04 September 2014

Reclaiming my home

It's time to revive my blog!  Why? Well, perhaps it's because I've moved and still don't know many people in my town.  Perhaps it's because I need a bit more focus in my life.  Perhaps I've started falling out of love with facebook.  Whatever the reason, I feel like blogging again.

We've moved to New England and I'm loving live. 

What is going on in my life right now is some home organizing tasks.  My house feels like a constant battle ground.  The kids toys are everywhere, there are piles of papers everywhere, bills get pushed aside until I find them just days before they need to be paid, and worst of all - the whole house is dirty.  Not totally gross according to my husband, but far worse than I would ever want my house to look like!  My routine needs an overhaul.

The first step I'm taking is one I remember from when I read the fly lady book a long time ago...have a clean sink every night.  Every night before I go to bed, all dishes will be done.  There is nothing more defeating to my day than to wake up to a sink full of dirty dishes.  The sink got a good cleaning yesterday and that is the first piece of my routine to change.

Next up has to do with papers.  Oh the papers!!  Bills, junk mail, store circulars, coupons, school papers, craft projects.  It just goes on and on, especially with 2 little ones (3 and 6 years old) in the house.  My first new rule regarding papers is they get put away immediately.  If I can set up a good organizational system then there is no need for papers to be piled on my kitchen counter, coffee table, or dining room table.  So far I am off to a good start.  My desk (the size of a typical small computer desk) currently holds my laptop, a mail sorter, some computer software boxes, address book, bill paying stuff, and is the charging station for my kindle and camera.  The mail sorter will be my main collection station.  School paperwork (not crafts or school work, but the actual letters regarding school business) will be put in there and bills and receipts that need paying will have a folder.  It has not been completely set up yet.  That is still on my to do list.  The desk needs a good cleaning and some stuff I'm sure can be tossed.  I also need to find room for some new binders.  I am spending more time volunteering at my 1st grader's school and one of the committees seems to require a binder.  I don't know why, but I just can't seem to find a place to designate as my binder area. 

Kids' school work and crafts have a designated file box in my closet that currently has a pile of crafts and school work from last year on top of it.  It's needs to be cleaned up!  I have absolutely no problem throwing away my kids stuff.  I do a pretty good job of saying to myself "will this in any way pull on my heart strings in a year?"  Most of the time it's a resounding "NO", but there is probably a handful of things each month that my kids bring home that I want to keep.  Like my daughter's picture of Martin Luther King Jr from preschool that she kept calling Dr Luther King in the cutest little kid voice or the first drawing my son made me of a monster that actually had eyes and legs. 

I do couponing a bit, I'm not too hardcore, but I do have a binder of coupons and store flyers.  For a while it was on the shelf under my coffee table, it has since migrated to my dining room table where I peruse it and sort through things while I am eating breakfast or lunch with the kids.  It needs a new home, but I haven't figured out where yet.  I'm afraid if I put it away it may never be seen again and couponing will be put to rest.  Not that I wouldn't mind, but I do save a fair bit with coupons right now.  I'm hoping to do an over haul of our eating though and coupons may not factor in as strongly into my life, although I will be able to continue saving by planning my menus around the fresh items that are on sale.  Anyway, I am going to make a concerted effort to put all the sale flyers in the binder and sort though the Sunday paper on Sunday to get the coupons put away as quick as possible.  There have been times when the paper sits on the dining room table and by the time I get around to cutting the coupons they've already expired.  That's just a waste!

And the last project that I've been tackling is my computer time.  I spend far too much time on the internet lately, but with very little purpose.  I find that if I have my phone with me around the house, I am constantly checking facebook or instagram or the weather.  It's pretty ridiculous.  I do have my phone set to only use wifi and not data so when I'm out of the house I don't obsess over this pretty insignificant things and actually spend time with my kids.  But when I'm home, I have a tendency to keep looking at the flippin' screen.  I have thankfully not gotten sucked into the time wasting games like candy crush or whatever the hot game is now.  My internet time needs to be spent in a more meaningful manner, like blathering on in a blog that no one may ever read, but hey it's getting my thoughts somewhat organized!  I plan to try to leave my phone in my den or bedroom (where the wifi doesn't reach) in an effort to stop jumping every time I get a notification.  I will set up some designated times each day to check my facebook and email, but I think I really need to phase facebook out of my life.  I'm a bit to OCD about it and I feel like I have to scroll down to read everything that was posted since I last checked it.  It is so not necessary and it's a huge waste of my time.  I think it's time for me to start calling my friends more instead of just commenting on their status updates.

Ever since breaking down and getting a smartphone a few months ago, all of my email has been done over the phone.  Which means it's tidily tucked away in an icon and I really don't bother with it.  Being a stay at home mom with no real responsibilities outside of the home, email is not a major concern.  There are no million dollars deals brokered in my email.  However, I am getting involved more in my daughter's school and joining committees so I should really be able to access emails and respond in a timely fashion.  That being said, the last 2 nights have been devoted to cleaning out my inbox.  I am happy to say that I went from well over 1500 emails in my inbox to 30!  All the emails have been labeled, placed in folders, or deleted.  Only emails that are in regards to an upcoming event or a pressing matter belong in my inbox from now on.  I use gmail so promotional emails are already sorted to another folder automatically.  But I will be going through and as promotional emails come in that I'm really not interested in, I will be unsubscribing so I have one less thing to erase. 

What's next.  Well, next up will be trying to figure out some sort of cleaning routine that works well for the entire house.  At one point I had a well worked out daily rotation of rooms that got cleaned.  However all that went out the window when my son started walking!  Time to put a new schedule in place and figure out how to keep this house presentable.  And second will be trying to carve out a bit of "me time" in the middle of all this.  Now that my kids are getting a bit older and staying up a bit later I seem to have lost my "me time".  They used to go to bed around 7:30, I would do housework until around 9, then from 9-10 was quality time with my husband watching TV and knitting.  The kids are now up until 8 or 8:30 and often much later although after 8:30 they are pretty much on their own pretending to sleep but really playing together in their rooms.  By the time school lunch is packed and a few simple chores are done it's 10.  Then try to add some more serious chores and I'm easily up until 11, my husband is asleep, I'm ready for relaxation time but know that if I stay up any longer I will regret it in the morning so I go to bed without any time to unwind. 

That being said, I spent post-bedtime tonight trying to plan out a new knitting project since I have nothing on the needles right now except for seaming a large crochet afghan project.  The project has been successfully planned out (fingerless mitts for my kids) and supplies collected.  Now to set aside some time tomorrow to work on them!  Off to pack up my daughter's lunch and snack for tomorrow (another area that needs some revamping as she says she only wants pizza for lunch every day and all other food gets sent home uneaten... oh 6 year olds!)  When I figure out how the new blogger works (haven't blogged in quite some time!), I will set up new sections on the side to incorporate this reclaiming the home part of my life.  If anyone who finds my blog is doing anything similar please let me know and pass along your blog address, I'd love to follow and get some inspiration!

19 January 2013

Tutorial: Converting a pack n play into a play tent

 I recently pinned a great little project on pinterest to turn a pack n play into a reading tent.  This week my dog decided to make this a top priority project when he chewed a hole through the mesh siding of the pack n play.  I was slightly disappointed to see that the pin lead no where.  Oh well. So, I figured I'd do a quick tutorial for anyone who wants it. Mine is not nearly as pretty and color coordinated as the pinned picture, but I was not about to spend money so things matched.

Gather your supplies:
An old pack n play with a mobile bar (changing table optional)
A pair of scissors
A fitted crib sheet

I cut the mesh siding out of one side of the pack n play. Making sure not to cut any of the supportive fabric (the green on mine).  Then I put on the mobile bar.  And since mine came with a "changing table" piece, I figured I'd put that in too so my daughter could have some place to store her things when she's done reading and wants to cuddle up for a bit.
 Then place to fitted sheet over the four corners and the mobile bar. You're done.  Easy peasy!  Took all of 5 minutes with my 4 year old helping.

A few notes about this project.
1. The mesh is a surprisingly supportive piece of fabric for the pack n play.  There is little support under the open side now.  With 2 kids climbing in and out, I'm not so sure how long it will hold up.  I'll try to update this in a few months and let you all know.
2. My 2 year old thinks this is his personal jungle gym now.  The changing table piece is not safe for any little climbing monkeys you may have in your house.  He also loves to hang from the top rail of the open side and swing.  It's not a problem when he does it, but when my 4 year old joins in, it does tip over.
3. If you're kids don't like this, it would make a great slightly raised dog bed!

09 August 2012

Update on Project 3

K did receive a letter back from Disney!  It took about 2 weeks and she got a postcard with a picture of all the princesses on it with each one's name signed.  On the back was a message from Cinderella.  I'd post a picture, but it seems to have gone missing!  K was beyond happy about getting a letter from the princesses!  What a great thing Disney does!

52 Weeks of Pinterest - Project 7

We have had lots of butterfly visitors in our yard lately.  K would like to take one inside to be her friend, but she thinks we need to lock the dogs in the computer room first so they don't hurt her new friend.  K and B spent a very long time looking for their butterfly and stuck their heads in rooms, in drawers, in closets and yelled for her to come out and play.  As they were doing this I remembered a pin for bug crafts.  This website is just fantastic!  I'm now following it on facebook and pinterest because there are just so many good ideas!

The bug craft I picked was to make contact paper butterflies.  Fold some construction paper in half and cut out half a butterfly, then cut out the center.  Then place it on a piece of clear contact paper and trim that to size:

While the kids were running around the playroom I cut ribbon into about 1.5" pieces. We invited a neighbor over for craft time and they all played with the sticky contact paper for a bit before sticking the ribbons on.  Everyone had a great time and they were well entertained for about 30 minutes or so.  When they were done I took another piece of contact paper and stuck it on the other side to seal in the ribbons.  K made a beautiful butterfly:

B pretty much put a bunch of ribbons on, took them all off, then started chewing on them.  What more can you expect from a 19 month old!  He had a blast doing it though!

52 weeks of pinterest - project 6

Nothing fancy about this pin.  But I am trying to make sure I offer the kids more fresh veggies instead of just canned or frozen ones and a wider variety.  I will admit I am not a fan of fresh carrots, but a nice roasted carrot is about my favorite vegetable. When I roast veggies I make a large batch and try to eat them throughout the week.  Usually by day 2 we're all bored.  So for dinner last night we had some leftover chicken and I roasted carrots.  I sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and paprika (my favorite spice!).  Out of the oven they were fantastic!!

I had to cook them early in the day though since I try not to run the oven after 1pm.  It's pretty darn hot here in Texas during the summer and that seems to help out the AC a bit.  After cooking them I let them cook to room temperature then put them in a tupperware and reheated for dinner.  They still tasted pretty good at dinner, but they didn't have that great crispy outer edge anymore.

24 July 2012

52 Weeks of Pinterest - Project 5

My big plan was to make this a craft project.  K and I would gather all her old crayons, sort them by color, and watch as they melted.  Things didn't go as planned at all!  First off I didn't realize how long it took to peel the wrappers off, I think because these crayons were moved from Ohio to Texas in the middle of summer in a moving truck and the wrappers were somewhat melted into the crayons.  K's interest was immediately lost!  One page suggested cutting down the sides of the wrappers with a utility knife to make it easier, but my stubborn self refused to take such an easy shortcut.  So I removed the wrappers at night and broke them into pieces.  Morning rolled around and I though K could help me sort through them and make piles of color groups.  Again she would have nothing to do with it, but she did play with the crayon bits quite a bit, mostly making faces on plates with the pieces.  So, again I waited until bedtime to sort them.  Then I filled the silicone baking sheet I had with little people shaped designs.  I got the baking sheet at Walmart in their party area with cake decorating supplies.
I thought about waiting until morning to let K watch them melt, but she has camp this week and making it out the door is tough enough, and I'm impatient and couldn't wait to see how it worked!  I started out by putting them in a 250 degree oven (suggestions ranged from 200-275 so I just went around the middle) and setting the timer for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes about half of the crayons were melted.  THe crayons were a mixture of Crayola, Rose Art, and restaurant crayons and they did not all melt at the same time.  I keep setting the timer for 5 minutes and checking.  By the time they were all melted it was close to 40 minutes in the oven.  They definitely cooked for too long, but it was the only way to get them all to melt.
 The finished products:
 The colors separated and there is a milky layer at the bottom of each crayon that doesn't write.  It frustrated K for a minute until she learned to hold the crayon the other way.
 Each crayon turned out with just a little concavity on the bottom, which makes for perfect stacking!  K stacked crayons for a very long time while I prepped breakfast this morning.
 I'd say this was a pretty successful pin!  I can't wait until B can get his little hands on these!

20 July 2012

52 weeks of Pinterest - Project 4

Today was another food pin.  Taco Stew in the crockpot.  Super easy to make, just brown the meat first then dump all the cans of stuff into the crockpot.  No fresh veggie prep (perfect for days like today when the kids are sick!)  I did forget to buy a can of corn so it was cornless taco stew.  Everyone except K ate it and liked it.  But she's almost 4 and doesn't like anything other than chocolate milk!  We put a dollop or sour cream on top and some shredded cheese.  J added some dried chiles to his for some kick.

It was not spicy at all, in fact it was a little sweet thanks to the packet of ranch dressing mix.  And it turned out nice and thick, not at all soupy.  We all really liked it and it's a keeper recipe.  It is basically chile so I made some cornbread to go with it.

52 Weeks of Pinterest - Project 3

Writing to Snow White!!

It will take a few weeks before we know if this pin works or not, but today we wrote to Snow White.  K dictated to me:
Dear Snow White,
 I want to come visit you.  I wish we could be friends and I can see the seven dwarfs.  I want to see the castle but I will be scared and then we'll see the dwarf cottage.  Snow White, come to my house one day!
Your Friend, K

What did I learn from this little task... I have no stationary that doesn't say "thank you" on it.  Time to go shopping for some blank cards.

16 July 2012

52 weeks of Pinterest - Pin 2

I can already see keeping track of what week I'm on is going to be a disaster!  So instead I'm just hoping for 52 pins done by July of 2013.

My second pin to try was a recipe.  With an almost 4 year old and a very active 18 month old, prepping dinner is like war time in my house.  Trying to keep the little man from getting into everything, jumping off the back of the couch, burning himself on the stove, etc while trying to keep from ignoring my older child, who wants nothing more than to help with EVERYTHING, can be overwhelming, hectic, dangerous, and exhausting.  I'm in some serious need of easy to do meals, enter the crockpot.  And then say hello to crockpot freezer meals!  You prep all the veggies, meat, and seasonings for a whole bunch of crockpot meals all at once (only one mess to clean up!) then freeze them.  Defrost the day before, dump in the crockpot in the morning and a nice healthy warm dinner is ready when Daddy walks in the door.

I tried the Sausage and Peppers recipe from Ring Around the Rosies.  I did not make a bunch of recipes and freeze them, yet.  I figured I'd try a bunch, see which ones were keepers and then do a big prep day one weekend.  The resulting meal looked beautiful and smelled great.  I served it on a tortilla instead of over pasta or on crusty bread.
The overwhelming consesus was "Eh."  The taste was great and it wasn't spicy (I hate spicy food although J would rather a whole lot of spice).  The only problem was it was very watery.  I guess you need all that water to cook the sausage, but the sausage was overly waterlogged.  J said he'd much rather just grill some sausage and have me pan grill some peppers and onions, which would be a great option on the weekend, but it doesn't help my weekday cooking dilemma.  J did concede that if I made this during the week instead of another night of sloppy joes, he wouldn't complain!  In fact it would probably be rather nice on top of plain pasta where all that watery, tomatoey goodness could work as a sauce.

13 July 2012

52 weeks of Pinterest

I'm sure everyone is well aware of what Pinterest is, but if not here's a quick overview.  Instead of making bookmarks in your browser of websites you like, you pin them to a virtual corkboard.  With one quick glance you can see pictures of all the sites you like.  And you can break it down into many different boards.  I've been pinning like crazy the last few months but tend to just let them hang.  Well, I'm going to start doing some of these great ideas.  My goal is to do at least one thing from my pinterest boards each week.  Hopefully it will not peter out and I'll keep this up!  Welcome to week one:

We've been stuck in the house for the past week because of non-stop rain.  The kids and I are getting a bit of cabin fever and needed some new things to do.  I pulled something from a list of activities to do with toddlers.  I put towels on the bathroom floor, filled the sink with water, and sent the naked kids in there to play!  They had a blast.  No one wanted any toys other than their toothbrushes.  They were entertained for about an hour!  Eventually B started running around the playroom wet and naked and the fun had to end.

The kids really enjoyed themselves and the only down side was how much water ran into the drawers next to the sink.  Luckily just a bar of soap and an old digital thermometer were damaged!