Working From Home

First of all, I just want to mention that I very badly want to write about our amazing family camping trip on Canada Falls Lake this weekend (where we were only a few miles from the Maine-Canada border!), but I’m going to try to wait until I can post a few cute photos of E. and beautiful (well, “beautiful”, I’m not a very good photographer) pictures of just what we were surrounded by. Amazingness.

But now that we’re back in civilization (my parents’ upstairs hallway to be exact), my mind has turned to a new, very close to home direction: my house.

We’ve been in our cute little home for just over a year now and while there have been some huge changes from the day we moved in (namely, we have an upstairs), not too much has changed. It’s both frustrating and freeing. I mean, I have so much I really, really want to do to the house, and it doesn’t help having all these home magazines floating around, plus being addicted to really liking the blog . That said, I grew up in two homes where we were constantly under construction (if your a renovation nut, you need to read my dad’s of how he and my grandfather totally refurbished our 18th century home in Massachusetts about 30 years ago). I know first hand that home improvement takes a lot of time, especially if you want it done right and to your personal specifications (unless you’re loaded/are extremely talented/have lots of time). This knowledge helps me realize that it’s okay if very little has been done since we moved in, because I’m not a DIY genius (neither is Mike) and we just don’t have the time right now to get a lot done, but we will, especially if we get organized, which I’m trying to do.

I’m currently forming plan in the very small part of my brain that is dedicated to home improvement. The first part of that plan? Try to figure out what exactly it is I want to do, short and long term, to this house. Of course, I need to confer in part with my husband and see what he wants as well, but those conversation are best held, I’ve found, when you already have something in mind.

The second part? A list. Not a schedule, as I had originally thought, but a list of all the projects I’d like to do and the general order in which I expect to do them. A schedule, I’ve decided, won’t work, because we’re so inexperienced that I don’t really know how long something will take us. Plus, I’m not clear on funds for each project, so if we need some time to put aside money, obviously a project with an expected “finish by” date might have to change course. And when you base your success on your ability to finish something they way you expected it, sometimes putting yourself on a specific time table is setting yourself up to fail.

I’m also planning on having a running list of things I’d like to get for the house/yard. Things that I can pick up easily while out, while yard sale-ing this summer, or ask a friend or family member to keep an eye out for. It’s crazy to expect us to be able to go out in one or two (or even a few more) shopping trips and buy all the accessories, artwork, and little knick-knacks we might want.

I’ve yet to decide if I’ll post any of this on a blog, things can end up collecting dust. That said, sometimes it’s a great motivator. If I do post of what I mentioned above on here, it’ll probably be after I’ve gotten a bit of a start.

What do you have going on at home?

Summer Signs

It’s a sign of the times, my friends. E. and I spent an entire day in our bathing suits and/or sundresses. We lounged around in the deliciously warm sun, finally brought out the wading pool, and made these:

It’s my own, quick and dirty version of frozen yogurt (quite literally). Today I bought E. a four-pack of kid’s Greek yogurt. Then we went to The Dollar Tree and I found these popsicle molds. At first, we thought we’d freeze some orange juice until I got a chance to pick up more fruit during my next grocery shopping trip (in the past we’ve pureed strawberries, bananas, and raspberries to make popsicles instead of just using fruit juice), but E. wanted to save the juice to drink. So, I used up three of the four yogurts to make eight popsicles, each with a little raspberry in them, for a treat.

E. tried one tonight after supper and the verdict: very cool!

That’s good, right?

I’m slowly starting to make the transition to all natural, mostly homemade cleaners (in addition to moving out other unnecessary toxins that my family is exposed to on a regular basis). While I love my super basic vinegar and water mixes and scouring my sinks and tub with Borax and baking soda (it’s so freaking cheap!!), one of the major things that I worry about is bacteria. I mean, I have a four year old, for pity’s sake – there is bacteria floating around everywhere! While I do have a bottle of Seventh Generation anti-bacterial surface cleaner (which is supposed to be safer than other brands), I was hoping to find something I could easily make myself and is cheaper than nearly $4 a bottle.

Here was the solution:

The school/clinic in our area had posted this short little “recipe” on their and I couldn’t wait to delve in. The suggestion: Fill a jar with citrus peels (in my case, lemon and orange) and vinegar, let steep for two weeks, then clean away! Citrus, , has some antibacterial properties, as does vinegar, AND citrus is known to cut through grease and other nasty substances, so soaking the peels with the vinegar can make a powerful home cleaning remedy, and one that I’m happy to use.

So, why am I making these switches, slowly but surely? Because, one, it’s way, way more inexpensive to buy big ole boxes of Borax and baking soda and a giant jug of vinegar than it is to buy anything else, environmentally safe or not, and these cleaning supplies are toxin free. Kids these days are exposed to so much crap that I feel like it isn’t such a bad thing to bring all down a notch at home. I know I can’t control what E. breathes in the air each day or touches or is exposed to at preschool or other places, but at least at home I can rest at ease that what I clean our home and her toys with is safe.

Next step on my list of to dos: Find out how to safely dispose of the cleaners I will no longer be using but are still hanging around.

Another Valentine’s day has arrived and I am left feeling like a very lucky lady. I would never say that my husband isn’t romantic, because he really, really can be…but it’s not an every day occurrence. And I’m not the sort of lady who needs a lot of grand, romantic gestures to know her hubby loves her a whole lot. The hubs is pretty good at letting me know in little ways, from his kisses goodnight or good-bye, to his cute little notes on the front door white board, even the way he demands a sandwich at ten o’clock in the morning (a really awkward time to be eating lunch…or breakfast…in my opinion) and says I make the best because I make them with “love.”

Here’s a small display of our Valentine’s day gifts to one another:

Some years we go pretty big (like, every couple of years or so I’m lucky enough to land a piece of jewelry), but others we’re more low-key and there is more emphasis on the notes we write each other in the cards. I’m really excited to share what my husband wrote in my card this year. I love his style :-D

Aren’t the little annotations cute? I love it.

We also did a bit of decorating, though nothing too fancy. Remember, for example, that heart I was working on a few weeks back? Well, here it is hung on our stair bannister that overlooks our dining area:

And we had a few lights hanging by the french doors:

(Sorry for the shoddy picture quality, the camera’s on the iPad 2′s aren’t fabulous, gotta say.)

But, the most exciting thing about this Valentine’s Day is that E. had a Valentine’s Day party at preschool and we got to make Valentines…well, I got to make Valentines. We found idea for “origami” hearts with candy , from Martha Stewart. Following is a brief tutorial of how we did it (though the steps on Martha’s site are pretty good, too!)

We printed the template provided by my good friend Martha (link above) and used some kid and Valentine’s Day friendly scrapbooking paper I bought at Wal-Mart ($5!) as our “wrapping” for the candy hearts I picked up at the grocery store.

I taped the template heart to the scrapbooking paper each time I wanted to make a new heart (I made about 15) and cut around it. This worked well for me since I seem to have bad luck tracing things. I also feel like it took less time than tracing and the hearts came out a little nicer than they would have if I traced.

So, once you cute out your hearts you have a bunch like the first picture shows, Then you’ll take the template, place it over the scrapbook paper heart and fold along the four lines using something with a straight edge. Martha suggests a ruler, but surprisingly, I found out we do not own a ruler., so I used a row of paint chips. Worked just fine!

After I had done the initial folding of the scrapbook paper heart, I taped a candy heart to the center of the paper. I then folded the sides of the paper heart in over the candy, then folded in the top and bottom, tucking the point of the heart into the little pocket that the top of the heart makes. I then taped it closed (totally should have a picture of that…tutorial fail :-( ).

The finished product, at least as it was handed it out, looked like this. After we folded in the candy hearts, I took some glitter glue and made hearts on each little “package.” I really loved the idea of the kids getting these little packages that don’t look like too much, then opening them up and having these pretty little hearts with candy in them!

I’m probably way more excited about them than the preschoolers are, but they were still fun to make and Lizzie loved picking out each heart for her friends. It was fun to see who she decided to give each differently patterned heart to.

And so the day comes to a close and I’m completely pleased by this totally arbitrary, commercial excuse to gorge on candy and give and get fun little gifts and cards (and I sort of feel like we beat the system a tiny bit by not buying Valentines for E. to hand out to her friends). And while I don’t save all my love and romanticism for one day a year, I can revel in the fact that I have the best Valentine’s in the world.