Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31st

What are you doing New Year's Eve? My husband and I have never been ones to be out and about for this holiday. We were engaged at my parents' home just after midnight on New Year's 2009, and since then, we have stayed home every year. This year, my husband and I are again staying at home--this time with our little one, our first new year with a child!

Post your plans in the comments below.

Erin

Thursday, December 26, 2013

December 26th

If you celebrated Christmas yesterday and received some great new items for your home--and especially your kitchen--I'd love to hear about them! Post about your new goodies in the comments below.

Erin

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 25th

Christmas is finally already here! What traditions--food or otherwise--does your family have that make this day extra special? Post about your traditions in the comments below.

Erin

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 24th

Today is Christmas Eve. If you're like me, you're busy cooking and baking for tonight and tomorrow. But what will you do for breakfast for tomorrow morning? I remember watching a Christmas episode of "Eight is Enough" years ago about the family drinking juice--and eating breakfast? My memory isn't that good!--before opening gifts. My little family does this; we prefer eating breakfast before opening gifts, at least while our daughter is still just a baby and doesn't know about the gifts awaiting her! Still, this is the year that I decided to start making a make-ahead breakfast casserole so that I am not frying bacon or flipping pancakes on Christmas morning. I got the idea from Taste of Home's January 2013 issue.

What do you do for breakfast on Christmas morning? Post your Christmas breakfast plans in the comments below.

Erin

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 21st

Today is the first day of winter--and the shortest day of the year. Are you ready for winter? Or do you wish it were summer again? Post your thoughts in the comments.

Erin

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 18th

Today is Free Shipping Day, so if you have procrastinated on buying Christmas gifts, today is the day to shop online! Check out what stores are offering free shipping at FreeShippingDay.com.

Are you finished with your gift shopping? Post what you have left in the comments below.

Erin

Thursday, December 12, 2013

December 12th

Today is National Poinsettia Day. Do you decorate with poinsettias around the holidays? Post how you decorate with them in the comments below.

Erin

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Relaunch

I started a homemaking blog at another Blogger address almost three years ago, shortly after my husband returned from deployment and I quit my job to live with and take care of him full-time. I relocated my posts to this blog at the end of that year. Since I became pregnant and had Abe and then started working again, I have published very few posts here.

I started this blog because I truly loved homemaking. I still do. But these days, I have so little time to do what I love because I am so busy being an attorney. I would rather be home with my child, teaching her the alphabet, numbers, and the presidents of the United States and eventually showing her how to cook and bake and grow and can vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, I am not able to stay at home full-time right now because of my family's long-term goals: to pay off all of our debt, to purchase our own home, and to build a comfortable life for our sweet baby.

Nonetheless, I intend to start again on posting my projects and recipes. My husband and I cook several new recipes each week, and I bake a new treat every weekend. I also am working on handling tasks on my project list.

I cannot promise that I will be posting daily because my family and my job take priority. But I will try to post at least weekly the recipes we have tried that week and the projects I have finished--or just started!

What have you been up to since the last time we "talked"?

Erin

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Weeding Through Old Perfume

See this?



I bought this perfume before I started law school. I started law school about six years ago. And this is not the only bottle of old perfume that I have. My newest perfume is the boxed set my husband bought for me at Christmas in 2008. Yes, 2008.

But as you notice, that bottle up there is empty. I used the remainder of the perfume this week. In fact, by the time you read this blog post, that bottle will be in the garbage, and I will move on to using another perfume. And I will weed out the various perfume bottles, one by one.

This is just one step in decluttering, which is a step in ensuring that my family and I live a better and less stressful life.

Erin

Find: IKEA BOLMEN Toilet Brush and Holder

While my husband and I were on vacation, we visited IKEA, which is one of my favorite stores. While I was there, I saw this black toilet brush/holder for $0.99 and promptly purchased it:



Before our newborn came into this world, we used a Clorox wand to clean our toilets, but post-baby, we decided not to use bleach to clean. So we bought white toilet brushes from Dollar Tree. Unfortunately, those quickly became dingy-looking. (I refuse to post a picture because they look so gross, even when they have been covered in baking soda and doused in vinegar.) But now I have this beautiful black brush that, God willing, will not look dirty as it sits in its place in the bathroom.

And yes, I totally understand that it will be dirty because, after all, it is a toilet brush (although we do intend to keep it as clean as possible with boiling water and vinegar and such). But at least it will still look good. Or at least I hope so.

Erin

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sleep Is Not a Luxury

Yesterday, I mentioned that my husband and I have decided that we are going to live the good life. I also hinted at what our first step is in making the improvements necessary to do so.

On our recent vacation, we slept more than we have in a while. We have a four-month-old baby, and she still takes a night feeding most nights. Too, because my husband has been working overtime and I have been working long hours building my law practice, we have been staying up late. In short, we have a sleep deficit at this point, one that has been detrimental to our work, to our happiness, and probably to our health. But after sleeping more during this holiday weekend, we realized just how much better we are able to face the day when we have had adequate sleep.

So last night after we returned from our trip to south Florida, we decided to set a new bedtime. From last night forward, our intention is to go to bed with a book or magazine no later than 10:00 and to be asleep no later than 11:00. By going to sleep at that time and getting up around 6:00, we get seven to eight hours of sleep compared to the four to five hours of sleep we have been getting each night.

After trying this schedule for a week or more, we may determine that we need still more sleep, but this resolution is a beginning. We realized during the last few months and especially last week that sleep is not a luxury. It is definitely a necessity.

Erin

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Living the Good Life

My husband and I were blessed to vacation this past week in Bradenton Beach. We spent some quality family time at my aunt and uncle's beach house on Anna Maria Island. They bought the house recently and have expended a lot of effort into renovating and decorating it. It is really nice! My husband and I were thrilled to get to spend our vacation in such a cozy and comfortable place--and it was the site of some revelations for both of us.

We have had a stressful year. In November, we moved from our long-term home in Virginia to my home state of Florida. In December, we received our last steady paycheck from the United States Navy and moved into our rented house. In January, I started my own law practice. In February, we found out that our unborn baby was a bit underweight and breech. In March, our baby girl was born via C-section. In April, I entered the hospital for the third time in a month and underwent gallbladder surgery. In May, my husband started a new job, and my law practice began picking up steam. You get the picture.

As each day passed this week, my husband and I realized more and more a sense of dread. In evaluating the reasons for it, we realized just how much we dislike the direction our lives have taken this year. The reasons for his dread are between us. But as for me, I dislike the current state of my business and dislike even more the current state of my household. My life is out of order--and I dislike disorder in any form.

So we are changing the way we do business--and home. We want to live the good life! To do that, we intend to declutter our lives, put into place some practices to make our lives and situation less stressful, and even buy some products to make our lives easier and (we hope) more enjoyable.

Tomorrow. Not because I am a procrastinator (although I do tend to be a procrastinator!), but because tomorrow I will post the first task we are completing today to improve our lives. Hint: It involves doing something we don't do as much as we'd like anymore because we are parents of a newborn. :)

Erin

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

First-Time Mom Lesson: Nursing is hard!

Before my baby was born, I studied up on breastfeeding, bought a Medela pump, made DIY nursing pads, and made sure to purchase Breastflow bottles to avoid dreaded nipple confusion. I even took a class on breastfeeding. I was an expert!

And then my little one came into the world via C-section. I lost quite a bit of blood during surgery, and I did not get to nurse within the "golden hour." I did nurse my child during the following hour, though, and I called the lactation consultants to my room quite frequently during my recuperation in the hospital. My child had latching issues, but I had faith that everything would soon resolve itself.

Four days after my child was born, I brought the little one home. Before we left the hospital, I found out that my child had lost more than 10% of body weight from birth and was bordering on being jaundiced. Potentially because of the C-section, my milk had not yet come in, and since we were not supplementing with formula at that point, my child was suffering. I was asked to return the next day with my child for a weight check and to supplement breast milk with formula in the meantime--and to feed the formula using a syringe.

I did what I was told. Only after I reached my home did I realize that my baby was not only jaundiced but also dehydrated. Fortunately, the formula we gave via syringes helped rehydrate my child and push the meconium out of our baby's system. Wet and dirty diapers became routine.

My milk took a few more days to come in. When my milk finally did come in, I had very poor milk production, even while I drank Mother's Milk tea and took fenugreek. My baby was frustrated with the situation. I was frustrated with the situation. (Even my husband was frustrated with the situation.) Because of my baby's poor latch--even with a shield--I started exclusively pumping rather than nursing. Frazzled because of my perceived failure to nurse my child, I pumped fewer times with each passing day. And then I started having gallbladder attacks, was hospitalized, and had surgery again for the second time in about a month. While in the hospital preparing for gallbladder surgery, I was pumping regularly and successfully. But after my gallbladder was removed, I was no longer able to pump anything. I grew more and more depressed.

My body had been through a lot. But I felt as though the window of opportunity to nurse was quickly closing. So I talked to my ob/gyn. She prescribed Reglan for me. I had taken Reglan for about a week during my pregnancy and was very skeptical at doing so again because of the anxiety and depression it previously caused me. I also read online about some of the risks and was worried about those. But I took Reglan anyway, ultimately taking three Reglan pills and six fenugreek capsules each day. I also rented a hospital-grade double pump. And shortly thereafter, my milk production increased significantly. I increased my pumping sessions with each passing day.

I am pumping more these days, and my child is actually nursing again. I feel better that my child is receiving some breast milk instead of solely or mainly formula. But I learned some lessons through my struggles. Nursing is hard. It does not come naturally to everyone--mothers or babies--and some mothers truly do NOT produce enough milk despite what some lactation consultants would have everyone think. And no reason exists to make mothers feel bad for using formula, whether they are merely supplementing, whether they do not produce enough milk or are encountering other nursing difficulties, or whether they decide that nursing is not for them. New mothers have enough to stress about! Why do we try to make their lives more difficult by making them feel inferior if they do not or cannot nurse?

I was raised on formula, and so were millions of other healthy and intelligent adults. While breast may be best for some mothers, it is not the only option and is NOT the best for others. If a mother loses her sanity and harms her bond with her child to breast feed, was the process worth the result? No.

Erin

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cookware and Pyrex Organization

The kitchen in our rental house has a lot of cabinetry. But I have a lot of kitchen items. I have canners and cake design kits and grills and miniature appliances and lots of other similar accoutrements. In fact, my good "china" is still in my office because I have nowhere to store it (and alas no dining room for a china cabinet).

But I am starting to organize my cabinets a bit better. For the last few months, my measuring glasses, ramekins, mixing bowls, colanders, and such have been on the top shelf of my kitchen cabinets, far out of reach for me. Then today, I realized that I could move my Pyrex bakeware alongside my cookware, freeing up some space for my Pyrex storage bowls and also enabling me to move those measuring glasses, ramekins, and other important baking and cooking supplies to another cabinet within my reach.

I will actually move those other items another day. But for now, I found an extra benefit to the new location of my Pyrex bakeware: I don't have to struggle with it--and nearly break it--when I want to use it. It sits in the cabinet next to my oven and is right inside the cabinet door.



Improvement!

Erin

Curtain Rod

A few years ago, my husband and I created a homemade curtain rod for our bedroom from a wooden dowel and some wooden finials. When we moved into this rental house earlier this year, we decided to make another curtain rod for the living room since the curtain rod we had for the living room in our previous apartment was just too short. This time, however, we decided to create a shelf over our curtain rod and window:



We bought the shelf brackets, wood, and dowel from Lowe's back in December. Then my husband painted all of them white using numerous coats of white paint. He had put up the brackets and the dowel months ago so that we could actually hang a curtain over the double windows in our living room. But this weekend, he put the final coats of white paint on the shelf and installed it above the brackets. I love this piece.



The total cost of this rod and shelf was $20 or so. We could not have bought a nice curtain rod for less. God willing, in a few years, we will move this curtain rod to a custom-built home, where it will really look great (and will have more room between the shelf and ceiling for items).

And yes, I do intend to put something on the shelf. I just haven't figured out what yet! I also intend to shorten the rod itself and to look for new curtains (or maybe additional panels of the curtains I already have?). The project list is never done, is it? :)

Erin

Cloth Wipes

I really do like weekends. I try to get two major projects completed each weekend: one by me and one by my husband.

My project this weekend was to "sew" some additional cloth wipes. Shortly before my newborn arrived, I made 24 cloth wipes from some adorable flannel I picked up at Hobby Lobby (with a high-value coupon!). However, 24 cloth wipes proved to be far too few, even when we wash a load of cloth diapers and wipes each day. So this weekend, I made enough to have about 50 or so wipes on hand. I used this pin as my inspiration:



I cut my fabric so each wipe would measure six inches by nine inches. Then I sewed a zig-zag stitch all the way around each wipe.



Frankly, my cloth wipes aren't perfect. And that's okay. After all, they are going to be used for a specific purpose, and then they will be thrown away when I have my baby potty trained. In the meantime, by using cloth wipes, we are saving money and saving our earth. And I prefer these to the disposable wipes anyway.

Erin

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

My husband keeps forgetting to turn out the garage light when he comes into the house. So a few months ago, I posted a reminder on the door. Sign:



He is not the only one around here who forgets things. When I take out our garbage, I always intend to take out the garbage from the bathroom and the office, but I forget. So to help me get back on top of things here, I posted yet another sign this morning:



Today, I discovered that my husband had forgotten some steps in the laundry "flowchart" of procedures. And yes, as a matter of fact I did post another sign--or two or three (not of them all are shown).



And since the family members who have been visiting our newborn seem to get a little confused about how to lock or unlock our front door, I put some "mini signs" on the door to try to assist. (The door is locked.)



Posting these signs was supposed to be a simple and quick project; however, printing and posting them took me hours--yes, hours!--this morning because my newborn was feeling quite needy. Still, this project should help us re-establish some habits that have fallen by the wayside. And then we can remove all the signs, God willing!

Erin

Kill Weeds--and Grass--with Vinegar

The house we rent has a concrete driveway. Unfortunately, grass and weeds have begun growing through the cracks.



Annoying. So I took a tip from this pin:



I put some vinegar in a miniature watering can and poured the vinegar on the grass and weeds in the driveway. I did this Thursday. Since a cold rain visited us on Friday, I waited until today to check out the results. I found the same weed looking . . . well, dead. Or at least very, very sick.



I pulled the weeds and grass out of the cracks by their roots and disposed of them. Now we have a clean driveway.

If you try this tactic at home, make sure that you do not get any of the vinegar on the grass and flowers and plants you want to keep. Vinegar is no respecter of plant life and will kill grass and apparently other plants as well.

Erin

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to Clean Your Top-Loading Washer and Your Dryer

During our apartment years, my husband and I shared a washer and a dryer with the tenants of seven other apartments. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was at the prospect of having our own washer and dryer inside our house. Knowing that we were soon to have a newborn and were going to cloth diaper, we bought a top-loading GE washer and matching dryer from my aunt. Fortunately, she kept the machines clean--she owns her own cleaning company!--so I decided that cleaning them was not necessary given that I was very pregnant and very sick at the time and that she is family. Ultimately, though, I knew that I wanted to clean them. So I tried the method used in this pin on Pinterest:



Armed with homemade all-purpose household cleaner, bleach, and vinegar, I got to work. It's now clean, inside and out.



I also used my all-purpose household cleaner and my vacuum cleaner to clean the dryer.



I am more content now that both my washer and dryer are clean! My current plan is to clean them twice a year, once during spring cleaning and again during holiday cleaning before Thanksgiving.

Erin

Monday, April 15, 2013

Liquid Soap and Dispenser

During my two years off from work, I started experimenting with making homemade household cleaners and toiletries. During my search for recipes, one of the do-it-yourself tutorials I pinned on Pinterest was this one:



I have been using this recipe to make the hand soap for the soap pumps in my bathrooms since my husband and I moved into this house in December. I usually divide the recipe, using 1/4 of a bar of grated castile soap, 1/4 tablespoon of glycerin, and 16 ounces of water.



I melt all the ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat.



And then after the concoction cools a bit but before it gels, I pour it into my bathroom hand soap pumps. For nice but inexpensive soap pumps, I bought a number of liquid hand soaps at Dollar Tree and removed the labels from the bottles with cooking oil, using my Slice machine to cut a fleur-de-lis from black Contact paper. I applied those to the bottles. The result:



I tried making Mason jar soap pumps last year, but I could never get those as perfect as I wanted them to be. I am much happier with these--and with a new child in my household, I prefer plastic pumps to glass ones anyway.

Erin

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Changes

I haven't posted anything on this blog in nearly a year. Since my last post, my family has faced a LOT of changes:
  • My husband and I moved from our two-bedroom unrenovated apartment into a one-bedroom renovated apartment (May 2012).
  • My husband and I learned that we were expecting our first child (July 2012).
  • I fought an approximate eight-month bout with hyperemesis (July 2012 - March 2013).
  • My husband and I moved from Virginia to Florida (November 2012).
  • My husband left the Navy (December 2012).
  • My husband and I moved into a rented house (December 2012).
  • I took the critical first steps to open my own law office (January 2013).
  • I had our first child via C-section (March 2013).
  • I spent some time in the hospital battling major problems with my gallbladder, pancreas, bile duct, and liver, ultimately undergoing major surgery a month after my c-section (April 2013).
For obvious reasons, I feel as though my life has been one upheaval after another in the last year. Although one of my friends was kind enough to inform me on Facebook that I appear to have everything together, I feel as though my life is in complete disarray. I have a ton of unfinished projects stacked up in the guest bedroom and garage, my baby's nursery still isn't finished, my house is a mess, the yard is in dire need of some TLC, my vehicle needs to be cleaned, everything in my life is disorganized, my husband is in school, I am trying to get my law practice open so that it brings in consistent income, and I am still spending much of my time in my recliner recovering from my most recent surgery (which was just last week). Oh, and life with my newborn is SO hectic!

But I have not hit rock bottom. I am aware of how blessed I am. I look at my tummy, knowing that I look as though I've been on the losing end of a knife fight. But I saw a picture of another woman's almost-identical tummy online and read her story, learning that her baby had passed away shortly after birth. So again, I am blessed, even while my newborn cries hours a day and keeps me guessing as to how to keep her content.

Still, I feel as though I need to pick myself up by the bootstraps so that I can recreate the home I had a year ago and create the home I ultimately want for my child. Unfortunately, I cannot start immediately and try to reorganize my household; I am still recuperating, still sore, still going to doctor appointments to be cleared and even one to find out what else is wrong with me. But I can take baby steps, so that is the goal beginning tomorrow: to do something--one tiny step a day--to get my home organized again so that I am content again.

Erin