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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Cleaning: Kitchen Edition



Since we have moved, I have tried to be better about keeping things clean.  One big reason for that is that I am home now, instead of working, so I have more time to do that.  I've especially gotten better about cleaning my kitchen, and it actually stays clean-ish most of the time.  That's like, Nobel-prize worthy compared to how it used to be.

Part of it is that I've gotten better about how I clean my kitchen.  I'll show you.  Here's my previous method:

1)  Don't ever clean the kitchen because you are too tired.  The fact that you even have dirty dishes means that you managed to provide food, so you deserve a gold star for that.  Now go sit down before you fall asleep in the refrigerator.

2)  Repeat step one for several days/weeks.

3)  Completely freak out because things are such a mess.  Use tears if necessary.

4)  Spend hours cleaning the kitchen, or guilting someone else into doing it. 

5)  Swear that you won't let it get that bad again.

6)  Repeat steps 1-5.

I will grant that this system has its flaws, and with some careful evaluation, one could probably come up with some improvements.  Nevertheless, that was my tried and true method for years.  Years, I tell you.

BUT NO LONGER!

Well, at least not usually.

Now, my kitchen cleaning method goes like this:

1)  Clean kitchen in the morning.  This is the cleanest your kitchen will be all day. (Most of the cleaning tips, including Flylady, will tell you to clean it at night so that you have a gleaming kitchen to wake up to.  I haven't gotten there yet.  I kinda feel like, it's really all a big cycle, so who really cares what time of day the clean part of the cycle hits?)

2)  Bake, cook, prepare, and do other things that mess up the kitchen.

3)  Try to clean that stuff up as you go as much as possible.  It helps if the dishwasher is dirty, so you can just stick stuff in there.  Kitchen should be fairly clean before making dinner.

4)  Make dinner.  No matter what I'm making, if it's not spaghetti, it involves using at least 3 of the 5 main pots/skillets that we own, five plates, exactly half of the silverware, three spatulas, and a pair of tongs.  I don't know why, but that's always what seems to happen.

5)  Make a half-hearted attempt to clear the dishes after dinner, put away food, and leave the rest to do in the morning.

Hey, I didn't say it was a perfect method.  I just said it was better than the previous one.  At least there is a moment in each day when my kitchen is very clean, and several moments when it is at least decent.

Oh, and there are several awesome tools that will help you in cleaning the kitchen.

  • A scrubby sponge that is on the end of a handle and the handle holds soap--This is my best friend.  I don't even care so much that it automatically dispenses soap, because I do use my dishwasher, but I love not having to touch the sponge.  Those things are gross and wet and foamy and gross.  Eww.  Gross. 
  • A regular sponge with a scrubby side--I never use this, but Brian does.  I guess it's useful.
  • Rubber gloves--Brian uses these all the time.  I don't.  I mean, I hate touching dishwater, especially if it's cold, and I hate touching gross food that has been in the water, but I hate the smell of rubber gloves more.  Once you wear those things, that's what your hands smell like the rest of the day.  Plus, they're all powdery inside for some reason.  I just suck it up, touch the water, and then use lots of soap and hand sanitizer afterwards.
  • Steel wool--Actually, I think mine is copper wool, but whatever.  I don't use this very often 'cause everything is nonstick, but every now and then, your crock pot is just not gonna come clean by itself.
  • A spray nozzle on the faucet--We just got one of these for the first time when we moved.  It's awesome.
  • A disposal--We don't have one in our new house, and I miss it so much.  Like, every day.
  • A dishwasher--Part of me feels like this is a huge waste of time and money, because you have to wash everything before you put it in the dishwasher, but the other part of me trusts the system.  The system wouldn't lie to us, right?
  • Dish towels--You need like, a hundred of these, which is approximately how many we got for our wedding, so I guess that's good.  You need big ones to dry stuff with and small ones to wipe stuff with.  Bonus points if your small ones have a net side and a towel side.  Those things are awesome.
Lastly, there are several steps to actually doing the dishes.  I have refined my technique to the following:

1)  Find everything that can go in the dishwasher without any cleaning on your part.  The trick is to not turn on the water, and just throw stuff in there.  Cups, silverware, and other stuff that isn't very dirty falls into this category.  This is usually how I get myself motivated.  I just tell myself I'm just going to throw a few things in there, and it gets me warmed up.

2)  Find everything that just needs to be rinsed before it's put in the dishwasher.  I hate having a sink full of dirty water because that's GROSS, so I just run the water over stuff.  I realize this uses more water, but it uses less of me gagging, so it's a good trade off.

3)  Get down to the hard part, and get the stuff you actually have to scrub.  I have occasionally had to coach myself through this part with gummy worms. 

4)  Wash the stuff that has to be washed by hand, like pots and skillets.  This part, I have found, seems like the worst part, but it is not.  My pots and skillets are all nonstick, so usually they clean up really easily.  Dry them and put them away immediately.

5)  Wipe down counters and sink.  I usually use a dish towel and all-purpose spray cleaner.  Works great.

See?  Not so bad!  The only part that I really dislike is that once you are finished, your victory is short-lived.  Before you can turn around to receive your responsibility trophy, it's time to start all over!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Cooking: Dog Treats!



So we have these dogs now. 



We're like, foster parenting them for a few months.  It's really fun, except when they do something crazy like knock over the trash can or start going through packages of Ramen noodles.  But anyway, mostly fun.

However, I have learned that dogs are expensive.  Really expensive.  Especially for two larger dogs.  The food, the treats, the grooming, the vet bills, (OMG the vet bills!!), etc.  It all adds up.  So last week we ran out of doggie treats, and instead of buying more, I decided to make some.

I found a recipe in an old kids' cookbook that I've had since I was little, and I've always wanted to try it.  Here are all the things you will need:



Ingredients:

1/4 cup hot tap water
8 chicken bullion cubes
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups wheat germ
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour


(It called for wheat flour and all-purpose flour, but I didn't have any wheat flour, so I just used all regular-type.)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and pour the water in a large bowl.  Add the bullion cubes and crush then with a fork.  Stir in the yeast and let it stand about 5 minutes.  (The directions never said what to do with the sugar, but I believe it should go in with the yeast here.)

Add the tomato juice, 1 cup all-purpose flour, and the wheat germ.  Stir to form a smooth batter.  Then stir all the rest of the flour (both kinds, if you have them).

At this point, your dough is like, a soft brick. 

No, really.

It's really dry and rubbery, so I had to use my hands to finish mixing.  Then you take a couple of hand fulls of dough and put them on the counter to roll out.  The instructions say to flour the counter and use more flour if the dough is sticky, but mine was so dry, I didn't really have that problem.  Then you roll it out with a rolling pin.

This took actual effort.  I actually got a little winded from doing that, which is kinda sad, but it's really tough dough.  Really it is.  My getting winded had nothing to do with my lack of physical prowess.  For reals.

Anyway, you roll it out to 1/4" thick, and then you use cookie cutters to cut out shapes.  It's way easier than making Christmas cookies, which never stay in the right shape for me.  These things worked great!  I made two shapes.  Small ones and big ones.



Then you cook them in the oven at 300 degrees for an hour, and then turn the oven off and let them dry in there for about 4 hours. 

Ta-Da!


I think next time though, I might not cook them quite so long or let them dry so long.  They were really hard, and the dogs had a little trouble with them. They still ate them, mind you, and seemed to like them just fine, but I noticed that they were a good deal more difficult to chew than the treats they were used to.

Oh, and did I mention that I made 30 treats, which is how much comes is a normal treat package, and I didn't even use HALF of the dough?  I kept the rest in the refrigerator and made more later, and I still haven't used it all.  I would say, with the size treats that I made, I could get over 100 treats out of one recipe. 

Price-wise, this was definitely a win.  The wheat germ was the most expensive ingredient that I had to buy, and I used about $2 worth of it.  I had to get tomato juice, of which I used about $1 worth, and a yeast packet is like, $.25.  Total, it probably cost around $5 to make, while most regular-sized bags of dog treats cost around that much, for 20-30 treats.  So, it's like getting a buy one, get two free!

Plus, I used the extra tomato juice that didn't get used for the treats to make tomato soup, so it was a win for everyone!

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Giving Advice

Chances are, whether you are young, middle aged, or older, whether you are male or female, whether you are in a relationship or not, whether you are expecting a child or not, you have probably heard, and probably given, pregnancy advice.  It's like we, as human beings, can't help it.  We see a pregnant woman, and we just can't resist the urge to tell her how we know it's a boy or a girl, how she should or should not be doing that, how we know what the baby is doing right now, etc.  I am so guilty of this.  I grew up hearing people around me give that advice, so naturally, I passed it along as well. 

The thing is though, the more I read and research this whole pregnancy thing, the more I realize that a lot of the advice that we are so familiar with is actually completely wrong.  Most of the time, it's harmlessly wrong, but sometimes it actually has consequences.  Either it causes the mom to go way out of her way and inconveniences her for no reason, or it may actually be bad advice.

So today, we're going to play a little game.  I'm going to give you some common pregnancy advice, and I want you to tell me which pieces of advice are true.  First one to get them all right gets a shout-out!  (I numbered them so you can just use numbers in your answer.)



  1. If the mom has cold feet, the baby is a boy.
  2. A lot of heartburn while pregnant means the baby will be born with lots of hair.
  3. Refusing to eat the heel on a loaf of bread means you're having a girl.
  4. Dangling a wedding ring over your tummy shows the gender.  (If it spins side to side or in a circle.)
  5. If you see a mouse while you are pregnant, your baby will be born with a hairy birthmark.
  6. If you carry out front, it's a boy.  If you carry in the middle, it's a girl.
  7. Eating berries causes splotches on baby's skin.
  8. If you sweat a lot, it's a girl.
  9. Taking a bath can drown a fetus.
  10. If you crave orange juice, it's a girl.
  11. Stretching your arms over your head can cause the umbilical cord to wrap around the baby's neck.
  12. If you carry high, it's a girl.  If you carry low, it's a boy.
  13. If you carry high, it's a boy.  If you carry low, it's a girl.
  14. If you have dry hands, it's a boy.
  15. If you crave greasy foods, you will have a short labor.
  16. If you wear high heels, your baby will be cross-eyed.
  17. If you get angry a lot, your baby will have an angry personality.  (Or sad or stressed or whatever.)
  18. Drinking Castor oil will induce labor.
  19. If the baby's fetal heart rate is fast (over 140) it's a girl.
  20. You should avoid eating peanuts while pregnant or you increase the risk that baby will be allergic.
Ok, tell me which ones are true.  :o)

**UPDATE:  Given how many people have told me several of these, I am really suprised at how many people answered correctly.  The answer is, none of them are proven to be true.  Several people brought up good points about annecdotal evidence or further studies needed, which are both valid, but as of right now, none of these "facts" have any scientific studies to back them up.  Congrats to The Watcher in the Dark, Megan F., Djinn, and Michelle H.  You are smarter than an old wives' tale (or something like that).  :o)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Driving--Speeds

I hate driving.  I really do.

There are a lot of reasons why I hate driving, but just leave it at that.  I hate it.  Especially highway driving.  It's scary and dangerous.  I don't drive if I can at all help it, i.e., if someone else is there to drive instead.  For the last seven years, I've been really lucky, because I lived within walking distance of my school, so even when I drove, it was like, two blocks.  And I was really close to just about everything else that I needed to get to.

But now......

We moved far, far away, and it takes me at least 30 minutes to get anywhere, and 45 minute to get to school, where I volunteer and tutor.  And it's pretty much all highway, so I just have to get used to it.  Not gonna complain.  Just something new to get used to.

HOWEVER

Driving more has made me realize that really, there's only one reason I hate driving.  I mean, the scenery is nice, listening to the radio is fun, going places at 70 mph is awesome, but the one thing that is completely horrible about driving is the other people who are also driving!!

People are complete jerks when they are driving.  Seriously, driving and the Internet have a lot in common.  There is a sense of anonymity that leads people to do things that they would not do if they were face to face with someone.

So I have compiled a handy list of ways that you can be awesome at driving, and I expect that after everyone reads this, we won't have these problems anymore and driving will be way more fun.

1)  Be a Human Being.  Drive a Normal Speed.

I am more and more convinced that everyone on the roads either goes perpetually 15 miles under the speed limit or 15 miles over it.  Both are equally annoying.

I am not a speed demon, but I usually go a couple of miles over the speed limit just to keep people from being angry at me.  And yet, without fail, someone will get behind me and pull two micro-inches from my bumper to let me know in no uncertain terms that I am the slowest person who has ever driven a vehicle, and that they will mow my #$@ down in two seconds if I don't speed up or get off the road.

That's how I interpret tailgaters.

First of all, this is dangerous.  What if a squirrel ran across the road?  You would hit me, because if I reduce my speed by even half a mile per hour, you will careen into my car like a fat kid at the dessert buffet.  Second, I'm not getting a speeding ticket for you, Mr. I've Got This Really Important Thing I Have to Do.  You may be willing to go 60 in a 20, but it would be my car they pulled over, for sure.  And third, it's just so freakin' rude.  Imagine if you were at the grocery store, and some old lady were walking slowly through the aisles.  Yes, it's kind of annoying, but would you push your cart right up against her back and follow her relentlessly until she moved aside?  Please, I hope not.  You would wait patiently, 'cause you're a normal human being.  Cars do not change this.  Be a human being.

This problem is made worse when someone is in front of me, preventing me from going faster.  What would you like me to do, SUV Mom in a Huge Hurry?  Fly over the car?  Get my extendable tires and drive right over it?  Geez.  The other thing that makes it worse is when we're not on a small road, but a major highway.  If there is a perfectly good left lane over there for you to pass me on, and you STILL tailgate me, you are a jerk, and if I had rocket launchers on my car, you would be the next Rocketman.

But like I said, driving too slowly is just as annoying.   I'm not talking about someone driving the speed limit, 'cause that's just fine.  But someone driving way under it does get on my nerves.  Please note, though, no matter how slowly someone is driving, you still don't have permission to tailgate them.  Just, no.

Here's the thing.  I feel like, from my experience, people go the speed they want anyway, especially on the highway, so what's the point of trying to make a rule of it?  Yes, every now and then someone gets a ticket, but really, compared to the number of people I've seen pulled over, the number of people going 90 mph is way higher.

So we do away with speed limits and instead, have speed lanes.  Right lane is for 70 mph and under. Middle lane is for 71-79 mph.  Right lane is for 80+.  No one can tailgate or they get a ticket, and if they're not doing the right speed for their lane, they get a ticket, so the cops still make money.

But I also like the cars on rails from Minority Report.  That was cool, and seems easier.  Let's do that.

And yeah, I know I sound like an old woman, whining about how everyone drives like crazy people, but if they would STOP DRIVING LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE, I would stop whining.  More driving tips coming later.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Cooking: Ketchup!

Let's start by playing a game called Awesome/Not Awesome.

Awesome:  Getting to stay home, especially while I'm pregnant and not feeling well.  Also, especially since we moved at the end of the summer, and the house is still in boxes.

Not Awesome:  No paycheck.

Don't get be wrong, we have plenty of money to live on.  I am a teacher, at a private school no less, so it's not like I got much anyway, but it has meant a lot of adjusting.  Basically, the fun money is gone.

Awesome:  Going to Dragon*Con this year for the first time.  (Separate post about that later.)

Not Awesome:  Spending way more money than we should have at Dragon*Con.

Atlanta hotels ain't cheap!

Awesome:  Having plenty of food in the house, thanks to a housewarming shower and my mom making food for us to freeze and eat later.

Not Awesome:  Missing a few really important condiments/ingredients.

I'm trying to hold out on grocery shopping until next payday so that I can justify all the money we spent at Dragon*Con.

So that leads us to today's awesomeness.  I have corn dogs for Brian for lunch, but no ketchup.  And if there's one thing that boy likes, it's ketchup.  He would never complain about not having it, but he probably won't eat corn dogs without it. 

So I decided to make some.

Turns out, it's not very hard at all, and I already had all the ingredients.  Awesome!  I got the recipe from this website.  It's actually someone who lives in Morocco, so that explains why I guess they have to make their own ketchup.  Maybe it's not a local favorite.  Anyway, it's a good basic recipe.  No, I didn't start with tomatoes, although that would have been cool.  I started with tomato paste, but you can do it the hard way if you want.  I didn't feel like straining stuff.

Here are all the ingredients you will need:



2 cans (ea. approx. 140g or 6 oz.) tomato paste
2/3 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder (or 1 teaspoon finely grated onion with the juice)
1/8 teaspoon Allspice

Mix all of the ingredients together in a saucepan or pot.



Cover and simmer over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow the ketchup to cool before serving.

The ketchup will keep for one month or longer when stored in a covered container in the fridge.





I used the empty ketchup bottle we just finished.

I was running out of garlic powder, so I used a little garlic salt to finish the 1/2 teaspoon, and then just reduced my salt.  Also, I was worried because after I simmered it, I tasted it, and it was pretty spicy.  I had made a note to reduce the amount of cayenne pepper, but when we ate it after it cooled for a couple of hours, it wasn't spicy at all.  Guess it just needs time to......ketchup.  hehehe




The biggest thing I would change about the recipe is the simmering time.  I'm still getting used to my gas cooking range, but I had it set below medium, and it was cooking way too fast.  After ten minutes, it was at the point where I think I overcooked it slightly.  I would put it on low for ten minutes or less and see how it looks after that.


It tastes pretty good.  Like I said, I think I overcooked mine a little, so it's thicker than normal, but I like the taste.  We had burgers that night for dinner, and Brian loved it, so I think it's a go! 


Also, this site has a similar recipe but without the corn syrup, if you don't like that.


As for the price, well, the average price for a 32 oz. Heinz ketchup bottle at Wal-Mart is around $2.50, which is really not bad.  You can get a can of tomato paste for $.44, and you need two of those, plus the corn syrup and vinegar, which costs like, $.75-$1.00 for the amount you use, plus some spices you already have at home.  So all in all, you might save like, a dollar.  Not really a huge savings, but since I already had all the ingredients, I did end up saving money 'cause I didn't have to buy anything.  Mostly, I think the reason people make their own is for the "green" aspect.  You don't have all the dyes and chemicals.  Plus, if you had your own tomato plants, you wouldn't have to buy that, so that would be cheaper.


Oh, and the biggest advice I can give you?  Wear an apron from start to finish.  Seriously.  Maybe even wear like, a muumuu or something.  Or just be naked.  (No......I take that back.  It's hot, and it splatters.)  The point is, this is a messy recipe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to be Awesome at Cooking: Pop Tarts

There are few things more awesome than Pop-Tarts.  I literally lived on pretty much just them for a decent portion of high school.  Yes, I mean literally.  That's why I can't eat the brown sugar cinnamon ones anymore.  But that's a different story.

Anyway, my mom was in town recently.  By about the fifth day of my pathetic calls to Florida, whining about how I couldn't get out of bed and I felt terrible, I think she thought I was dying and decided to come see me as soon as possible.  She came for two weeks, and it was awesome.  I am not at all exaggerating when I say that I spent most of those two weeks lying on a cot in the kitchen while she cooked/cleaned/took care of me.  It was great, and she is awesome.

While she was here, she had the brilliant idea to try to make homemade Pop-Tarts.  And who says no to that?  So we did.  Well, mostly she did.  I just came in for the fun part at the end.

We got the recipe from this website.  It has a great step-by-step tutorial on making them.  We did about half brown sugar cinnamon, ('cause those are Brian's favorite, and he is the big Pop-Tart eater in the family), a couple of Nutella, and a couple of strawberry and raspberry jam.  They looked like this before we cooked them.



And they looked like this afterwards.

I ate that little tiny spare one in the middle.


To keep track of which ones were which, I made the dots on the top in the shape of the first letter of the filling.  That was my one genius idea.

We topped them with some basic icing that Mom made,

And a little cinnamon on the brown sugar cinnamon ones.


and they were pretty good.  Good enough that everyone who ate them liked them.

However, I don't think I would make them again, at least not like that.  Here's why.

1)  The pastry was a shortbread, basically, and it was pretty thick and dry.  Now, normal Pop-Tarts are pretty dry, too, but they aren't so thick.  Of course, we could try to make the dough thinner, but we were having a hard time keeping it together as it was.  I don't think we could have gone any thinner.

2)  Because of the dryness, they really had to have icing on them.  Unfortunately, you can't put the icing on ahead of time, because real icing (i.e. not plastic, which I assume is what Pop-Tart icing is)  melts in heat, like a toaster.  And homemade icing doesn't store very well, so that means every time you want to eat one, you have to make more icing.  Kind of defeats the point of an easy breakfast pastry.

3)  This wasn't a problem for us now, but a couple of weeks ago it would have been.  You can't really put these things in a toaster.  We have our toaster oven out now, so that was fine with us, but they really don't do well vertically.  They are too crumbly.  Remember?  Shortbread.

4)  The process was pretty involved.  I mean, not "I slaved all day over these" but still, considering that the point of Pop-Tarts is to have an easy breakfast, it's kind of a stretch.

5)  The price wasn't that much better.  You can get a box of Pop-Tarts at Wal-Mart for a little over $2, and I'm sure that the price of the ingredients was about that much, plus time factored in.  All in all, not that great an exchange, and honestly, they didn't taste that much better.

If I did it again, I would probably buy pastry dough instead of making it from scratch.  That would make things a lot easier, and maybe even make it taste better.  Still, it was interesting to try.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Unpause

I'm back!  Ok, so it ended up being a longer pause than I thought it was going to be, but there's a good reason, and most of you know it by now.

I'm pregnant.  Yay!

We found out two days after we closed on the house, and I commenced morning sickness/exhaustion exactly one week after we moved in.  Fabulous timing, right?

So everything got put on hold.  Unpacking, hobbies, cooking, cleaning, getting out of bed...everything, for six weeks or so.  Luckily, I wasn't actually sick for more than about a week.  The worst thing for me was the exhaustion.  Standing up was such a Herculean effort, that it didn't leave me much energy for anything else.  It was really weird. 

But happily, I am finishing up my first trimester now, and the energy is coming back slowly.  Still not up to where I was this summer, but that's ok.  I can do more than two things back to back now, which is a HUGE improvement on a couple of weeks ago.

Oh, and for the baby info:  little Cricket (our pet name for now) is due on March 26.  We will find out if it is a boy or a girl at the end of October.  We are super excited. 

That said, I am ready to start blogging again!  Instead of the daily posting schedule I was on for the summer, though, I am going to post Monday, Wednesday, Friday for now and see how that goes.  I'm excited about sharing a couple of things I've already done and lots of stuff I want to try.  As always, tell your friends, because it's super exciting to see lots of people reading the blog!  I don't know why it's exciting, but it is.  :o)

More coming soon. 

(Hint:  What do Pop-Tarts, ketchup, and cars have in common?)

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Pause Button

Most everyone knows that we are in the process of moving right now.  We closed on our house Wednesday, YAY, and I'll write more about that later.

I'm going to hit the pause button on blogging for a few days while we get moved in.  With my mom in town, boxes everywhere, and everything we're doing right now, I don't have a lot of time for crafting and/or blogging.  But NEVER FEAR!  I will be back, just as soon as we get moved in and get Internet in the new house, at which time I am sure I will have lots of amazing and hilarious stories to tell you.

In the meantime, make sure you are subscribed to my blog, either by following it with the little button at the top of the screen, or by adding it to your e-reader.  That way, you won't be the last to know when I start posting again!  That would be sad.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Facebook

I have come to the conclusion that Facebook does not make people stupid, nor is it evil, like some people think.  It just encourages us to overshare.  Before Facebook, if we had something stupid to say, we said it to one friend or spouse or family member, and that was it.  Now, it's like stream of consciousness directly from our brains to our 400 closest friends. 

We all do it.  Myself included.

So a while back, I asked for feedback from people on Facebook to come up with some basic rules that everyone should follow on Facebook.  This is still a work in progress because people are always coming up with new ways to be stupid, but here is what I have so far:



1)  Don't Spam

Whether it's Farmville, Mafia Wars, or just a dozen Youtube videos posted at the same time, no one likes it when one person clogs up their news feed.  (With the ability to hide these apps now, this has gotten better, but still...no spamming.)

Perfect example:  "Hey guys, check out these fifteen Facebook games that I somehow have time to play, even though I routinely complain about never having enough time and always being tired!"


2)  Mix it Up

We've all had something awesome happen to us that we couldn't stop talking about, but when you have to read about it every day, it gets old.  This goes for countdowns, daily Bible verses, five posts every day about how awesome your significant other is, etc.  There has been a lot of emphasis lately on how parents tend to do this with their kids, especially on this site, but they aren't the only ones.  It's anything you obsess over, whine about all the time, preach at people, or just can't stop talking about.  It's annoying in real life, and it's annoying on Facebook.

This is probably the most common one, and like I said, we all do it, but maybe we could make sure that we don't have more than three posts in a  row about the same topic.  That seems like a good rule of thumb.

Perfect example:  I finally blocked someone several weeks in to a 100 day countdown to a wedding I wasn't invited to.


3)  No One Likes Passive-Aggressive

Posting vague, angsty statuses, or biting, angry ones, makes it look like you're fishing for attention.  (On the flip side though, some people were annoyed when people asked what was wrong.)

We've all had things we wanted to say on Facebook, but we couldn't be too specific because we didn't want to attack anyone, but we were kinda hoping that one person would read it, and without knowing that we were targeting them, would realize that we were right and they would repent.

That doesn't work.  If it makes you feel better, do what I do and just type out what you want to say and then delete it.

Perfect example:  "Just want to cry..."

4)  Friend Carefully

Friend-stealing (becoming friends with all of someone else's friends, even though you don't know them) and friending people you don't know or just met can be annoying.  If you are friends with someone you don't know very well, you probably don't need to constantly comment on everything they do.

Perfect example:  You meet someone at a party briefly, and then come home to find that she's already friended you.  By the next day, she has commented on every single picture, written on your wall, and friended your mom.


5)  Tread Issues Carefully

Just be polite.  Don't post about sensitive issues like politics unless you are ready for people to disagree with you.  On the other hand, if someone posts something you disagree with, you don't always have to comment.

Can I just say that again?  You don't have to comment if you disagree!  I think some people really think that everyone has the same opinions as they do, and they are shocked beyond all reason to discover otherwise.

You like THAT sports team?  I thought you were at least barely intelligent, you worthless baby-hating pagan! 

You're going to stay at home or go back to work after childbirth?  Here are twenty reasons why that makes you the worst mother ever.

Seriously.  Unless they are posting on your wall, just leave it alone!  They have a right to say what they want on their status.  It's not the end of the world.

Perfect example:  You voted for HIM!? Here's a five-point dissertation (taking up seven comments) on why you are now the sponsor of Satan.


6)  Make it Readable

We all make the occasional typo, but completely ignoring what you learned in third grade English is annoying, and constantly writing your status updates in text speak makes me think of you as a lolcat.  Try to use at least basic grammar and spelling rules when possible.  Also, writing in ALL CAPS makes it look like you're yelling.

Hyperbole and a Half has a great article about this issue.  Read that, and pretend I wrote it.

Perfect example:  i wnt 2 go 2 the partie 2nit but i cant not find a ride3


7)  A Place for Everything

The photo comment box is for...

wait for it...

photo comments!  It's not the place to start a completely unrelated conversation.  This also applies to status updates directed at one person--that's what walls are for.

There has actually been a word coined to deal with the very specific instances of people commenting on someone else's status/photo/whatever to discuss their own children:  mommyjacking.  But it's not just parents.  I think we've honestly forgotten how to post on someone's walls, or maybe we're just too lazy.  I mean, it does take, like, two clicks more to get to the wall than just commenting on whatever is in front of me in the newsfeed.  What do I look like, a bodybuilder!?

Perfect example:  You say in your status that you had a great day, and someone comments, "Check out the pics from my crazy beach trip!"

8)  It's Not a Competition

 


Probably the most annoying of all of these is the person who feels like everything is a competition, and they have to win.  You say you're tired?  Well, they got one less hour of sleep than you.  You're working hard?  They worked twenty hours straight yesterday.  You don't feel good?  They have Ebola.

The point of this one is that we have lost the ability to believe that someone else can have a valid experience.  You can work hard, and someone else can work hard, and that's ok.  There doesn't have to be a winner.  If someone is having a rough time with something, just say, "That sucks.  I'm sorry."  That's all you have to say.

Perfect example:  You post something about how tired you are after studying for college exams for weeks, and someone comments, "You don't even know what tired is because you don't have kids."

9)  Be Discrete

Facebook is not the place to discuss/post pictures of bodily functions or private issues.  It's also not the place to publicly announce your phone number or other private information unless you've always wanted a stalker.

Here are a few things that should never show up on Facebook:  bodily fluids, parts of the body that are usually covered with clothing, details about custody battles/divorce/sex/family feuds/etc. that would make people uncomfortable, and basically anything that you wouldn't show or talk about in front of someone you barely know.  Remember, there is a private message feature that you can use to discuss these things with your close friends, and unless I'm one of them, I don't want to know about it.

Perfect example:  "Check out this picture of something gross, LOLZ."

10) Fact Check

Since apparently Facebook is now the place where all those horrible email forwards have gone to die, this is very important. Do not "share" or "like" a post that seems to have information in it unless you have verified it with at least one outside reputable source. Not just a friend or Facebook group you trust who posted it first. Someone who actually cites their sources and has proof. Snopes is the easiest and is still very reliable, but Fact Checker is another good one and there are dozens of others.

11) Leave it Alone

If you see something that violates Facebook's rules, or the rules of human decency, don't help it go viral. Don't do anything except report it to Facebook. Don't comment on it, even to say how terrible it is. Don't share it to show how bad it is. Leave. It. Alone.


So what do you think?  Agree or disagree?  Did I miss any?  Let me know.  :o)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to be Awesome at Packing

My home is in shambles right now.  It seriously takes me almost a full minute to find a flat surface to set a drink down on.  Brian woke me up this morning because he stepped on bubble wrap in the hallway.  I went to Starbucks yesterday for breakfast because there wasn't room in my kitchen to make a bowl of cereal.

Shambles.

Now, granted, I am not complaining about the fact that we're moving, because we've been trying to move for the past year and a half.  But moving and packing itself is just awful.  I don't care where you're moving to, or how much money you have, moving is awful.  (Unless you pay someone to pack for you move for you, and then unpack when you get there, in which case, you are either in the military or very rich.  If the former, thank you for your service.  If the latter, I hate you.)

We still don't have a definite closing date, although it could hypothetically be today, so I am packing up with the idea in the back of my mind that I might be living here with all these boxes for weeks or months or years.

Nevertheless, I am determined to be awesome at packing.  This weekend, in spite of it being our anniversary, we did a lot of packing.  My in-laws came over and helped us pack, which was awesome.  As a matter of fact, I think that's Step 1 for How to Be Awesome at Packing.

1)  Get help

Because Brian is working, I've been doing a lot of the packing myself, and that's cool, but after a while, it just becomes way too overwhelming and I start to have visions of napalm.  Get help.  With five of us working on Saturday, we got TONS packed in just an afternoon.  It was great.  Mom is flying into town today to help us, too.  Awesome.

2)  Stock up on Supplies

The most important supplies you need for packing are boxes, packing tape, Sharpies, packing paper, nail aprons, and whatever you use for your color coding system.  The packing paper is great because it's basically newspaper, but without ink on it, so when you pack stuff, you don't get black hands and clothes, etc., and when you unpack, your dishes are clean!  Well worth a couple of extra bucks.

Oh, and you need like, ten rolls of packing tape.  I know four seems like a lot, but it's not.  It's not at all.  I did get the fancy dispenser thingy with the handle, but honestly, I like the simple dispenser better, and that one fits on the carabiner on my packing apron.

We've also been lucky that we haven't had to pay for any boxes so far.  Brian has brought home lots of boxes from his work, and last weekend, he got a ton more from the back of the Dollar General.  Also, I've heard package stores are great for boxes, but then you run the risk of everyone thinking you're a drunk.

3)  Staging is important

One of the most complicated aspects of packing has been, where do we put the stuff once it's packed?  We don't have a ton of room, (hence why we're moving) so where do we put all these boxes?  For a while, we just kept them in the guest room, but eventually it passed the breaking point in there, and we had to start storing them in the living room.  Now they're just everywhere. 

Just, everywhere.

4)  Be sneaky

There are lots of sneaky little tricks I've learned from reading stuff online about packing.  Stuff like, don't waste a box packing all your sheets and blankets.  Leave them out and use them for packing fragile stuff or padding furniture.  Even t-shirts work well for packing dishes that you know you're going to unpack pretty quickly.  Pack your clothes in your luggage, 'cause it would be dumb to put your luggage in boxes.  Buy a big package of paper bowls, cups, and plates so you can go ahead and pack all your real stuff.

5)  Put your house on a diet

I have seriously thrown away probably a hundred pounds or more since I started packing.  I find so much stuff that I can't believe I have kept all these years!  Some of it is cool or brings back good memories, but it's not something I'm going to look through or want to keep on a shelf, so I take a picture of it and then toss it.  Later, I'll make a photo book out of all my pictures of treasures, and that will be fun, and take up way less space. 

I've found lots of loose pictures as I've packed up, and I've been trying to put them in albums so they take up less room, they're protected, and we can enjoy them.  Basic photo albums are cheap.  I'm not putting them in any specific order or labeling them or anything like that.  That needs to happen, but not right now.  Right now anything is better than keeping them in a stack in a box in the closet in the guest room.

6)  Keep your sanity

Seriously, I am not nearly as stressed as I thought I would be about this.  I used to get so stressed about moving, even just moving home from college for the summer.  But I'm making a conscious effort to keep my sanity by setting aside time every day to do things I love, like reading, dancing, crafting, and spending time with friends and family.  I know it means packing takes longer, but I don't care.  Call me selfish, but it is important to me that no one dies in this process.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Making a Doll

I went to a craft store the other day to look at their clearance section because I heard there were some cool things there.  Among other things, I got a Make Your Own Doll kit. 

You know how I love kits. 

This was another, "fun happy joy easy" kit, where everything was printed on the material, and all you had to do was cut it out and the thing practically sewed itself together!  BLAM!  Instant awesome doll.

It was $4.48 on clearance, which I figured was cheaper than I could buy a decent doll, so I thought I'd give it a try.  And it came with material to make a reversible dress and two hair ribbons. Awesome!  (The kit didn't include stuffing, but I had some left over from some project a while back, so I figured I could use that.)

I cut out all the pieces while I was watching TV, and yeah, that was pretty easy. 

Am I the only one reminded of a crime scene?


Putting the doll together wasn't difficult at all.  Just sew right sides together and leave a hole in the middle for stuffing.  I can do that.

Try not to concentrate on the dead eyes.

Stuffing it wasn't hard either.  The stuffing I had was actually quilt batting, but not from this last quilt.  From a different one.  Anyway, so I had to tear it up to make it fluffy stuffing.  It was fun, and it made me feel like I was back in Colonial days, carding wool from the sheep!

Pictured: Polyester Sheep

Then came the hard part.  The dress turned out to be way more difficult that the doll, which doesn't make sense to me, but it was.  First of all, the directions were very vague, and I had trouble figuring out what they were talking about.  Not a lot of pictures to help either.

I finally got the inside and outside of the dress pieced together separately and sewn on the sides of each.  Then I had to sew the two sides together.  Which I did.

Inside out.

The end result was something that only a deformed alien baby doll could have worn.  One without a head.

So I got out my seam ripper and took out all the seams.  By the time I was finished, I was covered in little tiny pieces of thread and not in a very good mood.

I then re-pieced the inside and outside together, right side out this time, and managed to sew a dress that a human baby doll could wear.

Mostly human

One problem I had was that the dress pieces weren't all the same size when I cut them out, and I cut them out carefully, so I think they were just printed wrong.  I had to trim the pieces quite a bit, making the "dress" more like a "shirt" or "dress they wore on The Brady Bunch, when apparently, bending over was out of style."

I did have to go buy more stuffing, because I ran out after I stuffed the arms, legs, and pigtails.  Also, in a couple of places, the seam wasn't strong I guess, so I had to patch that up when I sewed up the stuffing hole.  The directions said to use a blanket stitch, and I really should have looked that up, because mine came out looking very unlike a blanket stitch.  In fact, it looked kind of like the doll tried to sew itself up with it's little, barely opposable thumbs. 

Ok, let's grade doll making.

Time: A-
Difficulty: A-
Expense:  A-
Fun: A-
Relaxing: B+

It took a weekend of working on it a little at a time, but really, it didn't take more than a couple of hours from start to finish.  Total cost was like $8, which is still less than some dolls, but not as cheap as it could have been.  And it was fun and relaxing up until I  had to redo the stupid dress.

All in all, I don't think I'll be giving this as a gift, like I'd hoped.  I'll keep it for when I have kids.  They'll be used to crappy, homemade toys.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Making Candles

I have been wanting to make my own candles for a while now, so I was really excited to finally do it.  In my effort to find crafts that are A)  Actually useful in some way, and B) Not expensive, I determined to use as much stuff that I already had as possible. 

I should back this up.  Yesterday, I went to the library to get them to sign off on the next five books on my summer reading sheet ('cause I'm a nerd), and while I was there, I thought, "Well, I'll just check out the craft section and see what they have."  This may have been a mistake.  Seven books later, I had all kinds of new ideas for crafts!  One of the books was about candle making. 

Ok, now to continue.

As I have been cleaning out my house and getting things packed, I have found lots of extra candles that I never use.  I mean, I have lots of candles I use all the time, but these were taper candles and a whole bag of votive candles that weren't scented and I never used because I don't like having to find the holders.  I prefer candles that come in jars so you can just light them. 

The only things I needed to buy were some scent oils and some wicks.  I went to Hobby Lobby and their candle section has quite a lot of stuff in it, actually.  They have wax that you can use, although I didn't get any, and lots of scents, wicks, jars, molds, etc.  It was very tempting to get one of everything, but I am trying very hard to spend less money, so all I ended up getting was one box of medium-length wicks and one small jar of scent oil.  Total cost was $5.00.  Not bad!

When I got home, I was so excited to start that I kinda forgot to get prepared at first.  This was a mistake.  I put some wax in a tin can left over from last night's dinner (washed) and put the can in some water in a pot.  I did this because wax is apparently flammable, which doesn't make sense to me, but I didn't want to burn the apartment down one week before we move out.

I had trouble with the can because it wasn't heavy enough and it kept trying to float around in the water, so I  had to put something on top of it.

That's duct tape around the edges because the can kept lacerating me.

It was at this point that I realized I should gather everything I need for this project.



I actually used quite a few more candles than that.  The cheap, white votives that I had in a bag of like 100 were great.  I just pulled the wick out and popped them in the can.  The long tapers I had to break into smaller pieces and pull the wick out, but a couple of them wouldn't come out, so I just waited until they melted and then took it out.

It didn't take very long for the wax to start melting.

I'm melting! I'm melting!

For the jars, I just found some old candles that I had used up and just had a little layer of wax in the bottom.  I'm always nervous about burning them at that stage because one time I had three candles shatter at the same time because they had all burned down too low.  Scary.  So I don't throw them away because I'm like, "Well, there's still some left," but I don't burn them because I'm like, "I don't want to die."  Now I have a solution!  I pried the little piece of wax and wick out, which was easy, and then rinsed and dried the jar.  Voila!  New candle jar for free!  You can even put that bit of wax in the can and melt it down to make the new candle, if the scents are compatible.

I also used a couple of condiment cups that I had bought for a party and then never used.  They were just the right size for a votive-style candle or wax melting tart.

So the wax was liquid at this point, and it's time to pour it.  I take it out of the boiling water with my tongs and add 1/2 teaspoon of scented oil.  I don't know if this is the right amount, because the "recipes" in the book were made in much bigger batches, but it seemed right.  Sure.  Why not?  Then, using my tongs, I pick up the can and start pouring the wax carefully into the jar.

It was awesome!  I felt like I was forging the One Ring or something, pouring the hot liquid carefully into the mold.  It was so hardcore.

This is the point where the can slips out of the tongs and spills wax all over my stove.

Boo.

At first, I was really worried, but then I realized that if you just let it dry for a second, to where it's still warm but a little harder, you can gently scrape it up and put it back in the can.  It's like, a craft with a redo button!

I made a couple more batches, and I used more wax this time, so the can didn't float all over the place.  I tried to keep the colors separate, so I would use the blue taper and a bunch of white candles, and then I'd do a batch with the red taper and a bunch of white candles.  That way I didn't end up with brown candles.  Eww.

And by the way, the scent I got was pineapple cilantro, because I really like food scents apparently, and because pineapple is a great scent.  It smells like happiness.

The trick to pouring the wax (besides using a pot holder instead of tongs) is to pour just a little bit into the bottom of the jar and let it start to harden.  Then you stick the wick, with its little metal holder thingy, down in there and let it set.  That way when you pour the rest of the candle, the wick is already in place and you don't have to worry about it falling over, unless you were impatient and tried to pour too soon after you stuck the wick in there.

Not that I would know about that.

In the end, I ended up with two big candles, one votive, and two tarts.  I made the votive with a wick that I pulled out of another candle, so that was cool, too. 



I'm burning one now, and it smells nice.  Not too strong, but I can definitely smell it. 



This is kind of a messy craft, but it cleans up pretty well.  After all, wax melts at a really low temperature, so all you have to do is run hot water over something and the wax melts right off.  My hands did smell like the candles for the rest of the evening, but that was ok.  And I still have eight wicks and half a bottle of scent to use later.  If I did this a lot, I would want to get one of the big bottles of scent they have, but that's no biggie.  As far as time goes, I did it in about an hour and a half or two hours.  Not bad, from start to finish, including clean up.

Ok, so let's grade candle making:

Time: A
Difficulty: A
Expense:  A+
Fun: A+
Relaxing: A

This is a fun craft.  I would definitely do it again.  Plus, it makes something I actually use, and would actually give to a friend.

Next time:  Dipped Candles!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Things That Are Awesome

A while back, I posted about Awesome People, so it's only right that I talk about awesome things as well.  There are lots of really cool things in our lives, but only a few truly awesome things.  These things go above and beyond the normal stuff, to give something to our lives that is just awesome.  Things like:

The Air Conditioner

I already mentioned that Willis Haviland Carrier was the inventor of the modern air conditioner, which makes him awesome, but the AC itself is quite amazing.  I live in Alabama, where a large part of the year is not only ridiculously hot, but oppressively, "I'd lay down in the middle of the street and cry if the pavement weren't 500 degrees" humid.  The AC not only makes things cooler, but it also takes out the humidity.  That makes life livable.  It's bad enough that you have to pretty much swim to your car through all the moisture in the air.  If I had to swim around my house too, we'd move.

Publix

Publix is an awesome grocery store that we have only gotten here in Alabama in the past few years.  Why is it more awesome than say, Food World or even Wal-Mart?  Well, for starters, they have crazy sales going on all the time, like, buy one get one free on cereal, which is how I support my Reece's Puffs Cereal habit.  They also have this guy who gives out samples every evening, but these are not normal grocery store samples.  This is an entire mini-meal!  A tiny entree and one or two mini sides!  AND they give you a recipe card for the meal, AND all the ingredients for the meal are right there by the guy in this little refrigerator.  So you can grab everything you need.  And you know the meal is good because you tasted it, and you've got the recipe!  Any place that does my menu planning for me is awesome in my book!

Bees

Not only do bees make honey, one of the greatest condiments on the planet, they make beeswax, they pollinate our plants, and they're super organized about it.  Sure, they have stingers and they kinda freak me out in person, but they're doing a lot of good in the world, is what I'm saying.  I just don't want them doing it near me.

Polarized Sunglasses

I had what I thought were polarized sunglasses for a long time, but apparently they were lying to me.  I bought my first pair of real ones at the beginning of the summer, and WOW!  It's like, the real-life equivalent of rose-colored glasses!  Everything looks more beautiful, sharper, and more defined.  I'll be gushing over a sunset for a long time, only to find out that to everyone else, it's only half as beautiful.  Sad for them.  They are also great because they let you see tint on windshields and stuff, which makes you feel like you have x-ray vision or something, and if you turn your head sideways, the glass gets darker.  This causes some strange moments when I'm standing there staring at something and slowly tilting my head to the side and back up again, but it's totally worth it.

If I ever get my hands on a pair of Costa del Mars, I'm done for!

Chick-fil-a Lemonade

Chick-fil-a is pretty awesome in general.  They have lots of stuff I could have put on the list, but the best by far is their lemonade.  I'm pretty much a lemonade junky anyway, but this stuff is amazing.  I don't understand how theirs can be so much better than mine since there are only three ingredients and since Brian used to work at Chick-fil-a and should know their secret, but it is.  So much better than mine.  I think they put a fourth ingredient in there:  liquid joy.

Rotary Cutters

My recent experiements with quilting have given me a strong appreciation for how awesome a rotary cutter is.  If you don't know what it is, it's like scissors, but in a circle, so I guess more like a razor.  But it's not scary or dangerous really, because they have a handle and a little retractable thing so you can store it safely.  They also have these self-healing mats that you cut on, and they don't leave any grooves or scratches, even though you are cutting on them.  Hmm.....retractable and self-healing?  They are like, the Wolverine of sewing supplies!  Pretty awesome.

Burt's Bees

Don't confuse this with regular bees above.  Burt's Bees is chapstick.  Well, chapstick and now a lot of other things that I don't use, but mainly chapstick.  The best chapstick.  It makes your lips kinda tingly and then not chapped at all, which is definitely the idea.  And unlike some other chapsticks who will remain nameless, it smells great.  I know it's a little thing, chapstick, but it's awesome.

Wax Melters

My friend Mindy gave me a wax melter recently, and I am amazed that I never knew how awesome they were until now.  This is an electric one too, so there's no flame to worry about.  You just turn on the little light bulb inside it, and then you put your little cube or tart of wax on the tray, and it slowly melts the wax and makes you whole house smell awesome!  It's great because unlike buying a candle, which is a commitment to like, twenty hours of smell, you can buy little tarts or cubes for like, two dollars a pack, and change the scent up every day.  I apparently prefer food smells, and right now I have a vanilla wax melting that makes me really want some cookies. 

Ziplocks

Seriously, ziplocks are probably the most awesome thing.  Think of everything you can do with ziplocks.  Store stuff in the refrigerator, sure, but I mean, everything goes in ziplocks.  Got a bunch of pencils/markers/juggling balls that you want to keep together:  gallon size ziplock!  Need to keep a pair of socks dry while your hiking in the rain:  quart sized ziplock!  Need to take some delicious White Cheddar Cheeze-Its to work with you:  snack sized ziplock!  Need to make Shake and Bake:  gallon sized ziplock again! 

(Disclaimer:  I do not actually eat Shake and Bake.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Quilting: T-Shirt Edition

There were a combination of reasons that I decided to go ahead and start my t-shirt quilt, even though I'm not finished with my first one.  First of all, when I started actually quilting my ladybug quilt, I realized that I don't know jack about actually quilting.  This came as a shock to me because I grew up watching my mom do it, and really, it's just basically sewing, so that's not hard, right?

False.

Quilting is extremely difficult, and even after watching three or so videos on ehow.com, I am still not able to do a decent job of it. 

The Practice Piece of Shame

That right there puts it in the "difficult" category.  If I can't watch a video or two online and figure it out, it's gone past the "moderately challenging" level.

So it occurred to me that maybe, like with so many other things, I have started at a level that is above "beginner."  I thought maybe if I do a simple quilt, it will give me the background for how to be awesome at difficult quilting.

Also, as I was packing stuff the other day, I found the giant stack of t-shirts that I have been saving to make a quilt with, and I figured that making it would be easier than packing them all up and hauling them to the new house.  T-shirts are heavy!

Having already had a tutorial in basic quilting from Bekah and Mrs. Woosley, I started by making a pattern and cutting out my squares.  I wanted each square to be twelve inches, since that seemed, from the Google searches I did, to be the typical size for t-shirt squares.  It's big enough for most logos.  I finally broke down and bought a big rotary cutting mat, so that made things easier, too.



Most real sewing people (people other than me) said that I shouldn't make a quilt out of t-shirts because the material is too stretchy.  I'm sure this was very wise advice, but I did it anyway.  I'm not sure what the consequences are of the material being stretchy, but I'm sure they are grave.  I even bought some interfacing to iron on the backs of the shirts because Google told me that this might help with the stretchy problem.  In the end, I didn't end up using it though because A)  several people on the Interweb said that they didn't need it;  B)  when I got home, I realized I didn't buy nearly enough and I didn't want to go back; and C)  I was afraid that the interfacing would make the t-shirts not so soft, which was kind of the whole idea.  So I just decided to wing it, and I figured if stretchiness became an issue, I could always get more interfacing.

I had twenty-five t-shirts to work with.  Some of them, though, only had pocket designs, so I couldn't use them for the quilt (but I saved the pocked designs to make a pillow!).  But since some of the shirts had designs on the front and the back, it actually worked out that I had exactly twenty-five squares.  Sweet!  I also cut out as many blank squares from the backs or fronts as I could, and I think I'm going to use those to make the back of the quilt.

So I laid them all out and started sewing the horizontal rows.



The nice thing about the t-shirt quilt is that it's way less formal that my other one.  I didn't even have to iron it!  Well, I started ironing it, like a good quilter, but it didn't really help at all because the shirts were so floppy.  Maybe that was the stretchy part.  But I just pinned all the seams before I sewed them and it wasn't really an issue.

When I started sewing the rows together, I definitely had to pin the seams.  I would never have been able to just line it up like I did my other one.  But again, it worked just fine, and now I have the front of my quilt finished! 



I thought about just tying the front and back together and not even having a batting in the center, but since I am supposed to be using this to practice, and since I think it will help it keep it's "blanket shape" a little better and not be quite so floppy, I think I will.  I'm just going to do a simple "Stitch in the Ditch" quilting though, which is just quilting along the seams.  (See how awesome I sounded throwing that quilting jargon around?)

I love this quilt though, because it has so many great memories in it.  I used t-shirts from high school band stuff, youth group, college, the school I worked at, and shirts people had given me.  It's so soft, too, which is the great thing about old t-shirts.

Oh, and I took the scraps from the shirts to my sister-in-law, Pamela, and she showed me how to make some other cool stuff from them.  Yay!

'Cause that's what I need right now: more projects to start.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Awesome Quotes Part 2

Here are some more awesome quotes from my students and Bekah's.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Mrs. Grubbs, I had to sleep on the couch last night ‘cause my DVD player in my room started sparking. I just put in the Bones Season 6 DVD and it started sparking!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As a girl from my class and her younger brother ran down the hall, I hear her call, in her best mother voice,

“Don’t run! You could fall—like you do every time you run!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Mom hated dirt so much she swup it.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Andrew said his back hurt, so I gave him a couple of karate chops to make it feel better.

Andrew: “UGH! Mrs. Grubbs! First you steal my tater tots, and now you karate chop my back!”

Emilee: “Yeah. She’s an awesome teacher.”

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“My dad dared me to bring a girly lunchbox to school today…I thought he meant a little pink, but he meant REEEEEALLLY girly!!!!”  (and he did, too)

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One of my co-worker's kids just looked at me one morning and said, “Woah! Bad hair day!”

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(one student to another)

“Hey, remember that time Robot Minjas attacked us on the playground when we were by ourselves?!”

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The kids were doing a Thanksgiving acrostic naming things they are thankful for.

Me: Sweetie, are you really thankful for Vikings, or was that just the only v word you could think of?

Student: <exasperated> Mrs. Grubbs! Vikings were the first people to discover America! That’s really important!

I stand corrected.

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Me: I didn’t get a cell phone until I was 22—and married.

Student: WOAH!! That’s…...that’s...…not something you hear every day!

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“A wasp can sting like a bee, ‘cept it hurts WORSER!!!"

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One first grader, known for his vivid imagination, was telling everyone about something crazy, and after a while, one of his classmates finally looked at him and just said, “My Lord, Ian!”

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I was invited to be a back-up singer in one of the first graders' new band. But he made me agree to a few things first:


1) I’m not allowed to play any orchestra instruments, especially tuba.


2) We are going to make a lot of money.


3) No fighting.


4) I have to try out first, to make sure I’m good. 

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On the list of things you never thought students would have to say to a teacher:

“Mrs. Grubbs, where should I put your sword so I can get a beanbag?”

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Me: Zorro was a bandit, but he was a good bandit.

Student: Kinda like a frienemy!

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“My friend is glad I gave him these stickers so now he has a sword for minja monkey.”

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"Mrs. Grubbs, if we were in Miami, I think we should name our school Christian School International, so we could be CSI Miami."

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Name one season in which hail usually falls.

Answer:  Christmas

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"In my world, every Wednesday is Hairy Pickle Day."

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Our Journal prompt was "The Time I Spent the Night at School"

Student 1:  "One day I was working inside at school when KBAMMM!!! a blizzard hit and I could not get out so what I did was I snuck into the office and put black make up on my face to use as war paint. Then the battle was on. Then I ran and tried to bust out a window. Well, let's just say that's why I wear a cast..."

Student 2:  "One day I spent the night at school...all the lights went out, and I mean all the lights. Not a single one worked. Then I heard feet squeaking. It was a tragedy."

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Two students were arguing over who got to sit in the bean bag chair.

Me: Who got to it first?

Student: She did.

Me: Ok, well then she gets to sit in it.

Student:  Yeah, but don't you always tell us to put others before ourselves??

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"Mrs. Grubbs, for some reason the tango got stuck in my head. Then I started singing the hokey pokey, and I was trying to do one with one side of my body and one with the other side, and it's not really working out."

Monday, July 4, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Patriotic Desserts

Happy 4th of July!

Most every year, we go out to our friends, the Howers', house for the 4th of July, along with several other families and friends of theirs.  This year, I was assigned desserts for the 12 or so adults and 8 or so kids who were going to be there.  My knee-jerk reaction was to go by Publix and pick up a cake or pie or something, but then I remembered, no, I don't do that anymore.  I make my own stuff now!  So I did. 

USA Jello Parfait

The first thing I wanted to do was make a red, white, and blue jello parfait in a big bowl.  I've seen it done lots of times and it always seems like the quintessential patriotic dessert.  I didn't really have a recipe, but how hard can it be, right?  I made a pan of red jello and a pan of blue jello the night before (2 boxes each).  Then, I kinda cut the jello up into rough cubes so it would be easier to spoon out, and I put the red in the bottom of the bowl, being careful to put lots around the edges so it would look cool.  I also put a few raspberries around the edge.



Then I put a layer of light cool whip on it, and then the blue jello.  I also put a couple of handfuls of blueberries in because I got blueberries BOGO at Publix, so I had tons.



Then another layer of cool whip, and then I used raspberries and blueberries to make a flag on top.  I even managed to make thirteen stripes, but that wasn't intentional.  (It wasn't until Brian reminded me that I should be counting the white stripes as well as the red that I realized it was possible.)

Betsy Ross would be proud.

Honey Almond Cookies

One of my friends does this blog where she makes a new cookie recipe every week for a year.  Pretty cool.  She did Honey Icebox Cookies this week and they looked delicious, so I thought I'd try them.  I am a huge fan of honey, and they sounded unusual enough that people wouldn't just pass over them like normal cookies.  I changed the recipe a little because I didn't have any lemon extract, and I love almond extract, so I used that instead. 

They were amazing.  I made the dough a couple of nights ago and just stuck it in the fridge, and then I cooked them for the minimum amount of time because I love soft cookies, and I don't like crunchy ones at all.  They came out perfect.  I put a few red and blue sprinkles on top before I baked them and voila!  Instant patriotic cookies!

These were a hit with kids and adults.
America Jar Cakes

I was originally just going to make some cupcakes, but then Mallary, my sister, told me about this genius idea she found online to cook cake in Mason jars.  You can find the recipe here, but basically you just prepare a boxed white cake mix (I doubled mine) and then divide it into 3 bowls. 



Put a whole thing of red dye in one, a whole thing of blue dye in another one, and leave the third white.  Scoop about 1/4 c. of red, then white, then blue batter into the jars, layering as best you can. 

Doesn't that look like liquid America?
Then put the jars on a cookie sheet with some water in the bottom and cook at 325 for 40-55 min.  When they have completely cooled, spoon some icing on top and then sprinkles if you want.  They are fabulous.



This became quite a saga, because I ended up doing the whole thing twice.  I was also assigned desserts at Brian's parents the day before, so I did my first trial there.  My batter was a little thin, so it made it harder to layer.  I used pint jars, which were wider mouthed, but fatter, so they were harder to get the red, white, and blue striped look.  Mallary used half-pint jars, and she put a little oil between the layers, and they came out in pretty much perfect stripes.  Her downside was that they tended to cook too fast because the jars were smaller.  That, and they baked over the top of the jars so she had to cut the tops of the cake off to be able to ice them.

I also put too much batter in them the first time and everyone ended up pretty close to a diabetic coma by the time they finished them, so the second time around, I didn't use so much batter in each jar, and I used the extra to make about 20 cupcakes (remember, I used two boxes of cake mix).  The jars were still plenty full.

I also found that the funfetti cake mix that I used worked way better than the Duncan Hines white cake.  The batter was thicker and made it way easier to layer.  Plus, it's funfetti.  Duh.

I really loved that when you ate the cake, it looked like American confetti on your fork.  It was so colorful!

I know it's blurry, but don't you still want to salute?


The best part of the whole thing was when I was putting the lids on and I was like, "I wish I had something to make these look really cute, like some red fabric."  And then I was like, WAIT!  I have TONS of red fabric left over from my quilt, already cut up into little 5 inch squares and the edges are all pinking-sheared.  (is that a phrase?)  Then I realized that not only did I have red, I had white too!  By this point, I was literally flailing my arms around and jumping in circles in the living room, doing a happy dance.  I think Brian thought I was having a hyperglaucemic fit or something.  But it was just a really good idea, and I was really excited.  See how cute they are?

God bless America!
And here are the cupcakes, which were also multi-colored inside.  One of the girls there said she didn't like them, she LOVED them.

It's what the founding fathers would want.
The cake in the jar went great with  ice cream, and in fact, we just scooped the ice cream right into the jar!  Some of the men discovered that putting a cookie in the jar and then ice cream, and then eating the whole thing was apparently delicious.  Why does a cake with icing and sprinkes and ice cream also need a cookie on top?

Because America.  That's why.