Threads of the Pattern

Back to school days are for me, filled with conflicting emotions. In just one day I can go from ‘Yay! Back to school!’ to ‘Ugh! 35 glue sticks?! seriously?’ to ‘I think homeschooling in the answer. I’ll miss them too much otherwise!’ and usually back to some form of ‘Yay! Back to school!’ by the end of it.

With one exception. My inner monologue is almost -always- stuck on ’35 glue sticks? What are they going to do…feed them as snacks?’

You see, in my state, as is in many others I’m sure, we buy our children’s school supplies. Not just the cool bookbags or special pens or ninjago notebooks, but everything they need for school. I do not blame my school district or our teachers for this, because I understand about taxes and budgets and all, but I reserve the right to complain about it, once a year, at length. I have four kids, after all. I have to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth out of these supplies.

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So after the first year we moved here, I began to gather school supplies throughout the year and stock them in a shoebox. And then, everyone was going to school. So it graduated into a tote.

And then, I started working from home. So…office supplies got added to the tote, and trickled over only my desk.

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And the we started doing a lot of arts and crafts at home. So, that large shoebox turned into a small nation of containers, including a large tote, an art box, my desk and…a few shoeboxes of varying sizes.

Ok…I admit it…my school/office supplies are out of control!

Do I have a hoarding problem? Not usually…but I will admit to a crazy obsession with office supplies. And…you know…I’m a little..urm…frugal…so I hate the idea of spending an enormous amount of money on school supplies because I thumbed my nose at all the good sales all year.

So, this is me, sharing my mess with you, and asking, no begging for help!

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Readers: help me organize this hot mess into something useful! The tote was a great idea, but everytime I need to get one thing out of it, I end up dumping half of it on the floor and then throwing it all back in all wily-nily.

I often have to take notes on the fly when I work (as few and far between as that is) and my desk is upstairs, the supply box downstairs. So what started as two notebooks and some post it’s at the desk turned into that stuff. Please ignore the World of Warcraft books..they too are very necessary sometimes.

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Ok, now that youve seen the dark, dismal reality of my mess…

How would You begin? What makes the most sense to you in terms of organization and getting everything in reach? Am i going to be forced to add an addition onto the house in order to keep all this stuff neat? What are your dirty little organizing secrets?

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This summer has been absolutely insane. We launched the blog, I took to babysitting my niece, the kids were home from school, and we had lots of awesome visits from family and friends. As such, I just couldnt find the time to post, and Rosie, bless her heart, jumped in with both feet and rocked it, 100%! I sat down during a particularly terrible day and began to compose an I hate post and then stopped. And really thought about it. Sometimes, I am the biggest, grumpiest ass on the planet. I hate everything, from my stupid hair to my aching back, from the grass in my yard to whatever is on the television at that time. But more often then not, I love my hectic life, my loud family and my crazy kids. So, rather than rant about all things suckish, I made this list instead.

10 Things I love about the Summer!

10. I get to sleep in during the summer. Some days, it may only be til 7:45, but everyday is better when I wake up after 6am. Sometimes I wish I would have appreciated the art of sleeping in when I still could. Getting up with a Middle Schooler sucks. Or multiple Middle Schoolers, as of this year.

9. Mowing my Lawn is rad. Yes…I am one of those freaks that loves to mow. I put on my ipod, blare whatever music I feel like listening to without worrying about the lyrics (Eminem, I’m lookin at you, dude) and enjoy 4 hours of quiet mommy time. Our mower broke no less than 4 times in 2 months, and I was reaaaaally grateful for it once we got the problem worked out. And not just because my lawn was starting to look like the grasslands exhibit at the zoo.

8. I was born to lounge by the pool. I can’t swim. If my plane went down over the Atlantic (or Pacific, or Lake Erie, or the Creek in my town…) I’d be a dead duck, because I never learned to swim. Nevertheless, I very much enjoy taking my kids out to the pool and lounging out on the deck. I read a book or a magazine, soak up some vitamin d and enjoy life. Pool days are good days.

7. I can go to the library every day. We usually keep it to once a week, but the kids have such a great time, playing with the other kids in the children’s section, looking for new books and selecting movies. This year, my oldest has ventured into the young adult section and has devoured about half of it. My youngest has discovered non fiction movies about tornadoes, lightning and everything else that happens to be on his mind that week and my middle child is quickly decimating the comic/ graphic novel section of the children’s library.

6. Cold weather makes me cranky. Even when our air conditioning isn’t working, I would rather be drenched in sweat than huddling under blankets in three layers of sweat pants. Summer gives me warmth! I know…why don’t I live somewhere with perpetual summer? Because my family is -here-. 🙂

5. Impromptu everything! Kids want to have a sleepover? Sure, it’s summer! Swimming til 9? Ok! Disney movie marathon while turning the living room into a blanket covered wonderland? Why not? Its summer!

4.Fairs,Fairs,Fairs! This year our kids participated in 4H for the first time, which made Fair Week in our home county even more crazy,nerve-wracking,annoying,headachey fun! We got to be a part of the whole thing, as well as enjoy other parts of the fair, namely the food, the games and the other events. We also enjoy Farm Days, which is hosted by a tractor club in the neighboring county (please comment if you, too enjoy the thrills of the children’s pedal pull!) and visiting the other fairs in the counties surrounding us. Rose has been trying to get us to the irish festival near her place for the last 3 years, too. Ok, we’re fair junkies. Admittance is the first step in recovery, right?

3.Crafting inspiration! In the winter, I tend to stick to crochet and knitting, mostly because yarn is warm and I don’t have to move too much…but in the summer, I always tend to want to make stuff. Paint, wood, fabric, you name it, I want to use it to make -something-! I currently have a bag full of wine corks waiting for craft time, and a boatload of Pinterest pins to go through.

2. I miss my mother in law during the school year. Yes, I believe Rose and I might be the only two ladies in the world that love their mother-in-law! We moved away from mine 5 years ago, and since then summer has been the highlight of everyone’s year, because it is the time when the Grammy comes to visit! The kids love to take their Grammy to whatever place or restaurant or new store we found since her last visit, their dad loves to spend time with his mom and I love our down and dirty death match Skip-Bo games. This year was especially awesome because my niece came with her!

1. My family is awesome. We went out to dinner a few weeks ago, and as I as looking around the table, I actually got teary! We were hands down the loudest bunch there, and probably 45% of the conversation at any given time was totally inappropriate for public, but there we were, 3 generations from all sides of both my husband’s and my family, throwing fortune cookies at each other, laughing hysterically over everything sharing food and chopsticks and old stories, being a family. In the winter, we are all busy, being students and workers and mommies and whatever. Those things don’t go away in the summer, but it makes it much easier for us to put aside all that stuff and just be us for a while.

 

So, that’s my list. And I gotta tell you, I felt loads better after writing it! I guess there’s something to be said after all for turning negative energy into positive! What are some of your favorite things about summer? Or is winter your favorite season?

 

 

So last Friday, I didn’t post because I was up at Ayshia’s, baking with my nieces. The eldest of that set just had a birthday, and this time she thought it would be fun to make things together.

 Their mother isn’t really a baker, so this was kind of a novel experience for them. As in, they’ve never taken a pan out of the oven on their own before kind of novel. Don’t worry, this was quickly remedied with supervision.

 I really didn’t do anything. In the morning I instructed Kyra (the second eldest) in following the package directions for some Betty Crocker Molasses cookies that I’d gotten on clearance for 75¢.

 

 

She had a blast.

Can you tell these kids get their picture taken a lot?

Molasses cookies were delicious, and even bought me a haircut. Aunt Jo is the bomb, y’all. That’s all I’m saying.

 

 

After dinner, I supervised Alyx while she made a batch of modified boxed fudge marble cupcakes. They didn’t rise as much as I’d like, but she was thrilled. Also, all two dozen were gone in about 15 minutes.

Honestly, I think they were in it for the experience. They made things! And they did all the work! And Auntie Rosie is super awesome! (I inferred that last part.)

 

 

Ayshia and I thought this picture was super-hilarious. We may have been drinking.

Sometimes, I forget that the kids don’t care as much about the big fancy cakes I try to make for them as much as they care for our company. This was actually a far less stressful and fun-filled birthday than the last few have been.

 Way to teach Auntie a lesson, girls.

~Rosie

As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother (maternal) had this amazing green thumb. Possibly, it wasn’t a green thumb, but more of a green…aura? essence? Something like that, anyway, because I never once saw her actually -gardening-. When I knew her, she lived in a trailer with three of my cousins, whom she was caring for. She had a bit of a back yard, but not a whole lot of one. mostly just a path around the trailer with enough space for some patio furniture on the far side. The back wall was entirely covered in plants. Potted plants, that is.

Everything was growing in profusion. I think people just gave her plants because they knew she would keep them alive, but there were also some that were what I like to consider purposeful: herbs and vegetables. In amongst the spider plants, aloe plants and ferns, there were also tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, parsley, etc. I didn’t know most of the herbs at the time, but it’s pretty hard not to spot a tomato.

I never even saw her pick anything, though I’m sure she must have, when I was busy being a lazy teenager and sleeping until 10am and fighting with my cousins. My grandmother was not a woman to remain idle long, and there were always vegetables in the fridge (with the cup of bacon grease, and other homemade items that I couldn’t name at the time) and there were never rotten vegetables on the ground outside.

I wish I’d inherited her knack for keeping things alive so easily. Or at least learned her secrets! Maybe it’s been bad luck, but I’ve been struggling to get a garden going at all. Last year, we bought all these containers and tried to grow some root vegetables (onions, carrots, beets) and we got exactly zero result. Even the four tomato plants only yielded one tiny cherry tomato. It was a pitiful harvest.

 

This year, I had some scallions, basil, and dill. Now I only have the basil left, and it’s just barely hanging on by a thread. For the scallions, I blame the heat. These were scallions I bought from the store, used the greens and then put the whites in a jar of water. For a while they were growing like crazy, and all I had to do was change the water every once in a while. Then the heat hit and they just shriveled up and died. Not sure what happened to the dill. Possibly also the heat, but it wasn’t around long enough for me to tell.

 

So, I don’t really have much in the way of gardening tools, but what I do have was in a cut off paper bag. It worked fine at first, but that is not a long term solution. It also meant that things weren’t really very visible. So when this week’s challenge came around, I grabbed a basket that wasn’t being used for anything else, and started transferring everything useful. It turns out, we had some seeds and onion bulbs that were no good in that bag. I had completely forgotten about them. Poor things. 
I should get a baggie for the twist ties, but I didn’t think of it at the time. 

 

 

Is it just me, or do they seem to be getting greener already? I think it’s weird that the cuttings (far left) are growing so much more nicely than the original stalks with roots.

As in previous weeks, I’m following Home Storage Solution’s 52 weeks to an organized home challenge. Feel free to jump in any time! The next two weeks are basement and attic focused. My basement is already organized, thanks to a crack in the foundation that we had to pack up and move everything for, and I don’t have an attic to speak of, so we’ll see how the next two weeks go.
I’m open to any gardening advice anyone is willing to share, as well! Note: dipping your thumb in acrylic paint has absolutely no effect.

 

~Rosie

This coffee cake is not my recipe. In fact, it’s the first coffee cake I’ve ever made. I got the recipe from a fabulous blog I love, called Diamonds For Dessert. Seriously, if you love to bake, you need to follow Susan. And I’m not just saying that because she also loves Ender’s Game and Back to the Future.

It’s just good stuff.

I made a red velvet/cream cheese frosting cake for a friend’s low-key wedding a few days before this. So I had a ton of strawberries and cream cheese left, because I can’t seem to stop myself from buying everything on the shelves for whatever it is I need to bake. I guess I’ve not gotten enough a few too many times.  Don’t ask how many boxes of light brown sugar I have. I think it would give you diabetes just looking at it.

First, you mix up your crumb topping. I’ve done this before; I love crumb topping. It makes me happy just to see pictures of crumb topping!

Then you mix together all the rest of your ingredients in that way that you do when you’re baking. (Wet together first, then add the dry to the wet.) I’m not going into too much detail, because it’s not my recipe. Also, look at my lovely Sunbeam Mixmaster. That poor thing. I think if you look closely enough you can see the smoke coming out of the vent from the severe overuse I put it through. I’ve had it for about 10 years, but if mixers could talk, he’d say he felt 90, I’m sure. (Yes, he, for the same reason that ships are male. ) Allow me to quote obnoxiously for a moment:

“A ship is alive, and he is like a man, with a true man’s heart. Treat him well and care for him properly, and he will fight for you against the worst sea. He will fight to keep you alive even after the sea has long since given him his deathstroke. Neglect him, though, ignore the small warnings he gives of danger, and he will drown you in a flat sea beneath a cloudless sky.”  Jorin din Jubai White Wing, pg 296, The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan.

Ahem.

So once you have your batter mixed, put half of it in the bottom of your greased pan and slather it with jam. Not only is it tasty, but it’s fun to say slather. Then line up your strawberries in a covering layer. Then put the rest of your batter on top of that and smoosh it around until it covers all the strawberries. The directions say you can use a spatula or your fingers, but trust me on this and just skip the spatula.

Yummy crumb topping is next! Bake it all up and you get a lovely, light and fluffy cake that is absolutely scrumptious. Since I had more leftover strawberries (seriously, guys and gals, I have a PROBLEM.), I put two little slices on each square. This thing held up surprisingly well to sitting out on my butcher block, traveling in the car in plastic baggies and being passed around to various people!

Things I learned:

1. Coffee cake does not have coffee in it. I really thought that! It’s the sole reason why I have never even looked at a coffee cake recipe until now!

2. I should possibly not type blog posts when I’m sleepy. I get a little silly.

3. The picture below is while making the red velvet cake. There is a very good reason why I only do my baking when my husband is not at home:

~Rosie

(Apologies for not posting on Wednesday, WordPress was giving me a little trouble.)

 

Teddy is a very simple cat. She’s 17 years old, and has long since figured out what she does and does not like. Mostly this includes sleeping, preferably in the nearest warm lap. When she does want to play, she likes things that move outside of her actions. Things on strings are great, and she has a couple of toys that are bouncy so when she’s hits them they go crazy. She doesn’t like things that make noise, or are made of hard plastic.
She also loves these little knit pillows that my MIL made for her. It’s adorable the way she just wants to be around, so she rests her little elbows on the pillow and crosses her paws. Old cat needs her comforts. 😀

So, I didn’t have much in the way of organizing to do, but there’s always something!

 

The steps were the same this week as previously: get everything together in one spot, sort, get rid of stuff (in this case, a couple of toys that she doesn’t play with anymore and some expired meds), and then figure out how best to put it back.  Once again, I’m following along with Home Storage Solutions 101, and each week there is a new area to organize as part of their 52 week challenge. You can jump in any time. I’m on my third week, but they’re more than halfway through.

 
We already had baskets for her things. One is a vase that came with a bamboo plant. (It died. Of all the things I inherited from my mother’s side of the family, I’d trade in the hips for my grandmother’s green thumb in a heartbeat. I’m telling you, the woman had only to look at a plant and it would grow. I think she had magic beans or something.) We keep it at floor level so Teddy Bear can reach in and grab a toy out if she wants. 

 

 
The other basket is for her meds: flea and arthritis. Plus her combs and brushes and that harness I had really hoped she’d like so I could take her for walks. Amazing how cats don’t like to be walked. I thought she’d just love being outside again! We had been keeping this basket under the sink in our half bath downstairs, but that has been proving to be more and more inconvenient, so I took this opportunity to move it into the master bath, where we moved all the rest of her stuff anyway. We’ve tried to make it so she doesn’t have to jump or use stairs to get to anything, so she only does those things if she -wants- to.

I love my kitten. She’s totally worth the five minutes this reorganize took!

 

 

~Rosie

 

Yesterday, I saw a recipe on Pinterest for making a breakfast muffin in a coffee cup in the microwave. I thought it was a great idea and decided to try it.

Well, not everything you find on the internet (no not even on Pinterest) is the most awesome thing, shall we say?

 

So I went hunting for a more enjoyable recipe, and ended up on Midwestern Moms.


I modified the recipe a bit. I used twice as much melted butter as oil. In place of the flour, salt and baking powder, I used self rising flour, because I rarely have need of it, and wanted to use it up.

 

This version takes a little longer in the microwave (in mine, it was 4minutes) than most of the other recipes, but it’s totally worth it. As a side note, taking pictures of something cooking inside a microwave is way more difficult than I thought it would be.  I didn’t actually count the number of pictures I took, but I feel instinctively sure that it was 3, 121. So, please ignore the door grate and just look at how far the batter rose in the cup while it was cooking.

They don’t really have the taste or texture of an oven baked muffin, but they are perfect for breakfast because what they do taste and feel like, are really good pancakes.

Next time, I’ll try topping them with a little maple syrup.

 

Things I learned:

  1. Don’t fill the cup more than halfway, or it will rise up too much out of the cup, and spill over. Worse, it won’t cook all the way through.
  2. Use multiple cups. I used the same one three times, and the cup got too hot to touch after the second time through the microwave.
  3. I still have the urge to count like The Count sometimes. Three! Three microwave blueberry muffins! Ah!Ah!Ah!

Microwave Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

1/2 c Self-Rising Flour
2 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Egg
4 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp Milk
Small dash of Vanilla
4-6 oz container of yogurt (vanilla or flavor to match your fruit)
Fruit of your choice (I used blueberries,  with blueberry yogurt)

Mix everything except the fruit together in a bowl, or my preference of very large measuring cup. (It has a pour spout and handle!) Fold in fruit.

Fill your coffee cup(s) of choice about halfway. Place in microwave and heat for 3-4 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center does out clean of batter.

Top with syrup and eat right out of the cup, or swirl a fork around the side of the cup and turn out on to a plate.

Enjoy!

 

~ Rosie

I didn’t mention it last week when I posted about fixing up my craft room, but I started following this blog on organizing your home. The site has a 52 week challenge, but you don’t have to start it in January, you can jump in any time. Many thanks to Taylor at Home Storage Solutions 101 for hosting the challenge.

Well, it so happens that last week was organizing your crafting space, which I took as a sign that I should stick with this plan for a while and see where it takes me.

This week’s challenge (they’re posted on Mondays) is organizing the car. Admittedly, I don’t have much in my car right now, since it’s not running, but there was still some unnecessary clutter. By which, I of course mean books.
So, I followed the steps. Pull everything out, sort and decide what goes back, what gets thrown away, and what just needs to go elsewhere.

Now in my glove box, all I have are the car manual and other paperwork, and some napkins. I have a trash bag that’s tucked into the storage pocket in the backseat, and some wet wipes up under the dash in a weird space that you can barely see. I’m not sure why they built it this way, to be honest.

Anyway. I had this jar lying around, and it fits perfectly in the cup holder, so I decided to put it there and use it for loose change. In my center console, I have all my chargers and other car cords.

Everything else is in a plastic tub in the trunk. It’s not the most crafty way to store all my car supplies, extra hair and tooth brushes, puzzle book, CD player and sewing kit, but it does its job. Everything that’s not the tote in the left hand corner is what’s going into the house to be put away.

After a quick vacuum and wipe down, it looks so much nicer!
Things I learned:

1. I think I’m already finding that the steps to organizing anything are basically the same.

2. Some of these weekly challenges are going to be easier than others. My craft room took 7 days. This took me 20 minutes.

Next week, it looks like we’re tackling pet supplies. I’m sure Teddy Bear will be thrilled.

~ Rosie

p. s. Since someone may ask, the origami peacock was made by a former coworker of mine who has since passed away. It moves around my car as the whim takes me.

Have we mentioned that my niece just recently turned one? With an awesome cake?

For her birthday, along with her fantabulous dress, I decided she needed decorations. Man, if I was this craftily motivated when my own kids were babies, we would have had some awesome parties! But I wasn’t…so for Bug’s birthday, we bought a pop-up, and I decided to decorate everything with ladybugs.

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To Make:

Red and Black Construction Paper

Black Pipe Cleaners

Scissors

Glue

Two Circular items to trace in different sizes (I used a Tupperware lid and a quarter)

First I used the Tupperware lid to trace a bunch of ladybug bodies (black) and wings (red). You could use just about anything, depending upon the size of ladybugs you want. I chose a lid about 12 inches in diameter, because I was planning to stick the ladybugs up all around the yard, popup and pool. (That’s so not what happened, but I’ll get to that in a minute)

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After cutting enough black circles to make any sober person want to drink, I then traced a cutout on the red construction paper that I thought mimicked ladybug wings. I know, I know…bad directions! But really, it was 10 o’clock at night, we were watching a movie and I was just *cough* winging it…

We gathered up all the red paper and used the first as a guide to make them all match, more or less. Then as I glued the red shapes onto the black, my sister used the quarter to trace about a thousand small circles onto the leftover black construction paper. And then I made her cut them out…cause…I’m a crafting dictator sometimes!

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While she was cutting teeny tiny circles, I took the pipe cleaners, folded them in half and taped them to the back of the black circles. Then I curled the ends very cunningly with my fingers.

We glued the smaller circles all willy-nilly on the red and ta-da! Ladybugs for Bug’s Birthday.

Remember earlier? About my awesome plan to ladybug the entire property? Yeah…I didn’t account for the horrific wind tunnel that surrounds my house. Ladybugs were flying everywhere that day!  Unfortunately, we had to be content with lady bugging the inside of the popup…and it ended up being pretty awesome!

Of course, she was only turning one, so she was pretty content with trying to eat the ladybug antennae as we were trying to put them up, but I’ll take that as a win! After the party, we took them all down and I carefully preserved them for a future project. I have no idea what said project might be…but they were just too rad to throw away.

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Things I learned:

  1. I don’t always need a rock solid plan. Funnily enough, sometimes the best looking projects come from flying by the seat of my pants!
  2. Don’t let Sissy cut out ladybug spots. Some of those spots became squares and blobs!

Sometimes things happen outside of the plan. What projects have you put together at the last minute? How did they turn out?

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As you know, our extended family celebrated a first birthday! The theme of the day was ladybugs, so as the resident baker, I scoured the internet for examples of lady bug cakes, and stole profligately from all of them. I’m not an expert, so I tend to look for something that has elements that I’ve done before, and at least one element that I’ve not done.

I decided on the design. A three tier cake, enough to feed 25ish people generous portions (not wedding cake portions, which people seem to hate), with both chocolate and vanilla for flavors, and a top tier for the little one to make a complete disaster out of. enjoy in a reasonable and polite manner that her mother would absolutely not have to clean up all by herself.

I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning the night before to get the decorations done. I rolled little fondant balls and flattened them, then painted them with edible black paint. It’s made with corn syrup, and apparently such a small amount of sugar was enough that the kids decided that fondant is delicious.

I really thought these little ladybugs would only take an hour or two, tops, but it ended up taking five hours, including the ribbons, which were red and black fondant. I used cutters for the shapes. The ribbons really took no time at all.

Everything was assembled the next day at the party. I only have the one size pan, so I had to get creative with it. I cut down the top 8” tier to be a 4” by cutting around the outside. I then stuck that all around the outside of the bottom 8” tier to make it a 10” tier. Amazingly, I even had some left over.

Things I learned:

  1. Really fresh fondant makes a huge difference. I hate thick layers of fondant, and I was able to get this batch pretty thin. I could feel the difference as soon as I touched it.
  1. Structure is key in tiered cakes, as you can see. It was so hot that day that the buttercream was melting and pulling the cake down with it. We literally had to finish it and immediately serve it.

 

What I want to try next time:

Structure. I’ve looked up some information on stacking tiered cakes. Any suggestions?


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