Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Playroom Art

I saw this idea on Pinterest (of course) and loved it! It seemed easy enough and a great project the kids could do. They loved every second and are still asking when we can make another one.

First, I applied the letters to our canvas. This sounded easy, but the letters kept peeling back up. I knew they would not survive the kids painting on them that way, so I improvised...broke out the hairspray and sprayed those bad boys down. Problem solved...for now.

Next, I set the kids up with washable tempera paints and they dove into the fun part.

I told A (almost 4) that the goal was to cover all the white spots with paint. She took on the challenge with flying colors. G (almost 2) preferred painting thick globs in one general area. His sister was kind enough to help him spread it out a little, and together they coated that canvas and had a blast doing it. During the process, the colors ended up sort of mixing together into a mess of green and blue, but that's ok, we like those colors.

After the paint dried overnight, I took on the {seemingly easy sounding} task of peeling the letters off to reveal our masterpiece. Maybe it was the hairspray I used to keep them on originally, or maybe it was the letters I used, the type of paint, or a combo...but those letters did not want to come off! I tore up my nails digging at them (good thing I'm not an 'I care about my nails' much kind of chic) to get little slivers of them up and peeled them up in many many super small unsatisfying little pieces. I used an exacto knife very very carefully so I didn't pierce the canvas, to get the edges up but that didn't help much, if at all. It was a royal pain to put it nicely. And a total b$^3h to be honest.

When I finally got all the letter pieces off, I was not left with clean white letters like I expected, but luckily for this project, the messy edges were perfect. In fact, I'm not sure it would have fit the painting if the letters hadn't come out like this. The kiddos were way proud of themselves over their little work of art and it hangs in the playroom, quite appropriately. I love seeing this hanging in there, knowing their little fingers made it so proudly.

As much as I adore the way this turned out, I would love to figure out how to make this decal removal process easier and cleaner for future projects. If you have suggestions I'd love to hear them!

The BEST homemade granola bars ever!

I really like to make as many homemade items as I can. Especially convenience food. I like to know exactly what goes into what I am eating and feeding my family, and I really like being able to pronounce every ingredient and know where it came from.

I also really like Quaker chewy granola bars though. So, I started trying granola bar recipes to see if I could make something just as good at home. These are the best ones I have found and they are not just as good as quaker - they are WAY BETTER!! They are also incredibly easy and quick to make, and save for a few weeks in the pantry if individually wrapped (though they barely make it a week in our house). Depending on your level of chew or crunch desire, you can tweak this to fit perfectly. I like mine chewy with a little crunch and following the recipe time exactly yields those results for me. I have overcooked them before and ended up with crunchier ones (think Nature Valley style), and I would imagine if you under-cooked them a smidge they would be even chewier without much crunch at all.

I adapted this recipe {from the fabulous Weelicious} slightly - leaving out the coconut, and being a bit more generous with the chocolate chips (chocolate makes everything better!). Otherwise, I followed this recipe near perfect. If you have not checked out Weelicious before, you really should. Everything I have tried of hers has been amazing, and mostly health conscious without sacrificing taste.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars (makes about 30 bars)

4 Cups Old Fashioned Oats
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup (generously overfilled!) Chocolate Chips
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Honey

Preheat oven to 325 F.
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.
Pour the wet ingredients over the oat mixture and stir to combine.
Place granola mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet and shape into a rectangle, about 13 x 9 x 1 inch thick.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes then cut into 3 x 1 inch bars.
Wrap individually and they will keep up to a few weeks.

Freshly baked and cut into bars...

Individually wrapped (I used Glad Press 'n' Seal)

My kids love them, and hubby and I love them just as much, or maybe even more. I keep meaning to try a variation with dried fruit - maybe diced dried apples with cinnamon, or raisins, dark chocolate and dried cherry...the possibilities are endless, though every time I go to make them, the chocolate chips are winking at me in the cupboard. And for some reason, I feel less guilty eating chocolate when it is packaged in a fairly wholesome granola bar.

Enjoy and let me know what you think of these - I quit trying granola bar recipes once I found these ones - they are that good.

Friday, February 24, 2012

One giddy girl...a chalkboard fridge!

We have a gorgeous stainless steel fridge that I love. But you cannot put magnets on the front of it. I love this because it keeps it from looking cluttered, but I was missing a central place to put the week's menu (was on the side of a cupboard with a post it note). Problem solved, win-win! I LOVE my new chalkboard decal from Bradens Grace!! I went ahead and ordered some fun chalkboard decals to help me organize my pantry too. Lauren was super sweet to work with, and her replies and shipping were both fast. Now I'm on the hunt for decals for the days and "Menu" so it looks a little cleaner...then all I have to do is come up with the meals and write them in. I'm in-love!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meal Planning and My Favorite App

I started meal planning shortly after my daughter was born almost 4 years ago. It became clear to me quickly, that if I didn't have it planned out, dinner would either not get made (we didn't have a child to feed yet since she was just nursing), or would be a poor excuse for the dinners I had envisioned making.

In an attempt to live up to the visions I had of myself, or better yet, just in an attempt to make sure we were eating something healthy...well something at all, I started meal planning.

I make my meal plan on Sundays for the week ahead. I also make a grocery list at the same time for the items I need to make all of these meals. I typically grocery shop on Monday so this works well for me. I generally like a crockpot meal in there once a week, and this meal often yields a leftover dinner too. I try to incorporate as many items we already have on hand as I can to keep the grocery budget happy. I also have many, many tried and true favorite recipes now, but I still like to throw in one or two new ones each week so we don't get bored eating, and I don't get bored cooking.

Since getting an iPhone last summer (don't be haters android peeps!), I have fallen in-love with the Cozi app. This is how I do my grocery list. This app is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. It has a calendar, grocery lists, to do lists...but the best part - it syncs with my hubby's phone so we can both see everything at any time. We can see the calendar and what is on the family social agenda, we can both see and add to (or check off) the grocery list, Costco list, Target list...we can both see, add to, check off the to do lists. It is really great. And best of all, it was free. I promise Cozi is not paying me for this plug, nor do they even know who this lil blogger is, but this app has made our life way easier. I love always having my grocery list with me, and hubs likes being able to add deodorant to it when he runs out, or peanut butter, or... It's also a nice way to organize the kids' activities. Each person gets a color code on the calendar and you can quickly glance and see who has what and when. For hubs, it is also convenient for him to see as he schedules client appointments, while taking into consideration our family plans for the weekend, etc. This app is on android  and blackberry too, and you can also access it from a computer.

Now back to my meal planning...I hang the week's meal plan for all to see on the side of the cupboard (well now on my chalkboard fridge!!). I am not rigid with this plan. If I get up on Tuesday and Thursday's dinner sounds way better, I have no problem swapping things around. We have all the ingredients already for all of the meals so when it is made in the week does not matter much - just that it gets made. We waste far less food this way, and buy far less food on impulse that we don't need.

I prefer weekly planning. I tried monthly about a year ago and it was too much for me. A friend of mine recently told me she does it biweekly and I may try that so I don't have to go to the store every week. Find what works for you and let me know what does. Or if you are a veteran meal planner, let me know how you handle it and what has worked well. I'd love to know!

Sew Now What

I consider myself a sewing beginner. Very beginner. I got a sewing machine when I was pregnant with my son a couple years ago. Before this, I could only hand stitch buttons and such. I took a class at a fabric store and learned how to use it...very basic. very very basic, but I was excited to teach myself from there.

My first project was a crinkle toy for G. It was successful, even though it was not perfectly square...and the corners were whack. I was not trying to sell this, just make a fun crinkly toy (using part of an old wipes container) that my baby boy would enjoy. Success!

Next, I decided to challenge myself. Using some baby receiving blankets I already had along with some batting from the fabric store, I decided to sew toddler size pillows. One for A and one for G. These too, at first seemed successful, well almost.

A's looked a little flat, but not bad. A actually used hers to sleep on though and a month or two later it was a flat flat mess and I no longer believed hers successful. And hers was the most successful from the beginning too. I keep hers in the linen closet for camping now and bought her a MUCH better pillow that has not gone flat on her.

G's pillow was just to sit on the rocking chair in his room. Decorative mostly, and a little lumbar support for me. I say for me, because the hubs always throws the pillow on the floor when he is in rocking G. I find it laying on the floor the next day when I sit in the chair and think, "where's the pillow that makes my back feel better?" Maybe it has to do with our height difference (5'3" vs 5'10")...maybe.

Anyway, G's pillow started off super cute, and I used extra batting because I learned from A's. The problem arose when I did 'who knows what' to my sewing machine - bumped a lever? pressed a button? no clue... and the stitches suddenly were no longer tight at all. I couldn't figure out how to fix I finished the pillow, loose stitches and all. It has not fallen apart, and it still looks cute. I notice it often when I sit down in the chair, or more often when I pick it up from the floor where hubs threw it, but from a small distance you wouldn't know if you weren't looking for it. So in some ways, I claim this a success too.

The problem now lies in the fact that I have not touched my sewing machine in nearly 2 years because of this loosening of stitching setting I messed up. I have had several sew-happy friends tell me what that is called and that it is not a hard fix with my manual. But I have yet to break out the manual. I tried right after it happened, got frustrated and stopped. Then we had to pack. Then we moved. Then we unpacked. And now, a year after the move, I am finally getting my craft room in order enough to actually try my hand at sewing again.

Time to break out the manual, ugh. And try to figure out through all the sewing machine lingo how to fix the tension (?) or whatever it's called.

But then, another problem. I don't think I even remember how to turn the thing on. How to thread the needle...or worse, the bobbin. But that won't stop me. I WILL conquer this.

I have supplied myself with several tutorials (thank you pinterest) to re-teach myself these things, and hopefully move forward with this neglected machine I so longed for.

I am committing here and now, to re-start sewing in 2012, and better yet, before Spring. If anyone has tips or suggestions for me I am all ears!

I have big dreams for me and my sewing machine to accomplish together this year. Watch me prove it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Welcome to my Domestic Mess!

Beginning this blog has been on my bucket list for a few years now. I wanted to wait until I had a clear focus and a clear plan for it, but like so many things in life, I have realized the real clarity may better come from doing than holding stuck in the planning phase. So here it goes, here is my blog. Welcome to my Domestic Mess!

I am a wife to an amazing man and father. I am a stay at home mom to a beautiful preschool daughter and handsome toddler son. I manage our rental properties, help with hubby's marketing when called on and sell some crafty items too {BabyCakes Creations}. Seeing the love and fun my kids share with each other is one of the best feelings as a mother, and they are so ridiculously sweet with each other (most of the time...).

Life is far from perfect, but I really don't have much to complain about so I try not to very often. I strive to find the lessons in each bad day, and try hard to live in the present and stop worrying about the future what-ifs (which is pretty hard when you are not only a planner by nature, but also a true to core worrier...key word is "try").

Craftiness and organization excite me more than I can explain. My house is not always spotless...or as organized as I would prefer - sometimes I wish it were, but I try to remember that memories with my children are far more important than an orderly counter top (as long as everything is sanitary!).

The older my kids get the more I am able to grasp hold of pieces of my once organized self - but I wouldn't trade a single even split second of their lives for the most organized home. They grow too quick and I certainly have no interest in rushing that, in fact, if I could slow it down magically I would do it in a heartbeat.

I am a holistic nutrition nut and always have been, and a fitness fanatic, though I have not always been this. Family is my number one priority. True friends are a close second. I believe in working hard, but I also whole-heartedly believe that if you don't also take the time to play, you are missing the point.

I hope you enjoy my blog, whether it follows what I envision or creates it's own direction for me to follow. If you have questions for me, all you ever have to do is ask :) Thanks so much for stopping by, I hope you'll stick around.