Friday, December 21, 2012

"Radio" Silence

I'm taking a vacation (stay-cation, really) so I'll be taking a break from blogger as well. Cross your fingers that between Christmas and New Year's I get my to-do list done: plant the garlic (and that it doesn't die), paint the living room, and switch out a light fixture in the stairwell. All with my handy-dandy helper, Max. (and my mom to help my helper not help so much)

Happy Holidays to you all, see you next year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Little "Me" Time at the Gym

Some of you may be saying, "um, obviously, Jess," right about now, but I realized something last night: My child and husband are not at the gym.

I'm not a gym person. It's boring, and there isn't a product directly related to my adventure at the gym. I'm very driven by production - when I clean the house, I get a clean house; when I sew I get a shirt; when I "insert word here" I get "insert word here." And "when I go to the gym I get healthy" just does not give me the satisfaction needed to keep doing it.

Now let's be clear, I'm not against exercise. I do enjoy exercising, especially when there's a result. Have you ever spent an afternoon tossing 50lb bales of hay into the back of a truck? That's a heck of a workout, and I got a truck full of hay out of it.

But you know what does give me enough satisfaction to hop on that elliptical? Alone time. Blissful.

(BTW - This is my 400th post!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crib "Bookshelf"

Max likes to read in bed, but having him get up and out of bed to get each and every book was not very restful for nite-nite time, and if he grabbed an armful the books strewn all over the bed made it a bit uncomfortable. When cleaning up his room one day I had a light bulb moment: why not put his books through the slats on the foot board?

I moved his bed closer to the wall for a little more stability, and it works great!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dinosaur Sheets!

Check out this sheet set that I made for Max! (supposedly for Christmas, but I couldn't wait) He loves dinosaurs, and there was a massive sale on flannel, so obviously he needed sheets.

I used the tutorials available at MADE (she's absolutely fantastic, BTW) for a fitted sheet and pillowcase, then just winged it for the flat sheet.

I have enough left over for anther fitted or flat sheet, which is handy for when these are in the wash!

He's completely enamored with the sheets, this morning he was pointing out all of the stegosauruses (if you couldn't tell, he likes the stegosaurus).

These also qualify for serger savings: 75 cents per yard x four yards is $3. A twin sheet set (since I couldn't find a crib set) runs $30, so that's a $27 savings!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In the Clouds

There was a rainbow in the clouds this morning. It's not easy to see in the photo, but the full spectrum was there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Grape Vine Wreath

To continue the hand-made decor, Max made a wreath. He's very talented, no?

Ok, maybe I helped a little. And by helped a little, I mean made the wreath. But he picked out which vines to use.

I'm lucky (haha) to have a bunch of scrub brush bordering my lawn, which includes a plethora of wild grape and Virginia creeper vines. Max and I took a walk through the "woods" and collected vines that I wrapped as we went.

If you have access to vines, making a wreath is remarkably easy. Just wrap them into a circle, and feed the occasional vine through the middle and wrap it around the edge to secure it. Even easier is to just bend them in a circle then use twine or yarn to wrap around it and secure.

For a bit of color I added some dried sedum flowers, but didn't glue them down in case I change my mind later. I have a feeling that I'll be replacing them shortly with some pine boughs and a bow...

To glam up the wreath I spritzed it with a light coat of gold spray paint. Then to hang it I used a very expensive and complicated method - I went through the scrap fabric pile, found the cuff from when I hemmed hubby's jeans, cut the edges with pinking shears, and tied it over the door.

(almost) free door decor. What's in your yard that might be decor worthy?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Homemade Centerpiece

Max and I went around the back yard to find inspiration for our holiday decor. We ended up with some dried sedum flowers that still had some great color, maple seeds (or helicopters) that I glitzed up with some gold spray paint, and grape vine.

I assembled them into a pretty pedestal vase I pulled out of the closet - and viola! A beautiful, nature inspired centerpiece.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

(almost) Frugal Luxuries - the Serger

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Merry Christmas to me: I got a serger! Woo!

I've been wanting one for a while, and when the Singer Pro Finish went on a steep discount I grabbed one for $190.

Yeah, it sounds expensive - but I think I can make it work.

As I'm sure you've noticed, I've been making a lot of Max's clothes. While my new sewing machine is awesome - sewing on knits is wearing it out faster than I would like. So I decided to get a machine made to sew on knits.

It was pretty intimidating to set up, but thank goodness it came with an instructional DVD. Max helped me watch it (I thought he'd find it dry, but he was fascinated and asked me to play it again).

And, it's awesome. The tractor jammies was the first project, and with a little trial and error they were a breeze to make.

Now for the frugal part - I'm going to try and keep track of how much I'm saving by making versus buying clothes from this point forward, starting with the tractor jammies. I bought the shirt new for $8, and comparable jammies sell for $12, so that's a $4 savings.

Another $186 and I'll have balanced out the purchase of the serger.

Better than the monetary savings? The joy found in a custom set of tractor jammies.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tractor Jammies!

Max loves tractors. (his Papa therefore has the coolest job ever since he works at a tractor store)

When out and about recently I found an XXXL t-shirt with tractors all over it. The image was a bit too big to make the front of a toddler size shirt without cutting it down - so I folded the image to fall on the side seam and let it wrap around to the back. That left the entire back of the original shirt to make matching pants.

He insisted on wearing the top the next day too. We eventually convinced him to take it off...

Yes, he wears a night cap. :) His idea.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Air Circulation

Yay for cup hooks and bungee cords!
Our back room has a separate heater installed (our house is old, so not all of the rooms are on the main heating system). I keep it turned up to a toasty 72 since my lovebirds live back there, and Auzzie is an old man-birdy and deserves toasty. That results in a very warm back room and a normal rest of the house... except for the side room that's between the rest of the house and the back room. The side room gets chilly in the winter and hot in the summer because even though both interior doorways are very large (4.5' and 6' wide), air just doesn't move like I want it to.

Until now.

After staring at the problem for a while and a few other attempts, I now have air circulation. It's not a pretty solution, but it certainly works. The fan blows the warm air from the back room into the side room, and I can feel air flow all the way into the dining room! So long, stale winter air!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Easy Ginger Soy Carrots

Max has been requesting veggies lately - he's such a good boy. :)

These carrots were super quick and super easy!

Easy Ginger Soy Carrots

1 cup chopped carrots
1 packet soy sauce (or 2tsp)
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp minced ginger
pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and microwave for about a minute to warm the carrots up a bit. Stir again and enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Garlic Bulbils!

cluster of bulbils
Yes, bulbil is a real word - bulbils are the itty bitty bulbs that grow on the top of the garlic plant. Most people toss them or eat them (they are garlicky), but did you know that you can plant them and get more garlic?

Dry the bulbils out a bit (I just left mine on the kitchen counter for a month or so). Split up the bulbils and plant them about 1" deep in loose soil in the garden or potting mix in a pot in the fall just like your regular garlic. Then next fall dig up your little bulbs! You can use the mini-bulbs, or you can split them up and replant the cloves to get bigger bulbs next year - rinse and repeat for another season and by the end of it you'll have a plethora of full size garlic.

Yeah, it's long term... but it's fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shortcut Stir Fry

I admit it: I hate chopping vegetables. I really do. I'm starting to come to terms with this. It seems like a waste to pay extra for already chopped vegetables from the store, but when it means that we then eat less vegetables because I can't stand chopping that's just silly. So, I'm sucking it up and buying pre-chopped.

And it's awesome.

Matchstick carrots are way easier for Max to handle, and they're much easier to use for cooking.

And now I'm going to blow your mind: coleslaw mix is essentially stir fry vegetables. Yeah, I know. Now go to the prepared salad section of your grocery store and look. There's traditional coleslaw mix which is heavy on the cabbage, then there's broccoli slaw mix which is a base of broccoli instead of cabbage.

Now take a bag home, steam it, do a quick toss in the pan and add some sauce (make your own or grab some prepared from the store), and you have quick and easy stir fry. Add marinated, chopped (and cooked of course) meat and you have a great meal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

DIY Pumpkin Coffee

I'm a genius - I made my own pumpkin flavored coffee.

You may think I'm being a little dramatic (genius and all), but I LOVE pumpkin coffee, and when it goes away around December I wait in longing all year long for it to return in October. So this was a major breakthrough for me.

And it's so simple.

Mix 1-2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1-2 tsp each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice) with 2 cups ground coffee. Prepare your coffee as normal and be amazed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How to Make a Lego Costume

legos love cookies
Yeah, it's been done before - but here's how I did it. And, frankly, I like mine better. It's easier to get on and off with velcro and straps (seriously, who thought that a toddler would like having their arms and head shoved through holes in a box?) and allows for more freedom of movement.

Materials: (less than $10)
A box (two if you want a hat too)
4-6 disposable soup cups
Hot glue gun
Spray paint (primer too)
Ribbon or woven strap material

Start with a box that will fit around your child, with room for a jacket if you live in cold climates. Cut the flaps off so it's open on the ends. Then cut a semi-circle at the underarm area. Hot glue the soup cups on the box in a grid so it looks like a lego. Then take it outside and spray paint it. I found that a primer really helped for even coverage and so I didn't have to do 5 coats of orange (just two coats).

position the cups and glue (this is the hat)

If you're doing a hat, start with a small box and either cut off the flaps on one end or tuck them inside, then glue 2 soup cups on top and paint.

Cut straps to fit over your child's shoulders. Hot glue the straps to the back, then glue velcro on the front end of the straps and the box.

add the straps and velcro
Now go dress up your little lego!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cookie Monster Cake!

I just had to brag a little bit - I made a Cookie Monster cake for Max's birthday this summer (again, I re-found it recently).

I used a round bowl as the "pan" for the head and a sheet pan for the body. I arranged it all on a cookie sheet, cut the shoulders down, made a slit for the mouth, and frosted accordingly. Instead of buying black frosting for the mouth and eyes, I used chocolate sprinkles. Add a cookie in the mouth, and viola!

Not bad for a last minute assembly (that morning!).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone!

best lego ever

mermaid, in case you were wondering

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frugal Luxuries: Shaving a Cat

and that's not all of it...
No, this is not a play on words. I actually shave the cat. And that's the result ->

Sid, our black, long haired cat has really thick fur. Not only is it hot in the summer, but he has trouble keeping up with the mats and he hates when I brush his belly and delicate area. So early each summer for the last several years he gets a graveyard cut - just the belly and peaches get trimmed (the better to walk over gravestones, so I was told).

When we lived in San Diego there was a groomer that could handle cats that didn't want a haircut. She was fantastic - but we no longer live in San Diego. And he's been banned from all local groomers (he really doesn't like getting his hair cut).

So out of desperation and a desire to have a happy, mat-free cat, I invested in an animal clipper (don't use a people clipper, animal fur needs a special type) and have done Sid's trimmings since. Neither of us like it. But he's only peed on me once, and I've never needed more than a band aid or two. And, ultimately, he likes the results (you can tell, trust me).

As far as why it's a frugal luxury - a trip the the groomers was $50, and the trimmers were $125. They paid off in only three trims. Granted, I had to do a lot of research on how to trim cats so you don't cut their skin (they have extremely delicate skin) and on how to properly handle cats so you don't cause them any harm (and hopefully you don't bleed), but in the end it was worth it.

And if you're wondering why I'm posting about something I did back in the spring - I just came across the photos while looking for something else.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weaning from Sippy Cups

We've been trying to get Max away from sippy cups at home, mostly because I'm sick of washing them. So we've been working on other drinking methods - like water bottles with sport tops (see gratuitously cute photo at right), and cups with straws. My canning jar travel/sippy lid has been great while he learns to hold cups correctly. It isn't leak-proof, but it certainly minimizes what otherwise would be a major spill down to just a dribble.

So far so good really on the weaning front, he hasn't asked for a sippy cup once. I just have to be aware of the amount of straws we have on hand. I try to wash the plastic "disposable" ones and reuse them, but sometimes they're just a little beyond repair (read, he chews/crumples/smashes them). Metal straws are certainly handy and not (easily) smashable, I might have to get some more of those.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Deck Railing Part Deux

With a clean slate to work with, I borrowed dad's pickup truck, and Max and I went to the lumber yard. I had done some careful measuring and brought a cut list (like a lumber grocery list) and had them pre-cut everything for me at the lumber yard since circular saw + toddler = very bad idea. Max had a blast - when I told the guy that Max loves tools, he set up the saw horses where Max could see from his car seat and made the cuts right there in the lot.

Lumber (and fresh drill bits) in hand, we went back to work. Max hung out with his Amma (my mother) for the morning while I essentially assembled a giant lumber puzzle. The result is railing that easily withstood me running and jumping on it (my standard durability test) and that is the same style as the rest of the deck. Woo-hoo! Less than $100 and a few hours of sweat really paid off.

While I was at it, I also installed a very tall pole for the clothesline. I'd previously had it attached to the railing, but since I was redoing stuff anyhow I thought I'd make it official. It'll also make a nice spot for a hanging basket.

I still have to stain it to match, but that'll wait for another day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Deck Railing

Max & pony showing off the "before" shot
To date, the house project I am the most proud of is fixing the deck rails. Not only does it look better - but it's safer.

Our deck has multiple levels. You walk out on to a raised platform that then leads down to the deck proper.. The entire deck has horizontal planks as rails - except for the platform. That had vertical spindles (that had obviously been chewed on by the previous owner's dog) capped by a horizontal plank. Not horribly consistent with the look of the rest of the deck, and apparently not very safe.

I noticed early this spring that the upper railing was wobbly, so I stuck a few screws in it as a band aid and put it on my to-do list for the summer. One sunny, Saturday afternoon in September (during nap time) I decided to start the demo. It was way too easy. I didn't even need tools - I just kicked it down and hauled it away. That was more than a bit scary, thinking about just how rickity it was. Whoever installed it didn't use exterior grade wood or screws (and in fact used interior grade 1.5" finishing nails), so everything was rotted and/or rusted. (Just to reassure you, I checked the rest of the deck promptly after finishing this project, and everything else is fine!)

it's demo time (can't touch this)

To give a little credit, the posts were sturdy, it was just the rails that had issues. So I kept the posts, reinforced them with a couple of L brackets, and called it a day.

L brackets make it all better

... to be continued.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lost a Week

The flu sucks.

Well, it wasn't officially diagnosed as the flu - they have to stick a swab up your nose or something like that to officially determine that yes, you  have the flu and your life sucks. Instead, she told me it's a very, very bad virus, and my life sucks. <sigh> I even got to wear a mask at the doctors. That makes you feel special. The fever lasted Sunday night through Thursday, peaking (more than once) at 104.something while on fever reducing meds. Now it's a lingering cough and overwhelming feeling of crappiness. But, I am doing better.

Sustained high temperatures apparently will whiten your hair, btw. That's not just a myth. My vanity got the best of me Saturday night (you know, after I showered and realized that I looked like hell) and I spent 1/2 hour coloring it with a semi-permanent. Much better, but I'd better stock up on the henna.

Of course I'd just gotten back on to the blogging routine, thankfully I had a few pre-written posts that I could slap up there last week.

I'm glad I have a wonderful husband who picked up the slack while I was out of commission. And of course a wonderful son who decided that it was ok if mommy just cuddled and read books instead of playing dinosaur ball. (I wasn't afraid of getting Max sick, he's the one that gave it to me. He just had it for 24 hours tho, lucky little man.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fast Food Toys

Generally, I'm not a fan of fast food. Never have been. But once in a while I do like some chili and nuggets that I didn't have to cook. Max gets the sliced apples, milk and nuggets - and daddy gets, well, something greasy and nasty looking. But he likes it.

And, Max has discovered the toys that come with the coveted kids meals. Usually those "disappear" promptly after we get home - but I made an exception for the Where's Waldo glasses. These are a hoot - and educational. They came with a bunch of flash cards that you put on the glasses and you have to ask questions to guess what's on yours. Granted, Max is too young to play the guessing game, but he loves the silly glasses part!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Yellow Jammies

For weeks, the only jammies Max wanted to wear were the yellow ones. Every night it was, "Yellow jammies!" Which was rotten when the yellow jammies were dirty. So I sewed him up five pairs of yellow jammies.

And he promptly decided he no longer liked yellow.

But only for a week or so.

Now these new yellow jammies are his favorite, even better than the original yellow jammies.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Good News!

I promise I haven't been ignoring you for naught - we've been pretty busy the last few weeks and I'd run out of prepped posts.

So - the good news in chronological order:
  1. We helped celebrate our friends' marriage in Massachusetts this last weekend, yay!
  2. While there we got to hang out with other friends who are expecting their second child, yay!
  3. We also got to see Max's Grandma, Grandpa, and Mimi! (he's still talking about them)
  4. On Monday we rested, yay for a day off! (and I downloaded over 300 photos off the camera...)
  5. Tuesday morning Max had a follow up with the allergist/asthma specialist - and he's doing SO. MUCH. BETTER. Lungs are clear, they sound up to capacity, and we've weaned him down to just one puff of one inhaler a day, a single dose of a chewable asthma medicine (for his cold/virus induced asthma), and a single dose of heartburn meds a day. That's a HUGE improvement - and the doctor is optimistic that if we keep on through the winter (aka cold season) then next spring we can start weaning him off all of the meds!
  6. Yesterday hubby got a great promotion at work - he starts Monday! I'm so proud of him and so happy for him, this is the first job that he really loves and it shows - he just started in this department in February.
Yay for good news!

I'll try to get back to the blog soon, I have a lot of photos to edit and posts to write. (like I said, over 300 downloaded...)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Iced Tea, One More Time

It's the end of summer, and the end of iced tea weather. I'll miss you, my favorite beverage - but this is not good bye, this is merely a pause until we meet again.

(BTW - that's my DIY travel lid on that jar)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Album Art

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There are some really fantastic album covers out there. When I buy records I buy them for the art, not the music. For example, the album art for The Mamas and the Papas Farewell to the First Golden Era inspired the dusty blue wall color for the dining room, along with the white chairs and tan seats. From there my dining room took on its own character (and some healthy doses of walnut brown), but it was nice to have a starting place to draw inspiration from.

Some other album art that I particularly like (don't hate me if the music is awful, I just like the artwork):

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 A few of these proudly grace my walls, while others I'm waiting on the right spot. Do you have any favorite albums that would make nice artwork?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Personalized Sign

One of the assistants at Max's daycare is particularly crafty. Check out the sign she made - isn't that great? She had her vision, then had the daycare kids help to paint each of the letters in the colors she wanted, and had one of the older kids help paint the background. She assembled it all, added hooks on the bottom, and I added the ribbon trim and hanging hardware. Isn't it great? And I love that each of the kids got to contribute to the gift for their friend!

She also made me a jewelry holder... I really need to take a picture of that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bucket + Spray Paint =

+ green spray paint =
A handy bucket to collect Max's small toys. I knew that bucket would come in handy someday.

Cost: $0 for a gifted bucket and leftover spray paint

Monday, September 10, 2012


I feel like I should be able to think of a clever title for this post, but I'm fresh out. It's been a long few weeks.

You may have noticed that all of the frames in Max's room match (kinda). Thanks to local yard sales, I picked up a few dozen frames here and there for no more than a dollar each. I grouped them out into categories: dark brown or black, vaguely metallic 5x7's, and other.

(Notice my super sorting system: a giant pile of the black, brown & metallic frames that I crossed my fingers my 2-year-old wouldn't topple)

All of the "others" got a fresh coat of paint. I started with a coat of light gray latex paint that I had in the cabinet.

But the light gray just wasn't doing it for me. So I dug around in the cabinet some more and found a can of dark gray metallic spray paint - score.

A quick coat later, and I had some pretty awesome frames!

Cost: one dollar or less per frame (not including the content, though the art was inexpensive too!)