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A Room Redo or Two

(ETA: photo quality not so hot!)

It started with a display cabinet.  One minute our playroom-cum-schoolroom-cum-storage room looked like this:



And the next, it looked like this:


Why?  Well, Craig’s folks decided to move house.  And in their downsizing, they gifted us with a beautiful piece of furniture that holds enormous amount of sentimental value to Craig.  In trying to decide where it should go, we realised that we would have to do some serious juggling around of rooms to make it fit.  Eventually, we decided to combine the playroom, school supplies and TV room into a proper second reception room.  We moved the piano into this room too and painted the shelving white and the walls blue.  That then freed up space (where the piano had been) in the main lounge for the display cabinet.  It also meant that the girls could finally have their OWN rooms, as the old TV room was freed up for Katie to move into.  Of course, there was some juggling around there too. But finally the girls ended up with freshly painted rooms to suit their tastes.

But before we could tackle their rooms, we (I) had the unenviable job of unpacking thousands (literally) of books off the shelves so our painter could prime and paint the shelving…


Gavin, the painter, did a superb job of painting and then, after a couple of weeks with a holiday in the middle, it was time for the girls and I to repack everything back onto the shelves…




Almost done!


But not before hubby and our awesome friend, Rus, had to move our enormous couch from the TV room…


It was not easy!


Especially when they had to navigate this:


Our trusty piano – the last time it is to be in this spot.  A few days later it too found its way to the new tv/playroom.


And voila – here we have it.  With spill-over chairs from the dining room in the meantime…



We’ve rearranged these shelves a few times over and have finally got a good space for all the maths manipulatives, shapes and other goodies essential for our school mornings.  But we did replace our green plastic file boxes (see below) with …


These plastic ones (see below) – they’re larger, which I LOVE – the others were threatening to shatter shards of plastic all over the place, so stuffed with books they were.  They’re also transparent, which makes it a whole lot easier to see the pencil tub and any errant erasers at the bottom of the case.  They’re also hard-wearing, but lightweight and cheap at only R28 a box!


Who would’ve thought that it would work so well?  We are loving having the TV here.  We spend far more time in the playroom now.  The kids’ piano practise doesn’t drive me dilly anymore, as it’s not reverberating throughout the entire house thanks to the echoey main room it used to reside in.  We spend more time doing school things in the playroom now.  The TV is so easy to use for Maths DVDs and everything is on hand, whereas before I had things split between TV-room, dining room (where we do most of our seatwork) and playroom.  The kids are even reading more, if that is at all possible.  The rocking chair and poofy couch make for comfy reading corners and often I find the kids in their absorbed in a book.  And, calling them for morning bible time during the week is not nearly as huge a task as it was last year as 9 times out of 10, they’re already in there! 

Hurray for the Hayes Snrs and the Display Cabinet that got us motivated to do this (at the relatively little expense of some paint, curtains and a fair bit of sweat!)


Kiera’s Room

The playroom redo meant that Kiera and Katie got to have separate bedrooms.  After enduring years of Kiera begging to have it happen, we weren’t surprised when the news was well-received!  The deal was that, since we were losing the sleeper couch for guests in the playroom, we’d make up for it with a queen bed in Kiera’s room.  She would have to vacate when visitors came and bunk with Katie.  Well, Kiera was keen to agree to just about anything if it meant her own room!


Craig’s folks gave us their old queen bed – thanks to their downsizing.  Kiera had to keep their old bedding and decor, as per agreement and she got to have some of our old bedding to cover the queen duvet.  The only thing new that she got was a fresh coat of paint. Namely, white paint for the furniture that used to live in the playroom (that’s my old desk from when I was 10!) and a colour or two of her choice for the walls.  Well, let’s just say that her room is BLUE … very, very blue.  But she is thrilled thrilled thrilled!  And that makes it all worth it.




Katie’s Room

Katie chose the old TV room so that she could be closer to us.  That meant that she got the girls’ old bedroom furniture and their twin/bunk beds.  We had promised them when we redid their room earlier in 2013 that if they ever got separate rooms, Katie got to have the new bedding as she really wanted pink and since Kiera was having none of that, she got to keep the non-pink stuff. 

So, pink shopping it was!  We finally found a beautiful pink bedding set that wasn’t too little girly for Katie.  The catch was that it only came in a queen size set.  Turned out that it wasn’t a catch at all, as I just had to cut it down the middle and sew two duvet covers from the one, and because it was a queen we scored two pillow cases: perfect for our needs.  And it worked out cheaper than two singles.  Yay for savings! 


We found awesome curtains at Mr Price, voile with pink embroidered butterflies.  We had a double track curtain rail, so the spare set of cream curtains we had went behind with the voile at the front.  Beautiful!  Gavin painted the walls grey – the grey shade came out a little bluey-purple, but in such a way that it complemented the room perfectly. 


Gracie quickly figured out how to get up to the top bunk and it is now her new favourite sleeping spot in the house.


Katie was thrilled with how well her baby photo matched her room:


Katie spotted this stick-on wall mural at Builder’s Warehouse and begged for it.  Since it was just R90 and we had the budget for it, it now graces her wall.


Her teddies are kept safe and neat in a toy hammock just like the boys’ one. Since coming across that idea, it’s become one of my favourite bedroom organising ideas. 



Katie scored herself a pinboard too.  The fabric was ridiculously cheap at R18/m. 


This little box from Mr Price was a Christmas gift from her aunty and uncle.  Perfect!


And her trusty hobby horse (tutorial here) looks on rather forlornly from the end of her bed.IMG_9078


Under her bed for now = blow up mattresses and bedding for certain young cousins who get to share her bedroom in March.  We can’t wait! 


And that ends our big room redos!  At the beginning of 2013, we never would’ve dreamed of all the renovations and redos we’ve ended up doing to our house, but here we are in the middle of a kitchen renovation and with two bathrooms renovations complete too.  More on the “why”s when the kitchen is complete!

Sonlight’s Global Puzzle Fun

A couple of years ago, we bought this awesome bundle of educational fun called a Global Puzzle as a family Christmas pressie… and then promptly stashed it away in the cupboard – aka shrine of un-used educational material.  Do you have one of those, too?  Now’s a good time to say “yes” to make me feel better about my own laziness. 

Anyhow.  The shrine was dismantled recently, in order to bring the Global Puzzle to life.  It was a rainy afternoon, we had two friends staying for the day.  I was desperate.  Well, not really, but I was desperate to avoid hours of TV-viewing while I had other chores on the go.

Let’s say that I’m so glad that we pulled this one out. 

It’s not an easy puzzle.  We probably needed those extra 2 years in order to give our family some time to grow enough that each member was able to contribute somewhat significantly to its assembly.  It consists of 600 oddly-shaped pieces and vast amounts of blue blue sea.  It’s the type of challenge that can stymy even my most puzzle-avid child.

But, initial enthusiasm is always a great wave to ride, and so the kids surfed the joint activity that first day with gusto.


It helped that we had our friend and puzzle-lover, Jakey Smith visiting.  He really helped keep the momentum going.


We figured that the traditional approach was probably going to be easiest – that is, start with the straight sides to make the border first.


Although, certain young boys figured that building easy countries was far more entertaining – or, at least, satisfied their instant-gratification craving!


We revived our Geography Songs CD (another Sonlight winner!) while we built the puzzle.  We hadn’t listened to them in a while, but this session resurrected the kids’ enthusiasm, so it’s once again blaring from our car speakers.


Tada!  Border done!


Over the next few days and nights, the kids would wander past the coffee table and place a few extra pieces in their appropriate spots.  And, so, over time, our puzzle grew.


And grew…  I had read years ago on the Sonlight forums that it’s best to do the sea first, as it “locks” in the countries nicely.  The countries don’t have interlocking pieces, but rather just line up against each other according to the shape of their borders.


We had a few after-Narnia-reading nights when Craig let the kids stay up a little later for puzzle time.  And then, when they were off to bed, Daddy kept plugging away.  Yip, another puzzle-fundi in the family.


I had a hard time tearing him away!


Eventually, all the sea was done and it was just a matter of building the countries and continents…


Tada!  By this time, I had moved it onto my memory cutting board so we could actually use our coffee table of things like coffee cups and such.  But, it soon made it’s way back to the table and for the past 3 weeks, that is where it has lived.  And it’s been the best thing ever!


Every time we sit on the couch for read-aloud time, the kids interact with the puzzle.  Most afternoons they take apart a section and rebuild it, all while saying things like “where’s Afghanistan?” or “I can’t find Chile!  Where’s the piece for Chile?”  And, invariably, Sam or the girls will stop our read-alouds mid-sentence and scramble for the map to see the placement of the countries I’m busy reading about.  Since we’ve been doing a lot of early South African history, focusing on Europeans coming to the Cape, they’ve had loads of fun figuring out the routes one would take.  Sam plotted out the French Huguenots trip from France to the Netherlands to South Africa where they finally settled in the Stellenbosch area.

So, what took us two years to get going is now being thoroughly enjoyed by the family.  I love it!  And I love that the coffee table is working so well for us.  It’s planted some ideas in my head – one being a permanent map feature for the coffee table top… decoupage anyone? 

Bedroom Redo: Boys’ Room

This post encompasses a few of my favourite things: 1) decor make overs 2) budget saving ideas and 3) internet tutorials of said budget-beating make overs.  Usually, I am on the other side of the computer screen – gathering ideas and filing away options for potential projects.  This time I get to give back!  Feel free to skip this post if bedroom decor is not your thing!  Or keep reading if you’re like me and love to share ideas.


Since I did the girls’ room earlier this year, the boys have been begging for some redo action in their own room.  I kept putting it off – there is just too much on my plate to get stuck into a bedroom makeover.  But, then they begged again on the Easter weekend.  That Saturday I spent quite some time sorting through their clothes in their room.  Well, needless to say, all that time in said bedroom got the creative juices flowing.  And, when that happens I find it extremely hard not to execute The Plan. 

The result?  A complete-and-long-overdue bedroom makeover. 

And so, without further ado, here is my Budget-Beating-Boys’-Bedroom-Makeover Walk-Through.  (Photo quality not so hot.  Misplacing my SLR camera’s battery charger means my iPhone is my sole camera at the moment).



The boys’ room consisted of two broken bedside tables, one chest of drawers and two beds. I had made them pirate bedding about two years ago with the plan of redoing their room entirely. Well, I never quite got that far. But I guess 2 years’ late is better than never!


Two lonely shelves didn’t manage to hold much other than a couple of lightweight crafts.  And brick-bookends were in danger of crushing little toes for the weight of books mashed between them.


And they had the remnants of mis-matched wall decor stickers peeling off the walls:






The Redo Walk-Thru

The redo started with the bedside tables.  I needed to fix the bedside tables, but I also needed a bookshelf solution.  On that Easter Saturday, Craig suggested ditching the bedside tables in favour of the lovely basket chests of drawers that sell on the side of our Cape Town roads.  And so the ball got rolling.  Perhaps I could get some cheap guttering too?  Then we can make gutter bookshelves.  And what about the plethora of toys that usually covers Sam’s bed, so much so that he can barely find a space to sleep?  A toy hammock, perhaps?  And artwork?  And, that is how the ball picked up speed. 

Cushions (R5/60c)

Over the course of the next two weeks, I got sourcing and sewing.  I bought some cheap fabric with ships and boats on it, turning them into cushions (R5 / $0.60) each – cushion inner was an old threadbare couch cushion).  I kept the frayed selvedge, sewing a kind-of French seam to secure it.


Floor Mat (R100/$11)

The boys’ room has a horrible iron burn on the carpet, slap-bang in the middle of the room.  It was time to find something to cover it.  Mr Price is a wonderful store – full of beautiful decor and, usually reasonable prices.  But, the size mat that I wanted was R200, while two smaller mats were R50 each.  So, I bought two mats and sewed them onto some red corduroy fabric that I already had.  R100 ($11) = new mat.


Block Canvas paintings (R40/$4.50)

Four new canvas blocks were a bit pricey at R40 ($4.50) each.  But, they were such a joy to paint – the boys’ sense of pride in their contribution to their room is priceless!  Here they are, hard at work:




Button Curtain Tie-backs (R0, $0)

The boys’ room used to be the girls’ room until 2009.  So, it still had the metal curtain tie-back hooks.  They’re great, actually.  They are white with a hole at the end, allowing you to add decor to it.  The girls used to have big starched pink bows (!!) in the early days.  But the boys’ have just had bare tiebacks, with nothing to decorate them.  Here’s a really blurry picture!


After some thought, I remembered the blue, red and white buttons I had from when I made the boys’ duvets 2 years ago.  The buttons didn’t stand the test of time, but I managed to collect (most of) them when they came off the bedding.  Some fluffy red pipecleaners from the craft cupboard plus bright buttons = tie-back decor for FREE!  Yay!


Curtain Block Out Lining (R400 / $45)

The curtains cost quite a bit more than hoped for – and, yes, they are actually the same curtains that were always in the room.  But, the lining was shredded.  Hey, they are the curtains from Uncle Murray’s boyhood room – and he is in his 40s now!  Well, block-out lining is not cheap and I needed 5 metres of the stuff!  That set me back about R400 or so.  ($45)

Gutter-shelving (R160 / $18)

But, where I spent on curtains I saved on shelving.  My friend Debbie S introduced me to the ingenious idea of gutter shelving last year.  I planned to do something similar.  Thankfully, I called her for some advice while in the hardware store (about to buy the stuff!) and she offered me her left-over guttering for free!  Thank you, Debbie!

The kids and I spent some time on Thursday morning sanding and re-spraying them a creamy-colour.  That’s my one big regret.  We spent R160 on plastic-specific spray-paint, when actually a good clean would’ve had those gutters looking just as good.  But, it was fun spray-painting and Katie particularly loved the hands-on learning.


What I love about these shelves it that it allows the books to be cover-facing.  It makes choosing books so much more attractive for the kids, plus it decorates the walls beautifully.  I love these!  We can fit SO many books inside them and with the three brackets, they are sturdy indeed.


Painted Wall (R120 / $17)

Thursday saw us painting walls too.  Truth be told, I had planned for our gardener-handy man to do all the heavy work of sanding and painting.  But he missed his lift back to Cape Town and couldn’t make it before Sunday.  With my parents arriving from Israel on Tuesday and needing the space in the playroom (that the furniture was busy occupying!) I had no choice but to finish the boys’ room.  It turned out to be a fantastically productive day.  The kids got stuck in and thoroughly enjoyed learning about taping off before painting, painting trims and all the other techniques required to paint walls.  Once again, my most enthusiastic contributor was my hands-on girl, Katie:


Kiera got happily stuck in too…


We managed to get away with just 1 litre of paint for the accent wall.  R120 ($17). 

2 Chests of Drawers plus paint (R1300 / $145)

We have some awesome things selling on the side of some of our main roads here in South Africa.  Curios to roll-on lawn to beautiful wicker and wood furniture.  I managed to get two discounted to R600 each.  (R100 savings)  But, the tops were quite rough, so the girls and I used Gaa’s sander (which we hadn’t yet returned, naughty!  Sorry Gaa!) to sand it down and applied a coat of white eggshell enamel (R100). 


(ours were already white, so we just redid the tops)  Those lamps were part of a discontinued line, so we got those at a discount too – R110 ($12).

chest of drawers

Daddy Drilling and other DIY (PRICELESS!)

On Saturday, when Craig returned from the St James Men’s breakaway, he also got stuck into DIY.  He drilled and drilled and drilled for about 4 hours straight!  What a star!


Chinese Lampshade (R30/$3.50)

He also hung the paper lampshade that I picked up at the local Chinese store – Yu Tom.  I discovered these lampshades when looking for a cheap idea for a “moon” lampshade for the girls’ room.  At R17 each, it was a bargain of note.  Along with the rose cup fitting, the lampshade cost about R30 total ($3.50).  It certainly beats the bare bulb we’ve had in that room since we bought the house in 2004!


Door Hanging (R0 / $0)

While Craig drilled, I put the finishing touches on the boys’ door hanging.  Sam had asked sweetly that week if he and Micah would also get a “door thing with our names and pictures” like the girls’ room.  So, on Friday night I got thinking.  The thing is that the boys’ door has horrible marks all down the centre from a botched double-sided-tape-removal process.  The options were: sand and re-varnish (at the cost of another tin of varnish).  Or … make a door hanging big enough to cover it.  That option sounded much better and since it cost me nothing aside from time, I was game.

Acrylic paints, plus scrap fabric, thick rope-string, left-over buttons, an old strip of wood, weathered pegs and freshly-delivered photos from an AWESOME photo-shoot we had with Susie Leblond Photography = door hanging.


Toy Hammock (R10 / $1)

With Sam’s soft toy collection consisting of hand-me-down toys from his sister, numerous claw-machine toys (a la Uncle Cam), and various other bits and bobs collected as gifts and freebie finds over the years, it was a wonder he ever actually managed to climb into bed at night.  Usually, he would scoot his toys over just enough to sleep on his side, teetering on the edge of the bed.  Well, it was time to change that.  But I don’t have the heart to cull his toys down to just one or two for his bed.  Enter: toy hammock!  I have seen these online over the years and always liked the idea.  I had an old strip of blue fabric – fabric that I’ve used for two play mats and various other sewing projects over the years. It just keeps giving and giving – and it was simply a matter of sewing a hem in either side and looping some rope through it.  Craig did the job of securing hooks to the wall and voila!  Toy Hammock!  The R10 cost of the hooks was well worth it.  Now Sam and Micah have decided to choose one toy to sleep with each night.  Ah, how my mother-meets-control-freak heart sings!  It’s not often that the two gel so nicely!


Toy Mat (R0, $0)

One of my bug bears – and most moms’ bug bears – is little pieces of Lego All. Over. The. House.  They have drawers.  But they usually get mixed up with the Duplo and I find Lego in all sorts of crazy places.  I decided they’d need to live across the room from the rest of the toys in the boys’ room.  And a good toy mat may help.  Enter this useful tutorial at FabricMill.  All the boys’ Lego fits into a beautiful draw-string bag that doubles as a playmat.  Loosen the string and it becomes a circular play mat.  Tighten it and becomes a tote-bag.  Lovely!

It was the first thing the boys played with when they entered their room on Sunday morning.  And Sam has the hang of packing it away already.


I keep the bag loose in the bottom drawer of Sam’s chest of drawers, to make it easier to get in and out.  But, if we transport it anywhere else, the tote-bag function will come in handy for sure!


Both lots of fabric consists of stuff I already had.  The lovely blue, red and white patchwork fabric I bought about 6 years ago, with my American Memory Picnic Blanket in mind.  Well, I guess I’ll be sourcing more fabric for that project, because I’ve all but used it up!


Bunting (R10/ $1.50)

I’ve been on a bit of a bunting kick lately – I think it’s a lovely, striking decor idea that’s fun and inexpensive and easy to make.  I had all the fabric already, so it was simply the cost of the binding that made this project R10 / $1.50.


After stringing it along the top of Micah’s wall, I had a small piece left over.  On a whim, I popped it on Sam’s book gutter.  I may well move the rest onto the gutters – it looks so sweet!


Hanging ships (R100 / $11)

These guys I bought at the beginning of the year, knowing that I would probably stick with a ship theme for the boys’ room whenever I finally got around to doing them.  They were a total impulse buy which I almost regretted.  But, they are so sweet and I’m so glad I did buy The one set hangs from next to Micah’s curtain. The other on the pinboard. 


This one covers up a big hole left over from a bad drilling job a few years’ ago.


Pinboard (R100 / $11)

That trusty blue fabric I referred to early?  I still have some left over, even after covering this pinboard.  My friend Charise introduced me to soft wood – perfect for a pinboard.  This 900mmx900mm board cost me +- R100.  It’s a quick job if you have a staple gun and a handy hubby to drill it into the wall.  The screws didn’t look too beautiful, so the hanging ships cover some, while the pieces of fabric cut-outs cover the others.  


Bedding, blankets etc (R0)

I already had the boys’ bedding and I did find some other bedding, but I’m not crazy about it, so it’s probably going back to the store.  So, for now, bedding is the same stuff and costs us nothing in terms of this bedroom redo.

The best part of the redo is always the Great Reveal.  The boys slept in our bed for the past three nights as their room was in the various stages of readiness.  When we head to bed, we transfer their lead-weight sleeping bodies to the couch.  They woke at the crack of dawn and couldn’t wait to see it all.  Walking in, this is what they saw…


And these are the faces that I got to see:


Absolute and utter delight.  Micah couldn’t stop jumping up and down, clapping his hands.  And Sam, with his shy smile of delight – priceless!




That’s it!  R2490 total by my count.  Add to that the cost of extras like hooks, gutter shelve brackets, light bulbs and such, we probably spent another R200.  Making this bedroom redo roughly R2700 / $300!  Considering that R1300 of it was bedroom furniture, all the little bits and pieces cost roughly R1400 / $160 in total.  Yay for budget-beating stuff!

Body World

In Mid-March Craig and I decided to take the kids on an educational outing… Since we’re doing anatomy for science this year, I figured that the girls would benefit from seeing Body World. Well, Kiera’s sensitivities got the better of her a few days before and she forfeited her spot in favour of her cousin, Holly.  The boys, we figured, were too young.  So off we went, with only 1 of our 4 for our family educational outing! 

We couldn’t take pictures inside the exhibit, but we were allowed to take this photo…


We really enjoyed it – if it is possible to enjoy a 1 1/2 hours of viewing dead bodies!

Katie and Holly had a ball and enjoyed their Kauai date with Craig and I afterwards.


Here they are showing us that even bodies with their skin ON can look pretty gross…




Yum yum.


Most poignant for me was the beginning and the middle.

The first exhibit is of the development of life, from the smallest zygote to the newly born baby. Looking at those little exhibits made me realise just how amazingly intricate our creation and development is. Looking at those ‘bundles of cells’ shouted “I am human!” – not at all what the pro-abortion lobbyists would want you to believe. I walked on from the exhibit being incredibly moved by God’s intricate planning in our lives, right from the very beginning.

Interestingly, though, when Craig and I came to a cross-section of a man’s head, my feeling was polar opposite. We were face-to-face, quite literally, with a man in his 50s or 60s. Every pore on his skin was scrubbed and clean. There was still stubble on his chin and a place or two where the razor didn’t quite reach. His eyes were closed, yet they look like he would, in any moment, ‘wake up’ – open his eyes and begin a conversation. Except for the fact that half of his head was on the right of the plate and the other half on the left. We were staring at the cross-section of a man’s head. His skull and brain cross-sectioned to reveal the intricate convolutions of the brain. He was dead. And his brain was nothing but a meaty mess of channels and vessels. In that moment, our mortality, our finite cellular make-up stared me in the face.

The oxymoron is startling and yet obvious. We are nothing but cells. Yet we are made in God’s image. We are all going to die one day, leaving a body of skin, bone, muscle and other mortal fragments. Yet, we are so much more than the body we leave behind. My ironic reaction did not escape me – when staring at a floating blob called a zygote, I felt deeply moved at God’s creation of humankind. When staring at a recognisable human being’s centre of reason and life, a man’s cross-sectioned head, I felt deeply aware of our nothingness – our biology of cells that function until they die. How odd – yet, how significant at the same time. For God’s interest in us was way before we were recognisably human. He came to save us long before we were even that floating blob called a zygote. We ‘enlightened’ humans hold so much more value in the human represented by the man’s head on a plate – more than the human represented by the white, floating tissue. Yet, GOD loved us BEFORE…

It makes the whole pro-choice/pro-life argument seem utterly absurd.

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