Sunday, October 26, 2014

DIY Window Curtains from Shower Curtains

One DIY project from our master bedroom makeover, was to make new curtains for our oversize window. I guess you could say I'm pretty picky when it comes to curtains. I usually have a hard time selecting ones that I like or I don't want to pay regular price for them. Window treatments can be quite expensive. Plus, this window is an unusual width and height, since the ceiling is lower on that side of the room. 

Here's a look at the window BEFORE. We made a wooden cornice and covered it with batting and fabric, but I was ready for a lighter more airy look. 

I wanted something with a pattern that was modern, yet not too trendy. I usually look for anything large enough that might work for curtains, such as table cloths, duvet covers, by-the-yard fabric, or in this case, shower curtains. I found this ink blue Ikat shower curtain at Target. I got two when they were on sale for $18.99 each. 

There were two modifications I needed to do. 1. Add a lining of blackout fabric and 2. Figure out how to hang them. Either with rings/clips that I already had or add new rings. 

I discovered 1 inch round plastic snap together grommets at Joann Fabrics. They come in a variety of colors, and I used bronze, which matched my curtain rod perfectly. They came in packs of 8 for $10.99. I needed two, so I used two 50% off coupons. ALWAYS use a coupon there. 

I measured and cut the blackout fabric and pinned it to the back of each curtain. I didn't have enough blackout fabric to go the full length, but the bottom 10 inches or so didn't matter because the windows aren't that tall. I sewed both fabrics together, at the top and down both sides, leaving the bottom open. 

I used the circular measuring tool that came with the pack of grommets to space out each ring on the back of the curtains. Then I simply cut a circle of fabric out for each one and snapped a ring in place around it. Easy cheesy. I will note, the plastic rings aren't super heavy, so be careful when snapping them together, so you don't chip an edge. 

They fit perfectly on the curtain rod and created the effect I was looking for. They are easy to open and close and do a good job of blocking out the light. You can turn any fabric into a curtain with rings this way. 

Don't be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to window treatments, before dropping hundreds of dollars on ready-made ones. 

For more ideas, check out the shower curtain I made from a table cloth.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our Story, Part 2

Two years passed before we became pregnant again, with the precious baby boy I am carrying now. There he is, at 18 weeks. All I can say is God is good! To Him be the glory. 

I'd like to acknowledge all the women who desire nothing more than to be a mom. Those of you who have tried to conceive for years. Those of you who know loss, and multiple losses. Those of you wondering if you'll ever reach the other side and see that sacred dream fulfilled. If I could, I'd wrap my arms around you. God knows the desires of your heart. He hears each prayer and sees each tear. Even when you have nothing left and you're at your breaking point, He is there. I know, because I've been there. 

I've been the only one in a room full of women unable to share stories of child raising and potty training. I've been on the receiving end of those all-to-thoughtless and tactless questions such as "When are you going to have kids already?" I've had to force a smile, even though I was truly happy for someone announcing their pregnancy, when deep down inside I couldn't shake the question of when would it be my turn. I've even wondered what was wrong with me and what I did or didn't do to deserve this time of intense waiting. I felt the clock ticking and it felt like forever was passing me by. I looked enviously at adorable pregnant bellies. I was unpleasantly surprised at how much bitterness grew in my heart. It was doubly hard having experienced the beginnings of pregnancy and feeling such joy, only to have it abruptly slip through my grasp without warning or reason. At least, for a reason I may never know. 

It's very hard for husbands as well. They're grieving and processing great loss, while also trying to be supportive and wishing there was a way to "fix" it. 

I wish I had a fix-all formula or five step process to help anyone going through a similar time, but I don't. Everyone is different and everyone's story is unique. I've always been a private person. Something this personal and raw was very hard for me to talk about, with anyone, for a long time. I wouldn't have been able to make it through my saddest days without the love of Jesus, the love of my husband and prayer. I knew God was holding me in the palm of His hand. Even despite my feelings, God's love for me never wavered. His promises in the Bible are still true. He was, and is, still good, all the time, no matter what.

Patience is an on-going lesson for me. An even bigger lesson I've had to come to grips with, is weather God does, or doesn't, He is good. I had to switch my way of thinking from "what if" to "even if." Even if God doesn't answer my prayers the way I want Him to, He is still God and He is good. Even if I'm unable to have children, God is good. Even if I loose my job, a loved one, my health, or any number of things, God is good. He is always in control. He has a plan, and His plans are for my good. Not my plan, my way or even my timing. His. 

I'm also thankful for the special women in my life who have come alongside me, supported me, prayed with me and for me, and lifted me up when I needed it most. I love you and thank God for you. Thank you for sharing your stories, for your encouragement, and for being living extensions of God's love.

I've learned that far more women have experienced loss, miscarriage(s) and infertility (I hate using that word) than I ever realized. Oftentimes, suffering in silence or isolation. I have dear sweet friends who are going through it now. I just want you to know, if this is you, you're not alone. I was encouraged by women I never met who blogged about their stores and personal struggles. You never know where someone is in their journey. And you never know how your story might impact them and be what they need to hear.

This is why it's been on my heart to share our story. I don't want to hide the fact that God has brought us this far and that it's only by His love and grace that we are here today, excitedly expecting a baby from the LORD. Our marriage has been strengthened. Our desire to be parents and raise children who love God has been strengthened. We can't wait for this baby! We look forward to all the wonderful moments as well as the challenges of parenthood. 

Our God is able to do above and beyond what we think or ask. I'm trusting Him daily to carry me through the next 16 weeks and meet our baby boy face to face. To the glory of God.  

Don't loose hope dear friend. 

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our Story, Part 1

Currently, I'm 24 weeks wonderfully pregnant with our son. Just the thought of that fills my heart with so much joy, anticipation and pure hope of what's to come! A God-breathed gift. A growing miracle in every sense of the word. I am so thankful to be at this point, over half way to our February 2nd due date. I keep thanking God for this precious little growing life and praying, trusting Him for a healthy baby. 

I've started writing this a few different times. I'd like to say that our journey of starting a family has been an easy one. That it went according to our "plan". That it was without heartache and frustration. But, it hasn't been quite that way. I wish I could say that this is our first pregnancy and that I only associate feelings of joy and happiness with being pregnant for the first time. 

Back when Andrew and I were dating, we both knew we wanted to have kids some day. Having a family is something we've always looked forward to. We got married in July 2005, just five months after getting engaged, which was after six months of "officially" dating, about a year after we met. Things happened a little fast, you could say. But when you know, you know. And we both knew that God brought us together. Our relationship was still new in many ways. We had lots of time ahead of us for getting to know each other and growing as a married couple. We were 23-year-old newlyweds, recent college graduates with our first grownup jobs, settling into our first apartment and life together as Mr. and Mrs. We cherish the years we've shared "just the two of us." We bought our first house, continued to work full-time, travelled, vacationed and made so many memories.

The truth is, we always have, and still do, enjoy each others company. After 9 years of marriage, in today's culture, that's a gift to hang on to. Don't get me wrong, we've had our ups and downs, like any couple (it's not always rainbows and butterflies), but we're in this for the long haul and we're committed to each other, our marriage, and the promise we made before God, our family and friends. I mention this because I often get semi-surprised reactions when I tell people how long we've been married and inevitably, the next question I'm asked is do we have kids. 

Our tentative "plan" was to have kids after 3 years of marriage, which then drifted to 5 years of marriage. By our 6th anniversary we felt "ready" to take that leap and start a family. I always thought I would be pregnant or have my first child by the time I was 30. Things were lining up to meet that timetable. Three days before my 30th birthday, I took a pregnancy test and saw those beautiful positive lines for the first time. Andrew and I were ecstatic and in joyful disbelief. We were going to have a baby! God had answered our prayers. 

My pregnancy was confirmed at the doctors office and we were thrilled. However, upon follow up ultrasounds, things didn't look as promising as they should. But, it was still early. All we could do was wait, hope and pray. A few more uncertain, agonizing weeks and ultrasounds later, they didn't see what should have been there. They couldn't detect a heartbeat. We were utterly devastated and heartbroken, to say the least. At around 6 weeks, our dreams of being parents were abruptly taken from us. It felt like as quickly as we learned the news that we were expecting, we weren't anymore. We hadn't even told our families. We looked so forward to being able to celebrate and share good news, that the thought of delivering and reliving the greatest sadness we had ever experienced, was just too overwhelming and painful at the time. 

I wanted to curl up and hide. Push it all away. Pretend this wasn't happening to us. We lost our first child, as tiny as he or she was, we won't know him or her until we meet in heaven. 

I can't explain how I made it though the days, weeks and months that followed, except through prayer and faith in the LORD. His grace is what got me through. I woke up every day knowing that despite the pain, God is in control and He has a plan, even when I can't see or understand it. Naturally, I was hurting deeply and experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Sadness, anger, frustration, discouragement, jealousy, bitterness, despair. Some days were exceptionally hard. 

That Easter (2012), we visited Andrew's parents in Pennsylvania before we had our final ultrasound. The Easter Sunday church service celebrated Christ's death, burial and resurrection, but the thing I remember most, are three different couples that stood in front of the congregation and shared their personal stories of how God formed their families. Some experienced years of infertility. Some chose to adopt. Some were blessed with children after years and years of waiting. Each story was unique and beautiful and seeped in Gods timing and divine plan. His plan. Not ours. Those words were spoken the Sunday that Andrew and I were visiting and going through an uncertain and emotional roller coaster. It was as if it was a message just for us. I left that morning encouraged not to loose hope, and at the same time praying that we wouldn't have to walk down such a difficult road. 

Less than two weeks later, our precious dream was gone. We were left picking up the pieces of our broken hearts, giving them to God, and starting again. Learning to hope again. Asking God to hear our prayers and heal our hearts. 

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12

"You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You: Because he trusts in You." Isaiah 26:3

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. A day I wasn't even aware of until I experienced my own loss. I know many women and couples who have gone through heartbreak. My heart goes out to each and every one. I know God is holding our precious ones close to Him. 

I realize that everyone's story is different. I'm sharing our story because it's part of our journey. I felt it was time to break my silence and share what God brought us through in order to more fully celebrate the amazing miracle He's making now. My faith has been tested and I'm learning to trust God more than ever before in my life. His ways are not our ways, but we can rest assured that His ways are for our good. 

I may not know you or what you're going through, but if there's some way that I might be able to encourage you or pray for you, please reach out to me. I would be honored to be there for you. You are not alone.

"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." Psalms 27:14

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Easy Homemade Crusty Bread

You guys, I can make homemade bread. I don't even have a bread maker. And it's pretty easy to do! You just have to think ahead the day before. It literally has 4 ingredients and you don't need some fancy machine, just an oven-safe pot with a lid.

I've always wanted to make bread but never tried because I thought it was super complicated and it involved yeast, which for some reason intimidate me. I have to thank my friend Alyssa, for introducing me to this wonder. She pulled a beautiful crusty artisan loaf out of her oven and I had to know her secret. The recipe can be found here. You can add all sorts of ingredients to it to jazz it up if you like.

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a sticky  dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours. Heat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450, place a cast iron pot with a lid (or you can use Corningware like I did) in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour the dough onto a well floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating. Remove hot pot from the oven (using potholders!) and drop in the dough. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and cool. 
Here's what the dough looked like after 15 hours. Please forgive my photography skills. I've been slacking lately.
This is the dough formed into a ball, waiting to go in the oven.
 Here it is, hot out of the oven all its crusty fresh-baked goodness!

Doesn't it look beautiful and delicious? I chopped up some rosemary and added it to the dough in the beginning. Impressive. 

And then we made panini's with it. So. Good. My favorite sandwich is caprese. Spread some basil pesto on each slice of bread, add a few slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella and chopped fresh basil. It's the best. Try it.

If I can make homemade bread, you can, too. You'll love it! This would be perfect with a batch of homemade soup.