Monday, April 30, 2012

Only 2 more Mondays...

and then they cease to matter. I'm back to work today, but it's alright. The end is in sight, and the bank account is already in the red (oops), so I need these last few weeks to absently check my email and save up a few pennies.

And to build up sufficient panic about being broke.

Because we all know that will happen sooner than later, and frankly I can't believe I haven't had a major massive meltdown about it already.

I am a planner. I am, perhaps, an OVER planner. I make lists and schematics and budgets. And after doing all that, I know that the numbers don't work. Not with me staying home, and also not with me staying working. So one set of decisions has been made - to stay home - but a whole additional set of measures need to be taken at some point to actually sustain our new lifestyle, especially since we have NO emergency fund (and property taxes around the corner, ugh!).

The emotional part of my brain is torn between joy and freaking out. The rational part is kind of misbehaving, and sort of wandering around in an uncharacteristic dopey calm - this has actually been my general operating state ever since The Cupcake arrived, and nobody could have predicted it, least of all me. My family has commented on it numerous times (and encouraged me to have many children, because apparently I'm "nicer" as a zombie. I think I just don't have the energy to fix all the world's problems anymore!). Maybe nature really does give us what we need to adapt to new situations, and for me it was some strange release of chemicals that have allowed me to step back just a few feet from the fire and take in the larger scene with less panic.

But at some point, changes need to be made. I think I can cobble things together for a while with a mix of consigning/ebay/yardsale of unneeded stuff that has stacked up, but that is a treatment and not a cure. It is doubtful that will be enough to fix things for very long, and eventually we will run out of "excess" stuff :)

So what steps to take? Get ride of cable? That's hubby & my primary source of joy these days, but also our major discretionary expenditure. Internet HAS to stay, I am pretty sure I can't live without it, especially once the weather turns icky (or "normal" in Minnesota terms). The food budget will have to stretch, but I think I can work with that - we're already getting better at meal planning and trying harder on leftovers (not strong areas for us). We have a lot of free entertainment options within walking distance, especially since it's summer, but a few "big" things coming up like license plates and inevitable car repairs/emergencies, we're just not in a good situation...

So, is this the calm before the storm?
Or am I just learning to "roll with it" a little better?

Or am I completely irresponsible and about to learn a major lesson?

Guess we'll see...

Sunday, April 29, 2012


(Clarks Unstructured Un.Knot in black)

Are they too expensive? Yes. Do I love them? YES!

I was trying to replace these which are wickedly comfortable and amazing, but no longer exist. I'm kind of bummed they only lasted about 5 months and then the shiny coating started to flake off wherever they creased or got scuffed - I assume that is why they are no longer made or even available on ebay or close outs. That shouldn't happen with these leather (and more spendy) ones, and hopefully I can still wear them interchangably with dresses/dress pants/jeans. They're not shiny and sparkly, which is a little let down, but they are definitely comfortable. I'm taking a couple long trips this summer with limited luggage capabilities, and versatile shoes would really help (shoes take up so much room!) since I'll have dress up and casual obligations.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Test Driving the "SAHM" Monikker

What a wonderful week. I'll be honest, I was a little nervous starting out - what if things were overwhelming or icky or just off, and then I would have that impression to "look forward to" for my last three weeks at work and wonder if I was making the wrong decision while not being able to change it anyways...

Those fears were (luckily) unfounded.

It wasn't a perfect week - The Cupcake decided not to nap AT ALL on Tuesday, which was painful. I didn't get to go to book club due to some scheduling conflicts (though I did get some other "mama time"). I got a sun burn, which then started to itch wickedly. I did a TON of housework, which isn't really fun, but it felt wonderful. Friday was a VERY off day for TC, she was crabby from 7am till she finally passed out in tears for her afternoon nap at 12:30. She perked up somewhat after that, but it was definitely a down day with a lot of tears and yelling (mostly from her).

And still comparatively awesome.

I'm excited to start my new life.

I hope to do a million projects, but I also hope I can keep from writing them all down and letting them drive my life. I hope that I can do what I did this week as far as having few solid plans, and just going with the day - if TC is in a good mood, heading out for adventures, and if she's not, maybe sticking closer to home. If the weather is good we can take a stroll to the zoo or the library or a cheap lunch and appreciate all our community has to offer. And while TC is playing with her favorite toy - be it the lemonade jug full of water or plastic hangers or the box of something much more expensive - I can putter around the house and hopefully accomplish a few tasks.
I also found time to blog every day this week, or at least to post every day. That was fun and inspiring. I didn't worry about finding a photo or planning a post, I just scribbled down a few notes about my experiences every day, which inspires me to keep on the organizing and lets our friends and family keep up with TC's antics. I am still not quite sure of the "public" direction I want to take all this, but it's nice to be back at it consistently. Thanks to all of those who have bared with the absences and spotty posting :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spring in my step...

(potentially that much closer to poverty, but what the hell - it's been really fun so far).

I'm having a good week.

Yesterday I spent the morning in a class about starting nonprofits, then had a really positive meeting for my coaching job, and finally I swung by another JBF sale and got some great deals on a few more shirts to match all the pants we got at the last sale, and I happened to stumble on one of these guys:

$30, looks like they are around $90 retail, and it's in great shape! So far TC likes to bite him on the ears and stuff the saddle full of toys more than bounce or rock, but if nothing else it's a little variation for ME, I needed some new scenery.

The Cupcake isn't so picky. She seemed to like the plastic hangers best out of all of her "toys" lately, and the biggest thrill yesterday was the discovery of an old pocketbook bound for the trash - but don't tell her that, it had to be pried from her fingers at bedtime.

Isn't that a beautiful metaphor for how we're enjoying the simple things lately, taking pleasure in the objects that are already around us instead of clamoring for new, reusing and recycling and hugging the world, and overall making the most of this stay at home mom stuff?

Okay, fine, it's not that deep. And I forgot what we were even talking about. Mostly because this made me laugh out loud until I cried mascara down my cheeks and couldn't breathe to read it to my husband, and an hour later I'm still giggling about it. I would like to add "receive cross dressing Lego men in the mail" to my bucket list, but stuff like that just doesn't happen to me and it would just be a constant reminder my life could be that much cooler. But I feel better knowing it happened somewhere in the world. And "mustachioed" is a great word. And I'm still having a GREAT week.

Angry Transvestite Armies for Everyone!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I could get used to this...

When I daydreamed my life as a stay at home mom, it was days like yesterday that came to mind. What a lovely morning we had! The Cupcake managed to sleep in (aways a good start), I had Taste of Scandinavia turtle torte (a wickedly delicious cake) for breakfast, and then my sister came over and we set out for adventures with TC. The weather was gorgeous so we walked up to Subway and then over to the city zoo. We walked and walked and walked, and when we got back TC was ready for a nap and ACTUALLY WENT DOWN THIS TIME, PRAISE WHATEVER!

Organization wise I was able to pass on a beautiful dress to my sister that fits her perfectly, which is so much better than putting it on the yard sale rack for $1, and I also handed off a bunch of stuff for some of her upcoming craft projects. In between I continued to sort out stuff to get rid of and streamline throughout the rest of the house.

I got a good deal done in the kitchen as far as organizing my utensils - there is a lot of stuff I want to keep for when I do throw parties, but don't need to be digging through on an every day basis, so I packed up all the spare ladles and tongs in Ziploc bags and they will hang out in the attic till I'm in need of them again.

I completely hauled out the linen closet and made it more child friendly (though not exactly child proof) by moving all the poison cleaning stuff and glass vases up above TC's reach, and sorting out the 10,000 bobby pins and hair binders that show up in every corner of the house. I use a garage organizer meant for screws and nals to keep all my hair stuff and cosmetics separated, and it works pretty well if I keep up with putting stuff back, so it was good to reset everything. I also found 3 pillow cases wrongly put away in the closet (I know, we don't really keep linens in the linen closet) so I was able to add back in to the rotation, which really helps!
And in TC's room I started pulling the tags off and washing all her 24 month clothes (from the JBF sale - I don't wash new stuff, but I can't deal with the smells of other people's clothes ). She's still wearing 18 month but some of the shirts and dresses of 24 month would work now too, and I want her to get the most wear out of it all that we can and not miss any great things (which I have done before and learned from!).

As I look ahead I think the best use of my time would really be to price all of the yard sale stuff right now as I box it up, so I should try to do that before I get too much set aside (that's my least favorite part!). I managed to find some masking tape and permanent markers, so I have no more excuses. Then when I can figure out a date, I'm MUCH closer to actually making it happen than just having a pile of stuff to sort through I'll get on that.

Also - guess who got a sunburn today?!?!? Nooooooooo!

(Clarification for Grammy - it was me. Cupcake is still porcelain pale).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The rest of Tuesday...

Tuesday did, in fact, kick my @$$, but I managed to get a bunch of stuff done. The Cupcake never did nap, and after an hour and a half of yelling at the top of her lungs I threw up the white flag and released her, begrudgingly. And exhaustedly. And fairly bummed out. I really look forward to "our" naptime, and part of my willingness to try and pull off a busy morning of adventures was because we'd been getting good naptime performances for a while. Just goes to show once again who is in charge...

But once she recovered from her prolonged fit, she was in a fine mood and puttered around the house while I continued my organizational quest. I cleaned out a few old purses and started on the linen closet. Does everyone else find that tampons multiply in the dark? Because I swear I'm finding half a box in every purse I open, despite being pregnant/nursing most of the past two years. I don't understand where they are coming from!

I also found a MAJOR score - the $30+ Bare Minerals powder I KNEW I had bought (almost 2 years ago) and somehow swept up with a pile of other crap - brand new and unopened! Yay!

TC found a pack of Post-It notes somewhere and had a jolly good time pulling each one apart and spreading them around the house, sticking them on Norm's head, and eventually eating them (oops).

I put together a huge box of travel size/hotel toiletries and some random baby formula samples we received that I'm thinking of dropping off at a shelter - it looks like People Serving People takes both of them, now I just have to actually set aside a time to venture down there...or find something closer.

I also found a bunch of expired stuff that I had a hard time throwing out - and I'm trying to get better at that, but I have some sort of strange WASPY (am I just WASY?) guilt at not getting to stuff like medicines, sunscreen, and especially food before it expires. I particularly felt bad that half of the baby formula I found was past it's date - I'd imagine the powdered stuff is still fine, but I doubt anyone would take a chance with a baby and I definitely wouldn't with someone else's child, so into the trash it went. I'm trying to let it go emotionally now :) In general both the husband and I are pretty awful about left overs, so that is going to be a major area we work on to stretch our funds.

It ended up being such a nice warm day yesterday we were able to throw open the windows and let the fresh air in, and TC wore shorts for the first time! I am in love with her chunky little knees and can't stop biting on her pork chops. This adorable outfit was another score from the JBF sale a few weeks ago, I think it was $4.50. Unfortunately, she's much too busy to spare any time to smile at me!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday is winning, but I put up a good fight...

I'm staring Tuesday dead in the eye, and so far we're at a draw but I think I'm dangerously close to crying uncle and telling Tuesday it kicked my butt (and it's not even 1pm!). Today we ran errands. I think that is the most drastic difference in my post-baby life (other than sleep, of course) is how much more difficult it is to run "simple" errands and keep up on the tiniest of tasks. Today, for example, I had 3 things on my list, 3 separate stops but within a couple blocks of each other in the same area of town. I fed The Cupcake and packed up our supplies, bribed the dog not to destroy the house (yes, we do that. And it usually works) - and all of that took over an hour just to get out of the door.

Once we were on our way, the first stop was the post office to mail 2 documents that were all pre-addressed and ready. I grabbed my two separate methods of payment before we went in, and decided not to bother with the stroller for the quick stop. Luckily we were the only customers and were able to walk right up, but I had to wrestle TC the whole time. Now that she can walk, all she wants to do is RUN and GRAB and DESTROY anything she can. At first I thought that the empty post office might be okay for a few moments since she couldn't open the heavy doors and the counters were high and out of reach, but they had a huge display of greeting cards right inside the door that she exclaimed over immediately, so I had to carry her the whole time. We still got through the task rather quickly, and spent more time getting in and out of the carseat than anything else.

Stop 2 was National Camera Exchange for a return. When I got my new lens I was talked into buying a protective  cover which I really didn't need, and which I found out was too small anyways (despite the lady taking at my camera and picking out "the right one"), so I just returned it and felt much happier. Before I left I had put the item and the receipt in a plastic bag in my purse, so I was organized when I got there and minimized the awkward digging, but again I had to juggle TC who was more than ready to remodel the store. They had a big train table with little Thomas toys, but she had no interest in that when there were racks of "stuff" so nearby. Somehow we made it out without destroying anything!

Stop 3 took a little longer, so I loaded the little miss into her stroller and somehow managed to balance 2 big plastic tubs full of clothes as I steered it all towards Turnstyle Consignment Store. As I mentioned I'm planning on a yard sale, but clothes are always an area I feel never make much dough - you have to price things pretty low, and then hope someone your size & with your (former) taste wanders by too - not great odds. So I decided to take a stab at consigning and see how it goes. It was busy and we had to wait in line, but they let me drop my stuff and wheel TC around so I could sort of keep her occupied (kid loves mirrors, which they thankfully have in most stores!). I avoided looking at much because right off the bat I found a cool pair of Born shoes I wanted, but that weren't all that practical and would have eaten up all my potential profits anyways. It took almost an hour but they took 17 of my 25 items, and I'll get 45% of the selling price if it goes in the next 90 days, so fingers crossed.

After all that I was pretty zonked, but the idea of piling TC back into the car again seemed like too much work so we walked down the block to Wendy's first. TC wasn't in the mood to eat, not even the FROSTY, so I ended up polishing off way more than I should have and feeling remorseful and sluggish. Oops. So we headed back to the car and cruised home where I'm HOPING lady cupcake will acquiesce to a nap, but so far she's kind of squawky...I, on the other hand, could fall asleep standing up and just might if she doesn't let me rest a little!

Monday, April 23, 2012


I finished Discardia in 2 days and it was good. Worth $2.99, but there is definitely a lot I don't agree with too - for example, the author really seems to hate on TV (especially cable), car ownership, the suburbs, and a few other things that I find freeing, relaxing, and overall joyful. There's a bit of a hipster bend overall (not having kids in order to lessen your carbon footprint, everyone should live in a city, and eating organic/exercising makes everyone feel better all the time - um, no thanks), and the idea of the specifically timed "holidays" to build your "Discardian Lifestyle" around strike me a little bit cult-like, but there is definitely some good to be found.

The focus is pretty broad, and there are a LOT of areas covered - everything from physical junk to electronic and even mental or emotional. Not all of it will apply to everyone - for example, email has never been a source of trauma for me but a LOT of time in the book is devoted to ways to organize your inbox. Likewise the suggestion to let go of bias or preconceived notions of people was kind of off base for me - and seemed out of context with the rest of the book which encourages snap decisions, and empowering the individual to make those decisions on the spot without a lot of guilt/worry about missing out. I feel no need to watch Fox News or read Tea Party propaganda, and that is basically an organizational tool I find easy - a way to narrow options early in the process.

I like the ideas regarding freeing yourself from obligation (which rarely is obligatory other than in your own perception) and focusing your time on being with people you want, doing things you want, and I've been working on that this past year. One area this concept also manifests is my blogging - I have this idea that I always need a photo with a post, so I get behind or sidetracked when I can't get a photo (or get it uploaded) and end up not posting at all - but who said every post needs a picture? Created somewhere in my mind I think.

I also appreciate the analysis of what to do with what you are discarding - for many people the time spent Ebaying or yard selling it doesn't add up to the profits (especially if you have to take time off work to get it done), however in my new life of poverty, I will have more time than funding, and will need to make every opportunity count, which means using all my assets in the best way. I'm hoping to have a yard sale this summer and to that end have packed up several boxes of stuff already. Sure, tagging and organizing is a LOT of work, but even $400 would keep The Cupcake and I entertained for most of the summer (or pay a bill).

I'm not sure I learned a lot, and I still haven't figured out my life goals (or how to even discern them). There's a lot of cute (if randomly assembled) quotes and mantras, and it was inspiring if nothing else - today I cleaned out  my underwear drawer ("You deserve nice underwear!"), and filled up a plastic tub with my closet discards in under 20 minutes. One of the better tips was to attack your closet when you are badly in need of doing laundry - then you can see what you still don't wear even when you are fairly desperate. As I mentioned before, I've been working on my closet for a while now, and with a major change in my daily fashion requirements, it's a good time to make some big changes, but at the same time I won't have money to replace anything I give away too fleetingly, and any money I'd get at a yard sale for clothing is a pittance compared to replacement costs, so I really need to proceed with caution.

I like having "the perfect thing" for any occasion, but unfortunately I just don't have time/am not able to prioritize keeping the house in a functional state with all those perfect things. It's nice to be able to bring serving utensils, platters, and punch bowls to a banquet - but then it takes me months to do the extra dishes and get them back into a storage type area, so in the end I'll have to decide if just serving pop from the bottle or juice from the jug might have brought  me more happiness...and I'm not sure yet.

But it has me thinking...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Cleaning (my whole life)

I have sort of a "trial run" for my new life this week as I'll be home with The Cupcake every day. It comes at a good time as I just wrapped up a lot of obligations with my part time job, and I can actually "relax" a little and not worry about getting a million other things theory...

My house is out of sorts and has been for some time. We've never really been daily cleaners, more a "panic the hour before people are coming over" variety of housekeeping. And then of course post-TC life has been all about survival. I've come to accept a lot of it, which shows a good amount of growth on my part, since despite being a terrible cleaner I was also really paranoid about people seeing such things, and would fret and freak out and generally make everyone miserable as I tried to get it done.

So now my house is messy, and I can accept that, but still hope to change it. And soon, with my house being my primary surroundings 24/7, I think I will attempt to take some action. I want to get into a routine of covering the basic household chores so things don't pile up and feel so overwhelming to tackle at their boiling point. I want to organize and find procedures and short cuts that work for our lives.

In furtherance of this quest I'm currently reading a book I found via NotMartha called Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff. It's pretty good so far, nothing real ground breaking but a few helpful tips and a lot of reaffirming stuff I already do, which makes me feel smart and important. Yeah, I just admitted that. It's both about streamlining your life and making room/energy/priority to find and do the things that make you happy.

This comes at a very opportune time for me.

If I had an iPhone I'd definitely get one of those apps that gives you gold stars (or points or whatever) for doing household chores and checking off to-do lists, because I thrive on those tiny victories, but until then I'll just have to post my accomplishments here (sorry!). Per Discardia I'm doing small things to build up good habits, the important thing being to do "something," even if it is the wrong decision at least it is momentum and it is easier to correct the route of something in motion than to get it started in the first place.

Today I went through the refrigerator and dumped all the outdated food (we suck at leftovers). I didn't worry about scrubbing down all the surfaces, because if I had to do all that too I probably wouldn't have done any of it. Starting small, with  accomplishable mini goals that eventually lead to good habits. And I also love the idea of not punishing yourself for all the stuff you don't get to or don't choose to do - I'll work on that. I also ran 2 loads of dishes, took a 3 hour nap (YAY!) and picked up a bunch of plastic storage tubs at Target for further organizational fun. Yipee!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Five Lessons learned today:

-Not all JBF sales are equal. This was the FIRST day of the Andover sale, and it was ridiculously lame compared to the Coon Rapids one. If you can believe it, I didn't buy ANYTHING!

-Thursdays are 1/2 off kid stuff day at Goodwill - scored 2 nice zip front sweaters for P (she wears sweaters ALL THE TIME right now over short sleeve outfits) for just $0.99 each! Bonus: Even dad can get them on her without too much trouble.

-Wendy's has 2 kinds of lemonade. The new "All-Natural" (sure) one is fantastic (and comes in a fancy cup), but if you don't specify "NEW ALL NATURAL" then they give you the minute maid crap from the soda fountain. Not fantastic.

-I will never buy jeans at full price again! I just got 4 nice pairs for $6.99 each at the Goodwill, less than one pair of jeans retail, and they're fun brands like Gap, New York & Co., etc.

-I really can't stand low rise jeans. My muffin top does not need to be encouraged.

To ponder: I'm putting weight back on (boo) lately, though I'm still under my pre-pregnancy weight. Will staying home help, in that I won't sit at my desk and eat all day or be tempted to go out to lunch (since we'll be broke), and I'll be chasing TC around, or will it be worse because I'll be within such close proximity to my refrigerator, my couch, and my jeans?

Hmmm, time will tell...

Canon in D

I will miss a few things about my working life...

I like getting paid. I like having discretionary money and my own bank account. I like being able to check my email frequently, and I like having an abundance of office supplies at my fingertips. I have a really nice desk chair that has treated me well these past years. I like unlimited internet surfing with nobody tearing the computer out of my hands and running away with it.

And most of all, I like my copy machine.

I would take it with me if I could.

I don't think it's anything special, just a Canon ImageRUNNER according to its label, but I will miss it dearly. I love the crisp clear predictable printing, and the ability to do 11" x 14" posters IN COLOR! and labels and cardstock and transparencies. I got a big HP printer a year ago and while it will do the size, the quality is not even in the same ballpark. I love being able to scan ticket stubs, greeting cards, or old photos to help with my scrapbooking. I love being able to sign and return forms via scan/email rather than physical delivery. I suppose I could do that with my home printer, but it takes more than a quick flick of one button and will never seem the same.

I'll miss you Cannon. We had some good times.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bank on it

My bank is going to start charging me $15 a month so I'm looking for a new bank. And then get to spend hours trying to change all my auto bills and other housekeeping. Who really pays those outrageous fees? We can get it "waived" (oh, what a generous offer!) if we meet a bunch of other circumstances (that generate a bunch of income for them) or if we have a bunch of money to begin with (probably those aren't the people who need the "waiver?") but we don't meet any of them, especially now that I QUIT MY JOB!

Yup, I'm officially a stay-at-home-mom in 1 month. I guess that means I didn't quit, I gave notice, and a really nice extended notice at that. What a great employee.

I shall work hard to observe the Dooce rule on this public forum, but I think I can safely say that I never loved my job, and I have no career path, and I have high hopes that this will be a major positive change in my life.

Primarily this decision comes as our amazing childcare situation comes to an end - The Cupcake might be the luckiest little monkey on the planet as her grandmother generously watched her this past year after I returned to work. And "watched" can hardly be considered accurate, Grandma fawned and doted and chased and sang and dressed up and cooked homemade meals for and otherwise enjoyed the biscuits out of TC 3 days a week while I tried to keep bringing home some bacon. It was never a permanent situation, but it gave me a little more time to think. I couldn't imagine a better environment for TC than what she's had this past year, we are so thankful. As it comes to an end I considered daycare or Montessori programs, but at this point I'd be working JUST to pay the daycare bills, and since I don't love where I'm at, there are few reasons to stay. It's not like this job will eventually lead me somewhere better, in fact, I'm probably hurting my resume in many respects by working so long in a field I have no desire to be in. But with my cautious nature I'd probably never make a leap to something more enjoyable/potentially less reliable at the risk of being irresponsible, so this will be a wonderful catalyst (I hope) that allows me to leave the safe but yucky job and eventually find something much more fulfilling, or at least not quite so deflating.

And in the meantime, I'm going to mom the crap out of this little monkey:

I have a LOT of hopes and dreams, and a "to-do" list a million miles long (find a new bank...find the kitchen table under the piles of crap...find out what I want to do with my life and make a plan for it...teach TC to talk so I can reason with her about SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!) but in my heart I know that this adventure will probably be a lot like my birth process was - I could research and form ideas and even make a "plan" on paper...but I'm not going to really know what it is like, what my limits are, and what will bring me joy until I'm in the thick of it (and then the "plan" will just be hilarious kindling from the naive former life). I'm scared that I'll be MORE tired without my "sitting on my @$$ time" at work. I'm terrified we'll be destitute and that will be NO fun, not to mention probably end up in me getting a worse job at a fraction of the pay. I'm sad I have to leave my copy machine and scanner. I'm excited to go to storytime at the library, and grocery shop during the day, and walk to the zoo whenever we want. I'm not sure if I will be able to handle not having "my own" income for the first time in a long time or if TC will just miss her grandma and wonder when I'm leaving again...

Cheers to new adventures.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Shoe Shopping

I had a very brief shoe obsession during what I now lovingly refer to as my "spice girl days" (when we talk about skeletons in the closet, all mine are actually in my closet - crimes against fashion and possibly humanity. Ahhh, the ignorance and wonderful audacity of youth).

But lately, I could care less about my own shoes (as long as they are comfortable), it seems I'm much more attracted to little girls's shoes! Such as:

Aren't these adorable? Another one of my bargains from the JBF sale. I paid $7. They retail for $35, though they have some on clearance for $15. These had just tiny scuffs on the toes, which TC would have done in her first wear anyways, and they didn't have their squeakers in them (they squeak with each step, which encourages the kid to put their heel down and not walk on their toes, which is their first impulse). I emailed the company and they sent me new squeakers FREE, so I got these half price for just their tiny toe scuffs! And I love them :)

The Cupcake wore them out to eat last week and the hubby let her walk out of the restaurant holding his hand - boy did she make a stir! The squeaks aren't loud enough to be annoying (at least not for short periods of time) but they sure got a reaction. I stayed behind to hokey up the floor (many goldfish crackers had met their death that dinner) and cracked up hearing all the exclaimations "Oh goodness!" "Isn't that cute!" "She has those squeaky shoes!" "I've never seen those!" And let me tell you, the little miss enjoyed EVERY BIT of her attention :) They're a hit!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Take a picture, it will last longer

I was REALLY excited this morning to attend Heather Barta's "Life at Play" photography workshop geared specifically at moms interested in photographing their children. I've had my "nice camera" for a couple years now (wow! More than that even, now that I look!) and I've pretty much only used the manual settings and never been able to figure out lighting/flash use very well. a
The Cupcake doesn't hold still for long (or at all) these days, and while she is cute as a button in "real" life, she's not terribly photogenic, and I keep catching her at moments like this:
(no, we didn't feed her lemons. Pretty sure that pucker is all about teething - bringing on the molars).
Much to the grandparents' dismay, I've been struggling and not really taking a lot of photos or getting good shots lately, so this came up as a great time.
I didn't learn anything groundbreaking, but I learned exactly the basics I needed to dramatically improve my photos - the basic shutter/aperature/ISO triangle and how to change said settings on my camera (a few things that were NOT in the manual!). We had a short "lesson", fiddled with our cameras, and then got to practice on Heather:
And then she brought in some of her clients for us to practice what we had learned on:
We descended like paparazzi :)
Perhaps the biggest "tip" I got was the advice to buy a new lens - the "kit" lens most of us had only went down to a 3.5 aperature, which meant we needed a very high ISO to counter for the dreary day, or indoors in general. Even then, I felt like my pics were a little flat, or the high ISO risked being grainy. Heather let us try her preferred 50mm/1.4 aperature and the difference was AMAZING:
it felt a little weird because you don't have zoom, you have to mover yourself instead. But the difference in photos was instantaneously apparent. Since one of my major problems has been lighting, the larger aperature helps immensely - letting more light in without trying to manipulate the flash is easier and more flattering. I was convinced. I hit National Camera on my way home and came home with a similar lens - 35mm 1.8 aperature, which allows me a slightly bigger field. I raced home and couldn't wait for The Cupcake to wake up from her nap so I could try it out:
I still caught a few pretty terrible/hilarious faces, such as this shriveled gnome during dinner time:
But even then, it's well lit and a way better photo overall! (She was actually laughing, but I guess it's an ugly laugh. I about had tears when I saw it, from laughing so hard myself!) That's banana all over her nose.
I'm definitely looking forward to getting some egg gathering shots tomorrow if the weather agrees (and if I can chase TC quickly enough). Grandmas, I'm working on sending you both some photos! I promise now! And while it may be bold, I'm also ready to cross off the other half of #12 on the bucket list - Learn to take great photos and get a “real”
camera. I'm sure I'll continue to improve, but I think I've taken a GIANT leap forward and I'm feeling pretty good about it so far!
Now if only I wasn't already 13 months behind on scrapbooks...

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Spring Cleaning - in theory...

Despite all my talk about recent acquisitions, I'm actually looking forward to streamlining in the near future. I think our early spring is wreaking havoc on my urge to organize, but I just can't get that to the top of my priority list with everything else going on, so things go in stacks and piles for a bit longer. With The Cupcake now fully mobile, those stacks and piles have to be strategically placed on the mantle, behind the locked door to the attic, or sprawled across the dining room table, which is a constant battle.

I've made a few minor steps forward, getting this armoire (ridiculously cheap and on sale at Sears, where they even loaded it in my car). It went together fairly easily, with the exception of the tracks for the drawer which I put on wrong a few times, and one of the screws for the handles is missing, but after some trial and error we decided to leave them off for the time being - kid proofing doesn't always mean locking! It's more of a deterrent, I'm sure she *could* get the drawer open without them, but she doesn't try so all is well. She does occasionally walk over and jiggle the giant plastic child proof lock on the doors, just to see if it happens to be open, and when I take it off to get something out she goes into ninja mode and is at my side before I can blink. It feels really stable and looks much more expensive, but since we really only need it to protect stuff for a few years, it is just right. I keep my camera and chargers in there, paperwork for coaching, and other things that I need to access regularly but not immediately. My mom's computer lives on top, along with a stack of bibs for the day and usually some mail. I still need to get a better system down, as I tend to swoop up piles of paper and "lose" important mail in the process, but it's a start.

The attic (formerly "craft room") is the worst, it's been a dumping ground since Xmas 2011. I've spent a handful of evenings up there in the past year and a half, but not enough to do more than move a few piles around and make a path. I did clear out a TON of stuff at the JBF sale - nearly all of TC's baby clothes and all of my maternity stuff sold, which was GREAT and made justifying my purchases MUCH easier! The next step is a yard sale, which I usually do pretty well with but which are also a crapload of work. I donated my tent to MNLove, so I'll have to figure out new logistics, tag everything, haul it down, spread it across the lawn, and simultaneously entertain The Cupcake. Hmm.

At the same time, there is always the danger of getting rid of too much - what if I send something out the door for a measly quarter, and find out I need it again down the road? I'll kick myself, especially since I plan to remain poor at best for the next great while. Oh, the great dilemmas I face daily!

Also, remember when I posted all that jibberish about how I was taking control of my closet, and I'd set out these great rules? Yeah, I failed at that pretty darned quick. I believe my very next purchase was a dry-clean only dress (super cute, and I wore it several times, but come on, what was I thinking? It's $15 a wear! That is NOT my lifestyle.), followed by 2 pair of pants that desperately need hems taken up. I had a few JC Penny gift cards, and somehow talked myself into the wrong things. They really are good rules, if only my legs were 3" longer and I could wear dress pants and khakis off the rack! And I bought some cute shirts I thought fit just fine when I tried them on, but my bra straps always end up hanging out, so I'm thinking I should just throw in the towel on them...add them to the piles. Also, I need to remember I spend half my day bending over and running after TC, so my necklines need to act appropriately.

I'm also currently getting excited about finishing a few projects we started in the basement only to sideline myself with more monetary worries. We took out our bar this winter, realizing that it was cute but totally non-practical. We used it for Halloween parties in our old lives, but otherwise who would sit at a bar and stare at the wall? It had turned into a dumping ground, and the room was wasted. We decided to turn it into a playroom and the hubby & my dad set to work doing what I thought would be a simple uninstall...only to find the bar had been built piece by piece in it's location, and was NOT coming out in any other way. I had hoped to be able to sell it to finance some of the mini renovation, but it was totally destroyed. Last weekend I finally went and picked out a new cabinet to put in it's place (we're reinstalling the sink, and staging the whole thing as a bar again, but flat against the wall, more like a serving buffet than a bar you sit around). As feared, there was no carpet underneath what we removed, so we have a giant gaping hole right now, next to a section of stick on faux parquet, and I have to decide whether to replace the flooring for the whole basement now and enjoy it, throw a rug over it and wait till Norm dies and we decrease our chance of ruining new carpet, or just wait till we're going to move. Either way, something has to be done, it's just a matter of when and how much we are willing to put into it. So far I'm not sure. And so it all sits.

Anyone else have spring fever?