colors in my dolls.

This heavenly view is at our local Michael's. I really like being able to choose from open stock brushes because I know I will use what I purchase. One brand had a buy 2 get 1 free sale, and I had a coupon! Wahoo!
I got a good mix of sizes. The angled brushes probably get used the most.
One set for white, one set for colors. Kind of like laundry.

3) Before you paint, get out a pencil and an eraser. I always draw eyes and hair first, because that allows me to center the rest of the clothing appropriately. Having a penciled outline allows me to feel more confident about where I am placing my paint.

My pencil and eraser get a lot of use before I paint.

4) Look at a picture of what you are trying to paint and focus on capturing the essence of it, rather than every single detail. In my opinion, hairstyle is one of the first identifying features on someone. Next, clothing color and style are important, especially when dealing with recognizable characters. You can keep it as simple as color blocking, or you can ramp it up a bit with more detail, depending on your comfort level. 

A red ribbon in a black bob hairstyle + bold colors and simple details in the dress = Essential Snow White

5) Use your paint to add texture. One of the ways that I like to add detail without getting too complicated is to manipulate the paint into adding fold in the drape of a dress, curls in hair, or pockets on pants. It is amazing how dots or lines can add so much detail in a very subtle way. This strategy is what makes my pegs special and unique (or at least that's what I think, anyway). 

Ariel's tail is much more interesting with green dots for scales. The best details of Cinderella's pink dress are in the texture added by strategically placed paint.
6) Faces. Oh, boy. They scare me. Whether I am drawing them or painting them, faces stress me out. That's why, as you have likely noticed, I stick to eyes only, unless it is absolutely necessary that I add something else. I do usually put ears on boys, but I recommend drawing them slightly larger than you think looks right, because if you paint on or just inside the line, they'll end up the correct size. Make sense? I should add that I usually paint the eyes last (using the end of a paint brush handle) so that I am least likely to mess them up while they dry.

Harry must have his scar and his glasses, though I will say that I was skeptical I could paint those spectacles. :)

You can't really avoid eyebrows and mouths if you want the seven dwarfs to be identifiable. I even gave them tiny button noses!

7) Varnish your peg! For the love of all that is peggy, varnish your peg people. To me, this is THE KEY. I use a gloss varnish, which I think looks 100% better than a satin or matte finish. The satin and matte varnishes leave your peg looking pretty much the same, and they do protect the wood, but the gloss varnish TRANSFORMS your peg. Megatron actually pops out of the bottle and changes your peg into something wonderful. It is absolutely MAGICAL; any mistakes or quirks suddenly look purposeful and perfect, the colors pop, and your peg is better protected against damage. I paint two coats on all of my pegs, using a wide, soft-bristled brush.They literally shine with awesomeness. 

8) Take your time, have fun, and love your pegs!

And there you have them - all of my peg people secrets! Keep watching the February-Peg-A-Day post for new pegs until the end of the month.

What do you think of these tips and tricks? Do you have any of your own advice to share? Got any questions?
Feel free to leave a comment!

Monday, February 3, 2014


I started this blog with the intention of writing and posting regularly. Thus far I think I have put forth a solid effort and I think I have averaged about one post every week or two, which isn't too shabby. Sometimes I go a bit long without a post, and it is much easier when there is an ongoing theme to provide inspiration. November was a fun month for me because I kept up with a post about the things for which I was grateful, and I added to it each day. It was nice having a reason to log into the blog every morning to add an update.

In the same spirit of "A Thankful November," I have come up with a new project for myself. I have named it the "February-Peg-A-Day." My goal is to paint a new peg person each day and add a picture of it to this post. It isn't necessarily going to get me writing a lot, but it will help me check off a lot of the pegs from my "to-paint" list! Normally when I get into peg-painting-mode I work on many at once and so it takes me a while to get a finished product. By giving myself the goal of only one peg a day, it simplifies the process and I finish the single peg much faster than I normally would. I might not be able to do a peg 100% of the days in the month, and maybe some days I will do more than one, but I will do my best and if I miss a day or two I can rename the project, February-Peg-A-Nearly-Everyday.

I do have my own ideas of what I'd like to paint, but I think it would be more fun to hear YOUR ideas. If they are super fantastic, maybe you'll see your idea come to life! Er, well, not actual life, but to existence on a wooden peg.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnd heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre the completed February pegs!

February 1st: In honor of the baptism of my niece and goddaughter, I present Saint Anne. I apologize for the poor quality, I took the picture on my cell phone.

February 2nd and 3rd: The Olympics begin later this week! To celebrate this year's winter games in Sochi, Russia, I decided to paint pegs that look like the nesting matryoshka dolls. I feel like the pair needs another friend to make the set complete, though. I'll see what I can do!

Problem solved! I got brave and made a tiny addition to make this pair of dolls a trio! Anybody notice that all of the colors I chose come from the Olympic rings?

February 4th: Mama suggested that I paint an octopus, and because I love her, I decided to tackle it! When the four of us kids would constantly hassle her with, "Mom I need this! Mom do that! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mama!" She would cleverly respond, "I'm not an octopus!" We thought it was hilarious, it kind of became a thing, and every time I see an octopus I think of her. Painting an octopus peg turned out to be harder than I anticipated; my original intention was to make it more "real" looking, but that was frustrating and I was using up a lot of my eraser, so I took a more abstract approach. It doesn't necessarily look like an octopus right away, but once you know what you are seeing, I think it is pretty cute. Originally I was going to draw and then paint all the legs, but I ended up free-handing it, which meant that I accidentally only gave it seven legs. Luckily there IS a seven-arm octopus, so this peg is legit. The camera had a hard time focusing on the whole peg, but it loved my favorite part, the bottom, where I tried to give the impression of those little suckers under the tentacles. Enjoy this cutie patootie! All it needs now is a name. Any suggestions, Mama?

February 5th: It is late, but I am happy to bring you today's creations! I outdid myself today, making four pegs, instead of one, but the theme was Harry Potter and I couldn't help myself. More than a year ago, I made my first Harry peg, and it was a little rough: I messed up his face and had to paint over the whole thing, his glasses were hard to paint, and I was still getting control over the paintbrush. See?

I have come a long way since then and I am very pleased to show you what I did today. I based the pegs on the costuming from The Sorcerer's Stone, because, let's face it, that is when the trio was most adorable. I absolutely love them and I will just come out and say it: Hermione is precious and her hair is probably the best I have painted yet.

I also decided to give myself a challenge and paint Harry the Seeker! Please ooh and ahh over the Gryffindor crest, the broomstick, and the snitch.

February 6: Yesterday's Harry Potter characters were so cute that I had to add more today: Draco, Snape, McGonagall, and Dumbledore. From here on out I really need to stick to one peg a day or I am going to run out of pegs to paint!

Coming Soon . . . Princesses and Star Wars! 

February 7: I didn't get to complete my new set of princesses that I made in the fall because I ran out of pegs. Now, I have just enough to complete it, so today I got started with Jasmine!

February 10: I'm back! And here is Jasmine, ready to marry Aladdin. :)

February 11: I never really watched Disney's Sleeping Beauty as a kid (There was something about an animated Maleficent that freaked me out), but there was a live action version that I loved. As a grown-up now, I'd like to someday buy the DVD to view and share with my future kids. Here is the first of a trio of Auroras!
The sun is finally shining today! Natural lighting made photographing this beauty so pleasant.

February 12: Here is Aurora, part 2 - pretty in pink!

February 13: Blue Aurora, backed up by the rest of the trio.

February 19: I admit it - I am a slacker. I spent much of February 14th working on a peg that just wasn't working out. Over the long weekend I hung out with my awesome husband and did not a stroke of painting. I picked up the brushes again yesterday and finished the peg today. My ultimate plan is to create a set of pegs to represent the months of the year. In honor of St. Valentine's Day, I began the project out of order and I hereby present to you this handsome February peg, complete with a heart shaped box of chocolates and a bright bouquet of flowers.

February 20: Today I wrapped up my current installment of Disney princess pegs! I know they are not all actually princesses, but I don't care. In the future I do want to paint a set of seven dwarfs and the adorable fairies from Sleeping Beauty, and I am going to need some princes for the ladies, but that is all for a future project. For now, Mulan is ready to train for war against the Huns!

February 21: Perhaps I spoke too soon about being done with princesses; I began work on my Star Wars collection today and started it all with the lovely Princess Leia. I think this is one of my favorite pegs ever, because of her hair, of course. And her adorable belt. And because the white paint came out so clean thanks to my new white-only brushes. I am a happy painter. Gosh, this one just makes me so happy!

February 22: Here is our favorite hairy Star Wars friend - Chewbacca!

February 23: Time for Leia's twin - Luke!

February 24: Hans Solo- a wookie's BFF.

February 25: Obi Won Kenobi!

February 26:  A tiny green Jedi master Yoda is.

February 27: The baddest darth of them all - Darth Vader! I was really nervous about this one, especially after drawing the details on in pencil first, but I am SO happily surprised at how wondrfully it turned out. I didn't want to use flash on the camera, but I had to so that you could see the details on his face. In real life, the contrast is much less noticeable and much more Darth Vader-like. Dun dun dun, dun, dundun, dun, dundun!

February 28: Here is the last day of the peg-a-day! C3PO and R2D2!

The February-Peg-A-Nearly-Everyday is complete! Alas, I didn't complete a new peg every single day, but since I pulled extra weight a few days, I ended up painting 29 pegs in 28 days! The only one I don't have anymore is St. Anne, because she is now with my Goddaughter, but here are a couple of shots of the other 28 pegs. I felt like a photographer on school pictured day lining them all up just right.

May the Force be with you!

I introduced the new princesses to my existing collection. All together they are so colorful and beautiful!

Leave a comment telling me which February Peg was your favorite!