Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Any guesses what this might be?

I have this vague memory of a show, a game show, I guess, from when I was a kid.  The host would show people (maybe they were celebrities or somehow famous) an item and they would have to tell the contestant what the item was.  The obscure item would be pretty much unrecognizable, and the contestant would have to decide which story to believe about the item in question.  Like I said, it is a vague memory at best-probably something I watched with my grandmother, who also loved The Price is Right.

So, can you guess the use for this? 

Sorry to say there is no prize for getting it right, and no celebrity guest star, but if you also remember that show, you will have my undying gratitude!  I will be back soon with the answer to this and a few other questions I have gotten this week, as well as the Oreo truffle recipe! 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The pile gets smaller for now

We are in the second full week of summer vacation and I have read 1.6 books-a pretty good start if I say so myself!  My first pick was gods in Alabama, by Joshilyn Jackson:

What a great choice to start my summer!  This book was a quick read, but wasn't "fluff" by any stretch of the imagination.  With fully developed and relatable characters and an intricately woven series of flashbacks, this book drew me in and kept me reading obessively until the very last page.  As good books often do, it also left me wishing there were a few more pages (those darn "reading group" questions at the end always make it seem like there is another chapter!). 

I love Southern Literature, Southern fiction-all things southern.  I took a Southern Lit. class in college and fell head over heels for Eudora Welty and others, all with the lush heritage and amazing language they could have only learned in the south.  Jackson's narrator couldn't have seemed less southern at the outset of the novel, but as I read on, I learned that Arlene was a bit a of nomad in her childhood and came a little late to the Alabama home where she spent her teenage years.  The story unravels like a phone call from a good friend with a crazy but enthralling story to tell.  One minute you are getting a play by play of her day, the next you are getting the backstory you need to make sense of it all.  I won't give details about the book, just go and read it.  I think her others will be in the pile of books that is getting smaller and larger at the same time. 

As quickly as I read gods in Alabama, I am reading The Life of Pi that slowly.  I know so many people who loved this book and Amazon, Paperbackswap and WeRead are all telling me that people who liked books I like also recommend Life of Pi, but UGH.  I won't let it defeat me, though and today is the last day of both Pi being on that liferaft and me reading about it-if it kills me I will finish this book.  I love some little pearls from this book, but it is way too much like science class for me. 

Read any good books lately? 

I will leave you with a picture of sweet oreo goodness.  I think I like taking pictures of these almost as much as I like making them, and let's be honest, eating them.  I made these for a fundraiser one of my friends did for her participation in the 3-day Susan G. Komen walk for breast cancer.  It was "yoga for the cure" and you can read more about it by looking at the blog in my sidebar:  yoga wisdom for everyday

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sweet summer so far

Well, we are nearly a week into summer vacation and it's going great thus far.  My kids already have that half-tired, half exhilarated look that is somewhere between beach bum and extreme sports enthusiast.  As for me, I am "tan," (according to my husband) which is no small feat for a person with 50% Irish heritage. 

One of my favorite parts of summer is my garden.  This being the third year we have lived here, it's actually starting to look a little presentable.  I have a sweet collection of coral bells in my tiny front yard that are in full, albeit miniscule bloom.  My lacecap hydrangea looks a little worse for wear after the epic snowstorms we had this winter, but it still got gorgeous, delicate lavendar blooms:

I went to my favorite garden center, Glicks greenhouse for their 1/2 price sale and loaded up on plenty of plants to fill in the empty spots in my side garden and backyard.  I filled my hanging baskets as well, with some favorite flowers:  lantana, sweet potato vine and this other one, whose name I can't remember but it looks like mini petunias:

I also got some annual black eyed susan, which are starting to bloom and are simply amazing:

We've been hit with heat wave after heat wave this spring/summer, so it's easy to forget that it is still June and technically on the 3rd day of summer!  I can't wait to see the growth in the garden this year.  It's time to get the pool bag ready again and pack lunches for the kids and me-life is so hard in the summer! 

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Quickie

You know those projects that kind of sneer at you from the corner, taunting you, almost daring you to complete them.  You know the type-the ones that really will only take a half hour or so to complete if, and it's a big, gigantic (if )you just took the time to do them, and had the necessary supplies on hand.  One of those projects has been staring at me for about 3 years.  It was shortly after we moved into this house that I decided to use a pillowcase to camoflauge the ugly and stained cushion on this chair that I got from my mother's house (thanks mom!). 

It's brilliant, right?  I mean-you can't really tell that it's a pillowcase-not even when you see the bunch of fabric hanging off the side of the chair.  Granted, it did cover the off white cushion which was stained and overall in need of help, but still-a pillowcase?  Not my best work. 

Last week, I was determined to get this chair off my back and finished once and for all.  So, after cleaning the local grocery outlet nearly completely out of snack food, we also went to the fabric outlet where I snagged a couple of remnants-one of which was destined for this chair.  I went to work, ripping off the old beige fabric, only to uncover this 70's gem:

If you look closely, you can see that the red velvet has nearly turned to dust and there are little red velvet particles all over my floor.  Don't look too closely, though because there is also regular dust on my floor.  I ripped through the velvet:

To find the foam underneath lacking in a little support and comfort.  After getting all the velvet and staples out, it looked like this:

Okay, maybe I didn't get out all the staples, but close enough.  I added a little batting to give it a little more softness:

Then, covered it in my cheap fabric remnant, so it looks like this now:

Not too shabby, for an old chair.  And it only took about an hour or so (well 3 years plus an hour or so) to complete. And now the chair won't be giving me the evil eye every time I walk by.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chores made simple (I hope)

A while back, a friend sent me a link to this amazing chore organizer project on the equally amazing blog "How does she?"  Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I was able to marvel at her creativity, her skill with power tools and the genius of this simple system for doling out chores to (possibly) willing children. 

In the past, I have tried lists, written chores on scraps of paper and let them choose blindly and then eventually just given up!  I like the idea of the popsicle sticks because they should last all summer (at least).  I also like assigning chores because I can tailor the task to the child's age and ability. 

I am a firm believer in giving kids chores (just ask them, they will bore you with exaggerated stories of child labor camps) but often fall short in the consistency category.  When there is so much to be done in a day-homework, reading together, sports practices and other obligations, it can be just easier to take it on myself or even ignore it completely until the kids are at school or I can't stand the mess anymore.  I am really hoping that this very simplified version of the idea from "How does she" will help me stay on track this summer and give the kids the chores they should be doing.  Honestly, I am also hoping that it will save me from saying things like "Am I the only person who can bend over and pick up socks on the steps?"  Or, the ever popular "Can't anyone flush a toilet?" 

So, before I share these pictures, please go and look at all the details of the much more beautiful inspiration piece that gave me the idea in the first place-you will be blown away with her skills.  Mine, on the other hand, took a more simplified approach.  First, I considered using mason jars, but they are a little too tall for the popsicle sticks that will be the assigned chores, so I picked up a few of these pots:

Personalized them just a bit:

Next, I got the popsicle sticks-the wide ones that look more like tongue depressors, and simply wrote the chores on them in green (my favorite color) sharpie.  Alison actually included a printable template for the chores so that you can cut them out of paper and mod-podge them to the sticks.  For me, it's all about being done in the time that I have, so a sharpie had to do the job (and I must be quite a task master because I had WAY more chores than the template):

I've also added two clothespins to each flower pot; these are like gold around here.  One is for computer time and the other for TV and neither can be used until the chores are done (what's that noise?  angels singing?  I think so). 

TA-DA!!!  my chore assignment system.  Let the complaining, trading and bargaining begin!  Oh, and hopefully the eventual submission and cleaning, too!  I decided that because today is the first day of summer vacation, we would start out with just one chore each and work up to a few for each day.   

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Garden Tour

This past Saturday, a good friend and I left kids and husbands behind to go on an area garden club's home garden tour.  Each one was amazing in its own way, and we had a great time snooping around all the gardens.  I think I learned something new at each one that I want to incorporate into my garden at home. 

At the first house, the homeowners were so nice and answered tons of questions about all the plants and how they handled certain landscaping obstacles like planting on a hill and keeping the weeds down.  Even though their house (and garden) were the newest on the tour, it looked like a mature garden and not like plants plopped down into mulch-which gave me hope for some of my own newer beds.  Here is a shot of the landscaping near the pool:

The next house had a kids' dream garden, with two trains running through the yard.  It was a house similar to mine-a brick twin with a small yard, which was nice to see especially since our next destination was over 10 acres.  They had so many beautiful plants packed into that little in-town yard.  Of course, at my house we need to have some grass available for kickball games, but I loved the patches of larkspur and this cool idea made with rebar and old bottles:

Not sure if I can use it at my house  because rebar and glass plus about 12 kids average per day may not be the best combination, but it is a clever idea. 

Another home on the tour had these:

Which has me dreaming of more construction and a mini-vineyard in my postage stamp backyard.  Between the recent fence project and the raised veggie bed we built last week (photos to follow once we have dirt and plants in it) I don't think I'd better push my luck right now with a grape arbor, but it's an idea for the future. 

The next house was also amazing, with several buildings, barns, chickens a gorgeous pool and a plant sale that we took full advantage of.  There was also this little gem, that I thought was so cute:

Now, I will be keeping my eye out for a cheap birdbath to fill with a little succulent garden. 

The final house on the tour was truly amazing-something you just wouldn't expect to find in someone's home garden-a Zen Japanese garden that spanned a huge area on the side of the house.  Here are a few photos so you can get an idea what we were walking through:

That was all at someone's home-if you can imagine, not at a sanctuary or arboretum.  The house is actually for sale, which is kind of a shame because it's going to take a very special buyer to want to either keep up with this garden or take it out (which would be sad).  Besides the obvious creativity and work put into this garden, I was amazed at how they used salvaged wood and branches to build so many gates and benches.  It was the little touches and details that made the difference here. 

The whole day was so inspiring, and really made me look at my own yard and garden a little differently when we got home-I will have to "tour" my own space this week and see what's going on there. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

True house confessions

Now that we have been in our house for just about three years, I have to say it feels like home.  When we moved in, it kind of felt like it would never be ours and I found myself wishing for the old place-even though I really hated living there and renting for so long.  It took a while before this house became our home, before we got that relaxed feeling after being out all day, and before we had enough furniture to really qualify a few rooms as being made for their intended purpose.

But, now it's ours and it feels like home-all except one room that I have only been in 2 times in the whole time we have lived here.  That's my confession!  We have a room in the basement that hold the oil tank, and I went in it when we looked at the house and one other time-that's it!  Here is a photo of the door (and the floor in my messy office-but that's another kind of confession!)

So, what's your house confession?  I would love to know!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The summer is shaping up nicely around here

My kids can swim-all of them.  Even my youngest already passed the swim test and got his bracelet and can go down the 150 foot water slide at our local YMCA pool!  He actually did that last year, but I wasn't quite as confident in his swimming then.  If you have been home in the summer with your kids, you just might know where I am going with this.  Basically, I can read at the pool!  Books, actual books!! Last year, I was bold enough to bring magazines, but this year, I am reading books at the pool.  After years of swim diapers, baby pools, standing in the cold water and getting splashed and trying to manage 3 kids with different swimming abilities-I can read at the pool.  Of course, I will still swim with them, but the cold hard truth is that I don't have to!  This seems to be one of the milestones I don't have mixed feelings about-I am thrilled!

So, enter my own reading list.  I have gathered, from friends, the church library and the used bookstore, a good start to my reading for the summer.  A few were recommended by friends, one I don't want to read but all my book sites keep suggesting it and another I picked solely because I liked the cover art.  I won't divulge which is which among the books.  Oh, and one other is by a very favorite author, so I hope reading that one will be like visiting an old friend. 

Happy (almost) summer!