Monday, 30 April 2012

Letting it Go

Stuff. We all have it. Most of us have too much of it. We certainly do. We had so much stuff that we can't even park one car in our three car garage. Why? Why are we all so attached to our stuff? Aren't experiences and relationships the things that we should value? Shouldn't we be able to let go of our attachment to objects that clutter our lives? I'm absolutely committed to let go of my stuff this year. Of course, there are a few special items that cannot go. For the most part, if I'm not using it, I shouldn't be hanging on to it.

As I said, I want to place value in experiences and relationships. I have an opportunity coming up to follow my heart and become a birth doula. I feel myself called to this on a very deep level. It's almost unexplainable. It's just me, this is what I am meant to do. I can not pass up this opportunity. As a birth doula I will have experiences worth far more than any possessions, and will hopefully build relationships worth even more. I can not wait to go to training in June.

When this opportunity came up, we could not afford for me to go. Local(ish) training sessions are few and far between and I didn't want to wait for the next one.We are on a tight budget and working hard (with Dave Ramseys program) to pay off some past errors. I made up my mind that I had to go to training and it was easy to see that a yard sale was the way to go.

When I shared my yard sale idea with people and explained what I was doing, I was shocked when people started dropping off items for me. Once I saw that other people were willing to sacrifice a few of their things for me, it was so much easier to let go of my stuff. We let go of so many things and I have no regrets. We priced everything to sell, and accepted almost every offer. When the sale was over we hauled the left overs to another friend that is going to have a yard sale to raise money to go and do some valuable mission work.

At the end of the sale, I not only had made enough money to go to training, but also to pay for my gas to get there, my meals while I am there, and the remainder of my certification requirements! I feel so blessed to have so many people that care for me and to have had so many eager shoppers.

The lesson I learned this weekend is to let go of the things that are holding you back that you don't need, live simply, and follow your heart. You'll be surprised at what you can do and what joy will find you when you do.

*Some yard sale tips*

  1. Price to sell. Many of our items were a quarter a piece. At the end of the day we have over $25 in quarters in the bottom of our money bag. DVDs sold for $1, t.v. seasons for $5. Video games for $3-$5. Books were .50. Clothing .50/piece, shoes $1/pair, toys $1, little toys .25. Furniture ranged from $3-$25.
  2. Accept Offers. Would you rather go down a few bucks and get it out of there, or stick to your price and have to haul it back in the garage later?
  3. Baked good go fast! We served up some amazing cookies, coconut banana bread with lime glaze, black bottom banana bars, and vegan brownies. We actually had a little argument over the one full loaf of banana bread, which sold for $5!
  4. Price items. People would rather see a price on the item that throw an offer out with no guidelines.
  5. Have bags available. The week before the sale I actually asked for plastic at the grocery store and left the reusable sacs in the car. We used them all up at the sale really fast.
  6. Really consider what you are keeping. Do you really need it? If it's not bolted down, it's fair game. Ask do I need it? Does it mean something to me that can not be replaced? Is it replaceable if I decide I made the wrong choice? When is the last time it was used?
  7. Keep clothing organized. We spread out a blanket on each side of the driveway. One side was adult clothing and one side was boys clothing. At .50 a piece we sold a ton of it!
  8. Smile at your shoppers, make small talk and be happy to be there. 
  9. Short hours work! We were only out from 7am-noon on a Saturday. The afternoons are almost always so slow that it's not worth it and by noon most of the good stuff is sold.
  10. Advertise on craigslist, and create an event on facebook. Put up signs around the neighbourhood so that no one will have trouble finding you. We didn't even bother with an ad in the paper, and we did just fine.
  11. Don't do it alone. Make sure you have a helper. Find a friend, neighbour, or family member to help you out. I couldn't have done it without my awesome helpers. :)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Project Lunch Day 1: Chicken Ranch Sandwich

I have a confession to make. I do not take care of myself. I have a feeling that there are many other moms that do the same. I rarely eat breakfast and ofter skip lunch. If I do eat lunch, it's whatever I can throw together, even boxed mac and cheese on occasion. For shame, for shame. I know.

I'm trying to improve my eating habits, so that I don't totally crash in the afternoon or have terrible headaches, hence "Project Lunch". I have three criteria for project lunch meals: 1)Healthy 2)Easy 3)Homemade (aka, not boxed mac and cheese).

Today I threw together a chicken sandwich that turned out to be so yummy! It's not particularly low cal, but it is made of real food, not overly processed ingredients, and is not boring!

Chicken Ranch Sandwich

You'll need:
Good Quality Bread ( I used Good Seed, from Dave's Killer Bread)
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast or Thigh ( I used a thigh because I had it on hand)
Slice of cheese (I used Muenster today, cheddar would be yummy too)
Ranch Dressing (I make my own protein ranch using this recipe, but my own seasoning mix)

Place your chicken piece on a cutting board and remove any excess fatty lumps. (Don't you just love my technical terms?) Pound to an even 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Preheat a cast iron pan on med to med-high, and pop a couple of slices of bread in the toaster. Cook the chicken in in the pan for 3-5 mins per side, being careful that it is cooked through, but not burned.  Place the slice of cheese on the chicken and let it melt. Assemble the sandwich with lettuce, tomato, chicken, and drizzle the sauce over it. Serve with fresh veggies and enjoy!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Crochet Swiffer Cover Pattern and Tutorial

Happy Earth Day everyone! In celebration, I decided to come up with a pattern for a reusable swiffer cover, to prevent excess waste from using disposable liners. It's very easy and a beginner should be able to manage it.

Swiffer Cover Pattern

You'll need:

Worsted weight cotton yarn (I used less than one ball of Lily Peaches and Cream.)
H hook
Yarn needle.

HDC: Half double crochet
SC: single crochet
Ch: Chain

Make a chain that measures 15 inches long. For me this was 57 stitches, but it will vary based on your gauge.

Row 1: Hdc in second chain from hook. Hdc in each remaining stitch. Ch 1, turn.
Row 2-14: Hdc in each st across. Ch1, turn. Repeat this row, until you piece is 4 1/2 inches tall.

When it measures 15 inches by 4 1/2 inches, you are done repeating rows.

Fold over each end by 2 1/2 inches.

Putting hook between both layers, sc to the edge. 3 sc in corner stitch. Sc down the side and 3sc in next corner. Working through both layers again, sc all the way along the long side. In the middle you will only be going through one layer. 3sc in corner, and sc up side. 3sc in corner and again sc through both layers. Sl in first sc. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Happy cleaning, and Happy Earth Day!!!

Friday, 20 April 2012

What a week.

What's with the low post count this week? I don't know about you, but every once in a while we have a string of days that are less than fabulous. This week has been a non-stop *bleep* storm of craziness.

My kids have been bouncing off the walls, and obviously have gone deaf, because they don't seem to hear a thing I say. L is having a bit of an aggressive streak.

Then to top off the awesomesauce week, B Bear swallowed a screw. Yep, a screw. Apparently it was one of the connector pieces from a hand made train set. Lesson learned: inspect the toys from time to time. The good news is, that it didn't do any harm and will pass on it's own.

I sure hope the craziness slows down soon. Until it does I just keep telling myself to take deep breaths and try to smile.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Crochet Apple Slices

My little boys have been having so much fun playing with their kitchen to cook up all kinds of goodies. Carrot and cupcake soup anyone? We have a really cute handmade wooden kitchen, that we found at a yard sale. All the food that we've bought for it is either wood (Melissa and Doug), felt, or crocheted.

Last night I whipped up some apple slices to add to their fruit bowl. They were super, duper, easy and the kids like them. Here's the pattern I came up with.

Apple Slices
You'll need:
Worsted weight yarn in white, brown, and red or green (or whatever funky color you want your apples to be)
Size H hook
 Tapestry needle

 **the white part is worked in the round. Do not join at end of rows. You may find it helpful to use a stitch marker to keep track of your work.**

1) With white yarn, make a magic ring. I may be fantabulous, but I'm not even going to attempt to explain a magic ring. If you need instructions, youtube has some awesome videos. 8 sc into ring and tighten the loop. (8)

2)  2sc in each st around. (16)

3) *2sc in first st. 1 sc in next st*. Repeat around. (24)

4) *2sc in first st. 1 sc in next 2 st* Repeat around. (32)

5) *2sc in first st. 1 sc in next 3 st.* Repeat around (40)

     Sl in next st and fasten off white. Making sure that the center is tight, weave in the both of the ends.
Using brown yarn, thread two strands through the needle and stitch 6 "seeds" onto the slice. It may be helpful to fold it in half and stitch 3 in each half.

6)(no longer working in the round) Attach green yarn and sc 10. 2sc in next st. sc 20. 2sc in next st. sc the rest of the way around. Sl st to first green st. ch 1. (42)

7) sc in each st around. sl st to join. (42)

8) fold the piece in half. Working through both sides, sl stitch along your green or red edge. You should have a half circle. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Hunting Bugs

Hunting bugs is one of my go-to preschooler boredom busters. This little game keeps the little ones busy for a long time. Mine keep hunting until I'm tired of hiding them, and then they start hiding them for each other.

All you'll need is some plastic bugs (these bugs are cute), jars (we used old peanut butter jars...reuse y'all!), and if you're a bit fancy, some pipe cleaner magnifying glasses.

Send your kids to a different room and hide the bugs. Here's a hint: count as you go. This prevents forgotten bugs that pop in awesome places like your shoe or in a book, to scare the living daylight out of you later.

L particularly likes this hunting bugs. Anything that becomes a task and is a little repetitive is a hit with him. It's a bit of a task to find activities that all the boys can enjoy together. L is very particular and has to have things a certain way. When things don't go his way, he becomes very aggressive. One of our big ASD (aka autism spectrum disorder) struggles right now is the aggression and total lack of understanding that other people don't like it. This activity was really good for him and he actually was very cooperative and kind to his brothers. The only thing that caused a small problem, was that L wanted to have ALL the bugs. Eventually that worked out because his brothers lost interest much sooner than he did, and they ended up hiding bugs for L.

Happy Bug Hunting!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Easy Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf

This recipe pairs so well, with so many different meals, and is so simple. It's becoming a staple side dish in our house.

Easy Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf
  • 2 T oil or butter
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 1 diced stalk of celery
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/3 c uncooked wild rice
  • 2/3 c uncooked brown rice
  • 2 cups broth (chicken or veggie)
  • 1/2 c water
  • salt and pepper to taste
Begin by melting the butter (or heating the oil) in a medium saucepan over med heat. Toss in the veggies and season with a little salt and pepper. Let them soften up for a few minutes and add the rice. The rice will crackle a bit. Let it brown for about a minute, then add the broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a light simmer. Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Tot School Tuesday: Muffin Tin Meals and Outdoor Art

 Today I decided to bust out the muffin tins and serve lunch in them. We used to do muffin tin lunches all the time, and we kind of fell out of that routine. It worked out well, because the novelty of something new was fun for the kids.

Today we had chunks of avocado, carrot sticks, cubes of mozzarella cheese, sliced strawberries, kitty cookies from Trader Joe's, and a mini PB and banana sandwich.

It was a hit! B and A cleared their tins, and L ate most of his. The texture of the avocado seems to be a no-go for him, but he did attempt the carrots, which he normally has trouble with. He also insists on having his food separated, so that nothing touches, so this worked well for that too.

The weather is just so beautiful today, so B and I ventured outside for some playtime, while the twins napped. I've been eyeing something I saw on pinterest of a chalk board piece attached to a fence, for the wee ones. I don't have the to actually tackle that project right now, so here is my redneck version. Oh yeah, that's a cut up paper bag, crappily stuck to the fence with tape. He doesn't care and had a great time drawing spring flowers.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Natural Egg Dyeing

Yesterday, I spent some time in the kitchen dyeing eggs with the boys. After reading the latest issue of Kaia, I wanted to try some natural dyeing methods this year. We went through the pantry and tried to get creative. This was our method, very similar to the one in Kaia.

1) Put raw eggs in a saucepan and add enough water for the waterline to be about an inch above the eggs.
2) Add in the dyeing ingredient and a good glug on vinegar. We used regular old white vinegar.
3) Cover pot and bring to a boil. Once the water starts to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer, covered, for ten minutes.
4) Drain, and set eggs on a towel to dry and cool.

We used a variety of kitchen items as dye. Some were more impressive than others. From Left to Right as pictured:
  1. Turmeric: This was the most vibrant result and was achieved with only a couple of tablespoons of the spice.
  2. Chili Powder: Pretty unimpressive. It made it possibly one shade darker, but still white.
  3. Yellow Onion Skins: This was by far the most impressive dye job. I only used what few skins were left in the bottom of the onion bag and it came up with that deep orange-brown.
  4. Spinach: Also completely unimpressive.
  5. Grape Juice: The eggs were boiled in grape juice and a little water. I expected a purple or pink, but came up with a fairly ugly brown, which will wipe right off the egg if you touch it. Bummer.
  6. Green Tea: About ten tea bags in a small saucepan produced this light brown-yellow. I was expecting this one to come out greener, but at least it changed the color! 
Other failures were cranberry juice and paprika. I would like to try it with red cabbage, beets, or red onion skins, but didn't have any on hand.

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