Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Life. In Pictures. Day 2: Something on your table

Below is my photo for Day 2 of Amber's photo challenge. Click on the button to the right to read more details about her challenge. Today she suggested we photograph something on our table. I knew right away what I would take a photo of. This shows my oldest son's art table which is in the corner of our computer room/den. This is very typical of how this table usually looks. My son is very creative and produces TONS of paperwork every day. I am serious. He is constantly drawing and writing when he is at home. As a result, the papers just pile up. I have tried many different systems to try to get his papers organized. I recently came up with a new system that we are going to try and I am planning to get that up and going this weekend hopefully. I will definitely post about it here on the good ol' blog. Until then, I'll leave you with the "before" shot which shows something on (one of) my tables. Can't wait until it looks better so he can actually WORK on the table. Wouldn't that be a thought? Right now he sprawls out on the floor to do most of his work. Then I gather up the random papers throughout the house and toss them on the pile until he and I have a chance to sit down and organize.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Life. In Pictures. Day 1: Something new

If you read last night's post, I predicted that you wouldn't guess what I was going to photograph for my "something new" for Amber's photo challenge. Well, if you guessed that I would photograph a toilet brush, either you have ESP or are an extremely creative thinker. And below you will see my new toilet brush in its cool little container. I bought it on Sunday at Target for $5.99.

I am excited about my new toilet brush because it symbolizes what I hope will be a turning point in my life. Specifically, it represents my desire to have a clean home and to incorporate cleaning into my daily routines so I don't become overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. I wrote a lot last night about using the ideas and checklists from Flylady to help me. One new thing I took from her website that I'm going to incorporate into my morning routine is Swish and Swipe. This is such a quick and simple thing to add to my morning routine, yet I would never have thought to do this every day without reading about it. I am so excited about how fresh and clean our main bathroom is going to be as a result. In case you don't want to or don't have time to click on the Swish and Swipe link, I'll describe it here in a nutshell and then you'll also know what the hot pink stuff in the bottom of my new toilet brush container is. OK........each morning as you are getting ready for the day, you grab a bottle of all-purpose cleaner or glass cleaner and spot clean your bathroom mirror with a paper towel or old washcloth (I'm going green and using old cut-up washcloths), then use the same cloth and cleaner to quickly spray down your counter and sink (easy because you have gotten into the habit of putting everything away when you are done getting ready.............this will be a new one for me.........I always just leave stuff all over the counter), then you quickly clean your toilet (the SWISH part) by swishing the toilet brush around in your toilet. Flylady recommends keeping some kind of cleaner such as old shampoo (I bought cheap dishwashing detergent) in the bottom of the toilet brush container and using that to quickly swish your toilet. Last step is to use the rag from the sink/counter to wipe down the back, seat, rim, and sides of your toilet, then the floor. 1-2 minutes and you are done! Doesn't that sound easy? The key is to have all the cleaning stuff right there in your bathroom so you can quickly grab it and do a Swish and Swipe. I LOVE THIS! My bathroom is already smelling really fresh just from the dish soap in the toilet brush holder.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'm FLYing high!

I have perhaps hinted here in the past that I am a (ahem) less than consistent and perfect housekeeper. In fact, deep cleaning my house has been so far at the bottom of my to-do list for so long that it might as well not even be on the list at all. However, I actually WANT a really clean house. I think that when it just doesn't come naturally to you to be a good cleaner it can be overwhelming and hard to get started. Well, people, let me tell you about a very helpful little website (you may have heard of it before) called Flylady. This is the most awesome website for the domestically challenged person like myself. You can subscribe to the emails (for FREE) and receive MANY daily encouragements and challenges for keeping your home clean. The Flylady recommends starting the whole process by Shining Your Sink. In fact, she has a detailed list of how to thoroughly clean your kitchen sink. The theory behind starting with your kitchen sink is that having a very clean sink allows you to quickly feel a sense of accomplishment and helps you to believe that a whole house that is equally clean is attainable. Flylady also has a BabySteps checklist that helps you incorporate little tasks into your daily routines that allow you to keep on top of the cleaning.
Another great thing about Flylady is that she divides your house into "zones" and the emails you get focus on specific cleaning tasks to do in each zone. You focus on a zone a week (and only spend 5-15 minutes per day on that zone) and then the zones repeat. So if you continue to do the routines consistently, you have a spectacularly clean house. One important thing that she points out is that your house didn't get to be cluttered and messy overnight and it won't be the shining, fresh, uncluttered paradise of your dreams overnight. This is a good reminder for me because I tend to get all gung-ho and want everything to fall into place NOW! I spent a good deal of time reading things on her website yesterday and I think I realize that getting a handle on our clutter and learning to consistently keep our home clean will take time. I am committed to doing it though. I'll use this blog to try to document some of my baby steps along the way.
The next two photos show my kitchen sink "before" I thoroughly cleaned it using the Flylady's checklist. The left side in the first photo is filled with hot water with 1 cup bleach. Flylady recommends letting this sit for 1 hour before cleansing. I did it just like she said to then repeated it on the right side.

The next two photos show my very shiny and clean sink. I even got out an old toothbrush to really clean all the grooves of the faucet. I don't have a dishwasher, so usually we stack our dirty dishes on the counter to the left of the sink. Then I use a dish drainer in the right side and allow my dishes to air dry. I also usually have a towel on the counter to the right of the sink to hold leftover clean dishes. This all takes up a lot of counter space. It also always makes the kitchen seem cluttered. Flylady recommends placing your dirty dishes in a dishpan under the sink until you are ready to wash them (if you don't have a dishwasher) and then drying them and putting them away immediately after washing them. She also suggests using a clean dish towel to completely dry your sink after each use. This will help keep it in shiny clean shape. As part of your bedtime routine every night, she suggests you Shine Your Sink, or wipe it dry. That way a nice shiny sink is there to greet you in the morning. I think this is a great idea and I'm going to try to do it. I got up a few minutes ago to let the dog out and had to walk by my shiny sink on my way back to the computer. I have to say it really did make me smile inside to see how clean my kitchen looked.
Just for posterity (and in case I fall off the house-cleaning wagon in the future), I want to list all the cleaning and de-cluttering tasks I did today. I truly feel like I worked my little tail feathers off. And I have to remind myself not to feel discouraged when I think about how hard I worked and how little there is to show for it. So.........here's what I did today:
*wiped out all my kitchen cupboards and put new white Contact paper in several cupboards and drawers
*weeded out unused or rarely used kitchen items to store downstairs or to give to a consignment store
*moved my cleaning supplies out from under my sink and into the cabinets in the bathroom to make room for 2 dishpans under the sink........these will hold my dish drainer and dirty dishes
*shined my kitchen sink (as shown and described above)
*cleaned out my top bathroom cabinets over my washer and dryer and reorganized laundry and cleaning supplies
*thoroughly cleaned my bathroom sink and vanity (this will be another part of my daily routine that I will describe more tomorrow)
*cut up a bunch of old washcloths into cleaning rags
*bought some new cleaning supplies at Target and my local dollar store
*cleaned and polished the cabinets in my bathroom and dusted the stairwell in the living room
Whew! OK................I guess I did accomplish a lot. I will keep remembering that the house didn't get messy in a day so it can't be completely transformed in a day. Oh how I wish though..........

My Life. In Pictures.

This week I am excited to be participating in a photo challenge designed by my good friend, Amber. If you click on the link on my sidebar you can learn all the details. I'll post my photo for the challenge each day here on the blog. Way to go, Amber, for initiating this. You rock! Tomorrow's challenge is to photograph "something new". I already know what I'm going to take a picture of.........and I bet you'll never guess!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My booty

Ha! I bet that title caught your attention. Before I decided to use that title for this post I checked Wikipedia to be sure I wasn't totally out of line with my intended meaning for the word "booty." I was reassured to find that one definition of "booty" is, in fact, "treasure". More specifically, it refers to nautical treasure. So I am using it a teeny bit out of context. Another meaning (and most likely the one that first popped into YOUR head) is......."the American slang for buttocks." Rest assured that there will be none of THOSE types of booty photos in this post. I just wanted to check back in and let you know I'm still here. I also wanted to show off the booty that I found at the local thrift store today.

At times I am really happy that I live in a small rural town. One thing that makes me feel that way is my local thrift shop. I was talking to the owner's mother about a month ago (this is a woman in her 80s who has known me since I was a little girl) and told her I was looking for buttons. It turns out that she owned and ran a fabric store in the same location back in the day and has a ton of leftover buttons. She offered to bring them down to the shop for me to look through. I usually go there on Fridays while my oldest son is taking his piano lesson, but for various reasons I hadn't gotten over there for several weeks. Yesterday my friend, Amber, went there and told me they had a bag of buttons they were saving for me. That is small town service at its finest. So today I headed over there to check out the merchandise and pick up the buttons. The next two photos show the huge Ziploc bag full of buttons and a close-up. They wouldn't take any money for the buttons so they were FREE!! I am planning to use some to make some button rings. I'll post those when I get them done. Otherwise, I just like having them on hand for various projects. I am probably going to sort them by colors because the idea of that just really appeals to me. Plus it's super-fun to mess around with buttons.

I also picked up an ice-cube tray with little tiny compartments. This will soon find a spot on the Practical Life shelves of my Montessori preschool classroom. My friend, Amber, bought one of these yesterday and I was excited to find an identical one for only $0.50. I also picked up the little bunny basket (also for my classroom) and the rabbit cookie cutters (again, for my classroom). Total score!!

Since I go to that shop a LOT, I've had my eye on this pair of matching..........I'm not sure, they look like the teacups you find in a Chinese restaurant. So I bought them today. They will be used in my classroom for a pouring or spooning activity. They are just the right size for little hands and are nice and sturdy.

I also bought a skein of brown yarn for only $1. I am planning to use it to make yarn nests with the boys to decorate for Easter/spring. However, I don't have any white glue in the house, so I'll have to get some before we can do that project. I'm excited to do a project with my boys.........we haven't done anything in a LONG time. I really hate how hectic life gets sometimes, but whaddaya gonna do? Anyway, it's good to be back posting here..........hopefully I'll have more to show soon.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Girls Only Weekend

This weekend I met my friend, Beth, for a girls only weekend to celebrate my recent 40th birthday. Beth and I joke that we are soul sisters. We are both elementary education teachers, both love sewing, rubber stamping cards, scrapbooking, reading good books, and the list goes on. We met in grad school at the University of Iowa. She is one of my very best friends and I don't get to see her enough. So it was GREAT to get together. We met at an Archiver's store to pick up supplies since we planned to scrapbook into the wee hours.

After shopping a bit, we ate lunch at P.F. Chang's. Neither of us had eaten there before but we both had heard great things about it. We were not disappointed. We tried the famous lettuce wraps since I'd heard about them from another friend. They are AMAZING!! I can't wait to get back there and try them again. Below is a photo of one of my lettuce wraps before I wrapped it. SOOOOooooooo good!

After lunch we checked into Embassy Suites and set things up for a late night of scrapbooking. I got a lot done and was very happy about that. I hadn't scrapbooked for almost a year and it was really good to get back to it. We worked for a while then partook of the complimentary happy hour that Embassy Suites provides. Then we scrapbooked some more before taking the hotel shuttle downtown for dinner. We ate at a really great Italian restaurant and dined on wine, Mojitos (Beth had the Mojito and I had the wine), pizza with fresh basil and mozzarella, and a really amazing chocolate cake with raspberry sauce for dessert. Then we headed back to the hotel for more scrapbooking. The next day we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast before heading out for a little shopping before we parted ways.

Beth gave me the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett for a birthday gift. I have already started it and love it. I love it when people give me books as gifts because I love to read but rarely buy fiction books for myself. And I love to go to the library but our local small town library doesn't always have the best selection and I don't get there very often to look for myself.

So there's my weekend in a nutshell. Thanks, Beth, for helping me celebrate the big 4-0 in a really fun and great way. Oh.........I also bought a new tote bag to haul my stuff back and forth to school. I'll take a photo of it and add it later.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Broken patella

Don't worry................no broken bones in our house. I just had to share a funny little story. We have been studying the human body and, in particular, the skeleton, in my Montessori preschool classroom over the past few weeks. My youngest son is a student in my classroom. On Monday, he fell on the sidewalk running out to the bus after preschool. He was in tears and had scraped his knee slightly. Later that night, he was sitting on a chair eating dinner and announced to me,

"Mommy, I think I bwoke my patewuh (patella) when I fell today." I assured him his patella was not, in fact, broken. The skin covering his patella was just scraped. However, inside I was doing a silent cheer because he had remembered the correct name of the kneecap. I am continally amazed at the capacity young children have for learning vocabulary. They are truly only limited by what they are exposed to. That is one of many reasons that I adore teaching preschoolers. If you want to read more about our study of the skeleton, read this post on my other blog.

Oops............I did it again!

I bought another new pair of shoes. I couldn't/didn't resist. On Tuesday evening, my good friend, Amber, and I made a spontaneous trip to a new Target store that has opened in our area. I had to buy some birthday gifts, so it was a good excuse to go shopping. We browsed the shoe area and I fell in love with these green sandals. Green is my absolute favorite color. At first I wasn't going to buy them because Amber wasn't buying a pair she liked. Actually, I think she was thinking of buying the same ones. Then she told me that the reason she wasn't buying them is because she was buying a $70 mop. That clinched it for me. Since I wasn't buying an expensive mop, I decided another pair of shoes in my favorite color was a justifiable purchase to add to my spring wardrobe. Now that I have my new shoes, I have been scouting out dress patterns. I am itching to sew a few new dresses for spring/summer. I'll be sure to post the details here once I decide on something.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The post-birthday splurge

Well, yesterday I was a little down in the dumps about turning 40. Today I feel much better. First of all, when I got to work this morning, my assistant, Tenita, surprised me with a champagne cake from a swanky bakery. I don't think I've ever gotten a cake from a bakery in the white box and all before. I haven't tried it yet.........the boys and DH and I will have some later tonight. But it was such a special treat to start the day with. Below is a photo of it before we dig into it.

Although I've said before that I don't like shopping, I do manage to pull together some enthusiasm for it if I have a gift card. Saturday night we all went to Applebee's for my birthday, then we went to Kohl's afterwards. I had a gift certificate from Christmas to spend. I was looking for a winter coat on sale but I didn't like any of them, even though there were great bargains. Instead I bought a new spring coat..........bright red. I LOVE bright colors. It is pictured below.

I also tried on some super-cute shoes. The display shoe was the only one in my size; however, I could NOT find the match to it. The salesperson looked and looked and he couldn't find it either. So..........I didn't get the shoes. I was really bummed.

HOWEVER..............today after I taught preschool in the AM, I went up to the "big city" to meet DH for lunch. His university is on spring break this week. We met at Panera and had lunch. I also had a leftover gift card from Christmas to use........so it was a free lunch. Gotta love that. Afterwards we went to Borders bookstore, then to Kohl's. I had some birthday money from my parents and decided to buy some jewelry I had seen on sale Saturday night. We went to a different Kohl's store than the one we went to on Saturday, however. When we walked in the DH reminded me that I should check to see if they had the SUPERCUTE shoes in my size in that store. And........they did! YAY!! I couldn't believe he remembered it and I didn't. He's awesome! The shoes are pictured below. Aren't they so cute? And they'll go with so many things. Love the denim!

I had also admired (drooled over) another pair of shoes on Saturday night but couldn't bring myself to buy them even though they were on sale. I looked at and tried them on again today and the DH told me to go for it, so I did!! They are pictured below. They had these shoes in brown and black also, but I couldn't pass up the hot pink. Maybe there's hope for me to develop a sense of style in my 40s after all.

I also bought some new pairs of pants (to bring into the rotation of 3 or 4 pairs that I've worn all fall and winter) and some cute jackets that were on sale. After all, they are always pushing jackets on TLC's What Not to Wear. I got one jacket for $8.40. It is really cute. The others were on sale, but not that cheap.

AND............I bought three necklaces that were on sale. I paid less than $6 for each of them and two were less than $5. I took photos of them which are shown below.

So tonight I'm dragging everything out of my closet and going through things. There's not that much to go through because I have kind of a pathetic little wardrobe. I'm going to get rid of a few things and take an inventory to see what else I can add (inexpensively) to flesh out a great spring and summer wardrobe. I think with 2 new pairs of heels and 3 necklaces, I'm doing pretty well with my turning 40 list........remember the "wear more jewelry" and "wear more heels" goals?
DH DID slightly question the practicality of wearing heels as a preschool teacher since I spend lots of time on the floor and supervising recess on a playground (unpaved) every day. I may have to change into "recess" shoes on the days I wear heels. But I can guarantee this: my little preschool girls will be LOVING those pink shoes if I ever wear them to school. They are quite savvy about noticing my fashion, or lack thereof.
Amazingly, my turning 40 doldrums disappeared quite completely after my shopping spree. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It starts with a 4...........

..........Yes, people........that would be my current age. I rolled over another decade. I didn't think it would bother me much. After all, I like to say that I'm only a day older than yesterday whenever a birthday rolls around. This time was a little harder than I thought, however. I think I am a little disappointed in myself, truthfully. I thought I might have my act together better by now. I have to remind myself that I'm always a work in progress and that I will only improve by the grace of God. At least I am reflective about it all, I guess.

I decided to make a list of 40 things to do when I'm 40. So far I only have 23 things on the list. I am going to type them here for posterity. They are in no particular order.........just the order that they popped into my head when I wrote the list.

1. Hand sew a quilt. Luckily, I've already started that. You can read about it here.

2. Get a pedicure. I've never had one.......not much of a girly girl. But it sounds like it would be fun........so maybe that will go on my agenda for the spring or summer.

3. Run a 5K. I've been doing pretty well with my consistency on my running, so this should be very easy to get done this spring.

4. Run a 10K. I'd like to train for a longer race once I've done a smaller one.

5. Wear more skirts...........again, I'm not much of a girly girl, but I live in a testostrone filled house and I'm realizing that I want to add more femininity to my wardrobe.

6. Wear more jewelry. Kind of along the same lines as the above. I don't have much jewelry. I can never bring myself to spend the money on it, but I do think it's fun to wear.

7. Wear more heels. Can you see a theme emerging? I really want someone to nominate me for TLC's "What Not to Wear", but the people I am asking keep telling me my wardrobe isn't bad enough. Truthfully I just hate to shop. I always feel guilty spending money on clothes or shoes for myself. That's why if you know me and see what I usually wear, it's the same 1 or 2 pairs of shoes all winter mixed with the same 4 or 5 pairs of pants and a rotation of about 10 shirts. Pretty pathetic. I keep telling myself that when I get "older", I'll develop more style. Well, I'm getting older and the style, well, IS there a style? That's the problem.

8. Open an Etsy shop. I think I will get going on this during the summer when I have more time. I have lots of ideas for this.

9. Try to get some of my writing published.

10. Plan a date night once a month with DH (lest you think I might be planning it with someone else!!)

11. Learn to knit. This could be dangerous as I don't need another craft hobby or addiction, but I really want to learn.

12. Make a faithbook.

13. Catch up on my boys' scrapbooks.

14. Reorganize my photos into a Library of Memories (Stacy Julian) format.

15. Make a Memory Lane game.

16. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

17. Exercise as often as possible.

18. Send a handwritten letter to 100 people over the course of the next year. I am really enjoying doing this for my Lent project, so I thought I would continue it beyond Lent.

19. Participate in The Toy Society.

20. Participate in Operation NICE.

21. Sponsor a World Vision child.

22. Read Jane Austen. Can you believe I've never read her?

23. Finish making/buying/wrapping Christmas gifts by Halloween. (A lofty goal.........we'll see.)

That's as far as I've gotten so far. Have any of you ever done a list like this? I am open to including more ideas. I kind of wanted to have 40 things to do when I'm 40, not 23.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Green eggs and ...........

...........pancakes (we were out of ham.....plus even if we had it, how do you make it green?). On Monday for supper, I whipped up a batch of green eggs and pancakes for the boys in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday. Who doesn't love Dr. Seuss? The meal was a hit; neither boy had qualms about eating it. It made a big impression on my little one because he keeps asking me to make more green eggs and pancakes! They were quite tasty, if I do say so myself........and I just did! And don't they look lovely on the blue plastic plate?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"This drink is like faith."

That is a direct quote from my 7 1/2 year old son. He said this during our fellowship time after church this morning. He had finished wolfing down two cookies and was sipping Kool-Aid Invisible from a styrofoam cup when he looked up at me and said, "Hey, Mommy. This drink is like faith." I was a little taken aback and asked him to explain. He said (I'm paraphrasing now because I can't remember word for word), "You know how God is invisible and we can't see him but we can feel him by the love he puts in our hearts? Well, we don't know there's a flavor in this Kool-Aid because we can't see it, but when we TASTE it, we know the flavor is there." Hey, buddy, I couldn't have said it better myself. What a little philosopher!! (By the way, I'm in no way pushing this product, but it IS really good. I never buy Kool-Aid for my boys, but they had this at our Vacation Bible School last summer. It is really fun, even as an adult, to drink something that looks like water and to be pleasantly surprised by a yummy flavor. Oh yeah, and it doesn't stain clothes!!)