Fireplace Makeover

This past year, while the kids and I took a trip home (Ohio) during Spring break, Mr AW Exquisite Design decided to tackle a quick weekend project: making over the fireplace in our living room! I believe he spread it out over the course of the week since he also had to work.

The past 2 years have been insanely busy with transforming our home to look more like our style. It’s been fun but wrought with plenty of angst, trial and error. It is exciting to see marked progress with all the projects so far.

Okay, so let’s go back. Wayyyy back to the beginning when we first moved in to get a clear picture of what it originally looked like. We didn’t do much of anything to this space until recently. Starting with this fireplace.

*Please kindly forgive the grainy photos and decorating; I had a very difficult time rummaging through tons of old photos to find anything decent that shows how it was before. It continues to evolve into a more pleasing aesthetic-

Christmas 2012

Because of the lack of vision for the space partly due to the bare bones structure , there was a severe absence of real design. Read: BORING! Even Christmas decor didn’t do much to dress it up. At least my cute kids made for something interesting to look at in the picture. 😄

This winter has been an exception but we love nice, cozy fireside time when it is bitterly cold outside. Yes, even here in Atlanta it seriously gets too cold some winters. This one has been the mildest that I’ve ever experienced in all the time I’ve lived in the south. So I don’t believe we’ve even lit the fire once this winter. For good reason too since we are currently putting in hardwood flooring! That was a long time coming and dream come true for sure! If you follow me on Instagram, you will see some of the progress peeks. It is definitely exciting!!!

Fireplace warmth

Okay, so Michael took a few shots but hardly as many as I would have taken to document the process. I give him a hard time about it since I know how easy it is to forget certain things unless there was a picture taken or written down. I wonder if he could be coaxed to join me in writing posts on this little blog of mine to give his educated insights and angles that would prove resourceful to others. 😉   I’m glad he did get some “during” shots so I have a blog post to write about. Haha!  It’s all in the details and start to finish in my book! I like to see ALL the good, bad, AND ugly. That is real, unglossed-over life!! Some of you just care to see the after and that’s okay. But in the end the important thing is if the end result is a big difference and wows you!

The demolition:

Layering on the stone veneer flats and clamps holding 2×4 wood in place

While tackling this job, Michael also decided to install a couple recessed lights above the fireplace. He attempted to see about installing more throughout the outer edge surrounding the tray ceiling but because of the hvac duct system running right above we can’t. 😞 😭


We are so glad to have this small but significant change in the main area and now are you ready for the – AFTER – ?

Funny thing about this picture though? It is actually a “before” since this was taken just prior to beginning the major living room makeover ! 😄 We were actually removing everything from this area hence the stacked pillows on the couch, no curtains on the rods, and dvds in the basket. 

                                STAY TUNED for more transformations of this living room!


 Thanks for stopping in for a little visit!


A New Year And My Word For This Year & A Printable

                                             Here we are in the new year – 2017!     

There is a preponderance of expectancy, hope, dreams, and reflections that abound on most peoples’ minds when a new year comes around. There also may be regrets and disappointments thrown in. For me personally, I intentionally try to keep my focus on the former rather than the latter negatives. Why? Because as most know, when we allow ourselves to stew and grovel in the ills of the past year, we can impede on the potential possibilities that lie before us in…

  • Making progress
  • Moving forward!
  • Facilitating change to make our world a better place for me & others

So….. what does this look like?

For me, it comes in the form of a word (or rather, a phrase) to help define and color my decisions, thought processes, etc. so that no matter how small, another leaf was turned. A stone was moved. A bridge was forged. A door was open or closed. A mountain was climbed. And so on and so forth….

The inspiration for this years’ word hit me right on the eve of New Year’s like a sudden light bulb moment. I was quietly surprised. Usually, one of two things happen.                                                                                  I, a) do not have a specific word speak to me, or b) it comes much later…. like months later.  Last year was a good example of a year when I didn’t have one particular word but looking back there was definitely a theme. Overall, it was upheld. It was to reduce the busy, the clutter, the excess of living a more effective, quality life.

To say that word we dread to say to things and others – “NO”.

And, oh, all the prunings were not pretty, people.

It was a hot mess. It almost made things come undone. Like, irreparable come apart….. okay, maybe not quite that bad but seemed like it.

It caused some misunderstandings, emotional distance but it was a definite necessity in order to move forward, to reach another threshold of growth and development. To be still in a world of calamity, chaos, and crazy is a vital step to reach the efficacy of impacting the world around you and effectively accomplishing your goals.

Listen, you will do nobody (least of all yourself) any favors if you don’t care for yourself properly (not just physically but emotionally,mentally, & spiritually too!) and that may take longer than some of you would like. Yeah, here’s talking to you, oh impatient, restless, antsy, overly ambitious, type A. extroverted one!
Did I use enough adjectives?!


I’m happy to report…. that we are stronger and more intact for all the tribulation we went through this past year. We’ve *hopefully* learned a few valuable lessons along the way AND progress HAS been made!

                                                                 So…… about the word of the year for me is this: 

                                                                                Intentionally Fearless                                            Word For 2017                                                        


I tend to always want to control things & people (don’t we all? but some more than others). Because of that obsessive need to be in control, I often find myself criticizing how others do things then try to correct them. That it has to be my particular way or it’s not done right (I’m an idealist by nature). Feeling so pressured that I project extreme agitation over small inconveniences. Because of this feeling of needing to control and be in control, I in turn give in to fear.

  • Fear of being truly real
  • Fear of what others may think, say, or do
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of showing vulnerability
  • Fear that I’m too sensitive
  • Fear that I’m too cruel
  • Fear of saying or doing the wrong thing which may (and often does!) land me in hot water
  • Fearing the worst in many situations
  • Fearing for my kids
  • Fear from media-induced neurosis [hard NOT to get sucked into that vacuum!]     
  • Fear of loss of control    
  • Fear that it’s not perfect enough [this really relates to one of the main reasons I haven’t been active on my blog; this needs to change 😉]              

Instead of allowing fear to dominate my life and thoughts, I will be intentional in NOT giving those fears a foothold to keep me in shackles. I will deliberately move forward through the fear and in spite of the fear.     This may be painful at times but like Rachel Platten sings in her song “Nothing Ever Happens”, we need to get out of our own way.                                                                                                                     Dreams and visions can’t become reality by playing it safe and giving in to our fears, big or small.                                                                     Yikes. Did I just say in essence to take a deep breath and jump??!  

I think I did! 

Oh man, what did I just get myself into? 

That is why I juxtaposed the word “intentionally” with FEARLESS – because the fear may still be present but you can consciously choose to not let it cripple your potential or keep you from a call to action.

So this year, I purpose to “lighten up” a bit and choose to make the best of a less than ideal (in my mind) situation. Even if my posts aren’t what I think they should be, just publish them anyway;so at least there will be some consistency.                                                                                To let go (a little, haha….. baby steps, y’all) of trying to micro-manage every tiny detail of all the joint projects we need to accomplish.                  To be okay with not-quite-perfect (bear with me, those of you who just want to grunt impatiently because you think it’s just fine and go “next!”).                                                                                                                                                  
Below is a free printable I decided to make for all of you to remind ourselves that we do not have to live by fear.                    

This is actually a photo my husband, Michael, took on one of his snowboard trips out west (I think this is Utah?). He is an example of not letting fear stand in the way of enjoying life to full capacity as he plunges down those formidable depths!

For Personal, Non-Commercial Use Only. *You MAY NOT sell, redistribute, or claim the original or derivative (redesigned from the original) design as your own without written permission.



Here’s an original song that fits well with this post- written and sung by my sister, Graceanne ~

– Oh, and this post only took a month (singular) instead of month(s) to put out to pasture! I think I’m making progress already in putting my word into action! Yay! 😄

Have a fantastic week! I hope you leave feeling inspired in some way! 


First Day Of School Sign Tutorial



Back To School Chalkboard  



School is back in full session and I wanted to share with you guys a little tutorial for creating a cool “first day” school sign.

I cannot believe the school year has started already!   Georgia starts early. Like too early. The beginning of August is really not a good idea for kids to be heading back to school. I mean, c’mon! Summer is still going strong and many schools do not implement enough physical activity that most children require. I know I may be treading on dangerous territory here ….. BUT….. I have to say it.  Cutting their summers short in the name of shoving more academia down kids throats is not [necessarily] in the best interests of these children. They NEED a full 3 months of Summer-          To enjoy liberating and non-structured days to regroup for the highly-stressful, demanding, and very little spare time during the remaining [should be] 9 months of the year.                                                            

How many of you remember once upon a time school didn’t begin until *after* Labor Day?  Maybe it still does in some regions but not here in Georgia.  I remember having the full months of June, July, AND August free from school-related activity. Those were the days!

And need we be reminded we are only kids once. ONCE!

Yeah? Amiright??! Who’s with me?  In case you didn’t pick up on it…… {wink, wink}, I’m TEAM SUMMER!!! Whoopee!!! Okay, now that I got that off my chest………

I wanted to share with you, my friends a little project that I’ve started to do at the beginning of each school year-  Making 1st-day-of-school signs for my kids to happily hold up for their first day back to school pictures that I take every year since they’ve started school.  

  • Oh, and please excuse some of the photos…. grainy, a bit blurry, and/or poor quality are in play. Always aspiring to improve my skills but sometimes even with decent edits, the photo still is lacking in perfection. Many were taken with my phone so we all know how phone camera quality is!

   Close Up Of Kids 1st Day Of School 2015             






Really though, my kids don’t mind. Most of the time. We all have our bad days mixed in with the good, if we are honest to admit. Actually, since my little princess started preschool I’ve been snapping a daily shot of both my kids for each school day. If you follow me on Instagram, you will see that I post a daily photo of the kids at the bus stop just to memorialize the day in their school years. I also like to switch up their outfits to showcase everyday kids fashion. They rarely wear the same outfit throughout the entire school year.                                                                                                            

Here is last years’ conglomeration of bus stop pictures:                                                                                                        Paid HIGH Quality Insta School Collage photovisi-download


This was actually last years’ 1st day of school project but took me an entire year before I could get this post together ~ Uh, yeah, I’ve [reluctantly] accepted that this is how I roll…… years behind everyone else.  Better late than NEVER has become my motto.





First Day Of School Sign Tutorial




First:   Gather all your supplies.

  1. Scrapbook papers, cardstock (any light color – I used a cream colored one), and  regular copy paper
  2. Canvas rectangles (I used 11×14 panels)
  3. Glue
  4. Pencil (to trace)
  5. Scissors
  6. Craft paint
  7. Assorted artist paintbrushes
  8. Letter and/or number stickers (if not using a painted cutout, like I did)

Now, we are ready to get started:      

Choose your theme colors to go with your child’s outfit. Now, this is totally optional but adds a nice touch. I played around with different patterns, colors, designs before I got my final idea.                        

School Outfit and Sign Coordination


School Outfit and Sign Coordination - Girl






                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Using a piece of copy paper, trace the frame.

School Sign Instructional 1                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
 After you’ve traced your frame, put the cardstock paper on top of the traced frame and trace the final shape to cut out.

School Sign Instructional 10 - Brighten



Next, choose your scrapbook papers:  Use your imagination here. I decided to have a large background piece and 2 thin contrasting, complementary strips for the edges…

School Sign Instructional 2 Sharper Img

School Sign Instructional 8







                                                             Lay the bigger piece where it will be on the canvas then take your contrasting scrap paper and follow as shown in picture below:


School Sign Instructional 5



School Sign Instructional 4


School Sign Instructional 3

 Here’s what it looks like before applying the cardstock inner frame:

School Sign Instructional 8

This is what you should have so far, before you write or apply stickers:

Blank Frame Positioned

Cream colored cardstock cutout frame

I decided to use stickers since it was easiest and I had time restraints ( I did this project the day before they started school; Yes, I always love pushing things til the very last minute for some reason) but you could write/paint in the words instead. I will say, even with stickers, it was kind of tricky to get everything proportionate in the frame. It helped to draw (very) faint lines with a pencil which I erased after everything was done.

Close Up 1st Day School Signs 2015

School Numbers Close Up

Freehand painted number cutouts

School Sign Instructional 6

3rd Grade Sign

20150810_085332-1st Grade Sign watermark



So, there you have it. My twist on all those popular “First Day Of School” signs.  Okay, let’s keep you here just a tad longer and give you a few more shots of the kiddos sporting these signs!    

 3rd Grade Son School Sign

1st Day of School Year 2015-2016- K-1stG


Picmonkey Edit Both Kids 1st Day Signs

Picmonkey Watermark- AJ Closeup 1st Day Sign 2015

Picmonkey Watermark-Kaiya 1st Day Sign 2015


Kids w1stday School Signs 2015 #3


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Here is this years’ First Day (2016-2017 school year):                                      1st Day Of School 2016

The comparison of last year (August 2015) & this year (August 2016):

Transparent background -PicMonkey Collage


                                                         Hope you found this tutorial enjoyable and/or inspirational! I hope you also had a satisfying Labor Day!!     ❤
Initials Signature 2
















Re-evaluation Of Life For The Mid-Year 2016




Create Your Tomorrow






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Re-evaluation. That is a loaded word and one that we need to apply on a regular basis to life ~ 

As I lay in my bed on this past New Years’ Eve 2015 recovering from ending the year of 2015 on an epic note (a trip to Indonesia – my husband’s homeland – which I plan to blog about …. at some point.), many thoughts and ideas go flashing through my mind preparing to enter a new year- a new chapter as it were. Re-evaluate.

We are now halfway into 2016 and it is definitely flying!  – Can someone please slow the clock down?! The older we are, the more this is true as we crowd so much more in our schedules instead of just savoring one thing for a little longer. 

Jeweled Pocket Watch

I’m thinking maybe a slower-paced year is in my cards the next oh, say, 207 days.  HA! I was saying that back when we were in the earlier part of the year and there wasn’t too much going on…. at the time.                

Come back and catch me in mid to late May – Oh, wait. It IS already June! ….when I’m up to my neck in some new (or old- I tend to have this bad habit of taking on multiple projects and taking FOR-EVERRRRR ….. and a day to *finally* FINISH) project[s].   *Ask my husband, Michael- HAHA!  

Update: I’m a walking self-fulfilling prophecy, y’all! As of this published post, I’ve gone and done it. I’m on a very determined mission to complete my son, AJ’s room which only took me 3 1/2 years to close the door on this renovation project to move on to the next.    boy's room painting















I’m a procrastinator by nature or one that works better with a deadline looming (as much as I HATE to admit to that since I *vehemently* loathe pressure being put on me).        

Red Clock Stock Image




 It makes me mad but a mean, productive machine that will knock out all the steps and be done faster than you chanting the pledge of allegiance.                                                **FYI: I’m a bear/bitch when I’m under pressure; stay 10 feet away unless you are helping my load to be lighter. Just keeping it real, y’all!  ;-)           Time Management Words Stock Image                           

I’m also needing some serious help with my “time management” skills. Any way I hash it or improvise, I still end up on the edge of the ‘short’ hand of the clock, so to speak: Meaning – The hours (the short hand) just tick by rapidly.                                                                         Without my permission.                  

With that said, I’ve given it some thought and decided to do two things to channel my focus a little palpably and procure the ability to transform the way I generally operate so that I can be more productive. 


1. Unleash what’s termed a “BRAIN      DUMP”     

-Where everything that’s running through my head be it sorting through a stash of whatever, purging or designating a place with other like items, a project that needs attention, random places to go, things to do, appointments, anything kid-related, etc. et cetera…makes its way to the paper.                                                                                                   I’ve made a point of staying consistent with it (even if some months I haven’t jotted as much down) and referencing it often.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Brain Dump                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 Planner Inspiration







 All that’s needed is a notebook or pad and a pen. I don’t care who you are or how little time you have, you CAN make time to just jot whatever down. It all comes down to what you will prioritize and if you are anything like me, you need all the help you can summon to keep yourself accountable for being and feeling productive.





It has helped enormously in streamlining my time and I’ve consciously made an effort to cut out the bloat that ends up stealing precious time from accomplishing tasks and goals.                                                     Yes, less time on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and {sadly} Pinterest.                                                                                                I don’t know about you, but my mind has a million ideas and a never-ending list of things that need to be tackled. I will forget most of those since there is no way to remember it all when it comes to making it happen. Plus, the sad reality that I’m NOT superwoman. Say WHAT?? Say it ain’t so.        






2. Finding a PLANNER that works for you.


Happy Planner watermark












 No. That does not mean hiring yourself a live P.A. (personal assistant) – although that would be ideal and really nice! Haha.


  This may require purchases that turn out to be lemons (true in my case) but eventually (hopefully) you will find a system that is perfect for you and your lifestyle. Or you may be of the “digital” persuasion where a few taps of your smart device have you on the ready for your next venture or event.                                                                                                    I have always been a “planner girl” as far back as I can remember since I would write down schedules, events or whatever I had going on. I loved referencing my planner to keep me mindful of things coming up and it was a good way to start prepping especially for important upcoming occasions.  

Pens and notebooks








Did you know there are a whole slew of communities to inspire you in your planning endeavors??! I’ve recently found yet another hobby to add to my ever-growing list of things I really enjoy! I just got into the MAMBI Happy Planners and don’t get me started on my Etsy sticker addiction!!! Can you tell how exciting this makes me?      


Watermark Planner Layout

“You will never influence the world by trying to be like it”

Planner Collage watermark Gold          












































































































































































































Here’s another little [not so secret] secret to pass on to you on how to be more productive AND not fall apart doing so:                                        Make more room in your time by NOT doing so much! It’s simple really. But we tend to crowd MORE. MORE. MORE into our already cramped lifestyle thinking – We have to. We must. We don’t have much choice.

Sit down and figure what you honestly could cut out – OR add –  to free up your ability to be more productive.   Trust me, if you don’t take care of yourself first and start saying “No”, you will find yourself forced into an intermission/time out either because of illness, injury, conflicts arising, mental breakdown, to name a few.                                                                                                                  

Ask yourself the hard questions –

Is it really necessary or mandatory….
  • To teach that class?
  • Go to that show/conference?
  • Travel so much?
  • Give that speech?
  • Have your kids [or you] involved in so many activities that you are running yourself  (and them) ragged and sick? And no time to take real time for yourself?
  • Wasting time on social media (you know, scrolling every few minutes or every half hour through the feed)?
  • Do this project and that one?  
  • Go to yet another shower/wedding/party?
  • To say “yes” to almost (if not every) invite?

Listen, you may have more energy than most and it may not be hurting anyone now. However, if you are human, you have limits. Sometimes it’s good to take a breather for a spell and re-evaluate where you are at this time, what you could add (if you aren’t prioritizing what is valuable to you and those around you) or extract from your life.                                   Even too much of a good thing can become toxic if it’s detracting from you being effective to those around you, to yourself and living a quality life. You need to GIVE yourself permission to say “NO” more often (for those who have a hard time turning down offers).                                           On the flip side, if you find yourself almost always saying “no”, allow yourself to get more involved and practice saying “YES” to things that will prove beneficial to not only you but others too!

   Day Designer 3 CROP watermark




*Disclaimer: Now I’m still a lifelong work in progress (Read: NOT perfect by any stretch) but I’m preaching and putting into practice as much to myself as anyone of what was just aforesaid. We must extend grace to ourselves and others when we seem to be making progress but find that we still come up short.


 Hope this post helped inspire you in some way and may you have an intentional and productive week!

                AW Signature

IKEA Chair Brings Frugal Comfort To The Bedroom


{{ Guest Post }} From Ilona :


Assemble Your Own Economical Bedroom Chair

An Armchair For The Bedroom

bedroom chair

Source: Ilona Erwin

My cozy little setup for reading: the Poang chair and footstool, a reading lamp, and small bookcase.

Great looking black and white print is an ideal partner for the white, red or black cushions.

Wouldn’t this be the perfect accent for the chair?

I was looking for a bedroom chair


My inspiration for drawing your attention to my bedroom chair? My husband, recently laid up with a bout of sciatica, remarked that it was the only chair he could comfortably sit in. Heretofore, it had been my own exclusive place to sit, and I am presently sitting in it right now as I write this review. I wanted others to enjoy what I have found to be the benefits of this widely available, inexpensive, and comfortable chair for many uses in your home or apartment.

Need Design Ideas?

Need a chair to tuck into your bedroom? That is how I have set up this versatile piece of furniture.

New apartment? You might want a pair of these for you and your guests, they will also move easily when you do.

What about your guest bedroom? Your guests will feel right at home and you can afford to add the extras that make a guest room extra nice.

A den? This might become your favorite TV watching chair, or you might like it for rocking the new baby.

Two things were on my mind

For me, two things were on my mind when shopping for a new chair to fill a space in the corner of my bedroom.


…The fact is that a reading chair in a bedroom is a requisite, in my opinion. Every bedroom needs a place where you can sit to put on your shoes, curl up with a good book, or pull out your organizer and create a list of what needs to get done that day. Or just sit and dream with a cuppa.


If I had been younger, during the days when I had young babies and night feedings, it would be the place that I could gently rock while sitting in the flexible Poang Armchair, but nowadays I like to put my feet up and work on my laptop or read quietly. Tucked away from the the other areas of the house, able to look out my bay window, it is perfect for me.

Back to those two factors that a new bedroom chair had to fulfill:

  1. It had to fit my fairly small budget. This was not as important to me as a family vacation, and not a necessity for anyone in the family except me.
  2. It had to be comfortable. Actually this requirement outweighs the first one of price. So I went around sitting in lots of chairs.

On a visit to IKEA, I sat in this chair and fell in love…with the price AND the comfort.


  • The modern, sleek look ( even though I usually go for bulky easy chairs-I just love this)
  • The matching footstool which gives good leg/foot support, and is lightweight (easy to move when vacuuming)
  • The seat cover pad which adds to the comfort and makes cleaning easy, too.
  • The flexible rocking motion
  • The comfort of the design

But now… my husband has discovered what a nice seat it is, so will I need to buy another?

Look! A New Nursery With the Best Seat In The House

Zoe gets a modern, clean bedroom! With a Poang rocker and a bookshelf seat- how cute!

Zoe gets a modern, clean bedroom! With a Poang rocker and a bookshelf seat- how cute!

This Is A Classic

Have you been to IKEA lately? So many great items that won’t break your budget, and like this piece, many will be classic in thier simple design. Fit it into any room- and it works!

What Color Cushions? Choices!


The cushions are sold separately from the chair. This is not a problem since the chair looks great on its own. I like having the extra padding, and it extends the color and design choices.

There are many colors and a number of styles available for a cushion set that will fit into any room scheme.

I’ve even seen custom seat covers sold on Etsy for this popular chair.

Easy To Assemble

IKEA Poang Chair

Ikea Poang Chair Armchair with Cushion, Cover and Frame
Ikea Poang Chair Armchair with Cushion, Cover and Frame

You can get this great seating from Amazon “delivered to your door” service!

Kid Friendly
I raised ten of them- so I appreciate it when furniture is kid friendly. The cushion covers can be washed or replaced easily.

Addictive Kale Chips

 Baked Kale Chips











Kale Chips.


You either like ’em or you don’t.  Here at the Widjaja house, we LOVE them! Can’t get enough of them!   Beg for more! Don’t last long!….. but maybe that’s a good thing as it’s a way better alternative to junk such as:

  •    Potato chips
  •    Fried Foods
  •    Cake
  •    Candy
  •    Cookies

…. etc. etc. etc………………….   Not that we don’t eat that kind of stuff from time to time (ok, okay…… maybe more often than we care to admit ) but we try to incorporate creative (and tasty) ways to fix and eat healthier. As I always say, “it’s a lifestyle, not a diet til I reach a goal”.        

I personally, have always had a difficult time with vegetables or healthy foods even though I grew up eating very wholesome, natural foods. Blame it on my major “sweet tooth”, haha!  My mom was always more organic (BEFORE that became a “thing” y’all)  and so introduced us to nutritionally-rich foods.  [It] became somewhat of an anathema to me for a little while as I deviated from the ‘path’ once I became an adult and well into my 20’s but have returned to my roots since I value not only mine but my family’s health.

I have to add, for good measure, that Mr. AWE Design (Michael) has adopted even better nutritional habits than me – He has been dedicated and steadfast, not to mention disciplined with the Keto diet and it has provided great results for him overall. I’m super proud of him, especially given his diet was anything but healthy before. 

*Now keep in mind that although we are big fans of this “green stuff”, you and/or your kids may not be so quick to jump aboard this bandwagon. You just have to experiment and find healthy options that work for you.*

Seasoned Kale Leaves


Line your baking sheets either with aluminum foil (like I did) or parchment paper.  You want the baked leaves to come up easier.

Baking sheets lined with aluminum foil

Preheat your oven to 325° (You may have to adjust the temperature depending on how hot your oven heats).

Preheat Temperature


Work in batches….   Tear off leaves from the main stem.

Making kale chipsRinse……. and give a vigorous shake to get rid of excess water.Rinsing Kale Leaves

 Spread the leaves on paper towels and apply a top layer of paper towels to pat out the excess moisture.   (Side note: If you have one of those awesome salad spinners, then you can skip this step.  I actually just purchased one from Ikea and love it! )

Kale Leaves Being Dried

Kale leaves

Kale Leaves Drying

Next – transfer the kale leaves back to mixing bowl.  Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Get your hands in there and really work the oil in. You want to be sure the leaves are completely covered.

Pouring The EVOO On Kale






                  This is the oil I used…….         Robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil




This seasoning I found at Fresh Market…

Red Dog Rub












Feel free to use whatever seasonings you have on hand but use them sparingly. I wouldn’t use salt just because when the kale is crispy baked, it tends to taste a bit salty by itself.  

Red Dog Rub Ingredients


















Kale leaves pre-oiled & seasoned and oiled & seasoned


Lay the leaves in a single {crowded} layer on baking sheet.  They will shrivel down when cooked.

Kale Leaves On Baking Sheets


Kale leaves laid in a single layer

Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes.

Kale Leaves Being Cooked

Kale Leaves Ready To Cook

Kale Baked

They should be a “blackened” green and feel crispy. They still taste good even if they didn’t cook to a full crisp but they will be a little chewy. It all comes down to preference.
Close-up Of Baked KaleWhen all done removing the “chips”, cleanup is so simple. Another reason I like to line my pans with foil or parchment paper.

Foil-lined cleanup


Now they are ready to devour! Kale Chips


Baked Kale Chips






Addictive Kale Chips
A vegetable that tastes great crispy
Write a review
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
  1. 1-2 Bunches of Kale Leaves
  2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used Bertolli Robusto)
  3. Seasoning of Choice (I used Red Dog Rub which I found at my local Fresh Market) such as-
  4. Granulated Garlic, Cayenne Pepper, Smoked Paprika, etc.... whatever suits your taste
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Wash the leaves in a colander. I use a salad spinner to shake off the excess water but if you don't have one, just give it a good shake in the sink.
  3. You can eliminate this step (and yes, waste of paper towels) if you have a salad spinner. Lay the leaves out on paper towels and pat mostly dry with a layer of paper towels on top.
  4. In a stainless steel mixing bowl (easier clean-up from the oil), place the kale and douse the EVOO all over the leaves enough to coat. Toss with your hands to ensure even coating.
  5. Lightly sprinkle seasoning(s) of choice. Again, use your hands to ensure even distribution.
  6. Lay out in a single layer but crowded together(they will really shrivel down when cooked).
  7. Cook for 10-15 minutes. They should be crispy and a "blackened" green.




Making Party Decorations For A Princess

{Guest Post}                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ilona from


For the Princess party, the decor gave a bright, happy impact with lots of pretty color and big puffs of tissue paper flowers. They were so easy to make! Here are some highlights from the ideas that lent such a feeling of fun and fantasy to the venue (which was right inside the home!).



 Quick Party Decorating Ideas

  • Get cute gift boxes in bright designs and stack them at the entry, on the gift table, near the photo area.
  • Hang Happy Birthday Banners, of course.
  • Use yardage of fabric remnants, cut to fit box covers, stack boxes to make displays for candy, etc.. Use to cover areas of activities, or at the mantle, under the castle decoration. Use the fabric to unify the party theme throughout different rooms.
princess party decorations!
To bring your festive color theme into the room, streamers of crepe paper twists are the time honored decoration.


Crepe Streamers and Balloons











Hang some of the Princess’ initial letters, painted up just for her Birthday on the wall or propped on an easel.
bright letter K

  flower-shaped edit letter and number






Make Tissue Paper Flowers For Big Impact

Make giant tissue paper flowers and decorate key areas, including a wall or mantle area.
Martha Stewart has very clear, well illustrated instructions on her site.

Find those instructions, here.

Or you could follow the directions in this video…



Fill A Princess Purse

Making the guests feel special is really important for any party, but most of all for girls in the 4-6 year old group. Help them to feel they are part of the celebration with cute favor bags filled with their own dress up items.
We didn’t have this idea at the time, but I thought that making your own little princess purses looked like a darling idea. Full of ideas for filling it with favors.


Encourage the guests to dress up in costume and they all become part of the backdrop for your child to be surrounded by a Fairytale scene of courtiers and castles.




If you haven’t already, read more about a princess/unicorn themed party here.

A Fairy Tale Princess Party

Hi my friends,  I would like to introduce to you ….my mom, ILONA – who is a well-seasoned blogger and shares tips, tutorials and a wealth of information on gardening over at Ilona’s Garden. She also has some sister sites, one of which might interest all you DIY enthusiasts, chronicling endless renovations and rebuilding in the old farmhouse I grew up in –   Old House Blog.

In honor of my baby girl turning 7 this month, I’m so happy to have my mom here to share this wonderful “throwback” post of my daughter’s 3rd birthday.

Grandma and grandson

My mom with my boy circa 2009








 {Guest Post}





How To Throw An Amazing Princess Party For Your Little Girl

No matter what her age- this “sugar sweet” fantasy party can be loads of fun for any girl. It is especially so for the under-4 foot set.

…There are all sorts of easy and inexpensive ways to decorate and customize everything for a fairy tale atmosphere.

My inspiration for this party theme how-to came from the absolutely amazing party my daughter threw for her little girl. She wanted aPrincess and Unicorn party.

If that is your daughter’s (or granddaughter’s) dream, let this guide help you turn her dream into a fun party for everyone!
Our entire family assembled together to lend a helping hand and join in the celebration. It was so, so much fun for all of us, and the children had a blast.

When she was young, I taught my daughter how to make a celebration with decorations, food, and serving.

But she has taken it to a whole new level.

Her parties are events, ones that take more imagination and clever creation than money.

The result? A total birthday party success and happy family memories for a sweet little birthday girl.

What you will find among the ideas shared here, for you:

  • simple food,
  • inexpensive, but creative decorations,
  • fun activities to keep the momentum rolling,
  • and inspiration to make a little girl’s dreams come true.

Choose your Color Scheme

Before you get the invitations or anything else, choose a color theme. Maybe based on what is available at your local craft store

Princess Party To-do List

Smoothly Schedule Your Plans

castle party decoration

Combine elements together to increase the festive feeling.

Use a foam castle on your mantle… create a photo op prop from large cardboard. Simply paint the front to look like Cinderella’s coach or a castle wall and cutout a window. Frame it and use for individual photos of each princess invitee.

Fibre Craft 3D Foam Princess Castle Kit

OR Get a cutout of one of the Disney characters or a horse… any type of prop that makes a little girl feel like royalty when her picture is taken.

Princess Photo Prop cutout is cardboard; t has a 6″ wide x 8″ high opening for a photo opportunity and a place for a cute face to peep through the carriage window.

Or use as a frame for a Queen-size photo of the party princess.

Use wands and tiaras

If you find inexpensive plastic “glass slippers”, that would be a perfect fit for this party.


Cute Fun and Games

Activities For This Age Group, 4-6

Tried and true “Pin the tail on the donkey” is dressed up as a unicorn who needs a nose horn. We made our own set of horns and drew a unicorn on poster board, but I found a ready-made game to purchase, too.

Unicorns Need Their Horns

Pin the horn



Quick How-to for Unicorn Game:


  • 1 Large poster board for horse picture
  • Foam sheets to cut out horn shapes
  • Glitter glue
  • Craft paints
  • Double stick tape ( instead of tacks)
  • Scissors
  • Bright artist markers
  • On large-size poster board draw or paste a “found ” horse picture. Poster size picture is needed.
  • Make a template for the horn, draw onto foam sheets; cut out horn shapes
  • Paint the horns with glitter glue
  • Use craft paints and markers to highlight poster and detail horns
  • Apply double stick tape (instead of tacks) to back of horns at time of game
  • Blindfold for child (sleep mask works)
  • Bright artist markers to add name of child to their unicorn horn.

Face Painting

In our party we did face painting, on request, for all the royal subjects of the princess., AND for the princess herself. One idea that you might borrow is to add little rhinestone stick-ons to the faces of each of the guests in the royal party (especially if the party is an all girl affair).

Decorate Gift Bags

I like this idea better than decorating tiaras or crowns because the craft has time to dry and there is no chance that stuff will get stuck in someone’s hair! All you need are simple paper gift bags, child’s craft glue, stick-ons or foam shapes and glitter pens.. Each child can make their gift bag, (make sure their name is written on their bag) and it will be dry by the time everyone is ready to leave for home.

Or use inexpensive stick-ons in the next activity….
…decorate the tiaras using foam shapes with these “stick-on” jewels would be very pretty.

An Alternative to Paper Gift Bags

Cinderella carriage gift bagInstantly dress up the table with this cute little take home box. Fill it with goodies or use it to store the favors that your princess doles out to her loyal subjects who came to this birthday fete.

Ingredients For A Splendid Little Girl’s Party


One Part Planning,Two Parts Imagination, and a Dollop of Fun


bright letter K

Easy DIY decoration just requires hobby store letter, some paint and a bit of ribbon

  1. This is one party where decorations are a priority to set the stage for everyone to feel like courtiers in a castle, centered around the royal princess. The addition of imagination is more important than a large spending budget. Reminders of castles, flowing streamers, and a throne could help create the right atmosphere.
  2. Food is always of key importance. Keep it simple, but make sure you take time with the presentation. Add foods with something of the theme’s colors.
  3. Part of setting the stage starts with the invitations, and extends through the favors and paper products, Keep centered on insignias that say you are entering a castle with its regalia of crowns, scepters, flowing robes, and the prettiest dresses.
  4. Keep the theme and the fun going with games and activities. Remember that The Royals love their entertainments. Presentations are a chance to add some ritual and over-the-top fun. You might even have minstrels or jesters perform a little something.

Make The Most Of The Room

Glitz up the place to create a festive and fun atmosphere. Make it a fantasy place with brightly colored additions to tables, mantles, and walls. Think of castles, wands, and glitter… things little girls just love.

For mantle, tables, and entry:
Buy square yardage of remnant material in your chosen color scheme. Use the to make table squares and swags. Mix and match patterns to create a festive air. Use a play castle to set the feel of the gift table or main room. A foam assembly (kept out of reach of the younger set) fairy princess castle is ideal. Use play figures of princesses, a prince, and unicorns to add to the scene.

Bright colorful Initial letters – painted in your theme colors and attached to a wall or propped on picture easels to Monogram the room for Her Highness.

Construct Your Princess Castle

Bright, happy colors

Tips for setting up a fairy tale party space.

  • Remove extra tables, chairs, and other furniture items from the room where you intend to play games.
  • Set up a table with a plastic cover for crafts- we used the living room coffee table.
  • Create a parent space if possible -where the parents can hang out and have some beverages and snacks.
  • Encourage dress-up and costumes for a Princess party
  • Face painting only needs a chair for the artist and a small side table for the paints and paper towels. An open space for the children to make a queue is nice.

Tip To Remember


Note that some decorations and favors are not for children under age 3 because of choking hazards. Always be aware of age appropriate favors and decorations.

When All Is Said and Done

What was the most fun?

Helping hands

Helping hands

Besides the family fun we had getting together and setting everything up, my impression on what created the most fun for all involved, follows.

The decorations were lots of fun to make and I think they added the essential fantasy environment for the children to really enjoy this party. It had both girls and boys and they all just LOVED the face painting. That is a tried and true activity in many festivals, but this is the first time I had participated in it for a children’s party.

I think they like the face painting so much because it draws them into the event with their own interests. We, the volunteer face painting artists, asked each child what they would like as their face design. It ranged from spiderman to puppy dogs and kitties, but they were all so pleased with their “personalized” art.

The little girls loved the gift bag decor and I think the boys most enjoyed the “pin the tail” game. They all absolutely loved taking home their loot, the candies, little rings, etc.

It turned out to be an event that everyone enjoyed and that left the birthday girl very, very happy.


party room decor

For a few easy party food items, try the following recipes:

Simple Food

Does the food seem too simple? Remember that complex recipes will add stress to the preparations, and may not be appreciated by the guests. Perhaps add one or two more choices to a menu rather than complexity in the preparation.

Make A Quick Pink Punch

  • 1 two liter of 7-Up
  • 1 bottle cranberry black cherry juice cocktail (64 oz)


  1. Mix the juice and 7-Up together.
  2. Double or triple the recipe as needed.
  3. Have both bottles icy cold, do not dilute with ice, and float pretty edible flowers in it if seasonable. (pansies, rose petals -with NO pesticides)
  4. Source: via Karen
  5. Princess Punch (sounds amazing) Ingredients: 1 (46 oz.) can pineapple juice 1 (6 oz.) can frozen pink lemonade 2 1/2 c. water 3 (28 oz.) bottles ginger ale 1 qt. strawberry ice cream

Pink Lemonade Party Cake – Extra Quick and Easy

Pink Lemonade Party Cake
Yields 12
You may want to buy a cake, or perhaps use your own favorite recipe, but if you'd like.... here is a perfectly delicious cake for your royal celebration.
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr 35 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr 35 min
Total Time
2 hr
  1. 1 cup very hot water
  2. 1 box (4-serving size) raspberry-flavored gelatin
  3. 1 box White cake mix
  4. 1/2 cup frozen (thawed) lemonade concentrate
  5. 1/4 cup water
  6. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  7. 4 egg whites
  8. 1 container (12 oz) Whipped vanilla frosting
  9. 1 cup frozen (thawed) whipped topping
  10. 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries- if desired
  11. Lemon peel strips- if desired
  1. 1- Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Spray bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with baking spray with flour. In small bowl, mix hot water and gelatin until gelatin is completely dissolved; cool slightly.
  2. 2- In large bowl, beat cake mix, 1/4 cup of the gelatin mixture, 1/4 cup of the lemonade concentrate, the water, oil, and egg whites with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Pour into pan. Reserve remaining gelatin mixture and lemonade concentrate.
  3. 3- Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Poke warm cake every inch with fork tines. Remove 1 tablespoon of the reserved gelatin mixture to microwavable custard cup or small bowl. In another small bowl, mix remaining gelatin mixture and remaining 1/4 cup lemonade concentrate; pour slowly over cake. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  4. 4- In medium bowl, fold together frosting and whipped topping; frost cake. Microwave 1 tablespoon gelatin mixture uncovered on High 10 seconds to liquefy. Using 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon, place small drops of gelatin mixture over frosting; with spoon or toothpick, swirl gelatin into frosting. Garnish each piece with raspberries and lemon peel strips. Store covered in refrigerator.
  1. Extra Quick and Easy




Hop on over to Making Party Decorations For A Princess                        for more party fun……..


The *EMPTY* House Tour





Our First House

Our house as it looked in April 2008
when we first moved in.

Come on in and take a tour of our house —- albeit empty of furnishings and the like. Hahaha!  I would show you our house as it is today if it weren’t for all the reconstruction projects going on currently and the subsequential mess but figured I would spare you all the gory visual. 

Now…….. keep in mind, these (not-so-great-quality) pictures were taken exactly 7 years ago in April 2008. Right about the time we first moved in. And with a point-and-shoot – the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS.              

So, if you’ll just excuse the grainy-ness and poor lighting of the photos, let’s take a little walk through this place we call “HOME”. This house is our first home. It sits on a 3/4 acre lot and in a cul-de-sac.

I know many of you may really like this house but truth be told, I was not sold on it from the get-go. Although out of the [many] houses we screened, this one fit the bill for our needs the best. I knew Mr. AW Exquisite Design fell in love with it pretty much immediately …. not altogether unlike with me! Heehee.



This is where you enter from the front of the house. I don’t have an original picture with a view looking into the house when you first walk in but this is the foyer or entry way.  My son is standing in the living room and kitchen is directly across from him to the left. 


Entry Way

Entry Way to the front of house

                                                  Part of the foyer looking towards the front from the top of the stairs.

Pic monkey Entry Way edit


To the left coming in through the front door, is our home office or so named the “computer room” due to this room housing the desktop computer. This is where Mr. AWE Design camps out on Fridays since he has started working from home about a year or so ago.


Home Office

At the right and wrapping around to the kitchen through that entrance you see is technically a dining room but we were smart and turned it into a multi-purpose space a.k.a. the Toy/Craft room.

Toy/Craft Room

This was a Dining Room but we turned it into a Toy/Craft room

  (Actually, we are getting rid of that mirror ^ now that our half-bath has experienced somewhat of an overhaul. Not finished yet but the reveal is forthcoming, my friends!) Since the editing of this picture, we sort of unexpectedly ended up renovating that downstairs lavatory (does anyone ever refer to a bathroom in that term anymore?!?) so we are on the lookout for a new looking glass!


Okay, so now we enter into our spacious and open kitchen……                                                                                                          

Behold! All the space! And cabinets! And more cabinets!                                                                                                                                       But don’t worry. We found plenty of stuff to fill them all up with. In case you were worried we had more space than we knew what to do with. Hahaha.  

Behind that purple pail is the garage to the left.                                                                                                                                            

And there’s that cute little boy following me around again! How I miss those not-a-tiny-baby-but-yet-still-a-baby days!

Original Kitchen - edit 3


                                                                                  The garage……………                                                                                                           


Original Garage edit 1


Back to the kitchen. The garage entrance is off to the right where you see to the outside. The other back door is the one with blinds on it. You can’t really tell from the picture but the white of the cabinets were pretty dingy so we decided to paint them black. We ran through so many spray cans of paint to get good coverage and we have dealt with the spray aftermath ever since. I even find residual spray “dust” upstairs because we did not cordon off with plastic sheeting. 



Kitchen before we moved in

This is a view looking from where the refrigerator stands. Living room is straight across; the opening in the center leads to the front entry way.

We still have yet to replace that white range that has gotten pretty grungy and gross now. Everything looked so clean and new back then, even if it wasn’t (brand new, that is). 



Kitchen looking towards living room and leading to entry way



Kitchen Island with sun room to right and living room directly ahead.

The lovely sun room with LOTS of windows…… Love this part of the house!

Original Sunroom - edit 3



The laundry room…………                                                                                                                                                                                               and behind the double doors is our 1st and bigger pantry.

Laundry Room

Laundry Room


The living room area…… this was one of the reasons I was not 100% crazy about the house. It is rather small and limited with furniture and home decor placement. My idealist self wanted a cathedral-style ceiling. But as we can see, the house has many other redeeming qualities about it. So I accept this less-than-my-ideal part of the house.

Living Room

Living Room


Living Room

Living Room looking out to the backyard and kids play set in neighbors’ yard


That is all of the downstairs …………………………………………………….

                 So follow me upstairs now.


Bottom stairs


Our Staircase



Stairs leading to second level and first two bedrooms


The first bedroom I’m showing you is the guest room. It faces the front on the right side of the house.  You can’t tell from the photo very well, but this is actually the smallest bedroom. I just divided it into three different angles.

guest room

The “extra” bedroom which is our guest room


My Sugarplum Princess’ room. At the time of this picture, she was cozy at home in my belly.

My Girl's Room


Next we have the 2nd [guest] bathroom which consists of two rooms. We have since updated the lavatory space.

2nd Full Bath

Now we reach my Sugarsnap Pea’s room. He gets the nice bay window and a great bird’s eye view of the landscape. He also gets lucky with a nice walk-in closet!

Son's Room


Walk-In Closet Of Son's Room

Spacious walk-in closet

        And last but not least …. What really sold me, lock stock and barrel? – 

                                                            The Master Bedroom & Bathroom!!!

    I mean, I could not get enough of the vaulted ceiling and how huge the rooms were!

Master Bedroom with Vaulted Ceiling


Three Master Windows


The sitting room facing the front of the house and situated on the left side of the house. There are two closets flanking this sitting area.

Sitting Room Of Master


Master Closets Collage


That probably should have said, “entry to hallway” or hallway. Oh well, sometimes you don’t pick up on your own writing mistakes until too late (since this pic had already been edited). But you get the idea of what is meant. Right? Right???

Wall In Master

 This view is in the bathroom looking through the french doors into the bedroom.

French Doors To Master Bath


Bath In Master Bathroom

In the mirror you can see where the shower stall is and the 3rd master closet which is the biggest one. [Don’t have a picture of that one]

Master Bath


Toilet room


Let’s backtrack on the way out into my son’s room where you get a birds’ eye view of the front yard. This was the first onset of Spring as evidenced by those beautiful dogwoods with the pink blooms. That island in which the trees sit has since had a serious downsizing and all that stubborn ugly foliage disappeared. Most of those trees that look barren in the right photo are also gone. But not because we wanted them removed – that’s a story for another day though, friends.

View Of Front Yard



That concludes showing you the premises of the A W Exquisite Design manor.



As you can see from the pictures, our house has a pretty nice layout…. open space, plenty of room and of course —- LOTS of DIY potential!!


Hope you all enjoyed the comprehensive tour and background story of the ‘before’ and hopefully we can put some rooms together for an ‘after’ tour some time in the near future. Just wanted to make a proper introduction so you get a good idea of what we have to work with. LOOOONG and arduous road to achieve a home that showcases our design style.  We are getting there though and it’s an exciting journey!













Stay tuned for more…… Lots more to come!!

Walkway lights

This photo is courtesy of my husband’s awesome photography skills via the Sony DSLR-A350.


Happy Sibling Day 2015!


In honor of Sibling Day, I’m posting a few photos of the brothers & sisters in my family {and one of my two kids, of course}.  There are MANY of us – in fact 10 of us altogether! It is not often anymore that we can get us  ALL together, let alone, a shot of all of us at the same time.  


Capturing the whole brood of us crazy siblings from my daughters' party in 2011

Capturing the whole brood of us crazy siblings from my daughters’ party in 2011




Especially now, that we are spread out across the US. The 3 ‘babies’ still live in Ohio ( where I grew up…. for those who don’t know  )  One in Florida; 3 in California; the rest of us (including me) in Georgia. 



Tired after a long Christmas Day

Three of the bros at Christmas time

It was awesome that most of us were able to come home [OHIO] this past Christmas. A rare occasion, indeed!

five sisters

All five of us sisters

It is certainly no walk in the park with all the diverse personalities going on but while we’ve been down some really DARK roads; to and through hell and back, we have forged a formidable and tight bond that is not so easily broken. It’s been said, LOVE conquers all —– well, for all of our faults, it would certainly be the case. We have seen (and continue to see) each other through the best and worst of times.


My two cute little chicadees posing before their annual egg collection this Easter. I’m lucky they *usually* like to ham it up for the camera. Of course…….it helps to have an incentive. Haha.

They also are really sweet with each other and look out for the other—– most of the time! Haha. They have their squabbles like anyone else.                  

I love how close they are and how much they love each other!


Kids posing before the anticipated egg hunt.

Kids posing before the anticipated egg hunt.





Thanks so much for stopping by!!

I love my readers! I would love to hear your family stories too. Comment below about life in your family.