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Monday, March 11, 2013

The Real Thing

While the boys were on spring break, we took a little trip across town to visit daddy at work. You may (or may not) know that Jim is a real estate developer. Currently, he and his team (he works for this company) are endeavoring to transform a early-twentieth century Sears and Roebuck distribution center into a community hub for market shopping, working, and generally enjoying life. Much has happened since the last time I checked in, and the progress is really inspiring.

Last year, I did a freelance project about the origins and expression of the craving for authenticity in modern culture. It's a phenomena we've probably all observed and felt deeply without even thinking about it--a desire for practices, places and products that are real, meaningful, and time-tested. Many people think (and I agree with them) that this shift in tastes has much to do with our being over-saturated with online media pitches and marketing slogans, and perhaps a bit disillusioned from the recent economic catastrophe. Having experienced the downside of boundless commercialism, we seem to have developed an instinctive draw toward things that are lasting and slower, and that connect us to generations past.  This beautiful old building and the vision that is taking it from eyesore to icon are a wonderful expression of that exact spirit.

Being there, you sense a oneness with generations of Atlantans who have walked the halls as workers, consumers, city employees... Jim's grandmother remembers stopping by as a child on her way to minor league baseball games! There are remnants of paint colors past, heavy mechanical systems used to power the building in its infancy, beautiful hardwoods that have been resurrected after generations of abuse--even a railroad trellis, now unearthed from its hiding place under a 1960s cafeteria! I was so inspired by how lovely this place will be again when it is used to bring people together.

Unlike so many quickly fabricated new buildings, Ponce City Market will deliver an experience of our city's history. I know I'm biased, but I'm really excited about it all. What do you think about saving old buildings and reusing them? Would you go so far as to participate in an awesome movement like heart bombing to save them? I think that if I were still a crazy college kid, I totally would.

Click here for more information about the project, and here for images of how it started!

Friday, March 8, 2013


It's been a long week in the Irwin household, friends. The boys have been on spring break and recovering from a stomach virus, which means we've spent a lot of time at home. That's not really my style, and it doesn't gel super-well with my children, either, but I'm relieved (and grateful) to say that we've survived it without lasting physical or emotional damage. Also, we've come out the other end with a major milestone in our back pockets: Big Brother is minus one tooth!

As he told the tooth fairy (check out his sweet note here), he started out a little sad about the whole thing. Jim pulled it out in front of the bathroom mirror, so he saw blood and found it slightly terrifying. Ten minutes later, with tooth fairy pillow and note ready to go, Big Brother was transformed into a champion. And one day later, morphed into an outlaw with a wooden cookie slicer, he would tell you that he is going to be the first of his buddies to have an actual "big boy tooth" in place. Who knows whether that is actually true, but I went ahead and documented today's smile quickly. Just in case.

A few other things this week. I joined Twitter, which I've held back from for a long time. Right now it kind of seems like Facebook with no pictures, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it eventually (I'd love to connect with you there--I'm @mygrowinghome). Joining was a by-product of a great e-course I've just started called Blog Boss, which is essentially about professionalizing your blog. The course is taught by Holly Becker of Decor8 (plus a few other successful bloggers), and I imagine that if it's ultimately as helpful as promised, you'll see the results in the form of improvements here. I'd really like to see Growing Home become a place that women can rely on for gathering inspiration as well as a lot of encouragement to draw out their own creative inclinations and share them with the people in their lives. The first step to doing that is making this blog a bit more sustainable, three-child-life considered. In other words, it's time to approach it with the seriousness and commitment that I would a (great!) job, and Holly's class is helping me do that. Exciting, eh?

Happy Weekend, friends!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

DIY: Glitter-Block Easter Eggs

DIY Easter Eggs

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know well that I can't resist layering things in gold. Gold leaf, gold paint, gold home accents...I'm even totally exclusive about gold jewelry (silver kind of washes me out). So when the egg dyeing bug hit me last week, gold glitter came instantly to mind. I found that blocking the glitter against bright spring colors gives the eggs a modern, geometric look without sacrificing any of the drama of the gold. Which means that now we have a collection of Easter eggs that  is equal parts bright, happy, and blinged out:). Even the boys like to ooh and aahh at them, which of course makes me love them even more. 

These eggs take very little time and can be made from things laying around your house (that is, if you keep glitter on hand). Below, I've given you the basic process as a photo tutorial (yup, that's another something new!), but I did not tell you how to go about making egg dye. The short story is that it's easy: combine roughly 1/2 cup hot water with a teaspoon of white vinegar and 20 drops of food coloring. For the long story, consult Martha here. You'll notice that I've also blown out the eggs so that they can stay out of the fridge as holiday decoration and be kept from year to year. The blowing process is awkward the very first time you do it, but quite easy once you get a system down (I only broke one). The key is to do it after the dye bath, as a hollow egg won't submerge!

To make your own glitter-block Easter eggs, follow the steps below. I think you'll find creating them to be fairly addicting.

Materials: raw eggs, embroidery needle (or large sewing needle), egg dye, school glue, paintbrush, metallic glitter and an extra bowl

Now, use your lips or a rubber bulb syringe (like the ones they give you at the hospital after you have a baby) to blow into the small hole, emptying the egg into your extra bowl. The bigger you've made the large hole, the easier it will be. The photo above shows you about the right size. 

Happy Thursday, y'all.

p.s. Have I mentioned our family joke about glitter? Jim calls it the STD of craft supplies; once you have it, it NEVER goes away. Proving his point, I made the majority of these eggs at night when all the children were asleep. When I woke Baby Girl the next morning, I kid you not--there were flecks of gold inside her diaper. Try to solve that mystery, will you?

Many thanks to Lesley Kerr for expert help in styling these shots. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Inspiration Files: Hense Mural, DC

Hello friends! Over the last few weeks, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this blog: what it's about, what it could evolve into, and how it might (or might not) be a source of inspiration and blessing to those of you who read it. As I've reflected, it's occurred to me that I've spent lots of time sharing projects and thoughts on motherhood with you, but that I've left out other topics that are important to me, and that (to my mind, anyway) are essential for the process of bringing color and beauty to one's life and family. One of those is collecting inspiration: things that stretch my thinking beyond it's current boundaries and fill me up with new ideas about everything from urban planning to revitalizing my home. So, going forward I'm going to share my inspiration with you every once in awhile. Here's edition number one.

This is the Hense mural in Washington, DC. Hense is the artist, an Atlanta-based (yay!) graffiti artist who has in recent years made something of a turn toward commissioned public art (notably for Atlantans, many of his installations are along the city's developing Beltline). This particular Hense project covers  the entire face of an abandoned church in DC's Ward 6 neighborhood--a place now transitioning from being largely forgotten into the city's next art district. Apparently, it sits across the street from the site of what will become a 20,000 square foot private museum. 

But why post about this? Here's why. Hense's art--little more than broad swaths of layered color and pattern--utterly transform a neglected city block (maybe even an entire neighborhood?) into a place of light and life. One could no more walk down this street and keep their eyes on their toes than frown at a baby. The color, the volume, and the fact that someone cared enough to bring that bold display to everyone who would walk by is energizing and rejuvenating. And isn't it cool that after a season of neglect, it is a church that has become a beacon for this community again? Everything about it is hopeful, and my guess is that it has invigorated the community around it. Public art, in my opinion, is like that; because it's given to everyone, it brings everyone up.  

I think the ways that we create do this, too. Making improvements to the spaces we live in, pouring our creativity into little details of our days--from a pair of pants for a child to a wall of photographs to a carton of zany Easter eggs, are ways of injecting life into the humdrum of our day-to-day. Creating for people reminds them that they matter. Giving them glimpses of bright, colorful beauty...well, it's like a joy shot. 

So, this week I'm looking for places in my world that could use some rejuvenation.  And hoping I'll be surprised by unexpected bursts of color. 

Here's hoping that you will, too. 

Happy Wednesday. 

photo credits: Miguel "M.I.G" Martinez via Hense. To read more about the project, click here

Monday, March 4, 2013

DIY: Blooming Easter Baskets

Floral Easter Basket | My Growing Home

Happy Monday, friends! I've been excited to share this project with you for so many reasons, but I think the biggest is that it's my first tutorial since taking a long break, and represents a new start for me--a new chapter in creating and sharing and bringing what I hope is a bit of beauty and inspiration to you in the midst of our every-days. I've been having so much fun re-locating my creative mojo over these past few weeks (perhaps it's the imminent arrival of spring that has me going?) and I'm hoping that there is lots more of it to uncover! 

These blooming Easter baskets are a blast to make--something like assembling a huge bouquet of flowers, except that you have the added inspiration of knowing you can keep them for a long time. Depending on the colors and flowers you pick, they can go sweet, like this tiny pink one that I made for baby girl, or bold, like the daffodil-covered version below. Covering the handle with flowers makes them a bit more fragile, but ideal for party decor. Wouldn't a large one filled with eggs make a fun centerpiece? 

Blooming Easter Baskets | My Growing Home

Each flower is secured by the basket weave and a little bit of glue, which means that they aren't a super quick project, but they also aren't tedious or painstaking. I assembled both while watching TV--each one took me about the same amount of time as a good movie. And now as they sit in the window catching glints of sunlight, they are reminding me of the early spring blooms that are just around the corner. What fun to think that in just a few weeks, we'll be hunting for eggs to fill them!

Floral Easter Baskets | My Growing Home
Floral Easter Baskets | My Growing Home

And there you have it--simple and adorable baskets! Just add Easter eggs and you're ready for the holiday. I hope you find this project as happy and straightforward as I did. 

On another note, you probably noticed that I'm trying out some new formatting for my tutorial instructions. My goal is to make them more fun to look at without compromising the thoroughness that enables you to easily follow along. I'd love to know what you think!

Blessings for your week-

p.s. On a personal note, I have to admit to you that I'm normally a huge snob about having only fresh flowers, and Jim gave me an extreme raised eyebrow when I came in the door with an armful of fakes. We took bets on whether these would turn out kitschy and fun or like something one might carry in a wedding during the early 80s. I think I won. If you disagree, don't tell me. 
p.p.s. Michael's entire stock of faux flowers is 50% off this week

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sick Days

It hasn't exactly been the week I expected. Our family seems to have been hit with the stomach virus from hell--one that attacks viciously in the middle of the night, rips through every set of bed linens in the house in a matter of hours, and gets comfortable in one's system for several rather disgusting days. All three kids got sick; Little Brother so violently that needed medicine to stop. Jim is still trying to get it out of his system. SO, we've had a whole week of sick days, bodily fluids and sanitizing cycles.

Also, I've had a whole week of holding my babies. Long nights with them sleeping in my arms. Opportunity after opportunity to show them how deeply I love them, to tell them that everything is going to be okay. I would have given anything to take those awful moments away from each of them, but I wouldn't trade kissing their soft cheeks in the darkness, comforting them, finally, into sleep. This week has taught me that in moments of struggle, we get a particular opportunity to whisper into our children's souls the truth, you are loved. Long after they forget the sickness, they will know that neither sickness nor weakness nor being absolutely covered in filth can separate them from our love. It's exactly what happens between us and God in our darkest days.

So I'm grateful. And also I'm extremely ready for the milkshake party we're planning for the day when every last Irwin tummy is finally healed. Have a great weekend.

Instagram photo of Big Brother preparing a ginger ale for daddy. Also, I've been making things! Check back next week for a fun tutorial. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Family Photos

Just before Thanksgiving, our friend Lesley Kerr took a series of family photographs for us. Baby girl was about four months old at the time, which means that they're a bit outdated now as far as she's concerned, but they are SUCH an accurate portrayal of the boys right now: bubbling over with boy energy, full of exuberance and adventure, and generally just shy of utterly overwhelming their happy and tired parents. I was looking back through the photos last night after the kids were all in bed, and their expressions were a reminder to me of how much beauty is in our lives right now. Even when I'm sleepless and weary, those dancing eyes just light me up inside--what treasures are our children, and how quickly mine are becoming big boys! (I'm not ready to admit that my baby girl is growing up, too.)

I'm biased, I suppose, but I think that Lesley is a truly gifted photographer. Hers are never just pretty pictures; they always beam with a sense of wonder over their subjects, whether families or homes or cuttings from a weekend trip (to make sense of that sentence, check out her feed on Instagram). The thirty minutes when we took these photos were stressful--the boys wanted to play in the leaves, baby girl was exhausted and needed a nap, and Jim and I were exercising every ounce of will-power we could muster to keep smiling. Yet somehow in the midst of that, Lesley snapped a collection of photos that show how much we love each other. Thank you, Lesley, for reminding me of my many sweet blessings!