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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Awesome Quotes

When you're teaching children, you can't help but get awesome quotes from them.  Sometimes they say things on purpose to be funny, especially by third grade, which is what I teach, but sometimes they just say things that come out hilarious.  Us teachers would often email "Quotes of the Day" to each other to share the smiles, and Bekah recently found all the emails we'd sent with these quotes.  Here are my favorites.


We’re listening to a Chris Tomlin CD this afternoon while they’re coloring their cookbooks…Anna (who knows all the words to all the songs and always sings along) says out of the blue “That’s some great harmony, Chris Tomlin!”

“Mrs. Grubbs! My books in my backpack are so cold!”
Me: Why are they so cold?
“I don’t know…oh yeah…my mom put my backpack in the freezer.”


We took a reading quiz on a story about Nathan Hale, and the bonus question was “What were Nathan Hale’s famous last words?” (For reference, they were “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.) Here are some of my kids' responses:

If I had two lives, both would be for my country.

I have only one life, that is to serve my country.

If I had another life, it would be my country.

I rather risk my life for my country.

If I had another life, I would give it up too.

And my personal favorite…

If I were only two people, it would be a much better life.


Noah was getting ready to start reading James' book, and I said, "Now Noah, let them read." And James said, "Oh he is. He's just going to read this little Christian part first."


"Why shouldn't Bobby keep the pogo stick?"

"Umm...Because some healing people might not have a mother, so they might need it..."


"I don't even know how to spell CAT in cursive!"


One little boy was talking about possibly going to Paris one day and he said,  "Before we go, my parents want me to learn Paris so I can talk to people."


"If I were two inches tall, I would probably have to marry a paperclip. Awkward!"

"My tummy feels like I just swallowed a trash can."


"Mrs. Grubbs, if I have Viagra water, does that mean it came from Viagra Falls?"


As as student shakes his poster to get the eraser crumbs off, he says, "That's some fine, American paper, you know?"


Student 1: Hey, guys, let's play a flashcard game.

Student 2: No way! This is recess, not LEARN-cess!


Student 1: That's not a real word!

Student 2: Well, I just made it up. It's the best I could do--a big word on short notice!


After a student spilled his drink in his lunchbox and ruined his lunch, he came up to me and said, " least I still have my socks......and my dignity!"


"My throat feels like it's sprained!"


Worksheet: Look at the calendar. What is the date of the third Wednesday?

Student: Friday


We were writing "I have" poems, where they write like, "I have brown eyes like my mom. I have brown hair like my sister." etc. And the last line is, "I have ___________________, but ______________ doesn't"

One boy wrote:

"I have self control, but my dad doesn't."


Two of my boys were playing a geosafari game with a globe, and all of a sudden I hear one of them say loudly, and with lots of concern, "Tropic of CANCER???!!!"


My kids were writing advice to incoming third graders and one of the girls said, "Make sure to laugh at Mrs. Grubbs' jokes, even if they're not funny. She likes that."


"Here's a dime, Mrs. Grubbs, for being the bestest teacher of forever!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tag Team of Awesome--Kasey

I am so happy today to have a guest post written by my awesome friend and college roommate, Kasey Johnson.  Kasey and her family recently bought a house in LA and remodeled it before they moved in, which turned out to be quite an ordeal.  Her first piece of advice deals with the dreaded wallpaper removal process.

How to Be Awesome at Wallpaper Removal
by Kasey Johnson

Step 1: Pray

You should begin by asking the Lord to give you a forgiving heart toward the previous owners. During this process, you will be tempted to call down curses upon them, their progeny, their livestock and their manservants, but resist. Furthermore, you will need to arm yourself with the full armor of God, because this is a battle the likes of which has not been seen since Mordor. Satan was the creator of wallpaper - he did not leave this task to one of his mere minions. No no, the Prince of Darkness himself is responsible, so you are going to need all the help you can get.

Before--with wallpaper

Step 2: Seek out the weapons of mercy at Home Depot

You will need:
- a wallpaper scorer (a little round thing with razors inside)
- wallpaper removal stuff (liquid or concentrate)
- a commercial steamer (it's like $25 a day and I guarantee you will tear out your eyeballs without it)
- plastic putty knives (less likely to gouge the wall, although wall gouging is an unfortunate inevitability)

Step 3: Pray again

Just to be safe.

Step 4: Score the wallpaper

Remember, this is a battle. Do not merely run the tool over the wall lightly. You should scrub, HARD, as though you are trying to erase the stain of sin from your soul. Go over it and over it in a circular motion - you will notice the little holes being torn in the paper. This is to allow the wallpaper removal stuff to soak better.

Step 5: Spray the wallpaper removal stuff

Douse the wall with this stuff. You want the paper to be WET. Once it begins to dry, do it again. And maybe again. Oh, what the heck, do it again.

Step 6: Use the magical steamer of salvation

I cannot tell you how many hours (okay, well it was at least 10) we wasted trying to scrape off the wallpaper after step 5 with little success. The magical steamer of salvation saved our sanity. Simply run it over the walls to further soak the paper, and then take the plastic putty knife and peel up the paper. At this point it should come right up. However...

Step 7: Curse wallpaper

It was our experience that even after all these steps, sometimes only the top layer of the wallpaper came off. You may still have the backing of the wallpaper on the walls. If the walls feel soft at all, this is the case.

Step 8: Wet the backing and scrape again

If you still have the back of the wallpaper in places on the wall, all it will take at this point is a SOAKING WET sponge. Wet the wall (like, squeeze the sponge on it), possibly twice, and then it should come off pretty easily with the plastic putty knife.

Wallpaper successfully removed.

Step 9: Pray again

Thank the Lord that you survived that process and ask Him to give you the wisdom to never install wallpaper, or buy a house with wallpaper again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Step 7

Bribe Yourself

I may have mentioned before that I am pretty bad about procrastinating.  I just naturally don't do things that seem difficult or unpleasant.  Some people are awesome at that.  They just suck it up and get it over with.  My roommate in college, Kasey, was really good at that.  She would come back from a trip and start unpacking as soon as she walked in the door.  I'm lucky if I'm not still living out of my suitcase by the time the next trip rolls around!

It takes a little more effort for me to make myself do the not fun stuff, and while I can sometimes just be like, "DO IT, SELF!" most of the time, I have to be a bit more subtle.

I have found that bribing myself works very well.

I am not even kidding about this.  The conversation in my head goes something like this.

"I really need to fold clothes."

"Yeah, but I hate folding clothes.  I'm just not going to do it."

"What if I made a glass of lemonade to drink while I'm folding?"


"What if I made lemonade AND I listened to an audiobook while I'm folding?"

"Well, I guess so.  But only if I set the timer for fifteen minutes, and then I can take a break and do something fun."

I am not at all joking about that being real.  And it totally works.  I think this means I'm really a spoiled two-year-old on the inside, which is probably not good, but since the "just do it" approach doesn't work very well with me, I figure I should go with what works instead of still trying what doesn't.

There are lots of things I like to bribe myself with:

listening to audiobooks
reading afterwards
crafting afterwards
Facebook afterwards
listening to music
"Once I finish this, I'll make lunch."

You get the idea.  I try not to use too much food as rewards, because as a teacher I learned that can lead to unhealthy relationships with food.  Not kidding.  Drinks sometimes, yes.  And I do occasionally use food or snacks, but I really try to use fun stuff instead.

I think the idea here is that I'm giving up on the "I'm a grown-up and so I just do this stuff," idea, which has never worked for me, and going with the, "I'll give you a treat if you'll clean your room," idea which seems to work quite well.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go fold clothes while I listen to my audiobook.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Home Decorating Part 1

As I have said before, we are moving soon.  Hopefully, if all goes well, we close on July the 8th, and we can start moving in on the 13th, which is a Wednesday.  The plan is for me to go start cleaning and painting that Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and then we should be able to move in that weekend. 

In order to do this, we will have to be ready to start painting on Wednesday, the 13th, which is coming soon, so yesterday we decided to start looking at paint samples.  We went to our friendly neighborhood Home Depot and pretty much got one of everything they had in the Behr paint section.  And they do have lots of cool stuff.  They have little booklets that tell you cool color palettes to use and big booklets that tell you I guess their most popular colors. 

Pictured:  Color gradient overload.

Brian and I spent some time yesterday just going through everything and figuring out which ones we're not at all interested in, and which ones were possibilities. 

I should back this up.  Before we even got to Home Depot, I had to call my sister Mallary because she knows all about art and decorating and what is a good idea (an accent wall) vs. a bad idea (a rainbow wall).  I know none of this.  My idea was to paint every wall beige and then just decorate from there because I thought making different rooms different colors was bad.  I mean, I wanted to do that, but I thought it wasn't "sophisticated."  Apparently that's not the case.  I also found out from her that some of my color choices were not......modern.  I believe, "That's so 1995" was how she described one idea I had.

Which is why I called her, because I wouldn't know 1995 colors if they came up and bit me in the face.

Oh, and also, I'm colorblind.  This is a problem.  I think I've mentioned this before.  I'm not colorblind to everything, but brownish colors are difficult for me to distinguish, and so are mixes of colors, like orange-yellow or red-orange.  That's why I try to go with bright primary colors, which, for an elementary classroom is fun.  Not so much for a house.  Trying to tell the difference between "Sand Fossil" and "Seaside Sand" is torture.  There shouldn't be that many gradients of off-white. 

When we got married, we had some vague ideas about colors.  We thought red and black would be cool in the kitchen, and we thought forest green and maroon would be cool in the bedroom (but that is apparently 1995 talking).  Oh, and our bathroom is like, a sandstone and sage combination, which I like and which we'll probably keep.

So we spent a long time looking at paint chips and booklets and trying to figure out what to do with our new little house.

One of the problems is that all these colors have the most distractingly hilarious/crazy names.  Our favorite was "pale shrimp."  But there are so many crazy ones like Yacht Harbor--what color do you think that is?  Or "Lunar Light," "Outback," and "Wilderness," which sounds like a brainstorming session for a fantasy novel, but not like paint colors..

We also don't have too many pictures of the house and we've only seen it twice, so we were trying to remember details about it using the pictures from the appraisal.  Everyone keeps saying, just wait until you can test samples, but the thing is, we only have three days to paint before the furniture comes in and things get a lot more complicated.  Awesome.

All I know is, first order of business is get rid of that gigantic floral wallpaper in the kitchen and bathroom.  Stat.

I am not a wallpaper person.  I don't even like to wear clothes with patters, let alone surround myself with them in my room.  Bleh.  (Sorry to all y'all who really like wallpaper.  I'm sure your house looks great with it.  Not mine.)  And this wallpaper is pretty bad.  The giant flower/vine thing looks like Tarzan and Tiny Gulliver decided to set up a country kitchen.

So right now we're thinking a more subtle version of our original bedroom idea,

black and red accents for the kitchen,

and yellows for the second guest room.

That's about as far as we've gotten so far, other than already knowing the master bathroom.  I am open to suggestions or to someone contacting Extreme Home Makeover for me at any time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How to be Awesome at Quilting Part 4

Yesterday was the last session of Quilting with Bekah.  I mean, we still have lots to do on the quilts, but all the big stuff is done.  Now, it's just the actual quilting left to do, which takes forever. 

So yesterday, I had to add a border to my top piece.  It was not necessarily difficult, but it takes some spacial reasoning to figure out, which is why I'm glad I didn't have to do it alone.  I found this cute grey polka dot fabric for the border, which was the perfect mix of not being a boring solid and also not being an ADD-inducing overly busy pattern.  It looks like this.

Then, I had to lay it out with the back, which is an adorable white polka dot, and the batting, which is like a trampoline for ants.  Seriously, this stuff is so springy and soft you just want to lie down on it and take a nap!

It's kinda hard to see what it all looks like from that picture, what with the back being on the back and all, so here is a picture of the three layers.

Then I pinned it all together and now I just have to quilt it.  That should be interesting.  I'm determined to hand quilt it, because that's what my mom always did and because it just doesn't seem like a real quilt if I don't.  I want to be able to say I did one quilt all the way through, like, quilting and everything, the real way.

Well, except I didn't sew all the pieces by hand, 'cause that's just silly.

As with most things in life besides oral surgery, there are several life lessons that I have picked up while I try quilting.  Maybe it's the teacher in me, always looking for a teachable moment, even for myself.  But regardless, here are a few things I've learned.

1)  Everything is more fun when you do it with a friend.  When I did my first little mini quilt by myself, it was not fun at all.  I hated pretty much every minute of it.  But doing this one with Bekah has made it much more pleasant.  Especially because I can ask her for help with something if I need it.

2)  Attention to detail is very important.  I was much more careful with my cutting and measuring this time than I was last time, as I was assured that this would make a difference.  In the end, I think it did.  The squares were all almost exactly the same size, which made the next steps easier.

3)  Having the right tools and adequate workspace makes all the difference in the world.  We used rotary cutters with big cutting mats (I have a cutter but only a tiny mat for scrapbooking) and we worked at Bekah's mom's house on her huge 5x8 table.  It was much awesome.  Way better than trying to cut stuff out on my living room floor with scissors and hatred.

4)  Even the simplest quilts take lots of time and have a million steps.  The lesson here is, if anyone ever gives you a for-real quilt, you should cry in gratitude.  Immediately.

5)  Quilting is not a craft that saves you money.  Back when the pioneers had the choice between quilting or sleeping in a fresh buffalo for warmth, quilting was a handy option.  Now, we have the choice between buying a blanket at Wal-Mart for $10, or spending $50-$100 or more on supplies to make a quilt.  It may be a fun and rewarding hobby, but it ain't cheap!  Yes, I realize you could use old clothing or whatever for fabric, and in fact, I have a million t-shirts I've been saving just for that, but really, with all those adorable designer fabrics out there, you know you're going to end up with five of them in your tiny buggy at Hancock.

But it's been fun.  I'll update again once I've actually started quilting.  I have some cute ideas and I hope they look as good on the quilt as they do in my head.  Until then, I guess I'm stuck using my Wal-Mart blanket a while longer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Step 6


Just, lots of bags.

It's been a while since I've written any steps to Being Awesome at Everything, so I thought it was time for another.  This is an organizational tip.  It involves bags.

Ever been on an errand and realize when you get there that the one thing you absolutely had to have in order to complete the errand was still at home, sitting by the door?  Ever get really frustrated because you got to dance class and realized you left your shoes by the front door?  Or you went to Starbucks to read and then realized you forgot your book?

Me neither.

But we can pretend those things might happen.

My solution is to become the worlds most non-homeless bag lady.  Seriously, I am about six cats and a spitting habit away from being that woman with the shopping cart.  Why?  Because I compartmentalize my life into tote bags.  I have a million of them--one for every area of my life.

My everyday bag:   This is my most important bag.  It goes with me every time I leave the house, even if I think I won't need it.  It's small and just has a few important things in it, like the book I'm reading, my planner/calendar, a pen and a pencil, the notebook where I keep my lists, etc. 

If I have a coupon I need to remember to use, it goes in there.  If I have a library book I need to remember to return, it goes in there, because I know that bag is going to the car with me the next time I leave.

My quilting bag:  Of course, this has all my quilting stuff in it, so I don't have to run around the morning I'm going to Bekah's and find my rotary cutter, scissors, fabric, thread, etc.  All in one bag.  All the time.

My dance bag:  This one has my dance shoes, extra socks, random jewelry from some theme class a while bag, etc.

So you get the idea.  I have a bag for everything, and the idea is that when I'm at home and I think, "Oh, I need to remember to bring "such and such" to dance, you just throw it in the bag and then it's there for next time.  And there are all kinds of bags.  Shoot, even Brian has a gear bag that he never leaves home without.  He calls it his 10-piece survival kit.  I call it a man-purse, but whatever.  He's got everything he needs.

Being Awesome at Everything is a lot about being prepared.  I'm prepared to go quilt when I have my quilting bag.  Brian is prepared for the zombie appocalypse when he has his survival bag.  It's all about preparation.

Now the only trick is, don't forget your bag.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How to be Awesome at Making Cards

My newest craft idea was to make homemade greeting cards.  Now, I'm not usually a big fan of homemade things because they don't seem as high quality in my mind as things I buy.  Part of this is because I'm just not very good at making stuff yet, and part of it is because I'm just used to the professional look of store-bought things.

But now that I'm not working, we have less money, so this craft is mainly an effort to cut costs.  I figure if each card I buy costs $3-$5, and I buy 3-5 per month, I'm spending an average of $16 per month, or $192 per year, which we'll round to $200.  So my goal is to make at least 50 cards for under $200. 

I quickly realized that this is going to be harder than it might seem as I browsed the aisles of Jo-Ann Fabrics.  This craft has the potential to be a lot like scrapbooking (which I'm not allowed to do anymore because I spend about a million dollars on one book that only I ever look at).  There are the cute papers, the awesome 3-D-real-moving-parts stickers, the stamps, which must be made of platinum for what they are charging, and so much more.  I swear, they had walnut oil.  What the heck am I supposed to do with walnut oil?

But I'm sure I needed it, and it was all I could do to keep it out of my cart.

So first, I had to decide what paper to get.  I recently found a book at a warehouse book store about card making for just a few dollars, so I got it.  It had instructions for how to make lots of cute cards, and also, how to make envelopes and cards out of regular paper.  The stores do sell blank cards and envelopes, but they are obviously more expensive.  I got one pack of those so I would have some cream colored ones, and also in case my envelope-making skills were sub-par, and I got a package of colored cardstock-type paper on sale.

Then I had to figure out what stamps I wanted.  Stamps are a long-term investment, which I guess is why they cost so much.  They're like $6 or $7 per stamp, but once you get it, you've always got it.  They don't like, run out or anything.  You just get ink, and that lasts forever, too.

It is at this point that I realized I should probably figure out what kind of cards I wanted to do.  I know that, again, it seems like this step should have been way earlier in the process, but no.  Apparently, that's not how I roll.

I decided to focus on two kinds of cards for now.  Birthday cards and congratulations cards, since those seem to be what I am usually getting for people, what with everyone I know either giving birth or celebrating their birth.  Usually one of the two, but sometimes both.

So I got three stamps:  two birthday stamps and one congrats stamp.  I also got one of those little "created by" stamps to go on the back of the cards so everyone can see how awesome I am. 

Then I needed embellishments.  The book had so many great ideas for ways to decorate the cards, but of course, I left the book at home, so I just decided to wing it, and I ended up just kinda wandering around for a while.  I decided to get some cute stickers and some little cross-stitch patters that were all on clearance for a dollar a piece.  Not bad.  I also got some glue and a little ribbon.

So here's all the stuff I ended up getting that day:

Then I pulled out what's left of my scrapbooking stuff, which is mainly the hardware because I gave most of the papers and stickers away.  I still have scissors that make cool designs, shape punches, a Cricut machine, and a few little things like buttons, ribbon, etc.  I also used some leftover fabric from a past sewing project.

Then I just started putting stuff together.  Some of the ideas I got from the book, like the baby bootie one, but most of them just came from the stickers I got.

Oh, and making the envelopes wasn't hard, and in retrospect, I kinda wish I hadn't gotten those pre-made cards and envelopes, because the ones I made work just fine.  You just make a template, which takes a little time to measure and cut,

and then you just trace it as many times as you need to, cut it out, fold it, and glue the sides.  Not hard.

I made a bunch of congratulations cards.  Here's what they all look like on the inside.

And here they are on the front.

I only made two birthday cards.  This one,

and my favorite.

Time-wise, of course this is not as efficient as buying a card, but that's not the point.  I have more time, so I can use it to try to save money.  It's also fun, and I enjoyed doing different things for each card, and trying to see what all I could find to use.

Now, let's look at the cost.

Book about making cards:          $4.99
4 Stamps (on sale):                  $18.86
50 sheets Colored paper (sale):  $3.99
3 sheets stickers (Clearance):     $3.00
2 ink pads (sale):                     $9.78
Box of cards/envelopes:             $3.99
Tiny spool of ribbon:                  $1.00
Cross Stitch kits (clearance):      $6.45
Punch Needle kit (clearance):      $3.99
Sequins:                                   $0.79
Craft Glue:                                3.99    

Teacher discount:                       -$9.12
TOTAL:                                $51.71

Ok, so that doesn't sound too good.  BUT, that's enough to make about 40 cards and 30 envelopes out of the colored paper, plus the 10 or so in the pre-made pack.  Yes, I'll probably go back and get a "Thank You" stamp soon, so that's another $5 or so, but really, that's not a bad deal, compared to the $200 I spend at Hallmark/Target every year on greeting cards. 

So let's grade card-making:

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

If I get really good at these, I might even try to sell a pack or two on Etsy.  I think the cross stitch ones will be cute, but they of course take a little longer to make.  Once I get them finished, I'll post them.  Until then, if you have a birthday or a birth coming up, I hope you like these!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Cleaning

That title makes me laugh out loud. 

I hate cleaning.  I abhor cleaning.  Cleaning and I are not friends.  We are enemies.  And there's, like, this cold war between us, where we're both sabotaging each other behind our backs, but neither one of us will full-on declare war.

Until recently.

I did declare war on my house when summer started.  Things had gotten even worse than normal because the end of school meant even less time spent at home doing anything that seemed like cleaning, and we had to bring boxes of stuff home from my classroom that just sat in the living room for a long time.  But slowly, very slowly, I have triumphed over my house.  I am the last one standing.

Now, I understand that most normal adults clean their houses and keep them clean on a regular basis, and those people are probably thinking that this is the dumbest post ever.  But for me, this is an accomplishment very close to climbing Mount Everest (which reminds me of my laundry pile), and nearly as difficult.  It has just never come naturally to me, but I did it.  I got my house in a somewhat decent condition.

Here's how I did it. 

I've told you before about Flylady, this amazing website where I found my sanity.  I used her methods a couple of years ago, and it was great, so I thought I would try again.  I'm not quite as zealous as I was a few summers ago, so I haven't quite attacked it with the passion I had before, but still, it works well.  She has several basic principles that are really useful in cleaning and keeping your house clean, and none of them involve napalm, which was my only solution, so that's good.

Here are the ones I find most helpful.

1)  Change your attitude.  She would be horrified if she heard me say that cleaning is a war.  She refers to it as "blessing your family" and she insists that it doesn't have to be done perfectly.  Do something, anything, even if you don't do it right.  You're still helping everyone who lives in your house when you do the dishes, even if you don't load the dishwasher the correct way.  That was very helpful to me because I'm a perfectionist, and if I can't do it perfectly, I usually just don't do it. 

2)  Make routines.  I should know this as a school teacher.  Humans thrive on routines.  Even people who say they don't like routines get into routines.  I love routines, and I do well with them.  Even with just little things like getting ready for bed, I have to brush my teeth, take out my contacts, etc. in a certain order and God help whoever interrupts that routine, (as Brian has discovered).  So Flylady has us make routines for what we do in the morning, what we do in the evening, and then plans for how to clean the house throughout the month, so you don't feel like you have to do it all in one day.

3)  Maintenance is better than repair.  She has lots of little tricks for keeping the house maintained so it always looks nice.  Like, wiping down the counter and sink every morning when you leave the bathroom, or making sure your kitchen sink is nice and shiny every night before you go to bed, doing a little dusting with a feather duster, and just vacuuming high traffic areas once a week to keep things looking good until it's time to really clean that area.  Good ideas.

4)  Your timer is your friend.  Most people don't know this, but I'm pretty competitive by nature.  (Ok, everyone knows this.)  Racing the timer is a great motivation for me, plus, it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.  Instead of, "this pile of laundry is going to take me five hours,"  I just set my timer for 15 minutes, fold, and then when the timer goes off I get to stop and do something else for a while.  She even has us do 5 minute cleaning blitzes, and it's amazing how much you can get done in five minutes when you're focused.

5)  Take your time.  Flylady says that your house didn't get messy in a day and it's not going to get clean in a day.  This is true.  I figure my house got messy over 7 years, so it will take about 10 years to get it clean again.  But the point is, do a little every day, and then don't worry about it.  It was like, a week before I could even tell by looking that I had been cleaning, but slowly it started to look better.  Now, it's not bad!  Not perfect, but not bad! 

Here, I'll show you some before and after photos.  Here is my living room on the first day of summer:

And here is my living room today:

Here is my bedroom on the first day of summer:

And here is my bedroom today:

See?  I did stuff!  Yay me!  I cleaned my kitchen too, but I didn't want to take pictures of that on the first day of summer because I was afraid someone might call in a hazmat team.  But it's clean now, too.

The guest room?  Not so much.  It's become our staging room for packing and storing boxes, so although it is more organized than before, it looks like a strange, square forest.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How to be Awesome at Easy Desserts

The Pudding Edition

Eventually, I will be writing about all the awesomely hard to make foods that I am no doubt going to be awesome at, but I'm not quite at that place yet.  So you get......pudding.

Pudding is a great food.  It tastes pretty good, but it's also easy to make.  I mean, regular pudding is easy enough , but then there's instant too, which is like, put milk in and stir for two minutes.  Shoot, you can even just buy cups of it already made if you want!  It's not as bad for you as most desserts either.  They even have sugar-free varieties, and you can use skim milk or whatever.  It's also cheap, which is awesome.

But I'm not writing about just making pudding.  That would be dumb.  You just add milk.  At least, that's the kind I make. 

No, I'm writing about making pudding into other things.  It's like, pudding 2.0.  How to take a dessert that is passable for kids and turn it into something worth serving to adults.  This is my most recent attempt at being awesome at mealtime.  I've found that adding a cute little dessert makes the whole event much more fun, even if it's just a silly pudding cup.

Here are the ideas I've tried in the past few weeks so far.  I thought about taking pictures of them when I made them, but pictures of pudding don't really turn out so well, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

1)  Bavarian Cream Pies

Take those little mini-graham cracker pie shells that are individual serving-sized, and put a little Nutella in the bottom, and then fill the rest with vanilla pudding.  Top with a few chocolate chips if you want.  It's fabulous.  (You could also use chocolate pudding instead of Nutella for something a little less rich, but why you would ever voluntarily opt-out of using Nutella I will never know.)

2)  Rocky Road

Get some custard cups or other individual serving cups.  Put enough peanuts in the cups to cover the bottom, and then pour in chocolate pudding and set.  Before serving, top with mini-marshmallows.  (Don't put them on ahead of time or they get soggy and gross.)

3)  Reece's Cups

Fill individual serving cups with butterscotch pudding and set.  Before serving, top with Magic Shell and put in the freezer for a few minutes to harden.  (This is my most recent one, and it's really good.)

4)  Parfaits

This you can do with any flavor.  It's really good with pistachio, but I have a hard time finding instant pistachio pudding, so Oreo pudding works well too.  Layer a tall cup with pudding, sugar-free cool whip, and cookie crumbles or chopped nuts.  Add a Pirouline cookie for flair.

See?  Awesome dessert ideas that are easy, cheap, fast, and not that bad for you. 

Dinner just became awesome.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How to be Awesome at Quilting Part 3

Yesterday was our next installment of "Craft Day With Bekah," as I refer to it in my mind.  We had both finished our nine-squares, and now we needed to put them together.

Well, cut them apart and then put them together.  Let me tell you, after spending quite a good bit of time sewing all those squares, it almost physically hurt me to start cutting them up again.  Basically, we figured out that the steps for this quilt go something like this:

1)  Buy large pieces of material.

2)  Cut them into small pieces of material.

3)  Sew them together into medium-sized pieces of material.

4)  Cut those medium pieces into small pieces of material.

5)  Then sew the small pieces into one large piece of material.

Really?  Only humans could make something that unnecessarily complicated and call it a hobby.

But we did.  We took the nine-squares and cut them into fourths, like this.

I started out keeping all my squares together, but I decided I didn't want any sort of pattern, so I ended up mixing them all up, which was difficult for me to do, but necessary.  So we got them all cut up.

Then we had to lay them out and figure out what the quilt was actually going to look like.  Bekah decided to do something awesome with this big panel in the middle and all the nine-squares around it.  I did not.  I was doing good just to get them laid out in a way that didn't drive me crazy, with too much black over here or too much red over there.  Bekah and Mrs. Woosley, Bekah's mom, both had to help me, and it took like, almost half an hour.  We kept having to go up the stairs and look at it from far away because the pattern would get in your head and make you crazy if you concentrated on it too long.  It's like the opposite of a Magic Eye puzzle.  The longer you look at it, the less you see.

Finally, after lots of, "Move that one over there.  No, that won't work because of the red.  Hand me that one.  No, too much black.  Ok, put it back," we got it laid out.

Then I labeled each square with tape, 1A, 1B, 1C, etc. so I wouldn't forget what order they went in, and I started sewing the rows. 

That wasn't too terribly hard, except for the time my fabrics got out of line and I ended up with a big hole in my seam.  That wasn't cool, but I fixed it. 

And a drum roll for the final product, please!

Sadly though, this is like, maybe halfway finished.  Because now I have to get the backing, the border, the edge stuff, and the stuffing, and then actually start quilting it.  I'm super excited about my idea for quilting it though, so that should give me a little extra motivation.

Now I just have to figure out how to quilt a blanket in the Alabama summer without letting it touch me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Awesomeness Update

It's halfway through June now, so I think it's a good time to stop and evaluate how my plan of awesomeness is working out.  Let's start with List One, the stuff I'm supposed to be doing every (week)day.

1)  Clean/Organize--Check!  I don't always do a lot, but I do something every day.  My problem is, the stuff insists on de-organizing and de-cleaning itself, which is just making it harder on itself.  I think that I need to attach everything to little retractable cords, and then when I'm finished with it, it would just zzzzippp! back into its place immediately.

Wow.  That is an awesome idea.

2)  Pack--Well, yes, technically I am doing this every day.  I pack at least one box a day.  Of course, at this rate, I will be ready to move by Christmas of 2012, but you know, it's the spirit of the thing.  I'm doing what is on my checklist.

3)  Read for Pleasure--This one is actually the one I have the hardest time getting in every day.  I  mean, Brian and I read together at night, so I guess that counts too, but reading by myself is hard to squeeze in with all the other things.  I guess listening to audio books should could too, so that makes me feel better.  Again, it's the spirit of the thing!

4)  Work on One Hobby--I've been pretty religious about this.  Even if that "hobby" is the Rubik's Cube, I've been pretty good about doing something.  And I do realize that it's kind of depressing to look at your to do list and say, "Yup.  I'm totally good at doing the fun things on that list!  I got those down!"

5)  Exercise--Yes.  Yes, I have been doing that.  I think there have been three days in June so far when I didn't go to DT, and I made up for it by going to two or three classes on other days.  Again, I've got the fun stuff down!

As for overall awesomeness, I have made some strides.  I planned two weeks of dinners yesterday before I went shopping.  That's a huge improvement.  Usually, I just write "food" on my list, and then pick up whatever sounds good when I'm there, which is why I usually end up with four boxes of rice-a-roni, ten boxes of Reece's Puffs cereal, and no meat in the house.  But this time I planned.  Well, I planned the meals.  What I did not plan for was my grocery bill doubling, but you know, I planned for something.

The only other thing I've really had time to do is spend time with friends, which was on my goals for the summer list/flowchart.  I've done that (see above re. awesomeness at fun things).  But besides those things, I really haven't had time for other awesomeness. 

Oh, and Brian and I learned some sign language.  Not like, a ton, but like, specific words and phrases we can use to communicate to each other when we don't want other people to hear.  Very handy.  Mostly I just use it when I'm brushing my teeth, but, you know, I'm sure other occasions will arise.

So basically, I give myself a B-, mostly because of effort.  (Waking up at 5 am in the summer has to count for something, right?) 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to be Awesome at the Rubik's Cube

The other day, I saw a video of someone doing a Rubik's cube behind their back.  I figured they had like, Braille dots in the little squares so they could feel it, but Brian said that no, they just memorized the patterns for how to solve it.  The more I heard about this, the more I realized that solving a Rubik's Cube was not, as I had previously assumed, an act of sheer spacial genius, but actually a set of patterns that anyone can learn.

So I instantly thought, oh, I can do that!

See, the thing is, I have no spacial orientation at all.  Several of my friends can attest to the fact that I can't do puzzles, I can't estimate measurements, and I can't do those tests where they ask you what a shape would look like turned inside out.  Just can't do them.

But, I thought, if all I have to do is memorize some patterns, I will become awesome at the Rubik's Cube, which will improve my spacial orientation AND make me look really smart!  Win-win!

So I bought one.  I took it home and I got online to figure out the secret.  My good friend Google was kind enough to show me this site which promised to take me step by step through the solving process.

I started to read the directions, but decided the tutorial video might be the better way to go.  The video was narrated by a dude who looked like an old Mario Lopez, and he was really excited about solving this puzzle.  He said all I needed was a little time, effort, patience, and perseverance.

I really have none of those, so how 'bout a need to do this so I feel smart?  Will that work?

Ok, so stage one is getting to know your Rubik's Cube.  I learned there are edge pieces, middle rows, corner pieces, and some others that are probably important.  My favorite part was when Mr. Old Mario told me that each center piece is located in the center of the cube.  Really?  Good to know.  He also said it is important to note that center pieces don't move, and if the pieces don't match the center piece, they're in the wrong place.

So, lemme get this straight.  If the pieces aren't all in the right place, they're in the wrong place?  Good to know, sir.  Good to know.

So we got past the introduction, and my first task was to Solve The White Cross.  I will spare you the step by step of how I did it, but basically, I'm pretty sure the directions were backwards, and it took me forever just to do this first step.  Every now and then it would be like, "If your cube looks like this, do this magic formula and it will turn out right" which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't.

There really is a certain degree of magic in it though, or at least voodoo.  For someone like me who doesn't understand the why of those formulas, twisting up, down, counterclockwise, and back seems like some arcane rite instead of the logical movement of pieces that I assume it actually is. 

So Mario keeps giving me instructions like I'm stupid.  He says congratulations a lot, which I think is supposed to make me feel better, but really just makes me want to see if a Rubik's Cube would bounce off his shiny, old forehead.  My brain actually started hurting at one point, which I guess is because I don't usually use the area associated with spacial things.

After Solving The White Cross, I had to solve something else and then something else.  It did take me step by painful, agonizing step of twisting and turning until my hands were actually sore.  (Are Rubik's Cube injuries a thing?)  And sometimes the cubes get out of line just a little, and the whole cube locks up infuriatingly.  I had visions of throwing it through a window, which would have been very satisfying.

But finally, finally, I did solve it.  Brian had to give his suggestions to help me at one point, but I did it!  See!

Did I actually learn how to do it?  Nope. 

Could I do it on my own without Mr. Old Lopez and his two teen assistants?  Nope! 

Did this help my spacial orientation?  Nope. 

Did this make me look smarter?


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to be Awesome at Punch Needle

I know what you're thinking.  What the heck is a punch needle??  I didn't know either until I happened to find these little punch needle kits in the craft store one day.  It's another of those "easy fun happy joy" kits that by now you know I'm a sucker for.  Look, it even says so on the box.

"Fun and relaxing. A quick way to a smile!"

Now usually when I think of the word "relaxing," I think of a massage, or lying my hammock, or a bubble bath or something like that, but whatever.  This craft is not only going to be fun, it is going to actively take stress away from me as I do it!  That's quite an improvement on my usual hand craft of choice, cross stitch, which I love, but which usually at some point requires me to throw my craft hoop across the room and swear that I'm going to finish the rest with Sharpie x's.

Ok, so punch needle uses different tools than most sewing-type crafts (i.e. different than a needle).  There's this hollow tube with a point on the end, almost like a fountain pen, and you have to thread it a certain way with this little threader thingy.  It looks like this:

And once you get it threaded, you look at your little paper that tells you where to put the different colors, and then you look at your fabric and find that area.  Oh, and the printed stuff that shows you the shapes you're going to make--it's printed on the back of the fabric, backwards.  Weird.

And it's not like cross stitch, which is like, "Put an X here, in this exact spot,  or the entire project is ruined forever!"  It's more like, "Well, this area needs to be green, so however you feel like going about that is fine."  You like lots of loops close together?  Great.  You like a few spread out?  Great too.  Whatevs.  It's like, the laid-back, beach bum cousin of the uptight cross stitching family.

So then you just start stabbing it.  I'm not kidding, this is like, a voodoo hand craft.  You take your pointy punch needle and you stab it repeatedly in the fabric.  Each time you pull, it makes a little loop in the other side, and when you do it a lot, it fills in the shapes and it ends up being this kind of three dimensional, soft picture.  It's got a neat texture to it.  I finally finished mine.

Somebody's getting this as a gift.  Just sayin'.

I still have to find a frame for it, but yeah, finished.  I worked on it off and on for several weeks, but if I had been serious about finishing it, I think it could be done in a weekend.  Now I will grade it.

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

It was pretty good overall.  It was cheap, and not hard.  I don't think I would call it relaxing, any more than I would call most crafts relaxing.  It was pretty fun, but after the novelty wore off, it got a little repetitive.  I don't think I've found my new life's passion or anything, but it was interesting and different.  Definitely therapeutic though, stabbing with a sharp object over and over again.  Maybe that's what they mean by relaxing.  Hmm...

Monday, June 13, 2011

How to be Awesome at Fishing

Last week sometime, Brian told me that this weekend was "free fishing weekend," meaning you didn't have to have a license to fish.  One of the guys he works with said he'd lend us everything we needed and even tell us about this super secret spot where there was great trout fishing. 

I said sure!

See, I've only been fishing twice that I can remember.  Both times were at someone's lake house, just fishing off the pier, and both times I caught a catfish.  At least one of those times, I was the only one who caught anything, so I had secretly come to think of myself as something of a fishing prodigy.  No training or practice.  I was just a natural fish whisperer.

Imma end you, fish!

Also, Brian's friend assured us that this place had so many fish that we would catch our limit in an hour, and have fish just basically jumping into our little foam ice chest.

So we loaded up early on Saturday and drove about an hour to the super-top-secret fishing location.  We had to park and then walk about half a mile along the river, so, you know, that was fun.  I did wear hiking boots for that part, which I'm glad about.  At one point, the mud was so deep that when I stepped into it, it came up to the top of my hiking boot, completely covering the top of my foot!  All I could think at that moment was ARTAX, NO!

It was absolutely beautiful by the way.  This was the Sipsey River, which is the most awesome river in Alabama, and our favorite trails are along that river, although not in the area we were in.  But this is what it looked like when we got there.

Well, after hiking for a little ways along the river, we found the place we were supposed to go.  It was very obvious that this "super-secret location" was super secret to a lot of people, because we passed several fly fishers, and soon after we got there, a huge family came down with like, three kids, two parents, and at least two grandparents.  And apparently no one told the kids that yelling and splashing through the water would scare the fish because they thought this was just a long, skinny version of their backyard pool.  Oh well.

We then prepared to be awesome at fishing.  I was told that if someone asked, "What are you fishing?" the correct answer was "rainbow power bait on a Carolina rig," and not, "I'm fishing for fish, what are you fishing for?"

The power bait was pretty cool though.  Instead of having to put worms or chicken livers or voodoo or whatever on the hooks, you just got this stuff in a little can that looked and felt like play dough, and smelled like a fish threw up.

Yeah, by the way, fishing is a really gross sport.  The bait smells, the fish smell, you get seaweed all over your hook and then all over your hands, and of course, the fish are slimy and usually bleeding when you try to pick them up.  Gross.

But back to the story, so we put the play dough bait on the hook, and got ready to cast it.  My first fishing lesson was, "No, you're holding it upside down.  Turn it over."  My bad.

I quickly figured out how to cast it, and I could barely suppress a "watch how it's done" as I cast it into the water and waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

I reeled it in.  Cast it back out.  And waited.  And waited.

*Repeat approximately five hundred times*

Meanwhile, it's getting pretty hot.  The mist made it very humid, and the sun was right overhead, so we were sweltering.  The water, on the other hand, was like, three degrees above freezing, and when Brian had to wade in and get my hook unstuck from some flotsam, he said his feet went numb.

So it's been like, an hour, in the heat, with no bites at all.  Occasionally I lose my bait on a  rock or something, but that's about the most exciting thing that happened.  I think the fish were all still asleep because the water was so cold.  After about an hour, we start to see movement in the water, but still no bites. 

Here's the thing.  Fish are sneaky.  They are camouflaged and fast and they are also ninjas.  They can eat the bait off your hook, tie a piece of seaweed onto it, and then jump out of the water and flip you the bird before you even feel a tug.  I know because this happened to me multiple times.  I swear this one fish was a fin-flop away from pulling out the top hat and cane as he showed me in no uncertain terms that he was out there and yet not falling for my rainbow power bait trap.

So another 30 minutes go by with us getting our bait eaten, seeing fish in the water, and not catching anything.  At this point, I'm about to swear off fishing forever, or at least start swearing, when out of no where, Brian's like, "I got one!"  And sure enough, he did!

He reeled it in and put it in the ice chest, which was kind of traumatic for me.  I mean, I eat meat, but I'm not used to seeing it in its live form first.  I know that's a 21st century thing to be so removed from our food source, and I think it's good to remember that food doesn't grow on grocery shelves.  But still, kinda sad.

So we go back to fishing and in like, five minutes, he's got another one!


At this point, I'm like, "Move over, I'm fishing in that spot now!"  (In my defense, I was in that spot first, but the tap dancing fish frustrated me so much that I moved.)  And no kidding, like, five minutes after I started fishing there, I caught one!  Yay!

Please ignore the zip-off shorts and hiking boots. I told you it was hot.

Then, and I am not exaggerating, I baited my hook, threw it in, and caught another one, just like that! 

We had to leave at that point, because I had to be somewhere later that afternoon, but I know if we had stayed, we would have caught enough fish to start a Captain D's. 

Later that evening, Brian taught me how to clean the fish, and I did two of them.  It did not, as I at first assumed, involve soap and water and possibly a toothbrush.  But I was marginally ok the first time he said, "OK, stick your knife in here and cut all the way up to here."  And when he said, "Cut the head almost all the way off," I was hanging in there.  But when he said, "Ok, now stick your finger inside the fish where you just cut the head off, pull the head off the rest of the way, and the guts will come with it." I just laughed. 

I thought he was messing with me.

He was not.

After several failed attempts at putting my fingers in there, I finally did it.  It actually wasn't so bad once I did it, and I didn't have any trouble with the second one.  (I did not take pictures because it's kinda gross, but Brian said he wished he had a picture of my face when he gave me those instructions.)

So we wrapped the clean fish in foil with some butter, salt, and pepper, and baked it in the oven.  When they came out, I learned how to carefully get the meat off the teeny tiny bones, and there was actually a good amount of meat on just one fish.

And we had fish for dinner.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to be Awesome at Quilting Part 2

Yesterday was The Big Day.  Bekah and I got together to start our quilts!  I have all my fabric now, but a lot of it was not in the cute little pre-cut charm packs, and none of hers was, so we knew we were going to be doing a lot of cutting. 

By the way, here are all my fabrics.  Aren't they awesome?

And Bekah's were so amazingly cute, too.  She's got The Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric, and it's just so adorable I couldn't help but squealing like a little kid every time I looked at it. 


It's really much more my style than the one I'm doing, but the ladybugs inspired me.

I very quickly learned that the first step, and also many steps after that, were in fact, ironing.  This was disappointing.  I buy clothes based on the fact that I never have to iron them, and literally, just about every morning, we throw our clothes in the dryer for a few minutes just so we don't have to iron them.

This hobby just keeps getting worse and worse.  If I end up having to grate cheese on it, I'm officially never quilting again.

But actually, the ironing wasn't that bad.  Turns out, ironing a few yards of fabric is a whole lot easier than ironing a shirt or pants or something. 

The next step was to plan the design so we would know how many squares to cut.  Like I said before, we're doing disappearing nine-patch quilts, so it's not just one pattern that looks good.  It's what that pattern will look like when it's cut up and rearranged.

One of the problems I've had with this whole quilting thing is that I'm very, how shall we say, type-A with compulsive tendencies?  So I tend to want everything nice and symmetrical and organizing.  But that's not how a quilt works.  Most quilts are messy and busy and that's what gives them charm and character.  So it's really hard for me to be like, "eh, we'll just mix it all up in there!"  I keep having to take deep breaths and remind myself that it's a quilt, not a scrap book page.  Even when I was picking out fabrics, I had to force myself to buy more than one print, because I was going to do all solids with one print, so it wouldn't be too busy. 

Remember, this is a pattern where you sew it together, then cut it up, rearrange it, and sew it back together in different patterns.  Of course it's going to be busy. 

So we kinda figured out what we were going to do and how many squares we would need.  I decided to cut about 24 squares of each fabric, because we're going to do 12 nine-patches.

Then we started laying them out and planning.  Even thought I tried really hard to be crazy and free-spirited, I ended up with five blocks laid out, each one of the fabrics in the middle once, and then a pattern where each fabric was the two verticals, the two horizontals, and each of the two diagonals. 


But once I cut them up and rearrange them, it will still look all crazy and cool.  I'll just have the hidden satisfaction of a very organized pattern underneath it all.

The last thing we did is sew the nine-patches together.  I didn't get very many done because I'm slow.  Mostly I could line the squares up ok, but no matter how hard I tried, at least one corner didn't line up.  This was very frustrating.

Oh, and there was more ironing.  Just sayin'.

All in all, it was a very productive day.  We worked for five hours and got everything cut out, plus several squares sewn together.  Bekah I think pretty much got almost all of hers done.  (I'm pretty sure I saw her taking the stitches out of some of them when I wasn't looking and then sewing them again so I didn't feel bad about being so slow.)

My homework for this week is to finish sewing the nine-patches, and then next week, we are going to start cutting them up and rearranging them. 

I'm sure ironing will also be involved.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Step 5

Take Shortcuts

I almost made step 5 "Cheat" instead of "Take Shortcuts" because that's how I think of it, but I didn't want it to sound shady.  I don't mean like, "I'm just gonna dilute this house paint with a few gallons of liquid lead 'cause it's way cheaper" type shortcuts.  I mean, like, find ways to make your life easier.

For example, cooking is not exactly my life's passion.  I don't mind it, and I certainly enjoy eating, but cooking is not like, what I just love to do.  So when I cook, I try to use as many shortcuts as I can, and this really starts at the grocery store.  Buying pre-sliced mushrooms, pre-grated cheese, pre-minced garlic, pre-cut salad, etc. saves tons of time, effort, and steps in cooking.  Now, I realize this is not authentic, Pioneer-style cooking here, but I'm not out to win any awards---yet.  I'm just trying to get dinner made with enough time left over to eat it before bed.  Plus, I just really hate grating cheese.   I always end up grating my finger.

You can do shortcuts in house cleaning, too.  I safety pin my socks together before I put them in the laundry, which means not spending ten minutes searching for a matching sock the next morning!  I suppose folding your clothes and putting them in a drawer would count as a shortcut too, because then you don't spend 15 minutes searching for a shirt the next day--but I'm not that awesome yet.  Working on it.

In crafts, shortcuts would be like, ordering pre-cut fabric squares, which I totally did, or buying the no-sew fleece blanket kits, which I think is just a fleece blanket that you take out of the package and hold up while you say, TA DA!!!  Of course, the apron kit I got yesterday is a sewing shortcut, too.  None of this, "buying a pattern and trying to pin tissue paper to fabric" stuff.  Just get the pattern already printed on the fabric!  Excellent!

I was trying to think of any shortcuts to exercising, and all I could think of were steroids.  I wouldn't recommend that.

I'm sure there are lots more shortcuts out there, but my point is, don't make things harder than they have to be.  Being awesome means finding the best way to do everything, and not having to grate your own cheese/finger is definitely the best way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to be Awesome at Sewing

I decided to try a project yesterday.  A sewing project.  Not my quilt--that's coming soon.  This is supposed to be an "easy 2 hour fun happy joy kit."  At least, it said something like that on the box. 

I got this kit on clearance at Hobby Lobby, and it looked super cute.  It's for an apron, and I thought it would make a good gift.  So yesterday, I decided to do it.

(This also coincides with the moment when I discovered Pandora Radio, which made the entire event much more pleasant.)

So I get the stuff out of the box. 

It really is designed to be easy.  They have all the pieces stamped on one piece of fabric, and I just needed to cut them out and put them together. 

No prob!

Well, ok, slight prob.  I really hate cutting.  It makes me wish I could go back to kindergarten and take better notes, because I never seem to be awesome at it.  This particular pattern was more difficult to cut out because large portions of it were white and the background was beige.  And see, I'm kinda color blind, so that was pretty difficult.  I mean, I can see most colors, but distinguishing between two colors that are very similar is really hard.  (That's one of the reasons I like really bright colors.)

But, I did it, and it went ok. 

The first thing I had to do was figure out how to sew the "flounce" on, which I finally decided was that ruffle on the bottom.  Since it was supposed to be ruffly (flouncy?) it was actually longer than the bottom of the apron, so it took forever for me to pin it and re-pin it, until it matched.  I finally got it sewn on, and I was ecstatic with the results.

Look at that, all sewn together and stuff!  Awesome!

That was only the beginning of course, and I ended up having to get out my iron and ironing board, which I did not know was part of the bargain.  And although I know the basics of how to work a sewing machine, I tried to push myself to new levels of awesome by doing things like, pivoting on the needle instead of starting over when I got to a corner.  I also tried really hard to sew the entire length of one side without stopping and starting every five stitches, 'cause that's what I've seen them do in the videos about sweatshop workers, and I figure they probably know how to do it really well.

My biggest problem that I had was that they kept going back and forth in the directions between "1/4 seam allowance" and "3/8 seam allowance."  Really, people?  The difference between 1/4 and 3/8 is exactly 1/8 of an inch, which is like, a fuzz width.  How does that make a difference?  And I didn't want to go looking for a have a tape measure, nor was I about to spend millions of hours drawing lines to tell  myself where to sew ('cause I probably couldn't have stayed on the line anyway) so I just estimated.  Which means, I just made all the seams the same, which could probably have averaged out to about 3/8 of an inch, 'cause they weren't exactly straight.

In the end, it turned out alright, so take that, varied seam allowance! 

That ruffle at the top was kind of a pain.  I don't really do gathering...

It came with a couple of cute accessories, although the beads did not have a loop on each end as pictured in the instructions, so I wasn't really sure how to attach them, and in the end, I just sewed them to the top of the apron.  And they instructions had this part where I was supposed to gather the material horizontally in the middle and then put the pin on vertically, which made no sense to me, so I just put it on without gathering.  Seemed logical.  So here's the finished product:

Ta Da!  Now I have a nice gift for someone, and I hope they don't read this blog. 

By the way, the "two hour project" took me a little over four hours.  Yeah.  Unfortunately, it's not like I saved myself a lot of money by doing it myself, 'cause I'm pretty sure I could have gotten an apron for the price of the kit.  But maybe once I get really awesome at sewing, I will be able to buy cheap fabric and turn it into cute stuff like this for much less than it would normally cost.  That's the idea anyway.