Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bathroom redo

So much for no major projects until fall...

We are having a few issues with our bathtub area. First off - when the previous owner re-glazed the tub they didn't do it completely properly and now the paint is peeling off. It's constantly stopping up the tub (not clogging it thankfully) and it just looks bad. Plus, the color is a dirty cream color. Blech.

The soap holder is also having a hard time staying in place. It fell off for the second time three days ago. On top of that we're having issues with other tiles coming off because they weren't sealed properly when they were installed.

Cue sad face. :(

For the time being we were just going to "deal with it." Garry was still finishing up school, looking for a job and we weren't really sure what the heck we were going to do for income over the summer. Thankfully, yesterday Garry was offered a job (YAY!) and this morning he found that the school deposited his tuition assistance in his bank account - to the tune of $1200. Sweet!

So now we're going into full-on bathroom planning mode. It will take a few steps to get where we want (um, a lot actually) but getting the tub squared away is going to be the easiest part (next to painting the walls) since the rest of the renovation involves tearing down walls and moving plumbing and electric. Tile is something we can handle without too much issue.

I absolutely love the pebble tile in our kitchen and I wanted to continue with that idea in the bathroom. Unfortunately, our only bathroom in the house is kind of tiny so using stone in such a tiny enclosed space will only make the tub surround feel even smaller than it already is.

I ran across this post and knew that this was what I wanted to do.

Garry and I can tile like champs and since we handled the pebble tile fairly well I think this won't be that much more difficult. What I'll need to do first is find the glass stones I want to use and then figure out how much I will need (basically get one bag and lay them out to see how many bags I need). Then it's just to buy the thinset, grout and sealer. I have a feeling we will also need to get new cement board. We will also need a new faucet, handles and shower head.

I'm figuring that this project will end up being around $600. I'm hoping less, but with these things you can never tell until you start pricing things out.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Handmade Wardrobe Challenge

When I was a little girl, my mom would sometimes make dresses for me (mostly for special occasions) and even up until I was in high school I admired the fact that she could take a piece of cloth and turn it into something really special. 

I learned to sew while I was in college. My desire to make my own costumes for the Sterling Renaissance Faire prodded me in that direction (because it was infinitely cheaper to make the costumes than trying to buy them) and I even made a few other non ren faire garments along the way. 

One of the biggest problems I have, is that I don't really love to go clothes shopping. Everything (in my budget) is incredibly boring. There's nothing "special" or "unique" about them. The few pieces that I do have cost me quite a bit, and I might buy something "special" for myself once a year. 

Over my "vacation" I spent a LOT of time watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Carson Kressley's voice has been ringing in my head about natural fibers and tailored cuts. All of the outfits they put together were incredibly unique and, for lack of a better phrase, beautiful. 

I have an interesting sense of style. It's a mix of boho, classy, vintage and casual. I love texture and little "unexpected" twists to the outfit, but at the same time I love a clean, classic style too. It's like my fashion sense has a split personality. 

When you look at my wardrobe (which I'll fully admit is completely laughable) it doesn't reflect this at all. I look at stores like Anthropologie and New York and Company and think to myself, "how on earth to I make these two come together?" 

Another issue I have is the actual lifetime of the clothing I buy. Since my budget is relatively small, I only buy relatively cheap clothes. They last maybe a season, although I have a few shirts that I've had for at least 5 years and they're holding up well (I'm wearing one today and it is probably one of my most favorite shirts I've ever owned) and probably will for quite some time. The others, not so much. They'll get holes in the fabric after a few months. I don't "beat them up" or anything, they're just not made as well as one would expect for the price tag. 

With Carson's voice still buzzing in my ear, my sort-of talent for sewing (and a ton of resources in folks that are fairly good at it) I'm thinking of starting a Handmade Wardrobe Challenge. Ideally, I'd like to eventually replace all of my laughably tiny wardrobe with items that are all made by me. It will take some work, time and patience, but I think in the end, it would be worth it by making some really interesting and well-made garments. 

Until I can really get started, I'll be making a Pinterest board on inspiration items. A lot of what I'm gravitating toward is from stores like Pyramid Collection, Anthropologie, New York and Co, and Global Rebels (they do some gorgeous things with classic dress shirts). 

Basically, I want my personality to finally come through in my wardrobe. Right now it doesn't. Right now I look like your average Jane. I'd like to show of my creative and unique self. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Wellness

The company I work for sends out a weekly "Wednesday Wellness" article to all of the employees. Some of the articles have really great advice and this week's particularly struck a chord with me and I thought I'd pass it along. As you probably guessed, it's pet related:

Pets: Good for Your Body, Good for Your Soul

There’s ample evidence pets can positively influence a number of medical conditions. Pet ownership can help to:

•Lower blood pressure 

•Lower cholesterol levels 

•Improve cardiovascular health 

•Relieve the depression associated with serious illnesses like AIDS 

•Improve survival rates after a heart attack 

From a psychological and emotional standpoint, your pet gives you something to live for and focus on other than yourself. Self-absorption is a serious detriment to good health.

It feels good to be needed and your pet depends on you – even if your family does not. Being needed motivates you to stay well.

Studies have shown that interacting with pets is actually more beneficial than interacting with friends when it comes to your blood pressure. Human friends can be judgmental –your four-legged buddy accepts you exactly as you are in every moment of your life together.

Part of the reason we connect so deeply with animals may be their emotional depth. Studies show that many animals mourn, cry, and demonstrate other ranges of emotion. If you share your life with a pet, you know the love it feels for you is intense and enduring.

I will add to this to make sure that you're ready and able to take care of a pet before bringing one into your home. So many people get pets on a whim and shortly find out that they don't have the patience, money or time to take care of them and then they end up in the shelters. For as long as I can remember, there has been an overcrowding problem in shelters. Many of these wonderful pets are put down simply because they couldn't find a new home fast enough, which in some shelters is a matter of a week. 

Before adopting or purchasing a pet, make sure that it's in your monthly budget to buy good-quality food, flea/tick medication and other essentials. Also, make sure you have enough in reserves in case you need to make an emergency vet visit. You may have to make adjustments in your monthly budget to cover these new expenses, but it is worth it in my opinion.

While it's my personal preference to have dogs from reputable breeders, dogs from breed rescue clubs or from the shelter can also make great additions to your family. I can't tell you how many times I hear from one side or the other that you should never buy a dog/cat from a breeder or that you should never buy a dog/cat from a shelter. I think it boils down to personal preference really. Some people have great luck with shelter dogs, some don't and the same goes with dogs from breeders. So long as you take the proper measures and you do your homework, it shouldn't matter. However, if you DO decide to buy from a breeder, make sure they are reputable and NOT a puppy mill. Also, buying dogs/cats from a pet store is a bad idea. A few pet stores will help shelters find homes for their animals (which is a great idea) and if that is the case then that's a different story. 

Let me get on my soap box for a second on pet store puppies/kittens. 

While yes, you are indeed "rescuing" that animal from a not-so-great fate, purchasing pet store puppies and kitties (again, that aren't affiliated with a shelter) is only enabling the pet mills to keep producing animals in conditions that are far worse than what we would ever think is humane. These mills will only stop producing if we stop purchasing them as then it won't be profitable anymore. Some of these animals end up in the shelter and then put to sleep because when you just walk in the store to buy a kitten or puppy from a pet store, all they require is the cash. There is no interview process or background check. All they want is the money and they won't take responsibility for the animal if something were to happen where you couldn't take care of it anymore or if something is seriously wrong with the animal as many mills don't bother to do any health checks on their breeding stock as it cuts into their profits. So please be wary of pet store puppies and kitties, make sure that they are affiliated with a local shelter or rescue before making that decision. 

If you buy a dog/cat from a reputable, responsible breeder, you will never have to worry about your pet ending up in the shelter. If for some reason you cannot take care of your pet anymore, any breeder worth their salt should take them back, no questions asked. Many shelters do this too. To avoid any issues if your pet gets lost, make sure to have them micro-chipped (it's a small, harmless microchip that's embedded just under the skin of your pet - many breeders microchip your pet before you even get them). The microchip has all of your contact information if for some reason you pet is lost and ends up at a shelter or vet's office. All shelters and vet offices have a scanner and they will immediately scan the pet for a microchip to see if that information is available. 

In our house we have two cats that we adopted (Cid was a stray and I "rescued" Cloud during the flood of 06) that are very lovely, well-adjusted kitties. One of the issues you can face when getting a pet from a shelter is that you don't know the animal's history, if the animal was abused or has any congenital diseases (as a lot of shelter dogs are mixed breeds where the actual breed(s) are unknown, so it's hard to determine what kind of issues may possibly come down the line). With a good breeder, they test for any diseases and try to make sure their breeding stock is healthy and have a good temperment.

A shelter dog may be harder to train if it's developed bad habits. It can be done, but teaching an older dog obedience can sometimes be difficult. Enrolling your dog in obedience classes (where you can get help from a professional) really helps out here if you're having difficulty at home. That doesn't mean a dog from a breeder is a breeze to train either. Obedience classes are incredibly helpful and I would recommend them to anyone who has a puppy or young dog. 

Of course, if you buy a dog from a breeder, it doesn't mean that 100% of them will be completely healthy. While good breeders are constantly striving to make sure their breeding stock is healthy and the risk for congenital diseases is much less than a dog or cat where no precautions were made, sometimes dogs or cats get cancer or have certain allergies or other ailments. It happens. Bottom line, if you get a pet, either from a shelter or from a breeder, you need to make sure you have the time, money and patience to deal with whatever may come up. 

The rewards are listed above in the article. The love of your pet is something that is so unique and wonderful.  They will love and cherish you for who you are, from dressed up for a night on the town, to dirty sweatpants and t-shirt. They love you at your best, your worst and no matter what. They know when you're sad and need a good cuddle and when you want to play and have fun. They also know that a good nap on the couch is sometimes the best thing in the world. 

They teach us to stop and smell the flowers; and even Auron will take a few minutes from running around to sit in the middle of our yard and just stare at the hillsides, taking in the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of the chirping birds, and the warmth of the sun on his coat. He's definitely teaching me to take a minute to just appreciate the world as it is and be "in the moment." 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Your moment of Zen

I love taking pictures, especially in the springtime.

There's just something about this time of year that I love, trees are blooming, birds are chirping and at night you can hear the peepers when we go camping in the woods.

I've been mulling over plants to put in my garden in the backyard. My friend Raine over at Nemeton Project (see the link on my blogroll) has some white dogwood we're going to try and get a cutting from to plant in our yard. I'm not so sure it will work, but we'll give it a go and see what happens. At some point soon I need to rebuild the mermaid shrine and redistribute the iris bulbs and "map" out my garden so we're ready to do some planting either in the summer/fall or next spring. I just don't think we'll get to too much this year unfortunately.

But for now, I'm enjoying taking pictures of all the different trees in bloom. These photos are of a flowering pear tree (I believe). Most of them in our area are already going to leaf, but they were absolutely exquisite for a few weeks. This tree was outside one of the local elementary schools and I had to stop and take a few photos. Not really sure what I'm going to do with them, but they're gorgeous.

New (dog) mom's guide to dealing with a new pup

Since we're taking a bit of a break from renovating, I figured I would touch on a few other parts of our life. As you've read, right now we're really focused on our new puppy, Auron. He's a little ball of mischief, but he's so sweet and really is trying very hard to be a good dog. However, even puppies with the best of intentions can grate on our last nerve sometimes - especially if it's been a while since you've had a dog in your household (like Garry and I). Here's a few tips I've picked up along the way that have helped me deal with having a new puppy.

  • Before picking up your puppy, take some time to write out what your daily routine will be. If you were like me and slept in until the last possible second before getting up to get ready for work, you'll be in for a huge adjustment in your morning routine. Also make sure that you (or someone else) can take the little guy or girl out potty during the middle of the day. Any puppy is going to have to "go" every 3-4 hours (sometimes more than that even) and leaving him/her that long without a potty break will always end in you cleaning up after them.
  • Don't scold them if they go in the house. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but when they are very little (under 10 weeks) chances are they have no, or very little, concept that they are supposed to "go" outside. Try your best to anticipate when he/she will have to go outside. The best rule of thumb is:
    • First thing in the morning.
    • Right after breakfast
    • Middle of the day
    • Late afternoon
    • After dinner 
    • Right before bedtime 
    • After they take a "big" drink - to keep your sanity though, limit their water so they aren't drinking just for "something to do" otherwise they'll have to pee every 20 minutes. 
  • Once the puppy is over 10 weeks or you have a "routine" established (this can take a week or two) you can "scold" him/her for going in the house (if it isn't your fault for not getting them out fast enough or not paying attention to them) just by using your voice. Dogs understand tone of voice really well and will understand that if you speaking disapprovingly that they weren't supposed to do that, but you have to "catch" them in the act, otherwise it won't work. You don't have to scream or yell - and don't hit or rub their nose in it. It only tells the dog that "going" is bad and that can cause problems down the road. Also make sure to clean up after every "accident" and use an odor-neutralizing cleaner (we use Nature's Miracle) so your puppy doesn't think that it's "okay" to go in the house. 
  • Crate-training your dog is not cruel. Dogs are descendants of wolves and are, by nature, denning animals, meaning they like smallish, enclosed spaces to rest. Also, don't use the crate as "punishment." The best way to crate-train your dog is to always feed him/her in their crate and when you can't watch him/her or when you go to bed, give them a treat when they go in their crate to reward them. This will give the dog a positive association with the crate. 
  • Chances are your puppy will whine and cry the first few nights away from his/her litter-mates. Lots of folks put the puppy's crate next to their bed so they feel reassured and leave the radio on. It also helps to have something (a toy, blanket or whatever) that all their litter-mates played with. If you don't have that option, just do the best you can to keep the puppy comfortable. A warm, soft, blanket in their crate (that can be washed easily) will help. Leaving the radio on (like an NPR station) is helpful. If you're a really light sleeper (like me) you may want to consider putting the crate in another room depending on how quickly your puppy adjusts. Chances are though, the dog will whine more if put in another room. They see you as their mom or dad now and just want to be with you, so separating them from you at night might not be a good idea. Again, dogs are denning animals, they all sleep together. Other than being a light sleeper, another thing you want to consider is that your puppy is also probably a light sleeper. If you or someone else in your household snores REALLY loud at night, you may want to consider putting the puppy in a different room. Otherwise, the snoring can wake the puppy up in the middle of the night and he/she will have to go and will end up going in their crate. That's not a fun surprise in the morning. 
  • Puppies "feel" the world around them with their mouths, especially retriever breeds. Just like toddlers they want to put EVERYTHING in their mouths. Make sure that cords, small objects and other "hazards" are taken care of before bringing your puppy home. Essentially, you need to "baby proof" your home. Also find out what types of plants or other items are poisonous to dogs to make sure those are kept out of the way. Puppies especially love to try and eat small rocks. Do your best to ensure they don't eat them (it can hurt their stomachs and intestines pretty badly). We have to take our puppy on a leash when we take him out to potty (even though our yard is fenced in) so he doesn't eat stones or small sticks (we can get after him quickly to get it out of his mouth). 
  • Make sure to get plenty of sleep. It's hard having a puppy and continue to do everything else that you do. Chances are you'll lose a little bit of sleep here and there. Making sure that you get plenty of sleep will help you be a better puppy parent, by being alert and "present." If you are a single puppy parent and you're feeling a bit ragged, have a friend or two over to watch him/her (preferably if they have or recently had dogs) while you take a solid nap. If you have a partner or spouse, try to work out the schedule so both of you are involved and it's not just one person's responsibility. 
  • Play with your puppy. This is good for a few reasons: it gives the puppy the needed exercise and bonding it needs to have with you and it will tire him/her out and they will (hopefully) sleep better through the night. Don't exercise him/her too much and make sure they are allowed water after playtime. 
  • Teaching basic obedience to a puppy isn't going to happen overnight, but make sure to work on it a little bit each day. Start by working on name recognition. Once the puppy understands his/her name then start adding simple commands like "come" and "sit." Always give your puppy a treat or a piece of their food (which works really well as treats for a little while) when they perform a command correctly. Also keep in mind that while some puppy behaviors are cute, they become not so cute when they are an adult. If your puppy is demonstrating a behavior that isn't acceptable to you if he/she were an adult, tell them a firm "no" and stop the behavior. Biting is particularly a problem when puppies get to about 7 weeks old. What works well for us is to hold the dog's muzzle firmly (but not super hard, just enough so you are in control) and tell them in a low, firm voice "no biting." When the puppy calms down let go and tell them they are a good dog. We also use a similar command when Auron has something in his mouth that he shouldn't. We pry the mouth open (again, not hard, but enough to show we're in control) and say "drop it" when he drops the item we let go and tell him he's a good boy. Even if the initial action is naughty, you want to praise him for performing the command. Eventually, you won't have to put your hands on their muzzle to get them to perform the command. Puppy kindergarten and obedience training classes are really great to go to once your puppy has all of his/her shots (usually around 4 months is the earliest you can take them to a class). It's going to take while before your dog is completely trained, but when he/she is, it will be worth all of the time. 
  • Feed your puppy quality food. It should be specially designed for puppies to give them the correct amount of nutrients for their rapidly growing bodies. Don't feed more than needed otherwise your puppy can grow too fast (especially if it's a large breed dog) and have issues with their joints later on. You also don't want a fat puppy. No matter how cute they are, it's bad for their health. You also want to make sure that the first ingredient in any dog food you buy is a meat-based product. We feed our puppy Bil-Jac (which is pretty expensive, I'll admit), but there are many other brands out there to fit your budget. Also, if you are a vegan/vegetarian, don't make your dog be one too. Dogs need meat to  be healthy. While many humans live perfectly happy, healthy lives on vegan or vegetarian diets, it is very unhealthy for dogs. Also on that note, don't feed your puppy table scraps or "people food" especially when they are young. Not only is it not good for your puppy, but it can teach them bad manners like begging or possibly stealing food from your plate. Teaching them to either play with their toys in another room or to sit or lay down away from the table is a good option. Since we eat (mostly) in the living room. We are teaching Auron to lay down on his bed or play with his toys quietly while we're eating. If we are planning on eating dinner at the table, we put him in his crate. 
    • You will also want to feed your puppy on a regular schedule. Until they are about 6 months old they will need to eat three times a day. Try to space meals out as evenly as possible. Sometimes things come up and you can't feed him before or after a certain amount of time (try your best to anticipate these things, say if you are planning on going out to eat or something like that) so your puppy has plenty of time to eat, digest and potty before you leave. 
  • Keep in mind that your puppy is a baby and they are just learning what it is like to exist in this world. You are their guide and despite all of the naughty behaviors, they look to you for guidance. A lot of folks say that having a puppy is like having a (human) baby, and I totally agree. If you treat your puppy with the same patience, warmth and care that you would a human baby, then everything will be fine. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

A vacation from my vacation

Last week I took a "working" vacation (meaning, I still had to get work done, but I could do it from home) to welcome our little puppy Auron to the household. Folks, raising a puppy isn't for the faint of heart, or the light-sleeper, or so I have learned.

Yep, all of this furry cuteness has been doing everything from desperately trying to master potty training (he's trying so hard, it's just that Garry and I don't move nearly as fast as he does, and he sometimes gets "distracted" when we take him outside. 

But for the most part, he is a good dog. He really is. When he's sacked out on the couch (and yes, we intentionally let him on the couch, he has to learn how to cuddle properly somehow) he's the sweetest looking thing ever. 

But don't let that sweet little face fool you - he's a ball of mischief wrapped in cuteness. We love him just the same though, even if some nights I wish that I'll wake up tomorrow and he'll be a 5-year-old couch-potato dog.

He's already gained a few pounds since we got him on Monday - he's very quickly becoming a tank of a dog. By the time he's finished growing, he'll be around 80 lbs.

Today was my first day back at my office after taking my "vacation." Somehow I managed to get caught up on everything and I'm really thinking that taking a nap would be the best thing ever. Sublime even. However, that won't happen. 

We're putting a bunch of projects on hold for a while to adjust to life with a puppy (and learning how to get things done in while still taking proper care of him) but I have a few small things lined up as soon as I can get more than a few hours sleep a night. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Things that every adult should know how to do

It's funny, there are times when I sit back and think "there is no way that I'm actually an adult yet," but then I take a longer look at my life and think, "oh wait... yeah, I've been here a while" especially when I realized that I cut my hair off because I was too busy to deal with it anymore when in my "younger days" my long, flowing hair was a HUGE priority.

I was scanning Pinterest today and I kept seeing really inane tutorials for things that most adults should know by the time they are off living on their own. I had to stop and wonder "are there people in their early 20's running around that have no clue how to do these things? Then I thought about my peer group and I realized... "yep... there are..."

This does tie in to home improvement, decorating and that sort of deal. I promise. So here is the list of things that adults should know how to do (not listed in order of importance, but really off the top of my head).

  1. Write a resume and cover letter. I was very fortunate that a required class for my major was dedicated toward learning this skill. I can't even tell you how helpful it was. Dr. Sharon Carrish, if you're reading this blog, I am truly, eternally thankful. There are many great tutorials out there on the web. There are a few main points when writing your resume: 
    1. Don't be super artsy or fancy (unless of course you're applying for a graphic arts position or something of that ilk), the easier your resume is to read, the more likely it will actually be read.
    2. Use a professional email with your contact info. Usually this is something that is just your name or your initials and some numbers - nothing silly like dragonhunter21 or hanzsololuvr... or whatever. It just looks bad. 
    3. ALWAYS include the job title that you're applying for. Most companies have multiple jobs they are looking to fill and if you don't tell them which one you are applying for, chances are they won't even read your resume. 
    4. List (in bullet point form) your relevant experience (use the job description as a guide) using past-tense for each job you've had in the last 10 years (more than that is considered "out of date" in most situations. Ex: Wrote and edited articles for school newspaper. Would be great if you're right out of college, but if you're 30, you probably shouldn't include that. If you're right out of college, listing experience that you have in the form of individual and class projects, internships or club activities is also acceptable. 
    5. This is going to sound harsh, but don't bother putting on there that you're a "team player" or "outgoing." They assume that you have the necessary characteristics that are required to function in the workplace. If you are really hell-bent on letting them know you're just a Perky Patsy, then find a way to let your experience show that. Ex: Planned and MC'd annual company picnic.
    6. Experience (most of the time) is going to be more important than your actual degree (although there are circumstances where that doesn't apply). Usually it's wise to list your educational experience at the end of your relevant work experience. More often than not, the folks looking to hire someone are concerned with the fact that you just have a degree and not as much with what it is, so long as you have relevant work experience to back up that you can do the job. 
    7. Cover letters should tell the reader why you are a good match for their company. This will require you to do some research. Look up the company's mission statement. Is there something that they do that you're really passionate about? Let them know why and how you will be a good asset to the company. Also, make sure to use spell-check and proof-read your work. If you're not the best editor, find a friend who will be willing to look it over.
  2. Manage your bank account & household budgeting. This is something that a lot of folks, regardless of generation or age group have trouble with. I'm definitely not perfect when it comes to this, but I've recognized that the bills need to be paid on time and to not live above my means. It also meant that I couldn't spend money willy-nilly on whatever whim. What I did to get my budget in line is use an Excel spreadsheet and utilized equations on the sheet to keep a running ledger of my monthly expenses. I always have at least 6 months of bills planned and put in the system. This way, I know exactly how much is available in my bank account at any given time. Different methods work for different people, but if you are looking for a long-term way to save money (for something like, a down-payment on a house or a large renovation project) this method really helps. It also gives you flexibility in case an unexpected expense comes up because you can see where you can move money around without causing issues in making payments on time. An important thing to remember is to always try to put money into savings. Even if it's $10 a month, it's better than nothing. Credit cards can be great for emergencies and all, but don't spend above what you can pay back in a month or two. The interest rates on credit cards are a nightmare! If you do fall into the credit card trap (I have before, it's not fun) try to pay as much as you can every month, otherwise it will take forever to pay off. 
  3. Cooking. I don't expect people to be gourmet chefs, but it's also a good idea to know how to prepare good, healthy food. It's amazing how so many people live off of frozen/box dinners! Cooking doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. A few things to keep in mind when cooking: 
    1. Buy fresh fruits and veggies that are in season. This means they had less of a distance to travel to your store and will stay good longer. 
    2. Make a menu. If you know what you want to eat before going to the store and make a list of ingredients, you will spend less. Also, you can plan for left-overs nights and meals with the same ingredients (but cooked a different way or with different spices) and that will save you some money as well. 
    3. Cook proper portions. So many of us don't know what a "proper" portion looks like. Grocery stores aren't necessarily helping us out either by packaging meat in larger increments (it's nearly impossible to get just one pound of lean ground beef). A serving of meat is generally the size of a deck of cards or 3oz. I explained that to my husband and he thought I was kidding. The restaurants you go to and can get 16oz steaks... do people realize that's an ENTIRE pound of meat? Gross. Also, proper portions are not only healthier for you, but you will save money.
    4. Buy only what you need, try to buy on sale. Lots of grocery stores have "club cards" that allow you to save some money here and there on groceries. Sign up. 
    5. There are tons of easy recipes online. My favorite website is You can find anything on there. Another favorite is Great British Kitchen, but that's because I like to try and cook food that corresponds with my British lineage. 
    6. Practice, practice, practice. Folks, I was not always the best cook. Actually, I used to be terrible. I even burned jello once. But, I decided that I was going to learn how to cook and started with really simple things like baked chicken breast and stir-frys. After years of practice I've come to really love cooking and enjoy making interesting and new meals for Garry and I and friends that come over to visit. 
  4. Sewing/clothing care. Again, you don't have to know complicated stuff here - I'm not saying everyone should know how to make a boned bodice with a peplum and shoulder rolls - but knowing how to hem your own pants, fix a ripped seam or sew on a button is important to know as these are things that most folks come across. Also, knowing how to launder and care for your own clothes properly is important. 
  5. Deal with conflict in a responsible and respectable way. I won't even get into the number of times I see adults out and about acting incredibly childish when they don't "get their way" or are involved in some level of conflict. I just don't get it. My thought is that if you're involved in a conflict the best thing to do is to stay calm and communicate. Chances are the conflict has something to do with a mis-communication. If someone is upset at you for something you know you did - own up to it. Blaming something/someone else isn't going to make things better, but apologizing for making someone upset will help. If someone upset you, let them know what action made you upset and why it upsets you. Ex: I feel irritated when you leave your underwear in a pile instead of putting them in the hamper because it makes the bedroom look messy. Or something to that kind of tone. Keep in mind that you need to respect the feelings of the other party, even if they aren't respecting yours. Don't lose your integrity or cool, chances are these conflicts aren't life-or-death and in the grand scheme of things "aren't a big deal." Sure there are many exceptions to that, but even then, keep your cool and remember to respect other parties. 
  6. Cleaning. It's my absolute least favorite chore. I can't tell you how many times I would have rather sat on my butt and watched a movie than clean up. But, cleaning is necessary unless you want to end up on an episode of "How Clean is Your House." BTW - that website has TONS of great cleaning tips! If you sometimes have the issue with getting off your bum to clean, just watch a few episodes of this show... it will motivate you. Not only does cleaning your home burn calories, but it helps keep you  and any guests or pets healthier too. Also, there's nothing like waking up on your day off to a clean house. It's actually quite blissful to have my morning cup of coffee, some toast and enjoy being in a clean, uncluttered room. Also, as a part of cleaning, every once in a great while it's good to go through your closet, storage boxes or "decorative items" and purge what isn't necessary anymore. Part of the problem is people collect clutter and before you know it - there's so much stuff that no matter how much you clean your home never feels "clean." Either corral the clutter with some multi-functional storage, or get rid of it. Remember - they are just "things" no matter how sentimental they are. 
  7. Do basic home repairs. Knowing how to hang a picture frame, put plastic sheeting on your windows (if you have older ones that are drafty), change a light bulb, paint your walls and unclog a drain are really important to know how to do. There are some great books out there - one of them being "Decorating Your First Apartment: From Moving In To Making It Your Own." I bought this book when I moved out of my parents house and it was really helpful. In the book there are lists of what to have on hand in case of emergencies, basic tools everyone should own, and how to decorate a small space on an even smaller budget. I'm still going back to this book even though I'm a homeowner because there is some really great fundamental stuff in there. 
So those are my Things Every Adult Should Know How To Do. I'm sure I'm missing a few things, feel free to add anything in the comments section that I've missed.  

Clean all the things - Day 3

Day 3's progress was laughable at best.

I had all the best intentions in the world, but managed to get side-tracked again. I was vacuuming our sunroom after throwing a load of laundry in the wash and was feeling all sorts of productive when the vacuum cleaner just stopped working. Like "oh, yep, I'm done now."

Of course, this sent me into a wee bit of a panic as I really didn't want to buy a new vacuum cleaner right now.

So, instead of completely freaking out, I just moved on to something else, like wandering around my house aimlessly because vacuuming the sunroom and doing laundry was on my agenda for the day and even though there was a LOT more that needed to get done, I was too thrown off to continue with the list.

Then Garry came home and it started to work again. Stupid vacuum.

Oh, I did manage to dust the ottoman and wipe down the counter top. Not a huge feat really.

My dear friends Raine and Kal came over for dinner and wine and we had a grand time. Garry and I were working on writing songs after they left and that, my friends, is where my evening went. Eventually we went to bed (after I had a little teensy-weensy bit more wine that I probably should have) around 11:30. At least the laundry made it into the dryer at some point.

I'm really hoping today Garry remembers to clean the bathroom. It's pretty bad folks. See, we didn't have a vent in there until February and while it was summer/fall we could keep the window open in our bathroom to let all the shower steam out, but when it got to be winter and cold, not so much. So we have some mildew that needs to be addressed. Yuck!

The fridge also needs to be tended to along with organizing and packing all of Garry's military uniforms (as they're laying on the guest bed right now). I have a feeling that it's going to be a long night - luckily I have tomorrow off so I can sleep in get more done tomorrow morning before I go pick up Tavis and Conrad.

I had some crazy dreams last night too. Usually when that happens I'm pretty exhausted the next day. Yeah, that happened today too. Augh. Accomplishing anything today will be a feat. I should probably have some more coffee as apparently one cup isn't going to do me any good.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Clean all the things - Day 2

Day 2 brought us the "organizing of the sunroom" event. We went through everything and ended up being able to get rid of a bunch of stuff. There were a few small items AJ left behind that we'll have to get to him, but now our sunroom is pretty much free of 8 million boxes of stuff.

The trash collectors are going to HATE us this week.

Now the room just needs to be vacuumed and some decorative things added.

We also found out that we need a new bookshelf. It was just a little cheap one from who-knows-where that Garry had before we moved in together. I think at some point this summer we'll build a decent-sized sturdy bookshelf to put in there. That would be really nice.

Right now we just have a small wicker loveseat and a coffee table. Not particularly conducive to having people over. This is supposed to be a "fun" room where we can hang out, have coffee wine, play our instruments or whatever. Eventually it will become a playroom for when we have a kiddo, but that's far enough away from now that we can use it as our adult playroom!

Here's what I'm thinking.

I haven't decided if I want to get a bench and two papasan chairs or get the double papasan chair and two slipper chairs. Hmmm... decisions decisions...

Granted it will be a while before this happens. For now we'll just have to make do with the folding chairs we have. Boo... so not comfy!

The other piece of gorgeous we'll have to wait for are the star sconces. I haven't been able to find something like that anywhere for very cheap. :( I love the idea of something shiny like that on the wall. I also want to include some decorative elements here and there too. The biggest problem is that the floor is on a slope, so sometimes that proves to be difficult. I'd love some hanging baskets, but with a drop ceiling, sometimes that can look kind of ugly, so we'll go with a few sturdy plant stands at various heights.

The fabric squares on there I already have. I made 4 panels (now in the bedroom) in the yellow/blue fabric (we can put them on either end of the sunroom for privacy and leave the windows facing the yard open) and the other fabric I haven't done anything with yet, but it will probably turn into throw pillows.

I'm also not  sure on the candle-screen either. We'll have to see. The room is fairly narrow and long, so it will depend on how we style the room overall. I'd like to have a nice oval-shaped coffee table made out of a tree stump and a slice of tree. That might be a while too, as I don't know when Raine will be clearing trees at Nemeton.

Oh sunroom... I have so many good ideas for you and yet so little money with which to do them with...

But back to Clean All the Things Week. Today we're going to finish up the laundry, vacuum (and fuss with) the sunroom dust the bedrom and clean the fridge. Tomorrow we're going to go ALL out and clean the floors/baseboard/windows/cabinets along with Garry scrubbing the bathroom within an inch of its' life.

Friday morning will be some last-minute decorating before I go and get Tavis and Conrad.

OH - our puppy is coming a day earlier! We'll be saying hello to our sweet little Auron on Monday!

He's already getting so big!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pillow Talk

I'm running into a bit of a problem here folks...

I know the throw pillows on my couch need to be replaced. But, the question is - with what? I'm not really sure if I want to go bright, neutral, or somewhere in between...

When I was at the store yesterday I found a really cute rug and some pillows that coordinated nicely.

But the question is: do I want to go that way. It's a little paralyzing once I get to this stage of the game. Things like throw pillows and little bits are what really "make" a room in my opinion and I thought that i'd take a cue from what we already have in there:

It's very small, but on the lower shelf there is a little green owl-shaped lantern that a friend of mine gave me for my birthday last year. It's a fairly vibrant green and really stands out on the shelf (which is why I love it there). I also have my white ceramic flying pig, Ferdinand, the gold "&" a copper and jade wire tree sculpture and a tan paper apple (it might get painted... I'm not sure). I am also thinking of hanging a metal star in that area too. Not too sure yet, as we already have two metal stars in the bedroom.

So I'm not sure what I should do here folks. Should I keep everything neutral? Should I try to add some color with the pillows? I mean there are a lot of ways I could go with this. I could do neutral pillows but with interesting textures and patterns (and maybe do a few embroidered or screen printed - I definitely want to do one with the monogram I made for our wedding)

Here's one idea I cooked up on Kaboodle. It's very neutral - at least for me. The swatches of fabric on there are possibilities for throw pillows. I've been noticing that a lot of what I'm gravitating toward is more neutral. I'm not sure if it's because it's "safe" or what. Either way - that's where I'm being pulled.

I also want it to flow from the kitchen which is this:

Any thoughts, input would be awesome.

Clean all the things - Day 1

After work I stopped by the store and grabbed some cleaning supplies along with a few other bits to help with organization - and of course - groceries.

Oh, I also picked up a small trash can to put next to the litter box. Why? Well, let's just say that scooping the cat box is not on the "favorite chore" list for either of us and sometimes it can go... well... without attention for a few days. I know, it's gross. So I figured by having the trash can right there every time someone goes in there to use the bathroom they can scoop the litter box too. Might as well right? And that will help keep it nice and clean (and less likely that Auron will have litter box crunchies to eat).

I was also thinking of making a sign to go in that area that says:

"If you're here to pee or poop, lend a hand and give the litter a scoop."

It's a little weird... but then again, so are Garry and I.

On the agenda last night was to pick up and sort all the laundry, move the dresser we were letting AJ borrow back into our room and put Garry's clothes in it (we have been sharing a dresser for the last 6 months). I also rummaged around and found some artwork for one of the wall shelves. It's by no means complete, but after I get a chance to really go through everything this week, I'll have some more items up on the walls in that room.

Garry also thought it would be a good idea (and it was) to organize the garage and get rid of all the garbage that's been piling up in there (not "gross" garbage, but things like empty paint cans, boxes, scraps from projects etc.)

We also have a brand-shiny new stainless Kenmore vent that we'll be putting on craigslist. The way our kitchen is built doesn't necessarily work well for a vent and even if we *do* decide to install one later on, it will be quite some time before that happens.

Tonight we'll be getting through the laundry extravaganza and hopefully I can convince Garry that the back splash really needs to be tended to. Also, moving the small tv and stand to the basement so I can watch tv and start using my elliptical. Now that I'm not sick anymore, I don't really have an excuse to not workout.

Also on the agenda for tonight is cleaning off my dresser and making the bedroom look a little more "presentable," this also includes finding a new spot to put Auron's dog crate. There will be some decorating mojo tonight!

Tomorrow we'll be moving items in the attic (or basement) that are currently piled up in the sunroom. I'm also hoping that Garry will take some time to pick up all his models and what not in the basement area. Eventually we need to really scrub down there, but not until we're ready to install the sub-floor. I'm also hoping he'll be the dear and loving husband I know he is and clean the fridge.

Thursday will be the BIG CLEAN - oh yes... there will be mopping, cleaning baseboard, dusting and scrubbing the bathroom within an inch of its' life. It will be... interesting.

Friday morning will be mostly "primping" the house and then Friday afternoon will begin our crazy weekend and spring break! We're so excited!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring cleaning

The last time our house had a good "scrub down" was probably before we moved in. Seriously folks, it's pretty bad. So this week is officially "Clean all the things" week. 

Funny enough, I can totally see my blog looking very similar to Hyperbole and a Half. Oh... it would be hilarious. 

Anyway, all the things must be cleaned. We're talking scrubbing the floor with an actual mop (and not just a steam mop) wiping down the baseboards... you know, that kind of stuff. 

I have a fairly decent arsenal of cleaning supplies at the house too along with a thing of baking soda and a few gallon jugs of vinegar. Vinegar is awesome. You can use it on anything... and it reminds me of being at the fish and chips shop in London. 

So today I'll be stopping by the store to grab the mop, bucket, a small trash can (to scoop cat "crunchies" into so our bathroom doesn't smell and the dog doesn't try to get a "snack" out of the litter box) and some odor neutralizing candles and what-nots. 

Our house doesn't smell, but having something like that in the bathroom is kind of nice - because sometimes for brief periods - the bathroom can be a smelly place. 

Also, we have to wipe down all of that extra grout. Yeah, still haven't gotten to that yet and I'm not so sure it's going to actually come off now. We also need to caulk that edge and de-grease the cabinet faces really well. 

AJ has officially moved out of the house. I'll admit it's a little weird. Yesterday I made the bed and pulled a few decorative little things out from hiding and put them on the shelves. I also opened the curtains and blinds (which were always drawn... what is it with men and wanting to live in a cave?) to let some sunlight in. 

Garry will be moving the boxes in the sunroom back up to the attic so we can actually use that room (yay!) and put our musical instruments in there. The room is great for when Garry and I want to practice our violins or have folks over to jam. We finally have lighting in there and we are planning on moving our little electric fireplace out there so we can stay warm. 

It's going to take ALL week to get the cleaning done that needs to happen... maybe even longer. I'm not really sure. We're trying to get it all done before Tavis comes to visit. That will kick of a whirlwind of events from visiting with family and friends out of town our puppy's arrival! 

Isn't he the cutest thing EVER?!

Garry and I went shopping on Saturday with my friend Judy to grab some more puppy stuff for Auron. $250 later and we arrived home with a good haul of toys, treats, food and other necessities like a poop scoop, bins on casters for dry food (for the dogs and kitties), a bed (which the cats have claimed) and a nice, new scratching post for the kitties so they don't feel left out. We actually got a pretty good deal considering the haul and the very high-quality dog food my mom feeds him is pretty expensive. 

The kitties also celebrated their 6th birthday yesterday! Well, we're not entirely sure when their birthdays actually are, but we figured April 1 is as good of a day as any - and it's easy to remember.

Hanging, cleaning and a break from major DIY

We finally got the items on the accent wall (that we have now - I have plans to add more down the line though) and after the major cleaning extravaganza on Monday, the house is looking pretty good.

The floors need a major mop and polish though... eeep!

And while we're loving how open the room feels, it almost feels a little "too" open. Well, more like unbalanced. When you walk in the house you immediately see our massive sectional couch. Even though it's just Garry and I (and AJ until Sunday), we use the heck out of that thing. So, even though it's probably a little too big for the room, until we get the basement rec room squared away (which will probably be a few years, much to Garry's dismay) this will be the flow of the room.

As you can see, the couch is just shoved to the corner. I'm thinking if we pull it out like we did when we first moved in...

Ack! Crazy mirrors!!!!

...maybe it will look a little better and more "centered." We could also build a sofa table to go on the chaise side of the couch with a built-in little nook. Maybe?

I haven't made any decisions yet...

I also think once we get the bright white crown and baseboard up it will look really nice. Although, that may mean moving the curtain rods and the shelves down a bit to balance it out... haha... Garry will NOT be thrilled as hanging things on walls is one of the "banes of his existence."