Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We Are

I'm back.  My house is still standing.  I counted heads, they are all here.  Nobody seems to be sporting a black eye or broken bone.  No sign of a party - that or they are exceptionally good cleaners, which, if so, why aren't they able to do that all the time?  My 8 y.o., who stayed with my parents, contemplated staying there.  He was bummed to hear we were on our way home.  Apparently life was better over there.

We enjoyed our trip, despite the ice storm that hit the Midwest and had us rethink our stay and way back home.  We are not travelers who need to "sight-see."  We enjoy the travel there - hubby likes to drive and I like to do nothing - and we'll poke around, but down time is what vacations are for us; no places to be, no plans to be made, no timetables to hold to.  We have family members who don't understand this, LOL.

  • We leave and she finds her person to spend the next four days with.
  • Girlie discovered Bob Ross.  We've had fun watching some of his shows on Netflix.  (She's been watching them all.)
  • Heading East.  Little did we know this would be the last sun (and dry roads) we'd see for the next four days.
  • We ♥ Schlotzky's (the ones near us are gone) and, sadly, couldn't wait to have lunch when we passed the sign on the highway.  Had we been able to return home the same way, we'd have planned some meal around it again.
  • It had just been in the 50's before our arrival - and would be again, the day after we left
  • Here in Colorado below freezing temps and precipitation means snow - not rain  #goesagainstscience
  • 3/8" covered the car one morning.  #stilldon'tgetit
  • Still hanging with her person
  • Eight games, four days
  • Pioneer Woman's  The Mercantile store, deli, restaurant and bakery.  It was a lot to take in.  It was even harder deciding what to bring home, but I managed
  • I've never done the Fan Girl thing.  I have to say it was odd feeling.  I've read her blog since long before she was on Food Network, read her books, cooked from her cookbooks, admired her photography and loved her stories.  To be in the store I'd read so much about was weird.  We returned later to eat dinner and that was odder still - the menu items were recipes I had in my cookbooks (contemplated cooking myself) or that I'd see her make on her TV show.  The food was delish. . .but it was surreal.  While she didn't come into the store the afternoon we were there, her husband did, and that was bizarre and funny - nope, didn't attempt to get a picture with him, though others did.
  • Doing my favorite thing - absolutely nothing!
  • We rediscovered some of the 80's country we used to listen to.  Seemed like the right background music to our travels through Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Ice Storms. . .pretty to look at, not so fun to drive in
  • Meanwhile, back at home . . .
  • Picked up the first goal in the game
  • When your personal cheering section picks up a few more members
  • Was named Player of the Week by Arvada Hockey, but also picked up a Player of the Game for his goal, scrappy play and hustle during the second set of games during the tournament
  • More good play.  His team ended the tourney with a 6-1-1 record
  • This was as close as we were going to get to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo.
  • When the roads looked good
  • Is it any wonder he didn't want to come home - full belly, heated blanked and screen time
Happy Wednesday,

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

We Are

Hubby surprised me around Christmas with a couple trips we'll be taking in the next few months - very excited!  It is the first time we have traveled without the kids since 2004.  

We are leaving the three older kids alone.  By themselves.  Without adult supervision.  Never mind that the older two are "adults". . . in the government's eye at least, it's still an odd thing to think about them have total control over the house, the dog, the fish and each other.  The youngest will be with my parents.  Unfortunately, they'll have to deal with a hockey tournament schedule - and we'll be missing him play in it.  

In any case, I have been pretty preoccupied in making sure things are covered.  Popping sticky notes around the house as a reminder to feed the dog and the fish.  Sending schedules to my parents, so should they pop in, people are where they should be, and there are no extra people in the house, people whose laundry I don't do.

  • Welcoming in a new year
  • Post-holiday slow-down in retail
  • Family game night
  • When you have to go on errands with your dad and brother
  • I have no idea what I was talking about - a daily occurrence
  • When there's finally enough snow to bring out the sled
  • Corrupting your granny by showing her how to Dab
  • Star Wars Costume Exhibit
  • Big thanks to the sister who dragged you to a cool exhibit, though you doubted
  • Cards Against Humanity, Pretzel Sticks and Sparkling Cider . . . holiday highlights
  • When your crew finally celebrates the holidays
  • Day Two of six days off
  • Making good use of the telescope Santa brought you
  • "What?  You got up."
  • Things every woman thinks when she's walking in heels
  • Adulting. . .it's not for everyone

Happy Wednesday,

Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday Management - Organizing Your Space

Because the new year brings a renewed vigor for cleaning and clearing.  Because, I myself, want to do some decluttering.  And, because I want to make time for myself a habit, I dug out the first of several posts on organizing your creative space.  Doing a clearing out, at least once a year, can be daunting, but ultimately it is freeing!

REPOST from January, 2013:

I've had some comments, or pleas, to post some ideas on organizing your craft spaces, since I tackled my own space last year.  January seems as good a time as any to post some ideas, strategies and inspiration for digging into your own space; that whole, "strike while the iron's hot" geared up for a new year of challenges, goals, and the will to tackle projects.  Today, will begin a multi-post topic of dealing with your supplies and your spaces.

The following ideas were inspired by "The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker" by Wendy Smedley and Aby Garvy.  I picked up my copy when it was first released several years ago.  It had been out of print but has been re-released.  I highly suggest it whether you're organizing an entire room, or the boxes under your bed.  There are questionnaires to help you discover your work flow and how to figure out what solutions will help you work best.

Today, I'm just going to cover a some basics before digging into your space and supplies:

  • First things first, being organized doesn't mean you have everything in containers.  Sure you've got your supplies tucked into cute containers and baskets, but if they aren't inspiring you, getting you excited or helping you work, then it's not organized in a way to help you create.
  • As you go through the process this month (or at any time) keep in mind that the changes you want to make are ones that will make you work better.  Ask yourself before moving, shuffling or purchasing:  "Is this solution going to improve my process?  Make me work better?"
  • Over the course of the month we'll touch on the method you choose to organize by.  NOTE!  One method is not a fit all for everyone and everything.  More often than not, it's a combination of several styles.  And what works for me, or your best friend, doesn't necessarily work for you and how you work.  Don't be afraid to try one way and admit that it's not working and trying something else.  This is NOT a failure (and therefore a reason not to scrap or create), it's a discovery and should excite you to try something new.
Methods to think of before you get to work on how you'll organize (and before you make purchases) are: 
  • by Activity - what are you doing.  Do you have tools?  Are you using tools?  This is where you'll think about creating stations, maybe for your most used tools.
  • by Topic - by theme, by season, by color
  • by Manufacturer or Line - keeping the various manufacturers together, or all the pieces from a given line together.
  • by Color - if, when you work, you think in terms of colors this may be your method.
  • by Project - keeping all the pieces for a particular project together.
  • by Pattern, Shape or Mood - if you think in terms of, "I need something round" or "I need something romantic"
  • by Chronology - this is mostly for photographs, but could also be in terms of whether you jot notes for journaling, titles, or the funny things your kids say.  It could also be if you want to use your older products first.
As we work through, think about storage solutions.  They are as, if not maybe more, important as how you'll sort your products, tools and photos.  This is where the quizzes in the book come in handy, though you probably already know what might be best for you:
  • Open and Visible - baskets and bins, perhaps doubling as decor if you create say in your kitchen or dining room.
  • Open and Not Visible - the same baskets and bins, but probably stored in shelves or cubbies as opposed to out on a table or desk.
  • Closed and Visible - Glass Jars come to mind.  Things with lids, but that you can see into.
  • Closed and Not Visible - Solid containers with lids and probably stored behind closed doors.
You'll want to find a charity to give your donated items to.  Places like pre-schools, day cares, kindergartens, senior centers and several non-profits will happily take your supplies and put them to good use.  There's no guilt in giving!

As we move through the various topics keep these things in mind:
  • What's your vision for your space and, ultimately, where you'll draw your creative energy from.  We'd all love the ultimate in scrappy/crafty spaces we see on magazine covers.  Those are great for inspiration, but don't get caught up in something that's unrealistic for you and your life style.
  • Keep the organization methods above in mind as you work.
  • Organizing also means paring down.  There's nothing wrong with donating that which no longer works for you.  Scrapbookers seem oddly attached to items that sit for three years unused and untouched.  If it were a 10 year old sweater (barring some sentimental attachment) you wouldn't keep it if you hadn't worn it.  The same thing goes for that two inch stack of paper.  Let it go!  If it helps, it's a tax deduction, same as the sweater you're giving away.  Just be sure you follow your tax codes.
  • Finally, keep in mind the way in which you will store and/or display your organized and parred down items.  It's about making them work for you. . .not about the basket you got at 50% off.  If baskets aren't the best for your work flow, it doesn't matter how much you saved.
Lots of info.  Hopefully, you'll embrace this as the month, and ultimately the year, you're going to make crafting your habit.

Happy Monday,

Friday, January 6, 2017

Food for Thought

The weekend is finally here.  For some reason this week seemed excessively long.  Maybe it was the cold.  Or the snow.  Or the fact that the kids have been on break, together, in the house, for over two weeks.  Whatever the case, three of the kids go back to school next week - Girlie goes back the week after that.  I plan to start taking down Christmas stuff this weekend.  I plan to finish setting up my planner and thus clearing off the counter where I've been working.  I plan to get back in the swing of things.

The swing of things means regular menu planning.  It's amazing how crappy we eat when there's no plan.  Pretty much since Thanksgiving, the menu plan has been no plan, or barely a plan, at best.  If I'm going to do my best to make new habits, keeping up with the eternal "what's for dinner" question is a must.

I have a couple Zuppa Toscana-type recipes; I had several that were identical and after pairing down, this was one of the ones that was left.  I kept it because this one used Kale.  I'm late in arriving to the Kale party, which is so 2014, but hey.  I tried it before adding it to the soup, having heard the "bitter," "biting," "takes getting used to" rhetoric that sails around when people say "kale."  I have to say I found it to be none of the aforementioned.  It wasn't any more bitter than some Spring Greens and held up much better in the soup than spinach.  I'd put it on my sandwiches in place of lettuce.  The soup was really good.  Creamy and rich, the sausage giving it most of its flavor.  None of the kids said a word about the kale, they just asked for seconds.

My Mexican fix for the week was this Chicken Enchilada Rice Casserole.  With so few ingredients I wasn't sure what to expect taste-wise, but it was good.  I used my go-to enchilada sauce.  It was warm and comforting, the beans made it creamy without adding a lot of cheese, or cream or a condensed soup.  I liked the crunch of corn on top.  We added avocado and sour cream.  It made a ton - I used a 9x13 pan and couldn't get it all in.  It would easily make two 11x7 pans; I imagine it would freeze well.  We've used the portion I didn't get in the pan for filling to burritos at lunch.  

One nod to my no-meat meal was this Vegetable Pot Pie Skillet with Cheddar Biscuits.  I liked that it used frozen veggies (far better than canned) which meant no chopping.  I decided to add potatoes to mine, just to bulk out the filling.  Sweet potatoes or a White Bean would also be good.  The biscuits were easy to make, and light and fluffy on top.  My only thing, and it's because I added potatoes, was that I should have thinned the gravy, as the potatoes sucked a lot up and made the dish less creamy.  If you don't want meatless - adding a cup or so of rotisserie chicken would be good.

My stupid-still-can't-get-it-nailed-down oven and I had a slight disagreement when it came to this Creamy Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese.  I thought the topping should be nice and golden brown and the oven thought blackened would be more superior.  Not.  So I scrapped off the worst of the offending topping and served it up.  It was rich and creamy and determined to be "Bae AF" by at least one of my kids - the others had their mouths too full to comment.  When it comes to homemade mac and cheese it's the choice of cheeses that makes the dish.  You need a nice shape cheese in the mix and this had that.  Plus, garlic never hurts.

I cooked this Avocado & Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash meal for our re-instituted in-law dinner nights.  My in-laws are still at their daughter's house, while my father-in-law continues to convalesce, so I wanted to make sure that whatever, and however much, he ate, it packed a good punch.  I went meatless, but this was good and hearty and filling and had a good amount of protein.  It didn't have a sauce, which I worried would make the filling dry, but that wasn't the case.  I kept the squash warm in the oven, and the filling warm on the stove and assembled just before serving - leave the nuts out until the end or they get a bit soft.  I added more nuts to the tops for crunch.  I couldn't find Pepitas (the internal seed in a pumpkin seed) at our grocer, so I just roasted the seeds from the squash and used those. This was really good, unless you ask the two boys who aren't much for squash - though they ate the filling and at least tried the squash.  (ROASTING SEEDS:  Separate the seeds from the stringy insides under cold water.  Lay flat to dry.  Toss with olive oil and salt.  Spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350-375 until golden.  Toss once.  Mine weren't quite dried when I tossed them with oil and after after I stirred them once the water remaining in a few of the seeds caused them to pop like pop-corn.  No harm - other than seeds in the bottom of my oven.)

Eating healthy isn't really so hard.  I've already lost a couple pounds, but that might just be water-weight and the fact that all the Christmas cookies are finally gone, but still. . .

Happy Friday,

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, Not So New Plans

I have been writing on this blog since 2009.  And now it's 2017.  That's a lot of ideas, memories and sharing.  It's also a lot of plans; some that worked and some that lasted only as long as it took to hit the "Publish" button.

New year.  New plans.  New wondering.  New blank calendar.  

I know I've said it before, but I can't help looking a my new planner and wonder what will fill its pages.  What highs and lows will be penciled in.  I have to say, it gets more daunting as you see your kids' events also fill those pages.  Mine are older and more independent than they were in 2009.  They are more steps away from home, heading towards their own futures, their own goals in their minds.

I long ago stopped calling my yearly plans "resolutions."  I have called them different things over the years - challenges, goals, projects, intentions, but now they are just, "things I'd like to get in the habit of."  Though the names have changed, the list rarely does:  better eating, dropping a few pounds, making time for myself, dealing with clutter in the house, healthy habits.

Let's call it now.  

  • Easy - Better eating comes with menu planning.  Menu planning that steers a little more away from creamy things.  A meal here and there is one thing, and while butter and cream are my friends when it's cold and blustery outside, I'd like to get back in the habit of one meat-less dinner and one seafood dinner a week.  The seafood will be the toughest - the kids only like fish and that gets old fast.  I may need to opt for seafood a couple times a month instead of weekly.
  • Moderately Easy - Dropping a few pounds.  Frankly, if I laid off the candy or the midnight snacking I'd be well on my way - I rarely drink soda or alcohol and my coffee is one cup a day with cream and sugar, so there's nothing to give up there.  I actually just need a healthier alternative when I want to grab a couple licorice bites, or a handful of chips.
  • Moderate - Making time for myself.  While I know the huge value in this, even more so in the last couple months, it's still hard to do.  It's hard to ignore the chores, to do what feels like an indulgence.  Harder still, when you know things you ignore will still be there, or worse, the things you just completed will be completely undone.  Still, it is something that feeds me, re-energizes me.  It is something I truly need, whether I read, sew, paper craft or color.  I need to make this a habit - it's as health-conscience as what I eat and the ever-allusive exercise.  Only this is way more fun.  To this end, I've joined Scrapbook and Cards Today All Year Class SCT365.  I received the first month's challenges, but haven't yet read them.
  • Easy (Should Be Anyway) - Decluttering. Organizing is my thing.  I'm pretty good at it.  When I'm ready to purge, just get out of my way.  Shoot, I spent some of this past Sunday finally, finally, tackling the basement - with an eye to the above goal in mind.  The trick is to keep on top of it, to get to it before it gets out of hand.  And to hide the things I've purged so they don't somehow end up back where they started.  Funny, how things nobody remembers are suddenly of great interest when you dig them out and put them in a box marked "Goodwill."  De-cluttering the house equals de-cluttering of life and mind.
  • Ridiculously Difficult - Healthy habits.  There's just no way to motivate me.  I hate, H.A.T.E, the gym.  I'm not into classes.  There are too many ready excuses to make outside walking a thing.  I was at our local rec center, where the 8 y.o. plays hockey, and I looked into the fish bowl that is their gym and thought, "Nope, there is no way I'm coming here for others to watch. Just no way."  I have played with the idea of joining MPC.  I thought about it last year, too.  We'll put aside the fact that the founder is hot (he plays the TV version of my book crush Jamie in Outlander.)  Seriously. . .he's hot.  That he's in the workout videos, will certainly make me watch them, but would it be enough for me to follow along with them?  The plan comes with workout videos, daily menu plans and recipes, Facebook support, even groups of "Peakers" to gather with, if there are any in your area.  It's everything one would need to get in a healthy habit from the safety of one's home.  Shoot, 50% of the fee (which is crazy affordable for a year-long program) goes to charity.  Yet I drag my feet.
So, here we go.  Into the blank that is 2017.  What will work and what won't?  What's coming down life's path?  Only the turn of a calendar pages will tell.

Happy Tuesday,

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

We Are

It's busy and getting busier.  Besides the usual daily home things (cooking, cleaning, overseeing homework, etc.), there's getting ready for Christmas (I believe I am finished shopping -- WHOOP!), the high schoolers and their finals, work schedules to coordinate and hockey.  Then, you add those extra seasonal things and boom, you're toast.

  • The Guitar Man (much relieved after performing his solo) and the groupies who came to support him
  • Third Grade Christmas party - because one or two foam stickers will never be enough
  • The Robin who didn't fly south with his friends.  He was puffed out to the size of a softball, trying to eat the berries off the tree.  Berries that were frozen solid, thanks to single-digit temps, and kept popping off the tip of his beak, and zipping away, as he tried to grab them.  He got one while I watched.  
  • Taking (in red) and winning a face-off! 
  • When it's warmer in the rink than it is outside
  • This week's teams
  • A little holiday crafting.  The trees are super cute and we created quite the forest, which is now sprinkled around the house.
  • When the Girlie is out shopping and sends you this, you get the distinct impression it's not going well.
  • The uglier the better?  Or you waited too long to get the sweater you really wanted.
  • When you're called out for missing your day opening the advent calendar door.  #don'tgetonthelist

Here's to hoping I don't find something I forgot to get while I'm wrapping presents.

Happy Wednesday,