Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Checkpoint for Suki

I was looking back at my to-do list for 2011 and realized how many items on there I have worked on or completed and yet... I haven't posted about it. So it looks like I've been lazy over there but in truth, I've just been lazy on reporting it. I'd better get going on that.

September starts tomorrow. That means four months left in the year. Four months until Christmas!!!! I LOVE CHRISTMAS as you may remember from last year. Ahem.

I am actually looking forward to fall this year. One of my Target trips over the summer proved to be awesome with many scores from the clearance section. Most of them will be repurposed but one was a blue jacket that I love. I'd been keeping an eye out for jackets that I love with a price tag I can love as well and this one fit the ticket. You'll have to wait for pictures. Maybe in October... when I actually wear it.

Something else I look forward to is hanging my bats again this year. Halloween has never been my favorite holiday but I adore my bats.

Blogging every night definitely has its advantages. I find myself constantly thinking about what to post next or what would be good blog posting material. I'm even trying to take better pictures and I can't say that's going very well. It is motivating for me to continue to do things which I might otherwise slack on. Blogging also gives me some focus and structure and that is creeping into other parts of my life. That could never hurt. I make an effort to comment on other blog posts because receiving comments makes me feel good about the effort I put into a post so I can only guess that others feel the same way!

Something you may not know about me: I recently got a job. I manage contests and giveaways for my sister-in-law. She is a published author of the New York's Bestsellers Tiger's Curse. She got way busy and asked for help on a few tasks and so I'm helping her with the contests and giveaways. It's a bonus that I get paid to do it. Part of my job includes writing blog posts introducing the giveaways and the winners. I manage an email address for this job as well. I've also found that I'm becoming more personal and talkative through her Facebook page. Many of the skills I am developing through this job will help me through my own endeavor which I'm not ready to announce yet.

To end a post with something cute... We went to COSI to watch Vivi (and Mariella) for a while so her big sister Lara could attend a science workshop. At one point, Vivi and Kaelyn were actually in the same location of Little Kidspace playing together. This is the first time I have seen Kaelyn play pretend on this sort of level.

I wanted to post a video but Blogger is being a pain so here's a picture. Vivi would feed Kaelyn and herself. The lettuce was the salad and it was soup in the bowls. Kaelyn actually pretend ate without putting the spoons into her mouth. (I can't say the same about an apple that found its way to her hand 20 minutes later.) Lots of sweet words of praise going back and forth from both girls.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

HHC Mural: Part 3

Wow, I can't believe that by the end of day six we were at this point! It felt like a lot longer (probably because of all the breaks in between days). The middle section got two coats of primer because it was going to predominately remain white.

Kimmi outlined puzzle pieces on the four corners. Actually, only three corners. The fourth's primer wasn't dry enough yet.

Blue fish, green sea weed. It's a start. (And I could never ever draw fish like that. And these are even just one color right now!)

Day seven! We were really chomping at the bit to get this done now. We were planning on spending the whole week there and praying that Kaelyn would be patient with us as we stuck her in the play pen with toys and books so both of us could work.

I started out by randomly choosing which color would go where on the puzzle pieces. Kimmi didn't want any of them touching unless maybe it was on the diagonal. I was so good that the same color doesn't touch ANYWHERE. Except in a few spots where the diagonal and the straight pieces touch but she said that was okay and even kind of good because they're like a different puzzle.

The pieces that are straight are smaller than the ones that are diagonal. You'll be able to see it better later on.

It seems that Kimmi didn't take a picture on this day of all four fish panels but you can see that she did a bit of work over here too.

Some green stubbies. :)

Day EIGHT and we were thrilled over how the colors were coming together! Now, this was kind of time consuming. We used small foam brushes and had to do two layers of paint. Luckily the paint dried quickly enough that as soon as we finished our first layer, we could go back through for our second layer.

Oh, and neither of us are particularly tall so painting the small bits at the very top was a bit fun. (Right, Kimmi?)

Kimmi had fun mixing paint colors to create coral and paint more fish. She has some star fish in there as well.

Day nine and we almost finish all the puzzle pieces. Kaelyn had a rough time so I was with her half the time.

You can see how there's a small bit of diagonal puzzle pieces that are larger than the straight and small ones. Doesn't it look great? Yeah, we thought so too. Up until the next day (which will be in a different post).

Most of these last few days, Kimmi worked on the fish panels while I worked on the puzzle pieces. I never touched the fish panels. She worked with the puzzle pieces. We don't really have close ups of these fish evolving into their final point but it was fun to see the layers of paint go on the fish and the coral, seaweed, and EVERYTHING to really create something awesome.

Still day nine and we're so close. Just some blues to finish up top plus the middle panel. Plus the pain-in-the-tush black. But more on that another time.

The last several days we worked on the mural was during break week for the folks at the school. This meant no students and no staff. (The maintenance man was there once at the same time we were but that was it.) (Well, unless you count the people who tend the garden that talked to us sometimes. But they aren't connected to the school. They just care for the garden that is on the school property.) (And we definitely aren't counting the boy that came by THREE DIFFERENT DAYS because he wanted to help paint [definite no] or play with Kaelyn [just don't get in the pen] or ride his bike around and around the drop cloth where open cans of paint sat out [breathe, Suki, breathe--it's not like he would've made more of a mess than Kimmi].) So while they had seen us working on it and seen the early stuff (maybe), it was going to be a huge surprise when they came back.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Kaelyn has always understood the concept of "yes" and "no". Maybe not always, but she has for a while now. She is very clear when she says "no". It's always "no". Sometimes with a head shake. However, when she says "yes"... well, first off, she rarely says yes.

Kaelyn asks for something.
Me: You want ____?
Kaelyn looks at me expectantly.

That's definitely different from when I get it wrong. Then she clearly says "no".

In the last week-ish, we've noticed that she still doesn't say yes. But she says "okay" and then smiles. It's so stinkin' cute! :)

Today she came up to me, did the sign for "eat" by my mouth, and said "more cheese please?" I asked "you want cheese?" "Please?" (With the sign.) <---that alone is a first. We usually have to prompt her to sign or say please. I asked again "you want cheese?" (Why I asked again, I don't know. I knew what she wanted the first time she said it so I really didn't need to ask it in the first place.) "Okay!" And then she grins and nods her head. "Okay."

It's awesome how kids pick up what you do and does it so much cuter than you ever could.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pinterest #1

Have you notice I'm posting more now? Funny thing... I got myself into a challenge with my friend to see which one of us will fail at posting. We have no parameters which is a bit of a problem for a challenge.

I thought today would be a great day to start showing some Pinterest love. Pinterest is a website where you can set up virtual boards and pin pictures to them. You can follow me here. When I joined, you had to have an invite to join. I don't know if that's still the case, but if you want to join, I can send you an invite.

I'm going to choose just five pictures to show off each time I do one of these posts.

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My favorite thing about this first picture is the ledge that goes around the room with all those bottles. I have a love of bottles and I don't have enough. They currently line my kitchen counter but I do need to move them and I can't bear to pack them away. I can definitely visualize a ledge like this in our kitchenette. Then I can collect more bottles!

A few other loves: large windows, the chairs give a big pop of color with that red, the light fixture that totally just goes with this room.

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 My pantry is tiny. This one is so beautiful. Using all glass jars makes it so uniform and allows all the color to show through. Plus it's easy to see what you might be low on. One downside to this would be that kids would not be allowed to touch until a certain age. I don't have a problem yet, but I can foresee chaos. But so very pretty.
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 I usually am not a fan of pot racks because they always seem to be low and you feel like you have to duck every time you walk near it. This one hangs higher and in front of the window so it doubles as a window treatment. I don't think it'd ever be very practical for me (talk about hauling out a step stool every time I needed to use or put away a pot!) but I do like it.

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 I have these pretty glass jars to store my herbs. The storage is a hassle. I love this sliding out, tiered cabinet! It keeps spices organized, out of the sunlight, and within reach.

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This picture is of a bathroom, but this idea is for my kitchen. I just adore these wire baskets! I want many! I even have space chosen in my kitchen to hang them for my hand towels and wash cloths. No, they don't match and they aren't pretty, but I don't care! I could even have one for bibs and place mats.

So there you have it. Some of my Pinterest loves! It was hard to choose a starting place so I'll definitely be doing more of these posts in the future. Hope you enjoyed some pictures not taken by me! ;-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pancake Art: Top Hat Smileys

Over the last year or so, I've run across some arts that focus around pancake art. I considered showing off some of the AMAZING things people have made with/from pancakes. Then I realized that would only make my pictures look horrible instead of just bad.

While Kimmi was staying with me over the summer, I showed her some of the pictures. She immediately said "we have to do it!" I was already planning on it. I just needed to buy the condiment bottles which I did earlier this week.

I'm starting to make Saturdays "Pancake Day". That might mean that we cook regular circular pancakes of any recipe or we go out to eat at iHop. Our newest option is pancake art! Or pancake doodles. No, really... what's below a doodle? That would be about where my skill level is. Funny enough, my drawing skills with pancake batter seem to be better than with pencil.

Funny conversation real quick before pictures.
Me: You're gonna hate me. Remember how you said we had to do the pancake art?
Kimmi (on the phone): Yeah...
Me: Well--
Kimmi: I hate you!!

But since there is a chance she'll be up here on some Saturdays over the school year to finish out her internship, there will be times when she too can have pancake art doodles whatever.

If I had a griddle, I could make more pancakes at once and it wouldn't've taken me an hour or whatever to make these. Kaelyn loved helping mix up the batter, but I was a selfish mommy and wouldn't let her help with the rest of it.

This was all my idea. I am proud of it. :)

After the first several, Jared told me that I should experiment and do something different. Was not colored batter and cute smiley faces experimental and different enough???

Kaelyn called them cookies and ate the chocolate chips first. Then she asked for more cookies. We told her to eat her pancake and she complied. And then asked for more cookies.

At least she loved them as much as she loves regular cookies I mean pancakes.

Anybody else done pancake art before? Anyone interested in seeing how I did mine? And any requests for future pancake art attempts?

Friday, August 26, 2011

HHC Mural: Part 2

We put the primer to some use on day 3. On these side panels, we didn't scrape them. Best decision ever! I don't think I did much this day besides chase Kaelyn everywhere. Two side panels got primed.

Just this one panel got primed. They also got a cover thingy on their AC vent. We got more of the second panel scraped. We = Kimmi.

Kimmi broke out some color on day 4 and was over the moon about it. After we discussed out to add texture, she just squiggled the brush around. I really don't have any other way to describe what she did. She painted a single layer of the blue because we really liked how the white kinda showed through to add depth and interest.

The second panel around the main doors was finished being scrapped and we got to the third panel. I think I may have actually helped this day. A little bit anyway.

Sometime prior to day 5 we went to buy the rest of her paint. We bought sample sizes from Home Depot. Kimmi stressed that it wouldn't be enough. I have lots of paint now. :)

For the brown, I showed her how to dip a cloth (it was a thin-ish cloth almost like a cheese cloth) in the paint and then dab it onto the surface. No wiping motions allowed. Just dabs. She loved how it still had texture and interest but was different from the blue. She painted just one layer of the brown.

By the end of day five we only had two panels left to scrap! We started a very small portion of the top middle panel but didn't get far. It was pretty hot.

She got all the brown down and we thought it looked amazing at this point. It's all about the vision, I guess!

From here we had a few weeks off. The first week was due to the heat. When we could go it was just not a smart idea to venture forth especially with Kaelyn in tow. The second week was girls camp.

Remember: Kimmi only needed 10 hours for her project. At this point, she had spent about 15 hours on her project. If you include my hours, we have spent 20 hours on this project. Twice what she needed.

Stay tuned to see how we went from these last few pictures to completion in one week!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

HHC Mural: Part 1

The real title of this post should be something like "how the adventures of Suki, Kimmi, and Kaelyn went while working on the HHC mural over the summer". Or the beginning of the adventures anyway.

Beginning view below. Whose idea was that red rust color? And why is the earth brown and blue? Such questions went unanswered. The four panels on the side (unpictured) were not in Kimmi's original plans but when they asked about it (someone asked anyway), she said she'd do them.

Kimmi got her initial supplies with our dad. They kept calling me... "do you have this? do I need that?" I recommended this stripper (oh, google key words will have fun with that). I didn't know it came in spray can form but that's what they got. It is called Citristrip. It worked well.

Until it stopped working. It just stopped spraying. No matter what we tried, we couldn't get it to start again. I recommended that Dad take that one back. We got the Citristrip in its regular gel form. Worked awesome. I had tried another paint stripper before I had heard of Citristrip. Not as good. And this stuff smells nice. It'd be okay to use it indoors if necessary.

We had to scrap the majority of this panel with my other paint stripper (I can't even remember what it's called). Total pain. Not recommended. Just get Citristrip.

End of Day 1. We primed part of the tree in the upper right corner just to see how it would turn out. Oh, just fine. If you want tree like textures underneath your finished piece of art.

Day 2 (not necessarily the next day). Kimmi didn't like the nose mask so she wore her bandana. I thought it was pointless and she did too after this day. We had purchased the gel Citristrip for this day. Hallelujah!

It doesn't look like we got far... but there was like four layers of paint on those panels! And some of it just didn't want to get off. One of the layers said "welcome" in different languages.

Even Kaelyn wanted to help. She was such a trooper. Some of the days were pretty hot and she hardly complained. She loved the playground and going down the slide. And just running away in general.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Mural at Helping Hands Center

My oldest sister works at a school for children with autism. I worked there for about three weeks prior to being married. They used to share a school with a regular public school. While I was living in Oregon, they were able to obtain their own building. Woot woot!

My youngest sister decided she wanted to paint a mural for one of her Young Women projects. These projects are required to take at least 10 hours of their time. They are to plan and carry out seven of these projects from ages 12 to 18. Kimmi actually said she would do two murals: one inside and one outside. She will still do the inside mural but not as part of her project anymore.

Kimmi is so creative. A lot of thought went into what would be included in the mural. The school pretty much said anything besides what it currently is (from the previous occupants) would be great!

Here is just the before and after pictures. I have several more progress pictures that I'll probably get in a future post but I really wanted to put these up because it looks amazing. Valerie reports "everyone loves it and I was proud to say that it was my sisters who did it".

(Oh yeah, whenever Kimmi was there, so was I. And almost always Kaelyn. Some of that work is mine but all the creativity is Kimmi's.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Snack Station, Smoothies, & Smores

I feel like I got a lot done today. Maybe because I did. I didn't vacuum or do laundry one little bit. Priorities, people.

Kaelyn helped me with some more cooking today. (Ignore the mess. Focus on the kid.) I'll show you what we made a little bit later. Jared seemed a little surprised.

One thing I got done today was grocery shopping. Among my purchases were two of these baskets. One medium size and the other was smaller. I wasn't sure which one would work best and knew I'd find a purpose for the other. I don't know if I would have gotten this brand initially, but I forgot to see what Meijers had and so I got these at Walmart (since I was there picking up something else there that Meijers apparently doesn't carry). Walmart gives me the hives.

One thing that is cool about these baskets is that the handles flip in so that you can stack them on top of each other. I have some green ones (different brand) for our recycling. Although we wish they had a scooped front for easy access to the bottom basket, I like using up the vertical space.

Oh! I guess you want to know what I used the basket for. I made a snack station! I've seen them around but never really thought about having one for us. I mean, no kids are in school and I only have the one anyway. But Kaelyn eats constantly and I have lately found myself getting tired of having to prep something else for her to eat. Sometimes I would feed her the same thing several times and I really don't like that in terms of nutrition. SO. Snack station it is.

I've used lemon juice to keep apples from browning in the past but never really liked the taste afterwards. I ran across a tip that said to try ginger ale or any lemon-lime soda. Soak them for 10 minutes. So I got Meijer (cheapest) diet (no HFCS) lemon-lime soda. And six pounds of apples. I may have gotten a little bit too much for our little family of three especially since Kimmi is no longer staying with us. Oh well. :) We like apples.

Three cans of soda soaked all six pounds of apples. I even had to do them in two batches because my bowl wasn't big enough. I used the same soda for the second batch as the first and it still worked.

Best of all, they still taste like apples afterwards. I didn't detect any soda-type taste or anything kinda funky like that.

Grapes were washed & de-stemmed. Everything was bagged up into snack-size baggies. Except for the string cheese since those are already easy grabs. String cheese, grapes, apples, carrots. The only thing Kaelyn can't eat are the carrots. She LOVES the grapes and recently has been liking apples (especially with peanut butter). She also LOVES string cheese.

I now have a place in my fridge for this easy quick grab snack. This will really be handy for Jared's snacky moods and additions to his work lunches. (I already warned him that he'd better not eat all the string cheese.)

Something else I did was create smoothie packets. I froze plain yogurt (homemade with powdered milk) into cubes. In each packet are two cubes (which I think is somewhere around 3 Tbsp) of yogurt and 1 1/2 - 2 cups of frozen fruit. We already had all of these ingredients so I didn't have to purchase anything. Although, we are now fairly low on frozen fruit but since they were mostly for smoothies anyway, I'm okay. Each packet makes one nicely-sized smoothie or two small-ish but probably more *accurate* serving size (8 oz). It is the perfect amount for Kaelyn and I to share.

All you have to do is stick it in your blender (our blender is horrid--truly) and add a little milk until it is the consistency you like. If you want peanut butter or flax seed or anything like that, now is also when you want to add it.

Remember that picture at the beginning with Kaelyn? We made cookie wrapped s'mores. Oh my heavens, they were huge! They looked like baked potatoes. Seriously. Here's a picture of one next to an avocado.

If you want something sweet, you should try having just a half of one of these babies. It is a basic cookie dough recipe. You make a smore and wrap the cookie dough around it. I got the recipe from here (via Pinterest).

When Jared came down to help Kaelyn (since I needed both my hands to wrap), he sounded surprised that I was making s'mores AND cookies. When I informed him that they go together, he didn't really know what to say. I guess I really don't make dessert all that often. But at least when I do, I go all out.

We ate two cookies between the three of us. And that was stretching it. But it was soooooo good! SO GOOD. I can't even describe the gooey, delicious, awesomeness of it. The marshmallow is a nice addition to the chocolate chip cookie but then you get the graham cracker and it's a little unexpected but works so well.

And because I want to brag more, I also put a pork shoulder in the crock pot. I just shredded it and it was so easy. And so delish. I can't wait to eat it for reals.

Tomorrow I plan on finishing meal preparations. I think it's easier to spread them out over a few days because of Kaelyn. I can work on it during her naps. I am excited about this venture of mine. I even kept up on dishes today since I was in the kitchen so much.

My craft area looks better too but not good enough to take a picture. Yet.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meal Planning + Making Pizza

Today I had a bit of a surprise (holy cow we spent a lot of money of food). Jared and I each decided on something that we would do to bring that number down a little bit in September. So I'm bringing back the meal plan. I haven't for a while now.... summer was a little crazy. (That's a valid excuse, right?) I kinda let it go. It wasn't too bad. But I like having meals planned out so I don't have to think about what to make when it's time to make something.

I'm also going to take it a step beyond that and prepare all of the dinners in one afternoon. They will keep in the fridge until I'm ready for that meal. One of the meals I'm making will be split into thirds for two of the parts to be frozen. Oh! And I'm freezing yogurt cubes right now so I can prep smoothies. We'll see how it goes tomorrow when I grocery shop and prep the food. We'll see how Kaelyn goes....

Oh wait! And I'm going to have a snack station kind of thing. Pre-portion snacks out and then it's a quick grab for either me and Kaelyn or Jared for his lunches.

I thought about being smart and making pizza dough while Kaelyn was still taking a nap today. I thought of this too late, however. So I involved Kaelyn since she complains any time I make bread or anything like that.

She was very eager to help.

It took her a bit to understand how to knead. I told her to push and she got it.

She also thought eating the dough was okay.....


Dinner was awesome. Maybe it was the home grown, ripe, delish tomatoes. Maybe it was the extra serving of cuteness that Kaelyn added to the dish. Whatever it was, the tomato tart was sooo good. We always love eating this type of pizza and having tomatoes that we grew on it made it even better! (Except Kaelyn wanted regular pizza--she doesn't eat tomatoes yet.)