Stardust

Writings from my little corner of modern domesticity.

Mac n’ Cheese: A Love Story

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Guys…I freaking love mac n’ cheese. In all its forms- the heartwarming comfort-food made with a roux and extra love, the restaurant trying to make it worth the $11 they’re asking for it, the Velveeta stuff that’s not really even cheese…even the stuff in the blue box that’s the food equivalent of a hotel that charges an hourly rate. It is no secret, and it was the first thing I panicked about when Ryan was put on a low-carb diet by his doctor- seriously, the first thing out of my mouth was “But…mac n’ cheese…”

Usually, the way I make it, in my never-ending attempts to get dinner done in a half hour or less, involves just hurriedly stirring a bag o’ cheese into a pot of noodles I drained via slowly pouring it over the sink while trying to keep the noodles at bay with a spoon (you’ve all done it, you know you have- strainers; what a pain, right?).  Sometimes the cheese isn’t even planned- it’s the ends of several bags…Mexican taco blend here, some mozzerella there…maybe some straggling cheddar of some sort.

But I love it- every. single. time. I’ve only ever met one plate of mac n’ cheese I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and it wasn’t one I’d made. Sometimes I do spring the effort for the baked kind- roux, breadcrumbs and all -but when you’re trying to squeeze your dinner prep into an episode of My Little Pony, that’s not happening most nights.

Tonight was no exception. Except that it occurred to me that I had a partial carton of heavy cream in the fridge, and I thought “I bet I can meet in the middle here…”
Et voila- my Quick n’ Creamy Mac n’ Cheese was born.

Now, before you go at this recipe, please bear in mind that I’m one of those “Baking is a science, cooking is an art” people. Which basically translates to me eyeballing pretty much everything ever. My quantities are approximate, except for the cheese, because I used the whole bag and the quantity is printed on there.

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Ahh…in my bowl at last. You guys are lucky I paused for a photo. 

Quick n’ Creamy Mac n’ Cheese

  • 12oz. elbow macaroni
  • 2oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2c heavy cream
  • 4oz. shredded cheese of choice (I had a 3-cheddar blend this time)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil pasta according to package directions (y’know- throw a pot of water on the stove and throw the pasta in once it’s boiling)
  2. Drain pasta (feel free to use a strainer or colander if you prefer)
  3. Add cream cheese in chunks for easier distribution. Stir a bit to help it settle in.
  4. Add half the shredded cheese and the heavy cream. Stir until cheese melts in. Repeat with other half of the cheese.
  5. Season as you wish. When I’m feeling fancy, sometimes I’ll throw some Italian seasoning on mine. Usually just salt and pepper. Sometimes red pepper flakes. Whatever- get creative!

Ta-da! If you like your mac n’ cheese a little more liquid-y, up the cream to 3/4c (or do like I do and just eyeball it until you’re happy with the consistency). It came out just as I’d hoped- creamy in texture but still fairly cake-y- like if you left it to set  up a bit you could serve pieces like a cake, the way you get with good baked mac n’ cheese. A pretty good improvement on my bag o’ cheese stir-in, but for not much more effort. Food win!
And I finished before My Little Pony did!

This would probably feed 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side- my girls and I ate two helpings each for dinner and I’ve got enough left for us to definitely have it for lunch tomorrow, too. I’m really no good at portions, though- we just put food on our plate, eat it, and if we’re hungry get more.

DSC_4456(2)And it’s got the Baby Starski Seal of Approval! Which  means more of it went in her mouth than on the floor…Forks are tricky business when you’re little!

What food do you love in all its variations?

 

I Actually Took Her Toys

My oldest is 3.5, and that’s enough for any mother that’s been there to sigh and begin nodding sympathetically at this point.

This means that she’s caught in that interesting point of childhood between gaining responsibilities and testing every possible boundary. She is expressing herself, and finding how she fits in this great big world that gets bigger and bigger every day.

And sometimes, it’s freaking obnoxious. And you find yourself, as a parent, arguing with a tiny version of yourself about something ridiculous as you each attempt to assert authority and independence- one party arguing for each option.

Today’s struggle occurred over a puzzle. A 26-piece alphabet puzzle that both girls enjoy playing with, and which big sister does NOT enjoy sharing with little sister. Mostly because little sister usually runs off with a piece or two, but that didn’t happen today. Today, miss 3.5 decided she’d dump the puzzle on the couch and throw the pieces everywhere of her own accord. Ok, fine. It happens- she’s playing, after all, and it wasn’t going to hurt anyone.

But then she wanted another puzzle. And I said no- because we have the rule of one puzzle per child out at a time, and each of them already had one out. I reminded her that, if she wanted another puzzle, she’d have to put away the one she had out already. She says ok, and this scene unfolds:

S grabs ABC puzzle with no pieces in it and attempts to replace it in the rack.
Mom: No, you need to put the pieces back in it first, or it’s not really putting it away.
S: No, how about you put the pieces back?
M: No, I wasn’t the one playing with it. You were, and you need to put the pieces back.
S: No, I don’t want to. I want you to put it back.
M: I can help you, if you ask nicely, but I will not do it for you.
S: No- you do it for me. I want another puzzle.
M: Not going to happen. If you want another puzzle, you need to find all the pieces and put the one you have away, with all the pieces in it.
Selenia whines and stuffs ABC puzzle with no pieces in it in Mom’s face.
M (takes puzzle and puts it on the table): That’s not going to get you a new puzzle, either. Find your pieces- if I find them for you, you will not be playing with any more puzzles today. I will take this one away and you will not get another one.
S: Um, how about you take it away.
M:…Really, kid? Just find your pieces.
S: No, I want you to take my puzzle away.

This continues in a varying theme including a few stints of time out to think about where her pieces might be (because when she “looks” for things, she sees them about as well as Stevie Wonder would) for a good 20 minutes or so. At which point, we both switch tactics, because I have had it with this crap.

S: I can’t find any of them (as she seriously steps right on the Q)
M: Then you must not care very much about your toys if you don’t want to take care of them. This is your very last warning before I take ALL your toys- the puzzle, the ponies, the train- all of them, and you won’t have any toys to play with today.
S: Ok, take all my toys. Please take all my toys.
M: If you say so, kid.

So I did. I picked up the remaining puzzle pieces and put it away. Then I took all her toys and put them in her downstairs toybox, and put that on the stairs, behind the baby gate. Because I still wanted her to see what she was missing.

And, for the next 4 hours until naptime, she didn’t even care.

I’m not sure if she’s got the tenacity as a 3.5-year-old to purposely play that one out, or if she really doesn’t care that she doesn’t have toys. She sat on the couch and “read” contentedly until nap.

After nap, we struggled a bit with her trying to play with her sister’s toys (I didn’t want to punish the innocent)- but she quickly went back to the books, and watching birds out the window. Her “trying to play” with her sister’s toys mostly involved picking them up to see if I’d let her get away with it. No dice, kid. You called, I answered- and I will stand firm, because you need to know mama don’t play. As bedtime approached, she did less grabbing of toys and more reading, more engaging with her sister- more singing and dancing and playing without toys.

She also watched no TV- no tech or screens were involved in this day whatsoever. I did leave her a couple empty boxes they’d both been playing with- a 12-pack case from some pop and the box from their Costco-sized case of applesauce pouches -because those weren’t technically “toys,” and, again; didn’t want to punish the innocent here.

Really, given the results, I may wait and see if she notices tomorrow, and not give anything back until she asks. I think she’s a bit young for the earning back of specifically-requested items still that I’ve seen other parents employ, but it’s a thought for if this happens again.
It’s semi-fortuitous (or perhaps subconsciously inspired by?) having this occur as I’m seriously re-evaluating my children’s possessions, particularly the toys. I want to do my best to engage their imaginations and ability to play quietly when necessary or when they feel like it- because everyone needs some quiet in their lives. But I also see the world they are growing into, and as much as tech is a part of our lives, it will be even more a part of theirs. I cannot, in good conscience, completely remove them from that- nor would I want to -but I can minimize their reliance on flashing lights and digitally-produced sounds for entertainment. This, of course, is a much broader topic and another blog post entirely -but seeing her operate for 11 hours now without toys has been enlightening.

TookTheToys

Review: Stretch Mark Cream

This is going to be something a little different than what I’ve done before- a product review. Don’t worry; it’s honest. I did get a nice discount on the product, but the opinions are my own after my use of it. It also contains affiliate links, which means that, at no extra cost to you, I get a percentage of the sale from Amazon if you purchase through my link. Like, anything- doesn’t even have to be what I linked, so long as you order from the same tab you originally opened my link in within 24 hours. Pretty cool, huh?

I’ve got two kids. So I’ve got stretch marks- and really, I don’t mind them. They don’t bother me to look at, and I don’t care if they bother anyone else. They are lines that tell the story of my motherhood- of the changes my body has undergone in building our family and bringing two beautiful girls into the world.

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Exhibit A: 2 beautiful girls, as previously mentioned. 

But, I have always been curious about how well these things work, because it seems there’s a thousand stretch mark creams and remedies out there and they all pretty much promise the same thing. I do tend to use it more often during pregnancy than after, as the skin stretching can itch in the last trimester and keeping my belly moisturized helps- but the ones I’ve tried before haven’t seemed to make a difference in terms of stretch mark outcome.

This one in particular I wanted to try out, because it has a comparatively natural ingredients list and promised an “invigorating lemon scent,” as opposed to the slightly odd cocoa/Shea butter scent most such creams have. I know- who doesn’t like the smell of cocoa butter? Well, me- when I’m putting it on all the time. It just starts to smell weird to me. But I also didn’t want something artificially scented, because sometimes those make me sneezy (and that’s not always good when you’ve had two large babies delivered naturally- mamas get me on this one).

Anyway, so the cream I tested out was Say Yes to Vitality’s Stretch Mark Cream. It comes in a little 4oz. tub, a little larger than your standard pot of hair wax/pomade, and it does indeed smell like lemon! A nice lemon; not like, Pledge lemon. The texture is nice- smooth and not greasy, as promised- and it rubs in nicely. So as a lotion, it’s a total win as far as I’m concerned.

Now, as for the stretch mark reduction promises, I was less easily convinced. I didn’t want to rely on my subjective judgement and tired mom eyes, so I took pictures.

And wow, I have to say- it came through. There are some lighter ones it was hard to catch on camera (I did make the photos black and white, because it showed the difference better, and put them together, but they have otherwise been unedited), but overall, I am sold.

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Yes, that’s really my belly. Both of them. 

You can see there’s a HUGE difference. This was with twice-daily application over two weeks. Some days I even forgot in the morning. Not shabby at all. There are some deeper, darker ones on the underside of my belly that were hard to photograph and have been more resistant to the cream, but those appear to be lighter as well, though still present.

The cream goes on sale frequently, and if you’re at all self-conscious about your stretch marks anywhere, I’d say it’s worth a go.  I probably won’t buy it again for a while- a little goes a long way, and I won’t need it until I’m pregnant again and getting the itchy-belly feeling. But, given how well it works, how nice it is just as a lotion, and the ingredients list, I’ll happily slather it all over my next bump!

Whose Plan is it, Anyway?

“…You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!…”

To a Mouse,  Robert Burns

I’m going to get a little off track here, and a little personal, and a little brutally honest. If that’s not your cup of tea, this is your cue to exit.

It’s no secret to most of our friends and family that we’re in a hard place right now. Again. But I mean “in a hard place” as in my girls’ Christmas gifts are all coming from other people, our rent is uncertain past January, and one car repair over $40 will sink us.
And that is so hard- anyone who’s been broke, really broke- do-I-buy-toilet-paper-or-laundry-detergent-broke, not guess-no-Starbucks-this-week-broke; understands how incredibly stressful and frustrating and, also, downright humiliating it is.

This round, it’s even worse. Because we’re on the other side of our plan to get out of it, get going with our future, and it’s not better. Financially. Well, slightly, in that there’s no credit card debt this time, but that’s a story for another time. It’s been replaced by more student debt from Ryan’s master’s degree he spent the last 2.5 years working through.

I know- I know there’s whispers in the families; people saying “Well, that’s why you get married after college.” “That’s why you don’t have kids until you’re financially stable.” “That’s why you X and don’t Y.” Thinking surely; there’s something we’ve done wrong, some miscalculation or error in judgement that’s put us here.
They might be right- but as far as I can tell, they’re not. Trust me; I’ve gone over it in my head a million and one times- what if this, that, and the other thing- and the only conclusion I can come to is that things go wrong for everyone.

It is possible to play the game according to all the rules and still lose.

And then, in one of my little late-night pity parties (the insomnia has hit me hard, accompanied by my 11-month-old’s stubborn refusal to sleep not attached to me), I had a revelation.

I need to preface it with the fact that I believe in things greater than myself, and that we aren’t the ones running the show. Again, if that’s not your cup of tea, so be it. It’s mine. I happen to prefer a wide variety of teas, personally, but…I digress.

It burst into my head like a cold shock of water- how very arrogant of me.

How selfish, how brash and childish of me to expect that my plan is THE plan. How could I possibly- how could anyone who possibly believes in a higher, guiding power- have the audacity to think I know best?

It’s not all about me, or you, or my children, or anyone else in our lives. We are, I believe, part of a bigger picture, and what we think we need, what we want, what we are certain should be happening- is not necessarily what is going to happen; what needs to happen.

Often, as a writer crafts their work, they will go back and delete a line, a paragraph, perhaps even an entire chapter. They will shift words around, events in a story- they will annihilate entire characters and scenes that were carefully crafted -because it’s all part of a bigger picture. The final work may look nothing at all like the project the author initially embarked upon.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’ve become miraculously content with our circumstance. It still sucks. But I am…less anxious; less disappointed, and much more prepared to accept that what I wanted and what we’d planned just isn’t, well, the plan. Everything happens for a reason- the optimist would say that you haven’t gotten what you wanted because there is something better waiting; the time isn’t right, but it will be. There are scores of tales of heroes and great figures of history metaphorically forged in the fires of misfortune, and I’ve been honored to know personally several fantastic people who’ve grown strong through hardship. And who knows- maybe I’m raising one or two of them. Maybe all of this has nothing to do with us at all- maybe it does.

I don’t know- and how could I expect to? Occasionally, sure- one gets those flashes of clarity, where we know, beyond a doubt, that we’ve been clued into The Plan and what we’re meant to do. But we are small, finite creatures against the Infinite- even that flash may not be meant for the precise moment we receive it. All we can do is plan our best, act our best- and accept that ultimately, we don’t have the final say.

“No” is an answer. “Not yet,” is an answer. And, as I’m endeavoring to teach my 3-year-old, pouting about it does not change the answer.

The First Snow

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There’s something about the first snow of the season that makes me feel…contemplative? Snug? Nostalgic? I’m not sure the word I’m looking for, really- it’s a combination of all those things.

And not just the first snow, or even the first snow that sticks- it’s got to be the first snow inside December, or all I feel about it is ugh. The ugh of “I’m gonna have to drive in this,” or “That means it’s cold outside.” Not the same complicated, but pleasant, emotional swell.

It’s been like this for all my adult life, but my most clear memory of it is a day during the final week of classes before exams, in my first semester in the dorms at Michigan State. My window overlooked part of the front entrance to the wing, but mostly I had a great view of the trees between the bike racks and the River Trail which bordered the Sanford Natural Area. It was just starting to get dark- that soft, slow way it settles in during winter, without the glorious burst of sunset we see in the summer; and the street lights were coming on. The snow had been falling in thick flakes for about an hour and was sticking, blanketing the bike racks and everything around them. You could tell which bikes had returned recently, and see the tracks of their journey home. But what sticks most in my memory is the amber glow of the streetlights highlighting the still-falling snow between the trees. Somehow, it’s the colors of it all that have lodged themselves most firmly in that memory. The colors and the quiet.

I’m sure that’s part of it: the way that first, real winter snow feels like it brings with it a hush, a soft command to settle in; get cozy.

Maybe it’s from a lifetime of watching the seasons come and go, of watching the signs of their wax and wane…I’ve always felt very closely connected, tuned in to the change; something reflected also in my choice of professional training- seasonal shifts mean a great deal to those in the horticulture industry! I really do not know how I would live in a place with no seasonal change, or just a “warmer season” or “wet season” as the only difference. I suspect my sense of the passage of time would get all wonky and I’d never be able to remember when something happened, since I use seasonal markers like “I remember it being cold enough for coats, but it hadn’t snowed yet, so must’ve been November,” “There weren’t quite leaves on the trees, but the magnolias were in bloom, so probably April,” that sort of thing.

Mostly, though, I’d feel cut off and out of sync. Each season has such a distinct tone, a palette, a scent all its own, and they have marked the turning of the wheel for my entire life. I welcome them each in turn and it brings balance for me, even with chaos reigning elsewhere. The balance feels particularly necessary this year- but most especially the softness, the quiet of the first snow.

My Bullet Journal: A Review

So a month in, I sat down and evaluated my new planner (see previous post for my problems with saying “Bullet Journal”) for efficacy. I was 17 pages and several different layouts, collections, trackers, and logs in, and more or less, it was going well.

What Worked

  • Meal Plan layout. I’d formulated a simple design that was functional for making a meal plan as well as referring back, and it was good. dsc_2737
  • The Rapid Log. A concept pulled straight out of the original, it involves a simple “brain dump” of tasks to complete. I use mine on a monthly basis; forwarding unfinished tasks to the next month, right at the top.
  • The dot-grid in the notebook. I love the dots! It’s enough to guide my lines and space things evenly, but not enough to be a distraction if I’m doing a little doodling, or make me feel like I need to be super tidy about my writing. I can make a heading a block and a half tall without feeling weird about it like I would if it were just lined or block-grid paper. (I chose this Moleskine, which seems to be a popular choice).

 

What Didn’t

  • Weekly layout. I just didn’t use it the way I thought I would. I basically used a combination of the month’s calendar and the rapid log to fill the function I was looking for in the weekly.
  • Making it pretty. While I enjoy using the colorful pens, it is actually getting in the way of functionality for me. I need a solution to this, because the colors are great for helping highlight things and make pages at-a-glance useful, but it’s holding me up.

I’m dropping the weekly layout in favor of just using a rapid log and the monthly calendar, at least for now. It seems to work better for my actual usage right now, and I can always go back to it if I find a layout I think will work for my needs. As for the pretties, I think if I got a better case for them and slimmed down what I was attempting to use, I could make it functional. Like maybe only carry 3 or 4 colored pens instead of the current box of 8. I started with these Zig pens because I had them already- they were given to us with our guest book by my in-laws when we married. They’re quite nice; I just need a better carrying system.

 

What was Iffy

  • Tracker. I found with this, I don’t like horizontally-oriented layouts. It would be much more useful (and used) along the bottom of the monthly calendar page, I think. dsc_2735
  • Budget page. The setup was just awkward. I need to do some more looking around and tweaking. May be more functional as a spread across two pages.
  • The monthly calendar. I did 5×5 blocks, and I feel like that was too small. It gave great amounts of space for notes along the side and bottom of the spread, but the calendar itself was too small to be functional.

 

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I also found that I desire a bit more organization than is offered by a single notebook for this. My next planner is going to use a traveler’s notebook style, wherein I can have one cahier for collections, one for logs, one for meal planning, and maybe one more for “brain dumps,” all within one cover. That’ll also make it easier to carry collections forward, because I can change out individual cahiers as they fill rather than, say, having filled a notebook with mostly meal planning halfway through a month and suddenly needing a new planner entirely. I’m not entirely certain if I’m going to stick with Moleskine at that point or try to find other paper suppliers- the pages are bit thin, and with my current pens, you can often see the other sides of the page (if not the page behind!) pretty easily, as you can see in the photos. I hear the Leuchtturm notebooks have thicker paper, though I didn’t manage to find any of them in my desired size and rule. Hmm.

I’ll check back in with my next adventures in planning, as I’ve got some improved layouts and new things to share. What would you put in your bullet journal, if you had one (or were going to add something new)?

Starting my Bullet Journal

There’s this phenomenon sweeping parts of the internet (I say “parts” because it seems to still be fairly under-the-radar, even on Pinterest) called the Bullet Journal. I’m not going to go into it too much; I’d really rather refer you to the original and let you explore from there.

For me, stumbling on it was like lights coming on- a sudden illumination in a “Wait, that’s a thing? I can do that? Why didn’t I…?” sort of way. And yet, when I read and explored more and more, I realized I always had, intuitively, been a bullet-journal-er, just not nearly so organized about it.

A bullet journal, whose name I admittedly hate saying (along with the term “future log”- come on. Really?), is basically a make-your-own planner from nothing but a notebook and a pen. Basically. Spend enough time on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll see things waaaaaaay beyond the basics- beautifully hand-lettered and doodled layouts and gorgeous pages of collections; all of which is very inspiring and made me just tickled pink.

For two simple reasons; the first of which being that I have always  liked the idea of using a planner, but have yet to use one all the way through. Inevitably, something in it isn’t *quite* right- the layouts aren’t working for me, I don’t have enough space for notes, it’s hard to write in, it’s too big to fit in my bag, it’s too small to write anything, the clasp is wonky, etc, etc, etc- I’ve always been very Goldilocks about my planners. And, well, because I haven’t had one that fits me well, I’ve gotten discouraged using them and instead, jot things hither and thither as they strike me and I find blank(ish) paper.
Which brings me to my second reason, and that is what I’d mentioned before as being an intuitive bullet-journaler (journalist? I’m not quite sure how that’s supposed to go). Which is to say that, along the wake of my discarded planners, you can find a stream of notebooks- ordinary notebooks, with jottings of all sorts. Class schedules, homework, party plans, lists of all sorts, doodles, poems and scraps of stories, meal plans and grocery lists, charts of clothing inventories for my girls- all just jotted down in a plain, ordinary notebook that wandered along with me, and when filled, was replaced by another common foot soldier of a thing. But, often, I’d still end up with scraps of paper not in the notebook, or a second or third notebook floating around- all with useful and used information in them, but not at all organized or even indexed.

Enter the Bullet Journal- my White Knight of planners, introduced by my dear friend Nancy- a lovely lady to whom I owe much inspiration. I read and I stalked and I pondered and I made lists (as I do), and I decided that yes, this was something I wanted to try- this could be the planner that sticks!

So when an unexpected gift of cash found its way into my lap, I bought the notebook I’d decided on using, dug out a set of archival-quality pens I had stashed, and got to it. I’d amassed a little board on my Pinterest of helpful start guides, as well as a list in another notebook on the things I felt I wanted to include in my BuJo (ugh- I can’t. Let’s go with “planner,” shall we?), so I had a good idea of where to start.

I got my index initiated, and headed it off with an overview of the months ahead. This was in the end of June, so I only had to do July-December for 2016, and it looks like this:
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There’ve since been some additions, but basically I’ve got the month in calendar format to the left, and space to write briefly what’s going on significantly for the month on the left.

Following is a weekly layout for the end of June/beginning of July, notes on the garage sale, a budget tracker, a cleaning/housekeeping tracker, a calendar spread for July, and some other miscellaneous collections, logs, and layouts. I kept at it for a month, and then did a review (another post coming with some detail there!), and carried on.

It is all the love I imagined, though it still needs tweaking. I’ve found some things I thought would be good were less helpful than expected, and have since dropped using them. Others have come and gone in different months as needed- but that’s the beautiful part: with this system, I can do that.

Really, if you’re planner-challenged like I am, I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a shot. It’s a system that can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, as cheap or all-in as you need. I’ve seen gorgeous notebooks out there full of calligraphy and pages of truly artistic doodles from pens that run $25 apiece or more and I’ve seen the bare-bones from the original and I’ve seen lots in the middle, and they’re all undeniably unique to their creators and users. Some prefer lines, others dots, others blank pages, others grids- it’s up to you and that’s, well, perfect.

I think this planner- and its successors -are going to be with me for a long time!

MYO: Deodorant/Antiperspirant

Since we’ve been on a seriously restricted budget, I’ve muddled around several make-your-own recipes and substitutions for various household and personal care items. But this has by far exceeded my expectations, and I will never buy deodorant again (unless I somehow forget to pack this stuff and we’re traveling, then probably, if I don’t just steal Ryan’s).

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Ignore the weird flake in my counters. It was there when we moved in. Aaand now you can’t stop looking at it…

Really. The recipe was shared with me in a local mom’s group on Facebook, as an answer to my request for deodorant/antiperspirant recommendations (Side note: I know deodorant and antiperspirants are functionally and chemically different things; but let’s just agree it’s like Kleenex and Xerox and let me get away with just saying “deodorant,” ok? Great.) It’s super simple to remember, and the ingredients fairly easy to find.

 

Homemade Deodorant

  • 2T Baking soda
  • 2T Arrowroot powder
  • 2T Shea butter
  • 1T Coconut oil*

*I screwed this up when I did the first batch, and used 2T of everything. Buuut, apparently with no ill results, so if it’s easier to just remember 2T of everything, go for it.

The arrowroot powder was, ounce for ounce, the most expensive ingredient. That jar cost me about $6. Yeesh. But, still cheaper than the typical stick of “clinical strength” deodorant I’d use before. The Shea butter, I never did find locally, but I got lucky and it was offered up on a trial page I’m a member of, so in exchange for my review of the product on Amazon, I was able to get that 16oz. jar of raw Shea butter for $2.50, shipped.

Anyway…you melt the coconut oil and Shea butter together- I did two 30-second rounds in the microwave in my handy Pyrex measuring cup there (LOVE those things!), giving it a stir in between. Then you blend in the dry ingredients, pour it off into your container of choice and let set. Which it does well, even with my overzealous coconut oilage. I used a little recycled glass jar from some artichoke hearts or something, but next time I just might try putting it in a cleaned-out deodorant stick. It’s working just fine, dipping my fingers in and getting a little chunk to rub in, but I’d like to not have it all over my fingers.

And voila- homemade deodorant. As for how it works…well, it’s been life-changing for me. Seriously. I have PCOS, and part of my cocktail of symptoms is elevated testosterone, which makes me sweat like a man. A large, stinky man, who probably works outside or something. I used to reapply deodorant at least an extra time every day, and sometimes was STILL stinky when I went to bed. But not this. It even went through me going swimming without reapplication. And I haven’t stained any light shirts (the two left in my wardrobe after I *finally* said “No more!” after not wearing any white/ivory tops for fear of sweat-staining them). Hubs hasn’t mentioned me being smelly (and he definitely does- by request, since I can’t always smell myself). It’s been three weeks, and it’s outperforming every store-bought deodorant I’ve ever tried. Even the “clinical strength” sticks. I seriously am never buying deodorant again (thanks, Sarah!) And, as a bonus, it’s made my armpits and the resident hair super soft- I still shave it; but it no longer stabs me before I get to it (I’m a mom; sometimes the armpit shave isn’t on the list for the week). Neat!

I will say, though, that I do not care for the smell of the Shea butter. It’s not potent, but it’s enough that it’s irritating to me to smell in the hour or so after I’ve put it on. So next time, I’m going to try putting a couple drops of an EO or a fragrance oil in there and see if it helps. I just need to decide which one- any suggestions?

 

The Bedtime Paradox

I’ll be honest: I love being home with my girls. I love that my job is raising them, teaching them, and providing them  with the sort of love and attention they couldn’t possibly get anywhere else. But I spend plenty of days counting the hours and praying for bedtime. Mostly courtesy of my oldest, and it is for her that I write this.

Dear Littles,

You’re small, and the world is big. And it’s a tough place to make sense of. That’s where we come in, your dad and I. We’re here to guide you, help to make sense of all you discover out there. And some days, you and I find ourselves completely overwhelmed by it all, and I cannot wait for bedtime to come and for you to go to sleep. For the chance to rest and regroup and recharge after it all.

We’ll have our last snack, our last drink of water, a last trip to the potty.  Pyjamas, goodnight hugs, and a few minutes of rocking and songs, then the last “nigh-night, I love you,” a closed door, and it’s over (usually).

And then, something strange: I miss you.

You’ve been a tiny tornado, a toddler terrorist, a seemingly unending source of whines and screeches, and I have looked forward to this moment all. freaking. day.

And then I miss you.

I miss your chubby cheeks when you smile, the way your hair- every bit as wild as you -chases behind you as you run through the living room.

I miss the tiny trail of crumbs and bits of frosting left behind as you eat your after-lunch cookie on the run, like I’ve told you not to a million times. I miss the way I ask you where you’re supposed to eat that, and you just smile and cram the rest in your mouth as if to say “Wherever I want. Try and stop me!”

I miss the sweet way you wrap your tiny arms around me as I’m walking across the room, just for a hug. Even though, 9 times out of 10, that hug nearly sends both of us crashing to the ground.

I even miss your ear-piercing shrieks of delight as the cat, who has kept you at a distance since you were capable of independent movement, decides you’re mature enough to cuddle now. And how, for the next 15 minutes, you ask me “Did you see Blitz? You see Blitz? You see Blitz? You see…” because you can’t believe something so AWESOME has just happened to you.

But I settle down into whatever I’m doing that night- usually nursing your little sister to sleep in front of old episodes of Star Trek or making vain attempts to catch up on some project, and eventually call it a night myself.

And I miss you.

I miss the nights when you slept next to me, your chubby little arms tucked under your head, curled in to fit just so, like you once did in my belly, and we fell asleep to the rhythm of our breaths.

But now you sleep like an epileptic starfish, so I’ll leave you be.

We’ll see each other tomorrow, anyway.

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So We Had a Yard Sale…

Whew! I’ll tell you what- that was an adventure! And let me just say that I do NOT want to do it again any time soon- maybe in a few years. I’d definitely do it again, just not next year or anything (really, if KonMari sticks, I shouldn’t have enough stuff in the house TO do another one next year, but…kids and husband…).

Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t a bad experience, it was just exhausting! To get into why, I’ll have to provide a little background- the Yard Sale Saga, if you will.

For one thing, we live in a townhouse. It’s basically a two-story, 1000-square-foot apartment, meaning we can’t have a garage sale at our home, and instead hosted it at my parents’, somewhat out in the boonies. They aren’t way off the beaten path; only about 10 minutes out of town and in a high-traffic area for passersby, but they are a full hour’s drive away from our home. Obstacle number 1- having to bring anything we want to sell to another location, along with the kids and all their accessories.

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One of my photos for my Craigslist ad. I did try to get the house in the picture, too, to help people find the place. Not that the stuff in the yard didn’t make it obvious, but…

Obstacle #2: When we married, there was an unfortunate error in communication regarding the contents of my room at my parents’ house, and they basically boxed it up in its entirety and put it in the top of the shed. This meant I had to comb through everything I hadn’t taken to college with me- everything I owned in 2010 that hadn’t fit or wasn’t needed in my dorm, minus a few things that had made the migration into our newlywed nest already. Picture those large Rubbermaid-type totes- not the huge ones that fit a Christmas tree, but the standard big ones that fit a 3-year-old (ask me how I know…). Ok- there were 10 of them, plus a couple smaller ones of weird sizes, and that was just their place. Yeah…

Obstacle #3: I have a nearly-3-year-old and a 6-month-old. They can’t help, and they can’t keep themselves busy while the adults are doing sale-related things.

There were some other minor difficulties, but these were the largest of them. We (mostly I) had to sort through the stuff at home, pack it up to take to my parents’, plus all the trappings for the four of us to stay over for a week while I sorted my leftovers there and got things tagged. Babies don’t travel light, either!

We had our sale the weekend after the 4th of July, over a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The 4th was the Monday before, and we were away at Ryan’s parents’ for the festivities there. So I had Tuesday and Wednesday, really, to sort and tag. 12 boxes, plus two garbage bags full of toys, 2 of clothes, and an additional 3 boxes of stuff we’d brought over (over the course of a few drop-ins; no way did all of that fit in the Stratus!). And I did it…but (I’ll say it again)- whew!

And it was hot. 91 on two days of the sale and the Wednesday before. Ugh.

I’ll spare you all my rambling, though, and break this down into a couple short lists- what went well, and what I’ll do differently next time (or just wasn’t as great as I’d hoped).

What Was Good

  • Signage. We used full-sized sheets of hot pink poster board for each sign and put them every block near the house- one to the south, one to the north, and one more an additional block north, since that was a major intersection and not too far out of the way for a garage sale stop. We also had a matching sign over the mailbox that just said “SALE” and had an arrow pointing at the house.
  • Pricing. Most things were tagged, unless there was a large enough group of similar items. For example, I had a whole table of toddler/infant clothes that I just stuck a sign on for 50 cents apiece, and the same story for the two tubs of books and stuffed animals. Also, since my aim was to get rid of things rather than rake in top dollar, I didn’t have a whole lot priced over $1, unless I *knew* I could very easily sell it for more and it was worth my effort to do so, even if I had to sell it after the sale (a few formal dresses, the Bumbo seat, Magic: the Gathering cards, for example).
  • Advertising. I got on Craigslist and local Facebook garage sale pages a week before and put up ads which featured the dates and times of the sale, a short list of highlights, and the clearance we were doing Saturday afternoon. Lots of the people that stopped mentioned seeing the ads!
  • Letting the early birds flock. Friday, I had a lady come around 8:30, while I was still setting up (had to drag it all in the night before to dodge a storm), and had a pleasant conversation as we each went about our business, plus made $15 before we’d even opened.
  • Staging. Putting like items together and taking some care with the arrangements. I had my table of toddler/infant clothes right next to the table half-covered in baby goods. The toys were at knee-level; still up off the ground, but in great sight of any kids. Put things that might sell each other nearby- like maternity clothes close to baby stuff, or curtains with decorative vases or bookends that look nice with them. Crafting books with crafting supplies rather than with the other books.
  • The bundle sale. Not being afraid to make someone a deal on a pile of stuff, particularly on the last day and loud enough other shoppers notice, is a great way to move the merch. Let the entire remains of the kids’ clothes go for $15, sell a tub of toys for $10- just get it gone!
  • Re-staging.  Rearrange as you sell- get rid of tables if need be. Folks like the look of plenty, and 3 well-stocked tables look more interesting than 4 or 5 sparse ones.

What Was Not

  • Weather. Not much to be done about this aside from holding the sale earlier in the season, really. Which I will- sale by June or no dice next time!
  • Signage. By this, I mean the stakes. Initially, I’d had the idea to use a couple 1/4″ dowels, one at each side of the poster board, for staking them into the ground. This didn’t work, and instead of saving money (8 dowels at 57 cents each vs. 4 stakes at 2.79 each), we spent more, because we ended up breaking dowels and having to buy the stakes anyway. Fail.
  • Saturday clearance. I really don’t know what happened here! We set out with the plan to do everything you can fit in a bag for $5 after 3pm Saturday- and then had no customers whatsoever after 3pm on Saturday! I’d even said that explicitly in all of my ads on Facebook and Craigslist AND on ALL OF THE SIGNS! What…?
  • Afternoons. With the exception of one guy who dropped $20 at 5:30pm (we ran 9-6 every day) Friday, we rarely saw much traffic past 2pm, on any of the days. If we do this again, I’ll probably run Thursday 10-6, and then Friday and Saturday just 9-2, unless there are other sales in the area. Which brings me to…
  • Flying solo. Since we had to do what we had to do with our sale, we couldn’t line it up with other sales in the area to feed each other traffic. We were the only ones Thursday, and didn’t even know there was one up the street for a bit Saturday.
  • Change. This may sound odd, but we started with too much change. I’d figured $100 would give us a good mix- $10 in quarters, $30 in ones, $40 in fives, and a couple tens in case of larger bills like twenties (which we got quite a few of, but only on larger transactions, as it turns out). Looking back, we could have easily gotten away with $75 or maybe even $50 in change- $5 quarters, $15 or $20 in ones, and the rest in fives. Anything more would be able to be made from the day’s proceeds.

So that’s the rundown. I could go into more detail on a lot of it, and if you’ve got questions, feel free to ask! Overall, it was a lot of work, but we did make about $280 in 3 days, and when you consider most of the stuff was priced under $1, that’s nothing to sneeze at! I don’t doubt that we’d have made a whole lot more if we’d had this during my KonMari festival, or if I’d been able to hold on to everything I was discarding at the time. I sent a lot of good stuff off to the thrift stores 9 months ago!

And, really, with growing kids and a growing family and all the stuff that comes with it, I’ll be doing this again someday. So help me out- what’s the best idea you’ve ever seen at a garage sale?