Weight loss

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chicken recipe

Slow Cooker 'Crack' Chicken
2 lbs boneless chicken breasts
2 (8 oz) blocks cream cheese (I got a little crazy and added a package of BACON Cream Cheese. AND Philly happens to make Jalapeno Cream Cheese too, which would make this a little spicy, which would be fantastic!
If you do use a flavored (savory) cream cheese, use only one flavored with one plain, otherwise it’s just too much. Trust me on this)
2 (1 oz) packets dry Ranch seasoning
8 oz bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled Instructions
In a slow cooker combine place chicken, cream cheese, and Ranch seasoning.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours, until chicken shreds easily.
Once chicken shreds stir with a large fork or spoon, so the chicken shreds and all the ingredients combine.
Add in crumbled bacon and stir to incorporate.
Serve warm.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Homes Cool

We started homeschooling in November. It was a perfect storm of badness for both kids and we decided that, rather than fight it out on both fronts, we'd pull them and homeschool.  We had been dedicated public schoolers before, even though I kind of joked about homeschooling every year, when I got tired of getting up at 6:30 or packing lunches or going out in the cold every morning. I was PTA president, vice president, committee chairs for numerous activities, room parent, etc.  I BELIEVED in public school, until I didn't.

Because the kids are home full time, I also quit my job, so I could be here all the time.  That left very little money left over for curriculums (despite my parents' very generous offer to purchase anything we needed for school, because even when I'm pretty sure I'm screwing up entirely, they are all in) so I'm making due with free stuff from the internet.  It's been fine and I don't feel like I'm really missing anything, but I needed a system to organize everything.

I use Evernote and DropBox for all of our downloaded materials. I use drop box to store anything I've downloaded, plus our lesson plan and things I've created (I'm a HUGE nerd and I love making PowerPoint presentations for the the kids).  I use Evernote to store all of the bookmarks to all of the millions of webpages that I might want to use one day.  This is the only thing I've found Evernote useful for, since I was never able make it work for actual note taking. So digitally, we were covered.  I've organized all my files and I can whatever I need, easily.  The paper were a different story.

Because so much is online, I end up printing a lot of stuff, like writing sheets, math practice worksheets, Social Studies maps, etc. I read blogs all over the place about how people organize their stuff and none of them really worked for me. I thought about workboxes , but they take up so much space.  I looked at modifying them with hanging folders, but space was again an issue.  I also don't like the idea that I need to do something with them every single day.

I eventually settled on 2 inch ring binders.  Partly, because we had them on hand and partly because they are big enough to hold everything easily.

I started with a plain binder (they can decorate them however they want to personalize them).

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Then I put in tabbed dividers with pockets, left over from the public school supply list.  They are just a few dollars at Walmart, though.  There are seven tabs in this folder, one for each day of the week, plus a couple of extras.

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I sat down when we first started and planned until Christmas break, because my brain was totally overloaded and I couldn't think past that.  Over Christmas break, I planned out the rest of the year.  We'll be done before Memorial Day! I use Excel because, as much as I like Powerpoints, I like spreadsheets even more.  There are plenty of planner sites and downloads out there but Excel works for me.  Every Sunday, I sit down with my computer and I go through that week's lesson plan.  I add the math (I have a space for it, but I stopped putting it in early because we kept having to edit the lesson plan when a lesson took more days than I thought it would) for the week, I go to my links, that I save in the spreadsheet and print out anything they will meed for that week.  I create my Powerpoints, etc.  Then I take all those printouts and I put them in the folders in the binder.  So Monday, they sit down at the table at 8 (because I start school at 8, because we need to get it done), they get out their planners and they copy down Monday's work.  Then, they are free to do as the please. If they are really feeling math, they can get a jump on it, if they are kind of dreading it, they can do writing or reading first.  I'm here, if they need help or have questions, but they can work on their own, for the most part.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom had knee surgery and needed help getting around for a couple of days.  WF went and stayed with her on Thursday and I sent his school stuff with him.  I got a call Thursday night, wanting him to stay another day.  She said "you'll have to bring his school stuff out for tomorrow"  I said "Nope, that's all there in his binder"  It has been important this week as well, because I've been sick and I haven't felt much like teaching, but we have got to get stuff done.  I opened up a couple of things on my computer this morning (copy work, writing prompt, and an editing worksheet) and left for the doctor's office.  They worked, on their own, for the hour that I was gone and now, I can go lay down.  They have everything that they need, for the whole week, right at their finger tips.

I put a "turn in" folder in the back, for them to put their completed work that I haven't collected in every day.  I also don't collect papers every day.  My kids need to learn to hold on to things for more than 5 minutes, so I collect papers a couple of times a week, but I do look at them at the end of each day to make sure they are done.

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In the front, I put cheap three ring pouches, that, again, are left overs from school, but are super cheap at walmart.  I check every day to make sure that it has three sharpen pencils, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a highlighter, and a pen.  I do that while I'm checking assignments each afternoon.

I also put in their planners, and a three ring notebook in the binders.

In the front pouch, I put the printout of the week's work so they have a reference for what they are supposed to be doing each day.  I'm pretty strict with our schedule, but we don't do every subject every day.  We do Math, Writing, and Spelling everyday and we alternate reading (M,W,F) and Science and Social Studies (T, TH).

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I sewed them bags to store their binders in, with webbed straps that fit over the back of their desk chair (Backpacks or string bags or anything big enough to fit the binder in would be fine. I just had some cool leftover fabric, so I zipped some bags together).  That way, when I say "Come work at the table" or "I'm sick of this house, lets go work at the library", they only need to grab their bag and they have everything they need at hand.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lofty ambition

We have a smallish house, with smallish rooms and kids who are only getting bigger. Since an addition to the house isn't feasible, we decided to make use of the space above by building the kids loft beds, with built in dressers and bookshelves and space for a desk underneath.

We started with this plan for a twin sized loft bed. We decided to scrap the desk part, because it is kind of small and the kids have pretty decent desks already. We also made both sides be full shelves, instead one being short. Additionally, we went with full sized beds instead of twin, since the kids are only going to get bigger.  Making it full sized added 15 inches to all cross pieces, because full sized beds are the same length, just slightly wider, than twin sized. 

We started by buying piles of wood, screws, and gallons of polyurethane. Seriously, save yourself the headache and buy the gallon size. I went back 4 times to get more because I kept saying "nah, I've got enough, it's totally fine" I did not have enough and it was not totally fine! 

And getting the kids started early on learning how to make things.  

If you buy the better quality lumber, you don't have to do nearly as much sanding. Of course, that costs more money. For us, I had more time than money, so I bought the cheap stuff and sanded it smooth. We ended up spending about $200 in material and two solid weekends building it. Probably a minimum of 20 hours, between the two of us. But, the comparable bed from <a href=http://www.pbteen.com/products/girls-sleep-and-study-loft/>Pottery Barn</a> cost $1500, plus shipping, so I feel like we still came out ahead. 

Then we built two boxes

And added shelves. 

Then we built the head and footboards. The plans call for 1x3s and if you can afford decent lumber, they are fine. We bought the cheapest crap they had and I was disappointed in the final product. For this bed, we talked about getting better 1x3s, but they were a lot more per board and we ended up going with cheap 1x4s and they were much better and cheaper. 

We had to make sure to leave spaces for the cross brace pieces, which took forever, to get each piece lined up and flush and then attached and then spaced correctly, etc. You can see at the corner of this picture some spacers that RF made. They were really useful and made it go a lot faster. 

Then we attached the headboards to the bookshelves and took the two pieces into the bedroom. We attached the rails and cross brace pieces. 

The pieces that hold the slats and the mattress are supposed to be 2x4s but that makes the mattress too tall and puts the kids right into the ceiling fan, so we decided on 2x2s instead. 

Then the slats are attached and trim is added above the rail pieces. 

This picture doesn't have the ladder on yet, because using the 1x4s makes the ladder easier to climb and makes it feel more secure but proved to be a problem to cut with our 10" radial arm saw. The blade just wasn't quite big enough to cut all the way through. We eventually got it but it took a lot more finagling than the rest of the bed. 

We decided to use fabric baskets instead of drawers for the dresser end, because they have to be custom fit and cost a fortune! The shelves each hold 4 baskets, so they could conceivably have 16 different baskets, if they needed them. WF had a chest high four drawer dresser and everything that came out of it fit in these four baskets, so they hold a lot more than you might think. It does get kind of dark under the bed, so I'm hoping to not fill all the shelves so at least some light can get in rio round the shelves. 

His desk that he already had fits perfectly under it and my parents had a chair (not that monster in the other picture. It's a cute little club chair) that fits in the corner, by the tv and eventually, we will get them wall mounted TVs, so the only thing on the floor, will be the bed. 

The only problem is, they have a lot more visible floor, so they have less place to stash junk and I'm on them to keep it clean a lot more! 

We still need to get his mattress ordered.  We got her's from Walmart and it is super comfortable. It cost $150 and comes shipped like this:

And you'd really expect it to be junk, but she loves it and says she sleeps so well on it. We'll be getting him one as well, it will just be a little bit before we get it ordered. 

We will also add "ground effects" to the underside of the bed, to act as a nightlight and to add a little light in the desk area. These are on her bed. An 18 foot string of white rope lights from Big Lots fits perfectly around the inside. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sew adorable

I got a sewing machine last year, on the logic "I'm out of needles for hand sewing Girl Scout patches and machines come with needles, so I should just buy a machine". Since I managed to slide that one by RF,  I decided I should probably actually learn to sew. I've gotten fairly decent at it, though by no  means any kind of professional. Several weeks ago, a friend mentioned that she wanted to convert her step son's baseball jersey into a dress for her preschooler's birthday. I told her it would be super easy and I see stuff on Pinterest like that all the time.  She decided that I should probably go ahead and handle that, so I did. She brought me the jersey and I made THE CUTEST DRESS EVER!

Step one: get a large shirt. Depending on the size of the child, you can use anything from a youth medium, up through adult sizes. Fit the shirt to make sure the neck line isn't too large.  If it is, you'll need to refit the neck, which will add a lot more fiddling to your project. Fortunately, I didn't need to, so I don't have a tutorial for it.

Shirt photo image-5.jpg

Step 2: get a shirt that currently fits the child. If you can get on with straight sleeves and sides, this is best. Ruffles will mess up your cutting and the shape the of the final product. Lay the larger shirt out smooth,ironing if needed with the smaller shirt on top. Match up the necklines and shoulder seams. Trace around the smaller shirt with your tailor's chalk or fabric marker, leaving about a half inch for seam allowances. (You notice in my pictures that I left more than that and that is because the template shirt I used was getting a little short and I wanted to lengthen it slightly).  

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Step 3: take your rotary cutter and zip around the lines you just drew.

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Step 4: toss the sleeves and the sides and set the bottom aside. Then turn the shirt inside out, so the right sides are together and sew from the bottom up, turning carefully and sewing along the bottom of the arm. If you are doing a short sleeve shirt, hem your sleeve, then turn your shirt and do the same on the other side.   If you are doing a long sleeved shirt, you might be able to preserve your cuffs and can avoid having to hem the sleeves. 

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(I didn't get pictures of the next several steps, because I was busy sewing! :) )

Step 5: now is your chance to adjust the length of the skirt. If it too long, trim from the cut edge until it is the proper length. Leave the finished edge alone or you will have to re-hem it and no one wants that.  Once your skirt is the desired length, stitch all the way around the top of the skirt with a loose basting stitch. Don't back stitch on this step!

Step 6: once your skirt is basted, scrunch the fabric of the skirt until it is the same size as the bottom of the shirt. If you are making major size changes, it will be very scrunchy. Minor changes will produce less scrunches. 

Step 7: attach your skirt to your shirt. Start by turning the skirt inside out and the shirt right side out.  Put the shirt inside the skirt and match the seams.  Pin the skirt to the shirt and begin sewing.  You will want to sew over the scrunchies, to create a ruffled effect.  

Step 8: Trim excess fabric at seams and admire your cool new dress!

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Step 9: Have the adorable birthday girl model her new present!

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Just Quilt It

If you are anything like me, your kids have t-shirts from EVERYTHING they've been in!  School activities, events and activities they've participated in, etc.  And sometimes you want to hang on to those t-shirts, even if they are too small or start to wear out.  The best way I've come up with to save those shirts, without having them clutter up the closest is make a t-shirt quilt out of them.

First you need to gather up your shirts and figure out how many you have.  For my quilt, most of our shirts had stuff front and back so I got two squares out of each shirt and ended up with 15 squares, or 8 shirts, in my quilt.  It didn't end up being a regular sized blanket, but it is perfect for the kid that is using it.  

The other things you are going to need are batting (I bought twin size at Joann's and didn't use all of it for my quilt), a backing material (I used flannel, 42 inches wide, which was wide enough to cover all my squares without additional sewing and I way over bought on yardage.  2 yards is plenty), binding material (3/4-1 yard of a woven material should be sufficient), and most importantly, interfacing, this is what makes the whole project possible (I used a lightweight fusible interfacing and I got 6 yards of it, which was more than enough) as well as your thread.  

General sewing materials, like a mat large enough to lay the whole shirt on, a rotary cutter and guide to make sure your lines are straight will make the project much simpler, as well.

mat and cutter photo matandcutter.jpg

For me, I was far too cheap to buy the standard suggested acrylic ruler, so I used a 12x12 floor tile left over from a previous bathroom remodel.  Because it was too thick to cut over, it made my squares just a little bigger than the recommended 12.5x12.5, which was totally fine.  

floor tile photo Floortile.jpg

If your shirt is blank on the back, you don't have to cut it apart at all before you cut out your square.  You just lay it out, lay your guide centered over your design and cut away.  Most of mine had things on the back I wanted to keep so I had to cut it in half.

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Basically, I just cut up the side, up the arm, up the shoulder and across the neck and down the other shoulder, so it opened up completely.  

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Your squares should all be exactly the same size and shape and you will use the same guide to cut your interfacing as well.  Interfacing is thin and I folded mine into several layers and cut out a bunch at once, because cutting gets tedious, after awhile.  

Once all of your squares are cut out, you will need to iron on your interfacing.  Interfacing has a smooth side and a bumpy side.  The bumpy side goes against the wrong side of the fabric and you iron the smooth side of until it sticks to the back of the t-shirt squares.  

interface photo interface.jpg

Next, you'll need some space to lay out all of your squares.  I did a 3x5 arrangement, because 3 squares wide perfectly fits that flannel I knew I was using.  Play with the arrangement until you are happy with how it looks.  

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The most important part of this process is make sure you have a dedicated "helper" joining you in your project.  How would I ever get anything done without her?

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Once you are happy with the layout, you'll fold the left hand square onto the middle square and pin the sides securely, right sides together.  Sew the joining seam with a straight stitch.  Then lay it back on the floor and pin the right to the middle and repeat.  Do the same thing for all the rows, then repeat with the columns that you created from sewing the rows together.  After you have all the squares joined, iron your seams open so they lay flat inside your blanket.  

Next you are going to create a blanket "sandwich" with all of your layers.  Start by laying your backing fabric right side down, followed by your batting and your quilt top, right side up.  Pin the edges securely and sew a straight stitch around the outside edge of the quilt.  I sewed very close to the edge and then cut next to that line, to make all the layers exactly even.

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Next, you'll want to sew around each square to hold the materials in place and make it more decorative.  My machine is very basic and only has about 10 stitches, so I just used the coolest one I had, even though none of them are particularly decorative, like they would be on a quilting machine.  This is the part that took the longest and was the most tedious.  It required a lot of maneuvering, with trying to shove large portions of the blanket through my machine.  I also noticed the material wasn't pulling well because it was so thick, so I had to make sure I pushing it through carefully.  

Finally, you need to bind it all off, so your not so pretty raw edges don't show.  Start by cutting your binding material into 3 inch wide strips.  

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Then you'll fold those strips in half and finger press a crease in the material.  

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Reopen the strip and fold the sides into the middle crease.  Pin the sides and sew the edges down 

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After that, you need to seam two binding strips together (which for my 5 rows was a little long, but I just cut off the extra.  If you do more rows, you might need more binding strips).

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For the short side, one binding strip was just almost long enough, so I just used a small piece that I cut off the long side and seamed that together as well.

Once you have your binding strips long enough, start at the corner and fold the strip over your not so pretty edges and pin the whole length.  Once you've got a whole side pinned, sew the binding strip to the quilt.  I used a 3/8 seam allowance to make sure I got all the pieces and the seam wasn't too close to the edges.  Repeat this around the quilt until you've completed all four sides.

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Stand back and admire your lovely quilt! 

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Here, I flipped over the corner, so you could see the backing material as well.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pahk the cah in the yahd

When we bought our house, we knew it was a little small but it had an attached garage.  In the "grand plan" we had planned to remodel it, take out the door, raise the floor, add ventilation, etc, etc, etc and turn it into a family room.  In the mean time, we put carpet out there and a couch and TV and all the kids' toys and video games.  Then we decided it is just a garage and we weren't going to work that hard on it.  For heat, we've been using a small electric heater, disguised as a fire place.  It never gets very warm but it was always ok.  For the last few months, the kids just haven't been using the space, electing to play in their rooms most of the time instead.  I don't know if it is because of the litter box that it out there or the cold or that they just prefer the stuff in their rooms but it has basically become a junk room, full of toys no one plays with and electronics no one uses.  RF started talking about how he wanted to change it and talk about it and talk about it.  Finally, he called his dad and they decided since he was off on spring break, they'd knock it out and get it finished.

They started Saturday the 16th by ripping out the nasty old wall board and building a new wall.  I didn't get an actual before picture because I was running errands with MF when they started out.

Here is the new wall they built

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On the back side of the wall, they built storage shelves to move all the toys and stuff out of the rest of the room to make it less cluttered looking.

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MF decided she didn't like how long it was taking and felt compelled to write a motivational message to the crew.

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Too bad it was written in redneck :) (It says Git it dun)

Once they got the wall board down (which you can see behind the shelves, since they recycled it to back that up), they found that insulation was a nasty mess.  Shredded, moldy, full of mouse droppings, etc.

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Set back number one was  changing that for better stuff that would actually work and let us heat that space in a reasonable amount of time.

new insulation photo newinsulation.jpg

Set back number two happened when we started hanging the drywall and figured out the room wasn't quite square.

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For reference, this piece is touching top and bottom, with that much gap in the middle!

Set back number three happened when I started to mud the existing drywall (The West wall had always had drywall on it, but it was unfinished and unpainted) and found several large holes and rips in the drywall that were going to be a beast to patch.  We had some leftover drywall, so we decided to almost completely replace that wall as well.

mudded wall photo muddedwall.jpg

While the guys were working on the drywall, I set to work cleaning the garage door.  I scrubbed it with the Mr. Clean and I don't know if you can tell from the picture but this is one side cleaned and one side left!  We did find out that we can probably paint the panels, so that is the plan for when it warms up a bit.

clean door photo Cleandoor.jpg

We also decided to mud the ceiling joints, but basically, it is particle board that we painted so it is pretty textured.

mudded ceiling photo muddedceiling.jpg

Then we painted the ceiling.  That sucked.  I did the whole thing, all the cutting in, all the painting etc.  It took about 3 1/2 hours and I felt like I'd been beaten when I was done.  But it was 100% worth it in the dramatic change it made in the room.

painted ceiling photo Paintedceiling.jpg

WF got home from his jet setting vacation while we were working, so I decided now was the time for him to learn how to mud.

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Once the millions coats of mud was dry, we sponged the edges (sooo much easier than sanding and so much less messy) and started painting.  My paint crew decided tie dye was the uniform of the painters.

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WF even helped paint.  After begging to help for hours, he worked for about 20 minutes before he said he was done.

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We trimmed the ceiling and the new door and still need to trim the window and the floor but other than that, we are basically done.  At some point, we need to do something to the floor but concrete epoxy paint is super expensive and that just isn't something we are going to do right now.

The room now gets super warm.  We were running two heaters trying to get the paint dry and I asked RF to turn them off because I was roasting.  About an hour later, I looked over and there was condensation RUNNING down the window because it was so warm in there!  All the toys are out of it and in the storage room.  All the shovels and brooms and mops are hanging in the storage room and most importantly, the cat's litter box is in the storage room.

This is the after of the door to the house and garage door.

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This is the after of the new wall and door.

after back photo Afterdoor.jpg

Of course, this all means that I will never end up parking my car in the garage, even after the kids are gone.  It's way too nice to put a car in now!  It is, however, perfectly nice for a gathering.  Who is ready to have a welcome spring party, once we survive snow-pocalypse tomorrow?