Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pottery Barn Knock-Off Wreath

Happy Tuesday, all!

Today I wanted to show you just a couple of my version of the wreath I showed you in my post about outdoor fall decorations:

I love me some Pottery Barn, but I do not love me some Pottery Barn prices. The large wreath (pictured here) costs $89.50! That is definitely not in my budget, especially considering I have at least 5 perfectly pretty leafy wreaths hanging in my basement as I type.

However, in addition to the 20 or so wreaths I keep on hand, I also have quite a few garlands and other wreath-making supplies that I've purchased as I find them {with grand plans in mind about what I will make}. I had a bunch of leafy garlands leftover from our wedding...I would guess around 15 strands. I purchased them at Michael's on clearance for $1 each. Regular price I believe they're $4. I also snagged a grapevine wreath that I had on hand...I usually don't glue anything down to my wreaths if I can help it so I can change things out as trends change without too much hassle.

I wrapped and twisted and made a huge mess on my living room floor with leaves and berries that fell off the garlands, and I ended up with this:

{I finally get out my real camera to take pictures, and it's dreary and cloudy all day. I give :) }

And here's a close-up:

I absolutely love my bright, leafy Pottery Barn knock-off wreath {that fits my front door much better than either of the PB options would have}. Total cost for me was free because I reused items I'd purchased for other things {however, at the time, they cost me less than $20}. Even if you bought everything regular price, you'd still end up spending less than what PB wanted...but why spend full price when Michael's & Hobby Lobby so willingly give us 40% off coupons??

As you can see from the full picture of my {tiny} front porch, I have a lot of work to do to get everything looking appropriately autumn, but at least I have a pretty start.

I hope everyone has an awesome day!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Outdoor Fall Decor

Fall is definitely here! I broke out my arm warmers this morning {it was 45 degrees out when I left, woohoo!} and I even wore socks. I love, love, love fall!!

I haven't really had time yet, but I can't wait to get my house decorated for fall, including the outdoors. That's on my list of things to do this weekend {along with watching LOTS of football!} My "outdoor inspiration" board on Pinterest has a lot of really cute ideas, so I thought I'd share some inspiration with you. I think of this as my visual "to do" list.

I'm completely in love with a lot of things in this photo {and this has to be one of my most "repinned" pins on Pinterest} The wire "Welcome" is very similar to something I've been doing on gifts for awhile now on a much smaller scale {and they normally say things like, "Baby" or "Merry"}. I'd never thought of doing something like that on a large scale, but I might just try it. The wreath on the door {LOVE that door, by the way} is something I've been meaning to make with some leafy garlands I have left over from my wedding decor. I love the jars hanging from the coat rack, and that bench is amazing {but I can almost guarantee it's out of my price range}.

Here's another fun one. I love the idea of painting on pumpkins rather than carving them, even though I love to carve up a good jack-o-lantern. That vintage wheel barrow is adorable too!

The square wreath here is really unique {I love square wreaths for fall & winter} and I love the table of pumpkins. It looks pretty casual, which I like...though I don't know of anyone who has a random table of pumpkins at their front door just by chance.

There's a lot I love about this photo as well. I've been meaning to paint a welcome mat for our front door {the door the dogs don't use, so hopefully it wouldn't get destroyed immediately}. I also love how they stood a hay bale on end for more height with the decor. I probably won't be doing that, given my recent {18 months ago but still terrifying} experience with hay bales and snakes.

There's a lot of inspiration on Pinterest, so I'll just stop there, but I can't wait to get my hands on all the decorations I've got tucked away in my basement {if I can find them that is}.

This weekend is packed full of fall fun, and I can't wait. Lots of football, family, & friends, a trip to the apple orchard and a birthday party. It's exactly what I need after this very long week.

Have a great weekend all!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Unity Candle Song

It's been awhile since I planned my wedding, but one thing I remember when we were picking out ceremony music was how extremely hard it was to choose a song for our Unity Candle lighting. I knew it couldn't be long {because I didn't want to awkwardly stand there while it finished} but since it was part of the ceremony, I wanted it to be meaningful to us. Needless to say, it wasn't an easy task, and I went for an instrumental version of a song we liked...though I doubt many of our guests "got it".

Anyway, I love when I'm listening to Pandora at work and things randomly pop up that I LOVE. This is one of them...which I think would make an excellent candle lighting song {or sand ceremony or whatever it is you chose to do}. I'm sure there are others more on top of things than me that have already made this connection, but I wanted to share this beautiful song anyway...

I love it! 

Keeping It Real

I know I've talked before about how I like to use this blog as a journal, in addition to posting pretty pictures. I hope that when I finally sit down with my Project Life and need some help remembering the journaling {because I've been terrible about keeping up with things} that my blog will help.

I wanted to write today about some realities in my life, as of today:
  • I adore fall. My mood improves drastically from the first signs of fall until the day after Christmas. Then I fall into a ridiculous funk and can't wait for spring. I'm thrilled beyond words that fall seems to be arriving a little earlier this year.
  • I'm craving change. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with change, but I'm definitely not one of them. I love it when things change around me. It challenges me and makes me feel alive. I'm motivated and inspired to change my routines. Things have been a little too predictable lately and I don't like it.
  • I'm not sleeping well. I've never had great sleeping habits - I either sleep too little or nap too long or can't get out of bed in the morning without a serious fight. It seems like all of these things are going on right now and I really don't like it. I've been having some extremely vivid dreams lately which is making it hard to get a good night's sleep {they're normally not bad dreams, although the ones that are nightmares are beyond terrifying}.  I'm exhausted.
  • I'm missing my mom a lot right now. I go through periods were I feel very calm about the situation. This is one of those times where I'm not sure how I've gone so long without talking to her. I can't think of another person I'd like to turn to right now for answers to my questions and comfort and laughs. I still talk with her every day, but right now, I'd really like it if she could answer me back.
  • I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes. It's a simple pleasure. I don't have a Starbucks habit most of the year, but during the fall, I definitely make up for it.
  • I'm not getting crafty. I have a running list on my phone of crafty ideas. I stalk Pinterest like crazy for ideas and inspiration. I have a binder of tutorials for things I'd like to try. And yet, I'm not doing anything about it. I can't really figure out why I'm not wanting to get in my craft room and create {although one idea is that it's disastrously messy right now and I couldn't even find my table last time I was in there}. My motivation to create has always been off and on...I guess this is an "off" time.
  • Time is moving too fast. It's already the middle of September. It feels like just yesterday that it was still 100 degrees and I was praying that summer would finally be over. I remember when I was younger and time seemed to last forever. Now even the bad days go by way too quickly. Maybe there's too much in my schedule. Maybe there's not enough and I'm wasting time. I want to be able to figure out what the deal is so I can enjoy what's going on right now and life doesn't pass me by!
  • Yesterday was exactly what I needed. I took the day off at the last minute so I could catch up on sleep and relax a little. I felt myself getting overwhelmed at work, not working as hard as I should, and focusing on a lot of negative things. I unplugged yesterday - didn't check Facebook, didn't read any blogs, didn't really even watch TV. I read a book, cuddled with Molly, played with Abby {until I saw she killed a mouse, and then I tried not to puke on Abby}, and started making some cake balls. I even caught up on some laundry. I'm glad I admitted to myself that I was needing some time away and that I actually took it.
  • My feelings can get hurt. This shouldn't be earth shattering news, and of course I realize that I can be hurt by people I love. I have reasonably thick skin when it comes to others though, and I realized that even when I don't expect it, little things can still hurt me.  I was also reminded that even when we didn't realize it, my parents did a wonderful job with my brother and I in the way of being polite and minding our manners. I'm thankful that they raised me to be considerate of others in my actions - big or small.
That's a pretty good snapshot of my life right now, I think. There is a lot going on! It's really important for me to reflect on things from time to time - to say them out loud {or in this case, write them down} - and acknowledge what makes me happy and what I want to work on. So, if you've made it this far, thank you for sticking with me! If not...well, I hope it's because you're taking time to reflect on your own life. Or...that you stepped out to get a Pumpkin Spice Latte!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I don't think it's any secret how much I love my house. I literally jumped up and down when we look around the place because I knew it was meant to be ours. For almost 3 years now, it's been our home and I can't imagine not having it be a part of our life.

Or, at least, I thought I couldn't. I don't know what triggered it specifically {there are a number of things I think might have contributed, but nothing I can point to and say, "Yup, that's it}, but we're considering moving sometime in the next few years. For most people, this isn't monumental news. For us, it kind of is. When we were looking for houses, we were looking with the idea that this would be our forever home. We would have a family, raise them, kick them out {haha}, and then let them back in for holidays and when they blessed us with grandbabies and such.

The only thing we didn't love about our house is where it's located. I love Unadilla, don't get me wrong. The thing I don't love about it is that it's not Elmwood {where the husband is from}. I miss being close to his {our} family & friends. I hate driving the extra 20 miles to and from work. I love our little town, but I don't feel connected to it the way I hoped I would. Even though we haven't lived in Elmwood for almost 3 years, and I only lived there for about 4 months, I feel much more at home there.

So, moving....that's not something I EVER wanted to do again. In fact, I swore I wouldn't ever do it again. I moved 19 times between the ages of 18 and 26 {when we moved into our house}. Let me say that again...19 times. It was ridiculous. I hate packing, I hate patching walls, I hate going through things, I hate it all. And yet, we're considering it again {honestly, the moving part of it is the only reason we have to consider anything...we really don't want to move.}

There are quite a few options out there for what we could do. Top of my list is building a new house in the country. Like these, if we had all the money in the world...

Yeah, I'm noticing a trend. White houses that are WAY too big for us :) But they're pretty...and maybe the house we end up in will be white {though I doubt it, because my husband loves brick}.

Option 2 is to wait until one of the farms we love comes up for sale. There are a few we've had our eye on since we started looking for this house, almost 3 and a half years ago. Mike's probably had his eye on them for longer. It's not exactly the best laid plan, because we're at the mercy of people we don't know.

Option 3 is to buy a house in town. We've talked about how I'm a city girl at heart, but I've been ridiculously spoiled living in the country the last 3 years. I love the silence and the privacy. I love that people have to call before they come over because no one wants to drive to where we live only to find out we're not home. However...being in town, around people we love, would be kind of fun. Plus, it would allow us to save some serious money {I can pretty much guarantee that our house payment would go down if we bought a place in town}. I still think that if we went this route, it would only be a temporary option. I know my husband wants to live on a farm, and I sort of like it too!

Option 4 is to stay where we are and make the best of things. This list isn't in order of our preferences by any means. I love our house so much, and if we stay there, I'll still be thrilled. I was nervous that when we started thinking about all these options I would not be pleased with our house, or I'd feel resentful if we ultimately decide staying put is the best choice for us. Then I got home last night, looked at my puppy running around in her yard, and realized that I couldn't ever be unhappy with our house. If we continue to live there, we will be very blessed.

So, things are a little up in the air at the moment, which I don't like. But, it's fun to imagine possibilities {as long as I don't allow myself to think of packing tape and giant cardboard boxes}.

Does anyone have any experience building a house that they'd like to tell me about? I know the least about that option and could use some advice about the process, costs, etc.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Happy Friday, everyone!

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar on wellness and happiness for work. There are days I really love my job - hearing about how to be well for an entire day was one of them.

I heard an interesting presentation on different types of happiness and when we typically feel them in our lives - there's excited happiness, when a person looks forward to certain events, knowing they will bring them happiness, and there's calm happiness, when a person is focused on present events that bring them happiness. Younger people typically feel excited happiness and older people typically feel calm happiness.

I am definitely an excited happy type of person. I'm normally looking forward in life, I get excited very easily, and it sometimes overwhelms me how happy I am about events that are coming. As a result though, I often don't live in the moment and truly enjoy small happinesses I experience everyday.

I decided it was extremely important for me to take joy in everyday life, instead of waiting for the next big, exciting event to come around. I tried to think on my way home about what the happiest day of my life was, excluding things like my wedding, the birth of my nephew, etc. It didn't take me very long to decide that a random fall day 3 years ago was that day.

We had just bought our house, the weather was gorgeous, we had an adorable puppy and were planning our wedding. Honestly, life couldn't have gotten any better for either of us at that point in our lives. I've said before how much I love fall, and I wanted to get outside and explore our new farm with my Molly. So, I grabbed the camera and we stayed outside, roaming around the property for over an hour.

It's a little strange that that day stuck out to me as my most happy, because nothing major happened. I was definitely in a state of calm happiness that day, and I can still remember the feeling like it was yesterday instead of 3 years ago. I would love to have that feeling more often.

I've always been a city girl. I appreciate the hustle and bustle, all the people, the architecture, the opportunities for culture and diversity and never being bored. I thought I would be miserable adjusting to country life, but it didn't take long for me to fall in love with the silence. The stillness of everything around me. I don't have to worry about my puppies running and playing until they're so tired they can't even walk inside the house. It's like we live in a whole other world, and I can't imagine ever having neighbors or traffic or noisy evenings again.

As fall approaches {thank goodness!}, I know I'll have more days like the one I remember so fondly. I know that I will have a much easier time focusing on the present and being happy with what's happening today.

And speaking of present things I'm THRILLED about - tomorrow is the Iowa State / Iowa football game and I couldn't be more excited to watch the Cyclones win in Ames! I'm also loving all the fall cooking I've been doing, and can't wait to sit down to dinner with the family tomorrow night {Mike got to pick his birthday dinner, so I'm making meatloaf, twice baked potatoes, garlic corn, and beer bread...holy food hangover, Batman!}

I hope everyone has a very happy weekend!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Believe It Or Not...

Hi all!

Believe it or not, I'm already thinking about Christmas decorating. I know what you're thinking...Jen, do you even have your fall decorations up yet? Well, the answer, of course, is no. I don't even know which tote my fall decorations are in since I got into an organizational kick last fall and forgot to finish organizing about halfway through the project. Anyway...

I love to change out my Christmas decorations every year, but that's just not economically possible for me. Or a very good idea for my marriage {since my husband is ridiculously...thrifty, we'll call it}. To remedy these issues, I've decided that if I want new decorations, I either need to find them on clearance after the season or make them myself. I'm pretty sure I didn't buy anything on December 26 last year {though I won't be completely sure of that until I unpack things}, so that means it's up to me to make anything I want to add to my Christmas decor collection.

For me, Christmas is the time to take chances on trendy decor...that way, I'm not out a lot of time/money, and even if I still love it after it's hideously uncool, future visitors will only have about 6 weeks to tell me that my red & white chevron rug is SOOO 2011. {Hey, that's a pretty good idea...red & white chevron rugs for my country kitchen? Add it to the list!}

{From the House Of Smiths - check out Shelly's tutorial here on how to make this one yourself!}

Another thing I'm adding to the list is etching a vintage window to hang in the dining room {perhaps I should also add "finish the dining room redecoration you started last spring" to the list}. I have a ton of vintage windows sitting at around, with a lot of different projects in mind for them.

See, vintage windows. Photo taken 10 minutes ago in my office with my iphone. At my paying job. That has nothing to do with salvaging old windows. Yeah, I'm special.

Anyway, I thought it would be cute to etch a winter/Christmas saying on one of these windows and hang it in my dining room. Sort of like Shelly did here:

I swear, I'm not stalking The House of Smiths, although I do love a lot of what Shelly does, and I read her blog regularly. {To make a complete liar out of me, hopefully in the next few days I'll be able to show you a project I'm working on that's inspired by yet another tutorial I saw on THOS.}

Another trend in home decor that I'd love to jump on is the subway sign. I've done some subway sign art in small form (printed 8x10's) to sell at craft shows, but nothing bold. Mainly because subway art doesn't go with the decor I currently have in my house...but that's why I love the holidays. I feel like it gives me full license to do something completely out of my element. On that note, I'd like to make something like this:

{From Houzz.com via Pinterest}

Cute, right? And the color happens to be all over my house. I'm actually kind of thinking something like this would be fun in my bathroom. Hmm...

Are you sick of Christmas talk yet? I'll stop there, and hopefully have a whole list of things to show you that I've finished making in time for Christmas over the couple of months. Just to keep myself on track, before December 24, I'm to:
  • Finish decorating the dining room
  • Paint some rugs
  • Etch some windows
  • Make subway art
Seems reasonable, right? Let's see how I do. :) Leave me a comment and tell me if you're already getting into the Christmas spirit!

And before I go for today, I have to wish my handsome husband a very happy birthday! I couldn't be any luckier to have found a guy who puts up with my crazy ideas {see above - Christmas decoration ideas in September}, laughs at my stupid jokes, and still loves me when I make up birthday songs to sing to him, off key, at 6am while dancing Steve Urkel style. How I managed to snag him, I'll never know, but I'm SO glad I did. Happy birthday, husband!!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Moving Forward

Good morning!

A frequent struggle for me with thinking about what I want to do when I grow up is determining which direction I'd like to go in with my dream. Do I want a brick and mortar stationery store or will an online boutique work better for me? Do I want to design things I like or do I want to take custom orders and work on things my customers are interested in? Where the heck do I find the time to do this while I still have a "real" job, family, friends, puppies, and various household chores to keep up with?

Here's where I should probably answer those questions. Except...I don't have the answers yet. I still have no clue, and while it makes me anxious, there a little bit of comfort in knowing that I don't have to have all the answers right now. What I want to do can grow with me and meet my needs differently over time.

In the meantime, I need to take small steps to actually move forward. I'll never get where I want if I keep standing still {or moving backwards}. Slowly building a new website at work has inspired me to start thinking about a website for Vogt Design Co. {beyond this blog, but blogging will still be a part of it}.

There's nothing exciting about this post except for the cute picture above {via Pinterest}. I don't have a sneak preview of the website to show you. I don't even know what kind of content will be on the site. However, I often use this blog as my journal...to throw ideas out there and see what sticks. To record what I'm thinking about or what I've been up to {normally with the hopes that someday, these stories will make it into a scrapbook}. That's all I'm doing today...throwing the website out there and seeing how long it takes me to make some progress in this area.

Here's hoping all my readers are making progress toward their dreams today!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Home Canning

Happy {belated} Labor Day!

I hope everyone had a great, relaxing weekend. I love 3 day weekends {that probably goes without saying}, but this weekend was especially great. The weather was amazing..it already feels like fall. There is something about that change in weather that makes me immediately calm and happy. Fall is definitely my season. Husker football started off right with a huge win, and we spent the entire weekend with family.

Which brings me to the point of my post today...home canning. Saturday & Sunday, we spent many, many hours canning all sorts of fruits and vegetables. I can't remember if I've posted about this or not, but one of my longer-term goals is to be as self-sufficient with food products as possible {within reason for the lifestyle we lead}. To me, this means we will butcher our own meat when possible, grow and preserve our own fruits and vegetables, and buy locally whenever possible. We already do all of these things on a smallish scale, but I think as I get more comfortable with living this kind of lifestyle, it will blossom. And, cultivating these kinds of resources do take time...something I have to remind myself often!

 Jalapeno salsa, cooking away on the stove. Yum!

When Mike & I first were dating, I had only canned a little...some jams and jellies here and there. I've taught myself the basics and feel pretty comfortable trying new things here and there, and most importantly, have many ideas for making sure fresh produce doesn't go to waste and can be enjoyed throughout the year.

So, this weekend, Mike & I and his sister & brother-in-law spent many hours standing over a steaming hot stove or wielding a knife to chop all sorts of fruits and veggies to go into our mixtures.

Pickled hot peppers & carrots - wow, are they hot!

By the end of the weekend, we had canned {approximately} 36 pints of peaches in light syrup, 20 pints of pickled hot pepper & carrots, 6 pints of peach salsa, 6 pints of peach BBQ sauce, 5+ pints of the jalapeno salsa pictured above {we ate a bunch of this fresh, so I think it would have been closer to 10 pints if we'd canned it all}, and 12 small jelly jars of jalapeno pepper jelly.

Just a few of the jars we managed to process this weekend

I love that we'll be able to access all of those things all year long. My favorite part of summer {one of the only things I actually like} is all the fresh produce...so dragging that out all year is great for me. It's also really nice to be able to do this with someone other than just Mike & myself. Having more hands makes the process faster and we're able to actually get more done that way.

I think we'll probably still preserve some things {tomato based things, apples for sure, and hopefully we'll get some sweet corn frozen soon}, but we have a good handle after this weekend and things we've done over the course of the summer - strawberry rhubarb jelly, carrot cake jelly, danish cherry sauce for cheesecakes, dill pickle spears, and pickled carrots & zucchini.

Alrighty, enough talk about this...my stomach is growling now! I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend, and a great week getting back to work!!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Printable Alphabet Flashcards

Happy Friday all,

I thought I'd pop in this morning and show you the project I put together as a gift for my nephew. I also wanted to share it with you in case you know someone who could benefit, so look for the free printables at the end of this post!

Every time we hang out with my nephew, Michael, he wants to show us the letters he is practicing writing. If his auntie is unprepared and doesn't have enough paper, then that's a problem for everyone in the area. He loves to write! So, I wanted to figure out a way that he could practice his alphabet without going through a ton of paper. I've seen those white boards at Target and Walmart that look like lined paper. I thought that would be great, but it doesn't really help him with the letters he's still struggling with writing properly. So, I figured it would take me less time to make something than it would to find it in a store and spend money on it.

I came up with this {and, as always, I apologize for the craptasticness of these photos...I seem to have forgotten my good camera at home and had to make do with the iphone camera. I HAVE to get better at that}:

It's just printed on white printer paper and laminated. I printed the letters in yellow so he could use a dry erase marker to "trace" over the top of them and see how they are made. Then below each letter, there's a blank line for him to write the letter on his own, like this:

Since the pages are laminated, the marker will just wipe off and he can start all over again (which I think he's going to love). I made them in both uppercase letters and lowercase letters so he can practice both. {Scroll down to get free printables of both versions!}

I also want him to start associating letters with words. I hope it will help him learn to read, but I mostly did this so he can learn to write other words than his name (which he's getting pretty good at). So, I found some colorful clipart and made him some flashcards!

These are a quarter of a sheet of printer paper. I added the words in yellow below the picture so he has other opportunities to practice writing (and in the case of some of these images, he'll be learning some new words as well). These are laminated also, and are held together with a ring so they don't get lost all over his room (hopefully). He can take them apart to write on and play with, and this gives him a way to put them all back in one spot. His dad can also mix them up if he wants to give him a little more of a challenge than just memorizing that A is for apple, B is for boot and so on :) Same idea with tracing the letters in dry erase marker and wiping them off for next time.

I hope he loves them and that they are actually useful! If not, well, at least they were easy to make :)

Even as easy as they were, I still thought I'd save you some time and share the printables with you so you can use them for your little ones learning to write. Feel free to use these and share them, but I would appreciate if you didn't profit from them in any way. If you click the image it will open a larger version, and you can right click to "save as." If it's easier to use a PDF version, just email me at vogtdesignco@gmail.com and I'll be happy to send it along!


Just a couple tips: before saving, make sure you click on the image and enlarge it as much as possible. After you've printed the page, the cards were designed so you can cut the paper in fourths. You can cut on the short side of the paper at 4.25 inches and on the long side at 5.5 inches.

Enjoy and have a fantastic weekend! {Oh, and Go Huskers!!}