Friday, August 15, 2014

Vacation Souvenirs

The girls and I took a mini vacation last week, spending a few days with my parents at their beach condo in Florida. One of Brigid's favorite things to do at the beach is to hunt for seashells, and even though I have to keep telling her she needs to at least limit herself to whole seashells, and not just various seashell pieces, we always come home with buckets of shells at the end of every trip. And I'm kind of running out of places to put some of them...

(And here's where I have to admit...I like seashell hunting, too. I am part of the problem.)

I have several large glass containers filled with sand and shells in various rooms of my house. I have a bowl full of sand dollar pieces in my dining room. I have driftwood scattered here and there. I look like I'm trying to pretend I live at the beach when I live in the middle of the mountains. (Ok, that part might be true...) But WE KEEP BRINGING MORE HOME.

Since I don't really have anywhere else to put more shells, I told Brigid that last week's haul was all hers, to do with what she wanted. The results:

A necklace and bracelet that she 'designed' herself from a couple of the shells that had holes in them already...
Two picture frames that I bought for $1/each so she could paint and glue whatever seashells she wanted to on them (the heart one she says she made for Steve and I, 'Because I love you guys, mommy!', and the other one will have a picture of her from this trip in it, once I actually get around to getting a picture of her from this trip out of my phone and into print.)...
And then, because I expected her to use a lot more shells on the picture frames (Seriously, who knew she'd be so artistic about placing certain shells in specific spots on the frames? I expected 99% of the wood to be covered in shells, not paint.), we had to find a place to dump the leftovers...
That one was a recycled idea we've used before, obviously. I told you the kid likes her seashells.

The best part? Other than actually spending time at the beach, that is? For a few dollars, we killed an afternoon with craft projects and created a couple of reminders of a fun vacation along the way. Everybody wins!

(Except for when I have to dust this stuff. That just sucks.)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tomato Attack

We decided to plant a garden this year, our first in the new house. Steve built us a raised bed, filled it with good soil, and we had eggplant, squash, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, and four different kinds of tomatoes all planted and ready to go sometime in the second week of April, which is when the gardening people told us we should plant...

...and then Atlanta got hit with a random freeze in the middle of April. That doesn't really happen here. Unless I'm trying to plant something, apparently. It seems my black thumb is impressive enough to change entire weather patterns.

Go figure.

After the freeze, we thought we'd lost everything, but most of the plants seemed to rebound after a few days except for a couple of them that Steve replaced at Home Depot a few weeks later. Well, we thought he'd replaced the same plants, but I'm not entirely sure that's the case now. Because we have tomatoes. Lots and lots and LOTS of tomatoes. The tomatoes killed off the zucchini. They killed off the squash. They killed off the eggplant. They tried to kill off the peppers, but we replanted those in a different location before it was too late. The only thing that was able to stand up against the onslaught of the tomato plant were the cucumbers. I honestly don't know how we ended up with so many tomato plants. We HAD to have replaced some non-tomato frozen plants with new tomato-tomato plants, on top of whatever had survived the freeze.


All of them.

My neighbor got the first batch while we were out of town at the end of June, and it wasn't a bad haul. I was jealous that she had such a nice harvest, in fact, because I wasn't sure how many of those we had ahead of us...
Then, less than a week later, all hell had broken loose...
And they've kept coming. And coming. And coming. I have picked at least this much, each week, every week, for the last month. That is A LOT of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Here is what I'm currently trying to work through:

I don't think I am EVER going to recover from the amount of acid I've consumed this summer.

A few of my favorite tomato uses, after a month of research and development:
Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumbers
Baked Chicken with Tomatoes and Lemon
Garden Tomato and Basil Pesto Pizza
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (I've tasted this alone, but not with pasta yet, as we've canned this recipe for the winter. I haven't eaten a single roma tomato, just because they're a good canning tomato and I've had more than enough grape and cherry tomatoes to keep me well supplied this past month,)

I'm hoping we manage to plan a little better next year, because this is just getting ridiculous, now...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Playroom Updates

As of two weeks ago, I officially became a work-from-home mom. Even though I haven't fully transitioned into the new part-time role I'll be performing, because I promised my boss I'd stay as full-time as possible until September to fully support my replacement, I've still managed to find small bits of time to handle a few of the household projects that have been bothering me for the past few months, while Steve and I have both tried to juggle full-time jobs and keeping the house from falling down around our ears. Since I don't have to be up at 4:30AM anymore to get into the office, it's amazing what I'm actually able to get done in the evenings after the girls go to bed...

Project 1: Organizing the playroom.

I wish I had taken before pictures of this process, so you could see just what I was dealing with in the playroom, but my first order of business was finding new storage units.

Enter the neighborhood Facebook page!

I got two of these cabinets for $50/each, but I didn't like the oak color, and I wanted something a little brighter for the room. So I made the incredibly stupid decision to paint them. I HATE PAINTING THINGS. Remind me of this next time I get some new dumb idea like this...

I really should have done one more coat of white paint on those cabinets, but after one (way too thin, it turns out) coat of primer, two coats of white paint, and three coats of pink paint on the backs of the shelves, I was done. DONE.

After the painting was done, I emptied and reorganized and refilled every bin in that room, threw out broken toys and smashed crayons and empty sticker sheets, and resorted approximately one and a half million puzzle pieces into their correct boxes. 

And now my children are never allowed to play in that room, again.

The end.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The 2014 List - June Update

I always have these big plans to do things throughout the year, and then I never actually do them, because, you know...January was a loooooooong time ago. I've slept (and not slept, as the case may be, given the two rotten kids I live with, but whatever...) since then, and I forget things, so I like to try to revisit my list once a quarter, just to see where I stand on everything I wanted to do.


1) Send more mail...thank you notes, birthday cards, and 'just because' messages. - I sent my sister a bracelet after she had my niece. That maybe counts for something?

2) Be nicer, in general, to my husband and family. They deserve a much less crabby me than the one they were stuck with for most of 2013. - Probably not. Maybe I am just a generally crabby person, and I'm just now realizing this about myself?

3) Make more of an effort to communicate with the long-distance people in my life. I got away from facetiming with my sister on a regular basis, and I miss it. Plus, now that she's making me an aunt, I think it's even more important that we get back into the habit of seeing each other every week. I do not need her new baby asking 'are you SURE you have more than one sister?', just because Aunt Mary lives in Indiana and Aunt Tara lives all of the way in Georgia. - It's a little better. Ish.

4) Call or email or even text my friends from college more than I do now, which is hardly at all. Just because we can pick up after not talking to each other for months like no time has passed at all does not mean I should keep letting all of those months pass without the talking. I'm afraid the picking back up can't keep happening in a friendship like that. - Nope.

5) Do one fitness/health related challenge each month. - You know all of those '0 to 1,000 sit-ups in just 30 days!!' kind of schedules that pop up on Pinterest all of the time? I'm going to start doing those. One each month. Fifteen minute plank? I'M COMING FOR YOU. I'm also throwing my meat-free/sugar-free/alcohol-free months in this category, as well. - I started a new ab challenge yesterday. Here's to doing better than I've done so far.

6) Run another organized 5K. - It was so much more fun than I expected. Minus the running up a hill part, anyway. - Nope.

7) Renew my vows with Steve, in Vegas, by Elvis, for our 10th anniversary in October. - I'm working on this one.

8) Create an art wall somewhere in my house. - Not yet. But I at least have some ideas at this point.

9) Organize a workspace for me - YES! I did this one! Or I did this one as best I could in the room of our unfinished basement that will eventually be my room once we finish it. I can at least access everything, now, although I still have some big decorating plans for the space when we get around to putting up some drywall, finally.

10) Attend The Blathering in Seattle. - Charleston was such a great time, I'd love to make it back for the Seattle trip. -  I'm registered! Except...they've moved the event to April of 2015, so am I still allowed to consider this a 2014 goal? I say registering counts. 

11) Read at least two books a month. - I have actually read MORE than two books a month! Here is one I'm actually winning! Woo! I discovered the eBook section of my new local library, and hoooooooo BUDDY! I have enjoyed it, immensely.

January - MarchTales of a Hollywood Housewife - Betty Marvin (I have NO IDEA who Lee Marvin was, but I like inside Hollywood stories, so I enjoyed it for that.)
Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout (The book was interesting. I liked it, but I'm glad I got it from the library, if that makes sense.)
Attachments Rainbow Rowell (This was my favorite of the three (Eleanor & Park, Fangirl) Rowell books I've read, probably because it focused on adults instead of kids. Not that I disliked the other two, it's just harder to relate to YA stories sometimes.)
Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn (Wow. Gillian Flynn does dark pretty well.)
Dark Places - Gillian Flynn (Seriously. Where does this woman's inspiration come from? This was probably my favorite of the three books I read...)
Seriously...I'm Kidding - Ellen Degeneres (After so much Gillian Flynn, I needed something lighter. It was definitely lighter, but only ok.)
Someday, Someday, Maybe - Lauren Graham (Cute. It was cute.)
Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella (I loved her first couple Shopaholic books. But the last few in the series have just gotten ridiculous, and the other books I've read from her lately have had the absolute most ridiculous and kind of terrible plots around. I think it might be time Sophie and I break up, sadly. We'll always have early Becky Bloomwood, though...)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  Deborah Moggach (I really, really enjoyed this book. I think it has almost NOTHING to do with the movie, which I haven't seen, but did google the storyline, but it was just a great story.)
I've Got Your Number - Sophie Kinsella (It wasn't as terrible as Twenties Girl. But I really only read it because my library had it available, and I still think the break-up is necessary...)
Heads in Beds - Jacob Tomsky (Interesting, and maybe kind of scary, look at the hotel business.)
Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris (Funny, entertaining, relatively quick read.)
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson (I adored this book, but I'm not sure I'm smart enough to understand exactly what I read...)
Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls - David Sedaris
When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris (What can I library had a lot of his books electronically...)
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt (Interesting story, but not one of my favorites. It was so very depressing and so very VERY frustrating. I wanted to kick multiple characters, multiple times.)
This One is Mine - Maria Semple (My library doesn't have Where'd You Go, Bernadette, which I've heard great things about, so I got this one instead. Meh...)

April - June
Blackout - Connie Willis (I love historical fiction. This story about a group of time travelers from far in the future being trapped in London during the Blitz was right in my wheelhouse.)
All Clear - Connie Willis (This was part 2 of the Blackout story.)
Sisterland - Curtis Sittenfeld (Once again, my library didn't have the e-version of his book that I wanted to read, so I went with this instead. It was ok.)
Doomsday Book - Connie Willis (I get a little intimidated, sometimes, trying to decide what book to read next, so if I find an author I enjoy at all, I tend to bleed that well dry. This story was referenced in Blackout/All Clear, as a sort of prequel involving some of the characters in those stories, and my library had the e-book, so I read it. This one involved time travelers stuck in the Plague, and I enjoyed it much less than the other two, sadly.)

(At this point, I was waiting for a library book that I was on the waitlist for, and I was 21 books into my goal of 24, so I decided to reread Harry Potter. Again. What can I's one of my happy places. I'm on book 4, although I'm currently taking a break to read The Bones of Paris, since I finally came to the top of the list for that one, two months later.)

12) Take Brigid camping. - I really think this is just a Steve thing, now that I've given it some more consideration.

13) Find a yoga studio and start taking classes regularly. - No.

14) Write something, anything, not blog related. - I barely write things that are blog related at this point.

15) No spending money on new clothes this year. Using gift cards and rewards points are fine, but I need to get out of the habit of spending money on new stuff, just to make myself feel better. I swear, shopping is my addiction, but the high I get from buying a new sweater probably isn't enough to justify the amount of money I spend on clothes I don't need. - I haven't been terrible with clothes, but I've replaced that addiction with one to craft supplies. My new goal is, as of July 1st, not spending extraneous money on ANYTHING for the next 6 months. Aaaaaaaand GO!

16) No buying anything at all unless I absolutely need it. I have a bad habit of stocking up on things at sales (candles, lotions, make-up, beauty products), even if I have a cabinet full of the same stuff already at home. I will use the cabinet full of crap before I add more crap.- See above.

17) Be more consistent in updating my family blog, because my parents give me a hard time when I let it lag, and my personal blog, because I'm not as happy with myself when I let it lag. - I've, uh, been consistent about posting 2 days a week on the family blog. I didn't say what kind of consistency I was looking for...

18) Find a general practitioner and get a physical. - I can't get in until October, BUT I AM ON THE SCHEDULE.

19) Post at least one picture a day on Instagram, to get myself into the habit of taking more pictures of my sweet girls, since I find entire events have passed where I've forgotten to photograph said events. Like Christmas. Sadly. - It's not happening every day, but it's gotten better.

20) Get a haircut. - You can laugh at this one, if you must, but I did not get one single haircut in 2013. In fact, I haven't had a haircut since before Caitlin was born in November of 2012. I do not even know how this happens, but I know it must end. Soon. I think a Locks of Love kind of donation might be in order. My hair, it is long. - My hairs, they were cut. Or trimmed, anyway. And now I'm due for another...

21) Make an effort to get to know the neighbors. - I tend to not get dressed/leave the house on the weekends, and this extends to not fraternizing with anyone who lives near me, because I'm afraid people will judge me for my make-up free, sweatpants clad weekend laze. I should probably get over that. - We have been SO. DARN. BUSY. but I'm trying.

22) Write more thank you notes. - I am terrible at writing thank you notes. I should not be so terrible. - Still pretty terrible.

23) Buy new rugs for my new house. - The sunroom and foyer, in particular, need something fun. - I have one for the foyer, not for the sunroom.

24) Be more fearless in forming and maintaining relationships. - There are many times where I think of something I want to send to someone, whether it's an email, text, card, or what have you, and I don't, because I'm afraid I've maybe overestimated whether we have the type of friendship where I can do something like that. I don't want to worry about stuff like that anymore. - A little better, yes.

25) Put together an Advent/Christmas activity calendar for Brigid and Caitlin. - I did that for Brigid when I was home on maternity leave after Caitlin's birth, and it was so much fun. I didn't get the chance to do it this year, and I feel like I missed out on some part of the excitement of the season. I'm bringing it back.

26) Institute a once-a-month date night with Steve. Or date lunch, I guess, if necessary. - So much fail in this one.

27) Institute a once-a-month girls' night, whether it be with my old college roommate, my SiLs, or the neighbors. I should get out of the house at least once a month with people who do not live in my house. - Quite a bit of fail in this one, too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The one where my crafty side remembers that it exists...

My sister-in-law is having a baby boy in July, and while her family is throwing her a shower in June, my mother-in-law wanted to have one hosted by our side of the family, as well, so she could invite all of her friends to it. My other sister-in-law and I were tagged to plan it, with some help from one of the family friends, and hooooooooo buddy.

I had fun.

I was in charge of the decorations, and on one of my many trips to the outlet mall that is now a mere SIX MINUTES from my house since we moved in December, I scoped out the baby clothes in the various children's stores to try to get some ideas of a possible theme. One ridiculously adorable skull & crossbones hat discovery later, I made the executive decision that we were going to do a pirate theme, and to Pinterest I went.

Honestly. How did people plan parties before Pinterest became a thing?

I knew I wanted to make decorations that could be used for both the party and the nursery, and I wanted the favors to be fun, but not cardboard. After spending WAY too much money at Michaels,* I spent WAY too much time playing with stain and paint and scrapbooking paper and stickers. And I kind of loved every minute.

The prep:

And the party:



 And (BONUS!) the goofy party crasher:

I'd forgotten how much fun it is (to me, anyway) to put something together like this. For Brigid's last birthday, because we had our house on the market, we did a birthday in a box kind of event at the local gymnastics place, one of those things where they plan everything except the cake. And for Caitlin's last birthday, which also happened to be her first? Well, we were living out of boxes following one failed house closing, coming up on our second (ultimately successful) attempt, and just getting back from a Disney vacation. Plus, it was the day after Thanksgiving. Let's just say the poor child was lucky she got anything remotely resembling a celebration that day.

I plan to make up for it this year. I may just start planning it now...

*After my first trip into Michaels, I called my sister-in-law to inform her that I'd already spent $100 in a craft store, and all I had for the party was a $5 fishing net. My shopping habit seems to have extended itself into the craft supply market now, unfortunately...