Tuesday, December 26, 2017

DIY Shelf Tutorial

I made some shelves for our bare dining area wall, and boy do I love 'em! They were so easy to make, I figured I'd write up the simple instructions for all you motivated shelf-builders.


The bottom shelf functioned as a hearth and housed our stockings this year!

But first, a warning: This is probably going to be the worst shelf tutorial you have ever read. It may read something like this: Get the watchamacallit and put it in the other thingie, and then maybe ask a Home Depot guy what to do next.

There will also be very few step-by-step photos. I was so excited to get these shelves mounted, that I didn't take many photos along the way. I did, however, accidentally take this shot of Jay measuring something:

And I did take a few Instagram stories, so I will include those in lieu of step-by-step photos. I've also forgotten the names of pretty much everything I used for this project, so I've had to fish out my receipt for help. I'm having trouble reading the receipt, though; so I'm trying to fill in the blanks. It's sort of like Wheel of Fortune, except with rather higher stakes that could affect your home improvement dreams.

But don't let my shoddy tutorial ways fool you: these shelves are TERRIFIC! And EASY! You can do this! On a budget!

  • Wood — I got three pine beams that were six feet long, eight inches wide, and one inch thick (I think they call that 6 x 8 x 1. Or is it 8 x 6 x 1? or 1 x 8 x 6? Or maybe none of the above?!)
  • Stain 
  • Sealer (optional)
  • Paint brush 
  • Rags
  • Sand paper
  • Shelf brackets
  • Screws — Wood and/or Dry Wall (wood if you'll screw into studs; dry wall if you won't)
  • A level
  • An electric drill

If you are like me, then you will spend at least 3 hours in Home Depot for this phase of the project. You will get lost, stuck in crowded aisles, disoriented, deflated, confused, and full of second-guesses; and eventually, you will begin to forget who you are and what your life's purpose is. But don't lose heart: just keep talking to employees until you find someone who has lots of experience with home projects, and eventually you will find everything you need, and you will see the sunlight again.

I was originally going to get the big old beams in the main lumber section and then have them cut, but an angel with an orange apron and a white beard, named Louie, came to my rescue and told me I would tear my wall apart with beams that heavy. He redirected me to some nice, thin beams instead (they're just one inch thick; and pre-cut!). They were so nice and light, I could lift them without having to wrangle nearby young men to help!

Nice, light beams!

Then find some sand paper. I also got this handy dandy sanding tool:

Next: select the stain and sealer of your choice (confession, I didn't use sealer. I forgot to get it). I used Minwax stain in Dark Walnut.

Then find brackets that float your shelving boat. I wanted rather inconspicuous brackets, so I went with THESE industrial pipe brackets.

When you're shopping for screws, consider on what part of the wall you'll be mounting your shelves. If you're mounting the screws in dry wall, you will need dry wall screws. I recommend finding an angel like Louie to help you find dry wall screws that work with your brackets.

If I were a regular wood-working pro, I would tell you which screws go with which brackets, but these here shelves of mine are standing by the grace of God and Louie, so my advice is very limited.  

Or, if you're mounting screws into studs like we did, then you can get wood screws. Ours were #8 x 1 1/2 inches.


Before staining your wood, sand every last inch of it. This will open up the grain so stain can permanently settle there.

After sanding, make sure there isn't a speck of sawdust clinging to your shelves. Once they are clean, you can begin staining.

To stain, just follow the directions of the can, man. I painted the stain on with a paint brush and then rubbed the excess off with a rag.

(Blogger has turned my Instagram shelf stories into a warbly mess. This is par for my tutorial course, obviously). 

I let my shelves air out outside for a couple of weeks since the smell of stain was so strong. I made sure to bring them inside at night, though, so the elements wouldn't wet and warp them.

When the smell of stain has disappeared, measure and mount your brackets with the drill. If you don't own a level, you can use this handy trick.

Then fill 'em with your books, plants, ceramics, and other doo dahs.

My shelf decor is sponsored by Ross Dress For Less and The 99 Cent Store.

These are all from Ross (on clearance!):

The white candle holder is from Ross; the geometric ball is from the 99 cent store

And these are from the 99 Cent Store:
Isn't this a fun little vase?!
The candle holder and the owl (it's a bank) seemed like the perfect finishing touches

I'm learning that the 99 Cent Store is a treasure trove of finds — some of them so nice, they look like they could be from Pottery Barn. Truly. I love it there.

And there you have it, folks. Simple, cool shelves!

Up next: I'm making a coffee table. Here's to hoping my next tutorial is a little more savvy!

I hope you had a most restful and celebratory Christmas remembering the birth of the Savior of the World, my friends!



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© by scj

Saturday, December 16, 2017

My hubby, the Christmas Elf

My husband has been a very busy Christmas elf this month.

He's been planning Christmas parties for the foster kids, shopping for hundreds of Christmas gifts for his kids, stuffing scores of stockings, making phone calls to set up Christmas dinner deliveries, and blazing through his normal work week to boot.

One of his mentorship programs is aimed toward middle school kids but has also been attracting families. Aunties, grandmas, and young kids show up with the middle school kiddos, and they all enjoy the evening together. So as Jay was preparing gifts for the middle schoolers, he considered what he might do for the young kids, too.

Yesterday he came home from a work excursion loaded with bags. "Look at what I got for the little kids!" he exclaimed. I watched as he pulled out the bags' contents and explained his vision for each item. His voice was full of excitement and he had light in his eyes. I love his generous, childlike heart. His life has been full of grueling trials, and he could be worn and hardened; but he has fought hard to be tender and kind

This week Jay has had to deal with a case of bullying among the foster kids. These kids have watched gang members kill their siblings, parents abuse them, and adults abandon them; and they have to work hard to learn to treat others with dignity. Jay does such a good job of teaching them how to do this.

Somehow, he calls his kids to a higher standard, helps them accept responsibility, creates firm boundaries, and expresses unconditional love all at once. He understands the cultural nuances that affect his kids' behavior, and he teaches them that our actions have natural consequences and rewards.

Simply put: he is amazing, and I love him.

Anyway, this was going to be an Instagram post, but I ran out of space over there.

Merry weekend-before-Christmas Eve, friendlies!


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© by scj

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Fiasco

Here is some advice for all you starry-eyed young lovers planning the wedding of your dreams: If you want your hair to shine like the sun on your wedding day, and if you want to spend ample one-on-one time with the people you love in the days leading up to your wedding, then you should make sure your fiance gets lice right before your wedding.

Because here is what will happen if your fiance gets lice before your wedding (trust me, kids; I speak from experience):

You will fly into lice prevention mode, because you and your fiance are prone to snuggle, and snuggling is the perfect time for lice transfer. Lice prevention mode requires working around the clock to bag and clean every item you own, washing your hair with tea tree oil daily, and applying mayonnaise to your head every night in order to suffocate potential lice while you sleep. The daily application of mayonnaise will hydrate your hair beyond your wildest hair dreams, ensuring it gleams in the light of your afternoon wedding.

You will also need some generous, kind-hearted soul (e.g., your roommate, mom, or sister-in-law) to spend hours combing through your hair everyday on a thorough lice hunt, which will allow ample time to have uninterrupted conversations about things you'd never normally have time to talk about the week before your wedding.

You guys. Remember these photos?

They are glorious and romantic, and they tell beautiful stories. There is one story they do not tell, however. They do not describe the nausea I felt when, two days later, I went to cut Jay's hair and found a louse chilling on top of his head. They do not describe the panic I felt when I thought about having lice on my wedding day and on my honeymoon. And they do not describe the mania with which I bagged every single item I owned until the wee hours of the morning that first night.


I'm sorry for yelling at you. Sometimes, when you are remembering lice trauma, it feels good to yell. I will stop now. 

This fiasco is most certainly a metaphor. Someone's life may seem glorious and sunsetty and full of all the best things, but there is always lice lurking somewhere, unseen. There is always something contaminating the happily ever after.

Positivity is obviously one of my strong suits.

Here is how this whole thing went down:

Jay went to camp with some of his foster kids a few weeks before our wedding. He's gone to camp many times before without getting lice, but for some reason, I had an uneasy feeling about this particular camp. "I hope you don't get lice..." I mused, just before he left. "I'll be fine! Don't worry!" he replied, with his typical sunshiny optimism.

I couldn't shake the feeling that he was in danger of lice, though, so I went ahead and bought tea tree oil and lice combs while he was at camp. Then I checked his head for a week after camp and didn't find anything.

Phew! We're safe!

I resumed snuggling without the creeping suspicion that I was making myself suseptible to lice.

And then WHAM! BAM! A louse appeared.

Most people who knew about the lice did not think it was that big of a deal. But it was a big ol' deal to me. Lice has always been a big deal to me, ever since the parasite unit Mrs. Payne made us endure in 8th grade. That unit jolted me out of my magical childhood into the world of blood-sucking creepy crawlies, and I am sorry to admit that I developed my one and only phobia that year: lice-a-phobia.

There is no time to face a phobia like the days leading up to your wedding.

And actually, I mean that. If you are going to spend your life with a man who works with kids, then you need to overcome that lice phobia. It turns out, the best way to overcome a lice phobia is through exposure to lice. I am so ready for my life with Jay and his kiddos now, you guys.

There are three things you need to know before I wrap this up: 1) Jay was the only one who got lice at camp. 2) He's never gotten lice in his life before. 3) Satan knows I have a lice phobia. This is an assumption, of course, but I think it's a reasonable one. Satan and his minions are very familiar with our weak spots and want to exploit them.

So I wonder if the lice was Satan's attempt at stealing my joy during a particularly joyous season. If it was, then I am in awe of so many things:

The Holy Spirit gave me such a strong sense that Jay would get lice that I was was prepared to fly into action mode when we found it. God helped us find the lice before it got bad, and we were able to eradicate it before the wedding. Thankfully, nobody got lice from Jay (boy, did God protect us!). And glory of glories: God used that lice fiasco for so much good.

There is this girl on Instagram whose life is so beautiful. She is beautiful, everyone in her family is beautiful, her house is beautiful, her clothes are beautiful, and sometimes there is so much beauty it hurts. I have struggled with envying her. But now, every time I see a beautiful, envy-inducing photo, I try to remember: they could have lice. It could be real lice, or metaphorical lice, but the reality is everyone is fighting some sort of battle, no matter how beautiful the season.

It's a mantra I tell myself when social media stirs up envy: everyone is fighting some sort of battle.

Praying for people's unseen battles is so much more productive than envying their golden moments, so that's what I try to do these days. It's a new practice, born out of the lice fiasco; and it's changing my life.  

And although I'm still rather opposed to lice, God has whittled away enough of my phobia that I've sometimes wondered if the lice were his idea to begin with. I love that about God: he is so good at using bad things for good that sometimes it's hard to tell if the bad thing came from Satan or was part of God's life curriculum for us.

I'm thankful for that reminder right before my wedding: come lice or significant loss, God is always transfiguring the hard stuff into good stuff.

I love that about Him.

A very merry Thursday to you, my friends.

I'm cheering for ya, Home Skillets.


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© by scj

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Peppermint Hot Chocolate + Christmasy Vlog

 Friends of mine!

I am on a recipe and vlog roll this month! I have a Christmas-y vlog, complete with wood-working ambitions, salsa dancing, and a Paleo peppermint hot chocolate recipe, over on Youtube today.

Here's the video (click HERE to be redirected to Youtube):

And here's the hot chocolate recipe!

To make one mug of peppermint hot chocolate you will need:
  • 1 1/4 c. of coconut milk*
  • 2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 2 honey-sweetened chocolate peppermint patties**
  • A splash of vanilla

*I use canned coconut cream without added guar or xanthan gum. I skim off the thickest cream and use it for whipped cream (just whip the cream with a splash of maple syrup, and voila! You've got yourself some whipped cream!), and then use the more watery milk for the hot chocolate.

**I like the honey-sweetened chocolate mints from Trader Joe's (see my video for example), but you can use THESE more expensive mints, too. 


Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously, until the mints have melted, the cocoa is incorporated, and the mixture is steaming hot.

Top with whipped coconut cream, and enjoy!

A very merry Thursday to you, my friends!

Keep marching on, you Warriors, you.


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© by scj

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Anti-Inflammatory Blueberry Muffin Recipe + Road Trip Vlog

Jay and I continue to adjust to this whole marriage thing, and it feels like we are settling into a good rhythm. We have figured out how to keep the fridge stocked for both our needs; we can pack for the beach in a moment's notice; and we are pros at prepping for a road trip.

I made Jay his most favorite blueberry muffins for our recent trek to Oregon, and since they are so good — AND they are anti-inflammatory (that means they're gluten, dairy, and cane sugar-free)— I made a how-to video for all of you! The first half of the video is the muffin how-to, and the second half is a video blog of our road trip to Oregon.

Photo disclaimer: We didn't take the above photo until days into our trip, at which point the leftover muffins had been squished and left in the car for four days. Do not let this photo fool you; the muffins really look delicious when they're fresh! (Jay ate the days-old muffins. He has a special gift for eating muffins).

See, fresh muffins!

Here's the video for all you bakers and road trip watchers (click HERE if the video below won't play for you):

And here's the written recipe for all you visual learners:

  • 1 1/2 cups of oat flour*
  • 3/4 cup of coconut or date sugar
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 egg or 1 chia seed egg**
  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil or butter***
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of coconut or nut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • About 1 cup of blueberries (I like to use frozen blueberries)
*You can make your own oat flour by processing 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats in your food processor or heavy duty blender, or you can buy it at most grocery stores. I especially like Bob's Red Mill oat flour!

** To make a chia seed egg, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and gelatinous.

*** I use a mixture of both coconut oil and butter, although I avoided butter when I adhered strictly to the anti-inflammatory diet.


Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

In a measuring jug that holds at least one cup, add the oil and egg. Then use the milk to fill the jug to the one-cup mark. Add the vanilla, and whisk with a fork until combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix until combined. Then fold in the blueberries until they are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.

Scoop equal amounts of the mixture into a muffin tin with baking cups or a silicon muffin mat. If you'd like, sprinkle coconut or date sugar on the tops of the muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (some ovens may take as long as 25 minutes).

Let the muffins cool before removing them from the mat or tin. They are gluten-free and will crumble if removed too soon.

HANDY DANDY TIP: Use an ice cream scoop to distribute the muffin batter across your baking cups!

I hope you enjoy, my friends!

Hopeful, light-filled Thursday, folks!

I'm cheering for you, Home Skillets.


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© by scj

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Road Trippin'

Yesterday Jay and I got back from Bend, Oregon, where we spent Thanksgiving with family. We drove the 1700-mile trek, and it was such a long trip, I thought we might grow old and die in that car before ever seeing the horizons of Orange County again.

At Smith Rock in Bend

But we can do hard things, so we forged ahead and eventually arrived in Orange County; and today we are recovering with Netflix, Paleo fudge, and a walk along the beach. Well, I am, anyway. Jay has to work, so I am resting for the both of us. This whole healing and participating in life thing is glorious, but it has me plumb tuckered out some of the time!

We had such a lovely time in Oregon with most of my side of the family.

We got to spend more time with the cutest dog in the world AND the cutest baby in the world, and we were the happiest aunt and uncle in the world.

Roo has a red hoodie that she wears when it is cold. It is too cute for words.

Aria has recently discovered her tongue, so we spent much of the long weekend ooohing and ahhing over her brilliance. "What AMAZING tongue control she has! Just LOOK how she smiles AND sticks out her tongue simultaneously! Is there ANY baby in the world with greater tongue dexterity?!"

And then we sat around and watched her jump in the jolly jump up, and we decided she will be an Olympian, because how could she not be with jumping skills like that?!

I also enjoyed a number of limbic system retraining victories on our trip.

I drank normal hot chocolate and whipped cream for the first time since I got sick! I limbic system retrained with hot chocolate for over a year before I could drink it, so all 8 ounces of it felt especially victorious.

I also played tennis and hiked a little, and a few nights I only got 5 hours of sleep and nothing bad happened. And then, glory of glories, I ate these Trader Joe's cookies that I've been training to eat for over a year:

This last road trip brings our road tripping total to 4,000 miles since we got married. When Jay and I first met, I struggled to be a car passenger for short treks across town, so we are joyfully celebrating this massive limbic system retraining victory.

Oh my, what a wondrous week!

Keep on soldiering, you DNRS warriors, you. All your hard work will pay off!

Happy, glorious Tuesday to you all, my friends.


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© by scj