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Monday, September 15, 2014

Awesome and Easy Collages for Toddlers

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  I am not otherwise compensated for my opinions.

I found a couple of pins recently that inspired me to do some new simple projects with Cricket's easel.  This is the style of easel we use.  It's just a basic white board on one side and chalkboard on the other.

She loves to paint and draw on it, but these were a few other quick and low budget projects that I used to fill some time when I was tired or she was restless.  

Feelings Collage

First we went through a couple of my old magazines and looked for pictures of people who were showing different emotions, and I cut them out.  Cricket helped me find pictures, and we talked about what they might be feeling and why.  

It was easy to find happy people, and even excited and proud people, but it took a while to find pictures of people who looked sad and angry.  Prescription ads ended up being very helpful.  :o)

I just used plain easel paper from this pad I ordered for Cricket's second birthday.  It's lasted forever!

I taped a piece of easel paper up and wrote "I Feel" in the middle of it.  Then I wrote emotion words like "sad" and "happy" around the paper.  She painted some glue around it and stuck the corresponding pictures next to the word as we talked about it.  

Of course, she loves painting, so painting glue was great fun for her.  She also liked the pictures, and she enjoyed talking about them.

The emotions we ended up with were happy, sad, angry, proud, surprised, and grumpy.  These are all emotions we have talked about with her for a while now, and they have come up in several of her books.

Not only does this help teach her how to express her own emotions, it also helps her practice recognizing social cues in other people to determine their emotions.  This is a valuable skill for toddlers (and for adults), and one that doesn't always come naturally, so it's good to practice.  

After we finished putting the pictures on, she decorated it with stickers just for fun.  She used a couple of stickers as band-aids for the sad person, which showed me that she was really listening to what we were talking about and empathizing with the person in the picture.  

When she finished her collage, we taped it to her bedroom door.  She is very proud of it, and she loves to show it off to people, which gives her even more opportunities to practice recognizing and repeating the emotion vocabulary she is learning.  I was really happy with this activity and highly recommend it.

Sticker Collage

For something even easier, I just put up a piece of paper and let her stick stickers wherever she wanted.  She loved it!  

Just about every toddler loves stickers, so this is a fun and really easy activity for them.  I had a bunch leftover from my classroom that I pulled out, but if you need some, Dollar Tree always has a bunch, as well as the dollar bins at Target or Wal-Mart.  Melissa and Doug also has some great sticker pads that come with hundreds of great looking stickers for a decent price.  A friend got Cricket one last Christmas, and she's still using it!

The only thing about stickers is, some of them are hard to get off the paper they come on, so I stuck a bunch to a chair so I could do dishes while she worked on her collage.

When she was finished, I gave her the option to further decorate her collage with crayons or colored pencils.  She wasn't interested at the time, but I left it up for a few days, and she did come back and color it a little.

She has asked to do this again and again, so I'd call this one a success as well.  

Torn Paper Collage

This is another super easy one.  I taped a piece of contact paper to the easel, sticky side out.  

I let Cricket and her friend tear pieces of construction paper and just stick them on!

They chose to tear the paper into big pieces.  I love that since the contact paper is clear, you can see the drawings she had done on the easel, giving it a kind of background.

To add a natural sensory aspect to this one, try the Contact Paper Window I wrote about when Cricket was younger.  

Remember, it doesn't have to be complicated to be a fun and absorbing experience for a toddler!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Awesome Gifts for Expectant Parents

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  I am not otherwise compensated for my opinions. 

If you are anywhere in the 25-40 age range, chances are, you get invited to a fair number of baby showers.  For a while, it seemed like we had a wedding invitation for every weekend of the year, but now, those have definitely morphed into baby showers.

While my first advice is always to get something off the registry, (They picked it out.  They obviously need it and want it!) some people don't like using registries.  Or maybe you just want a more personal gift.  Or the store they registered at is not in your town and you don't have time to order online.  Whatever the case, here are some great ideas for baby gifts that I have either given or received and loved!

Nursing Survival Kit

One of my friends gave this to me, and we have given it to several others since then.  If you know the mom-to-be is planning on breastfeeding, put together a basket of things she might need.  You could include:

Nursing Cover, Nursing Pads, and Lanolin for the basic needs.


Energy bars, a cute water cup, and a small book to make mama smile.


Nursing tank and burp cloths to make nursing a little easier!


Of course, several of those would make great gifts by themselves, but put a couple of those in a cute basket and you have a really memorable and useful present!  This is a good one for a group or hostess gift, because the more you put in there, the cuter it will be!

Fleece Nose Wipes

This may seem like a weird gift, so let me explain.  When I was pregnant, my mom gave me a bunch of cute fleece squares she had cut out for me to use as cloth baby wipes.  However, once I had Cricket, it became very obvious that they were no good as baby wipes because they didn't absorb liquid well.

I had all these cute little fleece squares sitting around, never been used, and I quickly figured out that they worked great as nose wipes for tiny, sensitive noses!  They are way softer than tissues, you can use them several times, and even toddlers can use them without tearing a hole in them every time they wipe their nose!  Two years later, we are still using them!

So here's what you do.  Get some cute fleece, like these.


Cut them into six inch squares, tie a dozen up in a pretty ribbon and give them along with a note saying what they are for.  No need to sew because fleece doesn't fray.  Easy, cute, and unique!  It is a great thing to keep on hand for last minute gifts!

Little Remedies Box

My sister gave this to me when I was pregnant, and I am STILL using some of the stuff in it!  This is a collection of Little Remedies products for babies and young children, like gripe water, eucalyptus rub, saline nose spray, etc.  It's great, and any new parent will greatly appreciate it!


Ok, y'all knew this was coming right?  No way am I not going to talk about books.  At my baby shower, my hostess put in the invitation a request for guests to sign their name in a board book instead of a greeting card.  They are the same price or even cheaper than a card, and they are way more useful!  Plus, it is so fun to read books to Cricket and get to tell her who gave each one to her.

One of Brian's long time family friends sent us Pat the Bunny when I was pregnant, along with a list of several dozen books that she recommended or that her children had loved growing up.  What a great idea!  I made notes of a bunch of them to get as soon as I could!

I love to give books, so often I will give several of my favorites as a way to start the child's library.  This one is always in the group.


Whether you give a stack or just one, you can never go wrong with books!

Name Bands for Sippy Cups

I don't know if y'all have seen these, but they are rubber bracelet-looking things that go around bottles and sippy cups to label them.  The idea is that they are washable, so you don't have to take them off, and they aren't adhesive, so you don't have a gooey mess after a couple of weeks.  There are several different kinds.  The original ones are actually debossed with your child's name.  (You could also add other information like allergy alerts, phone numbers, etc.)


Or you could get one of these that you just write on with a permanent marker.  Either way, these are a fun and unique but practical gift that any parent will appreciate.


House Cleaning

I don't have a link to this, because it's more of a local thing, but it's worth mentioning.  One of my favorite gifts for friends who are about to have a baby is to pay someone to come clean their house while they are in the hospital.  That way they come home to a sparkling house and no chores to worry about!  This would be a good hostess gift or group gift, as well.

A bonus to this is that if you have friends who clean houses as a job, you are helping them out as well!  If you don't know anyone who cleans houses, you can ask your friends on Facebook for local recommendations or hire a professional service, although that will obviously be more costly.  Just make sure that this is something the expecting parents will enjoy or someone they know, since some people are hesitant to let strangers in their house for obvious reasons.  When in doubt, ask ahead of time on this one.

Closet Organizers and Hangers

This is my go-to gift right now.  I stumbled upon the realization that Amazon has literally dozens of designer closet organizers.  This is awesome because you can find some to match just about any nursery theme!  (I have been known to stalk pictures on Facebook to figure out which colors and designs will match!)  They are a decent price, too!

Closet organizers are super handy because you always end up with clothes in four or five different sizes, and this helps you keep them organized so you don't end up finding an outfit that your baby never got to wear because you didn't realize it was his size four months ago!


Pair them with some matching baby hangers and you have a sweet and thoughtful gift that they won't want to return!


I hope this gives you some good ideas for baby gifts!  What about you?  What are your favorite go-to gifts for baby showers?

Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Be Awesome at Breakfast Burritos

When we started eating more "Real Food" and trying to cut out processed food as much as possible, one of the first things we did was go through the food we ate on a regular basis to see where we needed to make replacements or get rid of stuff.  We got rid of the Pop-Tarts and instant oatmeal packages that Brian had been using as his breakfast, and started trying to find replacements that were easy and affordable, and still tasted good.

For a while, I made homemade instant oatmeal for him.  Then, in an effort to find something with more protein and more "staying power," I thought I would try breakfast burritos.  I could make them ahead of time and freeze them, and then he could just heat them one at a time.

I went through a bunch of recipes on Pinterest, but what I found was, there wasn't really any special "recipe."  It was basically just, "put whatever you like to eat inside a burrito and mostly it will be fine."  After making these over and over, I've pretty much perfected my version, so I thought I'd share it.

My breakfast burritos include:

1 Dozen eggs, scrambled
1 Onion, sauteed
Spinach (or Kale)
1 Bag Tater tots
Half a Package Turkey Bacon
8 ounces Cheddar Cheese
2 8-Count Packages Large Tortillas

One batch makes approximately 16 burritos.

First, you have to prepare all your ingredients.  If you have time, and have no toddler begging for your attention, make the bacon first, so that you can make the veggies and eggs in the skillet using the grease from the bacon.  It makes it taste really good!

But if you do have time constraints, make the bacon ahead of time and put it in the fridge or even the freezer until you need it.  That way you have less to do all at once.

Also, you can slice the cheese ahead of time.  I use 8 ounces of cheddar cheese, and cut the block in half horizontally first, and then into long rectangles.  However you do it, you just want to end up with sixteen pieces, so you have one for each burrito.  I guess you could shred it, too, but I hate shredding cheese, so...

The first thing to do is get your tater tots in the oven.  I started off using hash browns, but they usually have to be cooked in a skillet, which takes extra time, and plus, I am horrible and flipping those stupid things.  Tater tots are the way to go.  Put them in the oven to cook while you work on the rest of the stuff.

(And yes, I realize that tater tots don't count as "Real Food," but I learned the hard way that if you don't use a potato product, the burritos don't stretch nearly as far and don't fill Brian up as well.  And since there is no way I'm making enough hash browns by hand to do burritos, tater tots it is!)

Then make your eggs with veggies.  I chop and saute an onion first, and then add a dozen eggs and scramble.  Right at the end, I throw in a couple of handfuls of spinach or kale, whichever one I have.  I usually have some in the freezer so I can just crush it with my hands while it's frozen in the bag and not have to chop it.  Saves time.

Oh, and don't put salt on your eggs until the end.  It makes them tougher and chewier if you put salt on while they're cooking, so I've read.

Once everything is ready, make an assembly line, like so.

In each burrito, put on a tortilla a scoop of the eggs/veggie mixture, like, four tater tots, a piece of cheese, and crumble one piece of bacon on top.  (NOTE:  Get the name brand tortillas.  Trust me.  I tried using Aldi ones and they were not soft enough, so they kept tearing when I would try to roll them up.  Splurge on the good ones at Wal-Mart!)

Roll them up so they are closed on both ends, wrap them in plastic wrap, and lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

Stick them in the freezer overnight.  Then you can transfer them, still wrapped, to a Ziplock, and just pull one out as you need it.

Now, here's the trick.  You have to take the burrito out the night before and let it thaw in the fridge overnight.  Otherwise, you're gonna pull a Hot Pocket and have a half-frozen, half-boiling breakfast.  Let it thaw overnight and then heat it up in the microwave for about a minute.  Eat, enjoy, and have a great day!

Husband approved!

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Most Awesome Pinterest Boards

I love Pinterest.  I am not ashamed.  In fact, I'm going to show you how much I love Pinterest by showing you my favorite boards.  I'm pretty sure some of my Pinterest boards are better curated than some museums.  If not in terms of quality, at least in terms of time spent on it.  And the thing is, before you tell me how much time I'm wasting, my boards are useful.  They either give me good ideas or they make me laugh, both of which are very necessary to my daily life.

The Obligatory Food Board

I'm pretty sure everyone has a food board, and rightfully so.  Pinterest is like an interactive cookbook with lots more pictures and a search feature!  I've done several posts like this one and this one about recipes I've found on Pinterest, but if you're looking for more, this is the place to look.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Yummy! on Pinterest.

The Kid Board

This is my most popular board, with over 3,500 followers.  This is where I pin all the cool ideas I find for parenting tips, crafts, game ideas, coloring pages, and whatever else I feel like relates to raising kids.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Raising Kids on Pinterest.

The Comedy Board

My humor board is my most favorite board.  Whenever I'm sad or having a rough day, I know I can look through this board and I will be laughing out loud in ten minutes or less.  Seriously.  I dare you to read through it for ten minutes and not laugh out loud at least once.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Ok, that's funny on Pinterest.

The Snarky Board

Taking a page from My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler, I started a couple of snarky boards.  This particular one is full of things that I find on Pinterest that I think are ridiculous or awful or in bad taste.  Usually I change the comments to poke fun of the pin.  Often people repin these in earnest, snarky comment and all, which always makes me laugh and shake my head.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Yeah, That's a Nopefish. on Pinterest.

The Other Snarky Board

In the same vein, this board focuses on pins that require just a ridiculous amount of time and energy, especially for a small result.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Ain't Nobody Got Time for That on Pinterest.

Ok, One More Snarky Board

My last snarky board is full of "inspirational" sayings and quotes that actually don't make much sense.  Often they sound good at first, but if you actually think about them in a broader context, they are terrible things to say to people.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Lies! on Pinterest.

My Mission Accomplished Board

This one is my own invention, at least to my knowledge.  When I try something that I found on Pinterest, I move that pin from whatever board it was on before to this board.  I usually add a comment about whether I liked it or not, or anything I did to change it.  This board has been very helpful for me when I need to go back and find something I know I've already done.  Plus, it gives me a feeling of accomplishment, like checking off a list.

Follow Ilia Grubbs's board Mission Accomplished: Pinterest Ideas I've Tried on Pinterest.

Which board do you like best?  Which of your boards is your favorite?  Let me know, and while you're at it, subscribe to one or all of my boards so you can see the awesome stuff I find!

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Awesome Playlist for Toddlers

Ok, so I know "I made you a mix tape" is so 1996, but toddlers don't know that, so bear with me.

I decided to make Cricket a playlist that combined her favorite songs from the Pandora Toddler Radio stations we listen to, plus some of my old favorites and a few educational ones thrown in there for good measure.  My goal was to find songs that wouldn't drive me crazy and that were at least tolerable from a musical standpoint.  No tone-deaf kids scream-singing or tinny synthesizers and canned vocals.  Blech.

It has a little of everything.  ABC's, Raffi, Elmo, Muppets, and Veggie Tales.  It has a couple of more modern takes on old classics, like O.A.R.'s cover of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or the "Crazy ABC's" about words that start with silent letters.

The result is a surprisingly awesome CD that even I enjoy listening to.  I liked it so much, I gave it as gifts to all of Cricket's toddler friends and cousins.

So here is my playlist.  Most of these can be found on iTunes.  A couple of them cannot, but you can buy CD's on Amazon or find a couple of them on YouTube.

Cricket's Mix

1.        All I Want is You by Barry Louis Polisar
2.        ABC’s by Ralph Covert
3.        The B-I-B-L-E by Veggie Tales 
4.        You are My Sunshine by Elizabeth Mitchell
5.        Fifty Nifty United States by Ray Charles
6.        Crazy ABC’s by Barenaked Ladies
7.        Pollywog in a Bog by Barenaked Ladies
8.        Alphabet of Nations by They Might be Giants
9.        Little Sack of Sugar by Elizabeth Mitchell
10.      Animal Alphabet Song by The Hollow Trees
11.      Elmo’s Song by Sesame Street
12.      Mr. Sun by Charlie Hope
13.      If All of the Raindrops by Laura Doherty
14.      If You’re Happy and You Know It by Larry Groce
15.      Itsy Bitsy Spider by O.A.R.
16.      Brush Your Teeth by Raffi
17.     Mah Na Mah Na by The Muppets
18.      The Green Grass Grows All Around by Jewel
19.      A Pirate Says Arr by The Backyardigans
20.      Patience by Music Machine
21.      I’ve Been Working on the Railroad by Larry Groce
22.     Walking, Walking by Anne-Marie Akin
23.     God is Bigger by Veggie Tales
24.     Silly Songs Remix by Veggie Tales
25.     Happy Tappin’ with Elmo by Sesame Street
26.     Apples and Bananas by Keith Urban
27.     Roll Over by Charlie Hope
28.     Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes by The Wiggles
29.      Skinny Marinky Dinky Dink by Cooltime Kids
30.      Wheels on the Bus by Ukulele Jim
31.      Baby Beluga by Raffi
32.     Goodnight by The Laurie Berkner Band
33.      Sing by Sesame Street

In case you don't feel like spending the absurd amount of time on this project that I did, which I understand, here are a couple of really good CD's that I got several songs off of.  Just get a couple of these and your toddler will be happy.

Ralph's World

Elmo Dance Songs

Veggie Tales Sunday School Songs

Whaddaya Think of That

Songs for Wiggleworms

I also did a post not long ago about great music for toddlers, and several of these songs come from CD's I recommended on there, so check that one out as well.  Happy listening!

Monday, August 11, 2014

How to Be Awesome at Making Pasta

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  I am not otherwise compensated for my opinions.

For my birthday, I asked for a pasta maker.  Nothing fancy.  Just a simple hand-crank model that I can use to make basic pasta.  I mean, I know you can make really simple pasta without any kind of machine, and I've actually done it before, but it's a lot easier with a pasta maker.  This is the machine I got.

Of course, once I got my pasta maker, I couldn't wait to try it out.  Here's how it went.

Step 1: Enlist an Assistant

While it is not strictly necessary to have an assistant in order to make pasta, it does make the process far more interesting.  Plus, it's nice to have someone to catch the pasta as it comes out of the machine.  Bonus if they are tall enough to catch it without dropping it on the floor first!

Step 2:  Mix the Ingredients

I used this recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  She uses a ratio of 2:1 eggs to cups of flour.  I ended up having to add some water to mine because it was too dry.

You just put the flour on your counter or board or whatever, add the eggs into a hole in the middle and then start kneading.  It's a little messy, but this is apparently the super traditional way to do it, and who am I to mess with tradition?

Step 3:  Knead for a Long Time

You just keep kneading and kneading until the dough is smooth and not sticky.  If it's too sticky, add a little extra flour.  If it's too dry, add a few drops of water.  It's a very imprecise recipe, which bugs me as a perfectionist.  You'd think surely after literally thousands of years, someone would have figured out the exact measurements, but whatever.

Once it is a nice smooth consistency, let it rest for a few minutes.

Step 4:  Roll it Out

The great thing about a pasta maker is, not only does it cut the pasta into perfect noodles for you, it also rolls it out for you!  You just take a chunk of the dough and feed it through the rollers over and over, adjusting the setting to be a little smaller each time until it's really thin.

My helper was very good at this part.

Step 5:  Cut your Pasta

Once you've gotten it thin enough, you just roll your sheet through the cutting attachment to make your noodles.  The pasta maker I got came with an attachment that makes fettucini fetuccini flat spaghetti and vermichelli vermicelle worm pasta.  (Italian is hard!)  You can get additional attachments for other noodles, too.

Again, the machine makes this super easy.  Instead of stressing that my noodles aren't all the same width (don't even tell me that wouldn't stress you out), you just turn the handle and you're done!  

It is a bit of a challenge to figure out what to do with the pasta as it's coming out, because it's kinda fragile, so you don't want it to just crumple into a pile there on the table.  If you have an assistant, this is where they come in handy to catch the pasta as it comes out.

But you might have to convince them not to eat it.

Step 6:  Cook or Dry Pasta

At this point, if you are ready for dinner, you can totally just throw it in some boiling water for a minute or two and it will be ready.  Super easy!  

If you want to save it for later, though, you need to dry it.  The last time I made pasta myself, I literally had it hanging on all the cabinet doors and knobs in our apartment.  It looked a little silly.  I was more prepared for this go-around because I bought an actual pasta drying rack.

There is nothing magical about having a dedicated pasta drying rack.  It is just dowels, but it does work really well for getting all those noodles out of the way, even if it does bend them in half.

Also, it takes -f o r e v e r- to carefully place each individual noodle on the dowels.  That's probably the most time-consuming part of the whole thing.  Still, when it's dry, it turns a lovely golden color and it looks totally legit.

Then you can store your pasta in plastic bags and whenever your ready, move on to the best step...

Step 7:  Eat Pasta

If your pasta is dried, just boil it a couple of extra minutes, but still not as long as commercial pasta.  I made Alfredo sauce to go with mine, and it was amazing!  Just check out these pictures if you don't believe me!

So there you go.  Homemade pasta is totally a doable thing!  I think it would make a great gift, too, so if we're friends, don't be surprised if you open a fettuccine-shaped package on Christmas morning. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Be Awesome at Making Unpaper Towels

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

I've seen this idea floating around Pinterest for a while, and it's always been on my "Maybe Do List."  They are paper towels that you don't have to keep buying!  All the convenience of having something you can grab off a roll in a hurry, but without all the waste of paper or money!   Sounds great!

I looked at just buying some, and there are some cute ones on Etsy, but they were pretty pricey, and rightly so for all the work it takes, but just not something I wanted to spend money on.  For a while, we just mainly used dish towels, because I have approximately seventy-three of them, and they work just as well.  And that's fine, but that means that my towel drawer is always jammed full, I never have enough places to hang towels, and it's still not as convenient as just tearing something off a roll.  Plus, it would be super cute to have a roll of unpaper towels that matched my kitchen colors!  Let's just be honest here.  That was the selling point.

Ok, so here's my walk-through on making unpaper towels.  For a much more professional and easy to follow tutorial, go to this blog, which is what I used.

Step 1:  Find your Fabric

You will need two yards of regular cotton fabric and two yards of terry cloth.  My kitchen colors are black and red, so I was excited to find two yards of an awesome black and red material in my stash!  I think I got it on sale at a craft store.

Finding the terry cloth was a little harder.  I really wanted black because it went really well with my colors, but also because I figured it would hide stains and messes the best.  This proved easier said than found, and I ended up ordering it online.

Step 2:  Prepare your Fabric

You have to wash and dry your fabrics, especially your terry cloth, or this will all end in disaster.

Trust. Me.

Step 3:  Assemble Your Supplies

In addition to your fabrics, you will also need scissors and/or a rotary cutter and mat (not necessary but very handy), a ruler or template for your squares, thread to match your fabric, and something to sew with.  (The tutorial I used just said to hand sew them, but I used my machine.)


You will also need snaps.  That's what makes these unpaper towels so cool.  They snap together to form a roll!  I thought about using velcro because it would be cheaper and easier, but it would be a mess in the washer/dryer and would probably ruin your terry cloth.  So snaps it is.  I went ahead and got a big pack of different colors so I'll have options for future projects.  You'll need something to put the snaps on with, too.  I got my stuff online.


Step 4:  Cut Your Fabric

If you've ever read my series about making my quilt, you know that I am the certified worst at cutting fabric.  Like, I have an actual certificate of worstness.

I'm terrible.

Anyway, so this was difficult for me.  I decided early on that the super easy "use a 12 inch square to draw on your fabric" idea in the tutorial was not ok.  I can't even remember why.  Maybe I thought it would mess up my fabric, or maybe I was afraid I wouldn't be able to see it well.  For whatever reason, though, I decided that I was going to very carefully measure each 12 inch square with a ruler and cut it with my rotary cutter.  

This was not at all easy.  The fabric kept moving, and I was on the floor so I was crawling all around trying to cut it from different angles.  I tried folding it so I could cut out several at once, but I couldn't ever get it just right, and it was taking forever, so finally I just gave up and cut out fifteen squares individually.  

All of this took about two hours.  I'm sure there is a better, much faster way, but like I said.  I'm terrible.

Then I had to cut out the terry cloth, which took another bajillion hours, and made a huge mess, because that stuff sheds like a tiny black dog and makes it look like your house is infested with really lazy ants.

Step 5:  Sew Them Together

The sewing part isn't hard at all.  Just sew one square of fabric to one square of terry cloth, right sides together, and leave a 4 inch gap so you can turn it right side out.  Then sew around the whole thing again.

You will probably forget to leave that gap at least once, so have the seam ripper handy.

Since there were fifteen unpaper towels, this just took forever.  I would get three or four done on a good day, and then I'd get busy and put everything away for a week before taking it all out again.  

My kingdom for a sound-proof crafting room.

Step 6:  Add Snaps

I was terrified of this part.  I was convinced it would be super hard and I would make a mess of it.

Much to my surprise, it was actually really easy!  You just stab the sharp end through the back of the fabric and then put the other end over it, pinch really hard with the special pliers, and that's it!  It's like magic!  They said to make a hole in the fabric first with the awl in the kit, but I only did that once and decided it was more trouble than it was worth.  The snaps are plenty sharp enough to go through terry cloth.

I did have a little trouble lining them up, and I ended up doing better just eyeballing it instead of trying to measure.  I just kept telling myself it didn't have to be perfect.  These are just for me, and they will be all rolled up, so no one will  know if they are a little imperfect.

You can barely see the black snaps in the corners.

Step 7:  Make Your Center

You need something at the core of your roll of unpaper towels, or it won't come off the dispenser easily.  (Ask me how I know.)  You can use a cardboard tube from an empty paper towel roll, or for something more permanent, you can get a piece of PVC pipe.  Eventually I might get Brian to make me a PVC one, but for now, I just used a leftover cardboard tube and poked the snaps right through without a problem.

Here's the finished product!

As a whole, I give this project a C+.  It took just really forever to do from start to finish.  Like, to the point where I kept giving up and putting it away for months at a time, and then coming back and trying it again and then giving up again in a horrible cycle for an entire year.  In the end, it took a motivational seminar to give me the resolve I needed to suck it up and finish these stupid things.  Also, because I am (see certificate above) terrible at the measuring and cutting aspect of this, the pieces don't line up perfectly when you snap them together, which bothers me as a perfectionist.

Oh, and I made way too many.  If you decide to make these, start with like, ten.  Or maybe like, five.  See how it goes first before committing to so many.

So the moral of the story is, if you find yourself wanting to make something like this, BUY THEM OFF ETSY, or stick some snaps on your dish towels and save yourself literally a year of having this project hanging over your head.

But, yay unpaper towels!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Be Awesome at Facebook: Community Groups Edition

Facebook groups are a big thing right now. I'm  member of at least 25 and an admin on several of those. One very popular type of group is the community-specific group. This group is often titled "What's Happening in [insert city]," and it's a good idea in theory. It's like a modern day town hall, bulletin board, and social center all in one. I joined two or three of them (we live in an area adjacent to several small towns) hoping for updates on things like upcoming family events, places to watch fireworks or see Christmas lights, and maybe some local news. What I found were basically gossip threads punctuated by ads for businesses, a million lost pets, and lots of indignant rants.

Now, maybe the Facebook group for your city is very different. Maybe the people in your community manage to hold meaningful discourse when election season comes around. Maybe everyone in your city treats religious differences with respect. Maybe they realize that not every business appeals to every individual.

Or maybe not. If your group is anything like mine, there are a few types of annoying posts you are likely to see on any given day.  If you want to be awesome at these groups, try not posting these things:

1)  Does anyone know of a good doctor/dentist/lawn service/mechanic/neurosurgeon? They need to be very high quality and very cheap. I have an urgent issue, so they need to be able to address my problem today, preferably before noon. I know that ten other people have asked for the same recommendation just this week, but scrolling gives me vertigo and search buttons are for commoners, so help me out. Your recommendations mean so much to me, people I've never met! Thank you!

Most of these groups have a FAQ page that has links to threads discussing all of these types of recommendations.  Try that first.

2)  Help! I've lost my dog/cat/parakeet! Please stand outside and call for Muffin as loud as you can! I am crying right now as I type this! We miss our furbaby so much! Muffin does not have a collar or microchip because we never thought she would dream of leaving us! Please help us find her!

I have sympathy for people who lose their pets, but at the rate it seems to happen in the communities near me, either the animals have a secret competition to see who can get their picture on the Internet the most, or people need to keep better track of their furry friends.

3)  Did anyone else just hear that loud boom? What was it? Was it a bomb? Is the government invading our state? Should I bug out to the woods? Or was it an explosion? A plane crash? Are the aliens here??

I swear at least once a week someone asks about a boom.  

4)  Don't forget when you go to the polls tomorrow to vote for [candidate]. He is the only one who really loves our community, and he has promised to develop the empty land off the highway into a unicorn farm instead of a sewage plant like that other guy. I'm not trying to start an argument here. Just stating facts, so please no negative comments!

Politics.  Enough said.

5)  Does anyone know where I can find an elaborately decorated cake for around $20? Needs to look just like this picture from Martha Stewart Living. Oh, and I need it tomorrow.

Not sure why cakes seem to come up as much as they do, other than Pinterest making us feel like we have to have outrageously themed parties for everything from birthdays to potty training

6)  What's up with all the police cars on [road name]?  Is it kids doing drugs? Is it the Twitter? I bet it's the Twitter! This community has gone down so much since we moved here!

Do you really think anyone else on here knows the answer?  Either they are involved, in which case they are most likely not going to post it, (and most likely busy at the moment) or they are just guessing, same as you.

7)  I need to sell this exersaucer/deep freezer/bike/car/house asap!  Price: [exactly $6 cheaper than buying it new]  It is in beautiful condition!!  I mean, it may have a few scratches, one small hole, one light not working, a faint smell of mildew, and some peeling paint, but otherwise, LIKE NEW!! Must be willing to drive across town to meet me, because I live 45 minutes away from the city on the title of this group. Serious inquiries only, please.

A person's estimation of what qualifies as "excellent condition" is completely contingent on whether they are doing the buying or the selling.

8)  No one should ever use [name of businesses] again! They are terrible at everything ever!!! We went there today and it was the worst experience I have had in my entire life!  I'm pretty sure I have a new disease and/or neurological disorder because of them.  I am so upset, I am going to write the manager an EMAIL! I don't usually go that far, but I'm telling you, this is one of those times!!!!

This is usually a follow up to #1.  When you ask random strangers for recommendations, you get answers that may not be tailored to your specific and very particular needs.  

9)  My child is starting the middle school this fall. Is it a good school? Do the kids fight or join gangs? Which teacher did your child get for this school year? Mine got [name of teacher]. Should I be worried?? Please remember that most of the teachers are also in this group, so be as opinionated as possible when describing all the problems I am going to have with them this year.

I have personally seen all of the above questions actually posted in all seriousness.

10)  I need a job immediately. I went to like, three places today but they all just said they were "taking applications" and I needed to have a "resume." I need a job like, TODAY!  I can't wait for a resume!! Someone hire me! I'll do anything (except for the thirteen things suggested in the comments below)! Come on guys, help me out!

If this person is a quick study, they could make a fortune selling cakes in this group.

And as a bonus, the absolute most common post you will see on a Community Facebook Group:

11)  I am the admin of this page and NONE OF YOU JOKERS ARE FOLLOWING ANY OF THE RULES!!!  I will straight up delete all y'all and post on this page all by myself if you do not start following the rules immediately!!!

Usually this post is somewhat justified, because people don't follow the rules, and that is super annoying.  Still, this rant happens in just about every group I'm in at least once a week. 

Did I miss any?  What are the most common posts in your groups?

And please remember: Vote unicorns, not poop.