Sunday, January 30, 2011

Plan for Success

This weekend started out sunny, me cheerful,
and has ended rainy, me sour.  

Slowly but surely, my energy and patience was sapped out
over the last 48 hours.

My adorable children, my long-suffering husband, my precious puppy...everybody is lucky they made it out of this weekend alive, to be completely honest.
Still, the weekend wasn't a total bust. 
Homemade ice cream is delish!

And I made some serious headway on some big projects around the house.  In fact, so many people start off January with big plans for getting organized that I've decided to share my secret.  Let's say you have some looming issue that needs to be dealt with.  Maybe, hypothetically, of course, it's 9 loads of laundry, or a living room full of cupboards and drawers that haven't been cleaned out or even been usable for the past two years.  Hypothetically, you understand.  But let's say "you" find yourself in need of a plan for tackling this issue...try mine:

1.  Stand up.  (Do not skip this step.)
2.  Walk over to the offending area, and pick something up.
3.  Either throw it away or put it away.
4.  Repeat step 3 until the area is cleared.

BAM!  I'm a genius.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Darn It

I found out a couple of weeks ago that I've been ALL WRONG when I put TWO SPACES after a period when I type. Did you know this? It is how I learned to type, from Mr. Moyer, at my high school during senior year. It's how I've always typed.

I have written three sentences in the above paragraph; my thumb automatically tap-tapped the space bar after each period, and I then pressed BACKSPACE once to adjust it. Just happened again. And again.

What are you doing, currently or in the future? (Just did it again.) Have you always been a single spacer, or are you trying to retrain yourself, or do you not care at all?

Also on my mind lately:  the number of times I've read "I hope he's okay" when referencing Steve Jobs stepping down from Apple for "medical reasons". That would be:  zero times. I've heard that zero times. I've heard lots about stock prices and the future of gadgets as we know it, and operations flow charts, and all kinds of things that I guess people think are very important, but I've yet to read a single "here's to a speedy recovery, Steve". (Just did it again.) (aaannndddd....just went back and edited out an additional 5 double spaces. People, please schedule an intervention.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And This Is Why...

...I keep my old-school, circa 1989, cheese grater.  

(It saved taco night!)

...I keep my old-school, circa 1992, husband.
("I read on your blog that your students liked stationary.  
You can give them this too, I just found it.")

Monday, January 24, 2011

Teacher's Pet?

Being a teacher of little kids is a lot like being a mom to little kids.  In other words, totally frustrating, completely chaotic, and often horrifying.  haha!  I am not even kidding.

One thing that comes up a lot is the idea of "favorites".  I tell both my kids they are my favorite.  And it's totally true, so I don't feel bad at all.  Maybe there's some way I'm supposed to avoid using the word "favorite" at all, maybe I'm damaging them both (add it to the long list of things they'll be discussing in the future with either a talk-show host or a therapist), but it's true anyway.  They are, each of them, my very favorite person in the whole world.  I don't understand the physics of how this works, it just does.  It's like the sum of your favorite is greater than the parts of your favorite.  Or something.

Okay, so it works with my boys.  But then I run into this problem at school, too.  And it's not because I have "a favorite" in my class... it's more because every kid totally needs something different at different times, and I can't meet every need (see also:  I am only human) but every once in a while, there's such an obvious choice I can make to do something for someone and it always makes me stop for a second.  Should I not do THIS THING for THIS KID if I can't do EVERYTHING for EVERY KID?  When I write it out like this, it sounds absurd!  Of course, any rational person would choose the first, knowing the latter is impossible, and that even the question itself is totally ludicrous.

Yet, here we are.

Bianca is in my class, and she and a few other students gave me presents before the winter break.  I got drug store chocolates, a teddy bear, some Dove soap, and a beaded glamour bracelet.  I love each and every thing, and I wrote each student a thank you card and sent it to their homes during the two week break.

I probably don't have to tell you the profound effect this had and these kiddos.  I totally get it of course.  I feel the same way when I get mail today that's REAL mail, you know what I mean?  And I'm grown!  For a kid to get mail?  From teacher?  On a handmade card?  It's the trifecta!

I don't hand make cards, but I have very talented friends who do (that would be in Real Life and The Internets!) so they got some dang cute cards, I don't mind telling you. Bianca, in particular, asked me about how to make these.  She's carrying it around with her, by the way.  They all do.  

So, I don't make cards, and I don't scrapbook either, but for some reason, I have some supplies in my possession.  Pretty papers, some card stock, stickers, embellishments... I can remember coming across a couple of kits at deep-deep-discounts (like, a few dollars instead of forty!) and picking them up, but then never using them.  As you do.

I was cleaning the garage this last weekend, and I found this wooden box and these supplies.  I loaded a sampling of the papers and cardstock, plus just about all the sticker and embellishments, into the fancy box.

One thing that I included was this fun pattern for making your own envelopes.  It's the one thing I've used the pretty patterned paper for, actually, and they are super cute, for sure.

So, I opted for a tactical offensive move.  I get to work early, and no matter what time I get there, there are a group of kids eager to come into the classroom with me.  (Sometimes I need quiet; but I never turn them away...I turn them away at lunch at least twice a week though.  Honestly, sometimes I just need peace.  Left to their own devices, 80% of my class would never leave the room.  Okay.  But get out of my grill for 10 minutes, what do ya say?) This morning, the young ladies who joined me, I shared with them this present for Bianca (she wasn't there) and together we made a sample card, using the supplies so they could see how it worked.  Then, we decided there was something missing, so we  added glue and a couple pairs of scissors I've had forever, they are fancy scissors that cut wavy edges?  I told them this was for Bianca, and because B is such a peach of a kid, and because I managed to make them feel like the present was also from them, they were all on board for the gifting.  We left it on her desk and she LOVED it.

B of course is the kind of kid who shares readily, and soon enough, a group of girls was working on a card for Sweet Alice, who was missing her uncle in the cafeteria (I do not pretend to understand) and everybody seemed pretty happy.  Of course, tomorrow I'll be parsing out the rest of the patterned papers I have here at the house to the other girls who were such good sports about it all.

I'm such a sucker.  :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Paper-less Towels

I was talking to my friend Kristie on the phone the other day (hi! *waves at Kristie*) and it was so wonderful.  I love friends who call, because I'm such a hermit that, even when I think about picking up the phone and calling all the time, I just can't bring myself to do it.  But then, somebody calls me, or like I randomly phoned my friend Kate the other day, and it's so much fun to chat and catch up.  And then I always think, you know, what the hell is wrong with me?  Thank you friends, who accept me for how I am, and somehow don't hold that against me.

Anyway, one of the things that came up was the idea of cutting back (or making more responsible choices, at any rate) and she was asking about saving money on paper products and I am happy to report that one area that saves money and feels good, is in saying goodbye to paper products.

I used to buy and use a dozen rolls of paper towels every month, but now we use about two rolls during the same time period.   And look, it definitely falls under the "little things add up" column of things, I won't lie to you.  It sounds so silly to say, "I used to spend $12 on paper towels, and now I only spend $2 on paper towels."  But then over a year, you've saved $120 and that buys a lot of wine.  Just saying.

I live with a cat, a puppy, two young boys, and a man-child... we need paper towels.  But instead of using them, I've taken to cutting up old t-shirts and having an ever-ready, ever-growing, stash of scrap materials has been a real lifesaver.  Here's a stack I just made for my mom, using the leftover materials from the t-shirts I used when I made the blanket for Marie

And here's my collection.  I keep them in this basket on the counter, so they are as convenient and easy to grab as the paper towels sitting next to them.   Still, no matter how convenient I make the cloths, Erik seems to always grab for the paper towels. I bet if I just stopped buying paper towels altogether, he'd use the cloths more often, except I'm almost certain that the whole time, he'd be thinking, "Man, I wish I had a paper towel for this."   This falls under the category of "marriage maintenance" in my house... as in, I'm not going to go pecking at his neck about something this (ultimately) trivial. I'd rather he use cloths.  He goes for the paper.  We'll live.
They're so small, I just toss them in the washer with whatever load needs to be done; they don't take up hardly any room at all.  And when they're really good and gone, they just get tossed into the composting. 
If you're not already using this system, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January ~ Pillow Project

Hola!  Did you miss me?  haha! :)  It was nice to take a break (mostly!) from computer-related stuff.   I think it was the right thing to do; finding "new normal" is tricky. 

I'm not much of a 'resolver' for the New Year.  I've never been one, but I do love to have goals...they just aren't typically tied to a holiday!  Normally, I just wait until the mood strikes (read:  I've put something off as long as I humanly can) and I'm ridiculously reflective by nature (it's exhausting, really) so the mood strikes fairly often.

This year, though, I did make an official New Year's List of Shit To Do (oh!  related:  resolution number one is to increase casual swearing).  There are lists by category, then within category by month, then within month by project.  Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE A LIST?  Because seriously, I even got a new rainbow notepad in which to write all these lists.  Be still my heart.

Anyway, January, under the category homemaking (shut up), I have a pillow case refresh on the bill.  There are five pillows on our bed.  There are usually four people in our bed.  Three pillows are in cases, the other two were tragically naked.  Not only were they tragically naked, but they were frightening to look at.  They don't bother me in the least, because I know they're clean (they've been through the washer, with vinegar to rinse, and line dried) but they definitely do not look clean.  They've been dragged to camp-outs, if that gives you any idea of what we're dealing with here.

So, on my list for January is to get a set of pillow cases together for these extra pillows.  Our sheet sets have enough for two of the pillows; Erik has a pillow with a flannel case (decorated with fish) that he won't let me touch (because it's perfect); and that leaves us with two naked, ugly pillows. 
On Saturday morning, Tommy had his first baseball practice (OH MY GATO, seriously) and it was thankfully sunny, and not too cold for once, and I sat there for two hours and added the crocheted edging to two pillow cases from the stack Gram gave me.  So sweet!  I love it.

Oh, but then, you know, it didn't fit.  So I was going to just buy new pillows (you can get them for like five bucks each) but then, I would just have to throw these into the landfill.  Like I said, I know they're clean, but it's not like I could give them to somebody else to use.  I promise you, no matter how good they smelled, or how much you like me, you would not use these pillows. 

 So, I figured I had nothing to lose...I cut open the end of the pillow, not really sure what I would find there, but knowing that if worse came to worse, I'd end up throwing out the experiment and, net/net, I'd be no worse or better off than before.
I cut off a fourth of the length by removing batting, then trimmed the (now) excess fabric, folded under, and sewed along the edge.
And they look smashing in their new clothes!  I know I only saved ten bucks.  Well, I also saved the money of buying new cases, by dolling up the hand-me-downs from my grandma.  So let's call it $15 saved.  Probably not worth it JUST to save money.  But, it was a really satisfying and quick project,  even with the eye-rolling and mocking I had to endure from Erik.  :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Growth Spurts

Posting has been light, I realize, but look at this mug!  So much cuteness, I'm telling you.

I'm working on a couple of big projects, that I'm rather liking, and that's taking up some of my time (I'll share soon, though!) and there's another project, called my kids that's also brewing.  We seem to be hitting some growing pains around here.  It happens, but this one seems particularly thorny! 

Tommy seems to be moving from Little Boy to Official Tween, and the emotional ups and downs have really taken us by surprise.  Erik and I have been (more than at any other time in our parenting 'careers') spending a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly he needs to make this transition.  I mean, he's making it, like it or not, but we'd sure love to smooth things out for all concerned.  And so far...that ain't happening.  We're interested in your thoughts on this, by the way, no suggestion is too crazy.

So, I'll be here.  Working on my projects, paying closest attention to My Boys, trying to stay warm, and I'll see ya in a few days. xoxo

Monday, January 3, 2011

No Butter

You won't believe this, but after ALL THAT, we still haven't settled on a name!  My mom (HILARIOUSLY) told me that her animals "just name themselves; after a while, a name will just come to you."  Oh, really, mother?  Your cats, "Mr. Gray and White Kitty" and "Fat Black Cat", their names just "came to you"?  You're a creative genius.

It almost doesn't matter what we name her, since we call her something different every day.  puppy wuppy.  cutie mccurly pie.  kitty.  girly-girl.  NO!  puppers.  The list is endless.  We tried every name you gave us, plus Tommy tried "Brack" (for brown and black together) and Scotty tried "Miss Brie" (his teacher's name) and we even tried Holly (because we got her on Christmas), and Snowball (because that's funny!), but, not so much.

But you know what's sticking?  You know what Scotty, in particular, insists we call her?  Popcorn.  POPCORN.  Come here Popcorn!  Get down, Popcorn!  I love you, Popcorn!  Who's the cutest pup?  Popcorn!  Tell me it's better than Spock?  Humor me?

Can I tell you, I did not even realize how much I wanted a puppy.  This puppy is my buddy.  I don't want to boast or brag, but this dog is THE BEST.  I mean it!  Her second night, we put her in a crate.  She yipped for 5 minutes.  I got up in the middle night and let her out for a ...stroll...then put her back in the crate.  She yipped for 5 minutes. 

The next night, she went into the crate, turned twice and fell asleep.  By the third day with the crate, she puts herself to bed during the middle of the day, and sleeps all night in the crate with no complaining at all.

I am in love with this dog!  Erik just shakes his head, but I know my happiness makes him happy.  :)

For future reference, so when I vent about this ludicrous animal it doesn't seem to come out of left field, here are some things I do NOT love about my pup:  alligator sharp teeth (ow), coming INSIDE to crap (grrr), shoe chewing (no!), completely spaz-tastic for 10% of the time.  She sleeps 85% of the time, so let's just say...this first year is going to be rough.  :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Totally Rad

I am in love with this project.  I don't even know how long it's been going on; I've been watching it on and off for a couple of years.  It's unbelievable how far they've come in the last few years.  It was on my radar last week because they're looking for votes to come to the Maker Faire.

From their blog, Factor e Farm this is their mission:
“We are farmer scientists – working to develop a world class research center for decentralization technologies using open source permaculture and technology to work together for providing basic needs and self replicating the entire operation at the cost of scrap metal.”

Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

They are basically designing and building a set of machines and methods that are open source, which means the plans are free for all,  called the Global Village Construction Set.  You should check out the videos and the wiki for their group, because it's hard to even fathom what they are doing (it's so AMBITIOUS).  Essentially, the set is just about everything you would need to build a community, from the house you live in to the food you eat, from scratch

On the wiki page, you can see another 2 minute video of progress with the Construction Set, including the compressed earth building blocks.  If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can see the "packages" they're open sourcing.  I mean, really, it's just too much!  You can get an operational saw mill going using scrap metal and their free plans.  Plus, it's all highly efficient and sustainable.  Imagine! 

What a beautiful world.  *swoon*