Thursday, January 12, 2017

Crafts and Books for 2017

Yep, I'm a little late to the list party, but it's never too late.  In case you don't know what I'm talking about, every year people give lists of various sorts for their new year.  For some it's resolutions and others it's what books they plan on reading.  For me it's a combination of crafts and books that I plan on reading this year.  I've never put one on the blog (that I can remember), but I usually have a running mental list.  So here it is in digital format...

1) Embroidery Monogram-

Pintrest is my friend.  And I've learned that I've been hanging pictures all wrong.  Okay maybe not "wrong" but very old school.  I've come for a long set of people who look at a blank wall and think "I need to cover that wall with something" and immediately begin putting pictures up on every.single.wall.  Usually it's one picture on every. single. wall.  Totally blank walls? Uh....But pintrest is full of what are called "wall galleries."  That is rather than putting a picture on every.single.wall, you create sort of a hanging collage on one wall.  Thus guests (or yourself) are not visually overwhelmed and constantly turning your head around a room.  You have one (or two) focal points. Your pieces are carefully curated, and you only show and display what you love instead of putting up random things on ever.single.wall.  It's actually artistic to have blank walls in your house.

What does this have to do with a monogram?  Well part of creating a wall gallery is that you come up with something cohesive.  Maybe all your stuff are black and white photos, images of mountains, or as in the case of one my friends a hefty collection of crosses.  I have two walls so far.  One is all wedding/honey moon themed.  The other is family.  I hung up the family one and thought that it needed something besides seemingly random photos on a wall.  Nobody would understand the theme just by looking at it so my craft self thinks I need a monogram of our last name.

Now I could just paint one or pick up a random letter from the craft store, but my house has a minimalistic (minus the typical industrial look) meets crafty chic look. There's a decorative term for someone who's into handmade decor, but it escapes me and my computer searches are proving fruitless.  Anywho that's why I think putting in an embroidered monogram makes sense.

2) A do-it-yourself blanket ladder
I could spend a small fortune purchasing one online, but it's not really that hard to make one.  Basically this is because I cannot part with some handmade baby quilts that various relatives made for when the boys were babies.  And in true minimalistic fashion I cannot bare the thought of keeping something in the back of a closet or storage forever. My children are also not old enough to appreciate the pieces to display in their own homes or use so why not turn it into a display piece for now?

Originally I considered hanging them on the walls, but then there are many blankets and we would be back to hanging something on every.single.wall.  But then this hit me and I thought that this would work better.

3) More embroidery pieces
My kitchen is going to have a coffee/ tea theme to it and most likely I will end up putting up some embroidered pieces along those lines, but I haven't truly set up the kitchen so this one is still up in the air.

I'm a little willy nilly about books. Interesting subjects are bound to come up and I'll find myself checking out books from the library to immerse myself in information or someone will suggest a book online and I'll find myself wanting to read along.  So here is the list of books I'd like to read for myself this year most definately.

1) Dostoyevsky's The Idiot-
This one my husband read in highschool and loved so much that he saved the book.  He wanted to donate it, but I saved it because I've never read it.  In fact I've never read anything by Dostoyevsky.  I know; I know.  I attribute this to my poor public school education that emphasized reading British and American literature and practically nothing else.  This year I plan to make amends.

2) Re-read the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien-
It's been a while.  I need to do are re-read.  Nuff said.

3) Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska-
It was on my mental read list last year, but I never got around to it.  I think it will be great for Lent this year as part of my rededication to the Divine Mercy of Jesus.

4) Divine Mercy for Moms-
This one I think I'll read after the Diary probably for Easter reading.

So dear reader, what are your plans for this year? Any new projects?  Any good books I should be looking into?  Thanks!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Material Girl

Yesterday I was running a bunch of errands.  I wanted to get them all done in a row, but I knew that one in particular might require me to wait.  I needed to get my watch repaired and the only place that I knew of that specialized in such a feat opened later.  I ended up completing all my other errands and knew that I had a half an hour until the repair person showed up.  The shop is in the mall, and I thought it would be good to get in some light exercise by walking around window shopping. 

At the end of the mall there's an entrance into a chain bookstore that I hadn't been inside of in years.  They were open, unlike practically all of the mall shops, so I went inside this two story shop and walked around.

I was amazed at how the store is so different.  Not only was it filled with a coffee shop, books, magazines, and writing paraphernalia, but when I went up to the top level where they keep the children's books, they had aisles of toys.  I was surprised because for a second I thought that I had walked into a children's toy boutique not a chain bookstore.  Downstairs also housed adult games, and there was another section for music and movies.

I patiently checked my phone for the time, and when it was getting close, I promptly walked out without purchasing a thing.

Oh, don't get me wrong. It's very tempting in a store like that, but I had gone in knowing that I would refrain despite the glamour.

In truth, I haven't purchased a dvd in a long time.  Not even an electronic download of a dvd.  I also haven't purchased any music- either hard copy or digital- in a long time.  I was fascinated that records are making a come back however.  Books are a different story, but I end up purchasing very few of them.

There's really no need for me to purchase dvds or music.  I can watch movies through netflix, the library, or the occasional redbox rental.  Music is easy to listen to either over the radio, through an app, or an online radio station.  Finding religious themed stuff can be difficult, although sometimes churches have their own library and will allow you to borrow things. Hard- to- find religious stuff would be my only reason for making a purchase at all.  Secular stuff is far easier to find in abundance.

I end up checking out most of my books from the library, and I only purchase what I need for Bible study. 

My husband and I ended up downsizing our dvd collection and our book collection before we moved.  He's not much of a reader anyway so he's using his book shelf mostly for games, which is his hobby.  I read a bit more so I have a few more books.

And I'm happy.  I can say that I don't need to walk into a bookstore anymore.  It's just a way that I can say "no" to the consumerism rat race.  Not to say that I don't consume.  That's not true.  I'm just more conscious of what it is I'm purchasing and why.  In the consumer rat race, we are told that possessions make us happy, powerful, better, etc.  Just look at all the flashy advertising in the bookstore.  They had whole sections with the heading "For your book collection."  I smiled inwardly because I don't really want a huge book collection, and to make matters more complicated, I know that all those classic titles can be found at my library. They are very common classic titles and nothing special. Why do I want a book all to myself anyway?  I'd rather have a person have the opportunity to share in the joy of particular title, which is why supporting my public library rather than building a personal one seems more important to me.

I'm so glad I found out about minimalism and how it relates to detaching oneself from ones material possessions.  I feel like I spend more time focusing on what's more important: Jesus and family.

If you are interested in minimalism Netflix has a documentary on the subject.  It's really good.  Happy decluttering!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Essential Oils? Whaaa?

So I've been toying around with essential oils and here is my understanding of what they are.

1) Basically they are parts of plants that are often (but not always) distilled down to a hydroponic liquid (fancy speak for it doesn't dissolve in water) that's a potent smell of the plant.

2) Some people claim that essential oils have healing properties. As far as I know there is one single study that shows that Frankincense cures cancer but I'm not sure how accurate the experiment was. I also know that some of them antifungal properties like Tea Tree oil.  And since it's great for the skin, it is often found down the medicine aisle. Also there are common vapor creams with Euchalyptus oil. That said, essential oils are great for making things smell good.

3) You can use essential oils in three ways: diffusing it (that is putting some drops into a humidifying device), topically (that is mixing it with what's called a carrier oil: think cooking oils like olive or ones used in creams like jojoba oil and putting them onto your skin), or ingesting it (this isn't recommended but people do that).

4) Some people put essential oils in their cleaning products.  As I said some of the essential oils have anti-fungal properties so some mix them in their cleaning products and some just to make their cleaning products (like vinegar) smell more pleasant.  A lot of citrus oils are used in this manner.

5) Do your research when purchasing essential oils. Read the labels. Some things will say "oils" on them but they are actually synthetic fragrances. Some oil companies will premix their oils with a carrier oil and some will mix multiple types of essential oils with catchy labels like "sleep easy" or "tension relieving." 

6) A lot of MLM (multi-level marketing- Avon or Pampered Chef are examples) will claim that their product is the best. They charge you a huge price for essential oils that you can get off the shelf at any health food store while claiming "it is the best." I say this with much love as I have a friend who has a side business selling essential oils for an MLM.  Instead I suggest doing your research and deciding if you want to pay that top dollar and why.  There are equally reputable companies out there who sell more directly to the consumer, and do not charge the same price. 

7) Where is the product coming from? This may be a reason why you choose to pay top dollar. Not all essential oil companies control 100% of the essential oil making process.  Some control everything from when a plant is planted to when it's distilled.  Others instead purchase their plants from reputable farmers in areas where the plant is more commonly grown and then distill it down in house.  Some use organically grown plants and others don't. The essential oils I purchased told me on the label where the plants were from and the company website explained their process.  Most websites will tell you much the same or will be happy to explain what they do.

So why use essential oils?

They aren't synthetic.  We've been using essential oils for a very long time. Remember that Frankincense I mentioned having cancer fighting properties and the three gifts from the Magi?  Same stuff. I also have a hard time with smells in general.  As a linen lady, I can tell you that I'm not the only one.  A recent note by our head linen lady asked us to avoid using anything with a smell in it including our laundry detergent.  We used to use essential oils in our care products but we don't that much anymore because it's cheaper to develop something similar in a lab.  People or at least their noses are noticing.

That doesn't mean I enjoy myself or my house taking on a funky odor.  Essential oils are versatile in that respect. House smells weird: diffuse.  Want to make my cleaning products to smell "clean?" Add essential oil. Want to make my hand soap smell nice?  Add essential oil (although if you buy a natural hand soap they often add their own essential oil anyway). Have a nasty cold? Add Eucalyptus oil to an unscented lotion or oil and rub on.  Or diffuse it because a humidifier is always handy.

It's also way cheaper. Imagine buying a jar of vapor rub, using a quarter of it, and discovering later on that it's expired.  Ask me how I know.  Same if you get tired of the same smell. It's easy to change if the product you are using is already unscented.  Want my wash to smell lemon or lavender or.....both?  You get my point.

So do you use an essential oil? What your favorite scent? Leave a comment below. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Phase Two: Complete

There have been three phases to this whole moving thing.  They aren't terribly clear cut, but this is the best description. The first was Phase one: pack and vacate the house we had been renting.  Phase Two: Clean the house we had been renting and hand over the keys.  Phase three: set up the new house.

Obviously we've been setting up the new house bit by bit which is why the phrases aren't terribly clear cut.  But I'm happy to report that Phase two has been complete.

I went through the walk-through inspection and handed over the keys.  She, the realtor, seemed pleased with my house cleaning skills.  She even asked if we had the carpets cleaned to which I almost wanted to blurt out that I actually did all that, but I felt it was just more appropriate to say yes.  Technically we did have the carpets cleaned but we did it ourselves.  She doesn't need to know that many details.  Being a stay-at-home mom for this many years affords itself to learning how to clean and clean well.  I've shampooed many a carpet needless to say.

Thankfully I will not have to shampoo a carpet any longer (unless we're talking about the investment property).  Our current home doesn't have any carpet at all.  The floors are tile.  And after Knee had a nasty little fall, I ended up picking up some of those kid-friendly foam squares for bare floor.  Those foam thingies are pretty easy to keep clean.  It's actually pretty echo-y in the house because of the bare floor.

So far the house is coming together nicely.  We have shed that we had a handiman build.  Hubby is out getting paint and whatnot for it.  I've set up all the Advent stuff and the Christmas tree.  So basically we're at that point in time were we need to be looking at more storage options because I don't have a pantry with few kitchen cabinets and we could use a cabinet above the toilet.   In the meantime we're okay in our temporary arrangements. 

Today's project is to set up the desk, which turned into a dumping ground.  It's supposed to be for me and the kiddos, but you know how moving goes.  And I'm trying to take it a bit slow today because I've come down with seasonal cold number 2.

Knee's birthday is on Friday and it's going to be very low-key this year.  Last year I planned big parties.  The first one it was cold and raining.  The second I had the flu and was forced to stay home.  This year we're just going to take it easy.  Kids really don't need birthday parties every year.  I never had one every year. 

So, dear readers, how has your week been going so far?  How is your weekend fairing? 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sort of Back

The internet is back at least.  But my house still has boxes all floating in it.  I had a semi-melt down over the dishwasher.  Usually I'm pretty laid back about hiccups, but when it comes to very hard deadlines and doing things mostly myself, I get stressed out.  I think the dishwasher was warm and the air in the house cool and between the two the door stuck.  I was literally on the phone with the home warranty talking about my dishwasher issue and *pop* I got it to come open.

Also the internet guy showed up at the same time.  He was supposed to be here tomorrow, but he must have been ahead of schedule because he said he drove around one house to see if that person was home and then my house to see if I was home.  I got blessed on that one because this morning me and Knee were down the street cleaning the other house so we can vacate.  Hence the hard deadlines. We had come home for lunch when the dishwasher fiasco started.  I was trouble shooting which means being on the phone....forever....and using mobile data.  I had finally thrown in the towel and called the home warranty people when internet dude showed up.

He had to fix the line and said our box outside was also ancient and he'll come by at some point later to replace that too.

I was expecting the handyman to come by but he's a bit fickle over times.  He's building us a shed, which explains all these various holiday decorations hanging out in my dining room.  It will be a nice shed.  So I'm whining.

And I'm covered in dust.  Surprisingly the living room was easy to clean.  My bedroom was awful.  The floor was a particular bit of nasty.  I suppose that happens when you have a big bed and small children who climb under it.  The boys' room was horrible on the walls.  They are boys and they touch everything!  And their hands aren't always clean.  Yuck.

The last bits I have to work on are getting that nasty shower to sparkle.  It's those anti-slip bumps which are difficult to get clean.  Then there's the tile and last to gross me out....the kitchen.  *dun dun duuunn* Then I will have to go rent a carpet shampooer.  All of this needs to be completed by Sunday.  I'm hoping.

So I will be more likely to issue forth posts next week.  Until then....

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gift Giving the Minimal Way

It's the most materialistic time of the year!  And to complicate matters I have two children whose birthdays are like book ends around Christmas.  So what is a person to do?  Well I could be a grinch, but I won't.  Here are some ideas for anyone in order to reduce stuff.

1) Give the gift of experience-
I sound repetitive as I'm sure I had a list like this at one point on the blog, but it's a good one. Take a person somewhere.  Go to the movies or get tickets. Give a museum membership. Give gift cards to a favorite restaurant. I believe last year the kids were given movie theater gift cards.  They were definitely used.  And look, no stuff in my house as a result.

2) Give consumables-
Also one that I think I've mentioned.  Last year I baked a ton of cookies for HB's teachers.  They are so busy that they rarely have time to bake.  This year I'm also busy so I have no idea what I'm going to do.  Maybe I'll bring in some already made snacky goodies.  But you don't have to stop with chocolates or cookies.  Candles, lotions, body washes, foot scrubs, cologne, etc are all great consumable gift ideas.  One year someone gave me a soup, pre-mixed in a jar.  All I needed was water.  The soup was great.  Last year someone gave me a homemade body scrub.  Smelled great.

3) Give them something that they'll need-
This year it's shoes (if anyone wants to know).  I don't need any shoes myself, but Hubby needs a new pair of sneakers/trainers and so does HB.  And Knee would feel hurt again if he has to wear his brother's old shoes again.  If you're unsure of a person's size, a gift card to a local store works too.  Point is if it's obvious that there is something a person needs and will use that's the perfect gift.

4) And if all else fails-
And if we end up with toys this year, it's not the end of the world.  It's easy to part with old toys and gadgets and not hurt anyone's feelings.  My children do like variety and they are getting older.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Books about Teaching Gratitude and Not Greed

It's that time of year again.  I'm sure that you've already started hearing it ramp up.  "Mom, I want X."
"Please, Mom, can I have Y?"  It drives me nuts.

Despite my best efforts to steer my children away from advertising that is designed to make them beg, they still do.  So I've decided to put on my big girl skirts and do my job.  That is parent my children and steer them away from greed without being confrontational and mean.

Thus I read them moral stories about gratitude for what they have and remind them when they are getting greedy.  Here are some books that you may consider reading to your child as we get closer to Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude, and attempt to navigate the Season of Giving.

Note: I'm not affiliated with Amazon.  I don't get a kickback.  It's just easier to link to their website.  Please feel free to look locally for used copies of these books or do what I do, borrow them from the library.

Just So Thankful- Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer
I really liked this book because Little Critter is surrounded by his family.  A new kid moves into the neighborhood and he has lots of money but his family isn't there.  When Little Critter is invited to a sleep over, he marvels at all the new kid has and is unsure his friend would want to come to his house.  His friend then sleeps over at Little Critter's house and shows that he enjoys spending time with Little Critter's family.  Puts people over stuff.

There's also another book in the series Being Thankful that discusses being thankful for what you have.  I haven't read that book, but the reviews are okay.  The most common complaint is that Little Critter calls his sister dumb and nothing happens as a result.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
This book is about a poor kid who is obsessed with wanting the latest trendy shoes.  He manages to find a pair in a used store but they are too small.  Realizing that his gifted but- not- trendy shoes are adequate and fit him better, he ends up giving up his trendy shoes to a friend who has a smaller foot size and whose shoes are being held together by tape. 

Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need by Stan and Jan Berenstain
This is an excellent book if you are trying to get your children to declutter.  It starts of with Mama Bear realizing that the family is overwhelmed with too many things in the house.  She has all the bears go through their belongings, weed out things they don't need, and sort them into piles.  Then the bears load up those items and donate them to three different organizations: 1) an older bear retirement home, 2) a children's hospital, and 3) a charity shop that helps other bears in need.

Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies by Stan and Jan Berenstain
This has been something I've been discussing with the boys on and off every time I hear "I want. I want. Please can I have it."  My local library didn't have a copy so I had to interlibrary loan one.  We read it tonight and the boys were riveted.  It might have been that it was eye opening for them because of my impressions of the two bear cubs throwing fits about wanting things.  After I finished reading the story, HB said to me "Well, how do you get rid of the gimmies, Mom?"  So I told him the easiest thing to do is to simply stop asking for things and to appreciate what it is that you do have.

The book is basically about the cubs begging for things, whining, and throwing fits.  In the end, the grandparents suggest to the parents that the cubs can choose one thing before going into the store. If the cubs start up with the gimmies then they don't get their one thing.  We already do that in my house, but the point is to remind my children when they sound like they have a case of the gimmies.

The Berenstain's also wrote another book called Count their Blessings where the bears are whining and their parents remind them of what they do have instead of what they don't.  I haven't read the book, but reviewers remark that at the end the parents discuss what they are planning to give the cubs for Christmas, which seems contrary to the overall message.  But I'm sure if you want to skip that part of the book, you can.

So do you have any great children's books about cultivating gratitude and not greed?  I'm thinking there's a great Charlie and Lola book out there, but I can't remember the title. Please leave a comment below.