DIY: Chalkboard-Style Garden Markers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

This year, I've attempted something big: planting every bit of my summer garden from seed. For the tomatoes and peppers, I gave the seeds a head start by planting them indoors - but for the rest, I've planted them straight into our newly built raised garden beds. As a very amateur gardener, this feels ambitious. 

So to celebrate (and because I can hardly remember what I planted where without clear markers), I made these quick and easy garden markers. The supplies are readily available at any craft store, and they end up costing less than a dollar each. Score. I love the white-on-black chalkboard style, but creating them with chalkboard paint and actual chalk (which I've seen done on Pinterest) seems so impractical. Wouldn't the chalk just wash right off in the rain? With this method, you create a chalkboard look without it being an actual chalkboard. Same effect, much more durable.

+ Wooden garden markers - purchased at A.C. Moore for $0.69 each, or available at other craft stores
+ Black outdoor acrylic paint + foam brush
+ White paint pen - Sharpie brand worked great
+ Polyurethane

1. Using a foam brush, paint the top portion of each marker (both sides) with black outdoor acrylic paint. I loved the brand I used because it only took one coat to cover the wood well. Let dry completely.
2. Use your paint pen to write each plant onto one side. (If I'd done this over again, I would've written the words on both sides so I could see it at any angle.) I freehanded these, but you could easily write them in pencil first, then trace over your pencil lines with the paint pen. Let this dry completely, which shouldn't take long.

3. Once dry, use the foam brush to coat each side with polyurethane, which should keep them looking great, rain or shine. Let these dry completely, too. It helps to prop them up in a jar so that both sides dry at once.

4. That's it! Plant them in your garden and enjoy.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Snapped by Shawn when he was testing the lighting for a photo shoot. I'm thankful he caught that sweet face.
I took a much needed brain-break from blogging this past week, as you might have noticed. I did do a little work here and there to keep up with the shop, but aside from that, we all took stay-cationing pretty seriously.

Here were the highlights:
+ Built and planted our raised garden beds (with much help from a friend).
+ Spent a 75-degree day, just Shawn and me, at Wrightsville Beach. We took a walk down the beach, ate at South Beach Grill, and then spent the rest of the afternoon on our bikes (with a break to eat some Italian ice). It felt like a second honeymoon, just the two of us on a sunny beach with no agenda.
+ Ate a delicious salmon dinner with a group of church friends in their backyard.
+ Discovered Call the Midwife - and got hooked.
+ Did a couple photo shoots.
+ Worked in the yard, deep cleaned the kitchen, hung pictures, caught up on laundry.
+ Rode our bikes to the local Farmery, then ate a delicious lunch at Kimbap.
+ Spent a day exploring beautiful Chapel Hill, eating at Chipotle, and letting Liam wander all over the UNC campus.
+ Packed quesadillas and strawberries for a picnic at the park down the street.

I have to admit, I was bummed when our vacation plans fell through at the last minute and we needed to stay home. But looking back at this week, staying here was exactly what each of us needed, for different reasons. I've never seen Liam happier than I've seen him this week. And that's saying a lot, coming from the boy who was practically smiling as he came out of the womb. He's just a naturally happy spirit, but the quantity and quality time with Mama and Dada filled his heart to the brim. I'd re-live this week in a heartbeat.

Tasting summer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tonight, just as the sun was setting, we meandered outside for one last moment before Liam headed to bed. Our backyard isn't the most scenic place (yet) but it's fenced and more than adequate for our curious boy. I'm pretty sure he doesn't even notice the patchy grass, the ugly wire fence, or the hours of work that could be done.

Instead, he sees opportunity. Bubbles to blow. Azaleas to admire. Neighbors' doggies to pet. Even a new raised garden (built today!) that's incredibly tempting to dig up. Having a blog helps me see those opportunities too. When I watched the bubbles blow and the diaper-clad boy marching around the yard, I thought, "I better grab my camera." I never regret it. Ever.

I hope we have a hundred more of these summer nights together. They are simply delicious. 

Monday thoughts.

Monday, April 21, 2014

On being authentic...
I've received this question via email quite a few times recently: How did you get so many followers? Frankly, I don't know. I have no idea how 99% of you arrived at this page or why you stuck around. (Most of you probably can't remember, either, unless we're friends in real life. But I love that you're here!)

So this is my take on something I really don't understand myself. But I'd like to think it might be this: authenticity.

I hope authenticity is what you find on these pages. It's certainly my intent. Part of being authentic is that I don't hide the messy parts of my home or my heart from you. But I think authenticity also means that I blog about what I genuinely love. It's easy to keep a blog going when you write about what inspires you, right?

See that quote at the top? I echo it a thousand times (and have to rehearse it to myself, too). I see a lot of blogs that feel forced because, for example, she does DIY projects (because they attract the masses) when what she'd really love to talk about is children's literature. That's a lame example, I know, but I'm sure you've seen it too if you read blogs. Just be yourself! It's so attractive. It's as hard and as simple as that.

On what I'm reading...
I just finished this book: A Million Little Ways. To be gut-level honest, I didn't love it. I really wanted to love it, considering the four wonderful people who have whole-heartedly recommended it to me. I slogged through it, for some reason, and it felt "fluffy" to me. I'm not a fan of fluff. Perhaps "uncovering the art I was made to live" isn't really my struggle, at least right now. Making a living with my art? That might be more pertinent. I think she's a wonderful writer and reminded me of Ann Voskamp in ways, but it was difficult for me to finish.

I'm right in the middle of this book: Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. I'm eating it up. Whereas nearly every other parenting book is written on the basis of Good parenting in = good kid out, this book is completely different. I mean, can't you name so many people who have great parents and have not turned out great kids? Life just doesn't work that way.  It didn't in the Bible either. So instead of pounding the law into them and expecting them to uphold it, we recognize that they have sinful hearts just like we do and we remind them of the gospel. That they can't possibly live up to the standards of the law, and neither can we. That Jesus kept the law perfectly and, if we believe, has given us His perfect righteousness. This is so freeing, both for parents and for kids. I have lots more to say, but will save it for another post once I legitimately finish the book.

On this week... 
Shawn is on vacation for the week! Since we're saving up for a big BIG trip in July, we're having a "stay cation" which, so far, has involved buying a new printer and taking a bike ride through the neighborhood. We sure do wish we could be on an exotic beach this week, but we're thankful to have this time together and want to make the most of it.

Happy, happy Monday to you!

And the winner is...

Friday, April 18, 2014


Sarah P!

Thanks, everyone, who entered the giveaway, and be sure to look for another next month. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in becoming a Sponsor of Elm Street Life in May, there are still slots available! Just email me (whitney @ for more info or visit the Sponsor tab

Thanks again for all your entries, and to all of my sweet Sponsors this month!

My first magazine!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Several months ago, a craft magazine in the UK contacted me to ask if they could feature my bow clutch sewing tutorial. I jumped at the chance. I've always dreamt of being published in some capacity and was thrilled for the opportunity (and especially in the UK since I've been addicted to The Great British Sewing Bee.)

Soon after I submitted the new and improved version of my tutorial, I learned that the magazine had been cancelled. Thankfully, another magazine picked it up pretty quickly and it feels like the perfect fit for their inaugural issue!

See that yellow bow clutch she's holding on the front cover? I made that. I'm not even going to act cool about it, like that happens every day. I am so excited!!!
So if you're in the UK (do I have UK readers out there?), you can find Love Sewing magazine on newsstands on April 20. As part of my contract, I've agreed to remove the tutorial from the blog for a few months - but I promise it will be back! In the meantime, please check out Love Sewing magazine for the new and improved version of the tutorial. I couldn't be prouder of how it turned out (they've made it so lovely!) and I can't wait to hold my very own copy.

Thank you for making this tutorial so wildly successful. Since I first posted it in February 2012, it has received over half a million unique visitors from around the world and thousands of you have made this simple clutch. As I was tediously photographing each step in my pajamas, I never ever thought it would be so popular. Thanks, too, for supporting this new and exciting endeavor (a magazine!), even if it means you won't have access to the tutorial for a few months. I so appreciate your support, and please keep checking the blog for new tutorials to come. They're definitely in the works.

My heart and my walls.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I used to waltz into friends' homes where children's artwork was plastered all over the walls and squint my eyes and think, "Really?" A family portrait by a 3-year-old that looked like a pack of monsters. A tawdry tie dye flower. A spelling test with a bright red A+ in the top right corner. It all felt so tacky to me. I understood hanging a drawing or two with a magnet on the refrigerator door, but on the walls? No thanks.
Well, times have changed and so has my smug heart. I'm becoming that mom. Or perhaps I've already become her.

Every little twig Liam brings me from the yard... every pebble he drops in my hand, I want to keep it all forever. I guess I just want to keep a part of him forever. Him at every stage. I understand now what those sweet moms were possibly grasping for: for time to stand still. They wanted to savor a little piece of their children at each age, and the closest they could get was to save something that their little hands and minds created.

Liam is undoubtedly my greatest masterpiece. And whatever comes from him - even very abstract, drippy watercolors - is just so beautiful to me. Perhaps that's why grandparents are so enthralled with their grandchildren. What causes their children joy brings them so much joy, and I can't help but think God must feel the same way when He sees us doing what we were created to do.
When I pulled out the watercolors today, I had low expectations. Liam's attention span at 17 months old is about 20 seconds long, so I was shocked when I looked up at the clock and we'd spent half an hour with the paints. Granted, some of that time was spent sucking the paint off the end of the brush. But still. I will always look at these paintings and remember the intense look on his face as he pushed the brush across the paper, and how it softened into the purest smile when he knew I was proud.

When we finished, my first thought stunned me a little: "I have to frame these. I have to."

Oh Liam, what have you done to your mama's heart and her walls? It's clear you've left your indelible mark on both.

April 2014 Sponsor Giveaway!

Monday, April 14, 2014

I'm excited to be able to host a sponsor giveaway on the blog today! Here's what you have the chance to win:

This wallet from The Ruffled Stitch:

Three cards of your choice from The Piecemeal Shoppe:
Two soaps, a lotion, and a lip balm from Jen's Simply Soap:
This devotional book by Sally Lloyd Jones (from me!) because I can't recommend it highly enough:
Here are several ways to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The giveaway ends at 11:59pm on Thursday and I'll announce winners on Friday morning! Good luck!

17 months.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On some days (especially when they involve a full-out tantrum at Dollar Tree when I wouldn't let him carry off a tube of glitter hair gel), I need to remember just how beautiful he is. How sweet. How his smile lights up a whole room and every corner of my heart. And because this blog serves as a family photo album of sorts, these posts get tucked in here and there.

These photos are nothing artsy, but they're just so perfectly typical of our boy at 17 months. If I had one word for him right now, it would be winsome. He is a joy giver, at least for his parents, who ask each other by the hour, "How can he be so wonderful?!"

Oh, and this delicious hair of his? Shawn says I'm fully to blame if teenage Liam can't believe we let it get so long when he was a toddler. But how could I put scissors anywhere near it?! Poor boy... people might be asking about our "little girl" soon enough.

Where it goes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

With a very Curious George in our house, there is rarely a moment that our house is clean. There is always another spill to wipe up, another book to put away, another load of laundry to do. Always.

This overwhelms me. And frankly, it annoys me. While I wouldn't consider myself a neat-freak, the constant state of messiness (and the fact that the floor I mopped just last night is already sticky again) gets to me.

In the past few days, there's a phrase that keeps coming back to me as I scan my messy house: "Just put it where it goes." For some reason, these six powerful words simplify so much. Everything has a place - or if it doesn't, it should be given away or thrown out - so just put it where it goes. Dirty spoons go in the dishwasher. Books go back on the shelf. Towels go on hooks to dry. Put it where it goes.

At the same time, I've been convicted to put this into practice on a deeper level.

My biggest fear these days is that, by the end of the day, I will run completely out of energy and not get everything done that I absolutely needed to. It may sound ridiculous to you, but to my type-A, people-pleasing, trying-to-hold-everything-together-and-look-good-doing-it mania, it's a real and vibrant fear that feels consuming at times. Because what if I don't send that purse on time? What if I forget to return her call? What if my family eats a crummy dinner because I just couldn't pull it together? What if I have three more paintings to finish tonight but I'm just so exhausted? At it's ugly core, it's a pride issue - the fear of letting someone down, or letting them see me as anything but Superwoman.

So I'm listening to the Spirit and learning to put it where it goes. Put the fear, the anxiety, the heavy burden of pride far from my heart, and cast them onto Jesus.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."

That's me! That's so me. I bet it's lots of you, too.

"Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)

What a promise. What a gift.
He beckons us to trade our heavy burdens for his rest. True rest. Soul rest.

So my admonishment to you today: Put it where it goes. Whatever burdens you carry, there's a place for them. Trade them for something you absolutely could not provide for yourself: rest for your souls.
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