Thursday, June 28, 2012

Some Thoughts on 30

my boys
I turn 30 today.


I think I'm ok with it tho. I know 30 is one of those dreaded ages to get to, but so far it's a heck of a lot better than my 20's. My 20's were a time of learning what works for me and what doesn't, and learning about what I really want and need in life. The last 10 years have been growing years.

In my 20's I lived in good apartments, bad apartments, had good landlords, bad landlords, and a landlord that accused me of having a dog (I made him walk inside my apartment and look for any sign of this supposed dog after two weeks of accusations and threats). Now I'm my own landlord.

In my 20's I had an ulcer or two, migraines, and just was not in tune with my body or my surroundings. Rather than fighting against myself, I now live more naturally and in harmony with my body and I'm living the benefits.

In my 20's I thought I needed stuff to be happy. Now I know that it isn't the stuff that makes me happy, it's how I interact with the stuff. If I'm happy, I'm happy. Stuff only assists.

In my 20's I thought I would never have children. Now I have a beautiful son that I love more than anything in the world and who inspires me every single day (even if it's an inspiration of patience).

In my 20's I stayed in love with the same person. Our love has changed as we have changed, but it's always there. It's been a good 10 1/2 years, hon.

In my 20's I created stability, a home, and a family. I am the most proud of myself for being a point of stability for myself and my family so that where we go our home goes with us. My love and priorities are strong, I'm resourceful, and I know no matter what we'll be good to go.

WE will be good to go. That's my favorite accomplishment of my 20's. Creating WE.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunscreen Success!

image source
I finally found a sunscreen that A: does not make me break out, B: isn't greasy, C: isn't completely full of awful chemicals, D: doesn't turn me bright white from the zinc, and E: works!

Banana Boat's Natural Reflect. No, this isn't a sponsored post, tho if they want to send me product I'd be majorly appreciative. I picked up the Kids version to check out since I was sick of the other products I've tried failing one or more of my above list and I'm constantly on the lookout for a good sunscreen that passes my evaluation. This one does, for sure! I've been using it on myself and on Max this summer and it's really fantastic. I'm not the only one who thinks so, Mandi at Green Your Way did a review as well. (she also did a great sunscreen review last summer too)

Monday, June 25, 2012

No-Pasta Salad

excuse the low-res cell pic
Summertime = pasta salad. Specifically my mom's elbow macaroni salad... which I'm not allowed to eat on Atkins. <sigh>

BUT, there is hope: Spaghetti squash. Yes, you heard me right. Spaghetti squash might be a less-than-stellar substitute for hot pasta with marinara, but it makes a great base for a cold summer salad.

No-Pasta Salad

1 spaghetti squash, cooked, cooled & prepared (fluff it with a fork)
2-3 cups assorted chopped vegetables
1/2-3/4 cup Italian salad dressing (or dressing of your choice)

Mix in a large bowl, let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, and enjoy! It's even better the next day. :)

And, if you use cabbage as part of your chopped veggies it is very reminiscent of coleslaw, minus the slimey ew factor.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Work (or anywhere) Hack: Lotion Your Hair

If the ends of your hair are dry and frizzy, or if your curls are just going everywhere, give this a try: Rub a pea sized amount of lotion on your hands, then lightly work through the ends of your hair. Repeat if needed. It acts as a leave in conditioner and texturizer. Seriously, I'm not crazy. A photo shoot stylist told me that trick. Yes, it will weigh down super fine hair, and if you get it near the roots it'll make your hair look greasy. Just like leave in conditioner and texturizer.

You can thank me later.

And I tried to get a picture of the back of my head, but I just have my camera phone and it's not working out for me. But I've done it other times... actually, my hair in my profile picture was styled with free hand lotion from the hotel we were staying at. Bam, there you go!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Frugal Luxuries: Iced Coffee (and my desk)

my coffee cup & my desk at work
So, who in the old US of A isn't having a heat wave right now? Anyone?

In anticipation of the second day in a row of holy hotness (and not the Johnny Depp kind), last night I brewed myself some coffee. For homemade iced coffee, obviously.

There are a couple of key differences in making iced (or just cold) coffee versus hot coffee.

Number 1: Make it stronger than usual, it's going to get watered down with ice and/or milk.
Number 2: However you prepare it (milk, cream, sweetener, etc), make it more so. Like double the amounts. Unless you normally drink sweet milk with a little coffee, in that case just make it the same with stronger coffee.
Number 3: Add ice. Or just chill it and drink it fast before it warms up.

I brewed 9-10 cups of strong coffee, added 5-6 cups milk and two Splenda packets and put it all in a 2-quart jar in the fridge overnight. Tastes more or less like those iced coffees you get out of the coolers.

Well, now that I've looked at a map, it looks like the Rockies are pretty chill. And CA isn't doing too bad, but it's still very early morning there. Yes, this is the weather map at 8:45am, and I'm in one of those darker orange areas.
image source
BTW, did you notice how when I took the picture I angled the camera so my cup wouldn't look so large? Yeah, it's a big cup, and I drink at least one of those every day of coffee. Small addiction...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Natural Solutions: Boiling Water Weed Killer

Did you know that boiling water will kill weeds? Well, now you do. It's not practical for large areas, but cleaning up around the driveway or the front walk works pretty well. And it's practically free.

Step 1: Boil water.
Step 2: Carefully take boiling water outside.
Step 3: Pour boiling water (well, very very hot water at this point) on the weeds, making sure to focus on the base/root of the plant.
Step 4: Wait a few days. The leaves eventually die back and the plant goes away. I'd show after pictures, but who wants to look at gravel?

You could be a bit more proactive than I was and cut back the plant first... but that would have required more effort. And I was genuinely curious how this would turn out on a large, stubborn weed.

one of the large, stubborn weeds in question
The weeds are gone, by the way.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Veggie Stir Fry on Atkins

Contrary to popular belief, you don't just eat bacon while you're on Atkins. You're supposed to eat lots of vegetables too! When you get sick of salad, think stir fry.

Veggie Stir Fry

1 serving, 3.8 carbs (7.2 if you add the pea pods)

1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 c pea pods, optional
1 c bok choy, chopped
1/2 c sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add the vegetables and chives, drizzle the soy sauce (and additional sesame oil if desired) over the vegetables. Cook 3-5 minutes or until you've reached desired done-ness. Serve with your meat of choice. I used leftover, fully cooked pork in my stir fry. If you start with raw meat, cook the meat first and set it aside while you cook the veggies then combine with the veggies at the end.

Since 1 bunch of bok choy gave me 4 cups of chopped, I quadrupled the recipe and had some for lunches that week. I also chopped up extra while I was at it and stuck all of the raw ingredients in the freezer for a quick meal later.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Making Recycled Soap from Little Soaps

"Little soaps" sounds so much better than "leftover bits stuck to the edge of the soap dish," don't you think? Moving right along...

I had lots of little soaps floating around. Normally I shave them up and put them in the bucket for making homemade laundry detergent. But I thought I'd try something different, and I was out of bar soap for next to the bathroom sink.

So, here's how to make your own bar soap out of little soaps. I'm know others have done it before me, and I'm sure done it better. But, hey, I was bored. And I like to share my boredom projects with you. :)

Step 1: Put your little soaps in a pan. It would have helped the melting process if I'd grated the soap first, learn from my mistake.
Step 2: Turn on the stove.
Step 3: Add water. You'll want to add just enough water that the soap doesn't burn. Less is more and just add a tablespoon at a time. For this amount of soap (in a two-cup pan) I added 1/4 cup of water.
Step 4: Stir and let the soap melt. It'll get bubbly.
Step 5: Put the melted soap in your mold. I used a heat safe takeout soup container.
Step 6: Let it cool and harden up enough that it doesn't fall apart.
Step 7: Pop the soap out of the mold and put it on a cooling rack so it can dry for a few days and harden up.
Step 8: Enjoy your recycled soap!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Little Helper Helping

Let's dance!
Max is almost two and he loves to help, especially if it involves tools and/or dirt. This weekend he got to help with both. I'd cleaned up the strip of dirt in the front of the house (more to come on that later) and then we had a series of thunderstorms. The wheelbarrow filled with dirt, gravel, and gardening tools had been sitting in front of the house under the porch roof for about a week.

Max has been eying that trowel and the giant screwdriver that I use as a weed digger every time we walk past, and Sunday he got his chance. Not only did he help me take the bucket of tools back to the shed (he carried the screwdriver), but he helped me move the wheelbarrow. I had him hold the edge while it was full, then he got to walk between the handles in front of me and help push it when it was empty. (he did not help during the dumping process, he stood to the side and watched)

Let me tell you, I had to give myself a few pep talks before I'd let him hold a screwdriver or go near a loaded wheelbarrow. I'm not a super over-protective mom, but I have my hangups. But as he's been reminding me a lot lately as he's been establishing his independence - he can do it. (terrible two's, anyone??) So I'm letting him do it (and trying not to hover too much). Thankfully he's a responsible little man and a good listener, so when I tell him how to handle tools he's very good at following instructions. I even let him hold the hammer the other day. He listened really well about keeping it away from his toes, but I wasn't very specific about keeping it away from all toes. Like mine...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Beanbag Chair Tutorial

I have one heck of a tutorial for you today – make your own beanbag chair!

Beware, this pattern is a DIY and requires a bit of math and sketching so I highly suggest using some old fabric to make your template (which you can then use as a liner if you’re so inclined).

  • Medium to heavy weight fabric, yardage depends on size but I suggest 3 yards minimum
  • Template fabric and/or paper
  • String & marker
  • Zipper (optional)
  • Stuffing – I recommend shredded foam or traditional beans. I used a mixture of shredded foam (majority), clean plastic grocery bags, and packing peanuts.

Making the Template:

The below diagram shows how you’ll be drawing your template. It’s essentially two circles connected by two arcs.

Step 1: Decide how tall you want your bag to be. I chose 26” – don’t be me. Choose something easily divisible by 3, like 24”. I'll be using a 24" high bag as an example through the tutorial.

Step 2: Get your template fabric ready. The width of your fabric will need to be at least the height of the bag (24”) plus 2 inches for seam allowance. The length of the fabric will need to be 3 times the height of the bag (72”). If you plan on using the template as a liner have two pieces of fabric ready.

Step 3: Make a paper circle. The diameter (width) of the circle needs to be the height of your bag, in this case 24". We’ll add seam allowance later. I suggest taping together several sheets of paper or using newspaper (provided it doesn’t smudge).
  • Circle Option 1: My big fun trick to making a circle is to tie a piece of string around a marker and then cut the tail of the string to ½ of the diameter (12"). Hold the end of the string in the center of the circle you’ll be drawing, hold the marker out so the string is taut, then draw a line keeping the string taut. The line will curve, making a circle.
  • Circle Option 2: Trace something big and round, like a trashcan lid.
Now make another paper circle identical to the first. Yes, you need two.

Step 4: Finish the template. Lay the two circles out on the template fabric (or a really big piece of paper) so that they are 2/3 of the diameter of the circles apart. If your circles are 24”, you will lay the two circles out 16” apart. Trace the circles, adding ½ all around for seam allowance.

Now take your two paper circles and put them in between the circles you just drew to create arcs (the gray parts on the diagram).

You want the arcs to be up against the lines you just traced. Now trace along the edge of the arcs and smooth the lines (red).

Your finished template should look something like this:

Yay, you have a template! (If you plan on using your fabric template as a liner, cut out another one since you need two identical pieces to make a bag.)

Assembling the Bag

Now take your template and cut out two pieces of fabric for your bag. I used two different fabrics, but that’s up to you. I suggest using something heavier like an upholstery fabric, denim or corduroy. Like with the template fabric, the width of your fabric will need to be at least the height of the bag (24”) plus 2 inches for seam allowance. The length of the fabric will need to be 3 times the height of the bag (72”).

Optional Handle: If you want a handle, cut a piece of fabric 9” x 16” (or an appropriate size for your bag). Fold it into thirds lengthwise, fold the long raw edge under, and sew down the middle a few times (see photo). Pin the handle to the center of one of the circle ends of your fabric (see photo), tucking under the raw edges, and sew.

You’ll be assembling the two pieces of fabric like a baseball. Take the two pieces and line them up like a T so that the circle end of one is lined up in the middle arc of the other.
Pin at that point (red star), then continue to pin along the edges, right sides in. All 4 round ends should line up with the 4 arc middles (match up the rest of the stars). If you are adding a zipper or other sort of closing, pin that in as well. I suggest doing that in the relatively straight part between ends and arcs.

Now, take a deep breath, and sew your bag together. If you aren’t using a zipper, make sure to leave a 4-5” opening in the seam to turn your bag right side out.

Turn the bag right side out, stuff with your desired stuffing (recommendations above), zip or sew up the opening, and you’re done! Congrats!

Beware – if you use shredded foam to stuff your bag you may have trouble getting it away from your kid(s). And it gets everywhere… but it’s worth it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Potty Seat

upstairs potty seat (image source)
I'm not about to show you a picture of our bathroom at the moment, sorry. BUT - we have a new addition to the bathroom, and Max couldn't be more excited. We've been working on this going potty business for quite a while now, but he likes using the big potty with no additions which has been cumbersome and means I have to help him quite a bit so he doesn't fall in. Not easy for anyone.

Then I remembered the awesome toilet seat that my friend got that has two seats, a little one and a normal one. Ah-ha!

Of course she got a cool, fancy, soft closing one that cost more than I was willing to pay (she also was potty training twins, so I absolutely don't blame her). Ours is much more modest, and when paired with a step stool that Max's great-grandparents gave him for Christmas it makes for almost completely independent potty time!

Max loves it, he moves his stool over, climbs up, wiggles back into position, and goes potty all by himself! He still can't reach the toilet paper from the toilet, which is probably a good thing since he would use a whole roll just to play with it. But it's fantastic that all I have to do now is strip him down and he can do the rest. Of course he could probably strip down by himself, but I don't want him to know that quite yet.

With the success of the upstairs potty seat, I ordered one for the elongated bowl downstairs as well.

Yay for potty time!

downstairs potty seat (image source)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Seeds Are In!

Look at those seeds, that dirt! It's very exciting, trust me. All of my seeds are in!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Temporary Gardening

happy hostas
I'm still (not-quite-so-patiently) waiting for the yard and raised bed to be fixed. (If I only had a bobcat) In the meantime, the specimens I saved from the raised bed are looking awfully happy in the vegetable garden... and the ones that I started and/or bought in the meantime are happy there too. It's tempting, oh so tempting, to leave them where they are and move my veggies.

But, no, I will have my perennial bed back! And it will be fantastic!

In the meantime, I have lots of temporary homes for all of my plants that will eventually go in that bed. The majority, as you can see, are in my vegetable bed. I have one, two, four large pots of flowers on the deck that are accumulating (the latest two were added this weekend as I decided to save the pink bleeding heart) as I inherit plants with no immediate place to plant them. The front porch has also gotten several pots of perennials (and two tree seedlings) as decor this spring.

How do you cope with temporary homes for plants? Do you have any transplanting tips? I'll do a post on that soon and we can compare notes.