Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Venturing in New Territory

When life give you lemons, make lemonade.

I don't know that that analogy is totally accurate for my situation. I'm not sure that I was exactly handed lemons, and it remains to be seen if this is lemonade we're making, or just something that makes your face pucker up and your eyes water, with the hope that a bit more sugar could turn it into something great.

I don't normally share much about my personal life here. In fact, lately, I haven't been sharing it much of anywhere. I dabble on Instagram, lurk but don't post on Facebook, and have seemingly abandoned this blog. I'm not sure why that is, when the majority of the blogs I love the most are ones that not only share their designs, but their lives. In the past I've lost readers when a post is personal so I'm sure that has something to do with it. But in reality, this is my space, and if what I post isn't to the liking of a reader, it's certainly their prerogative to no longer hang out in this space. Why then, should that stop me from sharing my heart? The only answer I can come up with is, it shouldn't! 
So here goes. 

Over the past several months I've been doing what most of you who know me would expect me to do. Crafting, designing, working to make my home the place I want myself and my family to enjoy. I've created signs, which sold surprisingly well, painted walls, created galleries and enjoyed my family. I've also been silently (silent to most, but to those few I've opened up to, thank you!) heartbroken.

It seems very trivial to talk about heartbreak when it comes to a job. But the job in question is one that takes heart and soul to perform, and one that has brought me amazing friendships I will forever cherish. Many of you know that I am a nurse by trade. I have been a nurse since the end of 2003, and worked for the same hospital corporation since 2002. I am a Labor and Delivery nurse. When I say that, I will occasionally hear the dreaded "oh, you get to rock the babies". Do not say this to an L&D nurse. If you would really like to know what a day in the life for us is like, I invite you to check out this post by another one of the nurses in the trenches just like me. I don't know her, but we speak the same language. Yet I digress. The point is, nursing is hard work. It takes everything you have to give some days, and then demands you give even more. And we give it. We give it because our patients are worth it, we value the care we give you, and because the nurse, tech, doc, housekeeper, and unit clerk in the trenches with us all deserve our best, as they are digging deep to do the same.

Several months ago, due to changes in the industry and healthcare as a whole, the hospital I worked for for so many years decided to make a change. I won't go into all the gory details, but suffice it to say, the change was monetary, and not in a good way. I, and nearly every other employee of the hospital, found ourselves facing a pay cut. The work load wasn't decreasing, on the contrary, with changes to the national healthcare system, anyone working in the field will tell you we are working harder than ever to be compliant with a host of new regulations. Nevertheless, a pay cut. Many took it with grumbles, many spoke out in anger, some chose to make a change, and some did all of the above. 

Through long talks with my husband, I found myself in the change category (and possibly a bit of the grumbling and angry one as well). The pay cut didn't bring us to ruin. We can still feed our family, but it started us thinking. Thinking about what could be done to allow me to do the work I've done for so long, but also allow me to, in the words of my husband "get paid what I'm actually worth". The answer for us was travel nursing. If you've never heard of that before, it's exactly what it sounds like. Traveling to different hospitals away from my home and working as a contract nurse for, typically, 13 weeks at a time. For me, it means finding a hospital that is within several hours driving distance, working 3 days in a row, then driving back home on my days off. The pay is substantial, the time away, grueling! 

I, and many others in my department, chose to make this change. Most of the others who left, did so many months ago, I decided to wait till my kids were back in school for the fall. October 1st was my last day at my old job, and I started my first travel assignment on October 6th, 3 hours from home. It's been a very long, trying month. The reaction to so many people leaving my old department in such a short time was varied. Understanding, anger, sadness, abandonment, exhaustion. I've been feeling all of these things, either personally, or in feeling that I caused them in others. It's very hard to leave people who you feel are a second family, but what I had to do, was focus on what is truly important. My first family.

I said above, that my husband wanted me to get paid what I was worth. I agree with him, but that is by no means why I chose to finally take this leap. It's a bonus, no doubt, but I see this as a means to an eventual end. I do love nursing, and I think I'm pretty darn good at it. But I've found in the last few years, that it's no longer what I have a passion for. I have a passion to create. 

Unfortunately, I also have bills to pay, a family that hasn't taken a proper vacation in quite a long time, and a life that has been lived paycheck to paycheck for as long as I can remember. Thus my means to an end. We pray, hope and plan that this sacrifice of time and distance will eventually lead to a new way of life for our family. One where money takes a back seat to a family adventure planned and executed at a moments notice. Where I can devote the extra time needed to my love of creating and the passion I have to do that full time. 

Yes, I am fully aware that spending time with family and taking adventures with them can be done even with minimal funds. We do have fun as life is now, but I want more for them, and for me. I'm praying that this change, even though it's been wrenchingly hard to drive away from my family once a week, will bring us to the long term goals that we have been dreaming for. 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained? Well we've chosen, as a family, to venture. 

I crave your prayers in all of this, mostly for my children. They are all basically teenagers, so one would think leaving for a few days of the week wouldn't be that difficult. Oh, but it is. I have been blessed with a family that I love and that dearly loves me. They hate when I have to leave, and have literally held on to me as I try to inch my way out the door. It makes me beam with joy while choking back tears of sadness all in the same moment. Prayers. 

I also crave your understanding when I go months without blogging. Please know that I think about you lovely people all the time. You who've chosen to spend just a little portion of your time to peek in on my home. I'm honored that you enjoy the bits I've shown to you, and I'll try to pop in occasionally to keep you posted as life continues to unfold. 

I'll leave you with a pic of a sign I made just a month before I started traveling. It's hanging above our back entry, the one my family uses every day when we come and go. I think it sums up my thoughts rather well.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How to Change a Printable to Match Your Decor

Hey guys!

I hope you all had fun perusing through all the decor and Printables on our Fall Vignette Tour this week. I've been busy doing my "3 in a row". Meaning this is my week to work 3 twelve hour shifts in a row at the hospital in 3 days. When I do this, I get nothing else done but work and sleep. I've basically been a work zombie since Monday evening. I haven't even had a chance to make it to most of the other blogs in the tour to check out there posts. I'm looking forward to a few days off and some alone time with my iPad!!

I promised you in my last post that I would share how to change the color of your printables to match your decor. I'm pretty sure this will work best on prints that have two main colors, but I'll show you how to it's done and then the sky's the limit. Play and see what you come up with.

Start by heading to PicMonkey.com. Go to the Edit button and upload the print you're working with. 

Once your print's loaded, click on the Magic Wand icon on the left. If you hover your mouse over it, it says "Effects". I've pointed to it with the blue arrow.

I don't have the paid subscription to PicMonkey. (as you can probably tell by the McDonald's add at the bottom of the pic) This entire effect can be done with the FREE version of PicMonkey.

The Effects tab will bring up a ton of options to choose from.

Scroll down to Warhol effect and select.

The effect will automatically change your print to it's default colors of brown and blue.
But now is the time to have some fun. 

Click on the color boxes under First and Second, and play till you find the color that suits you.

I've never had a need to mess with the Brightness, Contrast or Fade, on this effect. But again, play if you want. 

You can see below all the color options immediately available. If you know the color number of a specific color, that can be entered as well.

And that's it guys!

Change it up till you find a combination you like and click apply.

Save your print and enjoy!!


I also thought you might like to see how I highlighted the word "Luster" in the printable below.

Open your print in Warhol like I showed you above. As I said, it'll be automatically changed to blue and brown. Change the background back to white, and the lettering to whatever color you've chosen for the accent word. For this print, I changed the lettering to tan.

Click on the Paint Brush button which will bring up the Paint box. You'll want to move all the Brush settings to 100 and select the Original box. Depending on the size of your print, you can adjust the Brush Size smaller than 100, but that worked well for this print.

Run your mouse over all the lettering except the area or word you'd like to accent. By having it set to Original, you are removing the color, or effect, you just added and uncovering the original print.

When the print is accented to your liking, it's done.
Another option is to reverse the effect by clicking the "Reverse effect" box at the bottom of the Paint box.

If any of you use this to change the printables I've offered, make sure to send me a pic. I'd love to see how you use them in your decor and what colors your imaginations come up with.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Simple Autumn Vignette & Free Printable

First, I have to say that holiday decorating isn't naturally my thing. Don't get me wrong, I always decorate for Christmas, but that's about it. It's not that I don't have a desire to decorate for the other holidays, but I work full-time. I might also be one of the world's slowest decorators. These things tend to put a damper on changing my decor every other month.

That being said, when Kristen of the fabulous Ella Claire blog asked me to be a part of her Fall Vignette Tour, I decided it was time I branched out of my comfort zone. I mean, one just simply does not say NO to Kristen!!

So I've done a little decorating for Fall.

Since I obviously don't have a lot of Fall decor, I wanted to make decorating as simple, and cheap, as possible. By using items I already owned, moving some things around and adding a few simple touches, I was able to create a slightly non-traditional Fall vignette.

This is a pic I posted to Instagram a while back. It shows how this area started out, dust and all!

And here it is decorated for Fall.

My only purchase was a few feathers from Hobby Lobby. Everything else I already had. Including the glitter which ended up getting poured on everything I could make sit still.  

I created the Harmony in Autumn printable, and knew it needed to be the same size as my "This Is The Good Stuff" sign you see in the Instagram pic above. Anything smaller would be dwarfed by my existing mirror. In fact, I really wanted to use the same frame.

The answer was simple. I had it printed off the same size as my sign, (the sign dimensions are too big for my home printer) laid the printed paper directly on top of the sign, cut off the excess so it would fit inside the wooden frame, and used double sided tape to secure it in place. When Autumn is over, I'll just peel off the tape to reveal my original sign. 

My daughter came home and asked if I'd made a new sign. You really can't tell it's just paper taped in place!

Mr. Concrete is thrilled to have his antlers displayed.
I told him as long as I could add some gold leafing, I'd hang up pretty much anything.

If you'd like to download the print I used in this vignette, I've got a few options available to you. 

Click here to download Autumn Sky ("Luster" accent)

Just click on the Down Arrow located at the top right of the screen that opens.

Click here to download Autumn Sky (black)

Click Here to download Autumn Sky (white)

Click here to download Autumnn Sky (watercolor)

For some reason, the watercolor print looks like it has a cream background. It's actually pure white, FYI.

I'll be back later in the week to share a way you guys can change the color of these, or pretty much any, printable to match your decor. It's easy and totally free, so make sure to come back for that. 
(That post is now live, check out how to Change the Color of a Printable here!)

I hope todays post has been a help to those of you who might be a bit like me and don't have this holiday decorating thing down to a science. Adding just a few simple items to what you already have can completely change the look of your home whether you're decorating for Fall, or any time of the year!


And so you don't miss out on any of the fun, make sure you check out the 20 amazing bloggers below. I've been lucky to team up with them today to share with you a little snippet of Autumn.

Each blog on the tour has created a vignette for Halloween or the Fall Season.

We've each designed a Free Printable that we're showcasing in our vignette. You can choose your favorite from 21 different ideas, or download 'em all.

Links to each are provided below, ENJOY!

Fall Vignette and Printable by Finding Silver Pennies
Autumn Definition Printable by The Lilypad Cottage
Set of 4 Wine Printables by Eclectically Vintage
Gather Painted Printable by Restoration House
DIY Printable Fall Leaf Wreath Printable by Town and Country Living
Early Fall Vignette Chronicles of Home
Trick or Treat Banner by Ella Claire
Grateful Heart by Making Home Base
Beautiful Glorious Fall Printable by Nest of Posies
Simple Fall Vignette by My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Fall Printable and Vignette by At The Picket Fence
Vintage Flashcard Halloween Printable by My Sweet Savannah
Hand Painted Give Thanks Wreath by Craftberry Bush
 Pumpkins Pinecones Leaves by Migonis Home
Autumn Vignette and Fall Printable by AKA Design
Gather in the Kitchen Printable by Its Overflowing

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fun Stuff Tomorrow! 21 Autumn & Halloween Vignettes

Wanted to give you guys a heads up.

Tomorrow I'll be joining 20 other uber talented blogers as we share Autumn and Halloween vignettes. 
There will also be FREE STUFF for you, so get ready for some fun!!

See ya tomorrow… I can't wait!

That post is now LIVE and you can see it HERE!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Adding Beauty to Your Home, for FREE!!

Hi guys!

Popping in today for a quick reminder about thinking outside the box.

Many times I feel myself getting discouraged when I'm trying to decorate my home. It seems like all the projects I wanna do, or the things I wanna buy are just too expensive. 

That's when I have to stop and remind myself to look around. There are so many things out there that can help me on this journey to the cozy home I want to surround my family with. Things that don't cost a ton of money, and in some cases may even be free!

Todays example of thinking outside the box?

The flowers in these pics, they're actually weeds. 

They've been growing in huge bunches out behind our house and I kept noticing how they really were actually kinda pretty. I finally walked back there last night, tore a few off (they bled this lovely milky stuff), brought them in the house and threw them in a vase.

Totally free!

Disclaimer: The owners of The Concrete Cottage hold no liability if the weeds flowers you bring in your house happen to bring with them special little friends. We recommend shaking them off just a bit and a thorough inspection prior to heading to the house.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

West Elm comes to Kansas City

… and I got to experience it first hand!!

As I told you yesterday, I was invited to a Media Tour at West Elm's Kansas City store the day before its official opening. My daughter Morgan and I piled in the car and drove the 2.5 hours to KC yesterday morning. Tuesday was her very first day of college classes, but she had Wednesday off. What better way to recoup from one whole day of school then a road trip with mom!


There were so many amazing things to see!
I've been flipping through West Elm catalogues for years now, but yesterday was the first time I've had the opportunity to step into a store.

If you've also not had the chance, let me take you through one in pictures. 

These table linens all match my decor beautifully. I wanted to take EVERYTHING home!!

The bedding… LOVE!

This Gauze Stitched blanket was my favorite.

West Elm has a Local section in their stores that has got to be one of the neatest things they provide. This area consists of all local designers and artisans whose work is being sold right here in the midst of everything you'd expect to find at West Elm. And let me say, the local items offered are fabulous!!

You can find those yummy arrows here at Axel Co.'s Etsy shop if you're not local. 
The prints on the lower right at TadCarpenter.com.

They're hard to see, but the Kansas City print in the middle is from RuffHouseArt.com.
The trays you see standing up on the right are leather and are crafted by 2ndStoryLeather.com
On the far right are luxurious throws that feel absolutely amazing by HappyHabitat.net.

Morgan was pretty taken with the local items too! This one from AmpersandDesignStudio.com.

I know there are a few local artists that I've missed, but it was pretty much the busiest area in the store, so a little difficult to get all the details.

Not only do they sell local, but the Community Board helps locals and tourists know about some of the great things to see and eat in KC. 
One of these days I will finally make it back up there for First Fridays! I've been dying to go to the antique stores in the West Bottoms Historic District for ages now.

Then there were the accessories.

The window displays.

Even a back to school section for college that's extremely affordable.
Think duvets starting at $49 for a queen!!

Oh, and lest I forget, the Halloween decor was out.

If you're stumped for what color to paint your room, drapes to hang, end table and lamp to throw together? They offer free design services. Yep, they'll either go over photos of your space with you, or even come to your house to help. 

All for free!!

This little area was my favorite.

"You've gotta come feel this pillow Mom!!"

Huge fan of that massive dip dyed fabric chandelier! 
I think everyone needs one.

You can see a few more of my photos plus pics from some of the other lovely bloggers I met during the tour via Instagram.  #westelmkc 

Morgan and I had a wonderful time, and were even invited to stay for the grand opening party last night. We had to decline so we could get home at a reasonable hour, but from the pics I saw on IG, they had a blast! 

I should also add, that I was given a small tote bag as a gift for being there, but otherwise have not been compensated by West Elm for this post. All the opinions and rave reviews are strictly the result of me loving home decor and loving West Elm.