Explore. Imagine. Love.

Purposeful parenting amid a world of sugar, screens and schedules.

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Our Peter Pan Room

Today I thought I’d share about my favorite room in our house.  From the moment we moved into our house a  few years ago, this was my least favorite room.  The paint job was poor but was one of the better paint jobs in the house so we left it.  There were baseboard heaters that had been taken out right before we moved in but the walls were never fixed there.  And worst of all- the carpet smelled terrible.  The smell was tolerable as long as the door stayed open but once we decided to change it from a play room to Little Bear’s room, I felt like we really needed to do something about it.


Of course, we didn’t have a ton of funds for this somewhat spontaneous project.  So we went to our local re-purposing center, Home ReSource, and found a nearly full can of light blue paint that we liked.  It was only a few dollars so this is a great way to save some money.  We ended up needing another can so we went to Walmart and had them do a color match, but still, by getting the first can so cheap we spent about half what we would have spent.


We tore out our carpet and found some carpet on super sale.  The carpet pad (the foamy stuff that goes under the carpet that you see rolled up here) was not very spendy.  We initially went in to look at remnants, but the on sale carpet was actually cheaper.  This was a lot of work, but we had the time for it and it saved us a lot of money.  We borrowed a carpet tool (I don’t know what it’s called but it helps make the carpet tight and pushes it down) from our local tool library.  We love our tool library.  There is an annual membership fee and then small tools and things that don’t use gas are free to borrow for a week and larger things like lawn mowers, cider press, etc. have a very small additional charge.


We got some 2×2’s to use for the teepee.  My husband measured and cut them the appropriate length and put a groove in one where it criss-crosses.  I took an old sheet and nailed it to the beams and cut the excess material off.  Then cut the slit in the middle for the opening and attached velcro for opening and closing.  There are some high shelves in there for diapers, clothes that he’s not big enough for, and some toys that they have to ask me to play with.  But the whole bottom of the closet is empty for playing in.


I came up with this sign idea and my awesome husband made it for me.  He made the shelf out of scraps from our garage, as well.  He’s so handy.  You can check him out here or on instagram @creations.integrations.


Peter Pan sticker for the wall.  We’re going to make a map of Neverland for this corner, too.  We painted the furniture white.  They both used to be an ugly brown.


The kids just love this room.  I do too.  I kind of want to steal this room for myself.  I love the nice new carpet.  It all smells so nice now.  And it’s so clean.  It’s not a big playroom mess anymore.


Thanks for visiting!


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DIY Console Table

I was looking for a console table for our living room.  A cheaply made new one was over $100.  I looked for months on craigslist and facebook online yard sales and I couldn’t find any that I liked…or they were crazy expensive.  There was a really nice one that someone tried to offer me for $300.  What?!  So we decided to make our own.  We already had the stain and polyurethane from the other table that we made so all we really needed was the wood and some screws.  This table cost us around $30!


Jason did some nice work putting it all together.  We did run into some problems though.  We bought the wood about a month ago and just stored it in our garage until we were ready to make it.  Nothing wrong with that except that we leaned it up against the wall instead of storing it flat.  So the wood warped!  We talked to a friend and he said we might be able to save it if we screwed it down flat and got it wet and let it dry that way.  So we got some pipe clamps and bar clamps from the tool library at our local nonprofit and clamped the wood down to our deck.  After a few days of wetting it and letting it dry, the wood was pretty flat again.  Not perfect but good enough for us!   (And now we know not to store our wood leaning up against a wall.)  🙂


I really love it.  Now I just need to figure out what to put on it!


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How I Made a S’Mores Ice Cream Cake

My big girl had a birthday recently and she chose an Under the Sea/Little Mermaid swimming party theme.  She changed her mind a million times but we finally landed on this…partly because I had the most fun coming up with ideas for it.  You can check out my post on the party HERE, but this post is about how I made the ice cream cake.



Our first home made ice cream cake was made by my husband as a mother’s day gift.  I love ice cream cakes but you don’t really get to have stuff like that…with cake anyway…when you have food issues like gluten intolerance.  It took some time for sure, but the concept is simple.  You bake your cake the way you would normally make a layered cake but maybe make your halves a little thinner than normal.  Then you use the same baking pan and cover it with saran wrap.  Let your ice cream soften a bit and press it into the pan to mold the same size as your cake.  Once the ice cream is hard you just layer cake, ice cream, cake and frost it.  Easy!



For Big Sis’s birthday I wanted to make a sand castle ice cream cake, using a sand castle bucket.  I figured it would be pretty difficult figuring out a way to layer cake in there so I decided to just make cupcakes and then make the “cake” purely ice cream.  Because the “sand” look is made with graham cracker crumbs, I thought I’d make it a s’mores cake.


This is not really a recipe since you don’t have to cook anything.  It is in no way healthy like the desserts I typically make (it was a birthday cake after all!)  But I am really proud of it because I made it up myself.  I feel like pinterest, although really awesome for inspiring creativity, also can take away any feeling of originality!  But this was the original sand castle cake post, and although it was a wonderful inspiration (she did a fantastic job!), what I ended up doing was nothing like it.  I am also going to talk about how I would make it a normal ice cream cake rather than a sand castle cake because it was sooo good, it should be made for all occasions, not just some beach/mermaid/swimming parties.  Here it is:

What you need

  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • 1 box of Graham crackers
  • 1 container of Cool whip
  • 1 container Marshmallow cream
  • 1/2 a packet of plain gelatin
  • 1/8 tsp Almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Marshmallows- large if doing a sand castle, mini if not
  • Optional- chocolate syrup or melted chocolate to drizzle over the top if not doing a sand castle cake
  • Saran wrap
  • Pam spray??

Choose how you want your cake to look and find a container that produces that look.  I used a sand castle bucket but I think I would use a bread pan otherwise…I think a rectangle would work well.

I used Pam spray on the inside of my bucket.  We had never done this using the small round cake pans but I thought it might be difficult to get out of a deep bucket (it was) and that the oil might help (not sure if it did.)

Cover your pan with saran wrap with plenty sticking out to help pull the ice cream out when the time comes.

Let your cool whip sit out a bit so it’s not too cold (especially if you had it in the freezer.)  Whip up your marshmallow cream with a bit of cool whip with a hand mixer and slowly add more cool whip.  Add your vanilla and almond extract and the 1/2 packet of gelatin and mix all together.  Cover and put in the fridge.

Let your ice cream soften a bit so that you can easily smoosh it into the shape of your pan/bucket.

Put your graham crackers in a gallon ziplock and crush with a rolling pin until it’s pretty fine and you’ve broken up all the big chunks.

Layer:  vanilla ice cream; layer of the cool whip/marshmallow cream frosting, graham cracker crumbs, mini chocolate chips; chocolate ice cream; layer of frosting, cracker crumbs, chocolate chips.  Repeat until your pan is full or you use all your ice cream or it’s as big as you want it.  Cover it with saran wrap and put it in the freezer to harden (I let it sit over night.)  Put your coolwhip/marshmallow mixture back in the fridge.   (*I actually didn’t layer it like this- I only did the frosting/crumb/choc chip layer in the middle of the cake rather than between each layer of ice cream.  But I loved it so much I thought it needed more.  Do what you think is best.)

Once it’s ready, close to the time you are going to serve it, do what you need to do to get the ice cream out of the container.  Pat the sides, hit the top, pull on the saran wrap…it was difficult with the deep bucket.

Put it on the plate or serving platter you intend to use.  For the sandcastle cake, I frosted the platter and put cracker crumbs down before putting the ice cream cake on.  Frost it with the coolwhip/marshmallow mixture and cover it with graham cracker crumbs.  Kind of tricky to get the sides.  I kind of threw it on.

For a sandcastle cake, take large marshmallows and dip them in the frosting and cover them with cracker crumbs and put them on the top of the castle.  If you aren’t doing a castle, I would suggest putting mini marshmallows and chocolate chips all over the top in a decorative kind of way and maybe drizzle some chocolate over the top.  Put it back in the freezer until ready to serve.

I was thinking if you wanted to do it with cake and not just ice cream, you could do a round cake like I described above and use layers of chocolate cake instead of chocolate ice cream.  


Well, there you have it.  I was pretty detailed with my instructions so it is kind of a lot to read, but it really wasn’t very difficult at all.  Especially since I didn’t incorporate layers of cake.  Just smooshing ice cream together is pretty simple  😉 

Let me know if you try it out!  Thanks for reading.

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Transformation: Yard in Progress

The more I live in our new house the more I love it.  I am not sure this fits exactly in the DIY category or that this post will be of any interest to anyone, but it’s my blog for my own enjoyment and this is what I felt like writing about 😉

I want a home that is not only inviting to others but is a pleasant place for my family to spend time in.  And I especially want my family to want to spend time in our yard.  I plan to talk a lot in this blog about how important I think time outside is.  One of the big things on my list when we were looking at buying a house was a place where my kids could easily spend time in nature every day.  Now, not only do we now have a beautiful, safe yard for my little ones, but we have a forest right behind us to explore when the kids get a bit older!  In this post I just wanted to share about how we’ve transformed our yard to be a place that we love to spend time in.


The front yard- BEFORE


The back yard- BEFORE

When we moved in I saw potential but nothing looked really great.  The trees were in desperate need of a pruning.  The grass was tall and matted (and got worse after the winter snow pressed it down.)  The garden area was in sad shape and had dead trees and ugly bushes.  There was wood and rocks everywhere for some reason.DSC08314We had some family come to visit and for my birthday their present was to help is in the yard.  We pulled out dead trees and ugly bushes, weeded the gardens, and re-did the plastic and woodchips covering some places.  It’s a big job and something I’m actually still working on.  Our trees blossomed BEAUTIFULLY.  Things were really starting to look good.  We had a friend who takes care of lawns for a living come and help us get a good start on mowing.  We raked and watered and did a little weed and feed (eventually I would like to have an organic yard but we decided to do it this way our first year.)  We bought a lawn mower and watered and mowed some more.


Our beautiful tree…and Jason is down there raking the yard.


Pruning makes a huge difference!


Before pruning and moving the rocks to new homes.


After pruning (and a lot of other work.) I think it looks amazing. Especially in comparison to the photo at the beginning of the post!

DSC08776     DSC08823    DSC08828

I love flowers.  Does anybody not love flowers?  I have been having some bad luck with the things that I’ve planted and that has been a big bummer.  But beautiful things I didn’t even plant myself are cropping up everywhere.  I always wanted big lilac bushes in my yard…and they were already here!  And the bleeding hearts were here too!


Sprinkler fun! Watering the lawn and playing in the water…win-win 🙂


The girls got a playhouse from their grandma and grandpa. Big Sis helped her daddy build it!


I just love things that 1. are not plastic and 2. encourage imaginative play outdoors. Cooking with grass, mud, sticks, and little flowers…doesn’t get much better than that!


I love our yard! We still have a lot to do but it looks so much better and is so pretty with all the blossoming trees and lilacs. And I love that my kids want to spend all day outside!


We used some wood we had in the yard to make a little table and chairs for the play area.


We spent all weekend playing in the yard, planting flowers, pruning, mowing with the new mower (I feel so grown up purchasing a brand new mower rather than getting an old junky one from craigslist like we have in the past!), building a fire pit, and burning our giant slash pile.  Then we had friends over for a campfire and s’mores!  It was fun spending so much time outside as a family and then being able to enjoy our hard work around the campfire with our closest friends.  It was a great weekend and I feel so blessed to have a yard to work on, play in, and share with others.

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DIY Dining Room: table, wainscoting, shelf

We bought a house last fall.  As we were looking, we mostly saw houses that were really nice with all sorts of updates, beautiful yards, nicely painted walls…but small.  They were lovely and appealing, but when we found this house, I said “it’s PERFECT!”  There were gray walls everywhere with a bright red stripe in the dining room.  The bedroom walls looked terrible.  The carpet was just ok.  The lawn needed a lot of love.  But there was room for our family to grow and all I saw was a home with a lot of potential.  It was in need of a paint job pretty much everywhere inside, which suited me just fine because then we had the opportunity to make it our own.  And make it our own we did!  I think most people must like really neutral colors, because that is mostly what we saw when we were house hunting.  But I want to live in a house with color!  A bright, happy house for those long winters when we spend way too much time indoors…that is what I want.  We are still in the process of fixing up our kitchen to match our dining room, but here is our mostly finished dining room.

Dining Room- Before

BEFORE- gray walls everywhere with a red stripe

DIY Wainscoting

We bought some wainscoting paneling at Lowe’s and it was just a matter of measuring, cutting, and hammering it all in. He did a really great job and was done really quickly. Of course, he had some great little helpers 😉

DIY wainscoting and shelf

DIY wainscoting complete and also a DIY shelf. Jason made the shelf too.

And here’s us in the process of making our new table.  This was a lot of fun, so much cheaper than even getting a nice table off of Craigslist and this way we got exactly what we wanted.  And only took a few days to make!  See also my post on why I like to DIY.


Cutting and sanding all the wood pieces for our new dining room table.


Painting the bottom parts white.


Staining the boards for the top of the table.


Putting it all together.



This table is the most impressive thing we’ve done so far.  We pretty much followed these instructions.  We made ours a little longer and Jason did something different with attaching the legs, but otherwise I think we did what she did.  We are a little hesitant about the wax finishing.  It looks great but because we have small children we wonder if it will get stained easily if when things get spilled on it.  So we bought some stuff to put on the top of it to protect it better.  We will see how that goes!

Next, I want to do something about the chairs, bring some more color in (especially orange!) and we are going to paint our kitchen cabinets white and add some color in there too.  Eventually I want to do something about our counters.  I’ve seen some fun inexpensive ideas on pinterest for that as well.  I will do a follow up post in the fall hopefully on what we’ve accomplished!

Happy DIY-ing 🙂


Why DIY?

Before we had kids we lived in a lot of places…one place in particular was a tiny little apartment in the basement of an old house.  The “kitchen” had the necessary equipment but not counter space and I think it had one, maybe two cupboards and a drawer that we couldn’t even fit our silverware in.  So my crafty husband made this awesome table for me.

DSC01270Not sure why I took this picture.  It’s the only one I could find just now.  It wasn’t normally that messy- I used the counter space to chop veggies and whatnot…not to store whatever is on there in the photo.  haha  But anyway, it was amazing.  We went to our local re-purposing store and found an old countertop, some old drawers and some wood.  And he just put it all together.  We were going for functional, not pretty…but it even looks pretty good.  We had plans to put a curtain or something down at the bottom so my appliances were not so obvious but we never did.   It was a really great table.  We don’t need it in our kitchen anymore so we have it in our laundry room.

Since then we’ve gone back a few times and made some little things here and there like finding old night stands and re-doing them to match our bedroom, but it wasn’t until recently when we bought our first home that we really had an opportunity to go crazy with DIY projects.

I admit, a lot of things would not be as fun if I wasn’t married to a guy who enjoys it and can figure out how to do the hard parts.  Painting, sanding, staining…anyone can do that.  But figuring out what all is needed to make a really sturdy table…that’s a little more complicated.  Luckily there are a lot of really great things out there to help you, for people who aren’t sure about those more complicated things.  You can learn how to do pretty much anything on youtube.  Pinterest is just full of how-to blogs.  And our town has a really cool nonprofit organization that has a tool library where you can check out tools to borrow, because DIY projects are not going to be any cheaper than store-bought items if you have to buy all of your own tools.  So if you are interested in trying out some DIY projects, see if your town has something like that.  Or get to know what tools all your friends have and get in the habit of loaning each other things!

Making things yourself is amazing for so many reasons.

  • My husband and I do a lot of stuff together- watch shows, read books, play games, etc.  But there is something special about accomplishing a task together…to build something for the life that we are creating together.  I think it’s really good for our marriage.
  • It makes me appreciate things so much more.  I feel pride in what I make and I work hard to take care of it…and it inspires me to take care of other things.  I am pretty sure our new kitchen table is not going to be as messy as our last one was.  And in order to keep it pretty, you can bet I’m going to keep the area around it more clean too!

Why I Love DIY Projects!  Explore. Imagine. Love. blog

  • Making things yourself allows you, in most cases, to end up with something you really want, of good quality for a lot cheaper than you could buy it for.  Our new kitchen table (which I will blog about later) is super sturdy, made of real wood, customized to our personal preferences, and cost us a whopping $80.  A brand new beautiful wooden table for $80 is nuts.  I know because I’d been looking for a while.  That’s as much as a used table on craigslist!   And we’ll make some of that money back by selling our old table hopefully.  It has some imperfections and I know it’s not as good as if it had been made by an expert.  But it’s perfect for us and we love it!

I’m excited to blog about some of the projects that we do.  And not because I want to tell you how to make something.  I don’t pretend to be an expert of any sort on any of these home improvement projects.  We are learning as we go.  But I enjoy doing them and I love how we’re able to have things that we’d never be able to afford otherwise.  The purpose of my blogging will be to share the fun, to inspire you to try your own DIY projects, and I suppose there’s always the possibility that you can learn from my successes and failures just as I’ve learned from other bloggers.

Happy DIY-ing 😉