April 20, 2014

Wall Hooks Tutorial

I just added a new tutorial to Instructables.com for a set of wall hooks using supplies I had left from my jewelry rack project. Go check it out!

April 8, 2014

Family Matters

So, things are still hectic around here, ergo my blogging schedule has been hit or miss.
Last Saturday, we were three hours from home for Lily's OM tournament. Unfortunately, her team did not win in their category, and will not be going on to the World Finals in Iowa.
The other team from her school took first place and will be going on to compete again next month. We wish them the best of luck and are pulling for them!

In other news, my dad has just spent the last eleven days in the hospital, fighting off pneumonia. Naturally, while he was in there, they found lots of other things going on with him. He had an accident in 1992, and has been in a wheelchair for the last ten years or so. When he fell, he suffered nerve damage that has been gradually degenerating over time.
This past February, he fell and it looks like he tore his left rotator cuff. That was basically the one straw too many, and was what initially sent him to the ER last week in the first place. Today, he was released from the hospital and admitted to a long-term physical rehab center. They are going to help him lose weight, try to get his diabetes under control, and work on that shoulder every day.

We are really optimistic that this intensive physical therapy is going to benefit him, but it's going to take time - like, three months or so. Because my mother doesn't drive, I am going to be spending a lot of time on the highway. (We live about fifty miles from my parents' house.)

In an effort to try to adjust schedules and exert a bit of control over this new (albeit temporary) lifestyle, I have spent today doing a complete overhaul on the menu board. With the weather warming up, it was time to swap out recipes anyway, and tomorrow is grocery day, so it seemed like the right time to do it. For the foreseeable future, all of our meals are going to be thrown in the crock pot before I leave to be ready by dinner, or it will be items I can throw in the pressure cooker and have done in minutes. (I <3 my pressure cooker. It is my kitchen bff.) I am also making sure that these are recipes I can mix up, put in a zipper bag and freeze. No muss, no fuss, just a quick semi-defrost in the microwave, drop it in the crock pot and go about my business.

I am not sure that the blogsphere needs another "crapload of crockpot meals" post, but if anybody really wants to know what I chose, I suppose I can post it. Since the recipes are Pinterest finds from all over the internet, I might try to review them as we try them out. Time permitting, of course. 

March 20, 2014

Meal Planning 101

As a SAHM, meal prep is one of the most important things I do around the house. A little over 18 months ago, I worked out a way to organize my meal planning and grocery shopping, and it's been working out great. Now, if only I could get the rest of my life that organized!
Here's how I do my meal planning, one month at a time:

First, I got a magnetic, combination dry erase/cork board and used it to create a perpetual calendar.
You could pick one of these up at any office store, such as Staples, Office Max, Office Depot, etc. If it's Back-to-School time, you can also probably find them at Walmart or Target.
I used a yard stick and permanent markers in the colors of my kitchen to mark out a grid on the dry erase portion of the board.

Initially, I intended to write in meal choices with the dry erase marker, but I quickly found that didn't work as well as I had hoped. Dry erase marker ink contains alcohol, so it ended up ruining my permanent marker lines. Since the board was magnetic, I was able to print out a bunch of meal cards that are held onto the board via magnets. The cards are standard business card size (2"x3") that I typeset and printed using Microsoft Publisher. I printed mine out on standard 8.5"x11" white cardstock and cut them out by hand, but pre-perforated business card stock would make that even easier.
I try to keep the meal choices healthy, with familiar kid-friendly choices, as well as items to keep the adults interested. I switch up my meal choices four to six times a year for variety - usually on a seasonal basis. Fall and winter tend to be made up of casseroles and soups or stews, while spring and summer have lots of salads, and dishes that can be made in a skillet or the crockpot. Anything to avoid turning on the oven in southern summers! I also make sure to always include cards for when we might be "Out of Town" and for "Leftovers" as well as a couple of  "Try Something New" for any recipes I might be auditioning.
As for finding meal ideas to include, Tastespotting.com is my go-to site for new recipes. I also have a meal planning board on Pinterest for things that look interesting.

For the magnets, I got 1/2" round, self-adhesive magnets and a bag of assorted 3/4" buttons from the craft store. I attached the buttons to the magnets, but I didn't have enough red and blue buttons to match my kitchen, so I painted them with glitter nail polish to cover the wrong colors and to add a little pizzazz. ;-)
The numbers for the dates on my perpetual calendar are also magnetic. I used 1/4" adhesive magnet strips and attached them to numbers I printed out, then I cut the numbers apart into 1/4" squares. Having the numbers on magnets makes them easy to move around each month. I did the same thing for each of the month headings and days of the week, using inch wide magnetic tape and card stock. The months live on the side of the fridge when not in use.
To store the menu cards, I made small library card pockets out of printed cardstock. I drew my template freehand, but you can find them all over the internet with a quick google search. Standard card pockets will most likely be too big, so I would recommend reducing them to 80% or so.
I attached the card pockets to the unused cork section of the board with hot glue and they have held up really well for over a year and a half. The pockets are labeled behind the cards - chicken dishes, pork dishes, beef dishes, various (for meals that can be made with any meat), and vegetarian/fish for Meatless Mondays.
The cards go up on the board like so, and each week on Tuesday, I check the board and make my grocery list for Wednesday's shopping trip. Admittedly, the button magnets partially block what is on the cards. I could change the magnets, or rework the cards to avoid this, but to be honest, it doesn't bother me that much.
For the first six months or so, I used a pre-printed grocery list every week. It had every ingredient I might possibly need for every meal on the board, organized by the layout of the store. Each week instead of writing a list, I would just highlight what I needed on the pre-printed list. It worked out okay, until I swapped out the meals and had to completely rework the list. I also found that there were often things I needed that had not been put on the list in the first place.
Now, I just write that mess on notebook paper every Tuesday and I am good to go. ;-)
(I still organize my list by the layout of the store though. It just makes so much more sense than running back and forth because you forgot something!)

Please feel free to hit me up with meal planning questions you might have - I love to cook and share ideas!

March 16, 2014

The coaching continues

Back on March 1st our two teams for Odyssey of the Mind competed at the regional tournament.
Both of our teams placed at regionals and are now going on to the state competition in Charlotte, NC on April 5.
In an effort to get the kids ready to face tougher competition, we have been practicing with them 6 days a week. (I initially typed 67 days a week, but it only feels that way.)
I'm trying to do better about making regular blog entries, but honestly I haven't had anything interesting to talk about beyond OM - and let's face it, that's only interesting to me.

So if you are reading this, bear with me. I'm going to try to get back on track, I promise. I can't quit you, baby. Etc, etc.

February 25, 2014

Life as we know it

I have once more gotten slack with my blogging, and for that I apologize. My elder daughter is on her school's team for Odyssey of the Mind, so we have all been busily preparing for that. The competition is this weekend, and the kids are pretty excited. I have been acting as one of the parent coaches, and as we approach competition day, our whole family has been eating, sleeping and breathing OM.
We are hoping that the kids will be selected to go on to the next round of competition in Charlotte in April. If you would like to donate toward that trip, you can do so here, at our Go Fund Me page.
With any luck, we will be able to return to (what passes for) normal around here next week!

February 2, 2014

Scheduled Meandering and the OCD Traveler

     True facts, ladies and gentlemen - I am a pain in the ass to travel with.
     When I travel, I strive to be hyper organized and I tend to get really stressy and uptight when things don't go my way. Alternatively, my husband's vacation mindset tends to be "Hey, that looks interesting, let's go that way!"
     These drastically opposing vacation styles do not mesh well, trust me. Thankfully, in the almost fifteen years we have been married, we have managed to find a happy medium. I am allowed to make a flexible schedule, and he is allowed a certain amount of "free exploration".
     Naturally, when we travel by plane or train, I have us scheduled down to the minute. About a year after we were married, we won a trip to LA and nearly missed our flight because my husband doesn't understand the wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey screwed up way that time works inside an airport. He spent years living that one down. 
     But, when we are on a family road trip with no time constraints, I am content to let him take over and we go where the day takes us. At least as long as we are in transit - once we arrive, the Schedule Monster tries to take over. "If we want to take the kids to this show/activity/event at X time, we need to leave the hotel by Y o'clock. We can stop at Z on the way, but we can only stay for 14 and a half minutes, any longer than that and we'll miss the beginning of show/activity/event. You know what? Let's just go straight to show/activity/event and we'll do the rest after."  And, heaven forbid something should cause us to end up being late for show/activity/event anyway, because then I am irate for the next three hours. Yay, OCD!
     I am currently sitting down to plan our trip for Spring Break. We were originally planning to go to Williamsburg, VA, but due to this winter's snowpocalypse, the husband lost three days of vacation time, and it looks like the children may lose three days of theirs as well. So we've cancelled Williamsburg in favor spending a three day weekend exploring some of what our home state has to offer. Inspired by Daughter The Elder and her interest in all places spooky, we're going to check out as many of the haunted, weird and creepy places we can find in NC.
     And I get to plan the itinerary! It's borderline perverse how happy this makes me.

January 22, 2014

If it does not fit, get rid of that S#!t

I am really proud of myself right now. I spent this past weekend cleaning out my closet and my dresser. I washed everything that was in the hamper (it overfloweth..ed) and as I folded and put away, I also sent away. I ended up with TWO lawn and garden trash bags, filled with clothes to go to Goodwill.
My closet is now nearly empty, although, my dresser drawers are still a bit more full than I would like. I need to do some shuffling around - jeans and skirts back into the closet, sweaters into the drawer - that kind of thing.
Considering what a pack rat I am, this is a big deal.

January 17, 2014

Business is slow for the Tooth Fairy

Last night, Lily (Daughter The Elder) lost a tooth. She's ten, so in and of itself, this is not big news. It was a big deal for us, however, because her teeth have been coming out at a snail's pace. It had been over a year since the last lost tooth. She will be eleven in May and this was only tooth number 9 to fall out, so it's clearly not a common occurrence. Since Tooth Fairy business is such a rare thing around here, I really don't have a set routine for when it happens.
 I am a frequent visitor to Pinterest, and there are plenty of ideas on there for how to handle dental transactions, but since it had been so long, I had not bothered to try any of them. Last night presented the perfect opportunity to pull together a few of those ideas and come up with something quick and easy, but still fun enough to use again. Hopefully, when Ivy (Daughter The Younger) begins losing teeth in the next year or so, this will be our "Molar M.O."

 Here's how it went down:
First, we never have cash on hand, so we are never prepared for tooth fairy business. Seriously, this was tooth number nine and the ninth time we did NOT have cash to give her. You'd think we'd have learned by now, but no. What we did have on hand was a Barnes and Noble gift card with ten dollars remaining on it. Guess the Tooth Fairy wants the kids to read.
My husband suggested I write a quick note from the TF explaining that she was out of cash or some jazz. Both of my girls know my handwriting, so that would have been a dead giveaway. Besides, I have a degree in graphic design, so there was no way I was going to half-ass this. (Even if it was after 10 PM on a school night.)
One of the ideas I found on Pinterest was a receipt from the TF, so I decided to work around that.

I used Microsoft Publisher's gift certificate template, and downloaded a few handwriting style fonts from DaFont dot com. I ultimately ended up going with one called Never Let Go - it's nice and bold and looks pretty legit when printed out. Since I was in a rush last night, I grabbed a cute tooth fairy graphic from Google image search. I replaced it today with an seal from the Fairyland Department of Tooth Collection that I put together. I printed out the receipt, smeared a little superfine glitter on it, and threw it in an envelope with the gift card. Lily was quite pleased with the end result and wasn't even mad about the BN card, even though she is a reluctant reader.

I went ahead and made two new versions of the receipt - one pink, one blue - and saved them as jpgs for anyone who wants a version they can print and fill in by hand. Just click to open the full size image, right click and save. :-)

My husband and I also came up with a solution to the never-having-cash-isssue. From now on, we're going to keep a stockpile of $5 gift cards on hand - more Barnes and Noble, Target, Walmart, the local frozen yogurt place, etc. We can use them as gifts for those last minute birthday parties the girls are always getting invited to as well, so it's a win-win. :-)

New Year, New Blog

So I am giving the blogging thing another go. I really don't know why I find it so hard to keep up with; back in the day, I had a Livejournal that I updated religiously.
In any case, I am trying this again.

The current state of my life is as follows:
  • I will be turning 40 just shy of three weeks from now. I don't FEEL 40, so I refuse to act that way. 
  • I am currently a SAHM with Daughter#2, who starts kindergarten this fall. 
  • When Daughter#2 starts school, I will be looking for a day job - still not sure what that's going to be, but if I can avoid anything with a uniform, that would be stellar. 
  • I am currently trying my hand at writing fiction, so we'll see how that pans out, re: a day job.
  • Daughter#1 starts Middle School in the fall. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one. I hate how quickly they are growing up.
This blog will most likely be home to my various DIY projects, possible testing ground for my writing, and just a place to collect, celebrate, and/or complain about the things that happen in my life.
IF I can force myself to update now and then.