The bats came out…and we finally got that couch

I can’t believe that A) we’ve been in the new house for almost 4 years now (if I’m technically allowed to call it “new”?…it still feels new to me!).  And B) this is the first year I’ve actually hung the BATS in the new house.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get on that?  I think I had this grand vision of the bats flying up and around our stairwell near the giant ball lights—which would be awesome.  And every year I’d think, yea I should do that….and then every year this visual would pop back in my head of the worker hanging the light fixture, and straddling the ladder like it was an IKEA stool.  And I’d think…there’s no way I’m standing on a ladder like that.
For paper bats.
I’m a huge believer in design over comfort, but I have my limits.

So this year, I realized I should just hang them around the open archways in the front room. And I love it.  And I only had to stand on one bar stool. Ding!

It’s fun to see the same decor in the old house and in the new one.  Houses may change, but traditions come along.

UPDATE: Some of you have asked how to stick the bats on the wall...some of you said that yours fell down. I just use simple transparent tape, specifically Scotch Tape (the green box).  I make little rolls of tape, place the tape on the “spine” of the bat and press firmly on my wall. Then I sort of “bend” the wings a bit so they’re sticking out. And none of my bats have fallen down, even the ones hanging upside down!…haha. I guess that’s how bats like it.

Something new that we added this year is the Pumpkin lampost cover! on our mail box!  Oh my gosh.  This is probably my favorite thing of the season and it wasn’t my idea. Our neighbor got one a few years ago…and then 4 of us on the street decided to copy her. So now it looks all orange and glowing on our street at night (and we all got the Frosty the Snowman one for the holidays too. Eeek!)  Seriously, so fun.

Then of course we pulled out the Halloween garland, and the kids’ favorite thing of all time—the little rock ghost town….which I’ve posted about before and before.  And I’m not joking that they still love it.  I almost let Clara get into the Halloween box before Lucy was done with her homework (because it was taking forever) and Lucy just about burst into tears.  “You can’t get the ghosts out without me!”  So we waited patiently.  All three kids love this little town and have already asked if we can add more rocks and houses.

And you know what’s selfishly great about the ghost town?  The kids are immediately entertained with the rocks….while I have time to OCD-ly go through the rest of the holiday box on my own, pulling out ceramic cats and mummies, without the help from little hands.  Win-win.

And on a non-Halloween note, if anyone remembers my post asking for your input on a chair or loveseat?? I have an update!…

I was trying to replace this cute chair (which I love, and which has relocated to Owen’s room as his “fancy art chair”).

And instead we have this awesome vintage, velvety loveseat….which is kind of a funny story.

I bought this couch the first year we were in Texas, at a garage sale for $30. The owners had a twin pair, but I knew I was already pushing my spouse’s patience by showing up at home with a new couch in the back of the truck. “Look what I found!“.  So I just bought the one. And we put it in Casey’s office which was a perfect fit.  It’s really a cute couch and quite comfy.  I was happy with my find.

So fast-forward to last year when I was asking your input about what I should put in the living room.  I just couldn’t decide what to buy.  Then my parents came to visit and I told her my dilemma. And she said, “well you already have what you need.  It’s just sitting in Casey’s office.” And the lightbulb went off. YES! She was so right.  We “borrowed” that thing from Casey’s office. And the little $30 loveseat is the perfect color and fit for the living room. The kids can stretch out on it while we’re watching a movie.  And well, it just completes the space.  Good eye Mom!  Right under my nose.
The only downside is that it needs to be recovered. It looks good enough, but the fabric is definitely worn in spots.  But I really do love this fabric, so maybe I should look for something similar and have it redone.

And then another fun feature to point out is this cool little painting I purchased from Annie Blake. It’s called Source, and has pretty gold leafing around the edges.

It’s always a good conversation starter…especially with kids.
“Is that a real electrical outlet??” 
So….when we built the house, for some reason, I signed off on an electrical outlet to go right in the middle of this cabinet/bench area.  What?? Why?? Totally weird, and not even centered.  I mean, how do you hide that??
Well, I guess you emphasize it!  I thought the painting was the perfect way to “cover up” the bad outlet, and make a fun art statement about being plugged in….or unplugged?…you decide.

I also printed off a family picture which completes the room a little more.  And I’ve added more plants since this photo.  I just still need to find a blasted coffee table I love.  Maybe I’m hoping it’s hiding under my nose like the little couch was.

And looking through the Halloween pics I found these old ones of the kids carving pumpkins.  I guess if the kids were this young when we moved in, the house isn’t that “new” anymore.

Owen really gets into his carving.

I hope you’re having a great month at your Halloween house!…and that costumes are in full swing.  I’ve decided to do one homemade costume this year, and two store-bought.  And I’m prepping for a booth at Quilt Market in two weeks. So things are moving along.  We’ll talk soon….Have a great week!

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When you and Kellie Pickler show up on a talk show, with the same hair

Pickler and Ben show with Kellie Pickler and Dana WillardOh my gosh, fun news!
I was on a talk show last week!
(and you can watch it below!)

The new show is called Pickler + Ben….with the cute Kellie Pickler (who I loved on American Idol) and Ben Aaron, who is a New Yorker/journalist, and a really funny guy.

It’s sort of country-meets-city variety kind of talk show, which shoots in Nashville (you can watch it on CMT), so I flew there a month ago to shoot my segment….the crazy, messy, youtube viral yarn lamps.

It was so much fun to do…and stressful traveling with those balls. Haah.
But what I wasn’t expecting was this funny moment, when Kellie and I ended up with the same hair.  I had to get my wardrobe approved ahead of time, so Kellie and I didn’t look like twins on-set.  So of course I asked about hair and asked if I could do my own side braid, to which the producer responded, “oh yea, Kellie never does braids. Perfect.”  Then we’re watching the opening segment of the show on the monitor and she comes out looking like this (me on the left, Kellie on the right):

We were totally dying.  But by that point it was too late to change my hair.  So we did a dumb “guess you got the braid memo” joke in the intro…which in the end, didn’t really matter since we were wearing the same trashbag wardrobe anyway!  Haha.  And there were only a few moments when we did look like the blonde twins.  Good times. Yarn Balls.

Pickler and Ben show with Kellie Pickler and Dana WillardSo Pickler + Ben asked me to come on the show and share the yarn lamp DIY project with Kellie and Ben….which is totally fun and great.

As with most live TV, I needed to create multiple versions of the projects, so we could “move on down the table” and go through the steps in a compressed time segment…which is easy if I’m showing someone how to make a fabric bag.  But I had to make eight different ball lamps, for the various stages in the project and some extras for beauty styling. And I didn’t have enough time to ship them.  And each lamp takes two days to dry, so I couldn’t make them when I arrived in the Nashville studios.

So.  For about a week, my kitchen looked like this:

And then came the fun of figuring out how to transport all of these….on an airplane:

Honestly, it’s really silly to think of the brainpower and suitcase scheming that went into traveling with my balls.  At first I thought I would just take them in two large shopping bags as my carry-on bags.  Yes. That seemed best.  Because I worried that they would be smashed in a suitcase.

But then I wondered, is there a limit to how much “gas” someone can take on a plane??
I mean, it’s just air in those balls, but who knows if there’s some rule about “air in a contained space?”  Can you travel with more than 4oz of contained air??  I didn’t want to take any chances and have all my balls confiscated.  And I needed the balls to stay inflated so we’d have the big pay-off moment in the show when we cut the ball free, and you’re left with the lamp.

So, I decided to distribute my potential ball losses (which I’m sure you’re dying to know all about. But perhaps you’ll find yourself in your own schweddy ball incident down the road and feel confident with your ball placement, having read this rambling mess).  So I placed half of the balls in two hard-case suitcases and checked them, and crossed my fingers that they wouldn’t get smashed.  Then I carried the other balls in a bag through security…and felt like a drug dealer, sweating it while I watched my bag slowly inch down the conveyor belt, pause in the scanning machine, and watched as the agent’s hand reached in to examine what these crazy things were.  And after she pushed it around a few times, the bag came out the other side!
All was well.
(assuming the balls didn’t lose pressure on the plane as well—which is why I brought my trusty air pump in the bag too.)

And eventually, my balls were safe and on the set!
It was really fun to walk out and see the yarn lamps under the lights.  And of course it was fantastic to see the set for the first time. It is GORGEOUS.
(The painting/green tape stuff behind the crew members was for a segment with Ty Pennington earlier in the show.)

Everything was set-up for a rehearsal of my segment, which the producer and I walked through together, step by step….to make sure we hadn’t forgotten any supplies, or missed a step.  You can see on the right, the live audience coming into the studio.  Their seats are off to the right behind the camera.

Then everything was shuffled off set, and they started at the top of the show.
With Goat Yoga. Haha.

And seriously guys.  THIS. SET.
THAT. KITCHEN!
Faith Hill is the executive producer on the show and designed + styled the look of the set.  I think I need Blush pink cabinets now.

And how cute is this porch area?  The shiplap on the set goes all the way up and across the ceiling.  Yessss.

Okay I’m sure you’re ready for me to stop talking (on the blog),
and start talking (on the show).
Here’s the clip!
Click the play button below. Or you can watch on the Pickler + Ben site here.

Thanks for having me on the show guys!
Hopefully we can do it again.

You can check out more about Pickler + Ben on their site, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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What it’s like to clean up from a hurricane.

If you told me this was image was from an HGTV show I would have thought, well, Joanna’s got her work cut out for her! But driving into a neighborhood where every home on the block had this same disastrous mound of Harvey fury… is Fixer Upper on steroids, with a really bad smell.  Oh.  The smell.

This past Saturday and Sunday Casey and I were able to join up with other volunteers in Houston, to help with Hurricane Harvey cleanup. Driving into this neighborhood was heartbreaking.

I’ve never lived close to disaster before, so the experience was eye-opening, humbling, and something I will never forget.  Being there for the two-week aftermath was sort of like helping a friend after the funeral, when condolences and floral arrangements are gone.  And reality sets in.

We were in the city of Katy, TX—right outside of Houston—where there was still some standing water…

Mounds of water-logged carpet, with water-logged stench.

Drywall being removed.

Homes where water had only receded two-days prior, and home owners were returning to assess the damage.

I-spy adventures of papers, books, and postage stamps, now glued and dried to tile floors.

Wooden floors that looked like a shipwreck.
Camera equipment rolling around on the shipwreck.
Damaged computers, battered woodwork, lost heirlooms, and moldy cars.

And thankfully, thousands of volunteers! from many surrounding communities.

We joined the sweaty masses (from various organizations and churches. We were with Mormon Helping Hands) to help home owners gut out their houses.  Removing drywall was the top priority, since mold had already started growing in all the homes.  I mean, look at these chairs.  Wow.

The mold in this garage was the worst I had seen.
In the photo below you can see where the waterline stood from flooding, and then the crazy amount of mold growth—which at first glance was actually kind of pretty.  Can I say that?

The design and science of it all is just, amazing…and disgusting, and harmful (which is why we were diligent about wearing our masks).

To give you another perspective of the water line, look at this side-by-side.
These are not the same house, but they could be—they’re from the same neighborhood.  You’ve got floodwater on the left; and a group of us having lunch on those same front lawns on the right…sitting on trash for chairs.

So. The goal for these volunteer groups, was to remove drywall before black mold climbed any higher in the home, or got into the studs and framework underneath.  Once the drywall was gone, FEMA could come in to assess the home and go from there.  To accomplish this, everything in the bottom floor had to be removed—furniture, carpet, flooring, pictures, cabinets, woodwork, all of it.

Our team had about 20 people.  I was amazed at how the room went from this:

to this, in about 30 minutes.

Adults removed furniture, drywall, and heavy items; while teenagers came through with sleds and wagons and hauled debris out to the front lawn.  It was recommended that children under 12 not come—which was good. It was hard labor.  Casey and I left our kids with my brother and sister-in-law who were able to come out the weekend before to help.

It was remarkable how much work was accomplished with large groups of volunteers. I really don’t know how a homeowner could have done this alone (other than hiring the work out). It would be mentally and physically overwhelming.

On Saturday I spent most of the time using a hammer, pulling out nails and carpet tacking boards. While on Sunday, my best tool was my pair of rain boots!…because the home we gutted had never been entered since the flood waters came and went.

So water was stuck in the funniest places….pouring out of drawers and cups, stuck in the silverware drawer container, in an old coffee maker in the back of the cupboard, soaked into towels in the powder room closet, and from places I hadn’t even thought of—like the groove of a tape dispenser! (I’ll never look at my tape dispenser the same way). In the laundry room closet I found a carefully stacked set of drinking glasses, that were perfectly full to the brim with dirty water, in a way that I could never replicate.  It was comical, and sad.   I spent most of the day emptying cabinets in the kitchen, pantry, laundry room, and bathroom, so the group could come in and rip all the cabinets out. It was like helping someone move, without having to box it all up.

And of course there were times when I spotted a Pyrex diamond in the pile of “stuff” and wondered what stories this dish could tell. Or those amazing green floral chair seats?? Ahh! I need those!

And this awesome wallpaper, with another hidden wallpaper underneath.

Or the gorgeous shutters that were tossed out like Wednesday’s trash.

At the “water house”, we also found binders of photographs and wedding albums that were likely beyond repair.  But one of the volunteers laid them out to dry, so the homeowner could look them over.

And in some of the homes there were signs of interrupted life….parties that had been happening when floodwaters came, homes that were for sale, high school band signs in the front yard.

(a pool full of live fish)

But throughout the weekend I realized two things.
(and if you’re still with me, sorry. I know this is long. I hope some of you find this interesting, to see the aftermath process. I’ve always been curious about that myself).
What I realized is…

WE’RE ALL DIFFERENT.

I think we all wonder how we would react in a disaster, or in a survival situation.  Of course we won’t know until it happens. So it was very interesting to see how different each home owner, and each home was, as we showed up on their front porch.

Some people were still in a haze of what was happening.  They looked around the room in a surreal moment, as if this wasn’t really their home, or their stuff.  Some homeowners were the “take charge” type who were able to direct the group through the house, “keep this”, “throw that out”, “this can go”, etc.  At this particular house, the homeowner told us “it all goes.  Get rid of it all.  We’re moving to a temporary apartment for months and don’t want to box up anything that might contain mold”.

While at this other home, the homeowner sifted methodically through piles of belongings…almost frozen by the state of being.  And I don’t share this as a judgement on others, but simply to understand how different we all are.  And how we all process things in different ways.  One homeowner simply looked at us and said, “Um, I can’t…till Wednesday.”
I just wondered inside, “what’s happening on Wednesday?”  But it was the only way she could wrap her brain around the pile of craziness that had become her life.  Just saying the word “Wednesday” gave her some parameters to work around.

Just like any situation of loss, we all have to grieve in different ways.

But on the flip side of that,
WE ARE ALL THE SAME.

We all appreciate help!  We all need a hug.  We all want to share our story and have someone remind us that we’re doing better than we think.

I walked past one home that had already been cleaned and stopped to talk to the homeowner….who then proceeded to show me 100 pictures from her phone of moldy walls and floors.  We talked for about 15 minutes, without me saying much and when we were done she just smiled and said, “thanks for being a listening ear!”
To put the cherry on that, she had JUST closed on the purchase of her home the day before the hurricane hit.  Oy.  Thankfully she hadn’t moved her belongings in yet….which reminds me that….

We all have stuff. And at the end of the day, it’s just stuff…..and it’s stuff that we need, and stuff that makes each of our lives unique, and fun, and we love it.  I don’t want to minimize that.  But when it comes down to it, we tend to focus on what’s important.

It’s an intimate moment to stand with a complete stranger, in her bedroom closet, looking at damaged dresses, bras, and belongings…and to see that bewildered look on her face as she says, “So much money here. So much.  Okay, just throw it all out. I mean, half of it doesn’t fit me anyway….”

Which is why I’m happy we all have a sense of humor.

And at times, we like to one-up each other….(though I never stumbled on the Yard of the Century).  And holy cow, in just a few hours, that yard of the decade sign was totally covered by more debris.

Over the weekend on Instagram some of you asked what you can do to help (after having been there first-hand) and I’m clearly not an expert on this, but here are some ideas:

• Give time. If you live in driving distance, get an organization together to gut houses.  The mold grows worse each week, so this is a timely thing.  The groups have to go through a site called Crisis Cleanup –but you have to be an organization to “claim” a project once a homeowner has listed their home on the site.

• Give money to a reputable charity.  I won’t endorse a specific one here, since there are varied opinions on this.  But I think money would be more helpful right now than sending “stuff”.  I think people are overwhelmed with stuff.

• Join with various groups who–down the road—will be sending items to people that were affected.  I know Art Gallery fabrics is working with Quilts of Compassion to send donated quilts. You can read about that here. And Craft Hope is doing a similar quilt drive as well.

I have to say it was a long weekend.  We all smelled.  The whole neighborhood smells!
And it was hard to wake up Monday morning and realize that the weekend was gone. But it was also enriching, fun (at times) and just touching to see how giving humans can be…and how effective we are as a group, than on our own!

It was also crazy as we drove home Sunday afternoon to see this street, DIRECTLY across from where we were working that was completely unaffected.  Just 4 feet higher in elevation made all the difference.  But this view gave me hope that Houston, Rockport, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico and so many other places can build back up again.

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