Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A little humor for your Furlough

Alright. I know I just posted but if you haven't read this should. I've been flustered and irritated and panicked and about a million other adjectives, but this had me in stitches. Enjoy!

The opinion piece by Dean Obeidallah found on CNN opinion page. Too funny.

Still Furloughed...and Panicking

Well, it's me again. And yes, my dear hubby is still furloughed. And we're both still frustrated. I would like to say that we're making great use of this time taking a vacation, enjoying time off but that's the complete opposite of what we're doing. See, we don't have the money for that.

We have made some progress on some house projects (we were just in the middle of moving a few rooms around). But it's slow going. We've been working on getting caught up on laundry, which is always behind in this house. The kitchen looks nice. The real problem is this big black cloud looming over our heads, and I don't just mean the rainy, pacific northwest weather.

You see, all I've heard since the furlough is one thing. More arguing. There's a whole lot more blame going on now than there was before the shut down. This is seriously disappointing. I know everyone has their own political opinion and I'm not writing this to voice mine. Though I definitely have one. I am writing to voice my opinion on the effects this arguing has on the general public. Those that aren't deemed "essential". The one's that don't really seem to matter.

I am seriously disappointed in the President of the United States of America. He is supposed to be our Commander in Chief. Lead the people. Show everyone in this country, and the world, how Americans behave when faced with challenges. What has he shown? He has stood up in front of the country, and world, and said that this didn't have to happen. That it only happened because of one part of a political faction, in one part of the government...blah blah blah. Do you know what I hear? "It's not my fault! (waa waa waa)." When my children respond with this behavior and keep blaming one another, I make them stop the blame game and figure out a way to make each other happy. Let's try that in our government!

Let me be clear. I don't care what political party the President is a part of. I don't care what political party caused the shut down. I don't really believe it was one party, I think it was a combination of stubbornness, pride, and the next political election. What I care about is this:

How am I going to take care of my family?

So while the President, Democrats, and the Republican parties yell at each other and argue over who caused what, I worry about the longevity of this situation. I am in panic mode. And so is my husband. (And for anyone wondering, I do understand that the President is a Democrat, but as the President he's supposed to be able to rise above his political party, right? Is he doing that?)

My husband has asked the question that many Americans in this situation are asking. The one's living paycheck to paycheck only now they don't expect a paycheck, "When do I just go get another job?" Yeah...cause that's so simple in today's market.

It doesn't matter that I work from home pulling in a meager amount. That just supports what my husband brings home. What he's not bringing home now. So while politicians in DC are making exceptions for numerous parts of the government to go back to work, my husband won't be one of them. We don't live in DC, he's not part of NASA, he doesn't work for the National Parks. He has a job, an important job, but it's not on the list of exceptions. So...we'll be left in the dust with the rest of those that don't fall under those particular categories. Why doesn't our paycheck matter?

And seriously, it doesn't make me feel any better that many politicians are "donating their funds in solidarity". First off, if you have the money to donate this chunk of change to charity, or back to the US Government (yeah, I'm going to want to see the cancelled check on that one!), then you aren't feeling the hurt like the rest of us. And by the way, that's a tax write off. Well played.

You know what I'm thinking about? I really wish I'd stocked up on meat when I'd had the chance. Is it possible to feed my family one chicken breast for two meals and still satisfy their hunger?

What's your concern?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Furloughed and Frustrated

Obviously, this isn't a happy tail or a funny anecdote. My husband, the main breadwinner in our family, has officially been furloughed. On one side, this has come at a good time since one of our babies is sick, but I've handled sick babies before and getting help at the expense of losing a paycheck is really not in the plans for us.

My frustration is in many areas. For people unaffected by this salary cut, there will likely be a lack of concern. I admit, that if it didn't affect me so greatly I would be irritated at such childish actions, but I probably wouldn't be spitting fire mad. This lesson has taught me that whether I have an invested stake in the matter or not, I should be spitting fire mad at any governmental injustice. The bottom line is this...we all need to be involved. We all need to voice our opinion. And we need to do this not at the cost of friendships-let's not act like the politicians people-but to further our own beliefs and to listen to, and yes, even possibly change our view when listening to others' opinion. That's called having an open mind for anyone unaware of that concept.

But back to the issue at hand. Here's where the problem really lies. Obamacare. Whether you want it or not, love it or hate it, we all have to admit that negotiation is the key. There is no possible way the entire country can love the same thing...we don't even have agreement on simple things like food and movies. But we should all agree that without compromise, this government will pay the price. And by government I mean the people that keep the government running since there is no real change for the wealthy politicians who continue to get paid regardless of the situation. No one wants to compromise, not the Republicans, not the Democrats, and certainly not the President. This. Is. a Problem.

And whether you support the President or not, we should all take carefully what he says. Listen, I know he's a Democrat but he is a separate entity from the rest of the Democrats because he's the President and this is his healthcare plan. And he's placing full blame on everyone else. The Republicans are blaming everyone else. The Democrats are blaming everyone else. None of them are to blame. They are right. It's not their fault.

Does this sound familiar? If you've ever been a child, been around children, or raised them you will be very familiar with this concept. It's the somebody and nobody issue. You know, somebody else is to blame and nobody is willing to take responsibility. By the time we reach adulthood we should be well beyond this childish response. Don't allow anyone to get away with this! Don't let your children and don't let adults use this as an excuse. Especially adults. And mark my words, this is the excuse that all parties are using. The President, Republicans, and Democrats. This issue has even affected the main stream. I hear friends and family saying the same thing, "It's the Republicans, not the Democrats" or "It's the Democrats, not the Republicans", "It's the President". It's all of them!!!! Sheesh!!

Do you think this would be happening if the politicians (the President included) had their paychecks cut as well? If they lived paycheck to paycheck like the majority of Americans? The reality is they don't. They don't live paycheck to paycheck, they don't have their paychecks cut. In fact, for just a short time serving the people (something most of us do in some capacity) many politicians will continue to receive exorbitant paychecks long after they have left office, in fact until they die!  If we have such a problem with the finances in this country, why don't we quit paying the politicians after they've left office. Quit paying the President when his term is over. That would put a lot of money back in the coffers. Seriously, people! This is the key to all our problems. And not only the salaries, but we also continue to pay for secret service, car service, etc. Why don't we make the political positions un-paid! Gasp!!! We could never do that! That is just a crazy suggestion.

Guess what, folks. Our forefathers didn't get paid. They were offered money and didn't take it. It was a volunteer position and our country was better for it. So let's just consider that. Just take a moment and consider whether we would be in this position if all the political offices were un-paid. Seriously...

And some Americans won't be as greatly affected as others. The military is going to continue working and continue getting their pay. Many different departments (the essentials) will continue to receive a paycheck on time. But let's be real. This doesn't make the President and congress heroes. I believe that if you work, you should get paid. Isn't that the point of working? I support the troops, and security officials. I believe their jobs are vital. But I also support getting my money as well. My husband has accrued a lot of vacation time and comp time (this is time he has earned by working over 40hrs a week and not received overtime for that he must use for days off instead). He is not allowed to use that time to balance the loss of pay. He's already worked for it and yet can't get his pay for it. My husband is a "non-essential".

We simply don't get paid. But he's essential to us. To our family. And his paycheck is essential too.

The reason behind paying military families has been credited to the fact that military families live paycheck to paycheck. Really? That's why we're going to continue paying people? No. We should continue paying the military because they are still working. For no other reason. Quit trying to turn this into something it's not. You work. You get paid. It's not really because military families live paycheck to paycheck. Because if that's part of the reason then we should get our paycheck. After all, we live paycheck to paycheck too. In fact, most of the people I know that will be furloughed and not receiving a paycheck actually do live paycheck to paycheck. Military families are not the only ones and if they were the only ones in this country that would be a bigger issue. Really, the only ones that don't struggle with finances are the politicians. So their selfless act of having their paycheck withheld or donated to charity is anything but selfless. The fact is, they don't need it. We do. Instead of donating it to charity or sending it back to the US Treasury, send it to me. I'll give you my address.

My husband hasn't had a pay increase in years. Years folks. That means that while the cost of living has increased, our pay hasn't. That means that while my husband has busted his cute little butt, he has gotten no compensation. That means that even though he should have gotten a promotion and increase in money he hasn't. The politicians have, even though they voted and agreed not to increase pay for many federal employees. That seems fair. The fact is, we have just been happy he has kept his job. He hasn't been laid off. We have been truly blessed for that fact alone and we have learned to skimp and save to compensate for his having a job with no more money while the cost of living has skyrocketed. And yet, I'm happy he's still working. He still goes to work everyday to bring home a minimal paycheck that a lot of people would squawk at while others would die for. We are the middle class. (Not the upper middle class.) And now, even though he's still employed, he's not allowed to go to work and make a paycheck. There's something wrong with that.

And this isn't his fault. It's everyone else's. It's the politicians and the President. It's all their fault!! (cross arms, stomp foot, storm off) "IT'S NOT FAIR!!!"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Microwave Popcorn

Well, hello there! It's been a while, I know. What with all my activities up in the air at the same time, I was forced to ignore my growing audience (I kid, I'm not forced to do anything...okay, I kid again, I don't know that I have an audience!). But I thought I would write a quick post on microwave popcorn.

I grew up cooking, eating, and frankly loving microwave popcorn. Then, my dear husband introduced me to the idea of old school popcorn. Ya know, the kind you cook on the stove except this stove was really an electric machine with a little oil and the right kind of popcorn (oh yeah, my first introduction to different types of popcorn too) that had a big clear, plastic bowl on the top. I was so fascinated at that first popping. Watching that little metal arm go round and round, moving the popcorn and oil and popping a whole clear, plastic bowl of popcorn that you simply flipped over, added butter and salt and devoured. Then, dear old husband introduced me to his Grandpa's air popper. Now that, was good popcorn!

That air popper became my favorite choice for snack foods. Either that or my freezer for crazy ice cream choices. But back to the popcorn. Well, we used that air popper for years...I mean years! Then, the other night, as I was getting ready to make popcorn for movie night with the kids, do you know what that air popper did? I'll bet you can guess. Yep. It started smoking. Not a good steam that could second as a facial, but an awful, black billowing steam that caused me to rip that cord right out of the wall and question whether we had a handy, working fire extinguisher.

That night I had an impulse to drive straight to the nearest store with a working air popper (that or break into a movie theater and steal the popcorn). Yes...I know I have a problem. By the way, the nearest store is like, at best, a 30 minute drive one way so...I was desperate. It was then that reality hit me and I came up with a plan B which was giving the kids a different snack, hey...candy always works! In the meantime, I got on the internet. I had a small recollection of a different option. So here is what I found.

1. Take a large, glass bowl (yes, it has to be glass).
2. Pour some popcorn in the bottom. (This is a tricky instruction because the amount will really depend on how large your bowl is. My bowl is pretty large and I used only a couple handfuls but I didn't fill the bowl.)
3. A plate that will cover the bowl completely. My plates are stoneware but any plate will do. The key is it needs to be large enough to keep all the steam in.
4. Place in microwave and start. I set my microwave for 5 minutes but you'll want it to pop until it slows down. I ended up having to start the time for another minute before it stopped. Then, once it's done please be careful and use oven mitts to remove the bowl. It will be extremely hot!!

Add butter, salt, or just popcorn flavoring. I've even seen olive oil and other flavorings added. The cool thing is that I don't need to replace that kitchen appliance which is always good due to the small kitchen I have. Oh and it's not nearly as loud.

Seriously, that's it. No oils just microwave and steam. Not exactly old fashioned but at least this popcorn isn't full of all those nasty chemicals. The one thing that I seriously won't miss is that awful coating of who-knows-what that was always on my mouth after eating that other microwave stuff. Believe it or not, I wouldn't eat popcorn if that's my only choice. That's saying something.

Enjoy. And let me know if you decide to try it out. I would love to hear someone elses opinion on the matter.

Happy Creations! Jennifer

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Terrific Tooth Fairy Nonsense

What with my creativity, craftiness, and can't-say-no disorder, many of you out there might think I'm a Super Mom, cape and all. But the truth is, I'm just super good at convincing a super number of my friends and family that I'm something other than a super flop. Case in point: The Toothfairy.

It may come as no surprise to some of you that my oldest daughter has been losing teeth. You would think that I would be ready for this exciting time in her life. I have plenty of scrapbook papers ready to scrapbook the loss of teeth. And her first tooth was very exciting. But I wasn't exactly ready.

This first tooth of my first born was loose for a few days and many of my experienced mothers-of-tooth-losing-kids friends said I would have at least a few weeks if not a month before that first tooth finally took it's plunge from depths of her gums. I was very excited for this event and started thinking of all the fun things the Tooth Fairy could do. When my darling daughter lost that first tooth we were both caught unawares. I had done one thing-purchased a movie I intended to give to the whole family...before this whole tooth thing started. So when, at breakfast one morning, my daughter was choking down her Eggo and inadvertently, her first baby tooth (oops), I wasn't quite ready for the Tooth Fairy action. She was so disappointed about swallowing her tooth (and my roaring laughter at this realization) that I felt the need to go a little overboard. You know, to compensate for my winning mother-of-the-year response to her horror, my laughter, and my lack of preparedness.

So I set about on a task. I wrote a letter from the Tooth Fairy explaining that it was okay that she swallowed that first tooth, it still counted, and that her first tooth was a very exciting moment of growing up (even though her father could not find it in the toilet--trust me...a story for another day). Because of this big move towards growing up she would get a one time special gift (the aforementioned movie) that she could share with her family and friends along with a gold dollar. The letter had neatly burned edges and was tied in a roll with twine, there was water left out with glitter (from her wings, duh), a little jar with that gold coin to replace what should have been her tooth, and the movie. All this was piled perfectly on the cleaned table along with some glitter to show where she come in and out of the house. She was thrilled. I took many pictures (for those scrapbook pages).

Fun, right?

Crazy, right? awesomeness stopped on that day. Her next tooth fell out before I had anything ready for her. Then I remembered a $2 bill that I'm sure someone else had given her but she had long forgotten so that got thrown in the jar after forgetting to do it for a few days. On only her second tooth!! She was less than impressed. Where was her new movie? I then referenced the long forgotten, carefully worded first letter. She moved on.

I was determined not to forget the rest of them. That was a major let down to something I had waaaaay overdone originally, yes, but could not go back on now. I went to the bank and exchanged a $20 bill for a stack of gold dollars. I was ready. The next few teeth fell out and I remembered the glitter but forgot the gold dollars. She ended up with a handful of change and even that recycled $2 bill once again snuck past this poor unsuspecting child. Most of them were not even done the same night as the loss of the particular tooth! (I mean seriously, why haven't I won that so coveted award all us mothers talk about? I'm totally mother-of-the-year material.)

Let's fast forward to my daughters latest loss. She mentioned the loose tooth. I saw the loose tooth. She wiggled the first tooth. Within a few days it went from nothing to "Mom, look?" "Wow", I thought to myself, "time to get that Tooth Fairy thing ready to go." I looked at the tooth she was wiggling at my friends house and said, "Another day or two and that will be out."

Yeah...she had it in her bloody fingers a few minutes later. Ewwww..."Ummmm," I said so wisely, "your hands are bleeding, I mean, your tooth has blood on your hands." She smile with blood stained teeth trying to explain what had just happened. "Uh huh. Let's clean that up and stop the bleeding in your mouth." I mean seriously, why don't I have that award?!!

So now my daughter gets her own jar down from a very high spot that she could not possibly reach and my middle child proceeds to tell me how it was done before I cut her off and tell her I prefer not to know. I mean, I'm clearly going to forget again so my wise daughter had to take matters into her own hands. She puts her tooth in there. Draws an adorable picture, asks for sparkly pens (for the wings, duh) and goes to bed happy.

I sit down on the couch and my husband and I catch up by reading sarcastic humor and laughing. He heads to bed and I make my way there with my computer, still reading things that make me laugh. As I'm lying in bed I remember the Tooth Fairy. CRAP!!! Guess what? I honestly almost scrap it. "Honey, don't be upset. Sometimes the Tooth Fairy is so busy she just can't make it to all the houses in one night. This tooth fell out before she expected and it wasn't on her 'to-do' list for last night." I honestly debate it and then realize I was going to do better this time. So, up I get...husband sawing logs and all. And as I'm frantically looking for that glitter that I obviously hid from myself when I rearranged my scrapbook things, the missing bag of gold coins (really? a whole bag missing?) I think, "How in the world has this intelligent soul not figured out this is a bunch of crap?! I've let it slip a number of times that it's not real thanks to "The Rise of the Guardians" movie. I'm not doing this!" Then I turn on my poor unsuspecting husband, "I should yell at him and wake him from his needed rest to help me find some things that are not going to be found by tomorrow." Then I think of a better solution.

All my daughter really wants is money. It doesn't matter the form so I rustle up some change and throw it in the jar. Then I take some Christmas cookies sprinkles (green and red) and sprinkle them about the page. She'll buy that, right? I make a note on the picture that is just oh too cute and a thought occurs to me. I could really have some fun tonight. So, I grab some pretty paper, a nice pen, and I draft a letter. 

Things are written like, “wonderful tooth, appreciate the water, long flights” and then the best part is written: “This page gives you one coupon to a free play time with your Daddy and sisters. Blah blah blah…Have fun!”

I chuckle in delight. This is what happens in the Tomka family when you sleep through the hard work. The Tooth Fairy is awesome because she gives this wonderful little girl a special gift in return for the wonderful picture. Fun times with Daddy (and her sisters—see how I snuck that in?). And…the best part is the Tooth Fairy rewards Mommy for all her innovative hard work. I mean, come one! This is going to be one epic morning (and some wonderful, undisclosed afternoon for Mommy). Seriously…who wants that Mother-of-the-year award anyway? I've got Wife-of-the-year in the bag!!

Well played, Tooth Fairy, Well played.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thoughts on Tee Ball Season

Yes, as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, Tee Ball season is in full swing. It's really our first official sport with our oldest daughter. I was very excited to get out there and see our little girl on the field! I also promised myself not to add any more than was absolutely necessary to my already hectic schedule. I was practicing the word "no". (As one of my best friends has told me, I need to tatoo "no" on my forehead.) In lieu of the possible attention grabbing tatoo, I decided to "just say no". And I did. And I did more than once. Then my husband, the dear man that he is, got roped into managing the team (in baseball speak that's the head coach). He's not traveling for work much at all, he says. He'll be around, he says. Sure, I say...

Here's how the conversation went. "Jennifer, I think I'm going to be the manager of the team instead of the coach." (coach is baseball speak for assistant coach) "They really need a manager. There are no volunteers and not enough people."
Me: "So, you're saying I get to be the manager."
Hubby: "No. I'm  not adding anything else to your plate. I will be around. I promise."
Me: "So, I'm going to be the manager."
Hubby: "No! I'll be here. I really want you to just stick to your plan."
Me: "Here's what I'm hearing you say: Your managing, your managing your managing...
Hubby: frustration ensues..
Me: "It's okay. I know we need a manager and I'll help. Is it okay if I just co-manage? So if you're not here I'll take over otherwise you're in charge?"
Hubby: "There's another team that does that. It should be fine."

Flash forward to now. I'm managing the team and Ryan is co-managing when he's here. Hey, I totally understand his schedule is unpredictable at best. It's okay. And it turns out, I enjoy it (though we may not want to pass that on to the hubby.) I also enjoy giving him a hard time. It's kind of my job. He does a great job when he's there and I pull it all together somehow when he's gone.

Well, being the creative, over achieving mom/manager...I created a few things. You might find them useful too. So here they are. They are mostly self-explanatory so I won't spend a whole lot of time explaining. I am apparently too old to figure out how to link to the files so just send me a message if you want a version of this for your file. I'll be happy to email it out.

1. The diagram...A baseball diagram that will help manage those tiny tee ball players. I just took a plain baseball diagram from the internet (there are about a hundred different options) and then started changing it. My particular diagram started at I brought the outfielders in (basically to the infield) because, let's face it, it's tee ball. I labeled all the positions, created a few extras like: batting order, a box for the game specifics i.e., day, time, field, and inning, and a place for notes (like player abilities, ect). Then saved it as a pdf. Add in your batting order for the game, change the inning number and print however many you need. We typically only play three innings so that's how many I print.
It turned out pretty neat, huh? Well, at least I think so. Please feel free to request the file to use it. I hate having to recreate the wheel and wouldn't have if I'd had this. This is a great resource for the game and makes lassoing those kids a lot easier. It takes all the thinking out of the game. I would suggest setting up a few extras just in case you need them though. It would be a bummer to be caught unawares.

2. An excell sheet. Now, what in the world do you need an excel sheet for? You might be asking. Well, in my infinite OCD fashion I've created a sheet to guarantee all my tee ball kids get to try every position. This is obviously not a practice for the older kids but at this age it's good to have. Our kiddos don't keep score, we just have everyone playing every inning so they learn the game and have a good time. The competition doesn't begin until they're older. It also cuts down on the length as the kiddos have a hard time being there for too long.

This excel sheet just needs your personal choices. I have the first row as the field positions, and the first column as the kids names. Then as I assign positions on the field I mark off the child's name with a tally mark so I know they've played that position at least once. By the end of the season each child will have one or two positions they are strong at, for now they get to try them all. Again, this is a use it if you like and how you like kind of item. Just let me know if you're interested and I can email them out.
After the first game I decided we needed a few other things too. Like:

4. Some kind of large diagram for the kids so they know where they are going on the field. Basically, I turned the pdf into a posterboard. I made three (one for each inning) and covered it with contact paper. I hadn't used contact paper since I was a kid but it was pretty darn easy. I just used posterboard (though I did find that it looked best on green and if you want to use other colors make sure they are light colors. My dark blue is hard to read).

I took some scrapbook cardstock paper I had on hand and cut it down to a 10 x 10 to create the in-field. Then I just extended the square with black marker and a ruler. My bases were 1.5 x 1.5 squares and homeplate was just cut down from those. I then made my curved line to create the look of an outfield. And yes, I only used one since my kids will never get out to the actual outfield. Add a few labels and contact paper and it's ready for the dry erase makers. I keep a couple with me so if I need to make changes during the game I can. I also hole punched the top and added a few rings but you could easily add some small carabiners which is probably easier. Just use those to hang the diagram from the chain link fence.

4. The last thing I added were 9 plastic bins from the dollar tree with each child's name on it to keep under the bench in the appropriate batting position. Each child will deposit their mitt and their hat before batting and then easily find them before going back to the field. The first game we tried to get them to put them under their seats but since they sometimes move their hats and mitts got strewn about. Now our games have a place for everything and everything in its place...hopefully.

So now we're back to my friend threatening to tatoo "no" on my forehead again. Hey, at least I've got someone looking out for me...I think. Hey Donna, do you think I could I get that tatoo in pink?

Happy Creations! Jennifer

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How Children Learn

Last night ended late. Very late...My kids finally had dinner and headed off to bed. (I won't say how late as that might put my mother-of-the-year award in jeopardy. wink...)

Anway...this was our bedtime scene:
My youngest daughter acquiesced to the oldest and got out of my oldest daughters bunk and into her own toddler bed. She listened to her older sisters' desperate whispers of getting into bed and quietly settling into sleep after a full and exhausting day. I waited until they did, in fact, settle down and went to tuck them in. All three were peacefully at rest.

My middle daughter was aglow with a flashlight that was resting in the covers she adamantly refuses to pull up herself instead insisting I'm the only one who can do it just right. My oldest was sleeping under the covers, a surprise for me. She usually lies on top of them so as not to mess up the covers thereby skipping the step of making the bed the next day.

And then there was my youngest. There she was lying on the toddler bed under a mess of multiple "blankies" a mere head visible from the mess. I straightened the covers and realized she needed to have her pajamas fixed. She had put her shirt on her legs and then her pants, leaving on her shirt from the day (hey, she is only 2). As I stripped off the pj pants I saw that one of the sleeves of her pajamas was on her leg and the pants had been put on over that. "Interesting concept", I thought to myself as I stifled a chuckle. At least her leg would be really, really warm.

As I got her properly dressed and tucked in, I started thinking. How do children learn what they learn?  I'm sure this thought has passed other parents' minds too. Now, of course, the most obvious answer to that would be that they learn by watching us parent (the nurture argument). The other camp might say that it's our environment (nature). But I've always believed that it's a little of both. This view became very clear to me after I was connected with a long lost family member. He and I had many (and I mean a whole giant multitude) of similarities.

It surprised me at first.

And then the old nature vs nurture issue that I had learned about during all those many months, years, and dollars came to light. It occurred to me that the fact that I had, for all my childhood and into adulthood, convinced myself I was just a standout in the family was anything but. I was a standout in my immediate family. The one's that shared my day to day life. But I was by no means as unique as I thought I was. I was not as much of a wanderer, traveler, free spirit, a diversion in the road, a change from the norm that I thought I was. This was a bit hard to take at first. I mean, let's face it, I am pretty general. I'm, as my middle daughter would say, "special". And I revel in the unique, the extraordinary, the different. I've never been one to desperately try to fit in. I've never been one to desperately stand out. I just didn't follow everyone else. And I found out  how much there is to be learned from all those people who took chances.

And I took chances. I never realized they were chances at the time, it was just what I did (we really, as my husband has been such an integral part of my life for so long). Were I alone, I have no idea the path I would have chosen. But with Ryan, I may have honeymooned in anywhere but an exotic place (a mere few hours from our hometown) yet we moved 4,000 miles away from home, friends, family. We wanted to try something new. Learn a different way of life from a different type of people. Search out ourselves, search out God, in a breathtaking place. For us, that meant a major we did it. With an adventurous spirit, a trailer, a cat, a ferret and a fat tailed gecko, we went west young, woman...and man. And we loved it. That journey has led us many more places and landed us here, in the beautifully breathtaking Pacific Northwest.

But where did I get that traveling spirit when all my family lives close to where we grew up? (As an aside, I do miss my family terribly but we are home here.) Back to the point, how did I end up so different: looks, attitude, interests. And yet so the same. Well, it all goes back to how children learn. It all goes back to last night.

I believe God makes us perfect in His image. It's stated right there in the Bible. He didn't make a mistake when he gave me the gift of gab, my sarcastic wit, or my family. I was put right where I needed to be with the people I needed to be with. I believe God gave children the ability to learn but He also blessed everyone with an internal intelligence. We learn from our families, friends, and society, but we also have certain traits that are part of our DNA so to speak. It's a balance of nature and nurture that create who we are. This became evident tonight, as I tucked in my tuckered out kids.

I started analyzing the situation. My middle girl had the flashlight on even though the hall light lit her room well. This could be either nurture or nature. We all have innate fears of things, the dark being high on that list due it's unknown factor. But, society and myself and her older sister could have taught her that fear through inadvertent means.

My oldest daughter convincing, coaching, directing her younger sisters. Also, a possible nature or nurture issue. Oldest child syndrome but also being old enough to mimick mommy's behavior. (Note to self on that one!!) And also her switch on sleeping under the blankets tonight. Did all my explanations that she really doesn't save time or effort by sleeping on top and being chilly all night finally kick in? Or was it just because it was too cold out tonight to do that.

And my youngest, getting into bed on her own and covering up with her shirt on legs covered by her pants. Clearly, she's learned some of the behavior. This would be evident in learning to listen to her older sisters since they seem to know the ropes. But, she still pushed the rules by climbing onto that bunk bed to start with. I don't see myself as leading by example on that one but maybe somehow I do. Maybe it's just that nature issue. She was born with that attitude. And would she dress that way if she'd had no influence otherwise, say stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a suitcase full of clothes and some food. Would she learn how to properly dress and care for herself? She's obviously still learning that.

So my answer to how children learn is, I don't have a clue. My girls sure do seem to learn all my bad habits with no problem. Obviously that is nurture. And not good nurture. But nature also plays a vital role. Do you ever think of this issue? Do you ever wonder why one child does this and the other does that when they clearly grew up the same way? Have you solved one of life's great mysteries? Cause I'd sure like to know!

Happy Creations! Jennifer

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Puppy Fabulous Cover

Okay, so apparently February came and went and I'm still reeling.'s March and I'm determined to get one of my posts actually posted. I had others in mind and even started one for Valentine's but the projects turned out less impressive than I wanted so, no post. But on to better things. Our family introduced a new member to it recently. This wonderful puppy came with lots of things, one of them this giant, unsightly crate. Until recently, this crate sat in the middle of the living room as a giant eyesore. But, not anymore. I made a few adjustments to the layout of our tiny living room and finally finished this outstanding project.

Enter: The Puppy Fabulous Cover.

What makes it puppy fabulous you might ask? Simply stated: imperfection. See, my puppy doesn't care how great or perfect her cover for her crate is. She just wants a cozy cover. And that's all she got! But hey, it's a lot better than that unsightly crate. So, on to the project.

This project can be very simple, or by adding a few things, a little more challenging. But, even if you barely know how to use a sewing maching you can do this project!  I'm not super skilled at sewing. I taught myself all I needed to know. There have been calls to my mother in law many times to ask questions that 2000 miles doesn't quite allow all the help needed. (Of course, all the miles in the world can't help me. Or so I'm told. ; ) The point is that pretty much anyone that wants to can make this. It really is simple. The basic instructions are as follows:
1. Measure the top, and sides for a total of 5 measurements. 
2. Cut fabric at least 1/4 inch larger than measurements to allow for seams.
3. Sew together. 

Got it? Yeah, don't worry. I have a few pics and tips to follow. So...check out the details.
Step 1. Measure. Yep, the old addage is true. Measure twice and cut once. Now, cutting these pieces can be tricky as it is important to keep them squared off (straight). But this can easily be accomplished by measuring and marking at the tops and bottoms. My trick (and I did make some mistakes anyway so expect that) was to use a sheet.

Yes, I said a sheet. When I started this project I knew it was simple and wouldn't require much as I had done a similar one years back for a bird cage. But, I really try hard not to buy new stuff instead using up things I already own that are collecting dust. So, I pulled out my tupperware of fabric and quickly went through it. I found a flat sheet that had never been opened (a WalMart buy) that was intended as a backing for curtains (did something different). So, I grabbed that. After all, as I said earlier it would have a nice straight edge (selvage). They were tan and went nicely with my decor. Now, if I were smart I would have stopped there and just done the project quickly but that's just not me. So, I spiced it up a bit. 

I found a couple old curtains (the really cheap kind) in a nice maroon, and some other fabric I'd purchased years ago with the intent of making a skirt. Obviously, I never did. Now, I know better than to be that industrious because I'll probably never be the clothes making kind of gal...I know, I know, never say never. But...I digress. After looking through a lot of other choices and sizes of fabrics, I chose the two above. I decided I would make a maroon strip on top and the other checkered fabric on the bottom. 

2. After this, I set about measuring and cutting my fabric. The maroon fabric was such a poor quality that I ended up doubling it over to get the color I really wanted. I cut the tan as the back to attach the other two fabrics to (not necessary but easier to keep the sizes you want). It is at this stage that I will say how important it is to measure well and allow for extra room. Keep in mind that the front of the cage will be a flap and you will need to make that piece a bit larger so you can have a nice hem all the way around. 

For beginner sewers I would suggest adding at least a 1/2 inch seam/hem allowance to the measurements before cutting. I probably could have had a bigger seam allowance and better measurements. If you spend the time on this part, the rest will go much easier.

Step 3: Lay out your pieces and start pinning. As I said earlier, I am using the tan as a background to attach the other two visible pieces. So, layout that first piece you want to really doesn't matter which one. My top piece was all the black, white, red, checker fabric I chose, while my sides and front and back were two different pieces of maroon and the aforementioned fabric.

To star the pinning, just lay out the two pieces and line them up. I chose to use the selvage as my bottom so I could skip the step of creating a hem. (If you are using just regular fabric with no hem, you will need to add at least a 1/4 to 1/2 inch to create the hem. Then sew the two pieces together and hem them as one piece. This will save you some steps of hemming each one and then sewing together.) 
As you can see in the picture below, I chose to use a fabric that had a fringe. I wanted that fringe to be free from the bottom of the fabric so I made sure to pin and sew just a little bit higher. You will also notice that the selvage I'm using. (Yep, I'm just that lazy. Or, you could say I'm that smart!)


 Once I pinned the first piece, I started pinning the maroon to the top. Notice in the picture below I laid my white/black checker fabric down while I pinned the maroon. (Also remember that my maroon was folded in half for a thicker fabric and darker color.) I will also point out that I had not cut very precisely as I warned was important in the beginning. This created a little bit of a problem when attaching all the pieces but I worked with it. Imperfection, remember?!
 After pinning the top of the maroon and the bottom of the checker fabrics, I combined the two. I wanted the checker fabric on top of the maroon so I folded the checker fabric under while leaving it on top of the red. In other words, pull the checker fabric that is folded in the last picture up over the maroon and then fold under the top. What I'm essentially doing is layering the two fabrics, securing them to the tan, and creating a hem on the checker fabric all at the same time. One time through the sewing maching, three jobs done! That's what I call efficient.
 Proceed as before for all 5 pieces making sure they all lay correctly when together. In other words, do some more measuring before pinning so the sewing goes quickly. 

Step 4: Sew all pieces. Once sewing is completed. Choose the piece that will be the front cover and create the hem. To do this, fold over the sides about a 1/4 inch (or half inch depending on your original seam allowance), pin, and sew. See below.

 This is what my seam looks like for the front "door" or flap. Pretty snazzy, huh?

 Another option is to serge the edges, I don't have a serger so I kind of did my own by using a very small zig zag stitch. It worked well on the maroon but not the checker because the edges of the checker frayed so I ended up doing the zig zag in further. If you look closely at the edge of the checker you can see the first attempt that did not work at all. Due to this issue, I ended up doing hems on all open sides (sides that weren't sewed together).
 When the hems are done on the pieces that need them (the front door piece, and the front of the sides that sit by the front door) you are ready to sew the whole thing together. Think of it kind of like a puzzle or maybe a skeleton. The left side's connected to the top piece, the back is connected to the top piece, the right side's connected to the top piece...Did you get my reference to the skeleton song? No...that's okay. You might be better off. Yes? Awesome...I'm not the only crazy lady out there! Anyway, after all the pieces are connected to the top, sew together the back to the side pieces and...voila! Happy dog!

 See? Denali is trying to tell us she likes it. She was talking a bit when I took this picture. You can see all the tan from the inside of her cage, and refer to the first picture for the outside. So it's definitely not perfect, but at least it's done. And...Denali really likes her new cozy home.

It's a touch fancy yet still fairly easy. There are some really awesome and talented seamstresses out there that put my design to shame but I'm happy with the result. And, it was essentially free. At least I didn't buy anything new for it. You could also use fleece and save yourself the time of sewing hems (fleece does not unravel like other fabrics). I just thought it would be a little bit too hot for my little pup come summer months. Besides, I didn't want to buy new stuff anyway. So, that's it.

If you have any questions, please fee free to ask. Leave comments, links to your design, or more. I would love to hear from you. Hope you enjoy trying your next project.

Happy Creations! Jennifer

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hair Supply Storage

Pretty fancy title, huh? Well, I would like to call it something fabulous like...hmmm, I don't know. The title makes sense now doesn't it? I just couldn't come up with anything. So, it is what it was meant to be. Anyway, I started this project with a billion different ideas and wasn't planning on blogging it so I don't have a ton of pics...especially the "before"s but I did manage to get a couple.

The first problem was that I had this great Container Store sorter. I loved first. Then I had 3 little girls that kept getting their hands on it, cracked the top major trying to get into it, and then finally the youngest one found her way to opening it. Well, let's just say that mess took a while to clean up! (See pic below but be prepared for much snickering as well as "awwww"ing as this one is ADORABLE...annoying at this moment but adorable).
What we're supposed to be noting in the above picture is my daughters' handiwork with the all the hair supplies scattered about her. In fact, she was chewing on a barrette in this picture. This is what led to...
 Sigh..."Well, at least it was all in the container" you might say. It wasn't...and it was severely difficult to find anything. So, an idea was born.
Idea #1: I originally planned to use the same containers under my medicine chest on either side of my faucet. However, as I lined them up there I realized I didn't like the look since I had an entire wall to the right of my door (small though it was) that only had a clock on it. (The wall is about the depth of the cabinet in our bathroom so quite small. The perfect size for idea #2.

Idea #2: Stack the two racks with containers on the wall so as to utilize the wall space better and still allow room for my counter items that would have been forced into retirement. Idea #2 it is!

Here's what you'll need: a hammer, screws (with anchors if you are not going into a stud), a screwdriver, level, pencil, painters tape, and a screw hole starter.
In addition, you need to purchase or up cycle some small shelving that will fit some glass containers (see images at end). I bought my glass containers and shelving from IKEA (it's pretty much my favorite store). Follow the directions for putting the shelf together and then move on to your wall.

 So, most of this is self explanatory. You need to line up the holes on the back of the shelf to the screws you put in the wall. Though this part has always maddened me in the past, I found a trick on Pinterest.

Take the painters tape and run it across the back of the shelf. Use your pencil to mark where the holes are. Remove the painters tape and put it on the wall where you want your shelf to hang. (Remember that you mark where the top of the holes are and not the bottom otherwise your shelf will hang lower than you plan. Just a friendly tip from me to you. I may or may not have made that mistake in the past.)

Once you've line up the painters tape, grab your handy level and check it. Then check it again. And probably again. It's the old adage, measure twice, poke holes once...or something like that. ;)

Here's what it should look like as you line it up. Keep in mind my pics of this were after I hung my shelf so the glass jars are already on there and yours wouldn't be yet.
Once you are sure the shelf will be level start the holes. I used my screw hole punch starter thing. It looks dangerous whatever the real name is. (Disclaimer: Do not hold onto this tool if you are having a big fight with your husband! hehehehe. Just kidding!! And yet not...)

Add your anchors, then screws and pop on the shelf.

The  next step is the fun one. Sort, organize and add all your hair supplies to your new, cute, glass jars. Add jars to shelf and voila!

Okay so I was going to crop out the two white spots higher on the wall I decided to just let you see that we have more projects in the works. The reality is that we need to get more paint. I'm dreading that situation! How could I possibly find a perfect match? And I really don't want to repaint the whole bathroom...So, it stays white for now and I never notice it until I look at pictures. But, I digress.

Now I have a bathroom wall used more effectively and efficiently, hair accessories more easily accessible, and less junk to pull out from under the sink. What more could a girl want?

Well, actually a better solution for the leftovers...
These were items that didn't fit in my new, amazingly cool hair supply storage system. I pondered this for a while and wouldn't mind getting your ideas. What do you think of the new storage? Any ideas on these leftovers, plus all the headbands? I might have an idea or two up my sleeve but any suggestions, comments, or questions are appreciated.

Happy Creations! Jennifer

Please feel free to comment below.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Jeans Wreath

Hi. This is my first official blog. I've always enjoyed crafting and I usually take pics of what I do. Normally I just talk about what I've done with my friends, but I've decided to put in on the web. Why not? Everyone else seems to be doing it! ;)

So this post is about making a wreath with jeans. I can say I wasn't sure how it would turn out but I decided to take pictures as I went and, worse case scenario, I'd just trash the photos. It turns out, it turned out! So here's the method:

Step 1: Purchase, "borrow", of finally use a metal wreath as pictured below. Mine has been staring me in the face for 2 Christmas seasons now. I couldn't stand seeing it sitting around the pile of unused items. I had a lot of great ideas when I bought it I just never got around to doing anything with it. So while I still don't have the time, I happened to complete this project after all!
 Step 2: Cut a lot of strips. Okay, I'll be more precise. I made 2 different cuts. The wreath has 4 wires. After some trial and error I decided to use fabric as the "background" (that's the cream colored blocks) you'll need 9 of those or however many sections you have on your wreath. I didn't take exact measurements because it was not an exact process. All I did was take the fabric I was using (an old cream skirt that the zipper had broken) and wrap it around. I then cut the block and measured it again and cut again. Once you have your size, use it as a template to cut your other 8 pieces. You do not have to be precise.

You will need roughly 45 strips of jeans. Again, I used old jeans of my husbands that were no longer wearable. I cut the strips to be roughly 1" by 10". Depending on the width of your strips you will need more or less. You'll have to determine that based on your desired outlook.
 Step 3: Heat up that glue gun! (I secretly love using my glue gun but don't have a lot of projects for it so I always enjoy pulling it out.) You will first take your large blocks and wrap it over the top and bottom wire so the ends connect in the middle. (See image below) Lie one end flat and apply hot glue. Paste the other end on top and voila! You have one section done.

Continue covering with large blocks until all 9 sections have been covered. You will be left with a wreath that has only the 2 middle wires showing.
 Step 4: Start weaving in the jeans pieces. I chose to alternate them so that one strip was face up the next was face down and so on to get some varying colors but you certainly don't have to. If you're using old jeans like myself, that effect might be accomplished without doing that. Some of the strips were hard to tell what was the front and the back compared to others.
 Step 5: Once the strip has been weaved under the 2 wires in the middle, just double knot it. I decided to weave all the jeans strips into the wreath to get them off the floor. My little one had just gotten up from a nap and I didn't want her carrying my jeans strips everywhere. It did go quickly doing it that way but however you do it is your choice.
 That's it! You're all done!! I had planned on having all the knots going different ways but as I was initially tying them they were all facing the one way and I found I really liked it that way. However, you could choose to let them go all wonky and have an entirely different look. To hang, I looped one extra strip from the back on one of the center wire pieces and knotted it the same ways as the ones on the front. It doesn't detract too much from the wreath itself but you could also use a long ribbon or whatever will work for your door.

Remember, the background fabric color is your choice. You could use any fabric to create this wreath. I like the stiffness of jeans because they will hold the bow shape better but any similar fabric will do. This project was easy, quick, fun, and it used up some odds and ends fabrics. It would also be a wonderful project to use up all those scraps you're not sure what to do with. Having a red door, sticking to a more neutral color scheme worked well for us.

Another addition would be to add something to center of the wreath. A title like "Merry Christmas" or "Season's Greetings" would work or just a large image. I didn't do that as I was trying to make a quick project and didn't have that handy but maybe you will. Make it your own and post any pics you take so I can see your creativity!

Happy Creations! Jennifer