How to Make a Paper Bag Floor

How to make a brown paper bag floor tutorial

Bryson City Outdoors has been open for business now for 2 months!  I still can’t believe how fast the renovation went. (You can read about the full recycle-heavy green renovation here). Here’s the sign going up (made by our friends Liz and AJ from reclaimed wood):


And March 31 we had a preview party for a small group of friends and family:


And this is what the building looked like before the renovation:


Yikes. I’m not sure anyone had even notice the building before…and it’s at the corner of Main Street and Everett! It had been patched together for years and years as  a tire shop, pawn shop, real estate office, and leather shop and maybe even a few other things. We found so many signs in the building it was crazy.

As a result the floor was a mismatch of concrete, outdoor carpeting, and various levels. Brett decided to try a paper bag floor in the bathroom last winter to see how it would turn out. It worked so well that the guys decided to go with a paper floor throughout the entire store. Here are a few photos that my friend Sarah Mattingly took that show the finished store interior:

How to make a paper bag floor - the ultimate guide and time lapse

The green tape marks the ADA ramp:

Low Cost Flooring - Paper Bag Floor using glue and grocery bags

The retail store gets a lot of traffic as you can imagine and the floor has held up extremely well. Funny that it looks like more like an expensive concrete finish than paper! The great part about the paper floor is that if it shows wear in a few areas it can be easily patched.

Here’s the quick tutorial:

Instructions for making a paper bag floor - recycled flooring


Step 1. Gather Materials
A large roll of contractors paper or paper grocery bags
Elmer’s Glue-All by the gallon
Floor-grade polyurethane (Oil-modified Minwax)
A large bucket for mixing
Plastic gloves

Step 2. Mix the glue and water at a 50/50 ratio in the bucket. Tear (or cut depending on what look you are going for) the paper into large pieces. For a mottled look like Bryson City Outdoors crumple up each piece. Dip each piece into the glue mixture until fully saturated and then lay into place on the floor. Make sure to smooth out any air bubbles.

Step 3. Continue the process until the floor is completely covered.

Step 4. Allow the floor completely dry. This may take a full 24 hours or more depending on what climate you live in.

Step 5. For the final protective coat, use a paint roller with a light nap and roll on the floor-grade polyurethane. Make sure to have adequate ventilation for this step!  Allow this coat to completely dry and then your floor is finished!

A great way to cover up super hideous tile or a bare concrete floor. I think the total cost came out to about 60-70 cents per square foot.

There’s a time lapse video of the guys laying part of the floor posted on the blog at Bryson City Outdoors…you can click here or click through below to watch. There are also more detailed directions!

Paper Bag Flooring Time Lapse


Awesome right? Make sure to stop by and see the store in person if you are in Bryson City, NC but you can also pick up a hat or t-shirt online here! #lifeoutside

Aren’t these two adorable?



Found Poems : How to Find a Poem

Step 1: Take an old book page or newspaper.
Step 2: Use a pencil to circle words.
Step 3: Fill in the rest so only the circled words stand out.

This isn’t really a full poem…but a starting point:


See more on Instagram if you look up the hashtag: #foundpoem

Also known as found poems or blackout poems.

The Poetry of Earth

This weekend we spent a lot of time outdoors. Brett teaching Boo about her paddle on Fontana Lake:


Bryson City Outdoors (BCO) has paddle boards you can rent right at the Finger Lake.  Brett, tiny Maximus, and one of Brett’s BCO partners Ben and his dog Lager:


When Brett was about 10 feet away from shore Max jumped in and swam for it with an audience watching from shore. I’d say he’s a brave little guy…but really I think he’s more crazy.

Yesterday we hiked to Andrews Bald. The drive up 441 to get there is pretty amazing in itself (it starts at Clingman’s Dome):

drive up

It’s about a 3.8 mile hike roundtrip. A little rocky in places but a great moderate hike for almost any level if you take your time. I love the balds because you can see for miles and miles, there are no trees obstructing the view. Sometimes I can’t believe places like this exist, pretty much untouched by humans except for the narrow trails we’ve left:


Logging the hike in our “nature” journal:


I keep a journal because I’ve found that if I have the intention of writing things down I see more. My mind looks for ways to describe a place to someone else. I love this line from  John Keats:


I don’t know exactly what he meant by that, but my own takeaway is that the earth is itself poetry. This place has been pretty much the same for thousands if not millions of years. It will outlive us all a million times over (unless we get sucked into a black hole filled with asteroids.)

Sometimes I’ll pick up a rock or a flower or notice a new tree or animal and wonder: What if I’d never seen this? And it starts a continuous process of looking a second time, and then a third and soon I’m pulling apart a patch of clovers to see what world lives underneath that I may have been missing. And there’s a whole world underneath. 

When I was younger I wanted to be a forest ranger. At some point that dream was shifted and molded into a career path that wasn’t necessarily my own. Not that I want to be a forest ranger now, but isn’t it an odd thing how we shift our innocent, passionate young dreams into what we think will be more acceptable and secure?

All the big people are simple, as simple as the unexplored wilderness. They love the universal things that are free to everybody. Light and air and food and love and some work are enough. In the varying phases of these cheap and common things, the great lives have found their joy…so simple we are, so little we want, we are wise and will get what we want… -Carl Sandburg, in a letter to his wife 

And then today I’m sitting outside with my dogs because I can’t feel good about myself if they are locked inside staring out the window. And there’s the drone of a yellow jacket hovering nearby and I’ve decided to be a little more tolerant because there must be some use for the yellow jacket right?  I can’t think of one but surely there is some important task for the yellow jacket. I’ve slowed my pace of life and I wonder if it’s possible to gain momentum while simultaneously slowing down? I remember learning in school, maybe in physics, that it takes like 25 miles for an aircraft carrier to stop moving because of the force.

Anyway, onto some kind of point here. If you’ve never visited a bald…you need to. Because when you get there you’ll stand above the whole world and I think you’ll get it. And maybe you’ve felt that before. Up in those kinds of high mystical places, or maybe it was on a long stretch of white beach. My friend Jodi calls it a whoosh.  I think it’s where fear and hope and reverence and joy all collide at once.

And sometimes, like poetry, you can even find little galaxies of stars there:



Honoring and remembering all who have died serving our country, fighting for our freedom, sacrificing everything. I don’t even have words big enough to express the oceans of gratitude. It never seems like enough. So in small words: thank you. 

Boo at the Vietnam Memorial

A Landscape Plan

Since we moved in to our house in January we’ve been thinking about what we want to start working on as far as yard projects.  I used a combination of Google aerial maps and Zillow to create my own drawings of the property…and I have been sketching over transparencies with a china pen as I work through ideas. I like to think long term…like what would we have to start doing now that we can also keep adding to over the next few years:


We have a great blank slate to work with:


We took down a lot of trees to remove any that were in danger of falling on the house:


The power company took down a bunch too, and then kind of left a big ole mess:


Now we’ve got firewood for life, and our friends got a lot too:


The only gardening or landscaping I’ve done up until this point is digging up all the spring bulbs once their flowers fell off, dried them and stored them to replant at some point. I’ve still got a few more to save before the earth mover comes in:


Like these gorgeous Tiger Irises. I wrote this on Instagram about them: In floriography, the language of flowers, the purple iris symbolizes wisdom. The iris in general symbolizes faith and friendship. In Ancient Greece the purple variety was planted over the graves of deceased women to summon Iris, the messenger of the gods, to help guide the journey between heaven and earth. Also an iris: the Fleur-de-lis.

tiger iris

Oh and Boo planted a fairy garden:


We have a wood swing ready to go up:


And then there’s the depot. My plan is to make it a potting shed and have it be the backdrop for a garden.


Maybe I’ll actually get something to grow. My moss and succulents and potato plants are looking pretty good so far. I love this potting bench that Brett made me out of some reclaimed barn doors and 2 saw horses from Habitat. At the rate my moss is growing I’ll have about 4 feet of it in 4 years. It’s like watching water boil:

My theme is mountain-cottage-Japanese-ranch. Catchy, right? I like a little of everything. I like to dream big with a big plan and start small. So maybe one day we’ll have a curved gravel drive lined with trees, large boulders with plantings around them, pea gravel walkways, a garden kitchen and little niches here and there.  Oh and evergreens, hydrangeas, juniper and those pretty Japanese maples. And maybe some lavender. If anyone wants some poison ivy or poison oak we have a lot of that already, I’ll be working on replacing that little by little.

Here’s what I’ve been inspired by…I’m pretty sure if I throw all of this in a blender and I’ll get mountain-cottage-Japanese-ranch-Narnia:

       Follow Ashley’s board Mountain Landscape Inspiration on Pinterest.

And I’m always open to great ideas and suggestions. I know zero about landscaping. I just wing it and pick what I like and try to keep it as DIY as possible.

Read more about The House on Hospital Hill here.

Linville Landscape

We went to Linville last weekend for Mother’s Day. The mountain my mother lives on is right across from Grandfather. We always like to drive all the way up to the top to see the views. There used to be a house on this point, but just the foundation and a few pipes are there now.  I hope nothing ever is rebuilt there:


It’s always nice to visit Linville because the temperature is usually 10 to 15 degrees cooler than where we live because of the change in elevation. The trees haven’t even realized it’s spring yet! Boo playing on the porch with the dogs:


A gorgeous sunset at Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk:


My mother and Boo went exploring one day Brett and I went off by ourselves to explore a few yard sales. We love treasure hunting. A few finds:

Vintage Coffee Tins. The kind you used to have to open with a key!  We watched The Prize Winner from Defiance, Ohio two nights ago and I was able to point this out for Boo when Woody Harrelson was opening a tin of Spam with the same contraption.

coffee tins

I think this is an old military issue drafting set. Not entirely sure. It says property of the government on it, doesn’t even look like the tools have been used. Any ideas?

drafting set

An toy accordion. Still works! I haven’t been able to figure out the year yet because I can’t find another Emenee that’s aqua or turquoise. Maybe 1960’s?


A really old Bayer aspirin tin (fifteen cents!) and a book of poetry (1947) filled with pressed flowers:


I’ll enjoy them for a while and then it will be time to pass them on and look for new things.

A Letter to My Daughters

It happened.  I knew the day was bound to come but it just snuck up, and I wasn’t prepared in the slightest.  One day it was not a thing at all and the very next it was ALL the thing and my heart was not ready.

Having three daughters, the oldest now 11, I have wondered how its first occurrence would go down, preparing myself to have wise answers for my girls and to be able to listen gently as they expressed their hearts to me.

However, when the day actually came, my wise answers left my brain, my gentle listening skills turned into, “I’m so mad I could punch someone’s throat,” and I just wanted to undo what had been done, forgetting it ever happened.  It seems there is no turning back now.

She was called fat.  My oldest darling daughter was called fat.  I was so caught off guard.  And because it’s not good parenting to punch others, especially as a Small-Town-Pastor’s-Wife, I gave my best to her in that moment, but it truthfully hasn’t left my mind since.  I keep trying to check back in and make sure she knows, that she knows how breathtakingly beautiful she is, but deep down I feel so ill prepared for her next time, and then it will be my next daughter’s turn to experience the same heartbreak.  I wish I could absorb it all on behalf of them.

Can’t us Mamas shield and protect, keeping our babies safe always and forever?

Maybe this occurrence has shaken my heart more than I had anticipated it would.  Maybe, perhaps especially, it forces me to ponder this moment for myself.  I was the same age.  I was in the same grade.  This moment for me has been embedded into my mind for 25 years.  Before that day, the thought of viewing myself as fat had never crossed my mind, but since that day….I have thought it over more times than I care to admit.  Somehow shame and embarrassment began to feel more natural than seeing myself as beautiful.  I starred in the mirror longer after that, adjusting my outfits and checking my complexion, and feeling more zoned into my body than ever before.

It tears at my heart and soul to think that she will now transition toward this very same thinking.

So…as her Mama, I am transitioning toward a new thought pattern once and for all.  I am committed to embracing a new self identity for my darling daughters.  Knowing that I am raising three girls in this pressure-filled culture, and not embracing myself, may open the door for more self-doubt in their lives than I care to risk.



To my Darlings,

Here’s what I know about me, your Mama:

I am His Beloved.
I am fearfully, wonderfully, and specifically made.
I am known deeply by my Abba Father,
And the Masterpiece within me is only revealed when I love myself just as I am.
This world cannot be touched as powerfully if I do not allow the story within me to unfold.
My life story showcases each one of you; that is my honor.

Here’s what I know about you, my Darlings:

You are His Beloved.
You are fearfully, wonderfully, and specifically made.
You existed in the very heart of God before I ever laid eyes on you,
And the Masterpiece within you is only revealed when you learn to love yourself just as you are.
You are enough; not if, not when, but simply because.
You are my beautiful, strong, and courageous daughters.
You are my dearest loves and I am your Mama,
And I love you heart and soul.






A note: I thought this post from Jodi was perfect to honor today’s  LOVE FLASH MOB over at Momastery, where you can donate (any amount!) to directly impact the life of one of these “sHERos.” Click here to read more! I’ve donated in honor of two sHERos on my mind today: Ariana and Nina. Will you donate? Thank you! Love, Ashley


Books on Writing

A few books on my shelf. I think of them as my writing support group:



Chapter after Chapter by Heather Sellers
“Writing a book is exactly like love. You don’t hold back. You give it everything you have. If it doesn’t work out, you’re heartbroken, but you move forward and start again anyway. You have to. You don’t hold some of yourself in reserve. It’s all or nothing. There are no guarantees. ” 

Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg
“Let some of the good writing go. Don’t worry. There’ll be lots of it over time. You can’t use all of it. Be generous and allow some of it to lie fallow. What a relief! We can write well and let it go.”

Keeping a Journal You Love by Sheila Bender
“You might want to write Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” inside the front cover of your journal as a reminder of the value of solitude, both the solitude in which the world springs forward into your senses and the solitude in which you recollect the happening.”

Courage and Craft by Barbara Abercrombie
“You have a deep well inside you filled with memories, thoughts, feelings, fantasies, observations. You have everything necessary for your writing. Now you just need to get our of your own way and avoid curbs. 

Writing for Your Life by Deena Metzger
“Write against patterns. Go against the devils. Write what you never write. Lie. Validate what you don’t validate. Indulge what you don’t like. Wallow in it. Write the opposite of what you always write, think, speak. Do everything against the grain!” 

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
“I write because I am alone and move through the world alone. No one will know what has passed through me… I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am a woman trying to stand up in my life… I write out of hurt and how to make hurt okay; how to make myself strong and come home, and it may be the only real home I’ll ever have.”

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson
“It took years of keeping journals to trust a simple fact: like life in transit, the writing inside is often fragmented, messy.”

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
“Out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, perhaps twenty people can write a book in a year. Some people lift cars, too. Some people enter week-long sled-dog races, go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, fly planes through the Arc de Triomphe. Some people feel no pain in childbirth. Some people eat cars. There is no call to take human extremes as norms.” 

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath
“I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time…”

Page after Page by Heather Sellers
“Writing is a ton of work. It’s exhausting. You can hardly do it when you are tired – it’s that hard to do well. It’s a way of life, and you have to really hard inside yourself. It’s like cleaning house – fun to have finished, less fun to do. Writing is not always the answer. It’s not always right to say to people: “Yes, you have a great story. You should write it.” Maybe you should write. Maybe not. Are your friends telling you to write? Do they know what’s involved with that? Are you feeling you should write? Why? You don’t have to write.”



Step Into My Shoes

All I wanted for Mother’s Day was another child, so I picked an 8-year-old girl from Ethiopia. Same age as Boo. No, she’s not coming to live with us, we just now sponsor her through Compassion International, a child the same age and born in the same month as Boo so that she can relate a bit more.

If you have kids you should sign them up for the free magazine Compassion Explorer. I found out about it recently when I attended the Orange Conference. It’s opening Boo’s eyes (and ours) to the poverty of children across the world. It’s so easy to forget what’s outside your own neighborhood. Inside the magazine are country-specific recipes, biographies, devotionals and crafts. Reading it in the form of a children’s magazine has peaked her interest exponentially:

Boo: His father only earns $22 a month!

compassion explorer

There is a kit you can order with a family devotional journey that includes a map of Uganda, videos, Bible-based devotionals and family projects. That’s what we have. You can find it here as the family toolkit. There is also a kit for larger groups.  We are excited to start doing it as a family.

Please also consider sponsoring a child through Compassion. 

Subtle hint: It would be an awesome Mother’s Day gift (that’s what kind of meaningful gift I would like).



This Dog

Max just cracks us up…all the time. He’s definitely settled in just fine. He jumps in the shower with Boo. He darts around the house like a maniac. At night he charges like a bull to get under the covers and then throws tantrums in his sleep.



And Diesel is just as cantankerous as ever. He won’t let us take his photo because he thinks he’s getting too old. He is over 100 years now. Almost blind and missing all his teeth. He wants you to remember him in his youth (or until he gets a makeover).