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29 April 2011

How do you blog so much?

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How do you blog so much?   Don’t you have 3 kids?

Yes I do.  …and that is WHY I BLOG. Well, one of the reasons. You’ll have to go back there and click that link to see my answers of WHY I blog. …as to the how?   I have a schedule and I have lists.  As with everything in my life with 3 kids, I can't really accomplish anything unless it is done in the most efficient, scheduled manner. Since I want to blog and in some ways I have to blog (for mental health friends!), I want to make room for it and I do that by following a flexible, but rigorous schedule.  



Here is how it goes…

The blogging process begins on a Tuesday of any given week with various projects around the house. Cooking and Gardening are just part of my everyday life with the boys, so as I’m going about my business, I will grab the camera (that is always sitting out) and snap photos of what we are doing. There are usually 2 days of general photo taking that takes maybe a total of 15 minutes throughout the day.

Usually one day a week is a DIY day. I paint, sew, carve, and hot glue stuff. It is on one of the days that my oldest is at preschool , and the babies are napping part of the time. I work like a maniac those 4 hours, making my living room or basement a total mess, but turning out anywhere from 2-10 projects. I make sure to do DIY days on a day when the house is already a mess and not when guests will be coming over.
The day or two after a DIY day is a cleaning day. As I mentioned before, I let the house get messy, then make it messier with a DIY day and then clean the whole shebang before we have dinner guests, or parental visitors, etc. etc .

After I have a couple folders of DIY, Gardening, Cooking and random photographs, I sit down one night, watching 3 or 4 shows via DVR and edit all of them in one big batch. Then, I will write the photo based posts and keep them in the queue. What? You think having a queue is cheating? Sorry friends, you would end up with 10 posts late on Saturday night and another 6 around 12:30 AM on Tuesday if I just published as I wrote. Writing posts for the queue also has the added bonus of some down time in between writing and publishing, so I get to scan my writing with fresh eyes a few days later. I usually catch mistakes and weird writing a lot easier when I’ve had a break from what I’m thinking and writing.

Moving on…I used to try to write blog posts in between changing diapers, making meals and chasing 3 chickies around, but it took forever and was frustrating for me and for them. I decided to give myself “prompts” as I thought of them and then at one time, I sit down and write posts from my list of prompts. Lately, I’ve been taking the laptop into the market on Saturday morning and in between talking to customers, I use the downtime to sit and type, type, type away. I can usually power through 5-15 prompts in the 4 hours I am “working” at the market.

Then, the daily task of blogging turns into a 5-10 minutes per post combining content with photos and formatting it to look pretty (I hope!) on the blog.  So yes, of course it is a part time job, but it is a part time job that I love and a part time job I have made manageable with 3 kids by a flexible, but rigorous schedule.

You might wonder what slides around my house if I am working so hard on blogging. Well, there are a couple things that I have given up. One is a ton of friends. We have moved a lot, so I haven’t made a lot of close friends, so I connect with old friends via blogging, and facebook and letters and meet a few here and there as I get settled in here in PA, but for the most part, I really don’t hang out with friends on a regular basis. I find it incredibly difficult to pack up the kiddos and all the stuff they need, find a time between naps and get myself presentable just to go hang out. So I don’t have a ton of friends.

The other thing that goes is the cleanliness of the house sometimes. It try to not let it get too dirty, but with 3 boys it just does. So, I’ve joined the insanity and let trains stay out for a few days instead of a few hours and let the playroom usually stay impassable during the week. There are probably too many dust bunnies in corners and the mirrors are cleaned about once a month. It used to drive me nuts, so I jumped into the madness and stopped trying so hard to keep it spotless. It just isn’t going to be for another 10 years or so.


Guess who made this mess?

Finally, the last (and perhaps biggest) thing that we have given up is money. We decided a long time ago that I was going to stay home with the kids, and I surely could not blog if I weren’t at home doing mundane things like boiling eggs, planting ranunculus


How do you get it all done in a day?


27 April 2011

Repurposing Kitchen Stuff as Office Supply Accessories

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Yesterday I was at Target and there were desktop organizers 75% off.  I kind of looked at them and then passed the deal up.  SHOCKING!  A year ago, I would have swooped up those pen holders and envelope storage pieces, but my taste lately has veered more towards using vintage kitchen pieces, particulary whiteware or milkglass for office supplies.

Take this bundt cake pan.  40 cents at the thrift store, it was in great shape and super sturdy.  PERFECT for storing photos because they can fan out a bit so you can see a good number of them at the same time.


You could stick some pencils or pens in that middle slot too if you wanted.  
Or pop a candle in the middle and float some around the outside...
Or fill the pan with jellybeans...
or buttons and snaps...
SO much better than a cardboard organizer from Target...


Then there were these little teacups.  Isn't the color divine?
There were also a few plates and saucers, but I just want the cups for 15 cents each. 


They are glued together and hold any number of office (or garden) supplies.
Right now, they are the proud containers for seeds, safety pins and push pins.


The repurposing isn't relegated only to the kitchen however.  
I've been using various sized pots for office storage too. 
How perfect is this pot for storing seed packets?



How about an olive oil dispenser that has lost it's tip?
Perfect for paintbrushes...



Ball jars, jelly jars and various strong, but cheap glassware options are no-brainers for flowers, 
but how about pens?
...and notice how clips fit perfectly on the sides?


How about knitting needles?  A large glass jar holds them well too...

 I could go on and on and on...but it is your turn!  
What have you repurposed from your kitchen?  Are you tired of "office storage" pieces from box stores?

26 April 2011

Cheapest, Easiest Apron EVER.

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Want a cute apron?  
Buy a cheap, clearance or vintage cloth placemat.  
Place it on the front of your waist and measure a thicker, strong ribbon like this rickrack around your back.


Pin or just hold onto where the ribbon meets the placemat, then simply sew (or hot glue!) the ribbon to the two corners.

Pull the ribbon tight around the front and tie a bow.  Allow the materials to pucker and ruffle if you want.


Easy Apron :)


25 April 2011

Raising Free Range Children through Free Range Chickens…

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I recently found Lynn’s site through babble and I kind of devoured it over the course of an afternoon. Do you do that with new blogs you like? You stumble upon something that really hits home and then you just read and read and want to see everything that person has ever written? 

Anyway, she is all for free range children. So am I. …and while I am not for letting my kiddos go alone on the subway yet, I am totally with her on a lot of things. She is an advocate for being able to leave your kids in a locked car on cool days to drop your preschooler off at school or running in to drop off library books. She is an advocate for letting your kids actually play outside without constant over the shoulder supervision. She is an advocate for letting your kids have a little adventure and a little life in their life. So am I.

It drives me crazy that I feel extreme amounts of guilt for leaving my sleeping baby and grumpy 2 year old buckled in their carseats, car off, 50 degrees out and raining while I run my eldest into the preschool class a few hundred feet away. What could possibly happen that would be prevented if I were there? Isn’t the risk of pneumonia from the rain a bigger threat than whatever could happen in the 30 seconds I am leaving them buckled in the car. Seriously?

I want my kids to skin their knees and learn how to take a fall. I want them to bonk their heads a few times and climb trees and learn how to build a campfire so they know their limits and they know adventure. I want to raise men that know how to hunt and fight, but men that know when to use their skills. I want to raise men that love to play and love to seek adventure, but men that don’t need to do those things in adulthood because a need for those things was not met in childhood.

I have to stop myself from running behind the big wheel jeep when my 1 year old is strapped in and I have to stop myself from yelling at them to stop rolling down the hill because they are going to run into a tree. I need to make myself join them when they are sledding and join them doing cannonballs into the pool because it is not my nature to want to do those things (but of course I enjoy it once I join in!) 

…and the chickens? They will be free range and their diet of chicken feed will be heavily supplemented by weeds, grass and hopefully stink bugs in our yard. My kids are going to learn to be kind to the chickens, lest they get pecked and my kids are going to learn to care for the chickens by giving them food, and water and cleaning out their pen. They are going to learn how to handle eggs gently, and they are probably going to break a few along the way, but they are going to learn. They are going to learn that this is where chicken nuggets come from. They are going to learn to respect the food we eat. (No, we are not going to eat our chickens, but I want them to see the creature that meat comes from).

There are so many things I want to teach them, and so many things I am sometimes scared to teach them. Should I protect them from bullies or give them a lesson in how to swing a fist and then teach them whether they should use their skill or just walk away? Should I teach them how to carry scissors to lesson the chance of an accident or just not let them have scissors until they are 15 years old? Should they have to use baby scissors when they are no longer babies, or should I lecture them until they are deaf on proper scissor safety?


Such are the lessons of parenthood. While I am on the free range side of the fence, I still have questions and concerns. I know that I won’t ever know if every decision is the right or wrong one, but I at least want those decisions to be conscious. I want to make rational decisions on how to raise my children well. Decisions that are not based on public or popular opinion.  I want them to know of danger and know how to handle themselves, but I don’t want them to ever have to use their skills. I want them to be adventuresome, but I don’t want them to ever get hurt. I want them to be strong, but know how to use their strength to help the weak.


Are you a free range parent? 

While this is a serious post, I wanted to leave you with a few photos of the said chickens to make you smile.  
Remember when they were THIS BIG?  Now they are teenagers, with actual feathers and attitudes to boot.
 This little one has more attitude than all of them combined...watch that head cock...
ok...so a photo doesn't accurately capture the attitude...you just have to trust me that the cock of that little girl's head is deFIANT

22 April 2011

Indulge me it's spring...

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The weeds are getting to me.  ...like seriously getting to me.  They are insane.  They are everywhere.  They are strong.  ...and the rain makes them grow SO FAST.  ...so indulge me while I take close ups of the lovely things that are blooming, and pretend I am not cropping out mass amounts of weeds.

Does anybody know what kind of cherry tree this is???

  There are at LEAST 15 varieties of daffodils this year.  I can only take credit for 3 or 4...


...and happiness is me to see peony buds...grow babies grow!  Conquer those weeds!



...and one of the great glories of spring...watching one of these...


...turn into mass quantities of these...



...and these babies are blooming indoors and out...Bradford Pears???  I think?  
Whatever they are, they are lovely and I have vases full of flowering branches that I rescued from the branches Alex cut for THIS PROJECT.


...and while I love the beautiful whites and subtle colors changes of spring, sometimes a jolt of color is all you need 
to jerk you out of the winter doldrums and thrust you into the vigor of spring.
These sedums surprised me with lime green growth a few days ago and this redbud is trained into a bush form instead of a tree...I was surprised and happy to see it bloom!

...and the best part of spring?  Watching a sweet little black and white bird checking out this house.
Someday I'll manage a picture of her...

...so how do YOU divert your attention from the weeds?

21 April 2011

Glee beat me to it...

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If you are a creative type, you know that getting to the idea first is one of the challenges and rewards of creating.  If someone creates something that is exactly like what you have been thinking, and publishes it before you get your stuff out there, it is a blow.  You keep kicking yourself for not working faster or harder on your ideas.   If it is something that has been done a million times before like a taco recipe or a fabric flower tutorial, you can relax a bit because you can make yours different.  You can make yours with better photography, or clearer steps, or your own little twist on the project.  …but if it is something brilliant and you’ve never seen it done before, there is this rush to do it and do it well and do it QUICK!
So, here is my dilemma.  A few years ago (yes YEARS!), I was cutting up sweaters to make little slings to photograph babies in.  After using the bulk of the sweaters, I had all of these sleeves leftover.  I tried to think of what I could use them for.  Ricepaks were an easy solution and a few of them went that route.  Then, one day I was cold, and sewing something and I put the sweater sleeves on my arms.  Arm warmers!  Brilliant!


You know how when it is cold outside it feels good to have long-sleeved shirts on.  Not just long-sleeved as in not short-sleeved, but long to the middle of your hands shirts that you can tuck up under your chin with a mug of coffee long.  MMM…makes me wish for some snow right about now.  (WAIT!  Did I actually just wish for snow again?!?  No, No, NO.  Please God, I am loving the tulips, don’t let it snow!).  Anyway,  since it is hard to find lots of shirts that are that long sleeved, you can substitute with arm warmers that keep your hands and forearms toasty while giving that luxurious, middle of the hand length.

I thought I had stumbled upon something brilliant, but I didn’t do anything about it…I just used sweater sleeves for myself…no sewing, just toss them on when I was cold.  Skip ahead a few years and I decided to actually hem a pair and put a thumb seam in and the sleeves were even better.  They kept slipping down, so I also create a tighter seam along with back seam to fit them specifically for my forearms.  The only problem was that my husband said they looked like casts, so I decided to add a bit of embellishment so they don’t look silly.


Just a simple rose and they look a lot more like arm warmers and a lot less like casts.  
They are just attached with bobby pins, but if you wanted a permanent solution, you could easily sew or just hot glue embellishments on.


you can ignore the dirty gardening hands and fingernails :)

…and then I forgot about them again.  No little blog post, no making mass amount of them…just using them when I got cold.
 
Then came Glee.  …and there was an episode where Rachel got Brittany to follow her “Trends” so that she could become popular.  Brittany, not being the brightest apple in the basket, started her own trends instead, infuriating Rachel.  Guess what one of those trends was?   
You guessed it!  Arm warmers. 

Now, the warmers were clearly kind of a spoof on Glee and not really something that is necessarily supposed to take off and be successful, but I was still a bit peeved at myself.  Arm warmers are really quite fantastic and I totally missed my chance to get to them "first".  

Ah well, so it goes…at least my arms are warm :)

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*Disclaimer...I realize that someone has known of these for years and years and years and I wouldn't have been first anyway... :)

20 April 2011

A New Towel Rack...for free

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Guess where these are hanging...
It's the back of a chair!
The chair was in the trash because one of the bottom supports was broken. 
I picked it up because I needed a seat for this rocker...


Once the seat was used, that left the broken bottom (which was used for a family firepit night) and the back.  
The back just screamed towel rack, so...


Now, if I could just find 6 or so more of these to hang around the perimeter of the bathroom, painted different colors, but finished off with similar detailing and towels...THAT would be fun.  TOTAL COST for this project - FREE!  
(unless you count the spray paint which is $1 and has already completed 3 other projects...so I'm going to go with FREE!)

19 April 2011

THE DOMESTIC MONASTERY

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I just read this over at Renee's BLOG and after a long morning of cleaning and baby rustling, it hit home...it is a little long, but absolutely worth the read...


THE DOMESTIC MONASTERY

Carlo Carretto, one of the leading spiritual writers of the past half-

century, lived for more than a dozen years as a hermit in the Sahara

Desert. Alone, with only the Blessed Sacrament for company, milking

a goat for his food, and translating the Bible into the local Bedouin

language, he prayed for long hours by himself.


Returning to Italy one day to visit his mother, he came to a

startling realization. His mother, who for more than 30 years of her

life had been so busy raising a family that she scarcely ever had a

private minute for herself, was more contemplative than he was.

Carretto, though, was careful to draw the right lesson from this.

What this taught was not that there was anything wrong with what he

had been doing in living as a hermit. The lesson was rather that

there was something wonderfully right about what his mother had been

doing all these years as she lived the interrupted life amid the

noise and incessant demands of small children. 



He had been in a monastery, but so had she.



What is a monastery? A monastery is not so much a place set apart

for monks and nuns as it is a place set apart (period). It is also a

place to learn the value of powerlessness and a place to learn that

time is not ours, but God’s.


Our home and our duties can, just like a monastery, teach us those

things. John of the Cross once described the inner essence of

monasticism in these words: “But they, O my God and my life, will

see and experience Your mild touch, who withdraw from the world and

become mild, bringing the mild into harmony with the mild, thus

enabling themselves to experience and enjoy You.” What John

suggests here is that two elements make for a monastery – withdrawal

from the world and bringing oneself into harmony with the mild.


Although he was speaking about the vocation of monastic monks and

nuns, who physically withdraw from the world, the principle is

equally valid for those of us who cannot go off to monasteries and

become monks and nuns. Certain vocations offer the same kind of

opportunity for contemplation. They, too, provide a desert for

reflection.


For example, the mother who stays home with small children

experiences a very real withdrawal from the world. Her existence is

definitely monastic. Her tasks and preoccupations remove her from

the centers of power and social importance. And she feels it.

Moreover, her sustained contact with young children (the mildest of

the mild) gives her a privileged opportunity to be in harmony with

the mild that is, to attune herself to the powerless rather

than to the powerful.


Moreover, the demands of young children also provide her with what

St. Bernard, one of the great architects of monasticism, called

the “monastic bell.” All monasteries have a bell. Bernard, in

writing his rules for monasticism, told his monks that whenever the

monastic bell rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go

immediately to the particular activity (Prayer, meals, work, study,

sleep) to which the bell was summoning them. He was adamant that

they respond immediately, stating that if they were writing a letter

they were to stop in mid-sentence when the bell rang.

The idea in his mind was that when the bell called, it called you to

the next task and you were to respond immediately, not because you

want to, but because it’s time, it’s God’s time. 



For him, the monastic bell was intended as a discipline to stretch the heart by

always taking you beyond your own agenda to God’s agenda.

Hence, a mother rearing children, perhaps in a more privileged way

even than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her

will, to constantly stretch her heart. For years, while rearing

children, her time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in

second place, and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out

and demanding something. She hears the monastic bell many times

during the day and she has to drop things in mid-sentence and

respond, not because she wants to, but because it’s time for that

activity and time isn’t her time, but God’s time.


The rest of us experience the monastic bell each morning when our

alarm clock rings and we get out of bed and ready ourselves for the

day, not because we want to, but because it’s time.

The principles of monasticism are time-tested, saint-sanctioned, and

altogether trustworthy. But there are different kinds of

monasteries, different ways of putting ourselves into harmony with

the mild, and different kinds of monastic bells. Response to duty

can be monastic prayer, a needy hand can be a monastic bell, and

working without status and power can constitute a withdrawal into a

monastery where God can meet us. The domestic can be the monastic.

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, in the Seattle, WA, The Catholic Northwest Progress, Jan. 18, 2001.

Repurposing a Spoon Rack

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I love love love these kind of projects.  Lately, when I go to the thrift store, or a yard sale, or anywhere there are good clearances, I have stopped looking for pretty things.  You see, even the thrift stores have picked up on what sells quickly and what everyone wants for "repurposing" projects.  Ball jars used to be 10 cents.  Now they are $1 because everyone wants them.  Right?  Have you noticed this?  Everything you want to grab for cheap suddenly has a bit higher price than you were expecting?  Well, the thrift stores want to make $ too, so more power to them, but I have changed my strategy lately to look for the ugliest thing, marked way way way down.  I look for the thing that I remember everyone having...the thing no one wants anymore.  Why?  I'd like to attempt to find new ideas (even though there are none), unique inspiration (does this exist??) and a cheaper pricetag (doable!).

Lately, I've been swooping in on those old 50's bill organizers with hooks on the bottom for keys and reworking them for my market shoppe.  They are cheap and apparently EVERYONE had one at one point because I find them everywhere.  I love the metal ones in great vintage colors...

Anyway,  a few weeks ago, I was whipping through a few garage sales and I found something really, really ugly for 45 cents.   It was one of those horrible cheap wooden spoon display racks, sitting on the bottom of  a box, ignored.  Of course it was ignored!  It was ugly and awful and everybody is trying to get rid of them.  PERFECT.

It got a quick cleaning, a sanding and a couple coats of paint.  Then I stocked it with my art supplies and it got a whole new life.

Total Cost - around 80 cents between the 45 cents and my estimate of paint. If you are super observant, you might notice all my recent projects (like THIS and THIS) are the same color.  That would be because they are all from the same can of spray paint ($1.00 @ Ollies). 

It works well for art storage for several reasons.  
The first is that the spoon slots can be used to simply hold items in the large slot, or smaller items can be wedged in the small opening.
Those slots would also be perfect for drying flowers...


The nailhead is covered with a little bit of pom pom ribbon to dress it up and the bottom of the rack holds more supplies.  
The tag in front is a fabric scrapbooking tag I had and all of the supplies were hanging out in desk drawers.


What is the ugliest chiched item from the 50's, 60's, 70's or 80's that you want to think of a makeover for?


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