Thursday, April 29, 2010

Menu Planning Woes

A few years ago, I found Organized Home.  It’s an awesome site devoted to helping you organize all aspects of your home.  One of the suggestions I put into place was weekly (or monthly) menu planning

I’m sure many of you know how nice it is to know exactly what is on the menu for the evening and to know that you actually have the ingredients to make it!  No last minute grocery stops (well, not too many, anyway) or, even worse, fast food stops (unless you really, really want to).

I also have a pre-printed grocery list.  I’m not sure where I first saw this idea, but I have a list of the things I buy regularly that is posted each week on the inside of a cabinet.  When we need something, we mark it off.  I think this idea is pure genius (though my mom did snort at it the first time she saw it – but what does she know? I remember her regularly calling me on her way home from work to see if we needed milk…).

Every week (or month), I sit down with my menu plan and my pre-printed grocery list and I figure out what we’re going to eat and what I need to make it.
I then make my husband go through our cupboards to make sure we actually need everything on the list (I hate buying things we already have!).

Here’s what my menu plan generally looks like by the time I’m done:
Nice and clean, right?

I’ve gone back and forth between weekly and monthly menu planning over the years and it’s worked really well for us.  Recently, though, this has become a much avoided chore.  The reason? Picky eaters (read: kids!).

I have two daughters that are various levels of picky and, of course, only rarely do they actually like the same thing (chicken nuggets anyone?).  I’ve been realizing lately that their eating habits have limited our menu to 5 or 6 things, each of which one of them probably doesn’t like anyway.  It’s made meal planning a real pain.
We’re coming up with some strategies to address this issue, but I’m wondering what others do, so chime in:
  • Do you meal plan?  If so, what do you do?
  • Do you have picky eaters (or are you a picky eater yourself)?  If so, how do you handle that?

I'm linking up to:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Girls' Project - The Making of a Daybed

My sister and her baby are coming for a visit next month and it's been weighing on my mind that we don't actually have anywhere for her to sleep.  I've been considering all the options (from our inflatable bed to displacing Thing 1 and Thing 2 for a week) and I haven't liked any of them.

One thing I have been liking, however, is this PB knock-off daybed from Knock-off Wood.  That little beauty has been hopping around in my brain for several weeks now.  I've been trying to figure out the best place to put something like that, but there were really only a few options:
  • The office - that idea was nixed immediately. Our office is crammed full of stuff and we didn't want to lose the use of our computers whenever anyone visited (even if that is a rare occurrence)
  • The living room - there is technically room there to put in a sleeper sofa, but there are huge windows out to our front porch. There would be no privacy at all.  
  • The play room - Dingdingdingding! The room is also cramped, but it has a door and a closet and it's right next to a bathroom.
Here's the room in question.  It's a bit messy now (as it usually is) and we'd have to do some serious purging to make sure this room is still pleasant after the addition of a bed.  I'm thinking the bed would go under the window:

Once that decision was made in my head, I continued to ruminate for another week or two.  Yesterday I decided it was high time to stop thinking about it and start doing it!  I grabbed Thing 2 and told her my idea and showed her the pictures.  She was mildly interested, but when I told her I wanted it to be a project that we did together, she lit up! 

We got to work figuring out our supplies list then headed over to our local hardware store to buy some wood!  We ended up getting three sheets of very nice 4' x 8' birch plywood and, while it probably would have fit into our van uncut, we decided to have the nice people there do some of the large cuts for us (so we wouldn't have too!).  That turned out to be a stroke of good luck because the cuts we did at home took forever!  We were definitely following the measure twice, cut once formula (though it was more like measure four times, cut once).  We wanted to make sure our boxes were perfectly square, so we were very careful.

Once the wood was cut, it was time for the girls to get involved.  They already knew how to glue, but I believe this is the first time they'd ever used a drill to drill holes or screw something together.

By the end of the day, we had one of the boxes put together (the bed is just going to be three boxes, all screwed together) and, I must say, it looks very nice!
It was also very nice to be able to work on a project with the girls.  Sometimes, when I'm working on a big project, they'll complain that I'm always busy, so it was a good thing to be able to include them on this.
Of course, now I have to wait until they get home from school before I can do anymore work on it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How to Spend a Saturday - 4/17/2010

This will be the second time I've written about how I spent my Saturday.  My husband reminds me regularly that two events do not a trend make, but what does he know?  I'm thinking How to Spend a Saturday should become a regular event (mostly because it guarantees I'll have at least one post a week).  And how else do you celebrate the start of something new?  Fireworks of course!

OK.  Well, anyway, here's how my Saturday has progressed, so far: 

  • Sleep in until 8:00 (!) because everyone was tired from getting home at 11:30 last night after seeing the Mariners game.

  • Lose a few hours to who knows what, but finally get dressed by 10:00 (or so).

  • Marshall the troops to start cleaning the house (or at least the public rooms) because we're having 22 people over at 2:00 to celebrate, yet again, Thing 1's 9th birthday.

  • By noon, the cleaning is mostly done, but we have no food to serve and potentially no cake mixes.  Make grocery list for hubby to be done ASAP.  Find cake mix box in the cupboard.  Phew!  Get cake in the oven.

  • Noon-thirty, my mom arrives.  Hang out with her for a bit, watch girls try on the new outfits she bought and play with the totally fun new toys she brought for all of us.

(If you've never played with Flying Monkeys, you are totally missing out!)

  • Finally start making red and white frosting for the cute, yet completely dorky, cake my daughter has requested (you'll want to stay tuned for the pictures).

  • By 1:00, husband is home with more cake mix and veggies.  Make a batch of cupcakes because one 9" round cake will not divide into 22.  Get everyone involved in helping out and actually make good time.

  • It's 1:40 and people are arriving at 2:00.  That must mean it's time to start frosting a dozen or so cupcakes!

  • At 2:00, the first guests arrive.  Adults chat, kids play (loudly).  A good time is had by all.

  • 3:00 must mean it's time for presents and cake!  Hurray!
Yes, yes that IS a Pokeball cake for my daughter.  This is also over a dozen Pokecupcakes for my daughter:
The child is surrounded by adult geeks.  Is it any wonder that she's Pokemon crazed? 
OK, back to the day:
  • By 4:15, the guests are gone and we're cleaning up.  Seems like I've done hardly anything today, but I'm dragging now.  Must get dishes done.
  • 4:45: hubby and I try to get a cool picture of monkeys flying through the air, but eventually decide to steal download a picture from the Interwebs.
  • 5:00: Listen to the kids playing Pet Sportz on their new Wii (that they bought with their own money!) while I sit at the computer and try to come up with some (any!) idea for a blog post.
  • 5:45: Finish and publish blog post and wonder who the heck is making dinner tonight?
What about you, what did you do on Saturday?

Friday, April 16, 2010


My friend Becca is hosting her first linky party over at Home Is Where My Story Begins.  The theme is "Home and Family".  I've been wracking my brain about what to write since I've had no time for projects this week, but then it hit me: Family Traditions.

I'm sure we all have a ton of traditions surrounding Christmas, but that's another blog post. I'm hoping you'll join me today in talking about traditions you enjoy throughout the rest of the year.

The first family tradition of ours that comes to mind is the one that happens the most often: Family Movie Night. 

We have it every week.  I will admit that it originally started out as a way for me to not have to cook dinner and to corral the kids after a long weekend, but it's become a fun and much-anticipated event every week.  We take turns picking the movie and dinner (though it's most often pizza; I still don't want to cook!).  The kids generally pick movies we've already seen, but that's OK.  It gives my brain a chance to relax (and I admit it, I love the Barbie movies almost as much as they do).

Something that goes along with movie night is our pizza plates.  When I was pregnant with Thing 2, I had friends and family (including Thing 1) decorate some salad/dessert plates from a local ceramic shop.  When Thing 2 was old enough, she also decorated a plate.  Now we use them every time we have pizza.  Come to think of it, this is a tradition I brought from my own childhood.

Birthdays, of course, come with their own traditions. In our family, the birthday person picks the meals for the day (and we go out to eat for dinner). We also have a birthday hat that the birthday person is supposed to wear (this is a tradition that may not last much longer since I seem to be the only one who likes it).
Our favorite birthday tradition, though, is waking up the birthday person and surprising them with a donut adorned with a candle.  Well...we're supposed to be waking them up and surprising them.  The way it works now: the girls begin discussing what kind of donut they'll get the night before.  Then they wake up early and wait impatiently in bed for us to wake up.  Eventually, they'll send the sibling in to see when we're coming and, when we finally make it in, they pretend to sleep.  We sing Happy Birthday to "wake them up" and all share the donut.  It's a very nice way to start the day.

When Thing 1 started Kindergarten, I worried that she would miss us (because I knew I would be missing her), so I got her a nice charm bracelet and one charm.  I told her that she could use it to remember us if she got sad or lonely.  Each September, we add a new charm to the bracelet.  I look forward to starting this tradition withThing 2 this year.

Finally, Thing 2 and I did something this St. Patrick's day that I hope will turn into a new tradition: green food!  On a whim this year, we put green food coloring in everything we could think and giggled the whole time.  Just imagine what we could do next year with a little planning!

(OK, maybe we won't be making this for a while...)

What about you? What traditions do you hold dear?  Have your traditions changed as your family has grown?

I'm linking this post up to:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Frozen with Indecision

Some of you may remember my redone kitchen.   It's about 95% done, but I've been waiting to find a good deal on a pedestal table on Craigslist because I don't think the square table quite works in my eating area.

Well, yesterday, I found that great deal.  We went and looked and brought home a new (to us) clawfoot pedestal table with leaf.  Unfortunately, when we got it in place, it was too small without the leaf (yes, I forgot to measure before we left the house).  We put the leaf in and it works pretty well, though.

Unfortunately, now I'm not sure that the chairs work.  They seem too geometric for the table...

The guy threw in the chairs for free, so we brought them home, but I'm not sure they work either:

At least, not with my more geometric bar stools and fairly stark kitchen.

So, I'm freezing.  And now I'm even wondering if this is the table I should have gone with.  I turned down a couple of oval tables because they didn't have leaves, but now that I'm going to be using the leaf all the time, perhaps I should have gotten one of those?!

I'm planning to paint the table (whichever one that is) white and possibly paint the chairs white or maybe a different fun color, but I frozen.  I can't decide whether to go ahead and start on this table and what am I going to do about the chairs?

So, if anyone is reading out there, let me know what you think I should do.  Help me get unstuck!

Now, I don't know why I never tried this before, but I just put the leaf in the current table (the square one) and now I'm thinking maybe I like that best.  Maybe if I actually put a nice centerpiece on it, it would look complete.  That would certainly be the least amount of work!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How to Spend a Sunny Saturday

I finally got the organizing/Spring cleaning bug yesterday. I’ve been waiting and waiting and it just came on suddenly Friday morning. Of course, I had to work on Friday, so Saturday morning I asked my husband which room he thought was in the most need of a thorough cleaning. After some discussion, he and I both reluctantly agreed that it should be the office. We were reluctant because it looks like a bomb exploded in there. It’s really awful, which is why I’m going to share pictures!

Look at our cluttered work surfaces.

This is next to my husband’s desk. This area drives me nuts!

Here’s next to my desk. I’ve had the shredder and a pile of papers waiting to be shredded sitting there forever.

And here’s the closet *shudder*…

As you can see, we had our work cut out for us. It was so overwhelming; we didn’t know where to start! So, in my usual fashion, I just started pulling everything out of the closet and putting it in piles. My husband started on his corner.

As you might imagine, it got much worse before it got better:

Here’s our hallway during:

I paid Thing 1 and Thing 2 to do some shredding for us and, while, they didn’t finish it, they did make a dent in it. We found homes for most of the things on the floor and put a bunch of stuff in the donate and Craigslist piles and now the room looks like this:

I know that closet doesn’t look much better, but there were a bunch of things we just had to store in there. I’m pretty pleased that I got the filing cabinet in there, though. That helps a bit. The most exciting thing, though, was that I found an entire box full of homemade Raspberry Jam while cleaning out the closet. Thing 1 has been missing Raspberry Jam for a month now, but I told her she’d have to wait a bit until we can get some more raspberries. She was one happy camper when I showed her those.

This is my husband’s corner now. There’s still a pile of stuff in it, but it’s organized and I know what I need to get to help corral it.

The room is much less horrifying now and I feel like we accomplished a ton today, but we still have a long way to go. We really need to go through our filling cabinet and get rid of old files and organize what remains. And I need to figure out some sort of filing system that will be easy enough that I actually *file* things as they come in, rather than piling them on top of my desk until the pile is so huge things start falling on the floor.

Plus, I *hate* almost everything in this room (except my computer, of course)! The desk is gi-normous and everything is so yellow! I have plans for my husband to meet a great little site called Knock Off Wood this spring. There’s a desk plan there that I think will work very nicely. And the yellow paint definitely needs to go. I’m done with yellow!

But, baby steps. For now, at least I can see the desk and the floor and walking into the room doesn’t raise my blood pressure (well, not too much)…

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan…

When my oldest daughter (we’ll call her Thing 1) was very small, I had my mother-in-law teach me to knit. I picked it up pretty quickly and eventually decided to knit my little girl a blanket. I chose a very nice cabled pattern and a pretty rose-colored yarn. Unfortunately, I’d never done a cable knit before and I soon found out that I don’t actually *like* to knit, so that thing took me three years to finish! And once I finally sat down to get it done, I couldn’t find all the yarn (or I hadn’t bought enough) and couldn’t find more to match, so the blanket is a bit short. It’s worked fine for her, though, since she’s still fairly short herself and she loves it.

When my second daughter (Thing 2) was very small, I was informed by Thing 1 that Thing 2 would need a blanket as well. She was right, of course, but this time I thought I would be smart. I chose a pattern that was actually no pattern at all. A friend of mine has a blanket that his mom knit him that is simply a knit stitch from one end to the other. It is long and narrow with tassels at each end. The things that makes this blanket even remotely interesting are the yarn and the fact that the stitches run the length of the blanket and not the width.

So, I went out and bought a beautiful blue yarn with hints of purple and green in it. That was *four* years ago! Once again I was reminded that I just don’t like to knit. I don’t hate it, but it’s not something I want to do at night when I’m tired and sitting in front of the TV. At first, I chose to knit it with small needles (I believe they were 10). That took waaay too long. This was going to be a big blanket (I wasn’t going to leave Thing 2 with a too small blanket also)! After about two and a half years, I was about halfway done and I realized that I was never going to finish at this rate, so I started completely over with much larger needles. These new needles were much better and the blanket progressed at my usual snail’s pace.

Last Fall, Thing 2 started asking when her blanket was finally going to be done and I promised it would be by Christmas. Suffice it to say, I didn’t quite make the Christmas deadline, but I finally finished the length of it (without tassels) soon thereafter.

It’s beautiful…and about 8 feet long! I have no idea what happened. I wanted this to be a long blanket – at least as long as me – but not this long! I was so embarrassed about it, that I couldn’t bring myself to finish dealing with the yarn ends and putting on the tassels. Last week, she asked about it again and I made myself finish it. It is now complete. and ridiculous.

Thing 2 can lie on the top of it and double it back up over the length of her body and still have extra. She puts it on her bed and drapes the extra 4 feet across her room like a red carpet.

You probably are thinking, “Oh, it’s not THAT long,” so here:

Yes, it really is. Also note that it’s actually longer on the right side. Not sure what happened between casting on on the left and casting off on the right. Not even I would have picked up that many stitches, guess my knots just became looser, but good grief!

Here are some pretty pictures of it. The yarn really is beautiful:

I’m slightly mortified by this thing, but she is loving it, so I guess I should call it a success. And, if nothing else, I’m sure it will become part of our family’s lore in no time.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hole in the Wall - No More!

A few years ago, I caved and allowed my husband to talk me into getting a monstrous TV.  I think it's like 1024 inches.  Or something like that.  It's large.

While I do enjoy watching TV on it, it does leave something to be desired on the decorating front. It also left a big empty cabinet in our family room built-ins.

Do you see the empty square on the left just above the chair?  That's where our old square TV used to go.  We thought it was pretty cool when we bought the house.  It has a nice, pull out and swivel shelf so you can see the TV from any angle in the room.  (Yes, that's a speaker hanging from the top of the empty square.)  Of course, when you get a TV that's 2048 inches, it no longer fits in that nice, built-in cubby.  I'm embarrassed to admit that the cubby sat empty like that for a couple of years.

Finally, I'd had enough of this room and decided to stop thinking about painting the woodwork and turning that hole into shelving and actually do it.  Unfortunately, that decision came right on the heels of painting the kitchen cabinets and I couldn't bear to paint another thing. 

After the holidays, I was able to drag myself out to the garage to collect my painting paraphernalia and got started. Painting the woodwork really brightened the room and got me motivated to deal with that hole in the wall! 

The biggest problem with that cubby was that it was so deep.  It was basically unusable.  We had to make it shallower.  So, we built a false wall in the cubby with some beadboard left over from the kitchen island, added supports for the shelves, painted everything and, lickety-split, we had something usable.


I painted the back wall the same color as the kitchen to tie them together.  Of course, having all these shelves presented its own problem for me: staging them!  I don't tend to have a lot of decorating stuff hanging around the house, so I was at a complete loss for what to put here.  Slowly, I was able to gather a few things to get at something that is acceptable.

The two boxes you see on the bottom shelf were actually a horrendous green color.  I had bought them years ago with the intention of covering them in something else, but never got around to it.  Now I needed to take care of them!  I found a table cloth that was similar to the curtains in the kitchen and covered them using spray adhesive.  They turned out beautifully.  Wish I had done that years ago!

The final piece that, I feel, really makes this wall is my craigslist mirror.  I had been searching and searching for a mirror for over the fireplace.  It was a difficult place to fit because it's a long, short area.  Most mirrors I found were much taller, but not as long.  One day, my craigslist search turned up a mirror that had almost perfect dimensions.  Even better, the top was arched...just like the doorways into the kitchen and  family room and my kitchen cabinets! 

We went to look at it and it was a little worse for wear - with a scratch in the mirror silver and some beat up wood.  But, I really liked the arch and the dimensions.  The fact that I talked the guy down to $30 was almost the best part.

We brought it home with the intention of painting it white too, but when we hung it up that night, I knew it was staying just as it was:


The dark wood ties together with the other wood in the room and, oh lordy, do I love that arch.  You can just see the arch to the kitchen (which it matches perfectly) in it's reflection.  The giant scratch in the silver doesn't even bother me, though the man did assure us we could "fix" it (or at least make it less noticeable) with aluminum foil.  But I like the history the scratch gives it.

My husband put the finishing touch on the mantel by placing my new thrift store candelabra and candles in the center of the mirror.  The wood matches perfectly and the candles smell so good.

This room used to drive me nuts because it never seemed to go together.  Even though we had nice furniture, it still felt like a "my first apartment" with everything just thrown in.  Now when I turn the corner into this room and I see my new shelves and mirror, I like what I see and I smile.

This post is linked to:

     The DIY Show Off   

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Blue Heaven - Kitchen Part Tres

So, now you've seen the before and during of my kitchen redesign.  Now let's finish it up!

The hardest parts were done: the cabinets and walls had been painted and the new countertop was in.  Now all we needed was to tile the backsplash and get some decorations up.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures during tiling, but I do have tons of afters, so let's just move right along.  Here's my kitchen now:

Notice the awesome new Pottery Barn pendant lights that I found for about half the price on eBay!

And our wonderful not-Pottery Barn bar stools from Target!

The framed black and white pictures you see on the left were taken by my husband on a photo walk through the Fremont neighborhood.  I love having such special pictures being displayed so prominantly.

I'm still trolling craigslist for a round pedestal dining table and I need to figure out a better light, but the breakfast nook is coming along.

I don't have a better picture of the quote above the window, but it says, "To get the full measure of joy, you must have someone to divide it with."  It's a quote from Mark Twain that we had on our wedding program.  I surprised my husband with it one night.  Of course, the first thing he said (OK, well maybe the second) was, "You used a level!"  Ahem.  What is he saying?

The little chalkboard plates are the latest addition and I'm thinking they're pretty darned cute!

I can't even say how much I love this kitchen.  It's been six months since we put in the countertop and I still stop to enjoy it every. single. day.

Let's see the before and after one more time, just because I so love to.
Before (yeesh!):

After (ahhhh):


I'm belatedly adding this to:

The DIY Show Off        toolsareforwomentoo
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