Friday, June 24, 2011

Mess with me, inflatable pool!

I impulse-bought an inflatable pool for the kids this week — a big one that could give the children room to play, without triggering all the "MOMMY! He SPLASHED me! And he has BOOGERS on his hand!" commentary. It was a great idea — we've been hovering around 100 this week, and the kids have been wanting to go outside.

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The pool was a fabulous idea, that is, until I realized I had to blow the thing up without an electric pump. I began to resent all 120 inches of that triple-tiered monstrosity as the peripheral vision started to fade due to hyperventilation. All that hard work, and I barely made a dent in it. At the rate I was going, it would have taken hours for me to blow that pool up.

I had to find some mechanical way of inflating it. There was no getting around it.

I couldn't find the cheap foot pump that had come with some other inflatable toy years ago. I couldn't find any sort of bike pump, either. I discounted the air mattress, since the pump is actually built into the side of the mattress.

The kids were getting restless and I needed to do something quick if they were going to have any shot of playing in the pool that day. Then it dawned on me that the air mattress has an exhaust setting, too. If I could inflate the bed and then figure out some way to harness the expelled air as it deflated, it could work.

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I scoured the toy room and came up with this:

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I tell you what, it worked pretty darn well!! The tube I found, the remnants of a dollar store light saber type toy, happened to fit perfectly into the pool's air inlet. It was a proud moment. The children cheered from the couch as I filled the mattress with air, and then deflated it into the pool. The plastic rings puffed up one by one.

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(...I probably could have just used the blow dryer, huh.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Let's see what some paint can do - the kitchen!!

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It's done!! I am so excited about how the kitchen turned out. It looks completely different, and all it took was some paint and some cabinet pulls. Oh, and lots of blue tape and plastic. And a decent-sized chunk of my life. But it is finished, and it makes my heart happy.

Here are some pictures detailing what I had to work with, and what I wanted to change.

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The colors screamed at me to paint them every time I walked into the kitchen. See? Here they are, screaming at me (I turned the saturation all the way up to better illustrate the ruckus in there):

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Paint me! PAIIIIINT ME!

The goal was to cut way back on the varying colors, specifically the dark orange in the cabinets, and create a more sleek, modern feel. I wanted to add a lot of neutrals and bring in some more contemporary colors.

Just for fun, here's the photo from the house listing, showing what the previous owners had done with the space:

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They were going for a European vibe from what I could tell, judging by the Eiffel Tower wallpaper in several rooms.

To claim the space and make it our style, we went through a grueling series of separate tape/plastic jobs and paint applications. Four, to be exact, with various coats and primers on each. Grey on the walls, white and brown cabinets, and white enamel on the backsplash.

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Okay! You ready to take a look at the finished product?

Before...

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After:

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(Why yes, that is a piece of blue tape stuck to the ceiling.)

Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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Before:

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After:

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"Hi honey, come take a look at the kitchen, I put up all the cabinet doors and finished it while you were at work. It looks really cool in there!"

What's the first thing he does?

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Checks to see if the holes he drilled are plumb.

In fact, he has been so consumed with the straightness of the cabinet doors/pulls that he has not said much of anything about the toaster. I kind of threw the old less than predictable one out and bought a new one while he was at work.

A pink one. :)

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We're not done with the kitchen yet, but these changes are a huge step in the right direction. We still need to get new appliances, knock out the upper cabinets along the back wall, and eventually replace the counter tops. But in the meantime, for a renovation that cost me less than $400.00, this will definitely do!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sneak Peek

Over the past month I've lost the top layer of skin on my hands while scrubbing off paint flecks. I've lost my will to pick up another sheet of plastic as well. I've also lost the hedge trimmers.

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(I got desperate. There was some primal need that compelled me to make it possible to walk out of the sliding door without being whacked by a bush laden with those wispy strands of spider web that float across my bare arms each time I exit the house. I like to pretend that spiders don't exist here.)

Oh, speaking of things gone missing, there's the matter of my lost sanity, thanks to Little Mr. Sleephater, whom I love dearly.

Some things I was glad to lose, like these red walls and heavy ceiling fan that were dragging our former study/future dining room down into a pit of darkness.

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"No, honey, don't go! I don't want to lose you too!"

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"Just turn around and come back toward the light, Hon. Stay with me! C'mon."

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"NOOOooooo!"

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Sigh. Another one lost to the pit of darkness.

I've been working away in there for quite some time now. It's been nice. I can work in there without worry about the mess because the room has a lock. The children have been forced to watch the show through the french doors. They even brought me flowers one day while I was doing battle with the walls. The gesture seemed cute and innocent, but I'm fairly certain they were just trying to lure me out of the room so that they could swarm me, wipe snotty noses on my pants, and plead with me to make them some chocolate milk. They're crafty ones, those two.

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Remember when it used to be cold and rainy and we wore coats? That seems so very long ago. I miss those days.

Soooo... you wanna see what the dining room looks like now? :D

It's not ready for its official debut, but here's a sneak peek:

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Yay for progress!

I've also made some big steps forward in the kitchen. Oh the kitchen. I am so tired of taping that room up. I'm currently on my third go-round with the blue tape. Once for the walls, another time for the white cabinets, and now a third — and final time — for the darker cabinets.

My kitchen has looked like some variation of this for weeks.

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(He's making nachos, in case you're wondering.)

Alas, sitting down for dinner has looked like this for some time now as well.

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But look! The kitchen is not ready for a final snap shot either, but there is progress!!

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Looking at these before and after pictures is therapeutic for me. It helps me find the motivation to put one strip of blue tape in front of another and just power through the desire to nap.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wookiee Cookies

"Wow, that truck has been backing up FOREVER," I thought to myself as my oven repeatedly screamed at me to remove what was, at one point, a batch of cookies.

Sigh.

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I made cookies this week. We have at our house an endearing set of cookbooks. One of the more recent additions was this Star Wars cookbook. I decided to make the Wookiee cookies featured on the front cover. Why? Well, who can resist the allure of Wookiee cookies? The book also features such recipes as "Hoth Chocolate" and "Han-burgers."

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The recipe is your typical straight forward chocolate chip cookie recipe, with the addition of some cinnamon. I can tell it was written under the assumption that 12 year old boys might be doing the baking — the recipe mentions the use of pot holders twice, and details the use of a spatula to remove the cookies:

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2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature.
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Put the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Set aside.

3. Put the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in another mixing bowl. Using the electric mixer set on high speed, beat together until well blended and creamy, about 3 minutes. (You can do this with a wooden spoon, but it will take longer.) Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and stir with the wooden spoon until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Scoop up a rounded tablespoonful of the dough and drop onto a baking sheet. Repeat until you have used up all the dough. Be sure to leave about 1 inch between the cookies because they spread as they bake.

5. Using pot holders, put the baking sheets into the oven. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

6. Again, using pot holders, remove the baking sheets from the oven. Lift the cookies from the baking sheets with a spatula, and place on cooling racks. Let cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.



Here's how the cookies turned out (the second batch, anyway):

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Very nice, very nice.

What's that you say? I completely agree — there's a serious amount of Wookiee missing from these cookies! (Most of the recipes in the book had this issue of having a catchy name, but not producing a product that has obvious Star Wars connections.)

So, I decided to take matters into my own sleep-deprived, novice-baker, shaky hands. I had some cream cheese frosting left over from the batch of raspberry bites that I had made, and some left-over chocolate chips to melt.

I don't know... I think they turned out looking more like hippies than Wookiees.


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"And you know what the worst part was? I had to spend all of this time on that freakin' cold snow planet, Hoth. I wanted to die, man."

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"Oh that's rough, dude. Solo should give you a raise. And some paid time off, for sure."


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"I know. The man is bringin' me down. It's tough, though, to get any sort of benefits in this economy. The threat of the empire taking over has totally tanked the market. I don't know how we're gonna recover from this one."


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"I know, man. Tough times. Hey — do you ever think about leaving the rebellion, and — you know, settling down, and starting a family? We gotta make love, not war, man."


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"Sometimes. But you know, I just haven't found the right Wookiee. I'm too busy, workin' like a dog. Maybe someday."


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"Hey guys, what's up?"

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"Dude! What happened to YOU!? You look fried!"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Toddler v. Bedtime

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His bedtime is 8:00.

At least it used to be. These days he doesn't seem to sleep at all. Not for me, anyway. Ever since we moved, my two year old has been having a very hard time settling down. He keeps coming out of his room, over and over again, until he crashes at 11 at night. Then he wakes up at 2 in the morning, screaming for something to drink. It takes him another hour to settle down and go to sleep again. But he still wakes up at the same each day, if not earlier than usual. His naps are just about as unsuccessful. I figure he's short a good 4 hours of sleep each day. (Which means I'm short a good 4 hours of getting stuff done.)

It's hard, sitting by his door for hours at a time, wrestling him back into bed over and over every 10 minutes. It is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. I'd like to say that I've been able to keep my cool through all of this, but I haven't. More than once I've turned into the dragon lady over the course of the last three weeks. You know, the one who uses a loud, scary voice to try to impress upon her child the importance of staying in bed. Which, of course, totally backfires because it just makes said child feel even more anxiety about going to bed.

Sigh.

The kicker is that my 2 year old does not behave this way when his dad is around. When my husband puts him to bed, he goes without fuss, and he STAYS there! What's up with that!?

Anyway, I figure there could be a few reasons why my youngest is acting out like this.

- He's still getting used to the big change, and doesn't like it when people (dad) or things aren't all accounted for.

- He is two. Enough said.

- He is trying to drop his nap and simply doesn't need as much sleep. (NOOO! Mommy still needs nap time!)

- Two year old molars are coming in. Children have molars come in at that age, right? You'd think I would know this.

- He objects to the pre-existing paint job in his room.

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Hang in there, kiddo. I'll paint your room soon.

Whatever the cause may be, I've got to find a solution. He is, by far, the most difficult of the three at this age. He is doing the typical two year old egocentric bit, constantly saying "Me! Mine! My! I want it!" And I've said "no bonking!" enough times that it really should have *some* meaning for him now, even for a two year old. The others never had much of a terrible two phase. They were worse at the age of three. I'm a little worried what my youngest is going to be like in a year, if this is what his version of 2 looks like!

There is hope for us; the past few days have improved. He went to bed after just an hour of putting him back in his room last night, and he only got up once from his nap today. He even woke up happy from his nap just now — a good sign that he's getting enough sleep. And I've kept the dragon lady at bay. I even had a chance to look out the window and enjoy the sunset a few times this week.

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I think he's getting more used to his surroundings. By "used to his surroundings," what I mean is that he has finally tested the boundaries of every nook and cranny of this house. Moving into a completely un-baby-proofed home with a two year old has been interesting. We've managed to keep him away from the big hazards such as boxes that might topple, possible snakes in the yard, chemicals that need to be put out of reach, and glass objects that he could break. He hasn't gotten into trouble yet. But he has been doing his best to out-smart us.

He learned to open all the doors. Surface bolts are now installed, thanks to his escape artist skills and an unsupervised visit to the front yard last week. Thank goodness we live on a quiet cul-de-sac and have neighbors that like to hang out on their front lawns!

And then yesterday he found the window seat in my daughter's room. He climbed up on it and leaned against the screen to get a better look outside. Eeek! Thankfully, it is a strong screen and he wasn't leaning hard. But still. Again, thankful for the neighbors that noticed him up there. They are filling out their nominations for me for mother of the year as we speak.

Physically, he has survived the move unscathed. It's his emotional well-being that I think has been hard on him lately. But hopefully he will feel comfortable here soon and won't act out so much.

In the mean time, I would like to leave him with a little lesson...

This is a toy:

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This is not a toy:

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Not a toy:

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Not a toy:

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The electronics have had a rough month.

NOT a toy!!

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"Honey, guess what our son is playing with?"

Sigh.

Anyone want to babysit for a few hours??
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