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The Little Things: Bag Dispenser

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Years ago, I made a bag dispenser from a tutorial which utilized a dishtowel. It didn’t specify the longest of all dishtowels, but the one with the best graphics in my collection made for a dispenser the size of a windsock. It got knocked down constantly, my husband did not like it (which says something, because he rarely makes a comment on these kind of things), and it was just annoying. When the ribbon “hook” snapped, that was that. Sure, it could have been easily repaired, but why?

Well, mostly because the alternative — stuffing the loose plastic bags into any corner of the hanging over-the-door baskets — was doubly annoying. And messy.

The dandy little version you see in the picture was made using a pattern from Stitch magazine, earmarked long ago and finally made after the great magazine clean-out. It only took me an afternoon, and is perfect for the job. Of course, the dimensions veer from the original pattern, because I changed the way I put the patchwork together, which meant math was involved, which of course meant that the dimensions would change. C’est la vie.

Are there bags in it? Why, yes there are, so it all ends well!

Much Better

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As it turns out, there’s a certain amount of getting what you paid for when it comes to those cheap stacks of hand-towels on the end cap in Housewares. Eight years ago, when I was setting up housekeeping here, I grabbed a pack of white ones and figured they’d surely do the trick. Also, since they were white, they could easily be bleached and made good as new whenever I pleased.

OR

They could become crummy almost immediately, and cause me to want to tell guests to our powder room, “No, really — the towel is clean! I just changed it today!”  For the next eight years.

Then I came across this genius idea, and new I had the answer to my problem. Actually, two problems, the other being what to do with the faded chenille-like Shabby Chic bath towel that was losing its chic and heading straight for shabby.

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One short year later, I got down to it. Since it was a bath towel, rather than a beach towel, I was only able to get two generous hand towels out of it. The borders used up a piece of fabric that has been on my shelf FOREVER, just mocking me. You would laugh at the happiness these towels have brought me. Already, they have been completely streaked with markers [why won't kids rinse their hands properly?!] — seemingly within hours of me hanging the first one — and came out of the wash pristine. They just feel so…fancy…compared to the old thin ones.

We’re nothing if not fancy.

Spring Has Sprung

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How time does fly! March did seem to come in like a lion, and then roared right into April. Now we’re here, in the middle of Sprummer, counting down the weeks until school’s out. Craziness, I tell ya!

The wreath up there is something I whipped up right after Spring Break, when I realized that Easter was going to come and go before I ever finished thinking through all my grand ideas for a Spring wreath. So one day, instead of emptying out yet another box or basket or cupboard [yes, I'm still at it, but at a much slower pace], I sat down and started winding yarn around a wreath form that had been sitting on a shelf. The whole process was pretty improv. I had a couple of the flower petals sewn together, waiting to be glued onto hair barrettes. Since they’ve been waiting over a year, it really didn’t bother me to re-purpose them. And yes, the yellow centers are straight pins — dual purpose! I wanted to put a bird on it, or a bunny, or a little ribbon banner of some sort, but my two hours was up and there was no way I was coming back to tinker with it. Sometimes,  “done” is totally enough.

I’ve been working on several other projects this month, which I look forward to sharing soon. One of them was so exciting, but probably only to me [spoiler alert: it's a bedspread]; I’ll let you be the judge.

 

The Little Things: Canning Jar Sleeve

I have so many little projects on my mental to-do list. Big ones, too, but mostly small ones, which have turned into brain clutter. When I winnowed down my collection of sewing/d.i.y. magazines, I came across the instructions for a few of those, and even found a couple of new ones. These projects are currently taking up residence in my lovely new works-in-progress basket (which is appropriate, seeing as how there haven’t been any actual works around here lately), and I’m going to do my best to burn through them in a quick fashion.

First up, the canning jar sleeve:

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So, I’m driving the kids to school a couple of weeks ago, and I brought along my trusty mason jar of ginger tea. No biggie, right? I pull up to the stop sign, take a sip, and had a sudden flash: what with the jar and all, it sure might look like Mama needs a little “eye-opener” to get popping in the morning. And then when I mentioned this to my husband, he laughed and laughed, and right then I knew it was time to dress my favorite drink vessel with some respect.

That, and it pleased me to no end to use up a couple of pretty remnants.

 

Nice and Easy

A couple of posts back, I made mention of my recent adventures cooking with the kids. Now, if you’re someone who naturally digs cooking with your little ones, you are not going to be impressed; trust me on this one.

However, if you — like me — tend to get a little frazzled, and were not born with that super useful ability to unclench a little because they’re just kids and this is supposed to be fun for all, well, this post is for you.

Also: if you like delicious chocolate, this post is for you. We’ll be covering both.

So, my kids love to go through this book and make their requests. I like that, since I’m all too happy for new lunch ammo, and the recipes we’ve sampled have been hits. This time around, my son lit on the oatmeal bars. I told him that we’d give them a shot one day. Ah, that mythical day, when we have some free time, and I’m in the mood to get everyone into the kitchen with me and the table is clear….

It just doesn’t happen that often. And why? Because I totally overthink it! This time, after he went to school, I looked at the recipe again, and realized that we had everything in the cupboards. And the table was 80% cleared off. And we had free time in the afternoon. Oh, and it is a super easy recipe. Why not just make the darn cookies? No reason not to. I did, however, try to think of a way to make it less stress-inducing for me, because it just makes sense.

Brace yourself — here it is:

  1. Prep all the ingredients and have them all set up before calling the kids into the kitchen. Yes, this takes some of the fun learning out of it, but it’s a process. We’ll get to more fun hands-on stuff down the road. Probably way down the road.
  2. Pick something easy!

I can’t stress that second one enough. The oatmeal bars were as easy as they read, not to mention delicious, and took about ten minutes to put together. I thought it might have been too easy, and they’d be kind of let down by the experience, but no! They were happy to have cooked, happy to be done, and didn’t fight for the rest of the afternoon.

Oh yes. Best ten minutes ever! I could not believe the difference.

Fast forward to yesterday. I love a couple bites of tasty chocolate at the end of the day, but always feel a little guilty when I throw the “good” bars into the cart (especially since I don’t like to share. Shhhh.) Also, we have been eating A LOT of dessert lately, so I thought that having a nice nibble of something sweet at the end of the meal might wean us off somewhat without all the ruckus. What about chocolate bark? I found this recipe on Pinterest and figured that it would be a good one to try sometime. Doh! Here we go again! See how ingrained this tendency has become? So my little buddy and I stopped at the store for a bag of Ghirardelli chips, rummaged through the pantry for fancy add-ons, and made us some bark.

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(I meant to take fancier step-by-step pics, but then I forgot, what with all of the excitement over actually doing something.)

We added chopped salted almonds and flaked coconut to our chocolate. I spread out the chocolate puddle, and Bridget rained down the toppings. And then I rained down some more, because she totally refused to get out to the corners. Teamwork!

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Here it is after it’s chill time, all nice and shard-y. It’s quite delish, and it sure has done the trick as far as making everyone forget their nightly cries for ice cream cones (mine included), but next time I think I’ll stir some of the toppings into the chocolate to add more flavor. We’ll see.

I’m going to need a lot more of these quick little projects before the summer is upon us.

 

Seriously — Out With the Old

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My mom gave me a lovely set of metal mixing bowls for Christmas. (Thanks again, Mom! And it’s an old photo — the tongs are no longer wrapped, although you know I do like to savor a gift fully before putting it into use.) Metal totally trumps plastic in a lot of ways, but the key to me is that it’s so much easier to clean when you’ve used any kind of grease. Have you tried washing a plastic bowl after eating buttery popcorn? Ugh! Drives me bonkers. Also, they look nice in an industrial way when used as serving bowls, especially considering that they’re replacing a bunch of mismatched green ones.

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I mean, they are all green, so they can be considered a “collection”, I guess? But they weren’t making me particularly happy. Yet, when it came time to swap them out for the shiny new ones…that was a little hard.

Might they come in handy some day?

Don’t I have some little smidgen of space in the pantry where they could be stashed? You know — in case of a bowl emergency?

What constitutes a bowl emergency?

Am I my own grandma? Because I hold onto things like someone raised in an orphanage during the Depression.

The Greens headed out the door to Goodwill this morning, along with a few other beautiful, perfectly good things. The load is lightening every day, friends!

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Slowly but surely, I’ve set out to change or fix every thing about this house that’s not working for me. Superficially speaking — there are waaaay too many things that need fixing which I’m not equipped to take on. But the other stuff that’s been making me twitchy? Yeah, it’s time for it to go.

Have you ever noticed how much mental energy gets sapped by something that bugs you? Here’s an example, and it’s a really dumb one, but here it is:

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See that ridiculous tiny shelving thing in the corner? The one that doesn’t actually fit on the wall, and is way too short to make sense? Well, this is where I store napkins and tablecloths. It made sense at the time: The cube had been tossed out of another room, and it was convenient to have the linens right next to the table. Since it was out of the way, it didn’t really have to be perfect.

Unfortunately, it bothered me every time I came into the kitchen. Sometimes I didn’t even notice it was bothering me, but the way it cluttered up that corner aggravated me more than you would believe. It just made the whole space feel cluttered (which it usually is anyway, but this made it way worse.) Then, just the other day, a radical thought occurred to me:

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MOVE THE DARN THING!

Actually, it was more convoluted than that. I was trying to shoehorn a different cupboard from a different room [a story for another day] into this nook. In the process, I moved the recycling bin out of the space — and over into no man’s land, so that still needs to be addressed — and realized that this cube fit perfectly. And with the plant on top, there’s no way for me to crap it all up with stuff from the table!

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So much better.

What you can’t tell from this angle is that I also moved the table over closer to the door, which makes the space feel way roomier. That was a surprise, seeing as how it was only about a foot, but now the table is centered more on one of the overhead lights (which I hate, but that’s one of the “unfixables” for the moment) rather than the wall, and it feels much cleaner. Plus, Kevin no longer hits his head on the stupid swinging light, so he’s happy, too.

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I’m working on one last add-on project from last year, which has also been zapping me mentally. But! I think I can finish it this week, and then there are so very many things I’d like to get cracking on. Too many! Clearly, I need a good system for attacking them as well; working on that, too. Also, I’ve been baking with the kids. There’s more to that story, also. Oddly enough, it’s all interrelated.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Romantic plans for the evening: Chick Fil A dinner; Olympic viewing; tasty raspberry pie cookies*. Wishing you love this Valentine’s Day!

 

*Yes, I totally cheated and Pillsbury-ed the crust. There’s still plenty of love baked into these little beauties!

Love is In The Air

The second her teacher said, “Wear your prettiest Valentine dress on Thursday!”, I could tell by the look on my girl’s face that I was hosed. See, she does not have a Valentine dress — not a specific one, at least. Silly me, I thought that her favorite red and gold sweater dress would do just fine. It’s red, it’s gold — it has short sleeves! Short sleeves rule!

But no.

“Mom, I need a dress for my party.”

The next morning:

“Mom, don’t forget my pretty dress. Oh, I can’t wait to wear my pretty dress for the Valentine party!”

Oh boy.

Okay, so a mom who is not super cheap would just mosey on down to Target and get whatever glittered heart madness they’re churning out this year, but I’m not always that mom. It was cold yesterday. So, so cold. Better to hit the fabric shelf and see what I could come up with…except I didn’t want to make a dress. More importantly, I don’t know how to make a dress. My only trick is attaching a skirt to a t-shirt, and I didn’t like any of the options on hand.

And then

I took one more look in her closet and found this:

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A $6.00 H&M dress with a spot on the front. Well! This looked promising! After a quick peek at the Pinterest files, I came across some reverse applique instructions, cut a sleeve off of one of my old shirts, and was off to the races. A couple of hours later, voila!

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Best of all, the young boss loved it! (I wasn’t sure it was going to fly, since she’d already said that the red and pink tunic she was wearing would be “crazy” for her to wear, due to the black and grey in the color scheme. Imagine!)

Bolstered by this success, and drunk with ideas after the whole Pinterest perusal, I also cranked these out for the kids at my AWANA table:

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They were…well, less than enthused, but I bet they’ll use them sometime. Or leave them to get smushed up at the bottom of their bag. I really am trying not to overthink these things. They certainly weren’t going to be any more excited over the stuff that I’d thought about doing two weeks ago and never did, so there we go.

Two more bookmarks are in the works today for the two at my breakfast table. Theirs will be stuffed into new books, so that ought to be worth something. Not that they wouldn’t prefer them to be sticking out of the top of a Lego box, but come on. Speaking of Legos, we saw the movie on Saturday and thought it was terrific. I think Kevin and I laughed more than the kids. Anyway, one of the great points the movie makes [spoiler alert, but not really] is that there are so many creative things to make with those little bricks that aren’t on the instruction pages. True! But then what’s with all the movie tie-in sets? I mean, I know what’s with it — cha ching! — but it really offended my sensibilities.

 

SuperbOwl Weekend

[Tip of the hat to Mr. Colbert for the title of this post.]

As usual, by ten o’clock Monday morning, I’ve all but forgotten what all took place over the weekend. There was a basketball game…I relented and went back into the kitchen…church on Sunday…yeah. More along those lines.

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Somewhere in the midst of all that excitement, I managed to finish up a couple of more baby gifts. As much as I love pink — and I do love pink — it is a lot of fun to break out of the blush and bashful color scheme when sewing for little girls. Yes, the second owl has some pink worked in, but note that the dominant color is none other than a close relative of THE color for 2014! How could I resist the tying that in? That alone makes it an important memento. All that’s left is to wrap these up and launch them from the nest.

 

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