31 December 2015

Boxing Up Christmas

I really think I put up my Christmas decorations too early this year -- as in the day after Thanksgiving. Next year I'll push myself to wait.

Advent is about waiting, and I really could have used that time before Advent to remain Christmas-free so I wasn't itching to put everything away now, when it's actually still Christmas!

The 12 days of Christmas begin on December 25, and they end on January 6 with Epiphany (or Three Kings Day). We celebrate that in our house, so it feels a little wrong to have put away all the Christmas decorations before that finale. So I wait.

But oh, the nester in me would like to get started with the boxing and the wrapping next year's Advent books. I'd like to clean and organize and start other preparations for our 2016 changes. But my waiting continues.

I'm trying to enjoy the lights and decorations a little longer. I have done a few organizational things unrelated to Christmas stuff, and I've got quite a pile of wrapping-for-next-year, my Xmas books and other bits and bobs started in our bedroom as a staging area, waiting for when I do get the boxes and really start putting things away.

Even after I complete my Christmas boxing there is more to do. Closets to organize, furniture to move, etc. It's quite daunting no matter what, and I probably have another somewhat big job starting in January that will take up a lot of my child-free time.

How long do you leave up your holiday decorations? Do you think I'm being crazy for waiting to put mine away?

30 December 2015

Fitbit Loner

I got a lot of great Christmas gifts this year, including a Fitbit Flex from my mama. It was on the top of my wish list, and she even got me one with a purple band! These things came out in 2013, but I'm not what you'd call an early adopter (big reasons why are being cheap and wanting a product with at least some of the early kinks worked out).

I'm still learning the lingo and system, but so far it's fun and a motivator to move more. I haven't reached 10K steps yet, which is the default daily goal. I knocked it down to 5K, and with a bit of effort (actually leaving the house and walking around the block) I've met that for a few days in a row. (Today we went to Walmart and I pushed the cart with one hand so my arm was swinging naturally and those steps would count -- then I paced in the house after supper until the bracelet vibrated and lit up in celebration at 5K.)

I don't have any "friends" in the Fitbit system, and I prefer it that way. As an online writer/blogger I do put some of myself out there, but I definitely don't give away a lot of minutia or anything really private. So the idea of anyone seeing how much I walk (or DON'T walk) in a given day is horrifying. Do your friends have access to your sleep data? Ugh.

I like the sleep tracking feature, although I'm not sure how accurate it is. I had a REALLY hard time falling asleep last night but it still shows me as getting a full 8+ hours. I definitely was laying down and in bed for that long, but I don't know about asleep. It's based on how much your wrist moves, and honestly when I'm laying there reading on my Kindle Fire (another great Xmas present from my mom a couple years back!) my wrist doesn't move much so maybe it thinks I'm sleeping then? 

Data is data, and even if it's wrong it's still wrong consistently and I can spot trends.

Do you have a Fitbit or another exercise tracker? Do you like the motivation of other people seeing your stats?

28 December 2015

Christmas Books

I told a friend about our tradition to open a Christmas book every night of December (until Christmas) as part of our Advent celebration. She has two kids but said they don't have that many Christmas books. We have WAY more than 24 because we acquire more every year and started from more than zero since my mom had saved a LOT of books from my childhood. There may have been more too if my sister took some (first crack since her kid is 7 years older than Jane -- can you believe Owen is ELEVEN?!?!) -- or maybe I got them all. In any case, we've got a ton. I offered to make a list of some of our favorites, so I thought I'd repurpose that list as a blog post too in case you're looking for some kid Christmas books (or just have an interest in what Jane is reading in December).
  • Little Golden Book - Sesame Street: I Can't Wait Until Christmas
    This is a vintage book (that's a nice way to say old right?) featuring Big Bird. It's long, so not a favorite for me and Shawn to read, but Jane likes it. No overt Santa message - just Big Bird corresponding with his Grandma and making her a special present.
  • Little Golden Book - The Night Before Christmas
    We actually have two copies -- one that came with a cassette tape of the story. Don't have the cassette and should probably just get rid of one of the older one. The other I am pretty sure I bought before Jane's first Christmas for a photo op.
  • Who Is Coming to Our House? Joseph Slate & Ashley Wolff
    Board book, short and cute about the animals in the stable getting ready for the Holy Family's visit.
  • Where is Baby's Christmas Present? Karen Katz
    Lift-the-flap board book, short and easy to read. A little babyish for Jane this year but she still likes it.
  • Five Little Christmas Trees
    Small book with these button-like Christmas trees cut out of the book. Short, rhyming and probably old. Weird, and Jane likes it a lot.
  • Little Golden Book - Thomas' Night Before Christmas
    Long but Jane loves Thomas!
  • Winnie the Pooh: The Merry Christmas Mystery
    One of the first ones she opened this year and she loves it. She likes to tell the story, assign roles and act it out. The mystery is that Santa delivers presents to the wrong houses and they have to sort that out.
  • Little Golden Book - The Animals' Christmas Eve
    Animals on a farm tell the Christmas story with a focus on the animals' roles. Short and easy to read.
  • The Christmas Story - Patricia A. Pingry & Wendy Edelson
    Paraphrase of the Bible story with cute pictures. Has a Borders tag on it so maybe we got it on sale when it was closing?
  • Little Golden Book - Pooh: The Sweetest Christmas
    No Santa in this one - it's about Pooh giving away his honey as gifts for his friends. And he gets honey from them in return -- hence the sweetness. Jane likes this one a lot too, although the mystery book gets more retellings.
  • Tinsel Tots - Tom Arma
    Board book that's just pictures of babies dressed up with brief captions. Pretty sure I got this at a garage sale.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss
    Old copy from my childhood. We read it for the first time this year (this one hasn't been wrapped so far).
  • Little Golden Book - The Cat that Climbed the Christmas Tree
    Jane loves this one, and it's random and seems old. I don't remember it from being a kid so could be a garage sale find or just something my mom picked up along the way. Or my Swiss cheese memory could apply to childhood books. It's about a cat who climbs a Christmas tree and talks to ornaments along the way. Weird and long.
  • Little Scholastic - How to Build a Snowman
    Babyish book that I got at a Scholastic outlet store one year when a friend took me. It's in Baton Rouge on the outskirts somewhere and parents who volunteer at book fairs and teachers get to go shop the overstock. It was really fun. I haven't been back though -- that friend has much older kids (there were books for all ages) and I haven't pestered her about it again.
  • The Small One
    A Disney book about the donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem and his life before that. It's a movie that we watched every year as a kid, so it's sentimental. The book is old, but I'm not sure where we got it because I don't remember having a book version when we were kids. Maybe I found it at a sale and got it (or my sister did).
  • Little Golden Book - ABC is for Christmas
    Easy to read, rhyming alphabet book. Definitely vintage.
  • Listen to the Silent Night - Dandi Daley Mackall, Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher
    This was a gift - about the night Jesus was born.
  • Little Golden Book - The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas
    I love Poky and bought this for Jane probably her first Christmas. Shawn hates this book and was glad it was the last one she happened to open this year.
  • The First Christmas, a Changing Picture Book - illustrated by Sophy Williams
    This was a gift and is beautifully illustrated. Lots of text.
  • Frosty the Snowman
    We have a couple versions of this - I think both from when I was a kid.
  • The Polar Express - Chris van Allsburg
    Looks like this copy was from a school library in Lawton so probably bought by my mom at a sale or something like that. I'm very lukewarm on this one, as it's long and really believe-in-Santa propaganda. Jane likes it and we watched the movie with her this year. (I do love that hot chocolate song.)
  • Five Christmas Penguins - Steven Lenton
    I definitely bought this one, and it's short with a padded cover and sturdy pages. Not quite a board book but good for littles. Lots of shiny stuff on the pages too (but no glitter).
  • The Spirit of Christmas - Nancy Tillman
    A gift and can be a tear-jerker. (She wrote On the Night You Were Born, which we were given just before Jane was born with the inscription "I've got my dancing shoes on..." and I cried at that.)
  • The Snow Must Go On: A Way, Way Off-Broadway Adventure - Molly Wigand and Mike Esberg
    Hallmark book, so probably was a gift or a hand-me-down. Lots of text - about penguins and snowmen putting on a play.
  • Humphrey's First Christmas - Carol Heyer
    Beautiful pictures. About a camel carrying the wise men's gifts and then also giving a gift himself. Love it (not many wise men-themed books really) but they meet the baby in the manger, which is not how the Bible story goes. Otherwise good one, and I think it must have been a gift because it's a nice, big book.
  • Christmas Candy Canes - Nancy Parent and Adam Devaney
    Old, has a music feature that barely works anymore. Rhyming and short board book.
  • Christmas Lift-the-Flap Shadow Book
    Sparkly with sturdy pages but not a board book. Was a gift and doesn't have many words.
  • One Mitten - Kristine O'Connell George and Maggie Smith
    Not really Christmas but lives with our holiday books (doesn't get wrapped). Got it from Jane's teacher last year.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
    Paperback Little Golden Book originally came with a cassette. A lot of text and more than the song - but it doesn't follow the movie either. I should probably get a new version because Jane likes Rudolph a lot (but that kind of goes against my no Santa myth stance).
  • The Snowman Storybook - Raymond Briggs
    Garage sale or hand-me-down find. Story about boy making a snowman that comes to life at night and they fly around the world.
  • Llama Llama Jingle Bells - Anna Dewdney
    Board book, easy to read. Love the characters and her paintings.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
    We have a couple versions of this -- gag me. I guess it's the length that I don't like? The nicer copy was a gift and the other copy is a random one from when I was a kid.
  • Clifford - The Little Red Sled
    Definitely garage sale or my sister clearing out her classroom book. This isn't a Christmas book either, so doesn't get wrapped but does live with the holiday books.
  • Biscuit's Pet & Play Christmas - Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories
    Board book with things to feel.
  • Llama Llama Holiday Drama - Anna Dewdney
    Soft cover from Scholastic book order I think. Rhythmic and rhyming text with good illustrations. About Llama Llama melting down from all the holiday stuff and getting a cuddle from his mama to make things better.
  • Usborne Little Children's Music Book - Elisa Squillace
    Has buttons to push to hear music, and it's about a group of animals doing a Christmas concert and getting ready by practicing at their homes. Push the buttons to hear individual instruments (named in the text) and then the last button is all the instruments together. Not recognizable Christmas music, but not annoying or tinny either. We really like it.
  • First Snow in the Woods - Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
    Photos of a deer family as the season changes and made up text about what the baby deer is thinking about with his first experience of snow. Pretty pictures, but not my favorite. Also not Christmassy so just one that lives with the holiday books.
  • Jingle Bells
    Paperback Little Golden Book definitely from my childhood. Story about a group of animals going on a sleigh ride and they pick up more animals and sing Jingle Bells. Meh.
  • A Sesame Street Christmas - Pat Tornborg and Tom Cooke
    Raining on Sesame Street for Christmas so the friends tell different stories. Lots of text - way too much. I think this is from the 80s.
  • Hobo Dog's Christmas Treet - Thacher Hurd
    Funny little story about a dog who lives in a junk yard and gets a Christmas tree and decorates it with trash. Not sure where it came from, but it seems old.
  • Little Golden Book - Tom & Jerry's Merry Christmas
    Definitely vintage and kind of long. They give each other gifts at the end.
Amazon affiliate links used. If you click on one and make a purchase (of anything) on Amazon I theoretically get a small payment at no cost to you. I saw theoretically because I've never received any income.

22 December 2015

A Merry Christmas Wreath from Candy Canes

Jane and I have been crafting a bit since she's been out of school for the winter break. We've mainly done Pinterest crafts that used paper plates, construction paper and pom poms. We've made a Santa face, a Rudolph and an ornament decorated with tissue paper. They've turned out really cute, and we have a couple more options to do (Christmas tree 1, tree 2 and chalk lights).

I attempted one craft myself - this Merry Christmas wreath made from candy canes. Unfortunately it's just a picture, and the comments on it are saying it doesn't work. I had to try twice -- the first time I miscounted so had two too few candy canes and some of my hot glue didn't hold. But I just finished try #2 and it seems to be holding up OK now.

I cut circles out of the candy cane box cardboard to make the center stabilizer. Also in the original picture you can see the tape used to connect the candy canes, so I did that first - taped them in sets of two/back to back. Then I used hot glue to connect the tips, forming the hearts. I added more tape for security (and where I broke the candy cane crooks - this is not a re-usable wreath for sure). I hot glued the cardboard circles over the middle - one on each side - and then glue sticked the construction paper "Merry Christmas" label on one side. I used my fancy edge scissors to cut around that one to make it look cuter, but I'm not sure that's visible in the picture.

I used a piece of glittery black string that I have from Gran's crochet stash and threaded it through the top and taped it behind the door/inside the closet to hold up the wreath (you can see that better in the original). I added a random red bow to the top, but I'm not sure it's going to stay with just the tape, and it isn't necessary. I also taped a few of the candy canes to the door to keep the wreath from flopping around when I open the closet (I rarely need to get in the linen closet, but now there's a delicate wreath there I'm finding I need stuff constantly!).

Hopefully it will last three days until Christmas, and it's a small investment so no worries if it doesn't last. It's just going to be tossed anyway. Total cost was $2 for the candy canes ($1/box) and I had everything else on hand. I'm not sure how much the glue gun sticks cost because I'd bought them for another project, but I probably used 2 or 3 per try so 5 or 6 total. Economical and cute!

21 December 2015

Celebration in the Oaks 2015

That blur behind me is Jane & Shawn on a giraffe
We normally go to Zoo Lights at the Baton Rouge Zoo to get our fill of Christmas lights, and we still will probably try to hit them up (if this rain ever stops), but this year we thought we'd try something a little crazier and drive to New Orleans City Park for Celebration in the Oaks.

It's about an hour and a half drive, and the park opens for the lights at 6. We left at 4:30 and stopped in Gonzales on the way to eat supper (Cracker Barrel 4 Life ... even when it lets us down we can't quit it!). We were at the park by 7, and because we went on a Thursday were able to find parking without too much trouble. It WAS crowded, but that was to be expected and kind of added to the festive atmosphere. The weather was cool but not cold -- probably mid-50s. So our coats and hats were welcome but we weren't frigid.

I didn't take pictures of the lights really, since I wasn't thinking blog post but was thinking "what photos will I want to see later," and those all include Jane! I did get a funny selfie of me as Jane and Shawn flew past on the carousel -- I couldn't believe how fast that thing went!

We also did the train ride, which was worth the $15 for the three of us. We could see more of the lights, especially the Cajun Christmas scene with Santa in a sleigh with alligators instead of reindeer. That made me laugh.

The park was too big for us to see everything, although we didn't leave until after 9. We still had a drive home ahead of us (and Jane's NORMAL bedtime is closer to 7/7:30 when we arrived!), and I was dragging as the effects of a cold hit me full force and I had no voice left as we hit the exit.

Jane said her favorite was the waving Santa, a huge light display near where we parked. I liked the Cajun Christmas and also the section that was timed to light up alongside music. The park equipment was fun -- a slide and some play houses -- although a little dark to really be playing, much to Jane's disappointment. There were plenty of other rides too, so we may have to go back to the park in the spring or fall when it's a better temperature and less crowded to do some of those things. Although some looked too intense for Jane so we might want to wait a couple years on that too.

One thing that tickled me, and made me think only in Louisiana, is that alongside the hot chocolate and coffee they were selling Bud Light tall boys and you saw plenty of people walking around with them. LOL at open carry laws in other states. Good grief.

Overall it was a great family outing, although I think the better bet would be to go down earlier, get a hotel room and spend the night so we could walk around for a full three hours (6-9) and see more. We didn't even hit the gift shop! (That tells you how sick I really was.)

19 December 2015

Teacher Gifts: Thanks a Latte Crochet Coffee Cozies

Jane's class has two teachers, plus there's the director of the preschool who is often in the classroom with them. There were also three student teachers (aides?) this semester, but they stopped working two weeks earlier than school ended, so I didn't get my act together to make them anything. One of the student teachers stayed on so I did make her one, but in retrospect I should have come up with some other gift for the student teacher workers. Good grief.

Anyway, I made these cute coffee cozies and paired them with a Starbucks gift card ($10 each for the main teachers and director and $5 for the student worker -- still enough for one drink!). I used the 15 Minute Coffee Sleeve pattern for three of the cozies and the Crooked Coffee Cozy for the fourth. The 15 minute ones were great and sized just right, but the crooked one was a little big height-wise. I probably could have changed hook size to get it better sized.  In any case they all worked on my grande Starbucks cup that I kept around for testing. I made an assortment of appliques to give the cozies an extra touch. Jane picked the silver star for the dark purple cozy (for the student teacher), and I let her choose who got which cozy.

I just used scrap yarn, so the only cost was the gift cards themselves (i.e. the real gift!). I did buy small boxes to put them in because I had a pretty good CVS coupon and was out of small bags. I'll have to restock my wrapping supplies on Boxing Day. I might be more excited about that shopping day than Christmas itself (!), although I am certainly looking forward to Christmas and giving Jane her gifts.

Maybe I should consider adding these to my craft fair repartee. Think $5 each would be doable? I could also make faces for these. There are a LOT of cute coffee sleeve patterns out there, and it's an easy gift. Hrm...

15 December 2015

Three Crochet Hats

A friend of a friend of my mom's is fighting her second round of cancer. She needed some warm hats, and THAT is something I can help with.

These aren't my best work, but they're not my worst, and they're all warm in their own ways.

The grey and purple stripe beanie is made with a wool blend for the grey so it's softer and warmer than my usual acrylic. It's also the most understated.

The blues is made with Caron Simply Soft, which is a very soft acrylic, and I held two strands together so it's doubly thick. The earflaps give even more warmth, and the granny square star applique adds a little fun.

I think my favorite is the breast cancer awareness beanie. I got the pattern for the ribbon on Ravelry, and I just made a single crochet cap. I should have done half-double crochets, but I mis-read the picture with the pattern when counting the rows they used. I knew it was too many rows for double crochet, but I didn't remember hdc. Single crochet makes for a denser fabric though, so it makes it warm, so happy accident! I did hdc for the pink rows around the brim, and I made my ribbon with hdcs too since the double crochet version seemed a little too big. The medium pink doesn't look as peach in person. For some reason it didn't photograph that great (imagine that, since I took the photo in my living room under the ceiling fan at night).

I just hope these will fit because I based them on the "average woman head" from the chart I use to size hats. I'm sure it's different when you don't have hair. They could all SQUEEZE onto my head, and I have a huge head. So hopefully they aren't TOO big. We'll see how it goes. I can ALWAYS make more, and I've got a ton of extra yarn floating around that would be great to get use up!

10 December 2015

Remembering

August 2013
It's been a year since I've talked to my Gran. A year since she died.

I still think about her a lot and have many of her things around us. We use forks from her house, have a huge piece of artwork that hung in her living room, several pictures and lots of crocheted items.

The initial sting has faded, and the certainty of her being with Jesus and at peace makes it more bearable. I do believe we'll be together again, even if I don't understand how it will all work (or perhaps is working right now). I don't doubt her love for me even if that quick reassurance of "Love You Forever" is no longer a phone call (or 11-hour drive) away.

Jane has a Christmas book, The Greatest Gift: A Story of the Nativity. It's a recordable storybook that my sister worked with Gran in 2013 to create a cherished keepsake. I am planning to record it somehow digitally so when the book does finally fail I won't lose the sound of her voice. Sometime in college I did an interview with her for a project, so somewhere in the depths of my stuff - either here or at my parents' - there's a micro-tape that I sure would like to listen to again. Jane loves the book and listens to it a LOT, being tickled that she says "A gift for Jane, read to you by Meme."

Jane received the blessing of Gran's direct love, and even if she won't remember I will never forget.

08 December 2015

Sisters Frozen Hearts Hats

I finished these matching "Frozen Heart" crochet hats for my cousin's daughters as surprise Christmas gifts. Now to mail them. I am DREADING the post office run I need to do.  I finally have all three big packages ready to go, so I should get on it.

Anyway, the hats are made from a free pattern at My Hobby is Crochet, and I love the technique of front-post double crochet. It makes a ridiculously thick and warm hat plus gives a nice knit look/vertical stitching, which is fun now and then. Also much better for Oklahoma where it can get cold. We're still in the high 70s here and looking for our first freeze of the season, which can't come soon enough for me. I am a cold weather girl in the wrong kind of climate! (Although it is nice to be able to play outside with just a light jacket, I'll admit. But the mosquitoes have got to go.)

The hats are made with Caron Simply Soft that I happened to pick up on sale sometime this summer. Shawn came up with the "Frozen" label since the colors are very Elsa. I made the little one first and was surprised HOW little it is. I followed the pattern exactly, and it's labeled "toddler sized," but still came out only about 16" circumference. I think it still might be too big for the 1-year-old, but baby heads grow and I bet she has a big brain! I added 10 stitches to the increase to get the bigger size and used Jane's head for gauge (she's six months younger than the older sister). So the little one has 7 hearts and the bigger one has 8 hearts. I like the dots border pattern, although I ran out of light blue for the big hat and used some white to finish up. I actually like that addition.

I hope the girls like them!


02 December 2015

Crochet: A Three Hat Order

I got another silvermari crochet hat order - three hats to give as Christmas presents. I don't know exactly how long these took me, and I am able to work while I watch TV, but doing exact measurements I often have to rip out multiple rounds. I think each hat base took at least two times to get the right size. Perhaps I should make notes on what hook size and number of increases I make to get each circumference size!

Whatever the total amount of work I'm certain I need to increase prices. The hats with faces are $15 and the non-face hats are $10. This is much lower than prices of similar style hats on Etsy. The dinosaur takes just as long to crochet and sew the spike pieces as a face would take. So maybe I should have two categories - simple and involved, or something like that?

I'm not overrun with orders right now, but it could get to the point where I really resent the amount of work for the amount of pay. So far it's OK because I have existing relationships with those who order hats. I don't know that I will actually increase prices, although the new year might be a good time to do it.

01 December 2015

Christmas Crochet Mini Stockings

To get myself back on a crochet page, so to speak, I thought I'd schedule a post-NaBloPoMo post about my latest FO (finished off project). I made 17 mini stockings for Jane and her classmates. I have no idea if they'll celebrate Christmas or have a holiday party or what, but I'm sure I can send them with her the last day of class even if not. 

My Gran crocheted things like these for Owen's classes when he was little (and maybe for my sister's preschool classes too?). She cranked out a TON of them that's for sure.

Those kids received real candy canes, but I went with a bookmark ruler candy cane (affiliate link). I saw them first in an Oriental Trading catalog but found them on Amazon with Prime, so you can guess what I did...

I looked up a mini stocking pattern, but it used double crochets in groups of 4. I had a stocking Gran had crocheted to look at too, and hers was so small because of her tighter tension and maybe thinner yarn so I used half-double crochets in groups of 3 to get closer to the size of her stocking (mine was still a bit bigger). I tried a few yarn combinations but ended up sticking with that colors she did. But my yarn has a little silver sparkle thread running through it. Jane thinks it looks fancy!



Basically starts with a five-point granny star with three rows.
Fold it and sc around, add a hanger (ch8, sc in 8th ch from hook) - voila!
17 mini stockings with candy cane bookmark rulers!
That's a LOT of ends to weave in (17 x 3 colors x 2 ends per color = 102 ends!) 

I have another Christmas-related crochet project for Jane's teachers, plus I'm finishing up a 3-hat order (reindeer, dinosaur and penguin). Making hats to exact size is MUCH harder than just winging it like I do for all the hats I make for faires. I'm trying to create a pink chevron blanket to fit on Jane's twin bed, but I'm not sure if it will be ready for Christmas. It's a LOT of double crochet, but it looks awesome and is easy/mindless. I'll post those projects as I finish. 

Do you have any Christmas crafting going on at your house?

30 November 2015

24-Hour Product Diary

I love the 24-Hour Product Diaries on Millihelen, an offshoot blog from Jezebel. Of course that blog is being closed so there will be no more diaries. I found some good recommendations via the blogs and it was fun to see such personal but helpful information from writers.

I wanted to write my own product diary and have had it on my "blog post idea" list, so here we go on the last day of NaBloPoMo! This is a fictional day because I don't wash my hair every day, and I wear make up even less often. I'll start my diary at night, since I shower before bed. I'm super lazy in the mornings! Sorry for no pictures -- that's how it goes with a fictional day!

10 p.m. - Wash hair with Chi Infra Shampoo and Conditioner, and while the conditioner sets wash body with Aveeno unscented body wash. When I was pregnant with Jane I was extra sensitive to scents and started using this. I've kept it up, aside from a travel size Bath & Body Works warm vanilla sugar body wash that sometimes sees the light of day or sometimes borrowing her Dr. Bronner's baby mild unscented soap. Shave with Intuition razor, the kind with the shave soap around the blade so you don't have to lather up separately. Wash face with Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser. Rinse, rinse, rinse.

10:10 p.m. - Comb hair and if going curly put in some Tigi Bedhead Manipulator with a pump of Organix vanilla serum (a tip I picked up from Millihelen!). If I'm blow drying straight I'd wash my hair/shower earlier to not have to blow dry so late. I use Chi Infra products for straightening. On my face I use Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer "yellow stuff" and All About Eyes cream (my most expensive products). I also use a drop of Acure argan oil in my nose to ward off dry-ness. My mom turned me onto that and it really works. Even though I live in a humid place I still would get nose flakiness and pain but since I've been using this (maybe a year?) that is gone. Maybe I use some EOS lip balm and then hit the sheets. (If my skin is dry I'd use some Eucerin cream, but lately my skin has been OK without it ... also, I am totally lazy.)

7:15 a.m. - theoretically start putting on makeup. This would be about when I'd be getting ready for church, which is the day of the week I always wear make up. I use a BB cream (beauty balm or blemish balm, depending on who you ask) -- right now Garnier and I have a Cover Girl tube to use next just because I had a great CVS coupon. I put it on with a makeup wedge sponge. Then I use a Maybelline eyeliner and Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara (or whatever mascara I had a coupon for). Mascara is the make up I wear most often. I might use a little eye shadow -- basically whatever came free in the last Clinique bonus bag -- and I'd put it on after eyeliner but before mascara. I like lighter, neutral shadows. I also use a Cover Girl clear mascara on my eyebrows to tame them a little (they are wild and I only moderately pluck them). I rarely wear lipstick because I can't get used to the idea and think I look weird with it on, although seeing myself in a picture next to Jane and her cutie pie cherry lips I should maybe try to wear it sometimes!

I own a LOT more make up and hair products (sometimes I'd use a generic mousse to go curly but I'm trying out this new product combo for now), but this is what I've been using lately. All items are purchased by me (or my mom in the case of the argan oil). This is not a sponsored post!

Some Amazon affiliate links used. Using those links to make a purchase (even if not the linked product) should earn me a few cents at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog! (I have never earned any affiliate money, but I keep linking because I find it helpful on other blogs.)

29 November 2015

One Month as a Bullet Journalist

Or maybe it's bullet journaler? The official Bullet Journal website calls them journalists though, and I like that. There's a video on that site that explains the basic set up.

I first heard about bullet journaling on Miss Zoot's blog. She's a super bullet journalist and has perfected the system to work for her. A quick look on Pinterest finds tons of boards and cool ideas for layouts. It's pretty intimidating and inspiring at the same time.

The idea for a bullet journal is that you put your lists in one place. No more floating pieces of paper with notes and to do lists. It's all in one notebook and you create an index and page numbers so you can find lists later. I used to use a Franklin Covey planner (still have it and it serves as my hard copy address book despite being so ginormous), but lately I'd been without a real planning system and relied on assorted lists, calendars and my memory (never a good thing to rely on!).

Also new shirt from my mama for my birthday!
The preferred notebook seems to be a Moleskine or something similar. I didn't buy a new notebook to get started. My mom had given me a beautiful spiral bound hard cover notebook with purple elephants that I decided to use. So far it's working fine, although it isn't as portable as a Moleskine and doesn't have the band or pocket to keep any loose papers. I started off using a "nice" pen but have since devolved to just using whatever regular ballpoint is close by.

I started trying to follow the system exactly - or as exactly as I could with a newbie's understanding. There were only a few days in October when I started, but I did the "calendar" list of days -- just W28 for Wednesday the 28th, etc. And I gave myself two lines for calendar items like appointments or date-specific tasks. After only four days I gave that up and switched back to my normal to do list. 

I use a half page to one page for each day and just list things that need to get done. Some items get repeated because they're really not daily tasks but "do sometime this week" kind of tasks. I also could make a separate "Weekly" list or "Longer Term" list, but I'm still finding my way and think I would lose a weekly list in the crush of daily pages.

I also started with the recommended box for a task, circle for an appointment labeling, then filling in the box or circle when the item is completed (or put an arrow in it if it's moved to another day). I LOVE crossing off things too much that the idea went by the way side and now I just have hyphens for each item and cross through as done. I might try again with the delineation, but for now I'm OK with appointments and to-do's being in the same list.

I also keep a separate pocket calendar for the month-at-a-glance type stuff. I don't have tasks in it, but that's where my appointments, visitors, etc. get written down. I carry it in my purse. I also keep a Google Calendar, which is something Shawn and I share (and have shared with family if they needed to know where we are -- I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law is looking at it daily). 

In addition to the day-to-day lists, I really like having a single place for all my lists and notes. Some of the lists I've made include:
  • Jane's birthday party, 
  • books I want to read, 
  • Christmas gift ideas (until I shifted that to an Excel file to do the math for me!), 
  • health tracking notes, 
  • Jane's classmates' names and their parents' names (as I've learned them -- how weird the school never gave us a class list? pretty weird), 
  • Thanksgiving meal planner, 
  • to crochet, 
  • wish list of things I'd like to buy, 
  • thank you notes needed to write, 
  • blog post ideas, etc. 
The index is helpful. I left about 5 pages for the index because I wasn't sure how much space I'd need. I'm on page 50 now and have used less than one page for the index (numbering starts after the index). I don't index the daily to-do lists of course. I did write a journal entry in the book on Jane's birthday that added a few pages (because while I over-packed for her plane travel I under-packed for me and had nothing to do for big chunks of the travel, especially when Jane had to use my Kindle because her tablet battery died).

I don't put my grocery or Target shopping lists in the book - mainly because I put those on a magnetic pad on the fridge and already have a system that's working to get what I need. I also REALLY don't have a desire to save those lists. But I see the value of ONE SPOT FOR ALL THE LISTS so maybe I'll change my mind later especially if I start training myself to ALWAYS have the notebook with me on my person.

When I was working full time I managed my to do list in a Word doc that I could print out, mark up and then update. I'd break up the list by projects and also kept a separate calendar for meetings/calls. I used my email inbox as a place for reminders, which is something I still do (right now it's full of shipping and purchase notifications because of all my Christmas shopping -- I'm almost done with my whole list and am faced with an s.t. of wrapping, but I'll probably spread that out across the month).

So - I recommend the bullet journal method if you like lists. It's worth a try anyway, and I'm liking it so far. I'm going to stick with my current notebook for now and maybe after I fill it up and/or fine tune my method some more I'll go for the preferred, smaller notebook.

Have you heard of bullet journaling? How do you keep yourself organized?

28 November 2015

A Habit: One Daily Bible Reading

This year I've been reading through the Bible again with my One Year Bible, New Living Translation. I've used my Kindle Fire, which is nice to make highlights and look back on. I rarely write in real books, including my Bible. I've mostly shifted to reading digitally, but there's something special about a torn up, well-used Bible. I've read through my hard copy of this book at least twice in my life. It's pretty convenient to have the Kindle option for travel, not that I did much this year, but I almost always go to bed with my Kindle in my hand. (I do my reading at the end of the day. Maybe someday I'll shift to morning devotional, but I don't know.)

Anyway, I can look up the things I've marked via the Kindle browser reading app, and I thought I'd record some of them here. I'm (obviously) not finished with the year, but Dec. 31 isn't part of NaBloPoMo, and who knows if I'd remember to do it or even be up for doing it then?! This wasn't as easy as copying and pasting, since rightly for copyright reasons Amazon doesn't let you just copy text out of ebooks. Hopefully I got all the citations correct - let me know if you notice any are wrong.

Psalm 22:14b: My heart is like wax, melting within me.

Exodus 33: 19b: For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.

Psalm 36:5: Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

Psalm 56: 9b: You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
I remember my Gran talking about this verse some, and how comforting that was knowing our tears are noticed and collected even metaphorically.

Luke 17: 21c: For the Kingdom of God is already among you.
This idea of already here AND not yet is so weighty and doesn't automatically make sense to me. I'm starting to get it, maybe?

Proverbs 15:17: A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

Job 16:16: My eyes are red with weeping; dark shadows circle my eyes.
I cry a lot so I seem to mark passages about tears and crying. But I also marked a few that would be easy to memorize. I was thinking back to the AWANA years (just a few in middle school since it wasn't at my home church but another in my town). Often we would be scrambling just before meeting began to come up with a scripture to memorize. It's the same thing with the heart like wax melting within me. Beautiful and sticks in your head no problem...

Psalm 89:15: Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
Once our church started working on the capital campaign, called The Walk, I started seeing and hearing about walking with regards to faith, quite a bit.

1 Peter 3:15b: And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
I am a big fat failure on this one, so I marked it as a reminder/encouragement/get your act in gear kind of thing.

These are just a few of the verses that spoke to me this year. I also mark ones that I question and that don't make sense. Sometimes later something in a sermon or Sunday school class will clarify some question. On other issues I'm still in the dark. And maybe I'll have to be OK with that.

Affiliate link on the Bible image.

27 November 2015

Disk Digger Solution to Recover Video Files on SD Card

Even though I've officially passed off the responsibility for recording and posting the weekly sermon videos my anxiety remains elevated about the whole thing since the new guy hasn't been successful yet (all my fault)!

One of my biggest gaffes was unintentionally completely erasing a memory card. I had imported that day's video files to the computer already, but of course after the mistaken erasing (I meant to just remove some of the older videos) the files were not on the computer.

SO...

I spent all day fretting and trying different things, knowing that I had an "import complete" message before I removed the SD card from the computer. Finally I stumbled upon Disk Digger, a free piece of software that I was able to use. I think I just did it on my PC instead of the church Mac, and it really was free (unlike a lot of the other utilities that come up with you search for "restore SD card" or similar).

Between every file you had to do two clicks to continue, although the option to pay and do all the files at once was available. I wasn't sure it would work so I didn't try paying. Finally I realized I could just do the last few files in the list (I only needed videos from that day), and it worked.

I was so delighted and a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I've had more video-related anxiety since then, but I'm hoping by passing on the responsibility that will decrease or maybe go away all together. I'll still serve as back-up for recording and processing (the new guy has his own Mac/iMovie so didn't need to use the church computer -- rats!).

So I recommend Disk Digger if you delete an SD card or important file from a drive. And I should probably pay for the full software in gratitude, but a praise-filled blog post will have to do!

26 November 2015

Thanksgiving Cooking, Day 2 and Birthday

This is 35 (and 4)
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. You say it's your birthday. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Happy birthday to you! 

I woke up to Shawn singing "Happy Thanksgiving to you, Happy Thanksgiving to you. It's also your birthday, let's celebrate that too!" Sweet. I got to open presents on Thanksgiving, and I'll get to do it again on Christmas in less than a month (!).

Shawn preheated the oven for me, and I put the turkey in just about 7:30 a.m. (My family tradition is to eat at lunch so I keep that going. Mainly I like to get it over with AND I like having the leftovers ready for supper.) Pretty sure I made a mistake by cooking the turkey with the giblet/organ bag, but whatever I did I couldn't find it pre-roasting! The turkey was pre-brined from Trader Joe's ($25 for 12 lbs). And the turkey turned out OK even with that dumb mistake.

Last night I did make my Parker House rolls, a recipe from Bon Appetit, a copy of the magazine I got as a hand-me-down from a friend when she moved. I've made them for a few years now and they're very tasty although a pain in the neck. Timing is hard too because you're supposed to let the finished rolls rest in the fridge for 30 minutes - 6 hours. I just did it overnight, so probably more like 15 hours, and they turn out fine. There's also the rising and kneading time to consider. Delicious.

The turkey cooked while we watched the Macy's Parade on NBC. Jane hadn't seen it before, but we're loosening up on screen time restrictions -- or maybe the better way to say it is that she's at an age able to handle more screen time from time to time. She really liked it, although she set up her table and chairs in front of the TV so she could color and "work" to pass the time.

Not quite a beauty shot, but I promise it was cooked to temperature and looked better IRL
After the turkey cooked for 3.5 hours I pulled it out to rest and baked the dressing (it looks a lot better after being baked). It really tasted good and like "home" for me. I make it a little drier than Shawn's grandma does, but they just poured gravy over their servings to get their preferred consistency.


20 minutes after the dressing went in I added the green bean casserole to the oven. I add sliced water chestnuts to the generic recipe and go overboard with the fried onions. NOM.


10 minutes after that in went the rolls and the sweet potatoes I pre-prepped yesterday.

These were browner in person too -- and also the melted butter and salt added at the end make them taste OMG.
While that was baking I whipped cream in my Kitchen Aid mixer. Super easy, but I didn't think to take a picture. I also didn't sweeten the cream, so we have a lot left! I can always fold in a bit of powdered sugar to up the yum factor even more.

I also heated up some Trader Joe's turkey gravy. I didn't eat any, but the others said it was good. And I will say it was easy -- much easier than creating a scratch roux and finagling the drippings out from under the cooked turkey (kind of a pain for something I don't even want to eat myself - LOL). I don't have a gravy boat, so that is something I have on my list to get before Christmas when I'm hosting my side of the family! I could also use more potholders, and those are things I can crochet. I should make complete holiday sets because I ended up having to use doubled over towels and maybe ruining/marring my table top even though we also had double table cloths on. Drat.


Shawn carved the turkey and we served it on a platter. Much easier to serve than doing it at the table, although I do say the presentation is less appealing. We did the wishbone, and we both wished for the same thing. So hope it comes true! (I won, technically.)


We barely had room for plates, let alone the centerpiece Jane made in Sunday school. But I managed to squeeze it in and light the (thankfully unscented!) candle. Jane and I blew it out together, and I wasn't even thinking that we should make a wish for our birthday month!



The table was laden, we all ate a lot. And then I went for a walk. Dale, Shawn and Jane walked with me for one block and then I kept going until I'd walked nearly an hour. I won't have time or daylight to walk after supper of leftovers, so I'd better be more discerning/eat less!

I'm planning to add up what I spent on the meal all in. I probably won't estimate some of the things I had - like flour for the rolls, mustard and mayo for the eggs, etc. I haven't done the math yet though! I'm guessing $125-150, although that's not too bad for enough food to feed 5 people for at least three meals (and some of the things I bought I still have some leftover like spices, butter, eggs, etc.).

Hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving and enjoy the long weekend.

25 November 2015

Thanksgiving Cooking, Day 1

More freebie spaces for NaBloPoMo -- just write what you cooked that day. OMG I worked for hours this morning, a bit more this afternoon and plan to make the Parker House rolls this evening (bake tomorrow). And I still have to make supper! (Quick turkey chili and some corn muffins.)

I multi-tasked a lot in the kitchen, but the first completed dish was the broccoli mushroom salad. It's the thing that needed dill, tarragon and basil. I never found fresh tarragon so used 1 tsp of dry instead of 1 TB of fresh. The recipe is from Real Simple, and I have the page torn from the actual issue.


Next to be complete was the cranberry Jello salad, which is an improvised version from our church cookbook using my mom's tweaks to make it sugar free. Instead of marshmallows we use lowfat cream cheese and of course swap Splenda for sugar. It fits perfectly in the crystal bowl Shawn's grandma gave us when she moved from her house to an apartment.


I deviled (or "doubled") 12 eggs, easy peasy. About half of my eggs came right out of their shells and are beautiful. The other half are a big mangled, but they'll still taste great. I put the eggs in cold water, boil, turn off the heat and cover, set a timer for 15 minutes. Then I drain, add ice and shake the hell out of the pot before peeling. I mash the yolks with a few squirts of Dijon mustard and a couple spoonfuls of mayo plus salt and pepper. Sprinkle paprika and DELISH. They're Jane's favorites, and although a bit fatty they are high protein and low (no?) carb.


Next I made a quick pie, which I'm going to use as my birthday cake. No candles, but I'm going to let myself indulge. I did swap Splenda for the sugar, but I didn't find sugar free Coolwhip. This was supposed to make two pies, but I must have had a bigger crust than the recipe called for because I fit it all in one crust. I'll just have to make another at Christmas (was going to freeze the second) if it's as good as I remember. Although I may want a different treat in a month! Recipe by my Gran and in the church cookbook from 1990. You can click this picture to see the recipe.


The last few holiday dinners I've waited on the sweet potatoes until the last minute and then they're always undercooked or just late to the table. I went ahead and boiled and mashed them today and put them in a casserole dish so I can just heat them up tomorrow after the turkey (the plan is pull out turkey to rest and pop in the dressing; 20 minutes later add the green bean casserole; 10 minutes after that add the sweet potatoes and the rolls).


Speaking of dressing I used my Gran's recipe for cornbread dressing, although I leave out the "Accent," once I realized it's just MSG. But the dressing still tastes phenomenal and here's the secret THREE STICKS of butter. Oh-em-gee. Also carbo overload with the cornbread and most of a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing. I made two pans but froze one. I'll bake the one for tomorrow and wait until Christmas to bake the other one. My sister makes it better, and she will be here for Christmas, so if we need more she can be in charge of that (although it's a really easy recipe).


Jane and I made the pumpkin pie together, and then I made a second with Splenda (sensing a trend here?). She did a great job measuring and mixing, although we ended up with too much filling for the frozen pie crusts I bought. (I can do a lot of things, but no thanks on trying to make a scratch pie crust.) I marked the sugar free pie with pecans so they're easy to tell apart.


More tomorrow. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and lots of success in the kitchen. What's your favorite Thanksgiving recipe/food/treat?

24 November 2015

A Meatloaf Recipe Tweak

A meatloaf mashup on crocheted potholders -
orange and black by Gran, Go Pokes!
Last night I made a meatloaf at my mother-in-law's request. It's a combo recipe from Saveur Magazine (number 165) and my Gran's recipe, which turns out was borrowed from another church friend.

When Gran sent me her recipe years ago she left out a crucial ingredient -- the binder, in her case oatmeal or crackers -- and I could never get it to turn out right. Finally my sister clued me in to my mistake. D'oh! Gran's recipe uses dry onion soup mix for flavoring, so I that taste is always top notch to me although maybe too processed for some. (My Grandma Jane would mix that soup mix with sour cream and serve with real Lay's potato chips for holiday appetizers and oh-em-gee that's some tasty stuff too. Ah, memories!)

The Saveur recipe is tasty and uses cornflakes for the binder, which makes a sweeter meatloaf -- never a bad thing to my taste buds but not the best for managing my health! It also uses a small yellow onion minced, but I found when I use that it's even better to grate it into the loaf so it melts in fully. The easier tweak is to just use the soup mix. The Saveur recipe calls for ground chuck and veal, although I honestly have never bought veal. I've had the best success with meatloaf mix.

I can't always find meatloaf/meatball mix at my grocery store (it's the worst but conveniently located and I'm addicted to the gas rewards), but when I do it makes the best tasting loaf. I think it's beef and pork, but it might have a third thing. Last night's meatloaf was straight beef and it turned out OK, although I could have boosted the binder as it still fell apart a little in the middle. Doesn't affect the taste though!

So the recipe mashup/tweak/what-have-you:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1 package of meatloaf mix or hamburger (about 1.5 lbs)
2 cups crushed cornflakes
1 egg
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1/2 can of tomato soup

Mix all this in a big bowl. Mash into a loaf pan, but don't pack too tightly. Squirt on thin layer of ketchup topping (optional but delicious) and bake about an hour until cooked through.

Last night we served with a side of frozen mixed veggies (broccoli, carrots & cauliflower), mac & cheese and Hawaiian rolls. Nom-nom-nom. (After last night I think it will be back to oatmeal binder for a while, although I didn't even eat the macaroni!)

Saveur recommends letting the loaf cool and making sandwiches on burger buns. It really is amazing -- add cheese and regular burger-type toppings WOW.

23 November 2015

Upgrade Her

About a month ago we finally upgraded Jane to a true big girl bed. She had been sleeping in the toddler bed version of her crib for more than a year, and after a round of visits during the summer we decided to do the big switcheroo.

At first she just used the regular twin sheet, the comforter we had on the bed before and her crocheted blankets and handmade quilts that were sized for the crib. But after a bit of searching and thinking I got her a duvet cover from Overstock and sheets from Macy's (on great sale). Wham, bam we had a fully upgraded big girl bed!

She fell out of bed once, although I didn't see her out of bed she was just crying and hysterical and said she'd fallen out by the time I got in there. It was traumatic since Shawn was gone, and I didn't know how to install the rail that was given to us by a former coworker along with the twin bed. I just put the crib mattress on the floor to catch her if she should fall again, which she didn't. Now we have the rail and it's a little more secure for her and no further problems.

Such a a big girl! It means we have one fewer sleeping spot, but at Christmas we'll have to break out the old air mattress!

22 November 2015

Disappointing People

The church website redesign is basically complete except for a few tweaks that the guy we're PAYING to work on it has to complete. It's been nearly two months since we launched, and he hasn't found the time to finish up. We already paid his invoice, including some extra time for these items (he estimated 2 hours, so seriously how could he have not found two hours to finish in two months?!). I finally heard from him that he's out of town/not working at all this week so...

One of the things I needed his help on was mobile-friendly email templates. We're still using Constant Contact, which is fine/everyone knows how to use, but it's an additional expense to Business Catalyst, which is supposed to be our all-in-one solution for web and email marketing needs. It would be if I were savvier and/or if this technical contact had time to complete the work.

Every time I try to modify the mobile-friendly templates that came with our website theme I manage to mess up something that makes the email look fine on a computer but not big enough text on a phone or tablet. That may have to be enough for the Advent devotional guide emails that start next Sunday because I can't use Constant Contact for those without creating individual daily emails that BC can create automatically because I have the content set up as a blog to post daily. I've got to set those up this week - I was just waiting for the template, but it looks like I'll have to figure out a solution myself OR just be OK with a mobile un-friendly template.

Disappointing people works both ways.

Today I "passed the camera" for doing the church's sermon videos. A new member has an IT background/job and is willing...so quick as a wink -- literally two Sundays after he joined -- he's now in charge of recording and processing videos. Of course there's an issue with the sound on this week's video, which for the life of me I don't know how to fix. But I have a lot more grace for him about it than I did when I was responsible for screwed up videos. So we'll see how it all shakes out, but I definitely feel like I disappointed this guy by not helping him get the video to have audio. Argh.

During the web redesign I was in contact with a number of people trying to get updated content. Most ignored the request and we still have the same text and photos as we did before. If they're OK with it I'm OK with it. But one guy took the request VERY seriously and has come back to me several times with additional changes and re-thinking the picture he wanted me to use, etc. I laugh at his bottom line that "colorful is better," which is something I've heard from several non-web people so maybe it is true. In his case he wanted to replace a green-heavy photo of trees with a pink/orange-heavy photo of a sunset. That was fine with me, but I am pretty sure green is a color too. Oh well. It was something that stuck with me, but I think we're good with that page for now.

I almost made it through Sunday school today without being offended, but at the end the teacher decided to start talking about Syrian refugees in very negative terms and I just walked out. Shawn stayed (I also really had to go to the bathroom) and told me some more of what was said including "video doesn't lie." LOL! I don't know how to handle this, since I'm so diametrically opposed to the class viewpoint. I want to study Scripture, but I don't really want to hear hate and fear mongering presented as the correct and only way to interpret the Word. My bleeding heart is extra sensitive these days (and I know that many conservative Christians agree with me about the need to help and welcome refugees). I don't know who disappointed whom in this scenario, but it was stressing me out so I tacked it on here.

21 November 2015

Description of A Saturday

I am quite tired, and I'm running low on motivation and blog post topics. I thought I'd catalog my day to explain why I'm tired.

I woke up pre-7 a.m., which sucks because I could have stayed in bed for at least a little longer. On weekdays I am a total zombie and could sleep SUPER late, but I always get up for school prep. Theoretically I could go back to bed after Shawn and Jane leave, but 1) I usually have some work to do and 2) after breakfast and being awake/upright I'm not sleepy anymore.

So by about 9 a.m. today I had finished a load of laundry/started a second, eaten breakfast, gone to vote (#teamJBE despite being very opposed with some of his positions I am much more in line with him than the other choice, Darth Vitter) and a made quick trip to Trader Joe's for the Thanksgiving turkey. I also got some Harvest Blend tea that a friend recommended and some turkey gravy since the turkey I bought is brined and the drippings would be too salty for regular gravy (plus, am I capable of making real gravy?).

After flipping some laundry and clearing out the fridge a little I hit Winn Dixie for the BIG shop. I got all the side dish ingredients, dessert ingredients plus food for suppers this week and special in-law food (their type of cereal and 2% milk). It was an enormous list -- a full handwritten printer page with two columns. I found everything except tarragon and basil, which I should have picked up at Trader Joe's. In the grand scheme that's minor, and I will have more chances to check other stores. I think Whole Foods usually has all the fresh herbs you'd ever want. (Those and dill are for a broccoli-mushroom salad that I like and is carb-friendly...I'll write about the Thanksgiving menu/dinner outcome later this week.)

That shopping trip took about an hour and was stressful, mainly because of the checkout process. Every week I stress about packing groceries, because I'd prefer to do it myself. I was thinking how nice it would be to have a shopping buddy to load the groceries onto the belt for me so I could bag my own groceries. The Winn Dixie cashiers/baggers are so bad at that part of the job. I have a set of reusable bags that are LABELED with that goes in where, and I still get boxes of cereal in my frozen food bags and the cold stuff in the bag marked for jars and cans. Blurgh. I didn't have enough room for all the groceries in my bags so I still got a good dozen plastic bags, and our stash is overflowing.

I swung home, unloaded groceries, flipped laundry and then we headed to Red Robin for my birthday burger. It was tasty, and they actually took off Shawn's burger from our ticket, which was the  more expensive one. SO there's a pro tip -- you can get any burger for free with your birthday reward, not just the basic one, which is what I ordered and expected would be the only free option. (It was super delicious those and I love that relish, so I regret nothing.) Jane had a reward too for her birthday this month, BUT it expired on November 15 and you had to print an email to use it. The email said "you can only look at this offer twice so have your printer ready" so I didn't read it carefully until I was ready to print (to PDF since I still don't have a computer connected to a printer thanks to the fine folks at Dell Hell ... advanced resolution/expedited team myself my ASS). So that was a bust.

After a delicious lunch we went to the movie theater for The Peanuts Movie with Jane. She has seen a few movies in the theater, and this one came out so close to her birthday we knew we wanted to go see it as a treat and keep the celebration rolling. She liked it, although some of the Snoopy flying parts were scary to her! I didn't like that the "little red haired girl" didn't have a name, and the idea of romance among little kids is weird for a movie theme I think. The theater was crowded though, but we were there early enough that we had good, middle-of-the-theater seats.

Now we're home, and I'm finishing the laundry. It's been a nice cool, rainy day. I hope that doesn't keep people from the polls and voting -- you don't miss work for rain so why would you miss this?

20 November 2015

Stocking Stuffers 2015

I am starting to think about Christmas and buying things here and there, especially for Jane's stocking. I wrote about some of the things I put in her stocking last year.

I've been stocking up (get it?) on little giftie items, and I had some good finds at CVS of all places at the end of the summer. I got some bubbles and a jump rope and other summery things that are thankfully still mostly usable here in southern Louisiana during December. (And if not they're still fun to open and she can use them when spring rolls around in January - HA!) I meant to check out Halloween clearance to see if I could find any small goodies that would be appropriate for a stocking (or maybe even to stuff Easter eggs in March), but I never made it to a store in early November to check it out. D'oh!

I also have some extra Play-Doh from the "Doh Glad You're in My Class" birthday giveaway, so those will be going into her stocking and really filling it up. I have bought a few things from the Target dollar spot too -- cute glitter bows (what am I thinking?!) and a small stamp set (REALLY, what am I thinking?!). I'm also going to put some of the things I bought for our trip to Oklahoma into the stocking. I WAY over-packed for the plane and the wedding itself. Jane was good on the flights with her tablet and headphones, plus a toy or two. And at the wedding she just used a 50 cent notebook and a new box of ultra-washable crayons to entertain herself for about an hour. I don't think she'll mind me reusing a couple of the Imagine Ink Mess Free Marker books (mostly from Target at ~$3 a pop) -- they're still brand new and she didn't look at them too closely so should be good for the stocking.

I'm starting to think about gifts for her too. I love the idea of something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. But what she wants is a giant dollhouse or Elsa castle or $400 drive-able plastic car. Uh... I did buy a cash register that I've had on her Amazon wish list for a while when it was 50% off yesterday. I'm excited about that one, so it could count as a want, because she plays pretend shop a lot.

For something to wear I'd LOVE to get her a pair of Thomas PJs. She had some when she was little, but they fit before she knew what Thomas was and now she's a big fan. I can only find pajamas in size 4T, and those don't fit her that well. She's just tall, and I'd hate to buy something that she can only wear for a few weeks before they'd really not fit anymore. SO - if you happen to see any regular sized (S, M, L) Thomas pajamas let me know! Otherwise maybe some other style of bigger PJs for her "something to wear," although really she has enough to make it through the winter from what I bought on various outlet mall shopping trips. And she already has a gorgeous dress she can wear for Christmas thanks to the wedding we went to earlier this month!

Reading is easy, as I've placed an order with Scholastic and can always buy more books and have ideas on her wish list. I'm thinking about this compendium of George and Martha books. We've read all of them from the library and love them. So funny. I asked Jane if there's a book she'd like and she said "a short Curious George," so we'll see about that too.

Jane is finding her "wants" by looking in catalogs. It's so funny because she just circles everything basically, and she leaves off some things I know she'd really love. She also just got a ton of gifts for her birthday, so it's hard to think about giving her MORE. That's the peril of an end-of-year birthday I guess. She has enough cushion that I'll be able to get back into gifting mode no problem. But that might be harder on my wallet if I could get better deals now.

Shawn has a few things still to give her from his travels to China and Norway this year, so those will be good (and maybe some could fit in her stocking?!).

She doesn't really NEED anything because if she needs something I pick it up. So I may have to think on that one some more. I did get her some new hair elastics -- the tiny plastic kind to pull up just part of her hair -- and I'm going to save those for her stocking and they're a need. I'll also throw in a new toothbrush and one of the several toothpastes from the linen closet (I do that in Shawn's stocking too -- his is always pretty skimpy!).

Do you have any other good ideas for little girl gifts or stocking stuffers?

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