Monday, January 30, 2012

God Must Love Girl Scout Cookies

Two weeks have flown by during which time Bugs and I have been devoted to selling Girl Scout cookies in her efforts to reach a certain goal. They sell themselves but it's still a ton of work! 

We had two order forms nearly completely filled out, the second one filled out by spending hours this past Saturday driving all over town as Bugs went door to door. She was insanely brave for a 7 year old asking complete strangers to buy cookies. I was so proud of her because that's some serious scary stuff!  She always took the rejection with a smile and I would want to punch the person in the nose. Just kidding - ok, maybe one or two times.  Easy Mother Hen!

Yesterday sales officially ended and the order forms were due back to the Troop.  Problem was, I hadn't seen that 2nd form since we got home on Saturday and it had been nagging at me for a couple of days.  So when it was time to drive them over and drop them off, I couldn't find it anywhere. Anywhere. 

Have you ever let your child down? Bigtime like this?  I was not equipped to come clean with her innocent little brave face that I had screwed up so royally and lost all of her hard work.  I was SURE I was the one who had lost it, thinking it very likely that I accidentally threw it away and the garbage truck came this morning.  I was totally freaking out looking everywhere I could think of. I finally stopped and tried meditating through my steps on Saturday which only made me freak out worse.  So I said a quickie prayer and immediately afterward, I was sure I said to myself, "Find her lunchbox and it'll be right with it." Bugs had her lunchbox in the car with us so she could eat her lunch while we were out selling.  But I really did think it was my own voice - it was a good idea but it was MY idea, right?

A few minutes later, I was in her room and I looked under her bed, I think subconsciously looking for her lunchbox.  There was the lunchbox...and right next to it was the order form.

It wasn't until later did I remember that simple sentence in my head, "Find her lunchbox and it'll be right with it."  What I imagined at the time to be my own good idea is not so easily passed off as luck.  I've never had a prayer answered so clearly.  But there's no other explanation.  I am humbled.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ruffle Skirts - They're Addicting

A couple years back I made a whole bunch of ruffle skirts for Bugs when she was 5 and now they no longer fit her. To buy them brand new, it is outrageous what they cost especially when you consider it takes probably $5 worth of remnant fabric and a few hours of time to make a better product than what can be purchased!

Problem now is that Bugs has grown. She  has grasshopper legs like The Marshmallow and the skirts are way too short for her gangle legs (isn't that descriptive?)

I have a hard time buying patterns for ruffle skirts because there are so many free tutorials. But beware, some of them are LAME with poor directions, inaccurate measurements etc, etc, etc. Take for instance the one I made last night.  I've made a lot of ruffle skirts so I knew where this woman was going wrong and made attempts to correct mistakes. But it was too far gone and while my result is wearable, the dimensions are screwy and I'd be better off unstitching it and adding a bit more fabric to make it more comfortable, let alone modest since it's really just too short. That's what I get for sewing when my kids are in bed and not available for try-ons.

The reason I tried this tutorial instead of going with one I already liked was that my very favorite tute I did a couple years ago was one I could not find for the life of me. I was sure I'd printed it off or bookmarked it somewhere but it was nowhere.  This is the skirt.We get compliments on it wherever we go.  Tink wears it now and it is adorable on her but I really wanted to make one for Bugs too! 

I finally did a new search adding "2009" to my search terms and it was the 2nd google result!  This was today and I am sooo happy! I'm definitely going to print it off and save it on my harddrive this time because it's tried and true and a total favorite.  So, if you're looking for a very excellent tutorial that is excellent for beginners (it was the very first one I ever made) then this one is for you. Not to mention that it has stood the test of time. It's been through two children, the washer numerous times, lots of ironings and play times.  Not a single stitch is coming out of place.  It's a very full skirt with lots of fabric but that's what makes it so cute.  Now that I have the tute again, I'm going to make several of these. Even as a beginner, I noted in my blog post that it only took me 1/2 a day to make it. Now that I'm a tiny bit more seasoned, I'll bet I can whip it up in just a couple 2-3 hours easy.  Now that's what I'm talking about.

Here's the link to the tutorial:

Have fun!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Vaseline Report

I wanted to let you know the final results of my foray into Vaseline expulsion from the other night.  I have rarely demonstrated such diligence into any particular effort. Time is too precious at this point.

My efforts at removing 2 oz of Vaseline from my beautiful microfiber duvet were...successful 100%.  I didn't even want to open my eyes to do the final inspection after all efforts were exhausted. I did a final wash in the washing machine and let it dry on the line but once it was dry, I peeked at it through squinted eyes to see what I was left with. Because at that point, I would be left with whatever was there. I had no more ideas, no more effort.

This is what I tried and I do NOT know what was successful exactly but that the entire combination eventually did the trick. I'm putting this out there for posterity and the desperation of some random woman out there who wants to save her prized ... whatever it may be after her toddler discovered Vaseline.  Vaseline....  it's viscosity must be that one temptation that can not be overcome by any amount of toddler will power. I speak from experience (two toddlers who have stuck pudgy hands down deep into pots of the stuff).

1) cried.
2) washed with Tide & OxyClean on hot (do not dry)
3) scrape all remaining Vaseline off with a butter knife
4) dab vigorously with alcohol
5) spray hydrogen peroxide generously and lightly scrub
6) spray all spots with WD40, let sit for 18 hours (less is probably fine - I just didn't get back to it before then)

At this point I was highly alarmed at the "stain" that the WD40 left and thought I'd have a new disaster to deal with  so I...

7) doused the whole stain with dish soap, plunged it into a bathtub of hot water and scrubbed like a woman from 1870.
8) let sit in the hot water until the hot water wasn't hot anymore
9) threw it all into the washing machine AGAIN and washed for a normal cycle on hot with Tide and Oxyclean.
10) Line dried

I think it looked better than it did before.  Whew!  I think that Vaseline will forever be on the list of items not allowed in this house ever again upon risk of hanging.  I'm serious.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vaseline - Not a Mother's Friend

or perhaps a 3 year old and quiet time are not a mother's friend. Either way, my oldest came to me while I was otherwise engaged (enjoying the fact that my children were occupying themselves which should have been the first sign of chaos), to inform me that Tink was sitting on my bed covered in Vaseline.

Reverse to about 8 months ago when I finally allowed myself to purchase a beautiful new Duvet cover plus sheets and the whole nine yards for my King sized bed. I only mention the size because the bigger the bed, the bigger the investment. And yes, it was a heavy investment, one I had been thinking about for a long time but knew it was going to break the bank.  So I'm totally in love with my duvet which is a stormy blue sort of micro-fiber and is soft as a baby's bum.  It's one day I wish my bed wasn't made because who gives about white sheets? Vaseline stains wouldn't even show up!

That [precious] child of mine had vaseline caked all over her face, stuffed clear to the brim of her entire ear, and slicked into her hair like Pomade from the seventies, at least. It covered her shirt and her hands were practically webbed. But all of THAT is easy to clean compared to the mess on my beautiful duvet [that is only a possession, nothing at all compared to my daughter who is of greater worth than all my material wealth...] that brings me such joy at night. To my credit, I did not yell at all.  All I said was, "was that naughty or nice?" she says, "naughty" and I have to smile at her tiny, greasy face that is so precious and beautiful and curious and trouble-some.  These are not the times when I lose my cool fortunately.

I immediately laundered the items on high heat. Whether or not that was recommended, it was instinct. Pre-treat and high heat for oil.  It did not all.  There was still vaseline residue all over even.  On to rubbing alcohol...rubbing each and every spot and there are millions.  This worked for about a 50% improvement.  Next...hydrogen peroxide which worked considerably better but my elbow grease is running out. Where can you buy that stuff...I need some more NOW!  Currently I'm waiting the alloted 10 minutes with the WD40 takes a crack. I'm also testing ChemDry carpet cleaner, and will move on to baby powder, baking soda and mixtures of all sorts of things should these solutions prove fruitless.  It's 10pm.  I'm wearing out.

For the record, the child is not yet 3. She will be 3 in about 3 weeks. Just this morning at a store I commented to a store clerk that I hoped that 3 would be better than 2 and that it was seeming a possibility as her behavior is starting on an upward trend.  I either should have immediately found some wood or just kept my trap shut seeing as how the day ended up.

I almost forgot, my first line of defense was to plop the kid into the bathtub where I thought I washed her well. She was squeeky.  However later when I got around to putting her to bed, I picked her up to nuzzle her neck and stuck my nose into a glob of Vaseline in her hair. I guess I didn't lather her quite enough.  She looked like a greasy homeless child as she went to bed.  At least she's happy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Impressive Dedication

The other day I was at the rec center waiting for a spin class to start. I have to get there about 15 minutes early sometimes to make sure I get a bike and this day the previous class wasn't out yet so I sat outside the room waiting.  In the area where I was sitting is also the prep area for the skating rink.  It was 5:45 AM and it was dark outside, the rec center was practically deserted.

After a few minutes, in comes this girl about 14 years old. She trudged slowly in carrying a huge and obviously heavy duffel bag slung over her sagging shoulder. She had bed hair and her eyes never left the floor. She was obviously wishing she was still in bed.  But she sat down, pulled off her big cozy boots and proceeded to dig into the depths of the duffel bag to pull out her ice skates.

When the girl had gotten one of skates on, I noticed someone else coming into the area. This was a tall, thin woman wearing sweats and a huge down coat that looked like she had dragged her comforter off her bed and into the car with her.  A hat covered her bedhead and she carried a large soda and a chocolate covered doughnut wrapped in a greasy napkin. She set these down on the table next to me and sat on the bench across from the girl to help her put on her other skate. They talked softly as they worked together to get the girl ready to go out on the ice.

I had nothing else pressing going on so I watched what was obviously a frequent occurrence in these two peoples' lives.  They had the drill down all the way to the greasy doughnut.  I was impressed with the young girl because at that age, to have found something she was willing to sacrifice sleep for is paramount to establishing necessary self-discipline and confidence (both of which are not necessarily high on the priority list of a typical 14 year old).  I was struck by the fact that although she probably wanted to keep sleeping that morning, she still found the inner strength to show up. To Be There. To Just Do It.  I started feeling a little less sorry for myself for sitting there at 5:45 to ride a bike - a recreational task that likely won't do much for me other than make me breathe really hard and make me sore tomorrow.

What's more, I was equally as impressed with the girl's mother who I ended up talking to more later on when her daughter went out onto the ice.  This mother could have easily made the decision early on that before-dawn lessons were too much to ask. That it just went above and beyond what she should have to do to be a good mom.  But there she was. She Was There. Doughnut in hand. She was Doing It.  Putting herself out there - making herself uncomfortable for a totally unselfish reason.  Being there for her daughter.  It almost made me cry I was so proud of her. But also I had to consider my role as a mother. Would I easily make that decision? Would I be that doughnut-toting, 5:45 AM, help-my-daughter-with-her-skates, give-up-my-own-sleep mom?  Would I? Or would I say, can't we take a lesson at another time?

Turns out this girl has lessons 7 days a week. 3x a week they are early in the morning. It was almost an every-day occurrence.  She said they weren't necessarily on the "fast-track" to competition anymore due to an injury but that they were still serious.  Even more applause.  I just don't think I could do it.  I could be selling myself short, who knows. We all do "what we have to do", right? Given a similar situation and it's what my daughter really wanted, perhaps I'd Be There too.  But right now, an 8:00 piano lessons once a week sometimes feels over the top.  I've got room to grow.

Way To Go Doughnut-Mom!

Friday, January 20, 2012

e-Mealz - I'll Take The Help

Over the past few years, I have gradually made the transition from being more of a stay-at-home mom to more of a working mom. It's not a transition I took lightly and even still the growing pains keep me up at night. I fret and cry when my children do monumental or even non-monumental things with the babysitter (Sandra - may the Lord transfigure her because she's worth her weight in gold). But, I have paid off over $15,000 worth of debt in the past year and so if I'm going to work so hard, and be removed from my children, at least the money is well spent. I can't say at this point in my life if it is worth the justification but it is important to get out of debt and I am making some hopefully temporary sacrifices that the whole family feels.

On Sunday, my biggest goal of the day was to plan a month's worth of meals, get the grocery list prepared and thereby feel more in control of family meals, seeing as Pizza and Fend-for-Yourself are common menu items around my house. But, as I sat down to do work on this enormous and usually un-achievable task, a documentary came on TV about Groupon (I LOVE Groupon). So in my natural MO, I procrastinated the meal-planning and headed to the Groupon site where they were having a deal for e-Mealz. What the...? $29 for a year's worth of meal plans and grocery lists. You'd have thought the Lord was watching over me and having pity on me!

I thought $29 (50% off) wasn't a bad price to pay to try out what they were touting. I gave it a try. I downloaded a PDF file that has 7 meal plans including recipes and grocery list. The meal plans were from scratch meals that did not include pre-packaged items. All meals include a vegetable at least and sometimes have two sides, and none of the sides are ..."warm up a can of beans" which I love.

The only thing I didn't love was the dropdown menu where you choose your grocery store. The only one for this area was WalMart so I choose that one. They said they'll be adding Smith's soon but there's also a generic shopping list with no associated prices. For the WalMart list, they were able to list all of the prices and brands which made shopping very easy. I do prefer to shop at Smith's however. The grocery list was divided into section of the grocery store, i.e. frozen, produce, refrigerator, baking goods, etc. My grocery trip lasted 1 hour. I got everything on my list and I spent $75 after removing items I already had on hand which were several.

This week, the menu items included Swiss Chicken, Stir-Fry Beef, Barbeque-Bacon Hawaiian Pizza, Chicken Pasta Salad on Romaine, Baked Talapia (can't remember the rest). Sides included Parmesan Roasted Potatoes, warm rolls, fresh zucchini & asparagus salad. Everything was made from scratch including the teriyaki sauce for the stir fry. I am 6/7 meals and so far my 7 year old AND 2 year old (and finicky husband) have enjoyed every single meal. Perhaps even more, they have enjoyed that I am cooking a real meal and we eat together at the table. BONUS!

Better yet, I can switch my plan from 3-6 people to 1-2 at any time or back and forth. I can even choose Whole Foods grocery store.

After I went shopping, I came home and prepped a few items that would help me on busy evenings. I cooked a lb. of ground beef, steamed 2 cups of rice, cooked some bacon and chopped up some sirloin steak. This week was the test. I worked 4/5 days and each evening at 5pm when I walked in the door, it was easy for me to prep a quick meal and have dinner on the table by 5:45 easy. All the meat was defrosted because I refrigerated it all instead of freezing it, knowing I'd be using it within the week. That was a HUGE help.

Next week's meals include:
Chicken Tetrazinni
Beef Burgundy
Sausage and Zucchini Soup
Russian Chicken
Seared Catfish Subs
Sloppy Joe's
Slow Bake BBQ Chicken

Each week will include an "Easy Meal" and this week there is a crock-pot meal, a 30-minute meal, and a Slow Bake meal. I like these distinctions next to the name of the meal so I can decide which meal to cook which night depending on the time I have.

I recommend this to ANY person who struggles trying to stay ahead of the game, figure out what to cook and do so in a creative and edible manner. I rave this service. In one week, I have reconnected with my family and providing them with a part of me that I think they deserve.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Reading Challenge 2011

In 2011, I participated and completed a challenge on GoodReads to read 104 books before Dec 31. That equates to 2 books per week and can be any genre and any format.

I'm a avid reader and yet the thought of reading this many books in one year was a little daunting, and so the challenge seemed like an interesting and yet challenging task.

I finished the challenge on Dec 30; I was worried I wouldn't finish. But, I did finish with what seemed like seconds to spare. All of the books I read were actual novels, and a few of them were kid novels that I read to Bugs.

I'm memoralizing this experiece on my blog because it was much harder than I thought it was going to be. And not a little stressful. I even got to the point at times when I resented my challenge because many of my "free" moments had to be dedicated to reading in order to keep the consistency of appx 2 books/week. At times I got ahead, and then other times I got behid. A few times I read incredibly long books and had to make up for it by finding novels that were shorter.

I learned a few things about myself during this experience that I felt important to document.

1. I'm shallow. I read and only truly enjoy foo-foo novels that entertain and help me escape. If they are too thought-provoking, realistic, or slow my interest waned and the GoodReads rating was poor.

2. I evetually figured out that I do enjoy some non-fiction. I read a few books about WWI, the legal system, etc. and found that I felt better about myself after the book was finished, as if I had accomplished something instead of escaped to Never-neverland.

3. I like to read but it's not the only thing I enjoy. Many other interests were side-lined this year, forsaken for a book. This really go to wear on me. So before this challenge I thought that I would always opt for a book over most other things. Now, I know that while reading still ranks high, it does not always surpass all other activities. I do like to still particpate in my life.

4. I don't need a challenge in order to read. And I don't want one. I read enough to meet any reasonable challenge and anything more than that is simply not healthy. My poor family!

Thanks to GoodReads, 75% of the books I read were sheer winners. I found myself rating book after book 4 and above. This is because of the awesomeness of GoodReads and one's ability to ascertain easily whether a book is going to be a good match for a reader. I have compiled a huge list of "to reads" that I know will meet this same percentage of success because I have amassed a group of "friends" (mainly people I don't know but that I DO know have my same interests in books) who I can peruse their booklist and compare our tastes and then stock my list with the ones that are a good fit for my style. If you find yourself slogging through lame book after book, you need to get on GoodReads. I am a broken record about this.

If you're interested in the list of books I read in 2011, and you aren't my friend on GoodReads, you can go to this link to see them all. Toward the end of the year I started listing my ranking. If you would like to create a GoodReads ( account and add me as a friend, my username is AmyNielsen. My books are tagged and one of the tag is 2011 booklist so you can also see all of the books there as well, except one is missing and I can't figure out which one. The latter method is preferred because then you have access to all of my ratings and I do an extensive review for each book.

Now that the challenge is over, I am still reading but have added a great deal of non-fiction to my reading list. I'm currently reading a book about the Civil War battlefields which is amazing. But I can now make better use of my Netflix account, do a little scrapbooking, cleaning, baking and a variety of other activities. It will be nice to round out my life a little bit. This past year was super fun with all the reading but balancing will be a great experience too. Onto the next...