Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bringing Nature Indoors

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I love nature...the splendor it offers and the hug of loveliness it brings each day. I wanted to share a few photos of the beauty that we are so fortunate to have at The Homesteading Cottage. We have no idea how long we'll be here, but I am so thankful for all of the hard work the owners did to create this oasis in the city.

The photo above is of the side yard and part of the drive. We have such a variety of foliage and blooms on the property...hydrangeas, purple coneflowers, roses, crepe myrtles, day lilies, daisies, vinca, bradford pears, brown & black-eyed susans, eucalyptus, hostas and phlox, just name a few.

On our walk early this morning I couldn't resist bringing some of that beauty into the cottage and decided to cut a few pretties for my office desk. The photo above is just a small snip-it of the kitchen and reminds me of a butler's pantry. So nice!! The perfect spot to put my little arrangement together (: I'll share more pictures of the kitchen later on.

The crystal glass added the perfect touch of sparkle to this simple arrangement. So, the next time you're out and about, think about bringing a little nature indoors. A sprig of greenery or blooms from outside can do wonders for the soul. If you don't have a garden in which to glean beauties, grocery stores have clusters of bouquets for just a few dollars. With a little creativity they can be turned into something glamorous for the eyes. Grab a little color and brighten your space'll be happy you did (:

With Gratitude,

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Makeover Monday - Mudroom Redo

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Well, Makeover Monday is a day late, but it was so fun that I couldn't hold the post for another we'll consider it a treat for Tuesday (: 

I love a good makeover and adore this idea from Better Homes and Gardens on transforming a mudroom for $324 - "An organized catchall that functions for the entire family." But in usual frugal fashion, I'm already "making over" this makeover in my mind (: I'm thrifty by nature and prefer to do something myself rather than purchase premade items.  I wanted to see if it were possible to indeed bring in that same look for less.

In reading the article further, $324 doesn't really cover all of the items referenced in their redo. The makeover only prices out 4 things - a set of bookcases, a set of wall files, a wall cabinet/bench and a small pendant light which adds up to $324. Here's the price list...

  • 2 Billy bookcases from IKEA - $34.99 each (actually $60 each)
  • 2 Wall files $34.99 each
  • 1 Small pendant light - $91
  • 1 Wall cabinet from Lowe's - $93

The bookcases from IKEA are now actually $60 each which automatically increases that lovely $324 to $374. Call me unobservant, but I didn't even notice the wall files by the door or pendant light overhead, yet they were included in the cost list. I guess my excitement was so focused on the beauty of the project that I totally missed those decorative touches (:

What is missing from the list are the architectural features that turn those individual pieces into one cohesive unit....
~ beadboard and shelf with hooks between the bookcases
~ seating shelf on top of the wall cabinet that actually turns the cabinet into a bench

$374 for a couple of bookcases, an almost finished bench, some wall files and a pendant light seemed to be a bit much.  By using a little creativity and elbow grease instead of premade elements, here's what I came up with...

The grand total, including paint, is just a tad over $240. Not a bad reduction from that original $374 tag, plus you're getting items that weren't even on the original list. Prices always vary upon location, but this is a simple guide to get you started. If you already have some of these elements on hand, the cost would be even less!

Bookcases are a simple construct from two 4'x8' sheets of MDF. Cut one sheet into (4) 1'x8' pieces (these will serve as the sides for the bookcases) and then from the other sheet, cut shelves 1' deep (to match the side pieces) and a width to suit your needs. If you're liking the narrow IKEA Billy bookcase pictured in the makeover, then each shelf would be 1'deep by approximately 16 inches wide. Depending on the width you choose, you should have quite a bit of MDF leftover from that second sheet.

TIP 1: If you don't have a jigsaw or circular saw, your local hardware store can do the cutting for you. Lowe's has always does this for us at no cost, but some hardware stores might charge per cut. Make sure to call ahead and see if there is a cost for the service. Planning will prevent sticker shock during check out (:

TIP 2: Once I get to the store, with my tape measure and diagram in tow, I draw the cut lines onto the MDF. They always find this amusing, but the cuts are perfect every time (:

From the extra MDF, cut two pieces to create the simple shelf shown in the photo above. Add double hooks for coats and outdoor gear and attach to the wall. Creating the beadboard feature below the shelf is a simple trick of using lattice molding strips. You could buy beadboard wall board, but lattice strips are much more economical.

For this project you should only need four 8' strips. Cut each strip in half to create 4' long pieces and space them on the wall six inches apart. Of course you might need more or less depending on your style preference. You're just trying to achieve the board and batten look You can either attach the strips with finishing nails or glue.

Instead of the $93 white wall cabinet, we found the same model in an unfinished state at our local Lowe's for $58. Leftover MDF will provide the needed "seat." Cut to desired width and depth and attach on top.  If you'd like to save that $58 and there's enough MDF, you could make a simple box bench in place of the wall cabinet.

Finish things off with a pair of knobs. We found a set for $2.00, but if you have the extra hardware from previous projects, give them a facelift by applying a hammered iron finish for additional savings.

Hanging wall files by the door is such a good idea! It's perfect for mail or bits and pieces that you don't want to forget as you head out the door (: For our version, we decided to create a Pocket Plaque by taking two plastic organizing pockets and mounting them on a piece guessed it...leftover MDF! Each pocket costs around $10 (shipping included) and a coat of white paint will create the illusion that the individual items are all one piece. Customize by installing as many pockets as you need, glue on trim around the edge of the board to create a frame (can use leftover lattice strips for this), apply a few labels and voilà! Instant organization.

We also like the added touch of a few screw hooks on the bottom of your Pocket Plaque to hang keys, dog leashes, etc. If you're really frugal and prefer a no-cost option, here's a great Ballard Designs inspired wall pocket organizer made by Nike from Thrive.

A pendant light kit paired with a barrel shade makes a thrifty substitution for the suggested $91 pendant light. Of course the artistic side of you could get even more resourceful by using items already on hand, but this is a simple example if you don't have the supplies. The cost conversion? $25!  We were able to find a light kit at our local hardware store for $10 which locally gives us the cost of $20.

Taylor from Living in the Woods created a similar pendant light and Sarah over at Thrifty Decor Chick completed two of these for her office and the other in her kitchen
Now for some finishing touches...We were able to find a $25 mirror at our local WalMart and 2 cute baskets to perch atop the bookcases for $13 each. Add in your own lovelies and it's the perfect spot to keep your home running efficiently.

I'm by no means giving a step-by-step construction guide for making each piece, but this just shows how creativity and elbow grease can save you some green if you're willing to build things yourself (: Do you have any frugal redo's in the making? What are some tips you've found to be helpful? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

With Gratitude,

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Simplicity in the Power of Neutrals

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As a child I was always fascinated by some of my Mother's friends who were perpetually designing and redesigning their homes. There seemed to be constant flutter of change to try and keep up with the trends. Even as a child, I remember being amazed by the waste of it all...the painting, repainting, wall papering, Yikes!  Not to mention the "musical chairs" of furniture and art that was taking place.
My mother, however, was building our home with classic pieces and pops of color that could be switched out with the seasons. We didn't have tons of furniture, but what we did have spoke volumes.  The result was a home haven that reflected our personal style, not something that was manufactured in a showroom.

Imagine everything in the living room above remaining the, in your mind, switch out the pillows with something in blue or orange.  Change the natural fiber rug to one with a bold print.  The curtains...pick up one of the bright colors in the other accessories.  Voilà!  A totally different feel in the space!
Here's another great example.  I LOVE white bedding.  With the simple modification of the comforter and pillows, the style is transformed.  This room feels like a seaside, breezy and light.  By changing the cool blues to warm tones in red, we now have two room styles that are poles apart.

Imagine that same bedroom with chocolate and white damask curtains, warm toned accent pillows, oriental rug, down comforter in a subtle pattern of red and hanging over the bed a large, gorgeous, natural wreath with pine cones, crimson berries and bows.  Now you're ready for holiday guests (: 
The neutral, outdoor living room above is another case in point.  Here you have a lavender slipcovered sofa, chevron rug and curtains along with pillows in purple tones.  What if those purples morphed into greens with touches of teal?  Now you're getting it!
I love the illustration above...Everything in this dining room is neutral.  Instead of the layers being the pop of color or accent, the yellow walls give the impact. To show what the simple change of wall color can do, we've taken the yellow room above and given the walls four different colors...
It instantly remakes the room and paint was the only newbie added.  We even left the yellow rug in place.  For the adventurous among us, now envision the dining room walls covered in a bold!!  It's amazing how one simple thing can generate a completely different tingle for the senses and the cost to do so can also be frugal friendly (:
I have grown to appreciate the power that neutrals hold. A room can have the same furniture, the same tchotchkes and yet with the simple alteration of a few layers (wall color, rugs, curtains, pillows, art, etc), the room takes on a totally different feel.  Build your spaces with neutral key pieces that are special to you.  When you're in need of a change, it's a simple switch of the layers and the result will be a home haven reflective of your spirit, which in turn, is your signature style.
With Gratitude,

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Makeover Monday - Gluten Free Pizza

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Pizza is a favorite in our home and one that was a first to get a healthy makeover. Since we have gluten sensitivity/intolerance in the family, we like to keep these happy little discs of cheese as far from gluten as possible (: A simple change of the crust and the use of raw cheese was an easy fix.

In this particular application we used corn tortillas, but we also love Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust. One package makes two 12" crusts and we always substitute flax seeds for the eggs with great success. The kiddos actually prefer this crust to any restaurant or take-out pizza. Flax seed, gluten-free pizza crust is amazing!! It does get a tad bit sticky when spreading it out, but a little olive oil on your hands keeps the stickies away.

TIP: If you're using tortillas like we are today and like to load up on the toppings, stack a couple of toasted tortillas together with cheese in between for a pizza crust with some umph!

We like to make our own pizza sauce with a can of crushed tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, a small onion, several cloves of garlic (or garlic powder), pepper, sea salt and a touch of honey. We like it on the chunky side, but if you prefer a smooth sauce, simply purée the ingredients together. Spread the sauce on first...

Now for the toppings! When you let the kids build their own little mini pizzas, they're more willing to add items they might not normally try. The flavor options are endless, but today we have grass-fed beef, onions, peppers and spinach. Yum!

Other topping combos we love...
  • Veggie Lovers - Onions, roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes, olives, artichokes, spinach, mushrooms, roasted garlic, shredded squash and zucchini, shredded carrots, topped with cheese.
  • Hawaiian Delight - Sausage, pineapple, onions and your favorite cheese.
  • Broccoli Forest - Ham, broccoli, onions and cheddar.
  • Greek Dream - Chicken, feta, spinach, black olives, onions and peppercinis.
  • BBQ Gal - BBQ sauce in place of tomato sauce, shredded beef or chicken, onions, pickles and swiss. Heat and then top with vinegar slaw.
  • Taco Tilt - Taco sauce in place of tomato sauce, beef, onions, olives, black beans, corn and cheese. Heat and then top with lettuce, tomatoes, shredded carrots and salsa.
  • Cheeseburger Pizza - Hamburger, red onions, diced pickles, light drizzle of mustard and ketchup and topped with cheddar. Amazing how good this one is!! 

Next is the raw cheese and we use plenty of it (; Our favorites are parmigiano reggiano, asiago, cheddar, gouda, feta and swiss. Today we're using gouda and cheddar.

Pop them in the oven until the cheese melts and everything is bubbling together...

And voilà! Gluten-free pizza in under 30 minutes without even ordering for delivery. If you keep a variety of toppings made in advance, it can take even less time. A great healthy meal you can feel good about feeding your family! Taking traditional comfort foods and giving them a healthy makeover is a simple way to provide well-balanced nutrition.

Get the kiddos involved and have some fun creating new recipes that will become family favorites for years to come. Have you performed some makeover magic in your kitchen lately?

With Gratitude,

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Changes at The Homesteading Cottage

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Isn't she lovely? That's our Homesteading Cottage...or at least she is for the time being. If I remember correctly, she was built in the early 1900's and used to be the crowning jewel of a family homestead dairy farm, but now she's surrounded by city life. I think there may even be a few milk bottles from the old dairy around here somewhere. The cottage was fully renovated by the owner and feels like a country retreat even though we're right in the middle of the city. We are so blessed to be here and look forward to share more photos of this beautiful home.

The front porch is a favorite spot for chatting and sipping tea. As you can see, Malone (our doxie-beagle) has declared it to be his preferred snuggle spot outside (: I love that it has an outdoor living area and we can't wait for meals set under the twinkling lights of the cool evening sky. Right now we're a little on the muggy side of things, but grilling out is something we hope to do soon!

I love how the trellis covers the front of the house to provide privacy. It creates such a cozy feel that you don’t even realize city life is a hop, skip and a jump away!

Yesterday's post described how we moved from our apartment, to a hotel and now to this cottage cutie. It's our temporary abode while we're waiting for our country Homesteading Cottage and will serve as the backdrop for the transition to come.

When I originally started this blog it was a way to connect with others who were interested in natural living, homesteading and simple abundance. We were living in a city apartment and I was on a quest to get back to my roots of naturalness and simplicity, so The Homesteading Apartment seemed like the perfect name for my new spot in blog land. I spent several years caring for ill family members, lost myself in that caregiving role and needed a way to connect with the "real me" again. Writing about the process, sharing tips of what worked for us and encouraging others along the way was magic for my soul.

Now that it's been a couple of years, we think this lovely little blog is in need of an update. If you've been visiting us for any time at all, you'll notice some of the changes that have already taken place. We've switched the name from "The Homesteading Apartment" to "The Homesteading Cottage" for obvious reasons (: and added a "Contact Us" link on the right sidebar to make it easier for you to drop a line and say hi!

One of the most exciting announcements is that Faye Yates, more affectionately known around here as Mom, has decided to join our team! She'll be posting articles on Natural Health and her journey from near death to an amazing recovery, Growing Older with Grace, Homeschooling, Child Learning & Growth and tips on How to Create Special Memory Moments. She's a veteran out-of-the-box teacher of over 25+ years and has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education with an area of concentration in Special Education. We're so glad she's here (:

We've also added some section tabs across the top of the blog for easy navigating. One of these is a Resources page chock-full of items from other sites. We're very particular about what we pass along to others and only include items we either use ourselves or things that we have on our wish list.

Due to demand we've also decided to offer a Services page that will include info regarding design services for the home, simple weddings and more. This page should be up and running in the next few weeks so check back.

Our Shop tab is a link directly to our Natural esSCENTials™ website and will be filled with our handmade goodies related to simplicity, organization and entertaining. Our products encourage tradition and legacy building, are the essentials to get you organized, the supplies to celebrate any event, the recipes to clean up your spaces, the decor to float your boat and the fun things to keep you focused.

Whether it's for a wedding, baby shower, party, work or home, we have the tools to help take the stress out of the everyday. Anything that makes life simple, organized and stress free is a blessing to share with others! All of our items are handmade by us and can be easily customized. Just send a note of what you'd like and we'll be happy to create something that's distinctive for you (:

We're still a construction zone around here, but the dust should die down soon (: I'll be sharing more of what's going on with The Homesteading Cottage and hope you join us for the ride (:

With Gratitude,

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Generosity of Hospitality

In my last post I shared how our unexpected move took a drastic turn. What was to be a weekend stay in a hotel turned out to be a 4 month long sojourn. We had just lost most of our possessions and the metal art side of the business was now on hold. Instead of looking at this event as a set back, we decided to embrace the possibilities.

My ideal of living smaller was now being put to the test. We went from a 1200 square foot apartment filled with “stuff” to a one room space with only a few items. I love it when God gives us a challenge (; Over the years we had already pared down quite extensively, but this was a huge leap all at once to that smaller footprint goal. Don't get me wrong...I'm not on a crusade for pure minimalism, but I do think “stuff” can sometimes take a front seat in our lives if we're not careful. When the newest gadgets and the latest styles become the focus of our days instead of relationships and living life, then that's a problem.

Hotel living was not quite what I expected. We met so many people who were going through a similar experience. One family had been there for over 2 months after being burned out of their home. A young man we met had recently been transferred, but was so busy at work that his family hadn't had a chance to get settled. They decided to call the hotel home until things died down a bit. Another family just moved from Montana, but had a lot of set backs on their home build and ended up staying 4 months. Suddenly I didn't feel so odd.

We all had a chance to get to know one another since we tended to meet at the breakfast buffet around the same time. It was a wonderful moment of sharing our faith and encouraging those who were feeling out of pocket by hotel living. We were also able to inspire others who were only there for a short time. No matter what you may be going through, reaching out to lift up others is always a heart booster (: You never know how a kind word to a lonely traveler can alter what could have been a lousy day.

As time went on, living with less was quite freeing and allowed the day to be seen in a different light. It was chance to start over and dare to dream in a new way. It wasn’t easy though. There were discouraging days, but I knew my Heavenly Father was taking care of things behind the scenes and my job was just to put one foot in front of the other.

The holidays were well underway and our efforts of focusing on other branches of our business were being rewarded. Soon sales were up and our little hotel room was transformed into a tiny studio of busy elves (: I was so looking forward to decorating a home for the holiday season, but hunting for our new digs had taken a back seat to the growing business. A few possibilities were found, but they weren’t exactly what we needed and so the search continued. We couldn’t see moving into a space that didn’t quite work, only to be there for a short time and have to move yet again.

Christmas was only a few days away and we received an urgent email from a friend. She had no idea we were still in the hotel and couldn’t imagine us being there any moment longer. She offered us the use of her city cottage and insisted we come at once. Everything was furnished so all we had to do was bring our seasonal spirits (: Such wonderful generosity!!

Being here has given me a greater appreciation for hospitality. When we arrived nothing was spared. The windows were filled with glowing lights of welcome and the rooms were designed in such a way to make those who stayed within their lovely walls feel special and prepared for. So for a time we were back in the city, but because of a dear friend I received my Christmas wish and we were home for the holidays (:

With Gratitude,

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Monday, June 11, 2012

The Lesson in Losing Almost Everything

As you know, back in July we were faced with an unexpected move. What should have been a simple transition, ended up becoming a life shifting experience.  Not only was our move in motion, but at the same time two family reunions were scheduled smack dab in the middle of those last few days. Perfect timing, eh? (:  Moving has never been on my list of favorite things to do and even though I still have a lot to learn about the art of moving prep, I have gotten better over the last few years.

We had already started the purging and organizing process several weeks prior so there would be a lot less to haul around. We decided to put a few larger pieces into storage ahead of time so the smaller pieces could be placed in and around for better space usage. Since I work from home, the studio and smaller items would be moved on the last day to get everything in one shot. All seemed to be in order...or so we thought.

We found the perfect home in just the right spot for our business and at a great price for the location. This little gem of a house had been sitting on the market for several years and the owners thought renting would be better than a cottage sitting empty. They were even open to us enhancing the design of the home and planting gardens. Yes! The dream of our homesteading cottage in this lovely little town was soon to be a reality...but on the day we were to sign the lease the owner had some bad news - He had just received an offer and decided to sell the home. It was an offer they couldn't pass up and so we were on the search again for our new home...2 days before we needed to be out of our apartment! But that wasn't the last of the bad news.

Our apartment complex had a service that would pick up donated items and take them to a local charity. Not only was it convenient, but it was a blessing to have another chance at giving again. Double win! We let them know the charity truck could come by Tuesday and scheduled our move-out date for Monday. We also decided to lessen the stress and stay in a hotel for the weekend so we could have beds in which to lay our weary heads during the family reunion filled weekend (:

Well, sometimes things don't quite happen the way we plan...To make a long story short, come Monday the apartment had been emptied. Somehow the new weekend guy thought the items we left in the apartment were meant to be donated and scheduled a donation pick-up for Saturday. Needless to say Monday was a shocker.

Everything was gone. All of our clothes, shoes, bags, cherished mementoes, decor, curtains, bedding, towels, photos, furniture, jewelry, flat screen TVs, electronics, pots, pans, ALL of my studio items including computer, files, kiln, jewelry tools, drills, torches, silver, gold, was all gone and instantly I was out of business.

We all made attempts to contact the charity to see if some of the items could be reclaimed, but everything had been dispersed over the weekend and shipped out to separate branches. It would be virtually impossible to locate where anything ended up. Apologies were given, but the damage was done. We were left with only the clothes on our backs and a few odds and ends that we had taken to the hotel for the weekend. We were homeless, dazed and exhausted and had no idea our weekend stay in a hotel would end up lasting four months.

I think I was in utter shock for the first few hours and then panic set in the world are we going to replace all of that stuff!!! I can't begin to start over in business yet again! What are we going to do?!! But that panic only lasted for a moment. We had just lost most of our possessions, but this still small voice was saying, "Do you trust me? There's an amazing lesson in this if you choose to see it."

Great...yet another lesson (; We're usually tired, irritated and annoyed when these life shifting moments pop up, aren't we? They appear at the most inconvenient of times, take tons of gumption to move past and are usually moving in the exact opposite direction of where we want to go...hence the learning moment (: I decided to believe this experience happened for a reason and some great epiphany would be gained through it all.

Around this same time several communities had just been devastated by tornadoes. Our situation was quickly put into perspective. Our things were gone, but they were going to support charity. We may have lost most of what we owned, but not everything. We were blessed and I knew it. It's just stuff. We're alive, we have a roof and a bed for the moment and we're safe. Take the next step and move forward...stuff is just stuff and is not the core of why we are here on this earth.

When the stuff we hold to disappears, it makes way for new room to grow. It not only expands our minds, but our vision as well and so we made the choice to trust. For the next many weeks we were on a soul changing learning curve and one we would cherish for months to come.

With Gratitude,

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