Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to Say "Thank You"

Every Thursday morning for the past 8 or 9 months, I have taken Kevin to the library for a Preschool program. It's not a drop off service, but it's more than just a story hour. Being at home makes us both stir crazy, and it's great for him to be around kids his own age in a school-like environment. It's such a wonderful program, ran by the East Hickman Family Resource Center. We started the year out with Mrs. Jill, a very sweet woman who had a great knack for entertaining the kids and keeping them engaged. Shortly after the Christmas break, Mrs. Becky began to coordinate the Thursday meetings and it has been a wonderful "semester" with her as well.

I had already planned to make this for her end-of-year gift, but I realized Sunday that our last meeting for the year is...tomorrow! So, no time to craft something amazing, my fault. We did receive calendars with all these important dates back in September. But I would be amazed if someone could find that paper NOW, in MY house. Ha! So then I thought maybe I could contact my two favorite jewelry ladies with Premier Designs and purchase the "Love Cuff" bracelet from their stock since I didn't have time to order it. Neither of them had one to sell immediately, and I reluctantly settled in on a gift card. But oh how I hate giving gift cards. For anyone. So I set out to spruce it up a little bit.

I headed over to Skip to My Lou, a blog I adore, because I know there is a very creative teacher appreciation section, with all sorts of ideas. That's where I saw a tutorial for making a quick vase out of a mason jar (something *every* southern lady already knows how to do) and adding a bobby pin to the front to hold a tag or picture. Bingo, there it was!

So I went to my hoard stash of empty jars in the cabinet above my fridge to see what I could find. I'm reluctant to gift my actual mason jars...judging by the size of the "community" garden at my grandfather's house, I am going to need all those and more in the next few months. But I did find a really nicely shaped spaghetti sauce jar (Bertolli, maybe?). So that sealed the deal. While rummaging for pretty ribbon and cardstock to make a card, I ran across some actual cards and envelopes that would be perfect for this little project. Even better!

I took some pictures along the way and thought I'd share this idea with all my friends. Because it really is THIS easy...probably took about 20 minutes total and requires only the very basic stitches of sewing. Promise!

So, first, gather your materials and tools:

You'll need a clean, empty jar, some pretty stationery, a bobby pin, some fabric, and a button. Tools? You'll need a glue gun, a pen, scissors, a chop stick or other skinny utensil, and a needle and thread.

Okay, so now possibly the hardest part of the entire project: finding a circle for your yo-yo. If you have yo-yo templates, go ahead, use that. It's probably perfect. But since I don't have any, I just look around to find some circles around the house for my templates. Look at the size of the circle and figure on your finished yo-yo being about half that size. Eyeball it according to how large your jar is.
Both cups would be too small, the bright green bowl maybe slightly too big, the clear green bowl just perfect. So trace your template and cut it out.
Thread your needle and sew a quick running stitch around the entire perimeter.

At the end, pull the thread tight, and you'll get a little sack. (special note...this is how you make a felt strawberry!)
Squish the sack flat, keeping your stitches tight and in the center. If you have an iron handy, press it for better results. I do not, ever, have my iron handy, and would not dare bust it out for this one little yo-yo.
Break out the hot glue gun. Hopefully, you are mindful enough to have plugged it in already. If you are more like me, take advantage of this awkward moment and switch the laundry over. Don't just stand there...watched pots never boil, you know? It's true. Glue your button to the center of the yo-yo. You could also sew the button on, but this is all about ease, and finding brown thread in the middle of this project would not have been easy at all.
Next, slide your skinny utensil (I used a chopstick..could easily use a pen or pencil or paintbrush) into your bobby pin. Trust me, without the utensil in there, you will hot glue your bobby pin to itself...which is not ideal when you need it to hold something, you know?
Apply hot glue to the curvy side of your pin and adhere it to the yo-yo.
Once that glue has dried, flip it over and apply hot glue to the straight side of the pin and adhere (open side down) to your jar.

If you are fortunate enough to be doing this project in the spring time, just run outside and cut something pretty to fill your jar, write a heartfelt thank you note, tuck your gift card inside and slide it into your pin.

When the card has been read and tucked away, the jar can still be used as a pretty bud vase.
Or a pretty picture holder too!

Just an extra note, I'll be replacing these flowers before gifting this tomorrow morning. We've had an early blackberry winter and my roses weren't too fond of it. But, the peonies weren't blooming quite through last week's cold spell, so they are especially vibrant now and will look beautiful in this vase tomorrow!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas Tree

We are a little late at putting up our Christmas tree this year. It's already December 5th. I had high hopes of decorating it as a family this year, but the hubs and I have strange schedules and the 4 of us are rarely in the same place, awake, at the same time. We had a small window of time yesterday morning, but Georgia lost (and badly lost. It was ugly.) the *big* game against LSU on Saturday, so the hubs spent the rest of the day trying to find some liquid recovery for the heartbreak. Sunday morning came fast and hard for the poor fella, and he was in no mood to be festive. So we let the big angry bear alone and did our own thing.

Besides, we hadn't really figured out the tree situation anyway. We usually buy a real tree. But we were waffling this year. Since Zane has an oral fixation (MAJOR!) we were nervous about the number of needles he would consume, and whether that would seriously pose a health risk to him. Can't you see the headline: "Baby overdoses on Douglas Fir needles, first case in years!". But then, did we really want to buy a fake tree? They are so ugly...unless you spend $200 on them, and in that case, I would assume you intend to use it for several years.

As always, Enter My Parents. They are always there for us, no matter what silly thing we need. So I asked my mom what we should do and we ultimately decided that we would borrow their small fake tree and they would put up their big one, even though it takes forever and is huge and seriously just a pain in the ass. They love us so much!

Kevin decided today was the day to decorate, so I shaped the tree up nicely and brought up a box of decorations from the basement. I'm not going all out this year. Zane is just too young and it would just be too insane. Now, if time/money/small hands were of no concern we would probably have a Georgia Bulldogs tree, and a Jon Bon Jovi tree, and a monster truck tree, and who knows what else. But one tree is more than enough this year.

I could spend hours drooling over beautiful magazine Christmas trees, or perfectly shaped and matched and gorgeous trees inside perfect homes. But this isn't a perfect home, and those trees aren't family trees. Now, if you have one and you've spent countless hours perfecting it, by all means, I am not trying to discount your work. It's just not what I expect from my tree. I expect my tree to be perfectly imperfect, and that's exactly what you get when you have a 3yr old project manager. Enjoy!

(disclaimer...I'm still learning how to perfect the use of my Nikon Coolpix for taking bloggie pics. If you have any suggestions, I'm more than happy to hear them!)

Zane is standing on his own A LOT these days. He even took 5 whole steps today!

And Kevin looks like he's 6 years old or something. Slow down kiddo!

He had his heart set on decorating with monster trucks. So he lined them all up and I let him choose 6 to become ornaments for the next month.

Finding a home for each one :)

He thought he could put the star on by himself, so I decided to let him give it a stretch.

I bought this when I found out I was pregnant with Kevin and it was on our Christmas tree in 2007.

This is Kevin. Yep. Can you believe it? Christmas 2008.

Grave Digger, of course, nestled into his branch.

Mark gave me this in the hospital last year :)

Yes! We have a Hot Light snow globe ornament from Krispy Kreme. And it's Kevin's favorite ornament on the tree!

My first Christmas away from home, in my apartment at college, I only had plastic shiny ornaments and I wasn't happy with my tree at all. So Mark bought me this one from a gas station. It's so ugly it's cute! :)

Kevin asked "Why is that Santa so ugly?" And I replied, "He isn't ugly. He's vintage." One of my cherished ornaments that belonged to my Gma.

Another of my very special Gma ornaments. It wouldn't be my Christmas tree without these!

Our Perfectly Imperfect Very Merry Christmas Tree!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rejected pants *upcycled* to Skinny pants

The first time I remember thinking, "I would like some pants that I can shove into my boots" was in December 2009 and I was probably already late to the style game at that point. The hubs and I went to a UFC fight in nearby Memphis and everyone had SUCH cute boots. I was envious. Plus, it was snowing and everyone else's boots looked much warmer than mine! Here's a picture of us in front of the FedEx Forum-

So then soon after this picture, we found out we were expecting baby boy #2 and summer came, then the baby came and it was pretty much an outstanding effort on my part just to be dressed, much less stylish, for about 6 months (some moms get it together faster...not me!) So now here we are again, winter upon us, and I still don't have any of these cute boots.

Enter Black Friday.

A tradition in our house, this year it was a little different. We were missing a person, and the stores messed everything up by opening at crazy times. We only wanted 2 things, but Target opened at midnight and Jo-Ann didn't open until 6 we had to find filler stops (including an inpromptu trip to Krispy Kreme. If you aren't from The South then you probably don't understand the magnetism of the HOT light. But, seriously.) We found ourselves at one point fighting the mob at Belk to catch some of the $19 boots. Mom and I each came away with 2 pair, and all of our appendages, so I consider that to be quite a success. I finally had some cute furry boots just like everyone else, and I was happy.

Until we got home and I realized some things:

1) The boots kind of look like they are lined with a Davy Crockett hat, fur around the top rim and fur down the backside, almost tail-like...

2) I'm not entirely sure I meet the age requirement to wear boots like this. I'm on the last half of my it still acceptable to dress in high school trends? Most of me says probably not, but part of me says I can squeeze it in for a few more years.

3) I still have no pants that I can shove into my boots, so having the boots does me no good.

As I considered each of these concerns, it was easy to rationalize away the first one. My husband didn't know whether it was Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone that wore the hat, and I'm banking on the No Child Left Behind Act to leave an open gap in the minds of those who are younger than me. So that means that only the older generations might think my boots are funny looking, but they probably think everyone's boots are funny looking, so it doesn't bother me as much.

Number Two wasn't as easy to overcome. BUT, I have a dear friend who rocks these types of boots and she is beautiful and graceful and I adore her personal style. And she is much nearer to my age, so I feel better about it because of her.

That leaves Number Three, and the purpose of this rant-blog. I'm not a physically balanced person. I think they call me "pear-shaped". So the whole skinny jeans/leggings/jeggings thing makes me a little nervous. A blog I read recently put it best "I don't want to look like a lollipop." So all of my jeans have straight legs, which Stacy and Clinton say are best for my figure. But damnit, I bought those boots, so I gotta do something now.

So I went into my "upcycle" bag and found a pair of jeans with a lot of stretch and oddly shaped legs that I *thought* were a little short for me. I tried them on. A little tight, but the legs sure did look crazy. They were perfect!

I turned them inside out, sat on the couch and pinned the excess jean away from my leg. Then carefully (VERY Carefully) I slid them off and took them to my sewing counter (which doubles as my kitchen counter). I drew a line along the pins, then removed them and lined up the other leg and made similar markings. Then I sewed the line. Simple enough, right?

Then I tried them on. I must have fat ankles. Stupid foot tiny. Plus I had some extra random baggy material up near the knee, so I adjusted my original line and re-sewed. This time they were nearly perfect, one foothole a little tight, but as good as I was going to get while both boys were up running around. I slid them on, put on the boots, and wore them all day.

I was so stinkin excited about it, although I'm not positive that I pulled it off. And my camera was MIA, so no pictures of the process. But I'm considering offering that as a service..turning old uncool jeans into new wearable ones. I also considered going into the show shop at Mom and Dad's and digging out all her late 80s jeans, which would be vintage and cool, without alterations. But I'm not ready to go acid wash just yet!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Handmade. From Scratch.

Last night, it occured to me how very lucky I am. My mother worked a 40 hours per week job, came home and cooked dinner for us. Occasionally, she would start meat in the crock-pot before leaving for work and maybe once every two or three weeks, we would eat leftovers. And then, even rarer, we would go out for dinner or my Dad would pick up pizza for us on a Friday night.

But, I think it's safe to say we had "homecooked" meals 99% of the time while we were growing up. Funny what you take for granted, until you are the one in charge of preparing meals for your own family. This thought came to me last night after a discussion with a young man who came into the store where I work.

He came around to the bakery and asked for a recomendation for a bread that would go well with "a handmade italian meal." He proudly professed to me that he was going to be making the entire meal by himself. From scratch.

I smiled politely as I thought to myself, "hey. kid. you can't buy handmade, from scratch, bread from the store. just fyi." Then I checked out the basket he was carrying. Bagged salad mix, ground beef, and Ragu. But I wouldn't dare suggest anything less than encouragement. I know that look in his eye. He was desperate to impress someone. So I sold him half a loaf of french bread and told him exactly what to do with it to make it go with, as I later discovered, spaghetti.

As I was labeling his bread, I asked if he was making the pasta himself, to which he immediately responded, "yes", under a wide smile. So proud. It was adorable. I looked at the clock, 7:49 pm. There is no way this young man was going home and handmaking pasta. Or cheese. He was carting around pre-bagged salad for crying out loud.

My assistant manager and I decided that he would probably be boiling pasta from a box, dumping in the Ragu, and calling it his own special recipe, without the slightest intention of fooling anyone. He would really consider it to be "handmade." I'm not making fun, or looking down on him, I just find it incredible that my generation's sense of "handmade. from scratch." is so far skewed that is resembles nothing of the sort.

Don't get me wrong, I love convenience foods. I sometimes enjoy cooking from scratch. But with two small children, it can be anything but enjoyable at times. As I type, I'm struggling with the decision of whether or not to grab an incredible deal on Pop Tarts tonight at the grocery store. I'm not trying to disallusion anyone by pretending that I cook from scratch meals every night of the week. But, I know...and I can appreciate...the difference.

Cooking from scratch is a labor of love, often taking much more time and effort than money. It's not easy, although my mother did a great job of making it look so. It requires all sorts of things you don't think about. Patience, the ability to follow directions, concentration, and most importantly...motivation to clean up your mess. Gag. That's my least favorite part of cooking from scratch. Soooo many dishes!

I hope that his dinner was fantastic and that he was praised greatly for his efforts. Maybe he enjoyed himself and intends to dive deeper into this world of actual preparing meals. What a unique skill to have in his arsenal of "ways to impress women". My sweet and precious Markie Poo has cooked dinner for me (discounting frozen meals from the microwave OR drive-thru fare) all of twice in our near 8 years. Neither time was during pregnancy or right after childbirth. Quiche and Turkey Burgers. Hmph.

I decided to make some handmade. from scratch. spaghetti for my family soon. This afternoon will be my 3rd attempt at making mozzarella cheese, so why not use it (assuming it actually works this time...) I'll admit, the idea of making the pasta sort of freaks me out, but I'm up for the challenge. Are you?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Greene Thumb Thursday: Water Conservation

One day last week we were outside, knee deep in chalk on the sidewalk when the mailman came by. Kevin loves to see the mailman. Naturally, we rushed to the box to see what awaits. My sweet innocent toddler, always the optimist said, "Maybe there is a magazine!", but as I am much older and wiser (?), I knew the truth. Junk and bills. Ha. Among the papers was a little postcard that I normally do not pay attention to in the least: our water bill.

Now, I know that many people have much larger utility costs than we do, but when we first purchased this home, our water bill averaged about $35 each month. Last month's bill was $50. So what, a $15 dollar jump in 3 years? NBD, right? Maybe. But I am an analyst, and I need to understand why it keeps going up. The rate is staying the same, so how are we using more water?

I quickly scanned my memory for additional water usage last month: I washed my mom's car after borrowing it (but I think that will be relfected on this month's bill), Mark watered our yard after throwing out some grass seed, and I stripped diapers once. I guess that's it. But I don't want it to keep going up!

Now, with summer in full swing a serious 2 weeks before the official start of the season, this above 90 degree heat is seriously threatening our meager boxes of plants. My dad, the garden master, has informed that if I intend to get anything out of my tiny little experiment, I have to water it once, and sometimes twice, a day. Sheesh! More water?

With no rain in sight, I started trying to figure out ways to cut back on our in-house water usage to offset what I'll be using on the "garden". Wash larger loads of clothes. Take 10-minute showers. Bathe the boys together (now that Z can sit on his own, I think this will be fine). Let Oscar keep drinking from the toilet rather than refill his water bowl (okaayy...I'm not going to do that. But seriously, if his water bowl happens to be empty, our fat cat will drink from the toilet like a dog!)

Then, while I was crunching some numbers and daydreaming about my sometime-in-the-future finished basement, I remembered a very important appliance we have. The dehumidifier! That thing pulls 2 gallons of water out of the air in our basement every single day. Ta-da. There is my extra water for the garden! Yay! The best part is that the water collected in our dehumidifier is that it is untreated and doesn't have added chemical "purifiers" that we pay this lovely county to add to the rest of our household water.

Now...if I could just convince Kevin to stop flushing the toilet a thousand times a day, maybe we could level-off or, dare I suggest, lower our bill...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Greene Thumb Thursday: Outside chores

After a month's absence on this blog, I decided in a meditative moment that I needed to get back to writing. It helps clear my mind and reminds me of things I want to tell my husband (when I see him!). 

This 'meditative moment' happened while I was in the middle of an outside chore with which I have a love/hate relationship. Mowing the grass. When I was finished, I changed my Facebook status to reflect how happy I am that God has given me two little boys who will one day be strapping young teenagers, with nothing better to do on summer break than mow the grass. Oh sweet days of the future! 

But, I really don't mind mowing the grass, I've been doing it for years. As it turns out, when you have several acres of "lawn" to mow on a weekly basis and God blesses you with two daughters...guess what? The girls learn to mow too! Along with many chores I don't care for, I learned a while back that it's best to just suck it up and get it over with (hmm...remind me to write that on a post-it and put it on the dishwasher. Why I put off emptying and re-filling the dishwasher until I just can't stand it any longer is beyond me!) My dad always did the intricate mowing; around the house, among the trees, and near the driveway. I was responsible for the larger, clear stretches of land we titled "the road bed, the field, the side yard, and the back yard". All in all, my share of the mowing took about 2 hours or so. I thought it was torture, but my dad now singularly spends about 2 hours a night for 3 straight nights (or, an entire Saturday) mowing the grass. Ugh. I actually grew to enjoy it somewhat. I spent the time clearing my thoughts, planning my days, or just daydreaming. It was really relaxing. And a job well done (ok, so more like...just done, ha!) was always punctuated with a jump in the pool. 

I once turned down a date with the reason, "I can't. I have to go home and mow grass." It WAS the 100% truth, I swear! I was still in high school, and it was summertime, which meant I was working two jobs. Monday-Friday from 6:45 am until 3:15 pm at Nashville Tent and Awning, then 4pm - 9pm at H.G. Hills 4 days a week plus weekends. The night in question happened to be my night off from the grocery store, and it was the only chance I would get to mow the grass....unless I wanted to spend my entire Saturday (until work) on the mower. My friend was really hurt by this, because he thought I was surely lying. But to me, mowing the grass was a normal chore. 

But, I said this was love/hate, right? Well, you see, I don't mind mowing, but I am terrified of it. I have two incredibly irrational fears associated with cutting the yard. The first one is that I am extremely worried that the mower is going to blow up while I am on it. Actually, just at the beginning, when I'm starting it up...and at the end, when I'm parking it. I *assume* this fear was born out of parking my Dad's mower for years and running wildly toward the stairs with my hands over my ears, waiting for it to backfire. I know there is pretty much NO WAY it can blow up just from trying to start it, but it doesn't change the fact that my hands still shake wildly when I turn the key. 

The second fear is that I will run over a ground nest of stinging wasps and be immediately swarmed and stung to my pitiful death. I think this fear comes from the fact that this has happened to me, twice (not the death part, just the swarmed part). The first time, I was innocently bending to tie my cousin's shoe when my foot covered the hole of a yellow jacket nest. I was stung 17 times. The second time it happened, I was mowing "the back yard" and noticed the hole just as I was going over it with the mower. I am from TN. I know what a nest hole looks like. I jumped off the mower and ran to the house, narrowly escaping the swarm coming out to attack the noise maker. The lawn mower continued going, right into the woods, and finally came to rest on a tree (Later that day, I secretly wished I had let the hornets attack me, because it would have been easier to deal with than the wrath of my Dad over the messed up mower). 

I am not the best person to be driving a mower. I run over sticks, rocks, toys, anything that I think the blades will chop, I just run over it. I mow fast and leave small trails of dandelions and long weeds that escape my hurried pattern. I mow around large objects (garden hose, bicycle, etc) rather than get off the mower and move them (see fear #1) and mow wide circles around trees (fear #2). But for the most part, I do a decent job, and I'm happy to do it. My husband works hard, and my "job" is to take care of the house and home. This includes the yard, right? Plus, he is taking a summer class on-campus that does not end until 9:15 pm, two nights a week. I work in the Bakery two more nights a week. That only leaves one weeknight or the weekend for my hubby to do the lawn care. I don't like giving up my time with him to something that I can handle during the daytime, so my little sister comes over and plays with the boys for about an hour (only about an acre of our land is "yard", so it takes considerably less time than what I dealt with in my younger years.)

Now, I do not use the weed-eater. I have not yet conquered irrational fear number 3: that I will cut my leg off. Maybe someday, but not today. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Greene Thumb Thursday: Planting Procrastination

The most stressful part (thus far) of growing our own food has been trying to get the plants in the ground! We have tentatively declared this year as the trial run of our eating local project and next year to be a strict(er) version of the goal. So our garden attempt for this year is basically a trial-and-error run also.

But, just because I already have acknowledged that we will for sure be going to the grocery store still at least once per week this year, that doesn't mean I'm okay with haphazardly going about raising a garden. I'm pretty adament about maximizing our production and minimizing waste through various different ways of preserving our (hopeful) extras. I'm fairly stubborn, and although I work well with others, I generally do appreciate when things go my way.

When you attend a liberal arts college pursuing a degree in Communications, there is a ton of emphasis focused on learning to work in a group. Which, obviously, is helpful when you get into the working world and have similar responsibilities. And thus far, in my initial plan to start a garden, I have realized that this...unfortunately...cannot be a one-woman show. It's not that I don't like working with other people, I just simply don't like my success to depend on another person. And just as getting a so-so average grade on a presentation (due to the halfassery by classmates) didn't sit well with me, neither does the idea that our garden production will be limited by people who may not take this as seriously as I do.

To illustrate this point, let me talk briefly about the last month. We knew early this year (February-ish) that we wanted a garden and started planning for one. Tending the ground in our chosen location was pushed back far past the last possible planting for the cool weather crops (good-bye lettuce, broccoli, and spinach...maybe in the fall?) and was encroaching on the first planting dates of the summer crops. That's when we realized why it kept getting pushed back and quickly moved to plan B: the raised beds.

We have yet to find the right place in our yard for the new garden beds. It's May (or might as well be). It's time to PLANT, but I can't. My devoted loving husband dreams big...real big. Rather than allow me to construct the beds in an area of the yard that we don't actually use (at all) so I could actually plant them, he decided to clear an area of our wooded land for me to use instead. I think the idea is wonderful, I just don't see our timeline allowing for that much earth-moving right now. And I'm big on schedules and timelines.

I have been known, on occasion, to be up until 2 am the night before a project is due. Usually, I'm not cranking it out, but fussing over tiny details until the wee hours of the morning. I'm not perfect, and am admitting here to self-plagiarism on 3 occasions within one month in high school (It's not MY fault that everyone wanted an essay on pretty much the same topic. Also, one of those counts did involve translating my essay into Spanish, so I don't think it counts). However, I think it goes without saying that procrastination has no place in gardening. And we've been waiting around long enough. Tune in next Thursday to see if we have come any closer to seeds in soil.

PS...just for kicks, here is a commercial from a few years ago that seriously sums up "group work" for what it (more often than not) tends to really be.