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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The calm after the storm

I can't believe the end of May is upon us - is it really 2009 already? Tomorrow marks the start of June, the month in which I will turn 33!

Last night we had some serious storms blow through, with tornadoes touching down and large hail surrounding our area. While we had very heavy rain and lots of lightening and thunder, we had no damage, what a blessing! With the grass already starting to turn brown, we really needed the rain, though maybe next time a nice gentle spring rain would work just as well? Today is a beautiful and much cooler day - absolutely delightful.

I mentioned two weeks ago that I would talk more about my terrible week at work, and I've been putting it off...partly because life is getting in the way, but also maybe because it just doesn't seem real. Not quite two weeks ago, everyone in our engineering center was called into a meeting and we were abruptly told that our company was exiting our product line...all facilities directly supporting our product, except those they think they can sell are to be closed and they are targeting the end of this year. No one will be transferred, layoffs start in two months.

I know this has been happening everywhere, and especially in automotive. I've worked at my company now for almost 10 years, but many of my coworkers are close to retirement and have never worked anywhere else. We are personally well situated with our savings, and I had been wanting to go at least part time for awhile now, but many of my coworkers are single income or worked together and will both be losing their jobs at the same time. Our area is already super saturated with qualified job seekers... There are so many personal stories of friends I work with that make me tear up (darn these pregnancy hormones!) and beyond that I'm sad for what appears to be the end of a rich history of automotive innovation.

But this is supposed to be my weekly gratitude post, right? So let's get back to the grateful part. Here are some entries for the past week:

*We had planned for me to take unpaid time off after baby is due, and our savings is well stocked for my layoff*

*I've had the opportunity to work with some fantastic friends over the past years, and I'm sure that I'll keep in touch with several of them. I hope to be working with a few in our future endeavors*

*Sweet toddler antics and an eager smile help me forget my worries each night when I get home*

*The end of a near month long marathon of crazy work hours for EmDee, welcome back, we missed you!*

*Homemade popsicles on the back porch swing (which ironically isn't on the back porch, it's part of the swingset)*

*Planning the fun summer activity list always gets me excited for the months to come*

What are you grateful for this week?

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Maybe we aren't so predictable after all

We are on a family cell plan with my extended family, which is a great bargain for us. When we set up our account, we had to consider the habits of a wide variety of cell phone users - from my grandparents to my little brother. My brother is a big texter, so we got unlimited text messages, which applies to everyone. Since then, the rest of us have started texting much more often than I ever imagined.

Even my mom sends lots of text messages - she loves the predictive text feature, but she rarely has her glasses on when she's texting. I'll get messages like this one:

OK with of. Remember i want to in to bare minerals. He you foot hear from of again it because i an home and may lose reception again.

It's like a secret message that I have to decode by looking at what other letters are available on the keys she used...This one should have said:

OK with me. Remember i want to go to bare minerals. If you dont hear from me again it is because I am home and may lose reception again.

What I find most funny about these messages is that if I ever have the slightest typo here on the blog or in a text message my mom teases me. She is a stickler for correct grammar and spelling, which I have to admit was very helpful to me in school...in this one case, though, she totally falls apart. I guess her phone just isn't that good at predicting what she really wants to say!

Happy Friday, everyone! While you're here, won't you click over and enter the great Story Time Felt giveaway I have going on at Problem Solvin Mom Recommends? I think you'll love it!

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Organizing Tip Thursday - 5 minute clutter buster challenge

*Originally posted August 26, 2008* This post definitely speaks to how I'm feeling lately (including the schedule EmDee is on - seriously, could we both be at the house at the same time for more than 30 minutes once a week, please?!) and I just recently employed this challenge on my car - works like a charm every time on any hot spot you might have that tends to accumulate clutter.

I hate clutter! The busier I get, the less time I take to attack clutter as it accumulates. In the vicious cycle of things, more and more clutter accumulates in my home, in my car, and on my desk at work. To make matters worse, EmDee has been working nights and weekends, which is the time I usually use to conquer the clutter in my life.

As a busy mom I can say it's overwhelming and frustrating to be upset with the mess but at the same time to feel that I don't have time to do what needs done to fix it. I've generally approached the mess in my life the way I do most of my problems - analyze the problem, break it down, make a plan to fix it, attack it in "small bites".

Following this strategy, I decided it was time to take action. I haven't made a plan for the house yet, but I came up with a quick plan for the car!

Here's what I did: Take 3 empty grocery bags with me to the car during my lunch.
Quickly fill

  • one bag with things that I need to take to the house
  • one bag with things that need thrown away
  • one bag with things that belong in the car, but not strewn all over it

The trash bag went with me on the way back in and was thrown into the first garbage bag I came to. The other two bags went into the trunk. I will take the bag of things that needs to go into the house with me when I get home tonight. All of this took about 5 minutes!!

What tricks do you have up your sleeve when the clutter in your life gets overwhelming?

I'd love it if you'd leave the url link to any of your recent organizing posts in the comments since Mr. Linky is not cooperating for anyone these days.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Adventures under the sea

One of the stops on last week's adventure was the aquarium - it was a big hit with everyone! The exhibits were amazing and Sweetpea loved watching the different creatures swim, float or hop by as she pressed her face up near the glass.

This particular shark is actually a painting on the wall - the lighting wasn't all that great, but the detail of the painting was amazing - I love how it turned out!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesdays Unwrapped - Mommy, let me see!

For weeks I've been enjoying the Tuesdays Unwrapped feature at Chatting at the sky, and this week I was finally on the ball enough to join in!

This is so typical of the shots I've been taking of Sweetpea lately - before I can even get the shot taken, she's getting up shouting, "Mommy, Let me see!". She is so aware of and excited about photos, she wants that immediate feedback of being able to see how each one turns out. Add to that the look of sheer enjoyment on her face and her little tongue peaking out and this is a definite favorite of mine, a reminder of the sweet moments we've been sharing!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Simple and healthy menu planning - back to focusing on the side dishes!

Unfortunately EmDee went straight from his overtime marathon to a second shift week, so it will be just me and Sweetpea eating dinners together this week. Even though I'll be working to keep things simple, I have gotten back into the swing of searching out simple and interesting side dishes - especially with the start of some great vegetables coming to our stores from the south.

Monday: Jambalaya and corn souffle
Tuesday: open faced hamburgers and Parmesan vegetables
Wednesday: Vegetable pasta salad and fruit with yogurt
Thursday: Strawberry banana pancakes and fruit smoothies
Friday: Hamburgers and mixed vegetables kabobs on the grill

My Jambalaya is quick and super affordable, so I thought I'd share that recipe with you today. I'm looking for a seasoning recipe that I can make from scratch (so if you know of one, I'd love it if you'd email me or link up in the comments!) but for now I've been using Zattarans boxed mix. It takes roughly a half hour from start to finish, and if everything is full price at the store, a double batch (roughly 6-8 main dish sized servings) will cost just under $8.20. The boxed mixes go on sale somewhat regularly for $1/box, bringing the cost closer to $5.50 for a double batch.

2 boxes Zattarans Jambalaya mix
1 package smoked sausage, cubed
2 cans black beans, drained

Saute the cubed sausage in a large sauce pan with just a touch of oil to brown them up a bit. Then follow the box instructions, adding everything in on top of the sausage. When the rice is ready, stir in the beans and your Jambalaya is ready. To stretch this dish even further, add equal cups of rice and chicken broth when you add the box ingredients.

For more menu planning ideas, visit OrgJunkie. What's on your menu this week?

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The promise of sweet summer fun!

Sweetpea, my mom and I went about an hour south to enjoy some of the nearby attractions earlier in the week - the zoo, the aquarium, and the children's museum. It was so much fun, but it went by so quickly. It was in the mid 80's when we arrived home Wednesday afternoon, and the first thing we did was get out the little kiddie pool! We spent the afternoon outdoors enjoying the water, cool drinks and Popsicles. (or as Sweetpea calls them, icicles!)

We got half of our garden in on Thursday morning and have been busy watering to keep the little plants from dying in the heat. Ever since we got back from our little trip I keep thinking "how could it be Thursday/Friday/Saturday already?!" It's as if I think time stops when I'm out of town? ;) Thank goodness Monday is a holiday!

Today we are going to Big T's graduation party - graduation is two weeks away, but it should be a wonderful day for it. This weekend has been amazing, though it appears we skipped right past spring and landed straight in the heat of summer.

Here are a few other things from my gratitude journal this week:

*sleeping all snuggled up with Sweetpea in our hotel - a rare treat, even though I know it will lead to a few night wakings when we return home*

*Look, Mommy! Woooow!*

*sounds of crickets chirping and the frogs calling from a nearby pond at bedtime*

*blooms on our strawberry plants*

*days getting longer, the promise of warm, sweet, lazy days ahead*

What are you grateful for this week?

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sweeter than a flower

I think we might finally be getting the hang of hide and go seek...

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Problem Solvin Favorites - Everything you need for your little fairy princess

Since I'll be away taking a mini vacation, I thought I'd dust off this post for today - does it not satisfy your sweet tooth just looking at it? :) And while I'm re-reading this post, I feel the need to confess that crafty posts do totally inspire me, I obviously hadn't discovered many when I wrote that intro!

*Originally posted on October 22, 2008*

There are certain posts that are just so exciting or meaningful that you want to share them with as many people as possible. Rarely does a crafty post inspire me, but this one at Juicy Bits captured my imagination and got me excited - just look at these pictures:

photo by Juicy Bits

photo by Juicy Bits
What a fabulous idea for a little girl's birthday party, and the fairy wands are just magical!

Then I stumbled across this DIY fairy wing tutorial at ThreadBanger totally adorable and looks super easy.

Now there was definitely an idea forming in my head...I'd been thinking about making tutus for Sweetpea and 2 of her nieces that love dress up. Wouldn't a tutu and these fairy wings, along with the requisite magical wand make the perfect fairy princess costume? Then Sweetpea could imagine herself a fairy princess anytime!

For those of you that don't consider yourselves crafty, Jess at Juicy Bits tells me she bought the fairy wings in the top picture at Party City. You can also find adorable tutus at Sassy Pink Boutique.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Super easy "Taste of the Keys" lime pie

I absolutely love key lime pie, but hadn't been able to capture the taste of the pies we had on our trip to the Keys. When we made our way back a second time, I picked up some of Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice from a local grocery store and brought it home. Just like pumpkin pies, there are a million slight variations on the basic key lime pie recipe. In my opinion, the trick to fabulous key lime pie is in the juice! For years I was only able to find this juice at a specialty food store, but now you can find it with the lemon and lime concentrate in the juice aisle at Kroger.

Whenever there is a carry in, EmDee requests I make this for him. I sent one of these to his charity bake sale (keeping in mind that the money was going to a good cause) and several of his coworkers went together and bought it for $125! If you have a taste for key lime pie, this recipe is super easy, and if you use the right juice it's fabulous!

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup of Nellie & Joe's Key Lime juice (I always add an extra dash)
3 eggs
Mix well and pour into a graham cracker pie crust.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes
Top with whipped topping if desired.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Perspective is so important

This past week was a pretty crummy week for me and many people around the area. I am about to head out for a couple day staycation, so I'll likely write more about the specifics toward the end of the week. Even with recent events, I know that I am so very blessed, and I'm really looking forward to a few days to lose myself in the fun and excitement of exploring the zoo, aquarium and children's museum with Sweetpea.

Here are a few of the items from my gratitude list: (and I really can't help saying again that when the going gets a bit tough, my gratitude list is so helpful - both for perspective and to remind me of what is really important to me in life!)

*It seems like just yesterday that big T was a gangly 9 year old boy, concentrating hard and looking adorable in his tuxedo as he walked down the aisle as our ring bearer...his graduation party is a week from today and we are SO proud of him!*

*Letting go of perfection and planting flowers with a 2 year old actually went much better than I anticipated. The joy and pride on her face as she points out her flower bed each day is absolutely worth it!*

*Being able to come home from what was my worst day at work EVER and play, hug, dance, imagine and create with my daughter was just what I needed.*

*I have an amazing support network between my family and friends*

*So looking forward to a week off and several days to just relax, play and explore*

What are you grateful for this week?

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Organizing Tip Thursday - Link Love Edition

With EmDee and I crossing on the highway on our opposite schedules this week I thought it might be a good week for some link love - here are some of the organizational goodies I've come across recently that are definitely worth sharing!

I love these tips on organizing kid's toys from Organizing Your Way

This family activity binder from Frugal Family Fun Blog (while you're there, check out the other great frugal ideas!)

I think I might even be able to handle this low maintenance way of tracking sweet mommy memories, courtesy of Sabbatical Mom

More on kid's toys from Megan at Simple Kids

I was excited to see these ideas for organizing with labels from Apartment Therapy, as I've been sent a super new label maker to try out - watch for that review in the near future!

Have you seen some great organizational posts? If so, I'd love to hear about them!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My favorite beach bums

This was Sweetpea's first trip to the beach and we had so much fun - she was so adventurous and enthusiastic. I can't say that it was the kind of relaxing trip we had pre-baby, but it was so much fun to explore with her and see things through her eyes. As the days passed we got into a comfortable routine and were so sad for it to end. This summer we will be making a similar trip, the last one before we grow our family once more...

For more photo fun visit Wordful Wednesday and Summertime Sunday (yes, I realize it's not Sunday, but I love Martha's photos and she won't mind if I stretch the rules a bit)

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Looking for a great makeup routine? A Bare Minerals review

My mom and I are big both fans of Bare Minerals. She was nice enough to write up this guest post explaining why she loves the products so much. Without further delay, please give a warm bloggy welcome to Problem Solvin Mom's Mom! :)

Infomercials…..I love to hate them. So how can my absolute favorite of all products be something that peddles itself at 4 am over and over ad naseaum?

I have to admit, I never would have tried it if my daughter hadn’t told me that her buddies at the Y in the morning were telling her how much they love….Bare Minerals.

My daughter and I made a trip to the closest Bare Escentuals store about a year ago to treat ourselves to a makeover; prepared to spend some bucks. And spend we did, but boy did we look good! I will say though, that now that I know what I need, the expense is not too bad and I will NEVER use any other makeup.

I would think the infomercial would scare some ladies off by saying the TV special that you get for $60 is worth $209. I would never spend $209 on makeup. Once you get that starter kit with the brushes, the things you will need to replace are Prime Time (the most amazing of all), the foundation, the Warmth (which lasts for a long time) and the mineral veil finishing powder. I also use I.D. Bare Vitamins before the Prime Time, but I think some people use regular moisturizer. I am worth every penny I spend on BareMinerals.

The reason I am so captured by this product is that my skin has improved so much since I started using it. I am 61 years old, had redness that would start to show immediately after starting my day…until Bare Minerals. It has actually improved my skin so much that it even looks better without makeup than it did before.

I asked for some of my Bare Minerals for Christmas this year; but I did run out of foundation prior to Christmas Day. I stopped in to get a name brand at the drug store; but there was no comparison and I was glad to stop using it!!

You can believe every word spoken in the BareMinerals infomercial. So, besides wanting to tell everyone how wonderful Bare Minerals is, I have to wonder what other infomercials are actually peddling some good products….anyone have a favorite that they were skeptical about at first?

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The heart of a mother

Hope you all had a great Mother's Day! I had a wonderful weekend, though it was a bit sad to send EmDee off today on his first of 10 straight days of 12 hour shifts, and I have no doubt that my muscles will be screaming tomorrow from the 50 strawberry plants we put in the ground this afternoon.

We started the day off with baked french toast and several hours of outdoor play. Then we headed to the store for a "quick stop" before lunch. I should really know better than to put "quick stop" and "before lunch" in the same game plan. Sweetpea did wonderfully at the grocery, and we quickly gathered everything we needed. The last item on the list was wiper blades and unfortunately we had to make one more stop. It was just as we were arriving at the checkout that the meltdown began.

Sweetpea so rarely melts down, and I knew this one was all my fault. The cashier took us as her last customer before going on break, and had to tell several customers who came up behind us that she was closed. Once she checked us out and while I was holding a screaming toddler in one arm and trying to sign my name on the credit machine she said with raised eyebrows, "Happy Mother's Day".

I said Thank You, and then I had to laugh at the look of it - I'm sure many people would think that at least one of us was being sarcastic - and maybe the cashier was, but I don't think so. Screaming toddler in hand, pushing our cart out to the car I was thinking how grateful I am to be a mom, to be holding a miracle in one arm while another one is growing in my belly and my heart is overflowing.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Frugal Mother's Day Gift Idea

Looking for a fun and free last minute Mother's Day gift idea? How about using the free Mother's Day themed layouts from Digital Scrapbook Artist to create a card or scrapbook for Mom? Just register and each month there are free downloads available for your use, either with Digital Scrapbook Artist or another favorite software.

I'll be sure to post some of my pages when I finally finish them...I hate to even mention how long I've been working at it a little bit here and there! *sigh* ;)

Happy Friday! I hope you all have a great weekend and a Happy Mother's Day!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Organizing Tip Thursday - an organized approach to garage saling

I picked up this great desk for my mom during this past week's garage sale Friday excursion...for $5! I am so glad she was looking for one, because I would have had a hard time passing it up, even though there wasn't any space for it at our house...

Garage sales can be a great way to find deals on gently used items with a lot of life yet in them, or they can be a great way to find additional clutter to take up space in your home… As someone who lives in a small space and is about to add another little body to the mix, I think I’m reasonably good at differentiating which category my purchases fall into. There are a few strategies I definitely recommend for garage salers, especially if you’re like me and you don’t have a lot of extra space.

- Know specifically what you’re looking for. There might be some items you’re “always” looking for (my coworker always has Legos on this list) and other specific items you might need.
- Know the value of the items you’re looking for in order to tell if you’re getting a good deal. Likewise, try to determine your target price ahead of time so as to not get caught up in the moment.
- Don’t be afraid to bargain - the worst thing a seller can say is no. If you are hesitant to ask the seller to come down on the price of one item but are interested in several, try negotiating a lower price for the total sale.
- If you are tempted to make an impulse purchase, determine what you are going to use the item for and where exactly it is going to go before going through with the sale.
- Bring along a buddy for company and to use as a sounding board, just make sure that buddy isn’t talking you into things you wouldn’t buy on a solo trip!
- Consider the neighborhood and proximity of other sales when determining your route for the day. We found after a few outings last year that there were several “professionals” that would frequently have sales with much of the same merchandise. We learned to weed out these locations. You’re also more likely to encounter good finds if there are several sales in close proximity.

What are your garage sale or thrifting strategies, do you have any tips to add? If you've written about organizing or work/life balance this week, won't you link up and join the fun? I love reading your tips!

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On naps and school funding

My little cowgirl, just before she hit the wall

Tuesday was voting day and there was only one issue on the ballot - the school levy. I'm a firm believer that a vote for our schools is a vote for our community. As an alumni of our public schools, I'm proud that they are one of the better districts in the area and I want it to stay that way for when Sweetpea is school age. Our district is growing fast, mainly an influx of families with children, and we've had to build several new buildings to support that growth...now the district is struggling to keep them running. School funding is something I want to learn more about, and I'm the first to admit that I'm very fuzzy when it comes to the different ways states fund their schools. What I do know is that Ohio's strategy is not working, and we need to do something!!

So after a long day at work I picked up Sweetpea and headed to the polls. We weren't half way there and she was totally zonked in the car seat! When we pulled up I figured she would wake up, but she just laid her head down on my shoulder after I extracted her from the car and headed in to the polling station. Half way in my "miracle" pants (as in, it would be a miracle if they would stay where they were supposed to) are half way off my backside and she loses a shoe. A sweet couple in front of us helped in the shoe department and held the door.

We managed to make it through line and as I said, there was only one issue for me to fill in. On the way out, I apparently dropped my license, and again a nice passerby alerted me and picked it up. Thank goodness, because that losing my license would have been a huge fiasco, I'm sure!

Sadly, our levy failed by just 137 votes. Long term, it sure would be nice to take a lesson from some states that have their act together and learn how to effectively fund our children's future!

What is your opinion on school levies - do you always vote for them? What do you think about funding for public schools in your area?

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Keeping it healthy when time is short

Last week's menu went pretty much according to plan, except for our stir fry and rangoons - we should get to those this week instead. This is another week of EmDee working late nearly every night, so I'm trying to keep it simple again. Here's what we're planning:

Monday: Spaghetti and garlic bread
Tuesday: Leftover burritos from last week
Wednesday: crock pot chicken roasted asparagus and stuffed smashed potatoes
Thursday: Beef stir fry and baked rangoons
Friday: Chicken empanadas and rice

What's on your menu? This week on OrgJunkie, Laura shares her strategy for choosing new recipes. Her criteria ensures recipes are perfect for relaxed or hectic weeks, and I love that concept. I tend to revert to tried and true favorites or meals that I've at least partially prepped and frozen when we are busy. When choosing new meals to try I go for quick and/or simple recipes that come recommended from a site I've had success with before - allrecipes, foodnetwork, orgjunkie, or Sandra's recipe blog to name a few.

How do you prepare for hectic weeks? How do you decide which new recipes to try? How often do you include new recipes in with the tried and true?

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fresh flowers and fun

It's officially garage sale season here, and this past week was our first successful garage sale Friday...a group of us at work map out what sales we want to hit, pick up some takeout, and garage sale at lunch! I'll be talking more about it and my great finds from our first outing later this week.

Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day and we spent a lot of time playing in the yard and transplanting some of our seed starts. Our raspberry plants are starting to leaf out, I'm so excited!! Growing up we always had black raspberries, and this year if they fruit like they should we will have black and red raspberries - nothing like fresh picked berries in anything and everything. Our strawberry plants arrived this week as well, but it has been too wet to get them in the ground yet.

Here are some more excerpts from my gratitude journal this week:

*hours spent doing and redoing a beginner puzzle, watching Sweetpea get better each time at figuring it all out*

*taking home a great big pile of books I reserved from the library...now to find time to read them!*

*the smell of fresh cut lilac and viburnum throughout the house*

*the smell of spring rain in the morning*

What are you grateful for this week?

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