Che's Christmas Present, or "The Gift that Nearly Drove our Downstairs Neighbors to Call the Cops"

Sparrow's been keeping a secret....Husband's Christmas present!

Now that Christmas is passed, and Husband has his present, we can let you in on the secret too.

Before sparrow tries to describe it, here's a little peek:

So...what is it?

It's Thread Typography (of course!).  Or, for normal people- thread art.  No this isn't like your Mom's string art hanging in her shag-carpeted rumpas room.  This is tactile.  Modern.  And it took months to make in total secrecy.

Here's a closer look.

Yes, those are nails, wire nails actually, holding all the thread in their little patterns.  And yes, sparrow had to tap every single nail, which might be around 350 or so, into very specific places.  When the project started, back in October,  the work room was the nest, where the first few dozen nails were tapped into place.  This quickly became a problem however, when the downstairs neighbors began wandering around outside the nest, wondering where that strange tapping noise was coming from. 

Fast forward a few weeks later, and sparrow found a new workroom, one in isolation where no one would be complaining about that silly tapping.  Ironically, this place was Husband's office.  Since Husband has band or music rehearsals at night at least twice a week, that left sparrow at least four hours each week to tap tap tap away in secret.  As Christmas day drew close, the workroom was once again relocated to the In-Laws where work could continue later into the night.

So why put one's self through so much work for so long for one little gift?  Simple!  Sparrow loves Husband.  Husband loves typography.  Sparrow is crafty.  Add all of these things together and you have your reason.  Also, the project, in terms of supplies was very inexpensive.  Here's a breakdown:

-One 26x40(ish) piece of particle board, actually a cut down shelving unit from Home Depo- $12.99
-One bundle of red embroidery thread (the very large kind)- $5.99
-Five packs of wire nails -$1.99 each
-Tools from home: Hammer, Needle nose pliers- already owned
-One reproduction Map of Italy, from a local art store- $4.99
-Modge Podge and Mounting glue- already owned.
= Just under $30

Folks, for hand made art, $30.00 is a steal!  But the look on Husband's face when he finally received his gift Christmas eve, that was priceless.

For a look at how this was made, tune into the blog later for a to-do on making your own Thread Typography art.


Pie Ogling...We'll Allow it

Whats that?  Oh, you know...

Just a lemon meringue from scratch with a braided butter crust.

Yeah.  I know.


A Song Trade: Brianna Gaither

Recently, we arranged a good ol' fashioned song trade with a great friend and fellow artist Brianna Gaither. The rules were few:

1: {Pick a song you love by the other artist.
2: {Keep it a secret.

Ladies and (most likely more ladies), our song trade:

Brianna covered "On the Edge of Morning".

The Wallings Jr. covered "Harvest Moon".

For the original versions, check the artists' YouTube Channels.


A New Best Friend

Look who just joined the Nest...

World,  meet Thomas-Digby.

He would like you to know his favorite foods are Spinach and Kitty-Crunchies, he loves rainy days, and thinks you should feed him more often.


From Canada with Love

The blog has been on the quiet side lately, but as usual, that signals a wave of projects in the nest.  Stay tuned tomorrow for updates.  In the meantime, check out what Casey sent via Etsy all the way from Canada-land!  (Or I like to call it, Northern Montana).

What can I say?  She's got Sparrow pegged.


Attack of the Pies!

I came across some pictures of my pie handy work today, and thought I would share them.

You might be wondering why I put extra effort into the crust....because its the best part!


The Nest: Kitchen

Nest up on the Nest Tour, every grandma's favorite room, the kitchen.  It just so happens to be my favorite as well.

With that said, it needs work.  Even after the MAJOR scrub down it received after moving in (possible post on that someday).  Like most of the apartment, its dark and a bit outdated.  One feature I do like is the opening into the dining area, which you can see here:
 Notice my baby?  That is my Martha Stewart teal kitchen-aide mixer in the corner.  Thats right, mixing is serious business in the Nest.
I'm definitely not a fan of the honey colored cabinets or the (impossible to keep clean) white melamine counter tops.  The appliances (big surprise!) are also outdated and (!) bisque colored.  Ick.  Since painting the cabinets is out of the question, I'm considering removing the top cabinet doors and using colored contact paper on the wood to make the kitchen look lighter and less heavy.  As for the appliances, well, not much can be done for those, though I have seen some pretty transformations on similar appliances using stainless steel sheets...I dream.

I do like the layout, which you can see in the blue print I made below:
It's a relatively small space, large enough to move around in, but not so large that using multiple surfaces is like running a long distance marathon.  I've had to be a little creative with storage, though that's new to no one.  Here's some storage I added to the kitchen wall:

This represents about a third of the gadgets I have floating around.  You can also see my beloved pot rack, a holdover from our first tiny studio apartment.  I've now sworn allegiance to always storing my pots like this, so convenient!

Notice the earthy tile back splash?  That's the only kitchen upgrade the landlord had done.  Its not bad, but has noting to do with the look of the rest of the apartment.  Not sure what to do with it.  Ideas anyone?

As far as improvement goes, I've already done most of the painting, a cheery blueish-green color (Martha Stewart) and installed several wall storage options. 

There's still so much to do:
-finish painting
-remove cabinet doors
-cover cabinets with contact paper?
-upgrade cabinet lighting, think Ikea
-buy or crochet kitchen rug
-install stainless steel sheets on appliances
-install dish drying rack over sink
-hang art work or plates on wall above cabinets
-make eco-friendly cleaners
-replace ugly lighting fixture
-replace brown light switches


A Day of Baking

The Nest was cooking all afternoon, with two major baking projects (the joy!).

The first was a set of 24 rainbow cupcakes for our Children's Theater workshop cast party.  Why rainbow?  What else would you bring to celebrate a run of "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream coat"?!

While I typically make everything from scratch, I was seriously short on time today, so I compromised and used store bought batter and icing (colored in four different shades).

The other baking project, a large pie, was for the weekly family dinner with the in-laws (but really any reason to bake a pie, right?)  I used my favorite recipe, changed over the few years I've been alive to its present state.  I rarely measure but I'll do my best to boil it down:

Sparrow's Four Berry Pie
 You'll need:
-1 blind baked pie crust
-2 cups sugar
-2 tablespoons vanilla
-1 cup corn starch
-1 tablespoon cinnamon
-1 teaspoon nutmeg
-a splash of lemon juice
-1 lb strawberries, cleaned, capped and sliced
-12 oz raspberries
-22 oz blueberries
-6 oz blackberries

Blind bake your crust.  I chose to make a braided crust for this one.
While the crust bakes (8 minutes or so), mix together the berries in a very large bowl.  Add 1 and a half cups of the sugar, the lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch.

Once the crust has cooled a bit, spoon the fruit mix into the crust, filling right up to the crust.  You may add some of the juice, but be careful not to add it all (lest you get a very drippy pie).  Dust the top of the pie with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. 

Place the pie on a cookie sheet and set in the oven, set for 350 degrees.  Let cook for about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cover the crust with foil to prevent burning.  Cook until the fruit mix bubbles, about 20-30 minutes (depending on the oven). 

Pull out, and let cool for an hour.  Enjoy!!


On the Road Again

Hey folks,

The Wallings Jr is on the road today, on our way to Ol' Louisville for a quick gig.  So, here's a quick taste of what we've been up to, the latest cover request from our fundraising efforts.
Thanks, Juanita from Oregon for requesting it.


Eco Love: Making Laundry Detergent from Scratch

I recently came across a fabulous idea via Pinterest, making laundry soap from simple household ingredients.  Its easier on the planet and your pocketbook (at under $4 for over 500 loads).  With out further ado, here's the process.
You'll Need:
-1 half bar of your favorite soap
-1 cup borax
-1 cup washing soda
-2 gallons water
-1 12 quart pot
-essential oils (if you like)
-long spoon
-cheese grater
-a 2+ gallon container

Start by grating your half bar of soap into your massive pot. I chose a wonderful goat soap that smells like cookies.  Note: you may add an entire bar of soap if you like a much much thicker detergent.  A half bar makes it very easy to pour.  Add one gallon (16 cups) of water to boil.  Stir often until the soap flakes dissolve.
Next, add the borax and washing soda, stirring thoroughly.  Add several drops of essential oil if you want a yummy smell.  I added tea tree oil. peppermint and lavender.  Let the mix boil up and keep stirring (watch for overflow!).
The mix will thicken slightly during the boil, but will likely not thicken much more for another 24 hours.  after boiling for 3-4 minutes, remove pot and place in the sink.  Add one gallon of cold water.  Continue stirring.  
Let the mix cool in the sink until you can safely pour it into your containers.  I used a 3 gallon water dispenser.  Once placed in the laundry closet, the tap empties directly into the washer!
Ta-Da!  The entire process took only one hour and six laundry loads later, no complaints!  The mix doesn't sud much but still cleans great.



The Nest: Bedroom

Next up on the Nest Tour is the bedroom.

We were fortunate enough to have a pre-painted bedroom when we moved in.  Grey!  My favorite color.  Well, one of them anyway.

We're still (technically) newlyweds, and appropriately we have less than a lot of furniture.  As a result, our bedroom is fairly spartan.  I'm digging it.  Of course the largest piece in the room is the lovely bed which always features our favorite wedding gift- our custom made quilt (in our wedding colors).  We nixed having side tables since they looked to cluttered, and instead went with a little charging station and a small set of overhead shelving from IKEA.  There is no overhead light in the room, so I installed the two bendable lamps onto the shelving.  They make a really nice glow at night when aimed at the wall. 

Across from the bed is the other piece of furniture in the room, the dresser.  You can see the jewelry hangers I made above the dresser.  To the left is our lovely walk-in closet (the largest closet I have personally ever owned).  It stores pretty much everything at the moment.  

I'd love to play up the grey on walls, eventually working in a Grey/Yellow/black/teal-green color pallet.  Here's the to-do decorating list:

-make or buy window treatments for the THREE huge windows
-make a large canvas rug
-replace the heavy wooden dresser with a smaller, vintage fixer-upper
-expand the shelving
-make or buy duvet cover/sheets in updated color scheme
-install light kit on ceiling fan
-install second charging station
-put up framed art

Next up on the tour: the bathroom.


Sparrow's Chai Tea Breakfast

As usual, I woke this morning and tuned into Pinterest first thing.  Not ten seconds into my browsing, I spotted the tastiest looking Chai Tea, complete with a link to the recipe on Eat, Live Run.  Nice!  I wanted to make it, but I only sorta had the ingredients in the Nest.  So I made a mish-mash recipe (for those of us who seldom carry cardamon pods and fresh ginger in our cupboards).  Here it is:

-8 or so oz of milk, (with a splash of half and half for fatty goodness)
-honey (or sugar) to taste
-a dash of black pepper flakes,  2 peppercorns work even better
-a few small chunks of chopped dried ginger, or two dashes of ground ginger
-a dash of ground cardamon
-a little dash of ground cloves, or allspice will do in a pinch
-ground cinnamon or a stick to taste
-a tea bag of black tea, cut open (loose black is even better)

Start by slowly heating your milk, whisking in the sweetener to taste.  While the milk heats up, get your tea strainer/tea ball/tea leaf holder/etc and place it over your tea cup.  Add all of your dry spices and tea leaves to your tea strainer.

Once the milk begins to steam a bit, remove it from the heat and whisk thoroughly to whip up a tiny bit of foam on top.

Pour the sweetened milk slowly through your tea sieve.  If you have a strainer that sits low in the cup (like mine) pour the milk into the cup first, then slowly dip the strainer down into the cup.

Place a lid or small plate over the rim of your cup and let it all steep for several minutes.  Remove strainer, stir, and drink it up, preferably while listening to earthy folk music (today's selection in the Nest was Fleet Foxes "Helplessness Blues").

Do check out the awesome looking version on Eat, Live, Run.  I'm tempted to buy the real ingredients and try it out myself.



The Nest: Entryway

Now that we've been settled into the new Nest for over two months, (and almost everything is out of boxes) its time to start the nesting tour (OK Grandma, you win).  First up is the entry way, which currently leaves much to be desired. 
The entryway should signal what the rest of the home looks like, and this entry isn't cutting it.  Sadly the apartment was built in the "we don't need any natural light" days, so its dark.  Its also fairly narrow, and opens up into a weird triangle shape.

On the right you can see the two bedrooms and the door to left is the bathroom.  Straight ahead is the Chuppah I embroidered for our wedding.  Its so big, that nook seems to be the only place it can call home at the moment.  When I outfit the second bedroom as a craft room/office, it will likely live in there.

Another view of the entryway triangle.  You can better see the bathroom entrance here.  As you may have noticed, the hallway is half painted (a work in progress), with the odd diagonal wall painted in Sultana Green (Martha Stewart) and the other walls in a blueish turquoise whose name escapes me presently.  Fortunately, 75% of the apartment has hardwood floors.  No brown shag to contend with here. 

Finally, the view into the kitchen hallway.  I found little removable vinyl wall stickers at Papersource that perfectly match the color scheme.  They look super whimsical.  Sadly, Husband is not a fan (yet).  The bi fold doors on the right hide our washer/dryer.  More on that little space later.

The wall planner to the right is a little dumpster reject I found and painted with contrasting wall paint.  Now its our home for the letter sorter, bill/social calender and notes of encouragement from parishioners.  Please notice how many lovely notes we have up.  Our congregation is the best!

Here's the Entryway Project Breakdown so far:

-Paint all walls
-Clean out airvent/replace air filter
-Put up hat/scarf storage on Green wall
-Clean out black cubby, assign cubby spaces, add baskets
-Get/make a floor runner
-Replace/improve existing hall lighting
-Move Chuppah to new wall
-Put up storage or entry way seating on existing Chuppah wall
-Light Chuppah Wall
-Put up/make wall art and light it
-clean and repaint white trim work
-clean out Coat Closet, make visitor Friendly
-shoe storage?



Inspiration From Pinterest

Like 95% of American Crafters, I have a slight Pinterest Addiction.  Every morning in the nest, first thing up on the computer is my Pinterest page.  Yesterday I had a burst of Pinterest-inspired creativity.  I spotted a groovy jewelry hanger using, wouldn't you know it, a painted picture frame and some sticks.  I thought, "Why not?".  So here it is, my new necklace display.

All you need is a couple painted picture frames (fortunately, I had a few on hand), some sturdy branches, twine or strong string, and plently of hot glue.

Flip your frame(s) over and fit three or so sticks in the frame, trimming with shears.  Glue the sticks into the frame and let cool. 

While that cooled down, I had another brain wave- a similar idea to hang my earrings (which always get seperated and lost).  I flipped another frame over and pulled out some crafting string, gluing them across the back "artistically".

To make sure the strings would stay in place, I glued down some spare ribbon over the ends and placed a natural sheet of paper across the back.

To finish things up, I fixed some ribbony bows and hung 'em.  Even Husband says they're pretty cute.  Thats a win.

The break down:

-two painted frames...free
-hot glue...free


Not bad for and hour long project.


Music Monday, August

You didn't think I forgot about you, did I?

The latest Wallings Jr Cover, Norah Jones' "Lonestar".


It's Quiet Around Here...

Things have been a little busy.  Don't worry, Sparrow will be back in the nest soon.  Sit tight.

Quote of the Day

Enough said.


Key Lime Cup Cake Craziness

I know what you're thinking. 
"Key Lime....Again?!"
You're right.  Its wrong.  So wrong it's right.

It turns out our Praise Band had several birthday's last week.  Of course I had no idea, so when I mentioned the Key Lime Pie I made for Husband's birthday last week, they were slightly jealous.  ...So it's only fair that I make tasty key lime cup cakes and bring them to practice, right?
I found an unusual recipe that looks scrumptious.  Here it is, courtesy of Baked Perfection:

Key Lime Cupcakes with Blackberry Frostingrecipe from Baked Perfection
makes 30 cupcakes

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons key lime juice
zest of two limes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or paper-line 30 baking cups.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla, key lime juice and lime zest; mix well. Add the flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream (batter will be thick). Fill muffin cups with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely and frost as desired.

Blackberry Filling
recipe from Baked Perfection
1 32oz container frozen blackberries
3 tablespoons sugar
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt

Place blackberries in a small bowl and sprinkle with sugar, let thaw. Drain blackberries, reserving liquid. Squish the blackberries and push through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds, set aside. Add enough water to the blackberry liquid to equal 1 cup. In a large saucepan, combine the blackberry liquid, lemon juice, cornstarch, and salt. Heat and stir until the mixture boils and thickens. Cool completely. Stir blackberries into the cooled mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use. (This can be made several days in advance and any leftovers works well on toast, on pancakes, or mixed in plain Greek Yogurt.)

Blackberry Butter cream
recipe from Baked Perfection
2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup blackberry filling (seedless blackberry jam or preserves can be substituted)
pinch of salt
6 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk

Beat butter and vanilla until creamy. Mix in blackberry filling and salt. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until combined. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency.

Look how pretty:

Be sure to check out Baked Perfection for a glorious shot of the Blackberry filling!  This girl's a genius!!


Fantastically Free Frames

My fabulous mum-in-law has a way of passing on to me absolutely everything in her home that she doesn't use anymore, which is more than fine by Sparrow (she has great taste).  This lucky day she gave me ten nice frames of varying size and shape.  As Husband and I are house (and little Brother) watching this week, I get to use the Wallings Sr. paint supplies (free paint!). 

Check out all these frames

The frames were nice, but definitely dated.  They needed some spray paint love.  Simple white and black worked great.

After a few coats, they look good as new.  Can't wait to hang 'em when we get home.

I'd love to be able to do something like this cool chalkboard idea:

Hmmm....I'll keep you posted....


Finally, A Reason to Collect Birdcages

We don't really have a birdcage collection, but for this look, I'm willing to start one.  Anyone with me?


Music Monday

As we're here to experience all the adventures of Paper Sparrow, and some of Paper Sparrow's adventures are music in nature, Monday is now officially Music Monday.  Enjoy our latest endeavor, Dream a Little Dream, a video we did for some of our fans in England.


Husband's Birthday Present Presents:

I broke down and got Husband the new iPhone for his birthday.  So many apps!  Our favorite so far is Instagram, a picture app. 

Guess who his favorite subject is: