Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Week Before Vacation

Our last “vacation” with the baby was when he was three months old. We flew from Kentucky to Arizona where dear hubby spent two weeks in a training course for work and I traveled back and forth between the hotel and my grandparents’ house. I was scared as hell to fly with Mason at that age, but it turned out to be totally fine. He slept through both flights there. It was awesome. Look ... there he is, sleeping on the plane.

This trip, however, he’s at the age where he’s like a real person with feelings and thoughts or whatever, so we’re going to have to keep him entertained. Oh, and did I mention that we’re dropping off the dogs at a the kennel, driving three house to Louisville, spending the night in a hotel, flying out of Louisville the next day to Vegas for a two-hour layover and then flying to Reno? There we are renting a car, and hubby is dropping me off for the bachelorette party. Rehearsal dinner is the next night. Best friend’s wedding is Labor Day. Tuesday morning we fly out of Reno back to Vegas for another short layover before going to Spokane where hubby’s parents are picking the three of us up. Then we drive two hours to Hope, Idaho. Jesus freaking Christ.  So, this week is packing, cleaning and baking (to get rid of food).
Therefore, I implemented the following rules for the week before a long, far, vacation:

1.) Cookies are an acceptable breakfast. Especially if you make three batches of dough for friends and co-workers. Hey, that butter and eggs shouldn’t go to waste! 

2.) Set aside a few hours for a facial and a pedicure. Not a manicure because your nails will probably look like shit before you even get on the plane with all the packing and cleaning.

3.) Have a mini fashion show. That’s right. Put those kids in those clothes and make sure they fit. But then quickly take them off so they don't get dirty.

4.) Clean. Because nothing sucks more ass than coming back from vacation to a fifthly, smelly house. And if you need to take a break from cleaning for some yoga, that’s okay too.

Okay, I’m sure I’ll put up another post about traveling with an almost two-year old when we get back, but I’m gone for like two weeks or something. I don’t remember. 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cleaning the Cleaning Closet

Today I took little guy to the Dollar Tree. We were on a mission — A mission to clean the cleaning closet. It was getting out of hand as you can see …

Most of the plastic bins that I remembered seeing when summer began had been raided through already, but I found a bunch in different areas of the store. I was determined not to spend over $20 and get a butt load of plastic bins. 

Naturally, I left with a $37 receipt. 

Because … ya know … it’s the Dollar Tree.

It sucks you in like that.

I got a bunch of different style and sized bins because I wasn’t really sure how I was planning on organizing everything. I’m glad I did because even the bins that didn’t get used in the cleaning closet found homes in other closets.

Anyway, when we get home the mission is on! I pulled everything out of the closet one thing at a time. Okay, maybe I threw some shit away, but it had to be done.

Believe it or not, there was some thought behind the madness of this organization project. My dear 6’6” hubby is super tall. Because he is super tall, he doesn’t enjoy having to bend down to get certain items out of the cleaning closet. He actually doesn’t like getting certain items out of the cleaning closest at all. About six months after moving into the house, I wasn’t really sure he even knew we had one. No, that’s a lie, but you get the point. So, I decided on putting items that he uses up on the higher shelves; light bulbs, extension cords, tools, hardware, etc. I also put items I don’t use as much on the top (where I can’t really reach anyway), and the sides of the shelves, which are more difficult to get to.

The main things I use are the Clorox wipes, plastic gloves, dusting supplies, magic erasers and my cleaning bucket (which has a bunch of cleaning items that I can take with me from room to room).

A side note … I have this weird need to label things.

Like everything.

It’s a problem.

Obviously, the bins in the organized cleaning closet had to be labeled as well. I had some leftover Avery Ink Jet white Business Card stock which I use for labels. I love these things – I use them for business cards, mommy cards, luggage tags, household labels, thank you notes … so many uses! Just download the free online template, type up your labels and print. Highly recommended.

I hole-punched the top, put some reinforcement label stickers over them and added some leftover blue string to tie them off. They’re cute, functional and (hopefully) durable. 

I had already cleaned, organized and labeled the medicine cabinet a few months ago.

And the pantry.

I may have OCD. 

Anyway ... if you're cleaning out the house (maybe getting things ready for back-to-school?) I recommend going through your cleaning closet as well. It makes life so much easier when you know where the damn Lemon Pledge is. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Three “Thank Yous”

It is so easy to take people for granted in today’s full scheduled, fast-past world. So last week I made a pledge to thank three people for their help with something special. I know that when I'm appreciated, I'm more willing to help others and something tells me that other people feel this way too. So here it goes ...

Thank You # 1 

The first “Thank You” went to a customer service rep from Home Depot who went out of her way to really help me deal with a contactor that the company hired out. She could have just as easly ignored my calls and emails, but instead she stayed in constant contact with me, even providing her personal cell number.

So I sent her this email to thank her:

Dear Rachel,
I just wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for us. We really appreciate all your help dealing with (Contactor). You’ve made a very difficult process much more tolerable and I think it speaks volumes for Home Depot. They should hire more people like you; especially their contractors. 
I am so grateful to you for being available to come by when the installers were here and for all the great communication you provided. I know how busy you are and it meant a lot that you were always able to make time for us.
You’re a great person and I enjoyed getting to know you throughout all of this.
Thank you again,
Warmest Regards,
Jessica Ard

Thank You # 2

The second “Thank You” went to my mom. She flew out from Arizona and stayed with me for a week during which time she helped me install our kitchen backsplash. She also made a lot of super awesome, delicious food. And she babysat so dear hubby and I could go on a much-needed date.  

My beautiful mama and her grandson. 
Her and I have this thing where we send each other Sheri’s Berries for birthdays every year because we both enjoy those juice chocolate-covered strawberries. They’re seriously amazing. The card message thanked her for all her help in the kitchen.

Shari's Berries = Best. Gift. Ever.

Thank You # 3 (sort of) 

The third “Thank You” wasn’t really for anything particular. In fact, it probably was more of a “Just Because” than a “Thank You.” It was for my dear mother-in-law. This woman is amazing. She never stops. She takes care of so many people All. Of. The. Time. She lives with my equally awesome father-in-law on a lake house in northern Idaho and they have company all the time. As soon as one group leaves, another shows up. And she does all the cooking. All the cleaning. All the preparation. She called the other day to get a list from me of groceries she can buy so they are ready for when we visit in two weeks. So I wanted to do something special for her. We sent her a Cheese and Snack Board gift from Cherry Moon Farms

Cheese & Snack Gift. Yumm!

She had mentioned that she has plenty of wine in the lake house, so I thought, well, wine goes well with cheese.  

The card message said, 
“Dear Nana, Please remember to take a break from taking care of everyone else and take care of yourself. We love you so much. xoxo.”

So if you're reading this, I challege you to thank three people this week. It doesn't have to be expensive ... a simple email will do the trick. 


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stalking a Butterfly

Little guy and I are in the kitchen yesterday eating a late lunch when out of the kitchen widow I notice this giant, beautiful, yellow butterfly. It was gorgeous.

Naturally, I spend the next 30 minutes stalking it while humming the tune to Every Breath You Take. “Oh can’t you see, (what I think is a shallowtail butterfly), you belong to me.”

Of course my neighbor is outside mowing the lawn and sees me lying down in the grass taking photos of not my child. I think he thinks I’m super weird.

Mason and Max have no idea what I’m doing either, but they follow my lead anyway. Good boys.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Fairy Garden

After I discovered Pinterest and learned a new way to waste a disgusting amount of my time on recipes I probably won’t make and workout routines I’ll defiantly never use, I found these amazing things called “fairy gardens.” Now, I have this strange fascination with tiny objects. 

Here’s a tiny potty, for example. 

And my tiny dog. 

And this tiny person that likes to stick his tiny, sticky fingers all over my camera. 

Anyway, I’m not sure how I’d manage to live life as long as I have without having heard of a fairy garden, but once I was introduced, I obviously had to have one. Pinterest has a million great ideas for them. So I spent some free time in March making miniatures for my fairy garden out of polymer clay. The gnome, mushrooms, bunny, turtle and snails are all polymer clay. 

Naturally, my fairy garden wouldn’t be complete without the Lorax to watch over the truffula trees. The Lorax himself took some time with the clay, but the truffle trees were easy. Just twist white and black strings of clay together, bake and hot glue some colorful fluff balls found in the school craft section at any craft store. Look how cute he is …

Lowes sold a black plant stand and I used it for my fairy garden for the front door area. Unfortunately, my house doesn’t have much of a front patio, so a thin, long stand would give me the most area for a garden without taking up much room by the door. I taped some cardboard together and stuck it on the bottom of the stand and hot glued some faux moss. The “river” is blue marbles that are also hot glued down. 

The white bench, vine arbor, birdbath, watering can and welcome sign came from a fairy garden kit that I purchased at Michales when their spring stuff came out. I also found it online here

So there you have it … my very own fairy garden. I hope you find some inspiration to make your own too because it’s so wonderful to have something so darling to see every time I come home. Of course, I do have an ongoing battle with this one bird who thinks its okay to steal my moss. Little bastard.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Upgrading the Kitchen

When dear hubby and I purchased our first home in August of 2011, I actually really liked the kitchen. At first. The pull out shelving and solid Corian countertops caught my eye, blinding me from the real problems of the kitchen. (I'm sorry for the lack of quality in the before images; they were from the original house listing.) The fridge, for example, was as old as the house and a side-by-side. I’ll tell you right now … if you shop at places like Sams Club or Costco, for the love of God, go invest in a French Door refrigerator that an actually hold family sized bags of chicken and frozen pizzas. Seriously. The only problem with my new fridge was the price. It kicked my wallet’s ass. Totally worth it though. Every single penny. Think about it … it’s the one appliance you literally use Every. Single. Day. 

Anyway … I think I’m getting off topic. Oh, the countertops. Okay, so the house was built in 2001. The Corian comes with a 10 year limited warranty. In 2012, we notice a small crack in the countertops. Over the course of the next year, the crack grows to 27 inches long. Yikes. If you noticed the timeline, the warranty on the countertops expired the year before. Shit. Yeah, we said that too. Okay, well we know what our tax return will be going toward this year. New granite countertops. Yay! The installation of the granite was probably the worst experience of my life and you can read about what to look for with granite install here. But that’s a different story. 

With a new(er) fridge, and beautiful black pearl granite countertops, it was only right that we replace the microwave, stove and dishwasher; all which were the originals that came with the house. They sucked too. The microwave had a crack in the door and made this satanic screeching beep when the food was done. You guys … it was not okay. I stopped using the microwave when my husband wasn’t home. I was pretty sure it wanted to take my soul. 

Anyway, we purchased the fridge a few years ago because I couldn’t handle the original side-by-side. The other GE stainless steel appliances were purchased through Home Depot. I had kept my eye on their website for a few weeks and pretty much just waited around for a sale to pop up.

Dishwasher: Top Control Dishwasher in Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel Tub and Steam Prewash $719 (10% off originally $799). Okay, this is the best dishwasher. Ever. You wouldn’t think it’s a big deal that the tub is also stainless, but it’s super nice to open the dishwasher after it’s been run and have the inside of the dishwasher look so clean.

Oven: 6.6 cu. Ft. Double Oven Electric Range with Self-Cleaning Ovens in Stainless Steel $1,169.10 (10% off originally $1299). The double oven freaking rules. The small over heats up in minutes and it’s so much easier to bake smaller things like cookies, or a cake.

Microwave: 1.6 cu. Ft. Over-the-Range Microwave Oven in Stainless Steel $249.  I’m not scared for my soul when I use this, so that’s a huge plus. Haha!

Sink: The stainless steel sink came with our countertop. We purchased the faucet separately, but also at Home Depot. Or Lowes. I can’t remember now. I am very well aware that the double sinks are the thing to do now, but I absolutely hate them with a fiery passion. I totally get how people love them for food prep and keeping dirty dishes separate, but they don’t work for me. I need a big sink that I can wash a cookie sheet in without having water splash up all over my shirt and gets me all wet. Dude. That used to piss me off so much. I mean, yeah, it’s just water, but I hated it. This new giant deep sink is amazing. I totally recommend giant deep single sinks. 

Backsplash: I had originally fallen in love with a beautiful mini brick tile that I found online but when I went to go order it, the tile was no longer available and on backorder. I called up the store and asked when they would be getting a new shipment and they told me four to six weeks. Four weeks passed, and I called again. That time, they told me six to eight weeks. Wtf? Apparently their shipments come from China, and something about the weather can delay them … whatever. My mom was in visiting and I needed her help to get this backsplash installed so we decided on another tile. I paid the $60 for two-day shipping to make sure the tile got here while she was. It’s really nice. It’s called Paragon Moon Jewel Mini Brick PatternTile. We did a half backsplash that borders all of the granite and a small section above the stove. We also used a warm gray grout. It totally works with our kitchen because it pulls black from the granite, silver from the stainless steel appliances and warm neutrals from the wall paint and the oak cabinets. I'm super happy with it!

When all was cleaned and done, we had drop just around 10K into the entire kitchen - that includes the granite, fridge, stove, dishwasher, microwave, sink, faucet and backsplash. God, I hope we get that back when we sell the house. I'll let you know how that goes ...

Till next time!

Monday, August 4, 2014

5 Things I wish I knew my Freshman Year of College

Hubby and I sat around this weekend filling out two job applications (for him) for some awesome positions that opened up in Texas. We have lived in Arizona, Nevada and Kentucky. It’s only fitting that we someday add “Texas” to the list, don’t ya think? After all “we don’t live in pussy states,” dear Husband likes to say.  

During the application process, we come to Education. We look up above my computer where I’ve hung our diplomas in two beautiful frames. Our black tassels hang down over the corners of each one. Both diplomas have the words “with Distinction” (meaning we graduated with above a 3.5 gpa.) The application asks for his college, major and year graduated. Nowhere did it ask for a gpa. Nowhere could he use his bragging rights about graduating “with distinction.” In fact, none of my jobs after college asked for my gpa; only confirmation that I did graduate.

It was then that we realized that our gpa’s really didn’t do much for us after graduation. Aside from a few scholarships during college, I can confidently say that my life probably wouldn’t be much different if my diploma didn’t have that tiny little line of text below “Bachelor of Arts.” In high sight, the mental breakdown I suffered after receiving a “C” in my Biology 100 class was completely unnecessary.

So that’s what led me to write up this post. Here it goes …

5 Things I wish I knew my Freshman Year of College

1. Declare your minor asap. This really F-ed me. I had already taken two classes for my Marketing minor before declaring it. The year I went to declare it, UNR stopped offering it as a minor because the Business School was so damn over filled. The classes that I had already taken then became my electives, which I was saving for more interesting classes. Yeah. That sucked.

2. Consider sign language as a foreign language. My major required four semesters of a foreign language. I ended up taking French because I did in high school. Only after my third semester did I find out that I could have taken sign language. As a mother, that really would have come in handy because babies can learn to sign before they can talk.

3. Take your worst subject first. I struggled in math and science in high school and then again in college. Luckily, the journalism program only required math 120. I got a B. I took this the first semester of college so that I could draw on some of the information I learned in high school. It helped quite a bit.

4. Research the professor. I enjoyed almost all of my professors. Even the hard ones helped me walk away with a great deal of knowledge. But I will say this: take a few classes from younger professors who are currently working in your field of study. I had professors who had been out of the advertising business for over 20 years. They were really helpful with developing concepts, but struggled with current technology. I ended up learning more about graphic design after I graduated than I did in school.

5. Have fun. Not too much. That comes later. I had a lot of fun in college. But the best time of my life was after I graduate. Sure, I had a 40 hour work week, but there was no homework after 5 p.m. Weekend weren’t spent studying for exams anymore and I actually had money to go buy things because I was being paid for my time. So I encourage students to have a good time, but go to college for the degree. Don’t let the booze, boys (or girls) and parities get the in the way of why you’re there.

My big brother & I at our graduation.