Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why Would I Want One of Those?

Our house is a step back in time. Our TV is an Admiral. (Dave's from a long time ago.) No flat-screen. Just a big black box. We keep it prominently displayed just in case someone considers casing the joint. (And when it goes, we have a second just-as-outdated TV waiting in the wings.)

We have a record player (that also plays cassette tapes - I only have one anymore - and radio) in our sun room.

And, in an unfun take on the ever-popular, ever-ruined (in the library world, at least) "Where's Waldo" books, just try and see what's missing from our kitchen. Aside from general housewifey cleanliness.



Yup, no dishwasher.

There are a couple of reasons that we never took that plate plunge.

First, there's no realistic space for the thing without making the place look seriously effed up. The base cabinet would look all funky near the sink, and there really isn't the space for it there, anyway. Our kitchen's a pretty good size (there's a wall of cabinetry behind where I took the picture and tons of space for a small table/stools and cat food - priorities, people - on the right), but it was built in 1920, so there's really no non-awkward place for one.

Oh, and for the record, I'm not sure if it's the more efficient way to wash or not. I should probably search for some ways TO make it more efficient, but the comparisons seem minimal (and, in all honesty, I'm tons faster than Dave at it, so I think it's a tad more efficient the faster you are; play "beat the water", it's fun. *shakes head* It isn't.). Still, I'll continue the search. In case you're wondering, here are a few interesting articles: Treehugger (love them), NPR (love them, too) and GizMag (who?).

Anyhoo, the other big reason is that we really don't care. We've been offered the gift of a dishwasher several times, but we always quickly agree that it wouldn't be necessary. We really don't mind washing dishes by hand. And, regardless of what it may sound like, we tend not to have a full sink of dishes always waiting to be washed. (Sometimes a couple of random mugs or a plate and a knife or fork from breakfast. Maybe.)


I know. Crazy, right?

I guess that, since we've lived here, we've really gotten used to this method. Our apartments didn't have dishwashers, but we both grew up with them (and I'm assuming Dave didn't do a lot of kitchen cleaning as a teenager...just a guess; I, however, have done an @$$ ton of it since early childhood), so we know the pros to those magical mystery machines. Really, yes, they're great. We get it. We do.
But, a dishwasher's not a necessity. Plus, I've come to enjoy dish washing.

Okay, wait. The wording's wrong there. I've come to enjoy not mind dish washing. Using a brush (we used to have one for just the baby's stuff plus a bottle brush to keep it all "less contaminated" and started using the old baby brush on our stuff...now that he's allowed to eat dirt and other things I can't fathom, we're using the same one), it's fast and easy, and seeing an empty sink and full dish rack is completely fulfilling.

It also gets me off my @$$. It's easy to fall into the "sit and stare at the TV" mode after eating, especially a bigger meal like dinner. But, knowing that there's a pile of dishes waiting in the sink makes me completely unable to relax. No way. So, after the dishes are done, sometimes I ride off the rush of having accomplished at least one tiny bit of housework for the day, using the adrenaline to get something else done...or patting myself on the back and feeling that I've deserved some TV/blogging/Ancestry.com/reading/stare-at-my-husband-until-he's-uncomfortable time.

And what's better than that? Even when we move one day and, say, the joint doesn't have a dishwasher...I doubt we'll jump on the bandwagon.

What about you guys? Who's a hand washer? Who swears by their dishwasher? Who just makes their kids do it like my mom? I can't blame her, really. Her parents got an automatic dishwasher after she graduated and got married (which happened practically at the same time), so I think she realized what her value was to the family. ;-)

Come to think of it...wait a minute.

Hmm. Hmph.    

Monday, July 21, 2014

Being Kinda Productive For Once

I finally kickstarted my "get some $%&# done around the house" engine. Maybe the guilt of not doing stuff was hanging over my head. Maybe the fact that I purchased paint weeks ago and it was sitting, unused, on our deck. Maybe I finally got enough energy (or overcame the mental demons). Maybe I wanted to find "bursts"(remember those?)  of easier-to-manage tasks (or chunked-up tasks) to make it seem simpler.

Whatever it was, I got to work. And, slowly but surely, the trend continues. It even spilled into the nearest vicinity like a nasty plague (not to the neighbors; to Dave!).

I had already wire brushed a majority of the formerly invasive ivy plants which had attacked the side of our foundation. Seriously, the left caterpillar-esque tendrils of plant veins clinging with what looked like millions of legs ON the cement. There were areas that I just painted over them (uncool, I know), but for the most part those buggers were gone.

So a few quick tips for painting a foundation...

Use a crappy brush. This is actually one of my FAVORITE short rubber-handled angle brushes, but it had seen its day. Your brush will be ruined and will no longer be able to follow a straight line. It's a drunk brush, but it works for this purpose.


Use horrible posture and wear the least supportive shoes on earth. Seriously. I know you want to take several minutes to get up then walk like you're 90 when you're done, right? Follow this example:


Show your toddler-toting guns. Seriously, I didn't know I had those. Thanks for the awesome picture-taking, Dorky Daddy!

My actual advice is to use an old newspaper to not only catch drips but use as a guard. Yes, it'll keep paint from getting onto your garden beds/driveway/etc (it actually works; the stuff you see is actually junk from when they put in our new window) BUT it keeps your brush from getting dirt/gravel/mulch/randomness stuck in its bristles.



Nothing to see here, really. Just enjoying the picture. I look badass. Painting. With a "Life is Good" ("Half Full" glass) hat and my too-big cast t-shirt from our high school production of "Once Upon a Mattress". It's my go-to painting shirt and has splatters from every set I've ever painted on it. It's getting buried with me. But, of course.

 
The perfectionist-without-perfection will admit right here, right now, for all the world to read: I'm not a fan of the paint color. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I know I wanted a more charcoal color, and admittedly this one looked darker on the swatch (and in the can, which tells me it's not mixed wrong). I'm positive it's the combination of a super bright summer sun and the angle with which it hits the foundation. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

It also dries dark...er. Darker. Kinda.



Either way, it looks cleaner and brighter, so it's fine. I'm not going to nitpick. S'all good.

I started the project late last week, then spent time with family on Saturday and got back to business on Sunday during naptime. Since there's a chance of rain today, I'm not expecting to finish today (I'm about 2/3 done), but if I do, I do. And I kind of hope I do.

No worries, though. I've got another project halfway finished that will grab my attention if the "rain rain rain comes down down down..."

This. Damn. Ceiling. Okay. So...ahem. This spot had a super budget style light fixture installed...but it had been placed where the angled ceiling meets the straight part of the ceiling in our upstairs hallway. Like, a half circle was cut out of the angled ceiling. Crazy town.

 
(This is actually after I patched it for the LAST TIME.)

We've patched and sanded sporadically over the years, always putting it off longer. There were times we had thin little sheets of crappy patchwork hanging precariously. The cats had grown to ignore them, so used to the crapfest were they.

So, Sunday morning after we went out to breakfast (and I had discovered that my favorite antique center nearby wouldn't open for another hour, egad), we returned home with one foul-moody, high-strung mama on board. I felt like I was spinning my wheels, so I checked my short list of house to-do's, grabbed my sander and step stool and started the a-gypsum a-flyin'. (Not sure if it's really gypsum in drywall...or whatever our house is made of...but work with me here.)

Of course, since I threw myself headlong into the project (happens. every. time.), I had failed to check on our spackle supply. D'oh. Very little, and all dried out.

Sooooo, Dave was good enough to watch Hadman while I ran to Lowe's. Of course, $100-something later I also came home with a few super cheap window blinds and a handful of other do-dads for other projects...and my beloved Dap goes-on-pink/dries-white stuff.

I applied, then had lunch, put the munchkin down for a nap, and hit the outdoors (see: foundation painting). After Dave had gone inside and got the little guy up, I finished my painting for the day and headed indoors to sand, yet again.

I'm sure you already know this, but start with the lower grit number (it's rougher); the higher, the gentler (finish with the gentler stuff).

Oh, and another word of advice. Don't take selfies. Seriously, just don't. But, if you MUST take a selfie, be sure to do it ONLY when you can embarrass yourself royally with it. 





And don't lick your lips after sanding. Stupid idea.

So, today I hope to slap on a coat of ceiling paint (how do I have two gallons of THAT in the basement but am incessantly out of what I usually need?)

Oh, and I also took the cat tower's rope scratching post from annihilated (spelled that on first try, woo to the hoo!) to looks-like-new --

RIP Monty Mouse. He squealed. #beardsleesourgodfather #jaspersourmuscle
Complete with massive amounts of help and support from Beardslee along the way. #notreally #heslept  He made some headway on reupholstering Daddy's computer chair completely in cat fur, though.


And I thought I'd share a few pics of how the garden's doing, along with its fashionable tulle attire (to keep cat poop out of our food...how's THAT for fabulous?).



Last I knew, those things (to the left, to the left) weren't trees. Too bad they turned into trees this summer 'cuz they're bogarting all the sun for my garden, man.

Oh, and the trellis near the garden in that picture? History. (It was being eaten by ants.) That was Dave's huge project this weekend, and it's awesome to finally have the thing down. Plus, a farmer helping neighbors move asked if he could take the posts and everything (ants and all), so it all got a second life. *warm fuzzies*


Summer squash lookin' all growy and stuff...


Can you see what I see? Look closely...little neon green cuteness. (I don't mind that they're cute. I just mind the taste when they turn red and, y'know, "edible." Ew. I love my husband enough to grow him two tomato plants, guys. That's mad huge love.)


Right after I picked one handful of lettuce, right before I picked the rough-around-the-edges leaves. Keeping it real.


Our first "bounty." Just a teensy strawberry (I moved those near the front of the garage and they're doing "eh, okay") that Hadley ate immediately, a couple of cherry tomaters and jalapenos, and a fistful of lettuce.

Whew! So! I know it's a long one, but that's how we've been productive lately. How about you? Getting anything checked off any lists -- even if your list includes sitting on a sandy beach with something cold to drink? (I'd like to live vicariously.) Go ahead, tell! Or just post some horrific selfies in the comments to make me feel better about my lack of selfie skillz.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Currently - July 18th

This week has been a bummer. I'm not sure why. Well, I kind of do, but some things are private...even in blogland. ;-) But, I'm counting my blessings and that's totally what counts.

Anyhoo. Along with the "currently"!




1. I'm working on my saving tactics, once again. The closer we get to possibly moving, and most likely paying far more than we currently do, I've gotta get control. Unfortunately, it's tough when your professional clothes need a major upgrade for the new school year.

Any suggestions on relatively inexpensive -- you know, $79 for a blouse ON SALE ain't a sale to me -- and practical/comfy/relatively not matronly (I'm a librarian...but....), give me a heads-up in the comments! PLEASE AND THANK YOU!!!

2. Ever try closing the parts of your brain that say "No. You can't do that. You're not good enough. Why are you even..." (you get the point)? I'm trying to do that. Hopefully by closing those doors, others will open that say, "Wow! You're cooler than I thought. How great!" We'll see.

3. Hadley was loving our season pass to the zoo this week! We went yesterday and it just frickin' rocked. Animals that weren't around last time were out, it wasn't too busy, the lions were SUPER close to the fence (SO EXCITING!), and the list of awesome goes on. There's a tiny building that has animal and nature specimens for kids to "examine" (along with a magnifying glass) that he discovered and I almost couldn't get him out. There was even a composter and other eco-lessons that reminded me why I'm so proud and happy to be raising such an animal-friendly little scientist. #thankswildkratts 

4. I'm despising how I feel. Anyone else get seasonal mood disorder in the summer? I've realized it happens every. Single. Year. It's not full-blown depression (I know the depths of that well enough), which is encouraging, and it ebbs and flows throughout the summer. Like, isn't this supposed to be the happy, sunshiney part of life? Especially when I'm lucky enough to have summers "off" with my little man? If you're feeling me, comment. If not, skip over this one. ;-)

5. Since "throwing" Hadman's party, I'm "throwing" myself into my to-do list of house stuff. Er. "Throwing myself" may be too strong. "Gently sticking my toe into" the list might be better. Seriously, some of it's super simple and some is super complicated or time-intensive, so it can be overwhelming to think about sometimes.

One at a time. One at a time.

So, how're you all doing this week? Anything fun happening in your neck of the woods? Anyone else dealing with the summer doldrums or chores they don't want to do (or escaping to a zoo or other fun place)? Let's chat!

*Linking up at Harvesting Kale and Ot & Et (just her title is cracking me up this week...hee hee, Tony Danza).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Shave Time, Shave Money

We are nothing if not simple folk. I know some who know us might disagree -- we're not Amish, by any means (and if I'm offending any Amish...what the heck are you doing on the Internet??). But, ultimately we feel that it's better to live a simple life than a life full of too much stuff, too many complications and too much drama.

So, simple we are.

That said, when the Dollar Shave Club (yes, that Dollar Shave Club, founded by Mike, himself) asked if I'd be up for a "Shave Time, Shave Money" challenge, I was like, "You know who I AM?!" Er. Stay cool, Meg. Stay cool. I was like, "You betcha!" in my best mock Sarah Palin voice. Seriously, I'm a sucker for a challenge, even if it's failing miserably while attempting it. See also: junior high basketball attempt...and volleyball.

I thought I'd share a handful of ways that we have stumbled upon that have shaved time and/or benjamin-spending from our family's daily routine. See if you're doing any of these simple life hacks already or if they'd help you out...


- Tea and coffee, coffee and tea. Hot water + plant life that's been toasted beyond recognition = an item that many can't make it through the day without.

And know what takes more time than you may realize on a daily basis? Waiting in line for your morning fix. Even if it's a drive-thru, it takes at least 7 minutes in our neck of the woods (and if you have to go inside? Fuhgettaboutit.). Not to mention the cost. Even a basic $2 coffee (and we all know it's not $2, especially a soy mochafrappamachiacino) adds up to $10 a week, or $40 by the end of the month. So, yeah. We don't play that game.

Instead, while we're running around putting lunches together, we put on the teapot or get the coffee going. By the time lunches are done, our hot beverage is ready for sugar or honey or milk. A big pro here is that we have complete control over the ingredients. Let's just say that even organic coffee or tea is mere cents a cup made at home vs. $2 at Dunkin' or Starbucks.

You can be like my awesome stepdad and measure out the coffee and fill the machine with water to make it easy in the morning to just flip the switch when you're ready.

- Speaking of lunches, prep is key. If you make a conscious decision to make, say, one huge salad on Sunday night, it'll make weekday mornings markedly easier. I kid you not; stay in bed 10 more minutes. Just store items like sliced tomatoes, sliced strawberries (seriously, don't laugh, they're soooo good with feta in a salad), or diced cheese separately to avoid slimy grossness, then just assemble quickly in the morning (or, better yet, the night before).

We're cool with salads (plus some grilled chicken or varied toppings) everyday; just grab a cup of yogurt, an apple, and a bag of pretzels or popcorn. We throw in a wrap (also made in advance, filled with some of the salad ingredients) or leftovers once in awhile so that the salads don't get boring. Packing a different flavor of dressing or vinaigrette, or using a variety of ingredients helps, too. We find that a handful of almonds can really add another level of flavor.

Not only does this provide a healthy option, but it also makes it easier to "just say 'no'!" to a takeout or fast food lunch. It's definitely way cheaper to do the Ford assembly line method, too.

Is "Just Say 'No'!" too 80s to reference anymore? Too Nancy Reagan? You can be honest, I can take it.

- This one's for you die-hard money saving fools out there. We've talked before about our decision to switch off the cable, but it's the perfect time to bring it up again.

We were sick of the high cost of cable and the fact that we only watched, say, 20 of the 70 channels. So, we bravely switched to the 11-station plan. Um, I say "bravely" because we were addicted, and we didn't know anyone taking that step. (Compared to, say, soldiers...we ain't brave.) Since then, we've adjusted fine and even have a few friends and family cutting back, too.

If there are certain shows you need to, like, exist, don't sweat. Hit up Google to find out what streaming device will hook you up with your faves and put a chunk down to buy it. Seriously, still way cheaper in the long run.

Luckily, Dave and I love PBS (hellooooo, Downton, History Detectives and Sherlock!), Hadman's also a PBS lover (Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger!), and we've had Netflix streaming on the Wii forever. It suits us just fine.

- Share and share alike. What's simpler than purchasing only ONE of everything? This is a tad different with a toddler around, but the Dorky Daddy and I share a lot of the basics, and it cuts back on extra purchases and makes shopping super easy. We use the same toothpaste, soap, shampoo (I've even been known to use Hadley's), deodorant...yeah. A lot. It's also helpful to keep an eye out for coupons and know that you're saving even more. 
But don't share razors. Ew. If you're looking to streamline your shaving experience and pay less doing it, try the Dollar Shave Club. For one low monthly price, they send you "f$%&ing great" razors and keep you smoother for cheaper. Seriously, for as low as a buck; what's cheaper than that? $12 a year?! That's nothing. Have you BEEN through the razor section of a store lately? Insane.
 
- Dude, shop at a grocery store. This may sound weird, but my advice is to shop at a grocery store for your groceries.

*crickets*

Yyyyyyeeeeaaaaahhh. By this...what I mean is...okay. If you're used to shopping for groceries at a store like, say, Schmalmart, think about how many times you've come home with something that wasn't food or food-related. I'll wait.

*clicks on Canadian TV station*

*clicks off*

*looks around*

*takes a drink*

Figure it out? Back when I used to shop at Schmalmart, in my glamorous bachelorette days, I spent about the same amount of cabbage that I do today at my local grocery store. While buying just food. For THREE people.

What busted my bill so badly back then? Extra crap. "Oh! $5 t-shirts! Seasonal candles! Clearance flats!" See what I mean? I ALWAYS bought something else -- something I didn't need -- when I went grocery shopping."

Side note: I also bought stuff like bottled water, soda, and a million more processed items back then. We've since gone "real food" and while organic is more expensive, the fact that I'm not adding on stuff like that helps balance the cost. Just sayin'.

While I know there are pitfalls of shopping at a grocery store (I do get my dish soap, washing detergent, toilet paper, etc. at the grocery store), it's mostly food, so it's harder to fall prey to the "buuuuuuyyyy mooooorrrre" monster. Also, I don't kill an entire afternoon or a couple of precious hours shopping anymore. 

Make more sense now? Sweet.

- Think old. It's no secret: Dave and I are old souls. We probably over-romanticize the past and long for simpler, wholesome times (without all that bigotry and hatred). To be blunt, I wish we could live in a Capra movie. And it looks like Hadley is on the same track, preferring '40s big band for dinnertime listening to anything else and he still kicks up his heels to Fred Astaire songs. (It's like he knoooowwwws.)

But, I'm not suggesting that you take it to our extremes or start dressing all vintage or join a swing dance club. What I am suggesting is that you just take a step back and think about life back then and how you'd like to slow down your modern life a bit.

People grew gardens. People knew their neighbors and said 'hi' and sat on their stoops and dropped off cookies for no real reason (except maybe to say 'thanks' for watching their kids last-minute the week before). People only owned a handful of outfits, enough to fit into a single armoire. People owned the basics, but knew how to be happy. People were thrifty by nature and it wasn't looked upon negatively.

How can you fit some of these into your daily life? We try to purge every season (and sometimes more than that) and keep only what we love. We question our purchases. We stop to talk to neighbors when we have a minute. We shovel their walkways when we have extra time. We wave when we drive to or from home.

And the occasional day offline helps you feel more connected with the life around you, a well. Our grandparents were the original YOLO generation; it's good to look to them as models of a good life.


So, there we have a handful of methods that we like to utilize to "cut" (get it? Cut...) back our money a-spending and time a-wasting. Do you already use any of them? What tips would you add to the list? Did I rise to the "challenge"? Am I the only 30-something who joneses to watch "This Old House" and "Antiques Roadshow"? Answers! I need answers, people!


***Disclaimer:
I was not monetarily compensated or provided with free products for my feelings. Dollar Shave Club and I partnered for the topic of this post. As always, all thoughts are completely, 100% my own.***

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hadley 2.0

Hadman is officially a two-year-old, y'all. It happened. And I was, once again, a kinda crappy blogger. After putting a crapload of time into putting the party together (not a complaint; I enjoy doing stuff like that), I failed to take any Pinterest-worthy pictures. Okay, I failed to take many even halfway decent pictures.

See why I don't own a DSLR camera? I don't deserve one. *hangs head*

But, guess what I do have, folks. *points to head* The memory and the words, so it's time to put pen to paper fingers to keyboard and spill the deets. After all, we all know... I. Rite. Good. Goodly. ;-)

The realization that the day might not go as planned came Saturday -- the night before the big event. See, there's a huge local 15k/5k/wheelchair run that gets mad exposure (and brings mad tourist dollars) to the area. Out of all the run's 30+ years, it never had to cancel, but the impending weather for it (which happened to be Hadman's birthday) was seriously threatening it.

Spoiler alert: The weather turned out fine. Not rain-free, mind you, but not tornadic like earlier in the week. (Not kidding.) Whew.

But, because we knew there was a chance of rain/high winds/severe weather, I decided to nix a vast majority of the decorations. *frowny face* I tossed up a chalkboard banner I had filled in to say "Happy Birthday Hadley" (with ducks and stars cutey-ing it up) and a cool little plaque that I can't wait to reuse every year, as well as a Duck from "Click, Clack, Moo" that I quickly sketched. Add some chevron fabric for the food table, a few party hats, and a smattering of neat duck facts (I'm nothing if not a fact finder), and I called it a day.




 



I kept reminding myself that it wasn't about the fancy. It wasn't about the Pinterestworthy pictures (which I probably would've tried to get if I hadn't been distracted by the weather). It wasn't even about the food, necessarily. It was about Hadley's day, and if he and everyone who came had fun, that was the damn point. It helped me chill out a bit. A bit.

The food wasn't too crazy, but it kills me that I didn't grab a picture of my fruit skewers. Kills. Me. :-P Just picture: skewers with blueberries and strawberries in one mason jar, another with pineapples/cantaloup/watermelon on another set of skewers in a mason jar. *sigh* I tossed the rest of the loose fruit in a bowl near some honey yogurt dip (I wasn't a fan, but I don't like honey; next time just vanilla) as well as some watermelon ducks (watermelon + duck cookie cutter) in a bowl surrounded by blueberries.

Can't you just envision it? Thanks. Thanks for helping out. I appreciate that.

We also had popcorn on tables, some pretzels and chips on the food table, some tomato pie that my in-laws were awesome enough to bring, and a veggie platter with super yummy dip. Thanks, Ina! And I brought out a lemon cake with lemony cream cheese (sorry, Dan!) frosting, plus some classic vanilla ice cream on the side. Hoping to post the recipe soon, since I took two and combined 'em.



At this age, with pretty much just Hadley and his shy-of-3 cousin (and a couple of awesome teen cousins), there's no need to plan much for a party. No need for pinatas or games or anything; not yet. Between providing a less stressful planning experience for Mom and Dad, it's nice to see what unfolds.

And that was, by far, the best part of the day.

Have you noticed how we don't get many rainy summer days the way we did when we were little? (By this I'm talking as a kid of the '80s, but it could apply back to the 1840's; if that's you, God bless ya!) Well, we had one of THOSE rainy days. Awesome!

Hadley fed birds with Grandpa ("Papa"), picked cherry tomatoes with Grandma, rode in his new wagon with his BFF cousin and, best of all, ran around and splashed in the puddles with everyone else.

You know it's a good party when someone needs to be thrown in a bathtub before heading home. That can be applied to adult parties, too, by the way. ;-)

So, even though Hadman had a meltdown thanks to completely missing a nap and it rained lots, it was an insanely awesome party! Thanks for vicariously attending with us!