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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!