Archive for May, 2011

  • Airing my dirty laundry for all the world to see

    Date: 2011.05.19 | Category: homemaking, parenting | Response: 2

    I have something to confess. I have a serious problem in our house. It’s the laundry. Piles and piles of laundry. Clean laundry. That languish in a heap until I run out of clothes or need the basket again. All the time.

    Right now? 9 loads of clean laundry.

    Really.

    No exaggeration.

    Kids clothes, our clothes, towels, sheets, whites, darks and colors that fall in between.

    I have such good intentions. I tell myself- “I am going to put these away today. Before I go to bed.” As they come out of the dryer, warm and smelling fresh, I haul them up the stairs and lay them out on the bed so they won’t get wrinkled. And then several hours later when I realize it’s way past my bedtime, I go up to my room only to discover them there. Where they’ve been patiently waiting for me all day. Only I have forgotten. And now I’m just so tired.

    “Tomorrow,” I promise myself as I move them to the floor. “I’ll get to those tomorrow.”

    I spend nap time reading blogs about home management binders and household chore calendars. I set goals for myself to clean all of the floors on Tuesdays and the bathrooms on Fridays, but it never happens. I once set the goal for myself to do just one project a day- no matter how small. Wipe the walls by the kitchen table. Clear off the kitchen island. Clean the shower. That lasted about 3 days. And now nothing gets done again.

    When we’re expecting company there is always a flurry of activity in the hours preceding their arrival. Counters must be wiped clean, the dishwasher must be emptied, the toys must be picked up. But several hours or days later it’s like it never happened and once again, the house looks like a hurricane came through.

    I have a 2 and a half year old and a one year old. I work 3 days a week. In my down time I’d much rather read a good book or make a new pair of earrings and a bracelet to match than scrub a toilet. Or fold the laundry.

    We have a running joke that when we win the Lotto the first thing I will do is hire Alice from the Brady Bunch to move in. No 20 year old blonde Swedish girl for me. I want a kindly grandmother type- young enough to be energetic and old enough to be wise and patient. She wouldn’t be the nanny, although I might use her as such occasionally. She would plan the meals and do the grocery shopping and cook hearty breakfasts from scratch. She would clean the bathrooms and the kitchen. She would fold all of the clean laundry and put it way- hung by season and color in each of our respective closets. She would organize the incoming mail and keep my desk top free of paper piles. And she’d do it all with a smile.

    What would I be doing with all of my free time, I sometimes wonder? I don’t know, but I’d sure like to find out.

  • Menu Plan May 15-21

    Date: 2011.05.14 | Category: meal plan | Response: 0

    What are we having for dinner this week?

    Sunday- we have a birthday party so no cooking!

    Monday- it’s Chris’ birthday and he’s going to the Rockies/Giants game – the kids and I will eat leftovers while he eats a hot dog or something

    Tuesday- steak and potatoes (belated birthday dinner for the hubs!)

    Wednesday- ham tortellini with Philly cooking sauce (I got the sauce on a great deal with a coupon)

    Thursday- bratwurst sandwiches

    Friday- mexican casserole (bumped from last week)

    Saturday- chicken divan

    Last week got all mixed up- no surprise after my back went out!  I was in so much pain on Thursday I went to bed as soon as Chris got home and I think he fed the kids leftovers.  Friday we ended up having a party at our house for his middle school worship team- we had about 20 kids plus some adults so we ordered pizza.  Can I just reiterate how excited I am for the end of the school year?  Two weeks!!!

  • Making Jewelry

    Date: 2011.05.13 | Category: crafts | Response: 1

    I love making my own jewelry.  Over the years I’ve acquired a pretty nice assortment of beads and I can always count on Santa to add to my supply.  Whenever I’m at Michael’s or JoAnn’s I make a pass through the bead section to see what’s on sale and what’s new too!

    A few weeks ago I spent the evening at String Beads- a local bead shop.  They were having Ladies Night- a fun chance for me to meet with some friends and come home with a new necklace!  This was only the 2nd time I had made my jewelry in a shop like this- and while it was a bit more expensive than my usual pieces and am SO THRILLED with how it turned out.  I also learned a few tricks from the ladies who work there and from the other women who were making their own pieces.  I’m going to have to do this more often!

    Don’t you love the eclectic look of this piece?  So fun with the variety of beads and charms!  The square heart and the round B were pretty expensive beads, but you could make a similar piece without those pieces on the cheap.  I just hung mine from a silk cord which can be tied long or short- and I have a plan for a similar style Christmas necklace that I can borrow the cord for!

    I thought it would be fun to show you some of the other pieces I’ve made over the years.

    This simple black seed bead necklace and matching bracelet and earrings set was one of the first things I made.  A girlfriend had asked me to make her a simple black necklace and this is what I came up with.  It’s almost completely black with just 4 clear swarovski crystals widely spaced throughout the piece.

    I made this red roses set at the last minute for a girl’s night out.  It’s a new favorite!

    This pale pink set has been something I’ve wanted for a long time.  Not “little girl” pink, but a combo of rose, pale, beige and clear beads.

    This set is a combination of corals- I made 4 separate bracelets that I usually wear stacked.  I have a few outfits that I like to wear these with!  (don’t you LOVE the self photography- sorry!)

    This brown set uses cat’s eye and black beads for an earthy look.

    This purple set is a combo of different colored purple and clear and silver beads.

    This necklace of browns and golds has a dangle pendant- it’s a little too short, someday I’ll get around to extending it!

    Anyway- it’s fun making pieces that work with my wardrobe.  I really enjoy the creative outlet too!

  • Cane River

    Date: 2011.05.10 | Category: book review | Response: 0

    While laying flat on my back on an ice pack for most of yesterday I got to finish an excellent book (sorry kids!).  Cane River by Lalita Tademy is a fictionalized account of the real life slave ancestors of the author.  The book is divided into three sections- one for her great grandmother, her great great grandmother and her great great great grandmother.  The author did a thorough job of researching the history of her family and then wrote this novel to help flesh out the story- attributing motives and personalities to family lore and historic documents.  Although parts of the story are sad and terrible things happen, the overall theme of hope and family and perseverance triumph.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the story.  I frequently felt the burning need to know whether events really occurred the way they were portrayed in the novel.  I always love a historical fiction that captures me with the story and teaches me about a time or place at the same time.  This book did that and more.  I highly recommend it!  (And no, this was not one of my blogging for books books.  I do have one sitting on my counter waiting for me to get past the 10th page.  It may never happen!)

  • 8 Layer Dip

    Date: 2011.05.10 | Category: recipes | Response: 0

    I love 7 layer dip.  I don’t love anything super spicy or oniony or bell peppery.  And that’s the beauty of making my own – I can put the ingredients of my choice in it!  We were supposed to have this last week for Cinco de Mayo, but Taco Bell won out that night and we’re having it today instead.  Enjoy!

    In a 2 quart casserole dish layer-

    1 can refried beans (we use Rosarita no fat)
    1.5 cups quacamole
    1.5 cups queso
    1 can black beans drained and rinsed
    1.5 cups sour cream (we prefer Daisy Light)
    1.5 cups salsa (we use Tostitos mild)
    1 can sliced olives
    1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

    Let sit in the fridge for several hours for flavors to meld, then serve with tortilla chips.

    yum!

  • Field Day Fail

    Date: 2011.05.09 | Category: parenting | Response: 1

    Today is Monday. On Mondays Chris takes JT to preschool and I usually have a quiet morning with Kate (14 months) and my nephew Drew (20 months). LaLa (my sister in law’s mom) picks up David from his preschool and brings him here in time for lunch.

    This morning Chris called me just before 9 to say that today is Field Day at the school and he suggested that it might be fun for me to bring the other kids. Now I am normally not spontaneous at all, but we were all fed and dressed and cheerful so I decided to go for it.

    I spent 15 minutes gathering hats and water bottles and applying sunscreen. Then I loaded up the kids and drove the three minutes to the school. I unloaded the kids again and got them into the stroller. As we were approaching the school I spotted JT having a great time. The minute JT spotted me he turned into Mr Pouty Face.

    From that moment on JT refused to participate or engage with what was going on. He just wanted me to hold him. At the music area all of his classmates and Drew were dancing and doing all the motions, but JT just sulked and wanted me to pick him up. I squatted down to talk to him at eye level and I picked him up as I stood. That’s when I felt something go out in my back. I was literally frozen in a semi squat in pain and in fear that I couldn’t stand up. I finally sat down on the grass- just as the teachers started gathering up the class to go to the next area. (Gathering 12 two year olds was like herding cats!). I struggled to stand and then to get Drew back into the stroller. JT was supposed to hold on to the rope but he also wanted to hold my hand, so I was trying to maneuver the double stroller one handed and not run over any of his classmates while pretending that I wasn’t in pain and smiling. For some reason I felt like an idiot and didn’t want anyone to know I was in pain. (Partly because I always feel like an idiot when I’m at JT’s school. Since Chris is the one who takes him I don’t know the routines or the other parents or the kids. Plus we forgot to bring snack one time.)

    The next activity was the bounce house. According to Chris, JT was so excited for the bounce house he was taking about it all morning. Well not anymore. Now JT refused to get in and just wanted to cling to my leg. Or run into the dirt in his socks. Which left me in the awkward position of having to discipline in front of his teacher while still pretending that I was fine. Because apparently I really am an idiot.

    I decided it was time to cut my losses and go home. I said goodbye to JT who immediately started bawling and begging me no to go. I pushed the stroller across the lawn and waved goodbye while he sobbed and screamed for me. At the car I had to lift both kids out of the stroller and into their car seats. Then I had to fight the stroller into the back of the van. As I maneuvered myself into the driver’s seat I was fighting back tears of pain and frustration. Once home I had to get both kids back out of the car and into the house. Kate is terrible about holding on while she’s being carried and I could hardly keep from dropping her as my back seized up while I was climbing the steps and opening the door.

    I finally got her down for a nap and took two advil. I’m currently laying on ice and typing this while Drew is asking me to take him outside or get him the bubbles from the mantel or the fishie puzzle from the counter. Sorry Drew- it’s not looking good for you today.

    In all, I categorize this morning as a spectacular fail.

  • the Fireplace

    Date: 2011.05.08 | Category: home improvement | Response: 0

    Remember how I mentioned that we updated the fireplace at Lily?  I thought I’d give a quick run down of what we did.  It was actually a pretty simple job- we did it over a 3 day weekend and each step only took a few hours.

    When we moved in, the fireplace looked like this-

    The entire thing projected about 8 inches from the wall with a 9 inch or so mantel.  The brick was cheap and ugly to begin with, but years of soot had permanently stained it.  The doors were tarnished brass and didn’t function well.  The deep red hearth was cracked.  There was really nothing about this fireplace that we liked!

    So I did some research online and discovered that one could easily purchase a custom mantel and fireplace surround.  Not only that, but it was easy and affordable to buy custom granite too!  I ended up working with two different companies, one for the granite and one for the wood surround.  I took precise measurements and sent them off for our custom pieces.  Several weeks later everything had arrived and we were ready to go!

    The first step was removing the old tile hearth.  We removed the wood trim, and then a hammer and a chisel made quick work of it!  The old doors popped right out once we loosened a few set screws.

    Next we installed the new granite hearth with a heavy duty granite adhesive.  Our friend Daniel was on hand to help with the measurements- we wanted everything to be perfectly centered!

    Then I adhered the two side pieces.  We wedged some table leaves against the coffee table to keep everything tight while the adhesive set.  Since the header rested on the two side pieces we gave it plenty of setting time.

    Once the two sides were firmly attached we installed the header piece.

    The wooden surround came in 4 or 5 pieces that we assembled before installing.  Once we had it all put together we needed to chisel out a small section of the baseboard so it could sit flush against the wall.

    The entire surround was then set into place and screwed into some wood strips that we had attached to the studs.  My dad came over to help with this step!

    Then trim strips were nailed in to cover the gap between the granite and the wood.  A hilarious process, apparently!

    and finito!  Almost.  Next up, a bead of caulk where the wood meets the wall, a coat of primer, and two coats of paint.

    This angled shot gives you an idea of the depth of the fireplace and mantel.  You can also see the updated ceiling fan in this shot- so much better than the original!  We found the new brushed nickel doors at Orchard Supply just down the street.

    The last step was finding the right trim piece for the edge of the hearth.  We needed something to prevent tripping on that elevated edge- it took a trip to a lumber mill where I wandered the aisles finding just the right piece of trim.

    The finished fireplace!  Didn’t it turn out great?  I love the bright white moulding against the black granite.  Had we stayed longer in the house I would have installed crown moulding to match.  I also love the depth of the mantel- it was easy to decorate since I had a nice wide surface.

    P.S.- we’ve been asked how much this project cost.  I found the receipts and am happy to tell you.  The wood surround cost $325 for paint grade wood.  The granite facing was $806.  Both of those prices include shipping.

  • Menu Plan May 8-14

    Date: 2011.05.07 | Category: meal plan | Response: 1

    What are we having for dinner this week?

    Sunday- we’re going out for Mother’s Day- this mama isn’t cooking!

    Monday- mexican casserole (edited to say we’re having this Thursday night)

    Tuesday- shepherd’s pie (edited to say we’re having this Monday night)

    Wednesday- Italian Chicken crock pot

    Thursday- 7 layer dip and burritos (edited to say we’re having the dip with fish tacos on Tuesday night)

    Friday- beef broccoli and fried rice

    Saturday- chicken divan

    We ended up having Taco Bell for Cinco de Mayo last week- I decided not to go grocery shopping since that was the only meal all week that required a trip to the store.  Now that we are having our milk delivered I try to skip grocery trips and eat out of the freezer and pantry every few weeks- it’s a great way to save money!  We’re also in the final stretch of track season which means Chris often is only home for 45 minutes or so before he has to leave for a meeting (he had two last week) and on Wednesdays I’m the one who has to eat and run.  We’re looking forward to June and summer vacation!

  • Ham and Cheese Twice Baked Potatoes

    Date: 2011.05.03 | Category: recipes | Response: 4

    This afternoon I was ready to start preparing dinner.  I opened the freezer to pull out a bag of browned ground beef and much to my horror discovered I was out!  Drat!  I contemplated defrosting and browning some on the stove, but common sense prevailed. (I did stick 5 pounds in the crock pot for the future, but it wouldn’t have been ready in time for dinner.)  So I looked in the fridge and the pantry to see what I had hanging out.  I had 3 potatoes, some ham, 1/3 carton feta cheese, and stale crumbs in the bottom of a bag of chips.  And this led me to a stroke of genius.  Twice baked potatoes!  I found a recipe online and then modified it with the ingredients I had on hand.  Here is an approximation of what I did, but you can really add most anything and change the proportions (I mean really, 3 potatoes?) and these would still be yummy!

    3 large potatoes
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 1/2 cups chopped cooked ham
    1/2 cup bacon pieces (I buy the big bag at Costco)
    1/2 cup diced onion
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 cup lite sour cream
    1/3 small carton feta cheese
    1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
    1/3 bag frozen chopped broccoli (defrosted in microwave and diced finely)
    crushed sour cream and onion chips and shredded cheese to garnish

    Bake potatoes at 450° for 1 hour or until tender. Allow to cool to touch.

    Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, and place in a bowl, leaving shells intact. Set pulp and shells aside.

    Melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat; add diced onion and minced garlic, sauté until onion is tender.

    Mash potato pulp; stir in all of the other ingredients and stuff the potato shells with the mixture.  Place in a 13- x 9-inch pan or casserole dish.  Garnish, if desired.  Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes.

    Chris says these were so good he’d like them to go into the regular rotation.  I must agree- they are tasty!

    yum!

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