Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Have a Kitchen Floor!

I have a kitchen floor! YAAAAAYYY!!!

<sigh> It's been a little over two weeks and I'm still totally in love with my kitchen floor. We've settled into the comfortable relationship of knowing that it will be there, waiting for me when I get home. Ready and willing to take abuse from my child. And still looking all hot and perfect.

Heck yeah.

As I'd mentioned, I used vinyl peel and stick tiles that look like wood planks. Well, they don't look like wood per se, they look like laminate planks, which totally counts now-a-days. They're 3'x6" and super-duper easy to install.

I'll get to the installation part later. For now, here's some gratuitous photos of my floor. It needs some narrow cuts put under the cabinet kick space, and finishing with shoe molding, but it's a floor.

the first board - I almost cried I was so happy
at this point hubby refused to keep coming in to look at the progress
into the long stretch!
so... close...
IT'S A FLOOR!
child tested, child approved

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Are They Good Enough?

I've been playing with my camera a little bit lately, and the other day I took some shots of some Adirondack chairs. Do you think - honestly - that these are something I'd have a shot at selling? Like on Etsy or at a local tourist trap?






my personal favorite
Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yard Sale from Big Truck Day

As I mentioned yesterday, I visited a yard sale on Big Truck Day. Here's what I found...

full size white flannel sheet set - for sewing projects - $3

two pairs of almost new size 6 shoes for Max - $1 each

a pretty gold frame and painting - $3

baby gate - free
A pretty decent haul! After pressure washing the baby gate it now discourages Max from climbing up the stairs when we're not there to help him. He's fine on the going up, it's the going down that still defies him.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Father's Day Gift for My Dad

While we were out and about on our Big Truck Day adventure, we made a few other stops. I picked up a yellow evening primrose at the local flower club's annual sale (and then found out the next weekend that my grandparents have tons...). I went to a yard sale (details to come) while Max and Hubby napped in the car.

AND

I picked up a Father's Day gift for my dad.

Generally, I don't get him a Father's Day gift. If anything, I make him food. He loves food as gifts. But, I couldn't pass this up. I didn't even really get it for Father's Day, that just sounds better. I just got it and gave it to him because I knew he'd love it.

On the $1 table outside of the used book store was...


Yeah, a dollar. I KNOW!

A few plates have been removed, but I knew he wouldn't care (and he didn't, he was still pretty stoked, in his reserved kind of way). It was even marked as $25 by a previous bookseller.


Look at these images - no fading, no tearing, or yellowing.




I told him that I'm totally OK with it if he wants to tear the book apart and frame images. Or frame and sell. Whatever floats his boat. As I suspected, he knows a lot about Currier and Ives prints and told me that even framed images from books can easily go for $10-$20 apiece (I had a feeling).

So, not only did I get my dad a great gift that he appreciates, it was an amazing deal (which as a fellow yardsaler/antique store dweller he totally appreciates), AND it can generate money for him if he wants. Now, that's a dollar well spent.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Friday Link Roundup: Places I've Been...


This whole link roundup on Friday business may become a thing. Is that OK with you all? Fridays are now link roundups here? I assume you all say yes. K, just checking.

Nester is doing a series on debt-free decorating – this particular post is on one of my favorite pastimes: Thrift! And, there’s some major eye candy in the post, both decor and hunky men. See that photo there? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

Different clock screensavers – download the program at the bottom of the page and you’ll get all of the clock options.

I’m totally digging this office/craft room:

My new favorite DIY blog:

This makes me want to make cookies:

Where to get your veggies this summer – a primer if you will:
The one thing that I don’t totally agree with is the implication that a Farmer’s Market is going to be more expensive. Ours is comparable with the grocery store if not cheaper, so it varies depending on the Market and the vendor.

No work required: She stacked a few suitcases on top. Seriously, and it looks amazing:

An interesting piece on staying home. There are some points that I would argue (like, what about those of us that do all of that and hold down a full-time job), but it’s food for thought nonetheless:

Wolfsong has been ranting a bit this week too… Fair warning, the F-bomb gets dropped liberally (as it well should be, but I have a dirty mouth so I’m biased):

Holy drop cloth link party – when I last checked there were 792 posts and it’s open for three more days! Of course most of the posts are not about drop cloths, but that’s still an impressive amount of links to check out:
http://www.myuncommonsliceofsuburbia.com/2011/06/drop-cloth-link-party.html

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Big Truck Day

My son loves trucks. SUPER-DUPER loves trucks! During the Memorial Day parade he shouted himself hoarse because he was so excited about the trucks!

So when I heard about a fundraiser being done a couple of weekends ago called Big Truck Day, I knew we had to go. (local rescue squads, fire departments, farmers, school bus drivers, etc, brought their trucks and such in for little kids to climb all over, benefiting a local charity) We went into town and made a whole day of it!

First, the book sale:
all that for $7.50!


Then, the main event!

Max LOVED the fire engine - especially ringing the bell!
Hey Daddy! Want to ride in the ambulance with me?
already practicing his rescue techniques!

All of that excitement really wore him out -


 And wore out Daddy too.


A day well spent.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is Standardized Sizing Too Much to Ask For?


I’m getting on my soapbox here. Is standardized sizing too much to ask for?

I’ve worked in the Halloween costume industry, technically a clothing industry. We needed to be pretty rigorous with our sizing, especially for children, so that we would match the industry standard. Parents in particular didn’t want to buy a size M for their kiddo and then get home to find out it’s too small. That sucks for the whole family, and can hurt sales.

Why, oh why, can’t the clothing industry follow suit?

It’s not like standard sizing hasn’t been done outside of Halloween costumes. We have pretty standard shoe sizing. You generally know your shoe size – mine is a size 7. When I pick up a pair of size 7 shoes, I usually know that my foot will fit. The shoe might be a little loose, or a little tight, or not fit quite right in the heel, but I at least have a reliable point of reference.

Shirts aren’t horrible. I’m top heavy (read, I have a big rack) so I know that if something fits in the chest it’ll be loose around the waist. Or at least that was the case before baby… But in general, I know what to expect, and reach for L or XL shirts with particular cuts or some stretch.

Then there are pants.

What the heck.

The other day I tried on 6 pairs of pants. Four pairs of size 18 pant, 1 pair of size 16, and one pair of XL. I have a big bum, and pre-baby I always had trouble finding jeans to fit my very-hourglass shape (I miss my waist, btw). Now I’m a bit more normally proportioned so I’m a pretty consistent size 16/18. Or, I would be if the pant sizes were also consistent.

The size XL pants were yoga pants – no big deal, they stretch and form to my proportions. I could have gone with a L, but I wanted extra rise to the waist.
The size 16 pants (cords) were a little snug, but in the encourage-me-to-lose-five-pounds way, where I can still comfortably wear them even while on the floor playing with Max.
The size 18 pants on the other hand… two pairs (cords and jeans) are a little too big in the waist and I’ll probably have to dart them (I’d rather buy a little bigger and alter them to fit me correctly). The other two pairs (jeans and khakis) didn’t even remotely fit. As in, barely made it past my knees.

How can it happen that two pairs of the same size jeans can be so far off that one can be slipped off without unbuttoning and the other couldn’t even make it to my thighs? They’re both wide leg, regular fit at the waist.

Oh, that’s right, they’re different brands.

And there are no sizing standards.

There are supposed sizing standards, but they aren’t followed. And that pisses me off. I have enough negative body image issues as it is (and I’m sure millions of other people do too). I don’t need this “will it fit, or will I feel like a fat failure” every time I try on an effing pair of pants. I don’t need to wonder if I’ve gotten so fat that I’ll no longer fit into a size 18 (which I already dislike, as I was a size 8 when I graduated high school) and have to move up a size. Or move up several sizes, in the case of the pants that only go up slightly past my knees.

I’m trying to think of solutions that will make me feel better. What makes me happy? Pants that fit. Keeping my business local. Creating. Handcrafts. Flipping the bird at industries that make me feel like crap. (Ok, that last one doesn’t make me happy per se, but it makes me feel better)

Solution one:
Be brand loyal to the jeans that do fit, and hope that they don’t discontinue the line.
Solution two:
Make my own pants. I have a plan for this…
Solution three:
Check out the recommendation I got for a talented local seamstress to see if she makes clothing as well as doing alterations. (I’ll need her for zipper installation, and maybe she’d even make me jeans)

Would you like to join me up on my soapbox? What are your gripes about clothing sizing? What are your solutions?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Trash to Treasure

Look what I found when I was digging around in the backyard:





Complete with perfume still in it! I know that people used to bury their trash in their yards, but this seems so pretty - and fully intact (like I said, it still had the perfume in it!). I'm surprised it was thrown away.

But I'm glad they did - because now I have it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Should I Get a New Sewing Machine?

the object of my affections
So I’m having a bit of an internal debate. Should I get a new sewing machine? I got my sewing machine for my 16th birthday, almost 13 years ago (I turn 30 next year). It’s a basic Brother, at the time it was pretty snazzy with 20 different stitches (of which I use two 99% of the time – straight and zigzag) and a digital screen. I love my sewing machine, it runs beautifully when it’s tuned up and has the correct size bobbin.

BUT.

It’s showing its age. The foot pedal isn’t working half the time. The tune up only lasts for about 8-12 cumulative hours of sewing before it un-adjusts itself. Then the tension goes, and the fancy stitches stop working again (which is annoying the 1% of the time I try to use them). And we're trying to be better about our budget, and spending a few hundred on a machine makes me seriously hesitate when technically my current sewing machine does work.

I’ve started looking at other machines, and I feel guilty. I actually had a dream where I was sewing and started flirting with a handsome young man. (It made sense in my dream, and I’m interpreting that as cheating on the sewing machine.) It’s not like it’s a small splurge, it’s a significant chunk of cash to spend on myself. Though the things I make benefit others as well, I still feel like it’s something just for me.

So, here are my selfish justifications thoughts on getting a new machine:
  • Paying $65 per tune up every three to six months on my old machine is not cost effective
  • The machine I want is $169 (marked down from $449!), which is less than three tune ups
  • Though I’d still have to get the new machine serviced it’d be every 6-12 months instead of every 3-6
  • I’m making clothes for Max, and as I get more comfortable with the patterns I plan on increasing that amount to cover most of his wardrobe (which has a monetary benefit)
  • I need a reliable way to make buttonholes for Max’s shirts – because I currently suck at it
  • My frustration level would decrease with a machine that is more reliable (in theory)
  • I would still keep the old machine as a backup, so it’s not becoming landfill fodder
  • And, finally, I really, really, really want one!

Did you know that there is a doohicky on a sewing machine where you put in a button and then the machine will sew a buttonhole to fit that particular button??? That actually made me squeal when I read it! (Turns out I’m behind the times – a friend told me this is now a standard feature on all machines. What can I say, I’m easy!)

Help me out here. Should I? Shouldn’t I? What would you do? Do you have suggestions for reasonably priced machines?

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Friday Link Roundup: Places I’ve been…

image source
I’m so into swaps right now, and I really, really want to go to this one!

I imagine most of you know how to do plant clippings – but if not, check this out:
(Speaking of plant clippings – I managed to kill roughly two dozen spider plant babies through drowning, cat nibbles, and lack of light. You’d think I’d never propagated a spider plant before…)

I really want to make this doily pendant lamp for the dining room!

Strawberry Banana BREAD??? Heck yes, please!

LOOK! It’s the same type of tomato cage that I wrote about! I’m so cool, I found these before Apartment Therapy!

DIY moss wall art - yes, as in moss in a picture frame. With all the rain we’ve been getting lately I have a boat load of moss outside, maybe I’ll bring some more in (besides the moss in my apothecary jars and shell pot).

I totally need to use this idea for Max – using a galvanized tub, or in my case a wooden one, and turning it into a footrest/stool that doubles as a toy bin.

Bike helmets that don’t look like a bike helmet – win! I was thinking about this (almost) exact same thing the other day, except wondering about making a cover for a standard helmet.

I super-duper-wish that I could read this blog (it’s in Swedish) – but the photos are fantastic! Check out that chair swing I put at the top of the post. I’m pretty sure that the below link is for her outdoor post tags… Check out the play yard, I’m totally smitten with it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Freezer Clean Out Soup

much cuter than soup
Nothing inspires me to cook like an event that requires cake.

Like my son TURNING ONE.

Oy.

As I’d mentioned, I’ve been feeling uninspired lately regarding anything to do with cooking. (Not regarding the kitchen tho – I laid the flooring last weekend! Photos soon…) But I’m now officially out of my no-cooking slump, having cooked several times in the last two weeks.

Because of all of this cooking – specifically, cooking for the party this weekend – I needed room in the freezer for five quarts of baked beans, two pans of rolls, three gallons of ice cream (purchased, not homemade), six dozen cupcakes, and a small cake for the birthday boy. (I wasn't kidding when I said I'm out of my slump!)

I had three different lunch failures in the freezer, totaling five containers, that could easily be replaced by ice cream. BUT, this was perfectly edible food, it just was not palatable. So there’s no way I was going to throw it away.

Failure #1: Tex-mex crock pot thing involving ground turkey, salsa, beans, and cornbread. Sounds like it’d be awesome, right? Yeah, not so much. It dried out and was completely flavorless.

Failure #2: Another Tex-mex crock pot thing involving pork, rice, corn, tomato sauce, and too much taco seasoning. It would have been fantastic, except for being too spicy hot with not enough other flavor.

Failure #3: Ham (good), potatoes (good), tomato sauce (good), broth (good), greens (good)… and too much salt. I really liked this one, except for the massive amounts of salt.

There were other things in the freezer, but I figured these three had enough similarities that they might combine well. So, in the crock pot they go with a box of chicken broth and four chicken thighs (they were in the fridge and needed to be cooked before they went bad). I added about a Tbsp of cumin (I love cumin) and let it go on low overnight.

The result: A tomato and broth based soup/stew with a few large chunks of meat, a couple of whole potatoes, almost completely dissolved rice (from being cooked so many times), and a smattering of other things.

The verdict: Really tasty! The salt and cumin seasoned the bland stuff, the broth moistened the dry stuff, the spicy heat is reduced so now I can enjoy the smoky chili flavor, the rice and cornbread almost completely dissolved making the tomato base almost creamy, the cumin was an awesome addition, and there are big hunks of super-tender meat. A definite win!

So – I challenge you. Do you have stuff in the freezer that you don’t like but can’t make yourself throw away? How can you combine it with other things you have in the fridge, freezer, and/or cupboard to make it work for you? If you’re stumped, leave a comment and I’ll try to come up with a solution for you!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Green Monster – RRRROOOOARR!

image source - and good recipes!
I’ve been making green smoothies for breakfast for almost a week now – and I don’t know how I lived without them!

BUT – in honor of my son, whose birthday is this week, and who LOVES to ROAR like a monster – I’ve been calling them green monsters (which this person does too, and she seems to have coined that phrase, so props to her).

I love me some spinach. Really, it’s my favorite vegetable. A little story for you – my dad hates spinach. But he had to eat it when I was a kid so I would eat it. When I was 16 I went for seconds on spinach and his jaw almost hit the table. Then the following conversation took place (or an approximation thereof):

Dad: “Wait a second, you like spinach?”
Me: “Uh, yeah.”
Dad: “WOOO-HOOO!” <reaches across table and scrapes the spinach off his plate onto mine> “I don’t have to eat it anymore!”

I’ve been hearing about these green smoothies, so I thought – why not? Spinach was on sale, and even if the smoothie does taste of spinach, I’m ok with that.

But, it doesn’t. It tastes like a smoothie. Strawberry-banana, in my case. Hubby even drank one, and declared it delicious.

So, besides the tastiness factor, it’s healthy too. I’m already feeling the results of that many vitamins and minerals hitting me first thing in the AM. (I’m taking the sinus infection out of the equation, that seems to be a coincidence.) Nothing else being different about my routine other than replacing breakfast with a green monster, in a little less than a week I feel a little more alert in the mornings, I’m drinking a little less coffee (baby steps), and I’ve lost two pounds. My skin is clearer.* It also inspires me to eat healthier through the day.

*Fair warning, this paragraph is going to be TMI for some of you. Concerning zits. Last warning, skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to know. So, as with any diet detox or increase of antioxidants, you may break out. I did. Not on my face, which looks great, but I got four monster zits elsewhere that are finally starting to calm down - two in my bra band areas (yes, my bras are clean), one on my stomach?!?, and one on the back of my neck (which went away quickly). This is unusual for me, so I'm guessing it has to do with the detox. Now that they're going away, my skin overall is looking better.

The only other downside of the green monster smoothies (besides the above paragraph): I just read the new Dirty Dozen of the fruit/veg world. Ugh, spinach, kale, and lettuce are all on there. I really hope my garden produces so I can get some pesticide-free greens this summer, and freeze some for this winter. Organic is so cost-prohibitive… but maybe there’ll be someone at the farmer’s market with a good price.

My current recipe:

1 handful spinach
1 banana
6 strawberries
¼ cup vanilla yogurt
1 Tbsp orange/pineapple juice concentrate

Combine everything in the blender and top off with water to make 2 cups. Blend well.

Have you had a green monster/smoothie? What’d you think?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quest for Soup Take #3 – Tomato & Rice

I'm wearing corduroy pants and I have laryngitis. You know it's sad when your pants are louder than you are. But it's all OK in blogland, where my voice is working just fine!

In honor of my sinus infection and laryngitis I decided to make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, that always makes me feel better. Sourdough bread with mozzarella cheese dipped in chunky tomato soup with brown rice… mmmm. Even with a burned-on-one-side grilled cheese sandwich it was tasty (I got distracted at a critical moment).

My husband refused to take a bite, saying that he had tried a tomato soup I made a few years ago and he still does not like tomato soup. <sigh> So, I don’t know if this would have passed the taste test.

I made this with tomatoes that I had frozen from the summer – but I wrote out the instructions so that you could use canned as well. I also used up some more of my homemade broth.

Tomato & Rice Soup

Ingredients:
3 cans (5 cups) diced or crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken or turkey or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cup brown rice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried minced garlic or 1-2 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 Tbsp dried minced onion or 2 Tbsp fresh minced onion

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Or combine in a large pot and cook on the stove over medium heat 45 minutes or until all of the flavors are combined and the rice has cooked through. I always wait for my rice to open up.

If this is a bit too much acid for you, try adding ½ to 1 cup of milk to the pot 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One (crock)Pot Baked Beans

not my beans, but they look kinda like it*
I have been so uninspired to cook lately. The weather warmed up (even with the rain) and I just want to be outside in the garden (aka mud) and not in the kitchen.

BUT

My baby boy is TURNING ONE. I’m trying so hard to not freak out and start sobbing while clutching hugging him and recounting the day he was born in detail. Are you with me here? Did you freak out when your baby was TURNING ONE?

To distract me from the whole TURNING ONE thing, we’re throwing him a birthday cookout party.

The menu (to do in bold):

Appetizers –
corn chips & salsa – in the cupboard
veggies and hummus – hubby is in charge of the veggie platter

Sides –
potato salad – purchase from the deli (they make it better than I could anyhow!)
macaroni salad – mom (this is my favorite summertime food)
baked beans – made and frozen
chips – purchase
rolls – made and frozen

Main Dish –
hamburgers – purchase extra
hotdogs
buns – purchase

Dessert –
cupcakes & mini cake – made yesterday and frozen, thaw and frost first thing that morning
chocolate chip cookies – mom
fruit salad – deli

Drinks –
sparkling lemonade and limeade – purchase ginger ale

Pretty manageable, right? Yup. Especially since our good friends will be helping setup – including S who is the ultimate party-thrower. If she’s around and has a list, nothing can go wrong.

I made the beans last week in the crock pot, start to finish. I love one pot meals! I rinsed the dried beans (ok, I used a colander, so it wasn't completely in the crock pot), soaked them in the crock pot, rinsed again, cooked the beans plain in the crock pot (4 hours on low), then turned those cooked beans, complete with bean water, into baked beans.

These are a nice, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, picnic style baked beans. This recipe is easy to adjust to your particular tastes, so feel free to play!

One (crock)Pot Baked Beans

Ingredients:
Just under 6 quarts of cooked pinto beans
Bean juice to cover (or water or broth)
One can tomato sauce (unseasoned)
1 to 1 ½ cups brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
A pound or so of ham slices or chunks
1-2 tsp salt
½ tsp or so of powdered garlic
2 tsp to a Tbsp of dried minced onion
¼ tspish of dried oregano

I was eyeballing it, so forgive the imprecise measurements. Use a 6 quart crock for this, or scale down appropriately.

  1. Ok, now this recipe is difficult, it requires stirring once or twice. After cooking those beans the first time, leave the bean water in there to cover by about ½ inch. Or use water or broth (I suggest broth). Add the remaining ingredients. Stir, making sure that the ham’s covered with beans. Cook on low for 8 hours or overnight with the lid propped open a little bit so the liquid can reduce. Stir, taste test and adjust seasonings. If it’s too bland, add salt. If you can’t quite put your finger on it, try adding a ¼ cup brown sugar (or more syrup) and a touch more garlic.
  2. Give some to your friends and smile graciously when they compliment you.
  3. Tell me about it so I can smile too!
I’ll be updating you on this TURNING ONE party business, so stay tuned.

*It is really hard to make a photo of baked beans look appetizing - I have to applaud bFeedme for not making it look like, well, unappetizing things that I shall not mention. My photos made the beans look like... a polite comparison would be mud. We'll stick with mud. Don't worry, they taste nothing like mud. Unless your mud tastes like awesome baked beans.

Friday, June 10, 2011

C’est la Vie Garden

image source
That there to the right? Yeah, that’s my weather. Thankfully we live at the top of a very large hill, so we’re not going to get flooded out. (if the river ever rose that high, we’d have a lot more to deal with than our house flooding, like zombies or something)

This makes for crappy difficult gardening. During two recent dry spells I’ve managed to get both gardens in. Kinda.

My home bed was first. I tilled under the foot-high weeds that have been in their glory with all this rain (think insta-humus). The next day my little helper and I put in 20 tomato plants and seeded the beets and carrots. Maybe two hours total over two days, and done! (He was so fricken cute, BTW – he was separating tomato cages and throwing them in the garden for me! And he weeded one edge, including five tulips, lol)

Then, there’s the community garden plot. This, I’ve decided, is my C’est la Vie garden.

Full of our county’s trademark clay, my 20’x20’ plot has been under water for most of the spring, and when it does dry out it is rock hard. It had a layer of straw covering it which kept the weeds out (the only good point). A few weeks ago I dug trenches in the mud every four feet, leaving me with four 4’x20’ relatively dry rows. Wednesday it was hot and dry – no transplants that day, the trowel wouldn’t stand a chance. I spread two bales of hay over three of the rows, and spread three wheelbarrows of compost on top. (That’s not a lot of compost, but when the pile is 75 feet away and all you have is a shovel and a wheelbarrow, you do what you can.) At that point I was sooo done for the day, but I had to get those seeds in.

As I watched the neighbor rototill his garden and envied his fluffy soil (the community garden opted against rototilling this year, grumble grumble), I looked at my carefully drawn out plan, and said, “screw it.” (or something along those lines, probably involving expletives as I wiped drips of sweat out of my eyes) I sprinkled the entire contents of all my seed packets in the approximate areas outlined on my plan, ruffled the compost with my hands to get the seeds more or less covered, and called it a day. Once my transplants are big enough to stand the elements I’ll bring them over for row four.

I’ve decided that this garden is going to have to mostly fend for itself. The seeds are in so late in the season (as are everyone else’s) that many likely won’t even sprout. My potatoes, which are supposed to be hard to kill, only sprouted 6 out of 40 starts. But with the hundreds of seeds I scattered, if I get a 10% growth rate from my seeds I should be ok. Not great, but no one can expect great with weather like this. (except for my grandmother, she can grow anything anywhere in any weather)

My c’est la vie garden = scatter pattern plantings and a shrug attitude.

How’s your gardening going?