Friday, August 30, 2013

Freaky Friday.

Freaky in that I'm going to do blog list for the first time in, uh, a year. What can I say, I'm all about building anticipation among my readership of three (HI MOM!).

1. I really want to get rid of cable. Really a lot, because our bill is topping $170/mo. And daycare is going up $80/mo starting next week. I don't know about you, but we have yet to find a house with a money tree out back. WHERE IS ALL THE MONEY? Not at our house, that's where. Cutting cable seems like such an easy money saver, especially with all the streaming options out there. Except...cable. What about the final season of Mad Men? What about Top Chef? What about the babysitt...I mean, Disney Channel?

Life is full of tough choices and I think our tough choice is going to be what flavor of Hamburger Helper to buy next (with a coupon) so we can afford to keep cable.

2. Speaking of coupons...I am dangerously close to becoming a crazy coupon lady. Ok, not really. But I do love saving money and have recently begun challenging myself to get the best deals possible at Target. Between the coupons from the paper, the coupons I get at checkout, my Target Cartwheel app (which is a little creepy but quite handy), Target promotions (get a $5 gift card if you buy three, yada yada), and my Target RedCard, I'm doing alright. A few weeks ago I saved almost $30 off my $100 grocery bill. I WIN!

Couponing is essentially sports for uncoordinated moms who love shopping. And we all know I excel at shopping.

3. Whatever happened to Supermarket Sweep? I would totally win that, too.

4. You'll be delighted to hear that I finally found a mascara I truly love. Bobbi Brown No-Smudge. Stays on, doesn't flake, and – as promised – doesn't smudge. You may not believe me on that last point because I currently have mascara smudged under both eyes, but that's only because I was too lazy to remove yesterday's.

I've also branched out and fallen in love with a few other cosmetic items. Urban Decay's Primer Potion stays on, isn't too thick, and so far doesn't get crusty and hard in the tube (my only real complaint about the MAC paints). Eyeliner has long been a source of frustration for me and I've been using shadow with a liner brush but decided to give Stila's Smudge Stick a go and I really like it. Goes on easily, stays on all day.

Now that my eyes are smudge-proof, I might have to dedicate an evening to watching/sobbing my way through some classics like Love Story or The Way We Were. Or The Notebook. Hey girl.

5. Back to TV. Nate and I recently started watching two shows which are kind of the same (cop dramas investigating murders) and totally different (Mexican border town, British coastal town). The Bridge is really good but makes me never want to set foot in Mexico again despite my deep deep love for beaches and guacamole. Broadchurch is creepy and sad but has significantly improved my ability to decipher the words of a brooding, mumbling Brit. Both are highly recommended.

6. I just finished Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) after a two-evening reading marathon. She's so funny and I'm pretty sure that book plus a beach and guacamole (somewhere other than Juarez, Mexico) would have put me in a state of euphoria. Do you guys have any favorites in a similar vein (besides Tina Fey's Bossypants, because obviously I bought that the day it came out and finished it two hours later)?

7. Right now I really don't have the energy or mental capacity to process anything heavier than a Mindy Kaling book (I know this for sure because I spelled three words wrong in this sentence and then spelled sentence wrong, too), so I've been relying heavily on Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum audiobooks. These might require even less brainpower than Mindy's book, but they make my commute fly by and probably offer neighboring drivers a good show since I spend a lot of time laughing out loud. Something to consider if you have a long drive to work or want to drown out the sounds of your children. If your kids are anything like mine they'll either be talking too much or screaming too loud to notice the sexual innuendos and swear words. (Just kidding, I would never listen to it with them in the car. I don't need Calvin asking me why Stephanie feels all tingly when Ranger walks in. Besides, that's a ridiculous question. Obviously any woman with a pulse would feel similarly.)

8. This is so good.

9. Now that summer's winding down, I think I can safely say what worked and what didn't in the garden. Basil, rosemary, and chives grew easily. Our little strawberry plant produced all summer long and Calvin ate them all. The cherry tomatoes turned out super sweet and yummy and Audra ate them all. Zucchini doesn't like pots. Lettuce does, but I don't like lettuce from pots. The first round of roma tomatoes suffered from blossom end rot, but there is another crop ripening now and they look perfect. Our tiny green pepper plant refused to grow all summer but now there are two little green peppers hanging from it and I'm excited. Our cilantro was great but then I cut it back too much and it didn't come back. Same with the dill, but I only cut that back because we didn't really use much and it was taking over. The kids ate a snap pea every time they saw one, and scarfed down the carrots, too. The green beans were the first to arrive and the first to go, but they were abundant while they lasted.

The plan for next year is to build two raised beds on the plot of grass behind our fence. We get a ton of sun and we'll be able to plan more. We'll definitely keep the herbs in pots on the patio, but I hope to plant a larger variety of tomatoes along with more peas, carrots, beans, green peppers, strawberries, and zucchini out back. I'd like to try onions and leeks next year, too. Maybe even a watermelon? We also planted three raspberry bushes alongside our garage this year, so hopefully that will save us the big bucks next summer because my kids are bottomless berry dumpsters.

10. We're headed to the Minnesota State Fair tomorrow morning, and yes there will be corn dogs and deep fried something-or-another at 8am. When I reminded Calvin of our plan to visit the fair tomorrow, he said "Is that where we go to eat a lot of junk for breakfast?"

Sounds like he's got the plan down pat.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


You know what makes for a hot mess? Chalk.

Dude, chalk is messy. And dusty. Here's a tip: don't try to wipe chalk dust off wood furniture with a wet cloth. The resulting white chalk paste smeared all over your wood furniture is next to impossible to remove. Just blow that crap off onto the floor and hope the vacuum gets it.*

Helpful cleaning tips from Abby, certified professional homemaker! You're welcome. 

Anyway. Wondering why all the talk about chalk?

Well, I finally got around to one of those home projects I've been blathering on/doing nothing about for the last six months: a chalkboard in my dining room.

First off, I know. A chalkboard is not standard dining room fare. But let's review my goals for this redecorating initiative, shall we?

- Colorful
- Kid-friendly
- More "me"
- Cheap

What screams "color" or "me" more than a chalkboard?

Well, lots of things, since chalkboards are black and I haven't used one in 20+ years. But I loved the idea of having a focal point that could be updated regularly, changed seasonally, and used for fun family-friendly things like quotes, scripture, game night score-keeping, party menus, birthday greetings, etc.

I found my inspiration on Pinterest:

Paint the glass of a Goodwill picture with chalkboard paint and hang it. Great in theory, harder in practice. Our buffet is pretty wide, and I wanted to fill most of the space above it. I searched high and low for something that would work, but couldn't find a frame that was large enough. So, my plan changed: paint the wall and draw a frame around it with chalk.

At this point I will confess to having ZERO drawing skills. Fine motor is not my bag, though I like to keep torturing myself with projects that involve tiny details. Thank heavens I go to Goodwill regularly and stumbled upon this hunk of junk before remembering I have no skills and attempting to draw myself a frame:

Yep, a gigantic bulletin board falling out of its frame. You know what they say: another elementary school's trash is some crazy lady's treasure! It wasn't the ornate frame I envisioned, but I knew it would work just fine. Especially once I got it painted. Because, you know...color.

We hung the frame, traced it, taped it off, and painted it with five coats of chalkboard paint. Good thing chalkboard paint dries quickly, because it turns out I have no patience.

During the brief period of drying time/frantic pacing, I spray-painted my frame a gorgeous mustard yellow. I loved the way it looked drying on my garage floor and was so excited to hang it up.

Wah wah wah.

It looked terrible. Granted, this is a terrible picture of it in terrible lighting, but I guess that's good because it kind of expresses the terribleness of that color against my walls.


I tried to like it. I thought maybe I just needed to push myself, because change is hard for me and it can take me a while to adjust to the idea of something new. So we sat it there for a bit and then I said to Nate "It's not right. Do you think it's right? It can't be right. What do you think? I just don't know, but I'm pretty sure it's not right."

I'll spare you the details of what turned into a riveting spousal discussion.**

Nate (eventually) agreed that it wasn't right, but I think he was willing to keep it if it meant him not having to deal with my incessant questions or another round of painting indecision. But the perfectionist in me won just as it should, and the following weekend I repainted it white.

NOW it's right.

I know, I know...a black chalkboard with a white frame does not really meet the colorful criteria. It's the exact opposite of colorful. But it's kid-friendly, and it's definitely me. Plus the neutral frame means I can do a lot with my lamps and other accessories. In addition to clashing terribly with my walls, that yellow would have tied me to a very specific color palette. Repainting was a good decision.

So, there's a chalkboard in my dining room. And next to it, some lamps that look awful. But don't worry — I have plans for those.

Whether or not I will carry out those plans before 2021, well that's the question.


* Somewhere Martha is having a heart attack, but I'm pretty sure she has people to deal with her white chalk paste disasters, whereas I just have me and a dollar store "magic eraser."***

** Argument.

***The quotes are because it's probably not called a magic eraser at the dollar store. It's most likely called a wizard sponge or delete-a-mark pad or something equally stupid. But man if they don't work just as well at a fraction of the price. I make an extra stop for those suckers. And the "floor dusting sheets" aka swiffer cloths.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Guess I may have gotten a little riled up for nothing. Which is weird, since I rarely do that.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Parks and Recreation.

Pretty much everyone I know has told me I should be watching this show. Don't worry, friends. We'll get there. Just as soon as we finish Dexter. We're on season two and have been for the past three years, so any day now.

This girl is fearless...she was climbing all over the big kid side of the playground and going down the slide totally unassisted. I love her little "one, two, threeeee!" before she pushes herself down.

Yes, I buy Oxyclean in bulk.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Progress report.

My house is a mess.

And I'm not talking about a "stuff strewn about" kind of mess (please never open my bedroom door). We are fairly tidy and try really hard to stay on top of the day-to-day clutter because when four people and a dog share 1200 square feet and one bathroom, it gets ugly pretty quickly. Think nightmarish stacks of school papers and overflowing laundry baskets and piles of playground pebbles and lots and lots of dog hair.

Oh, the dog hair. Yeah, we have to stay on top of that. Both for physical and mental health reasons. But, I digress.

The mess to which I'm currently referring is more of a "what in heaven's name is happening in here?" kind of mess.

I'll tell you what's happening in here ("here" being my first floor): I've lost my everloving mind.

Remember that challenge I gave myself earlier this year? The one about injecting color into my drab, tan house through thrift store shopping and DIY projects?

Idiotic. Turns out I love tan. Tan's my favorite. You know why? Because loving tan means I DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ELSE.

Seriously, who has time for this? When am I supposed to thrift and craft and paint and sew? I currently have about 52 minutes between Calvin actually going to sleep (vs. when we put him to bed an hour and eight minutes earlier) and me actually going to sleep. And call me crazy, but I prefer to use those 52 minutes to shovel ice cream in my mouth, flip through my secondhand copies of People, and half-watch The Bridge.

Occasionally, though, I find a burst of energy and wholly devote myself to this project. This typically occurs on nights when Nate isn't home. Then he comes home, looks from me to the mess I've made, raises an eyebrow, and says "whatcha doin'?"

Nate's "whatcha doin'?" is the equivalent of "what in heaven's name is happening in here?"

A fair question, and one I ask myself pretty much every time I walk in the front door these days.

On one such evening, I took down everything on my living and dining room walls. That was in June. Guess what's hanging on my walls now? Nails.

I also purchased some fabric and folded it around a curtain rod just to get a feel for how it would look in my entryway window. Three weeks ago. It's still there. And it must look okay because last weekend my mother-in-law said "oh, you got your curtain done!" Um, no. I got my fabric shoved up in that window. But if no one can tell the difference between something I've sewn and something I shoved, why bother sewing it?

And let's not get started on the insane mix of styles represented in my house right now. Modern, vintage, and traditional do not work as well together in one room (or one house) as you might think. Every time I change one thing, I realize I need to change ten more for it to work.

Thus the mess.

In all seriousness, redecorating is hard work. Really hard. When your goal is to make your house more colorful and family-friendly and everything you own is dark wood and breakable and you don't have money to buy all new stuff, takes some doing.

I'm totally frustrated, but I know this has been good for me. It's helping me realize that matching does not always equal style, that nothing bad is going to happen if I take some chances and come up with crazy combinations that appeal to me and no one else, and that the beauty of our home is the result of how we live in it — not how we decorate it.

Of course we all know I will be freaking out trying to make sense of this disaster before my sister-in-law's baby shower next month.

Or maybe not. Maybe I'll just do what I did before Audra's party and take everything down. I'm halfway there already.
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