Nov 18, 2015

Book Review - What Color is Your Parachute?


What Color is Your Parachute? 

A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers - Revised and Updated 2016


This book is a thorough instruction manual for those who are looking for a new job, whether they are doing so because they're out of work, or because they simply want to find their dream job.

The first half details ways to conduct a traditional interview, where to look for job openings, how to impress the right people, and other helpful strategies for landing job.

The second half takes a different approach, and helps you determine what your dream job would be and then find that position in the real world.

To be honest, the first portion of this book bored me a bit -- but probably only because I'm not really looking for a job at the moment.  If I were, I'm certain I would have found it to be immensely helpful, as it gives detailed and clear instructions for how to effectively search for a job.

However, the second part of the book grabbed my attention in a way I was not expecting.  The concept of combining your talents, interests, and passions into the optimal job is both intriguing and compelling.

While I'm sure that most people who pick up this book will be those who want the advice given in the first half, it's the second half that I loved.  I'd recommend this to anyone who is tired of working at a job they don't love, but who doesn't know what their dream job really is or how to find it.

Sep 22, 2015

{Book Review} The Trim Healthy Mama Plan


Trim Healthy Mama Plan
by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison

I read the original Trim Healthy Mama book back when it first came out, and I was very interested in seeing how this second book had been adapted.

My first observation is that the choice to split the book into two sections was a wise one.  It makes it much easier to read and find things, and I'm sure the cookbook section is easier to use as well.  However, the two books really do need to be purchase together for someone to use the plan easily.

Serene and Pearl have a light-hearted, chatty style which makes the book an easy read.  While the specifics of their eating plan may seem confusing from a distance, it's easy to implement their recommendations once you delve into the plan and actually get started.

My Single Complaint: While I enjoy the chatty, fun way that this book is written, I do feel that some of the opinions shared can be off-putting.  I'm not talking about the opinions which make up the meat of the book, but rather, the extra randomness thrown into the book.  A paragraph about eating semi-kosher here, another paragraph about microwaves there... even though they are quick to stick in a disclaimer about how it isn't necessary to follow their advice about these extra matters, it makes the book feel less streamlined and I fear that some who strongly disagree would find themselves abandoning the entire book just because of these things.

I know a ton of people who have benefited greatly from their plan, and although I don't follow it myself at this moment I definitely use much of the knowledge I learned from them (as well as some of their tasty recipes!) on a regular basis.

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Sep 15, 2015

Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators {Book Review}

Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators

Mastering the Art of Drawing from Memory by David H. Ross

My thoughts:

Although I didn't know what exactly to expect when I first picked up this book, I was quickly surprised and pleased to realize that this was an incredibly detailed book on how to draw people without having a reference to copy.

While the style focused on is comic-book-figures, the lessons on perspective, size, and body composition are definitely useful for any artist who wishes to draw people.

David Ross, the author, has drawn for multiple major comic book companies, including DC Comics and Marvel.  His talent is evident throughout the pages of the book in his detailed example sketches, and his instructions are full of incredibly useful advice.

While this book does go over some of the basic principles of drawing, it does seem to be more geared toward artists who already know most of the basics and have moved on to more intermediate or advanced levels.  I tend to think that those who are just entering the world of art could find themselves intimidated by this book.

While I've read through the entire book, I've only just started following the instructions to work on my own drawings.  I'm definitely looking forward to working my way through the book to create better and more accurate sketches.  If you're interested in drawing people or comics, this book is definitely worth your money.

I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

May 7, 2015

Cookie Love {Book Review}


Cookie Love

by Mindy Segal and Kate Leahy

Synopsis:
I always enjoy new and unique cookie recipes, so I was very happy to have a chance to review this cookie cookbook.

The unique-ness of the recipes is definitely a plus, and it was refreshing to see flavor combinations which I'd not previously encountered elsewhere.  And while reading through a cookbook can be less than thrilling, the author's notes and stories throughout the book made it enjoyable rather than boring.

The recipes within this book are definitely not too difficult for a beginning baker, especially given the detailed instructions, but they're complex enough that intermediate or advanced bakers will likely enjoy them more. 

Because of the fact that this book has unique recipes, it also uses ingredients which the average person might now have on hand.  I found this to be true for myself, as my limited pantry/cabinet space doesn't really allow me to have too many exotic or unusual ingredients at a time.  

If you're generally busy and prefer old standby-type of recipes such as the traditional chocolate chip cookie, then you'll likely find that the recipes are too time-consuming and different.  

If, however, you enjoy taking your time in the kitchen and you're looking for fresh new recipes to spice things up, then you're sure to find this cookbook to be a great addition to your library.

My Rating:
I was hoping to bake several recipes from this book before reviewing it, but caring for a newborn has prevented me from doing so.  I only made one recipe, Milano cookies, and even with that I fudged quite a bit when it came to following the instructions.  

That being said, however, the cookies were delicious.  :)

For me, at this time, the recipes are a bit too involved and have too many uncommon ingredients - but that's not because the book is faulty, but simply because it's geared more towards an different audience.  

Therefore, I'm giving Cookie Love 8 out of 10 stars.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review.

Apr 2, 2015

The Full-Term Waiting Game {Pregnancy Update}

Bags are packed.

Everything but the cooler (which will hold food) and my and Dylan's clothing bags (which will need toiletries added last-minute) is already stored in the back of the car.

All of the crucial baby supplies needed for the first few weeks have been acquired.

The car seat has been installed.

The house is in a general state of orderliness.

Freezer meals have been cooked.

And now... we wait.

I'm not sure whether I feel impatient about it, or whether I'm hoping for a few more weeks of pregnancy so that I can get a few more non-baby projects done.  Part of me wishes for a few more weeks worth of (mostly) sleeping through the night, while another part of me is oh-so-ready to not be pregnant anymore and actually see the sweet baby I've been imagining for so long.

Dylan's work schedule dictates that the closer Nutella is born to her due date, the better.  For that reason I'm definitely in favor of her staying put for a bit yet, but I think I'll be upset if she's at all late.  I'm the oldest of seven, and my mom had all of her babies early or on their due date.  Which doesn't mean much of anything other than that I'm not used to having babies arrive late, and that I'll be thrown off guard if this little girl isn't here by the 20th.

At 37-and-a-half-weeks I'm more agile than I expected I'd be, but I definitely still feel very ungainly and cumbersome.  Tying my shoes is a challenge, as leaning forward means that baby gets wedged into my diaphragm and cuts off most of my air supply.  For this reason alone I think I'll be very glad when she "drops" and doesn't hang out underneath my ribs anymore.

In other, related news, I'm looking forward to actually seeing how the cloth diapers I've got will work in practice.  Since I'm planning to use 'sposies for the first couple weeks I thought at first that I might be able to get away with diving into using one-size covers right away, but hearing from other moms convinced me otherwise... I've now got a couple newborn/small covers in my stash, and hopefully I'll get another one sewn up today.

Mar 31, 2015

Weekly Goals - March 31st

Two days late and I'm still not as organized as I'd like, but it's something, right?
  • Finish packing all birth supplies
  • Paint whiteboard frame, hang up
  • Finish baby gym
  • Earn $35+
  • Clean windows & mirrors
  • Sketch
  • Make budget for April
  • Start compiling items for photo journal
  • Make and freeze a batch of rolls


Mar 29, 2015

Bump Photo - Week 37

It's been a while since I updated with a bump photo, and I realized last night that not many more opportunities may exist.  So, while I still have a bump... I might as well post it.

I'm glad to have come this far, and I'm hoping the next couple weeks go by fairly quickly.  While I'm sure having a newborn around is going to be tiring in an entirely different way, I'm starting to feel tired of being pregnant.

You may have noticed that I've slacked off on posting weekly goals - I may get a new post up today, but I'm not sure.  Dylan's work schedule may finally start getting back to normal soon, but even so my own sporadic spurts of energy/exhaustion make it difficult to follow the schedules I've tried to set for myself.  The fact that we've been dealing with poison ivy/poison oak rashes for the last couple weeks isn't helping anything, either.  On that note, I have to admit that I'm hoping Nutella doesn't arrive until that's cleared up completely -- even if it isn't contagious, it's not something I want to be dealing with while caring for a newborn.  Or while giving birth.  Ha.

Mar 22, 2015

Sketch! {Book Review}

Sketch! The non-artist's guide to inspiration, technique, and drawing daily life
by France Belleville - Van Stone (Author's website: http://www.wagonized.com/)

My Thoughts:
I've always loved to draw and color, ever since I was capable of holding crayons in my fist.  Even when I was young enough that my attention span was generally quite short, I would manage to sit contentedly for hours putting pigment on paper.  I took several years of art classes while in grade school, and then another short, week-long stint of art lessons in high school, but in the past couple years I've rarely drawn much of anything.

When I saw this book was available for review I was hesitant, as I've read other books on sketching which basically just encourage you to copy the steps the artist author has laid out.  While those types of book are helpful, I've never been one to really enjoy just copying another person's work step-by-step, as the feeling of accomplishment is so much higher when I just copy the finished product or draw what I actually see.

This book, however, isn't such a guide.  In fact, I would say that it is more inspiration and encouragement than it is a guide, even though it has a good bit of advice on what to do and what not to do.

The clear message of the entire book, which resonated strongly with me, was the encouragement to simply draw.  Not to make a masterpiece, not to worry too much about methods or equipment, but to simply enjoy the process of drawing.  And I think this is just the encouragement I need at this point in my life.  While I want to learn better methods of drawing and perfect my sketches and add more skills and techniques like cross-hatching to my repetoire, I really need to get back to my child-like love for simply putting down lines on paper.

What this book is not:
If you're looking for a book giving paint-by-the-number sort of instructions, then this book will leave you feeling disappointed.  It isn't a book telling you how to create an incredible work of art.  It is a friendly kick-in-the-pants reminding you that you'll never be a great artist without drawing and sketching a ton of pathetic "failures".

It does have inspiration tips from the author about some things she's learned the hard way (for instance, what paper doesn't work with certain pens) but it isn't a step-by-step method giving instructions on what exactly you have to do.

My rating:
This book not only contains a message I needed to hear, but it is also stuffed full of the author's own inspiring sketches.  Some of them are incredible, others are just squiggles -- but seeing the imperfect drawings is sometimes just as helpful, if not more so.  Even if you personally aren't interested in sketching, the eye-candy alone would make it an interesting book to peruse.

Therefore, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Note:
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Adding to My Diaper Stash - Newborn "Daddy Flats" and Covers

 After reading in several places that one-size diapers really aren't suitable for newborns, I decided to add a few smaller covers and such to my stash.  I've got a few packages of 'sposies for the first couple weeks, but after I run out of those I want to delve full-time into the world of cloth diapering, and I'd hate to find that I haven't got anything which fits well enough to use for the first couple months.

The white diapers are sort of a cross between fitted diapers and prefolds - you can find the tutorial I used here: http://www.adventuresinfluff.com/2011/08/how-to-sew-your-own-recycled-t-shirt.html

The covers are both AI2-style and they both have snaps.  The one on the left was made with regular elastic, and has gussets, a double row of snaps, and an umbilical cord snap.  The one on the left is simpler, being made with FOE and a single row of snaps (and no gussets or cord snap).

You can find the pattern for the cover on the left here: http://prefold2fitted.blogspot.com/2015/02/newborn-small-tuckable-cover.html although it doesn't include instructions for gussets - those I added myself after browsing a couple tutorials online to get an idea of how they work.

And the pattern for the cover on the right: http://prefold2fitted.blogspot.com/2012/02/one-size-foe-cover-pattern-template.html


Here's a photo of both covers snapped at the largest settings.  (The top photo has them at the smallest.)  It looks to me as if the cover on the left will have too short of a rise long before the widest snap setting would be needed, so if I make another like it I might leave off the snaps on the very edges.

In terms of sewing time, the FOE diaper definitely was faster and easier -- but I'm thinking that the double row of snaps and the gussets might make the other diaper more functional.  I guess I'll find out for sure in a matter of weeks... it's hard to believe that tomorrow marks the start of week 36 of pregnancy!

Mar 8, 2015

Weekly Goals - 3/8

Goals From Last Week:
  1. Finish reorganizing craft supplies
    Done.  I have a feeling that the current way things are organized is temporary, but it works until I have a better method.
  2. Sew baby tunic
    Not done - but I did sew a baby hat and a wet bag for cloth diapering.  So... I'm not worried about the unfinished tunic.
  3. Earn $30
    Not done.  Again, crazy schedules kept this from happening.  C'est la vie.
  4. Work on customizing diaper bag
    Done.  Have a I mentioned that I don't like hand sewing?  No?  Well, I don't like hand sewing.
    I had plans to add lots of stuff to the bag, but ended up mostly just removing little ugly spots and adding a single zippered pocket to the front before calling it done.  Perhaps I'll have more inspiration later and add more to the bag, but not now.
  5. Wash sheets
    Done.
  6. Make new housecleaning schedule/system
    Started. 
  7. Start seriously planning curtains and wall hangings
    Done.  I'm finally starting to feel like I have a sense of direction for how I want to decorate the rooms in here.

Goals For This Week:
  1. Freezer cooking
  2. Earn $20+
  3. Start sewing baby gym
  4. Trim hair, try out two new hairstyles
  5. Start planting garden
  6. Out of town trip - midwife appointment & visit Joann's fabric store
  7. Do one thing to improve home decor
  8. Sew a new maternity top

Mar 2, 2015

Baby Clothing

As promised, here are the photos of stuff I sewed for baby last week.   I was chasing daylight while photographing them, so these aren't the most stunning pictures ever, but they do the job.

 I know I already posted photos of this little dress, so this photo is here to show off the little diaper cover I made from this pattern: http://www.danamadeit.com/2010/08/the-perfect-diaper-cover-tutorial-and-free-pattern.html

 Another baby gown.  Pattern: http://thismamamakesstuff.com/tutorial-rockin-baby-gown-t-shirt-refashion/

 Circle skirts: http://www.danamadeit.com/2012/04/celebrate-baby-tutorial-and-pattern-little-baby-circle-skirt.html

Another circle skirt, as well as a onsie made from a pattern improvised by me.  (The color is more pink and less orange in person.)

Another Little Geranium top, shortened a bit this time to make it a tunic.  ( http://www.made-by-rae.com/2013/01/free-little-geranium-dress-pattern/)

Leggings: http://gotosew.com/2014/02/free-baby-go-to-leggings-pattern/

Mar 1, 2015

Weekly Goals - 3/1

Goals From Last Week:
  1. Sew 3 items of baby clothing
  2. Done.  Actually, I got more than three items sewn.  Hopefully, if I find the time, I'll post photos...
  3. Exercise 4-5 days of the week
    Eh... not really done.  I did move around more, but didn't really exert myself.
  4. Earn $35+ this week
    Not done.  I started out well at the beginning of the week, but a crazy schedule and the fact that I got a cold during the end of the week resulted in my earning something like $15.
  5. Tidy & Organize craft & sewing supplies
    Partially done.  I'm actually in the middle of this as I type.  The couch is currently filled with piles of fabric, and so I'm going to type this up quickly and then get back to that project...
  6. Purchase car seat
    Delayed.  I had this in my cart and everything, but at the last moment realized that I could use a Swagbucks gift card to pay for it if I waited a week or so.
  7. Finish reading Economics in One Lesson
    Not done.  Bad, Hannah.
  8. Clean paint splatters of floor
    Not done.   Bending over that far is already challenging right now, as even tying my shoes makes me feel nauseated.  Add to this the fact that I have a cold... 
  9. Repaint wall in kitchen
    Not done.  I'm removing this from the list, because every time I think about doing it I question the necessity of it.  Now I think the need for a second coat was simply my brain playing tricks on me.
Goals For This Week:
  1. Finish reorganizing craft supplies
  2. Sew baby tunic
  3. Earn $30
  4. Work on customizing diaper bag
  5. Wash sheets
  6. Make new housecleaning schedule/system
  7. Start seriously planning curtains and wall hangings

Feb 22, 2015

Weekly Goals - February 22

Goals from this Past Week:

  1. Earn $30+ online - done
    Current amount earned: $37
  2. Order Birthing Kit - done
  3. Exercise 4-5 days of the week - not done
    While I tried to make sure I got some mild physical activity in each day, I really didn't do enough to label it "exercising".
  4. "Decorate" diaper bag - not done 
    This ended up getting put on the back burner, but I did sew a pair of baby leggings and another baby sleep gown.  
  5.  Work on adding snaps to 1 or 2 diapers - done
    After adding snaps to one diaper, I realized that a standard snap pattern wasn't going to work due to the long length of the wings.  I might add more snaps later, but I'm going to wait and see how the diapers work in actual use before I started revising them all.
  6. Make and freeze a batch of waffles - done
    Did this, and having waffles on hand was even more useful than I expected - we managed to eat the entire batch during the week.  Freezing them long-term probably isn't going to happen, but I think I'm going to make and store batches more frequently.
  7. Mop all floors in the house - done

Finally, you may have noticed that I left off the item, "Paint office" from this list.  After not getting it done for two weeks in a row I didn't want to set it as a goal again, especially since Dylan's schedule still wasn't set in stone.

Thankfully, however, we did get it done!  Yay!  The room was a drab yellowish-brown, and now it's pale gray.  SO much more cheerful, and the room is better lit now, too.


Goals for this Next Week:

  1. Sew 3 items of baby clothing
    I'm slowing down somewhat when it comes to more physically-demanding household tasks, but sewing is definitely something I can still handle with ease.  Since baby girl's wardrobe is still a bit short on some items, this is the perfect time to add to it.
  2. Exercise 4-5 days of the week
    Yep, re-listing this again with hopes of it actually happening this week...
  3. Earn $35+ this week
    Since I've already managed to hit this number in the past couple weeks, it seems safe to raise my goal up this far.
  4. Tidy & Organize craft & sewing supplies
    As I've gradually accumulated more and more stuff I've also let it get sloppier and disorganized.  Time to remedy that.
  5. Purchase car seat
    I'd rather not put this off until the last moment, as I don't know how much energy I'll have a few weeks from now - and if Nutella decides to make a surprise early arrival, it'll be one less thing to worry about.
  6. Finish reading Economics in One Lesson
    Yes, this is the same book which was on my list to finish the other week.  I completely forgot about it last week, so I'm adding it to the list again so that I'll at least remember its existence.
  7. Clean paint splatters of floor
    While mopping this week I noticed that there were quite a few paint spots on the floors which never got cleaned up.  
  8. Repaint wall in kitchen
    One wall in the kitchen needs a quick second coat of paint.

Feb 15, 2015

Weekly Goals - February 15

Goals from this Past Week:

  1. Paint office - Not done
    Once again, Dylan's schedule just didn't allow for this.  It would be nice to be able to cross this off of the list, but the overtime pay he got for the extra hours put in are nice compensation.
  2. Make and freeze a batch of cookie dough - Done
  3. Shopping trip: spend less than $30 - Done - sort of
    I ended up spending the entire amount of $30, rather than staying under it - but that's okay.  This was more of a want-to than a need-to, anyway.  :)
  4. Finish reading A 50-Year Silence and Economics in One Lesson - Partly done
    A Fifty-Year Silence was finished, and I reviewed it here.  Economics in One Lesson, however, I'm still in the middle of reading.
  5. Finish at least one baby sewing project - Done
    You can see the results here.
     
  6. Make list of what needs to be bought & packed for birth - Done
    I'm glad to find that much of what we need is already on hand, and the next few weeks I'll work on purchasing the remainder of what is needed.
  7. Earn $30+ online - Done
    This week's earnings are around $35.  Yay!

Goals for this Next Week:

  1. Earn $30+ online 
    I'm tempted to raise this a few dollars, since I've been successful during the last couple weeks.  However, I don't want to set it too high, and I'd rather keep it low enough to be easily reached right now rather than make it too difficult and face burnout.  
  2. Order Birthing Kit
    My midwife technically doesn't require this to be ordered for another few weeks, but I'd rather have it crossed off the list sooner than later.
  3. Exercise 4-5 days of the week
    I didn't do all that well on staying active during this past week, so I'm hoping to improve that this week.
  4. "Decorate" diaper bag"I got a simple black and gray backpack at the Thrift Store last week, and I'm thinking to decorate it a bit and perhaps add an internal pocket or two and call it a diaper bag, rather than trying to make something from scratch or use a traditional ready-made bag.
  5.  Work on adding snaps to 1 or 2 diapers
    The diaper pattern I used is made to be fastened with a safety pin, but I recently bought a snap press and snaps, so I'd like to try to modify one of the diapers I've already made and see if it works well with snaps.  If I really like it I might go ahead and modify all the diapers that way, but right now I'm just going to try it on one or two diapers.
  6. Make and freeze a batch of waffles
    Found a waffle iron on sale the other week, and bought it on an impulse.  I'm glad I did, too - I'd forgotten how much I like waffles.
  7. Mop all floors in the house
    Since our house has hardwood and tile flooring throughout, vacuuming isn't as effective as I'd like. 

Feb 13, 2015

A Fifty-Year Silence {Book Review}

A Fifty-Year Silence - Love, War, and a Ruined House in France
by Miranda Richmond Mouillot

Book Synopsis:
Anna and Armand, the author's grandparents, survived Hitler and the many trials of World War Two through their hard work and perseverance.  They got married before the war's end, and Armand was able to be one of the translators at the Nuremberg Trials after the war.  They were blessed with two children, and their plucky personalities carried them successfully through the remainder of their lives.  But for reasons unknown, their marriage disintegrated after the war's end and they chose to never speak to one another again, living for more than fifty years without a single word passing between the two of them.

Their granddaughter, the book's author, is determined to discover the secret which drove them apart and piece together their experiences during the war.  In her effort to learn their memories and stories, she moves to France and spends extensive amounts of time extracting bits of information from two stubborn people who don't even wish to speak of each other.

My Thoughts:
I've always been very interested in the history and stories of WWII, so when I saw this book was an option for me to review I jumped at the opportunity, finding myself even more curious because of the mysterious element involved.

The book was interesting and held my attention quite well, but I found myself somewhat disappointed to realize that the story focuses far more on the author's personal journey and efforts to discover her grandparents' experiences then it actually does on her grandparents' experiences.

While I don't blame the author for this, as her sources were frustratingly vague, it wasn't exactly what I was expecting either.  Even after finishing the book the story of Anna and Armand remains somewhat disjointed and incomplete in my mind, with vague incidents jumbling themselves together in a timeline that I can't quite grasp.

But in a way, the frustrating aspects of Anna and Armand's story also serves to help the reader sympathize all the more with the frustrations the author herself went through during the years she tried to piece their story together, giving us a better and almost personal glimpse into her story.

Other Notes and Things to be Aware of:
Language - I really didn't notice anything objectionable in the book with the exception of one page which was full of profanity.  The language was used in an effort to shock someone into life-preserving action, and is entirely contained on one page of the book, but I would have preferred that the profanity was simply alluded to instead of directly being quoted.

Superstition & Fortune Telling - The author is Jewish, not Christian, and this is subtly evident throughout the book. There are several mentions of her and her grandmother engaging in fortune-telling and other such superstitions, although how seriously they actually took such things isn't really clear.

My Rating:
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Feb 11, 2015

Little Geranium Baby Dress


Another baby dress, this time using the Little Geranium pattern found here:  http://www.made-by-rae.com/2013/01/free-little-geranium-dress-pattern/

I only altered the pattern in two ways - first, in order to conserve on the pink fabric (which I have very little of) I cut the lining of the pockets out of white fabric.  This created a raw edge not provided for in the pattern, so I made a bit of bias tape out of some medium blue fabric I had on hand and finished the top of the pockets that way.

The other alteration was to make the skirt narrower - 44" of width just didn't seem necessary for a newborn dress.  I think I cut closer to 26" wide, and it seems more than sufficient.


The back closes with two simple buttons - come to think of it, I guess this is another slight deviation from the pattern, which called for three.  Given the tiny size of the dress, three doesn't really seem necessary, and simplicity is something I value when it comes to clothing for babies - merely getting them dressed is already an exercise in patience at times.

Feb 9, 2015

29 Weeks - Maternity Photoshoot

Dylan's sister was in town last week and offered to do a quick maternity photo shoot with Dylan and I.  These are a handful of my favorites.


Cold drinks have been something which I've craved throughout the pregnancy, so this "milkshake" (which was actually just colored milk... shh, don't tell anyone) was included to show that element.  We also did other shots to show things like me sewing baby clothes and such...

Tiny baby shoes... gotta love 'em.  Goodness, baby feet are so adorable.

We tried to avoid doing a ton of cliche photos, but this one was pretty much required, it seems.

Brr, was it cold out there!  We raced back inside after shooting a few photos in the frigid wind, and it was quite a relief to find that despite our haste there were several really nice photos as a result.

There were quite a few other lovely photos as well, but I'm running short on time and other tasks are calling to me, so I'm going to stop here.  :)

Feb 8, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 4 Results & Goals for Next Week



Here's my final update for this series!

Goals from this week:


1 - Paint office  -  Not done.
 While I really would have liked for this to get done, Dylan's schedule didn't allow for it and I didn't wish to tackle the project by myself.  The single day Dylan had off of work it was too blithering cold for us to even considered opening windows for ventilation, and painting without fresh air simply isn't something I'd like to experience.

What I did get done instead, however, was a major organization of paperwork which needed to be filed or re-filed.  Not the most enjoyable task in the world, but the office looks so much tidier now than before.  Plus, not having extra papers laying around should make it easier to paint once we do get around to it.


2 - Finish sewing nursing cover - Done.
This was a surprisingly quick and easy project, and I'm glad to be able to check it off of my list.  :)


Organize and clean bathroom cabinets - Done.
This mostly consisted of straightening out the cloth diapering supplies I've accumulated, since the way I'd originally organized them wasn't working once I added a bunch more items to the mix.  I'm sure I'll have to reorganize them again at some point after I start using them daily, but right now they should be fine until after baby arrives.

Vacuum entire house - Done.
Not much to say about this, other than... it's done.  Oh, and I cleaned the vacuum cleaner itself, too... which sounds rather odd to say.


Make 2-3 freezer meals
- Done.
Okay, maybe it would be more accurate to say that I got 2-3 items in the freezer, since rolls and blueberry muffins aren't exactly full meals...


Clean out car
- Done, but not as thoroughly as planned.
I was originally thinking to deep clean the car, but ended up merely tidying and surface cleaning it.  Regardless, it's much better than it was before and so I'm not too annoyed over the fact that it isn't perfect.

Earn at least $30 online
- Done
As I write them I'm *just* over the $30 mark, but I'd like to do some work on Textbroker later today and earn a few more dollars.  Even if that doesn't happen, however, I'm glad to have met this goal. 

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Goals for Next Week:
While this is the official end of my 4-Weeks posts, I'm going to keep posting weekly goals and see if that works well to keep me motivated.  If it ends up merely being stressful I'll quit, but I tend to think that as long as I'm fairly realistic in my ambitions it will simply serve to make sure I don't get too lazy.

  1. Paint office
  2. Make and freeze a batch of cookie dough
  3. Shopping trip: spend less than $30
  4. Finish reading A 50-Year Silence and Economics in One Lesson
  5. Finish at least one baby sewing project
  6. Make list of what needs to be bought & packed for birth
  7. Earn $30+ online


Feb 6, 2015

Blueberry Muffins

I've always loved blueberry muffins, and over the years I've made hundreds of muffins using dozens of recipes.  Some turned out well and some not-so-well, but at least they were all edible.  Finding a muffin which was moist yet fluffy, however, was a feat which had managed to elude me.  Some muffins came quite close, but none were perfect.

 So when I opened my email not too long ago and saw a recipe from Yammie's Noshery for "The Best Blueberry Muffins Ever", I was skeptical but definitely willing to give the recipe a chance.

And I'm very glad I did.

These muffins were definitely better than any I've made before.  Incredibly light, not at all dense, moist, and wonderfully flavorful.  Perfection.

So if you've got a hankering for moist, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, fluffy and delicate blueberry muffins, head over to Yammie's and grab your mixing bowl.

Recipe notes:

  • I made 12 muffins, which resulted in the smaller muffins you see here rather than the tall ones featured on YN.  Tall muffins look nicer, short muffins... well, there's more of 'em.
  • I used frozen blueberries in these, and baked them for about 23 minutes.
  • Looking back at Yammie's photos, I'm seeing a lot more blueberries on the tops of her muffins - which is definitely more aesthetically pleasing.  I skipped the putting-blueberries-on-top part this time, but I'll probably go ahead and do it next time I make these.
  • Lacking sour cream, I used yogurt - 1/2 regular and 1/2 greek.  

Feb 3, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 4



You may have noticed that I slacked off the last few days on posting daily updates, and as of this morning I've officially decided to give them up.  Posting every day, I've found, takes way too much time for me to do well.  I'd rather post far less frequently with more interesting and well-written posts.

Furthermore, as I mentioned here I already make daily checklists for myself, so that really isn't anything new.  The weekly checklists, however, have been helpful and I want to keep that up.  But coming up with something to say about what I did each day is too taxing, especially on days where I actually did stuff and tired myself out.

Anyway, without any further ado - my checklist for this week.


  1. Paint office
  2. Finish sewing nursing cover
  3. Organize and clean bathroom cabinets
  4. Vacuum entire house
  5. Make 2-3 freezer meals
  6. Clean out car
  7. Earn at least $30 online

Jan 29, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 3 - Day 4



This is the 4th day of the 3rd week of my 4-week long challenge to organize the house well before baby Nutella arrives.  Go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.


Today's Checklist:
  •  Make a list of things to accomplish today
  • Complete daily tasks
  • Clean mirrored and glass doors
  • Clean out and organize junk drawer
  1. Midwife appointment
  2. Figure out what needs to be assembled for the birth kit
  3. Exercise

Jan 28, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 3 - Day 3






This is the 3rd day of the 3rd week of my 4-week long challenge to organize the house well before baby Nutella arrives.  I'm using the schedule made by Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom, so you can go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.

Today's Checklist:
  • Make a list of 5-7 things to get done today
  • Daily tasks
  • Clean top of fridge and cabinets
  • Wipe down cabinet doors
  • Clean bathroom
  1. Start sewing felt animals
  2. Walk 30 minutes
  3. Earn $5 online
  4. Make chocolate-oatmeal bars
  5. Work on sewing nursing cover
Results: 


One of the things I didn't find while shopping yesterday was the boning I needed for the nursing cover I'm making.  After some quick Google searching, however, I came across this tutorial which uses part of an oatmeal cover as a substitute for boning.  Using the same concept, I cut the edge off of a coffee container and used that.  I'm not sure how well it will work, but it's worth a try and I can easily replace it if I find that it isn't sufficiently strong.


Both Dylan and I like to snack on fruit a lot, and since Aldi has great prices on produce I like to stock up on whatever fruit is in season and inexpensive.  One of the things I didn't like about it, however, was the fact that we have limited counter space and I didn't know where to store the fruit.  Then I recently realized that the space on top of the fridge wasn't being utilized for anything, and so moved the fruit there - and so far it's been a win-win situation.  The space is being used, the fruit looks decorative, and my counters stay cleaner.



These chocolate-oatmeal no-bake bars were made after I realized that I'm low on snack-y foods which are also healthy.  These bars were the result, although the chocolate chips on top admittedly aren't the most healthy.  The rest of the bars are sugar-free, however, so I'm not too worried about a few bits of chocolate.  :)

Getting these felt animals made might end up being a bit more time-consuming than I was expecting, given that I only got one little fellow cut out today.  Regardless, they're cute enough that I think I'll enjoy making them anyway, and since they'll be used for the baby gym I'm planning to make (following this tutorial) I'm not too worried about getting them done right away - Nutella won't need a baby gym right away, anyway.

Jan 27, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 3 - Day 2



Today is the first day of my third trimester, yay!  I'm in the middle of a four-week-long challenge to get the house more organized in preparation for baby's arrival.  Go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.


Today's Checklist:
  •  Make a list of 5-7 things to do today
  • Complete daily tasks
  • Sweep house
  • Clean stove top and microwave
  1. Sew 2nd nursing cover
  2. Grocery shopping
  3. Purchase craft supplies needed for felt animals and 1st nursing cover
  4. Return library book
  5. Work on bathroom floor
  6. Exercise
  7. Plan diaper bag
Results: 




I'm still planning on making a nursing cover with boning and straps, but decided that having a second one around wouldn't hurt.  Remembering the simple nursing covers my mom had (which are simply a rectangular shape with a half circle cut out of one side and buttons to secure it around the neck), I cut one out from memory, hemmed the edges, and added a button and buttonhole.  Twas a simple project.



On a totally unrelated note, I snapped this photo while folding laundry after I washed some baby socks.  The sight of Dylan's sock next to the itty-bitty newborn sock made me smile, and I can't resist sharing the picture here.  :)


Shopping took several hours today - not so much because I had to purchase a lot, but because I had quite a few different stops to make.  I went to the thrift store (got a nice new shirt and and bundle of super cheap zippers!), then dropped in to see Dylan during one of his breaks.  After that I hit Walmart, Aldi, the library, and Dillons before heading back to pick up Dylan and bring him home.  Since I got everything done that I'd intended, though, it was a very satisfying trip.

Jan 26, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 3 - Day 1



Today I'm beginning the 3rd week of my 4-week long challenge to organize the house better before baby arrives.  I'm loosely following the checklist given by MoneySavingMom.com, so go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.


Today's Checklist:
  • Make a list of 5-10 goals for this week
  • Complete daily tasks
  • Tidy house
  • Clean out kitchen drawers
  • Clean part of the bathroom floor
  • Calculate square footage of the rooms left to paint
  • Exercise
  • Work online for an hour or more
Results: 


I'm nearly finished cleaning up the grout in the bathroom, which is very encouraging.  I can't say that housecleaning is something I love, but the satisfaction of getting an area squeaky clean and the way that the lack of dirtiness catches my eye for a while afterwards makes the cleaning process more than worth it.

It was rather difficult for me to get into the swing of things today, and I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it was simply tiredness, perhaps it was the fact that Dylan was supposed to have off from work today and ended up working instead.

When I cleaned the silverware drawer last week I did so without realizing that it would show up on the to-do list for today.  Since it didn't need to be re-cleaned so soon, I took this opportunity to clean my four other kitchen drawers.  None of them were terrible messy, but they all had crumbs and such which needed to be gotten rid of.

I also grabbed a tape measure, pen, and paper to calculate how much paint we'll need to completely re-paint the rest of the rooms in our house.  I'm not a math person by any means, but I found myself actually enjoying the little bit of mental exercise.

Today is the last day of the second trimester, which seems unbelievable.  Where has the time gone?!  Only about 12 weeks are left before baby arrives, which is both exciting and slightly terrifying all at once.

List of Goals for Week 3:

  • Finish cleaning bathroom floor
  • Design and sew diaper bag
  • Purchase felt and start sewing felt animals like these.
  • Work on ordering/compiling the birth kit
  • Midwife appointment
  • Paint bathroom?

Jan 24, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 2 - Day 5



This is the 5th day of the 2nd week of my 4-week long challenge to organize the house well before baby Nutella arrives.  I'm using the schedule made by Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom, so you can go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.


Today's Checklist:
  • Plan day, make a list of 5-7 things to accomplish
  • Complete daily tasks - make bed, start laundry, wash dishes, tidy house
  • Set aside 15 minutes to relax
  • Dust fans & clean light fixtures
  1. Work online for an hour
  2. Workout for 20 minutes
  3. Clean part 1 of grout in bathroom
  4. Read 2 chapters of Economics in One Lesson
  5. Shorten blind strings
Results:  
I'm writing this near the end of the day, and I'm quite tired - too tired to give a lengthy summery of the day, so I'm just going to say, I got it all done.  Now I'm off to finish up making dinner (Turkey Pot Pie) before Dylan gets home.  Later, folks!

Jan 23, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 2 - Day 4



This is the 4th day of the 2nd week of my 4-week long challenge to organize the house well before baby Nutella arrives.  Go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.


Today's Checklist:
  • Make a list of 5-7 things to accomplish today
  • Complete daily tasks
  • Clean light switch covers and outlet plates
  • Clean bathroom - 15 minutes
  1. Earn $5 or more online today
  2. Clean out the silverware drawer
  3. Alter skirt
  4. Exercise: walk 2 miles
  5. Alter leggings
  6. Start sewing nursing cover
Results:  
 A lot of what I wanted to get done today involved sewing, which I really enjoy doing.  It doesn't feel like a chore, therefore, and if I don't watch my time I can easily spend hours in front of my sewing machine instead of getting the other tasks that I need to do done.

Today I needed to alter two items - a brown corderoy skirt and a pair of leggings.  The skirt I bought with the intention of making it maternity, and a previous attempt to do so ended up less-than successful - the fabric I used to make a stretchy band at the top simply wasn't stretchy enough, which resulted in a skirt which felt like it was falling down.  Ick.  After removing the evidence of that failed attempt, I used a pair of maternity jeans to figure out exactly how the waist needed to be shaped, and then decided that I also wanted to shorten the skirt a bit - ankle length just seemed too long.  I'm very happy with the finished result.  :)

The leggings I bought online after I grew out of my non-maternity leggings.  They were supposed to be the same size as what I normally with, with the exception of allowing for my pregnant middle to fit.  Apparently, however, the sizing got mucked up somewhere along the line and I ended up with a pair of baggy clown pants.  Figuring out how to sew in the sides without all sorts of twisting was a bit confusing, but after trying them on and pinning them multiple times I figured it out.



The nursing cover I only barely started on, since I decided that I want to include boning in the top section, and that needs to be purchased before I can work on it further.



The assigned tasks for today were quick and simple - given the small size of our house we don't have all that many lightswitch or outlet covers to clean, so that task was a breeze.  While cleaning the bathroom I decided to start deep-cleaning part of the grout, a job I've been avoiding for a while now.  I think breaking it up into sections instead of doing it all at once will make it less intimidating, so I'm planning on doing that.  I also organized the silverware drawer, which was starting to get cluttered. 

Working online today was less-than fruitful - Textbroker, my go-to money making site, didn't have any good offers on it today, which resulted in my not completing that goal.


Jan 21, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 2 - Day 3



This is the 3rd day of the 2nd week of my 4-week long challenge to get the house in order before baby Nutella arrives or I get too tired to clean sufficiently.  Go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.


Today's Checklist:
  • Make a list of 5-7 things to accomplish today
  • Do daily morning routine
  • Clean out and organize dresser drawers (time limit - 20 minutes)
  • Wipe down door handles
  1. Work on Textbroker.com for an hour or more
  2. Exercise - walk 2 miles
  3. Cut out fleece liners for cloth diapering
  4. Wash sheets
  5. Bake cinnamon raisin bread
  6. Finish reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Results:  
I got nearly everything done that needed to be done, but for some reason I felt somewhat "out of it" all day.  The time seemed to drag by for the most part, and I don't really have many comments to make about how the day went.

The one thing I didn't accomplish was the goal of exercising, but since I did well for the past two days I'm telling myself that's okay.  I do want to make sure that I'm active tomorrow, however.

The cinnamon raisin bread isn't finished baking as I write this, else I'd include a photo... perhaps I'll edit this post later and add one.  Nothing else done today was very photogenic, hence the lack of pictures in this post.

Here, I'll make up for it with an awkward bump/selfie photo:


Jan 20, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 2 - Day 2



This is the 2nd day of the 2nd week of my 4-week long challenge to organize the house well before baby Nutella arrives.  Go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.


Today's Checklist:
  • Create a List of 5-7 Things to Accomplish
  • Complete Daily Tasks
  • Vacuum House
  • Clean Baseboards
  1. Work on Textbroker for an hour
  2. Exercise: 5 minutes of stretching, 20 minute workout
  3. Quick Shopping Trip
  4. Work on edging baby wipes for 20 minutes
  5. Work on grocery budget
Results:  
I'm gradually starting to get accustomed to early morning starts to my day - this morning I got up at 3:30 again to drive Dylan to work, only to find that his schedule had changed and he didn't need to come in until 7:00.  That meant that we ended up coming back home for nearly two hours before going back into town again.

Oy.  :P

Anyway, the items on the to-do list today weren't all that complicated, interesting, or difficult.  Since our house is quite small vacuuming it and cleaning the baseboards didn't take long at all.

I've been doing okay with sticking to the grocery budget I set for myself, but decided on a whim to itemize a list of what's been spent this month so as to better see where the money is going.  I finished getting all of January's grocery receipts chronicled this morning, and I'm thinking that, rather than adding in December's receipts, I'll add to the tally as I shop.  Hopefully this will have the result of making me better watch where the money is going.

I gave myself twenty minutes to work on edging the baby wipes that I cut out last week, thinking that I'd get perhaps half of them done.  Much to my surprise, I managed to get them all finished by simply going for a few extra minutes after the timer beeped.

I've been lax about getting onto Textbroker and working lately - partly because of other obligations and interests which have taken precedence, partly because I'm just lazy, and partly because there hasn't been as much work on there lately.  I dipped my toes back into the water and started working there again today, which felt really nice.  (Even if it was only for an hour or so.)

Jan 19, 2015

4 Weeks to a More Organized Home | Week 2 - Day 1



This is the 1st day of the 2nd week of my 4-week long challenge to organize the house well before baby Nutella arrives.  Go here if you'd like to download the daily schedule for yourself.


Today's Checklist:
  • Make a list of goals for this week
  • 15 minute quick-clean of the house
  • Complete daily tasks - Wash dishes, do one load of laundry, make bed, etc
  • Exercise
  • Paint living room

Weekly Goals:
  1. Paint Living Room
  2. Exercise
  3. Sew - alter brown skirt so that it fits
  4. Sew - cut out fleece diaper liners & edge flannel diaper wipes
  5. Textbroker - work on for four hours total this week
  6. Dresser - Clean out and organize drawers
  7. Wash Bedding
Results:
Today wasn't quite "normal" feeling, since Dylan was home and we tackled the painting project.   I'm very glad to have that completed, and thankful for the fact that the day was quite productive.

This blurry photo doesn't really portray the color (or Dylan!) all that well, but it gives you an idea.  It's a soft, powdery shade of blue which really looks nice in the room.

After we finished up the painting we went on a long walk - about 4 1/2 miles.  The weather here has been unseasonaly warm, so it was lovely to be outdoors after staying inside to avoid the cold for so long.