Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Save a few pennies & trees

I subscribe to a lot of magazines, and my favorite is Martha Stewart Living. I've been saving my issues since 2003 because they are classic. Recipes and home management tips never go out of style, and even the decorating schemes favored by MSL seem to stay fresh and current. It suits my style. Unfortunately, a subscription to MSL runs a little more than other things and this year when it came time to renew, I kept the cash in my pocket. For January, instead of receiving a lovely new issue in the mail, I pulled out the January issues from 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. I could skim through them much faster, since I've read them in the past, so it didn't take any more time than reading a new issue. And I remembered many of the great features, things I had wanted to revisit anyway. Check out some of these great articles.

I'm making these darling pillows for my couch. It just so happens that pillows are the first project for my sewing class (on my list of 32 things to do before 33), which starts this Saturday. I have already purchased some great fabric.

There are plenty of yummy recipes in my old issues, including 12 for a feature, A Year of Cakes! Cakes are my weakness. I've already made this cardamom cake, since I love cardamom. It was not as good as I had hoped. I will try the Meyer lemon cake next. Once all my sick babies get better I would like to make this lasagna bolognese, which I actually made when this issue came out, 5 years ago. It was delicious, but a lot of work - possibly an every 5 years occurrence. Maybe after that I'll try some of these curries.

Also - I believe this is a picture of what my mud room is supposed to look like. You know, if I had a mudroom. Someday I will.

But for now I'm happy to save some money this year by skipping my magazine subscription. I'll put it toward my mudroom. And I'm always happy to save a few trees.

For more tips and tricks, visit Works For Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here's a tip

The real tip is at the end, but the best tip I can give you today is to not let your two-year-old monkey near your unprotected, expensive car seat.

We are at the crossroads of car seat-ville - my baby is turning one and moving up from his infant seat, and my almost three-year-old is ready for a booster seat. Kind of. He actually has a hard time staying in one and we're wavering between buying him a booster or a larger seat with a 5-point harness.

Yesterday I took the car seat out of the car and washed the cover, leaving the undersides exposed. There is styrofoam attached to the plastic frame behind the back and head. And my monkey tore half the styrofoam off, in one big chunk. I was understandably upset and sent him to his room before I could do worse damage to his little person.

I figured I'd do a quick patch job and glue it back in and the the cover would help keep it in place. I used my never-fail Superglue. I love that stuff. I stuck it in a few places on the car seat frame and all over edges of the two pieces. I put the styrofoam back in place and held it for a bit. Then I dripped it all across the seam between the pieces. And a minute later screamed (again) because as it turns out - Superglue melts styrofoam.

Superglue is good for a lot of things, but as the package clearly states, it is not to be used on polyethylene or pholypropylene, which is what styrofoam is. So my tip - read packages! And never use Superglue on styrofoam.

For more useful tips, check out Works For Me Wednesday.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Drywall Repair

Hooray, Do It Herself is back. Every Friday I'm supposed to be featuring a little home improvement project, or tip, or tool-using adventure. I've been a little lax. But I have lots of ideas in the hopper & will be sharing my success stories (please pray they will all be successful).

I did a pseudo-remodel on our guest bathroom about 8 months ago. Some paint, a big stripe, new hardware, some molding, new towels, a rug, some pictures. But in the course of removing the old towel bars to hang new, hip hooks - I left a 4 inch square hole in the wall. And it has been sitting like that ever since. And has been a very sensitive subject between my husband and I - he feeling like a very visible hole in the wall should be patched, me wondering how much longer I could put it off. Do you think it looks that bad?

But as fate would have it, I procured a small piece of drywall from a construction site dumpster, and bought the supplies I needed at Home Depot, and decided to surprise my husband with the repair last week. It was quite simple, and didn't take much time, or expensive tools. It did take place over four or five days though, with drying time in between. It could certainly be done in one day, with the steps a couple hours apart.

There are different ways to patch a hole in drywall, depending on the size of the hole. If it's small, like a nail hole - just use spackle. You can buy patches that are essentially metal mesh, in varying sizes. The patch is sticky on the back and you cover it with drywall mad (joint compound) and blend it all in. I considered this, but the hole was big enough that I decided to go with a drywall patch.

The first step was the cut the hole into a regular square shape. They have special drywall saws with a serrated blade, but I didn't want to buy one so i used a steak knife. And it worked quite well for me.

Below is a (crappy) picture of the drywall scrap I dug from the dumpster. You can buy small sheet that are two feet square, but I'm pretty cheap and only needed a few inches. Also in the picture are the tools I used: Mt. Dew (essential!), a utility knife, and my steak knife. That notch was already cut out of the drywall. Do you love my shiny gold, fake marble countertops? The next step is to trace the hole in your wall onto a piece of paper and cut it out. I just held the paper up and could feel the edges just fine.

Then I traced the template onto the drywall and cut it out with a utility knife. I didn't use the steak knife this time because I wanted more control. It took a little more muscle, but gave me cleaner, straighter edges.

Here are the supplies I used: Wallboard Joint Compound, spackle, and a small putty knife. I had a larger one too, but could have gotten by without it. The second picture is two popsicle sticks and a tube of Super Glue. These were used to secure the patch in the wall & keep it from falling into the gap. I don't know that it was really necessary, but my friend Jody said it was helpful. If you patch has a stud behind it then the popsicle stick isn't necessary - the stud will hold the patch in place.

Basically I glued a stick to the backside of the drywall. My hole was big enough to get my hand in there and hold it for a few seconds until it dried. Then I prepared my patch by "buttering the edges with joint compound. Use a small putty knife and spread all the edges.

Don't forget which way your patch fits in. When all the edges are ready, put some more superglue on the part of the popsicle stick that is exposed and nestle the patch in place. Obviously lots of the joint compound squishes out to the front or back, but it will hold in place. Push it in even with the wall around it, actually a tiny bit more, because you need room to texture the top to match also. Wipe off the excess joint compound. I used the putty knife and covered the entire patch with a thin layer.

Here is the waiting part. You have to let the whole thing dry. I left mine until the next day, but I think it only takes an hour or two - read the package of the joint compound. The next step is to sand and texture the patch to match the rest of the wall. Lightly sand the joint compound just until you have a smooth surface. Use your putty knife to spread spackle over the whole patch. Let dry. Lightly sand & spread spackle again. Let dry. I worked on this during nap time
over a few days. It would only take a few minutes each day.

Once the drywall is all covered and even with the surrounding area, you just need to create a texture to match your walls. Here is Arizona, all the houses pretty much have what is referred to as knock-down, or orange peel texture. Which I hate. And is hard to paint. I vow to one day have a home with smooth walls. Anyway, when they make it, they use this little machine to shoot small bits of spackle all over the walls. Then an accomplished drywall guy comes along with his big trowel and "knocks it down." Which means he lightly smooths it to give it texture. I am not accomplished at doing this, but here was my method.

I added some water to my spackle to thin it out a bit. I loaded up my putty knife and stuck it to the wall flat on, then pulled it off. I repeated this in a bunch of places over the patched area. I would let it dry for 5-10 minutes, then use the edge of my bigger trowel to knock it down the best I could. The best thing about this is that you can always sand it down if you don't like it. Or let it dry, lightly sand, and add more texture. It took me a couple tries. And it certainly doesn't look just like the rest of the wall, but it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.

The last step is to paint the whole thing. Since this is new drywall & spackle, you should use primer first. I have Kilz in a spray can, which has been very handy for a lot of projects around the house. I sprayed it on, let it dry 15-20 minutes per the instructions, and painted over the whole thing, blending it with the rest of the wall. Then I even finished the trim. Amazing, I know! My husband is a happy man, even if it did take him I week to notice my handiwork. Well, a week after I started, which was still a few days before I finished. And now we're both happy.

I submitted this to "I Made it Without my Hubby" at Shanty2Chic.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

If I Had a Little Money

A trip to Target for 1 utilitarian item was almost the death of me the other night. Those Target marketing gurus place the handbags and accessories right as you walk in the door and they just beckon to me every time I visit. Since I was by myself for once, I decided to just browse through. And let me tell you, if you have a little money to spend - and I do mean just a little - Target can make you happy.

Remember that I am saving every penny for a new iPod Touch to replace the one with the 5-day lifespan. But if I wasn't, I would have spent a little of my mad money on a new bag at Target. I think they have a great selection of bags, and have been thrilled with the last one I bought. Right now there is a HUGE batch of clearance handbags and accessories so I thought I would post just a few of my favorites.

I am loving the pops of yellow - anxious for spring, I guess. Or at least spring colors. I am glad to know that in a month or two I'll be able to find some lovely yellow accent pieces for a decent price. Of course the things I was most tempted by are un-find-able online, but here are the lookalikes I found online (for $240 and $395):

In reality it was an Xhiliration black envelope clutch for $20. It looks a lot like the first picture, but had silver accents like the second. Very classic.
I actually found the beret in winter white & loved it. And for the low, low price of $3.24 I certainly could have worked it into my budget. I was just worried about working it into my wardrobe. Sometimes I am tempted to buy for the style I want to have, rather than the one I do. Or maybe I mean the lifestyle I want to have. Moms of three little ones who don't always get a shower every day and who live in sunny Arizona don't often get to wear cute berets in winter white. But maybe someday. I do want to start editing my wardrobe and begin buying more for the style I want to have, and the person I want to become (style-wise). I recently read a couple books on this - look for reviews soon!

For more shopping tips, and others, visit Works For Me Wednesday.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Better than Obama

I hope all my readers know about my BFF & favorite blogger, Jane at What About Mom.

If you don't read her then you should - and you should subscribe and everything. She is funny & insightful, and loves to have good discussions about sometimes controversial topics. And right now she is in the running for a spotlight on Mormon Mommy Blogs. And she needs votes. So please go check out Jane's blog & vote for her here. On the sidebar.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Nukkle in the New Year

One of my most favorite things in the world is to have my back rubbed. I spent a lot of energy trying to coax back rubs out of my mom or sisters while we were growing up. And now my sweet husband rubs my back almost any time I ask. It all started the first time I was pregnant, when he was extra attentive. And it has continued pretty steadily, to my everlasting delight.

My husband is happy to spend the time rubbing my back, but his hands aren't very strong and we do much better with one of those massager, knobby things. Pretty much any variation of this:
We have tried quite a few, and my favorite is the Nukkles. I picked up one of these for under $5 at a bed and bath store a couple years ago and have abandoned all others. It's lasted quite a while, but it is made out of plastic and one of my kids cracked it a few months ago. We've still been using it but luckily my husband surprised me with a late Christmas gift and ordered a two pack from Amazon.

You can hold the nukkles with the palm of your hand and because it's flexible it will follow the contours of your body. There is much less hand fatigue by the massager, and much more relaxing time for the massagee. Ahhh, bliss. And a two-pack means twice the relaxation if you can convince your spouse to use both hands. There is a handy massage guide called, The Art of Nukkleing, which gives you some basic techniques to start with.

If you love a good back rub, put Nukkles on your Valentine's Day list - or buy a set for someone you love. It's a budget-friendly way to maintain your mental health and stay beautiful inside and out.

For more tips visit Works For Me Wednesday.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

In Mourning

I coveted the iPod Touch from the moment I saw the first commercial. I stalked it at the Apple store. I schemed for ways to save up for it. And then one day my husband came home from work with a big present in his hands. At a party for a professional club he belongs to, my lucky husband was drawn for the grand door prize. It was a Garmin navigational system - pretty cool in it's own right, but also plenty expensive in terms of trade-in value. My husband knew the people who had donated the prize, and they sweetly sent him the info so we could exchange it at Amazon.

(We interrupt this pitiful post to give huge kudos to my husband, who is the most unselfish person I know, and gives me everything he possibly can, including the full value for any door prizes won.)

We pitched in the residual money and on Christmas morning, next to my stocking, was one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received. And I loved it! Let me tell you why:
  • I can sync it with my Outlook calendar and contacts.
  • I can download cool applications like the scriptures & games & facebook.
  • It has wi-fi so I can get online from anywhere in my house, not to mention loads of other places.
  • I can sit and surf the internet or do other computer things while I snuggle with my kids on the couch. It's like my old laptop (which I miss) except a whole lot smaller.
  • And, um, oh yeah, it can do music and video. I'm starting to get into that too.

I have been trying out a gym, using a 30-day free pass. I loaded up some good work-out music and headed out to run on the treadmill with my new iPod. I didn't have any kind of holder yet, like an arm band. I was even thinking about a fanny pack or something. I figured I could just hold it in my hand until I decided on a permanent solution. You might be able to see where this is going.

Less than a minute into my run, I dropped my brand new, less than a week old iPod Touch. It bounced once, then dropped into the 5 millimeter crack between the treadmill mat and the frame. It shot through the middle and came out the rollers at the back. Well, it tried to come out. I frantically hit the stop button and tried to free my iPod from being stuck half in and half out of the treadmill. It was upside down, and when I ran my finger underneath, I cut my finger on the shattered screen. So much for the touch screen.
In the end, it took a gym worker, the general manager, and a pair of pliers to get it out. And here's what I have to show for it.

I cried for a couple hours, and still tear up sometimes now when I think about it. And now I'm saving my pennies and dimes, dreaming of a new one. Because I really miss it! But I think I'll go out and buy myself an armband or case first.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome 2009

Come right in, 2009 - I've been expecting you. I have big plans for you and I and anticipate creating many wonderful memories: the first birthday of my last baby, my eighth wedding anniversary, kindergarten for my first baby, and my 33rd birthday. I can tell it's going to be a great year!

After a fun & eventful holiday season I have been looking forward to the start of the new year with hopes of organizing, decluttering, streamlining, and simplifying. Not to mention goal-setting and turning over a new leaf. But rather than set new goals, I am referring back to my existing goals. I made a list (and posted it) called 32 Things to Do Before 33. So let's have an update on my progress.

1. Read the Book of Mormon - I am slow, but still working on it.
2. Fast every month - check for Nov & Dec, although Dec fast was done on the 28th
3. Attend the temple 12 times - check for Nov & Dec (thanks to Candice for babysitting both times)
4. Print our family blog book for 2008 - finishing up a few posts and will download new blurb software next week
7. Install the sprinkler timer, level & reseed the backyard - The backyard is leveled, thanks to some paid outside help. I installed the timer, and it even works. It's all kind of jerry-rigged right now though & I need to spend some more time on it, including getting a box cover for the valves. We will reseed in the spring.
8. Install a digital thermostat - guess what my in-laws got us for Christmas... stayed tuned for a Do It Herself post on the installation
12. Take a sewing class for the home - I am registered for the class! Candice & I are taking it together and our sweet husbands have agreed to help out with the kiddos. It starts Jan. 31st
14. Complete our family stockings (missing two currently) - finished one of these on Christmas eve day, have the other one cut out. I need to finish it before I put away all the holiday stuff.
15. Make the satin wreath I bought materials for in 2004 - Oh, I am getting close. Need to finish this very soon too - will post about it.
22. Write thank you notes for gifts received - have been working on these for all the wonderful Christmas gifts. The cute cards I got in the stocking swap are being used already. And I made great thank you cards for my boys to give too.
29. Get to know my neighbors - I didn't find the time to do neighbor-type gifts or goodies this year for Christmas, but am thinking about January. People still like treats in January, right?
32. Find and blog about ten new artists - I have already found some good ones and am planning posts

Stay tuned to The Well-Rounded Woman where new content is forthcoming this month.