Thursday, July 3, 2014

Riding the roller coaster of life's joys and sorrows

The last few months have been one of life's most ambivalent times. You know the ones, where good things are happening and you think you should be feeling guilty being happy when others or even ourselves are hurting over the pain and loss that life brings us. Navigating grief while planning a wedding has been on our minds a lot. We know that Mr. Moon's father's absence in our wedding celebrations will be notable, and trying to find ways to grieve and honor him in such a joyous occasion hasn't been easy. It's not even a situation to which we've found a solution that feel right, yet.

But this entire endeavor I think has been good for me. Despite my lack of mental health care at the moment (which is a long story and a rant for another day), I've found myself navigating a lot of intense emotions and stressful situations with more grace and self-love than I really expected to experience. Mr. Moon and I have our spats for sure, but those even haven't been as intense as we've expected. Ultimately we've been good about remembering that we are on the same team, even if it doesn't always feel like it. I certainly feel that our relationship is making great strides with this entire process, as we focus on a common goal and utilize each other's strengths to come together to make it happen, as a team.

I'm not looking forward to the lull after the wedding, though. I know that there are some serious issues within myself that I've been setting aside to deal with at a better time. It's a habit I learned in childhood and one with which I know I will always struggle because to be honest it's not always a bad thing. Learning to cope in better ways is the top of my list of things to work on when I have the mental capacity to focus on it. But it's been nice to see how far I've already come in the same area. I'm finding I'm much more prepared to settle my own panic attacks, coping with more situations as they arise rather than bottling things up until I explode, and most importantly I've been getting better with my self-care in general to keep my stress levels in check. All those months and years of learning these new skills, and now that they're put to the test I'm passing with flying colors. It's glorious.

There's still much to do and I'd better be getting back to it. But I really can't wait to share some of our engagement photos when they come in!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Arts & Crafts: Fixing a Pair of Sandals From Ouch to Ahh!

I bought these sandals. I needed something that would do for the summer that's that sort of mid-range dress-casual style, that would sort of "go with everything." I rarely wear white so that's right out, but black doesn't always work either. Then I saw these super cuties on sale at Payless and I had a coupon so I bought them.

Problem is, when they came in (did I mention I do most of my shopping online?) they were... ok but not quite right. You see, it's the laces.
As you can see, I tried a couple (dozen) different ways of lacing them. Each and every one caused painful pressure points from the round laces on the tops of my feet in minutes. No matter how I laced them, the ends were so long that the bows and tails would flop around and tickle my feet like I had bugs crawling all over them. Payless, if you can hear me: THIS IS NOT OKAY!!!

I knew I had to do something. They sat in their box in the bottom of the closet for more weeks than I'm ready to admit, while I figured out something else. I bought a sets of kids-shoe-sized elastic shoelaces for $6, hoping they would be shorter and then I could tie them once and be done with it. But when they came in, they were EVEN LONGER than the ones I had already! (Thankfully it wasn't a wasted $6, I put them on another pair of shoes that needed new laces anyway.)

I had to stop next door to Joann's anyway so I stopped in to check out my options. At this point I was thinking if I even got some ribbon or lace, at least it would be super cute and I could just go ahead and retie them every time, hopefully with smaller bows. 

Then I saw this for $3: 
5/8 inch ruffle elastic. It's in with the other elastics, and they had like 10 colors so you can do this with any color sandal, shoe, or whatever. I was worried that it would be too wide, but it's not--still, I'd go as thin as 3/8 inch if you can find it, but make sure it's flat! 

First, cut the elastic. You might as well just cut it in half, seeing as this is a yard length, but I sort of measured and figured that a length three times as long as the space to be laced would work, assuming you don't want a LOT of space between the two sides of eyelets. I had about 6 inches of ruffle left at the end of this, so I'd stick with just accepting that you're using the whole shebang and cutting the sucker in half. 

Then use some fray-stop or clear nail polish on the ends. 
I just put a light coat on, just enough to try to stabilize it a little bit. Honestly I expected to be cutting the ends off, but I cut my length so close to perfect that I couldn't. If you don't have something suitable, just skip this step and it's probably ok. Wait 15-30 minutes for the fray-stop to dry. 

I found it useful to roll the end into a deeper point (which is why the fray-stop may have been pointless):

Lace it however you like, just keep an eye on not letting it get twisted so the final project lays flat. I wanted my bow at the toes so:
Also make sure you leave it slack and un-stretched in each spot. You want to be able to stretch it later.

Tie up the end in a bow until it's almost big enough, snip off the ends if they're too long, and pull the ends into the knot if they look like crap:
And Voila! It stretches to get into my foot, then pulls back to fit snugly. It flexes when I walk, but is still supportive. The ruffle is soft, and because it's flat and so flexible there are no pressure points. 
A simple fix, and I think it's femmes up the sandals a bit too which is nice! Perfect for making them slip on and off without constantly retying them, and will also allow my feet a bit of flexibility for swelling while walking in summer heat (hint: Might be a nice solution for pregnant femmes!).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Home Remedies: Busting Head Lice

Alright after the flea post I did promise a post about getting rid of head lice without risking pesticide poisoning. Let me first explain why this is so important to me. [Click through at the "Read More" because I cut it for the bug-squick.]

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Organizing: Daily checklists

We have been using outdated checklists since we moved into our new place, just because everything has been so dysfunctional in our lives. I think there is a point at which routine & organizing is impossible, and then a point at which routine & organizing will help you get the rest of the way to where you want to be. There's definitely a tipping point, just as there is with menu planning. I think we've finally hit that tipping point.

Finally today I've got our checklists updated and ready to be printed. One of the nice things about living in a place before updating the lists is that we can see what's been missed and make sure to get it on the list. So that's helpful. Bright side, right?

I have to tell you though, don't skip getting the shopping list white board up on the wall as soon as you move in. Forgetting that rice vinegar was on the list for over a month was torture when I kept re-discovering for three whole weeks that I was out. Or the day we forgot to pick up toilet paper. Oops.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with two giant boxes full of... boxes. After the last three moves being so urgent, thus not having time to spend on scouring liquor & grocery stores for boxes, we've spent money on the boxes that we have. They're still in good shape and I don't want to just recycle them, but they're hardly sellable. And frankly, I don't want to have to buy more again when we move. Some creative box-binding and storage is going to be in the works in our near-future. If I'd thought it it before just now, I'd have had Mr. Moon leave 4 inches of space behind the book shelves for a stash of boxes. I suppose it's not too late!

I'm so excited to get back to menu planning. But not as excited as I am about our daily checklists. It's a little chore-heavy right now, to accommodate the fact that everything is going to take a little more time than it will once we're actually finished unpacking. In the meantime, we set timers and use the time to finish unpacking whatever room is on our checklist, and hopefully get some actual cleaning done as well.

I've also got a built-in system to make sure our laundry and papers don't pile up. Those two are huge panic triggers for me, both in having to deal with them and in seeing them piling up. I've got the bedroom on our list 3 days a week, 2 of those are weekdays with a separate reminder to deal with any paperwork, and laundry day is a completely different day. Thus, if laundry doesn't get finished being folded or put away on laundry day, there are other days scheduled as times to do that with reminders on the checklist. It's all about building your systems in such a way they help you to succeed and lower your own stress levels in the process. Winner.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sad news

As I started this blog originally when moving down to live with and care for Mr. Moon's parents, even though I've avoided detailing his struggle with cancer it seems only right that I should post the sad news we received yesterday. Mr. Moon's father has passed on.

It certainly wasn't sudden, but there were sudden drastic declines in health along the way, almost like a flight of stairs. His children, wife, friends and family had lots of time with him before the final days were clearly upon us, and then those closest to him were given the chance to stop in and say their goodbyes. For Mr. Moon and I, our friends have been fantastically supportive, and for that we will always be grateful. It is a comfort to know that he was not in much pain until the very end, and that modern medical care was able to ease that pain for the most part so he never suffered. Not all terminally ill patients are afforded such an easy transition, and everyone who loved him is not taking that fact for granted.

Not a week before his death, he and his wife celebrated 37 happy years of marriage. It's a testament to commitment and yes, even stubbornness, and I only hope my marriage to their wonderful son lasts as long. May peace be with him.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Latest Dirt: Micro greens and herbs making their way to the sun!

The garden is really making progress! I'm pretty excited about it.

One of these is kale, the other is mustard greens. These and the lettuce below, I'm not sure at what point I start thinning and eating micro/baby greens.

It took a while, but the dill decided to come out to play! Plus a volunteer oregano there at the bottom left corner.

Marigolds! I'm pretty excited for these. When I was planting I was really disappointed in my lack of nasturtiums this year, but I've got more pots now! Hanging ones even. I don't think we get warm enough or enough sunlight around here for tomatoes, so maybe I will use my hanging pots for nasturtiums.

The scallions are so much happier outside in dirt with some sun than they were on my counter with no sun in a glass of water that we rarely remembered to change. However, they grow more slowly out here which makes me a little sad.

 My lavender did decide to grow back! Maybe I will cut off the silly stump now.

I wasn't sure if the cilantro was going to come out to play, but it did. I'm getting conflicting reports from reputable sources about whether cilantro grows back after being harvested or whether you have to keep re-seeding. I can't imagine that it's the only one that doesn't grow back, and I remember doing just fine with my last couple successes as long as I actually, you know, watered them. So I'm hoping for good results.

More greens! And you can see next to the orange stick there my celery greens starting to pop up. Tarragon and both basils didn't make it, so I'm going to try those again.

I've also got a nice sturdy glass jar that I'm hoping to make into a terrarium with some rocks and succulents. Foraged ones, if I do, since every spare penny is going to the wedding right now. I've also finally found the sprouts jar and am hoping that we can get those going again. Maybe I can keep myself in salad greens all summer this year, without fighting for farmers' market parking?

How does your garden grow?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Recipe: Cheeseburger Cobbler

A family-of-friends on Facebook posted that one of them had brought forth a family recipe and it was amazing. This family recipe such as it was came with some vague instructions (not unlike my own "recipes"), and I added it to my mental list of Things To Try At Some Point.

Of course, being me, I didn't need much more than the vague instructions to fly off in my own direction. And thus, this casserole was born. (I'm adjusting directions for better flavor than what I did, don't be alarmed that the layers are in a different order than the pics; you still get the idea.)

  • 3/4 lb or more ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • seasonings to taste
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, quartered (optional)
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced (unpictured, optional)
  • Pickle chips, or relish
  • ketchup
  • mustard
  • Cheese of your choice, separated (pictured: muenster sliced, cheddar shredded)
  • Raw biscuit dough, enough to feed 2 biscuits to everyone (canned is fine, as is Jiffy mix)
  • garlic bread seasoning, or granulated garlic, basil & oregano.

  1. Brown ground meat with onions, salt, pepper, and garlic -- add other seasonings as you like for your hamburgers. (This I did days ahead and may have contributed to a problem I had below. Directions will reflect both options.) If you're going to make your biscuit dough from scratch, do this while the meat is cooking, and I heartily recommend putting some seasonings into the dry mix before adding the wet ingredients. 
  2. Preheat oven to 375.
  3. If you did step 1 days ahead like me, your meat is cold. Dump it into your casserole dish and stick it in the oven as it preheats. If you browned your meat at the same time as you're cooking to eat this thing, skip this step. Once the meat is at least warmed and you have raw biscuits, continue: 
  4. Drizzle meat with ketchup and mustard. Top the meat with some quartered mushrooms and pickle chips.
  5. Place a layer of cheese of your choice on top; shredded or sliced is fine.
  6. Carefully construct a layer of biscuit dough. You might do this with biscuits from a can, as I did here, because I can't find half my kitchen still. However you might make some biscuits from scratch or a Jiffy mix, and that's great too, especially as it means you can put the seasonings and perhaps even some of the cheese inside. 
  7. Top the biscuit dough with the garlic bread seasoning, or your garlic & herbs. Then top with a light layer of shredded cheese, because garlic cheddar biscuits are amazing. 
  8. Pop in the oven at 375 for... probably 15 minutes? This is where it gets fuzzy. As you can see, my biscuits were a little goopy on the bottoms still at 15 minutes. However, I only baked at 350 and my meat was cold. Hence starting from hot meat. Anyway, cook until your biscuits are done to your liking. 
  9. When biscuits are browned and done through, remove from oven and serve. If you forgot your pickles inside (like me) or are using relish, put the pickles on top. 

So that's Cheeseburger Casserole!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Furniture renovations for the win

I'm pretty good about using things as I need them and not just using, say, a nightstand when I need a nightstand. Thinking outside the box, as it were. When I was growing up, I had a loft bed, and the top of my tall dresser was my nightstand. I've used file cabinets, actual nightstands, upside down trash cans, stools, chairs, and most recently: a small bookshelf.

Bookshelves are great for nightstands. They don't come too far forward, so you aren't trying to scoot around them getting into bed. They have lots of storage space for the room they take up, and if you want things on them to be hidden you can put them in decorative boxes/baskets.

The problem with my bookshelf was, it had to be placed in such a way as to either block the outlet from being usable at all, or else pulled 3-4 inches away from the wall to allow the plugs some room. Of course, pulling it away from the wall presents other problems, namely earrings and pill bottles getting dropped behind it. Not helpful. Also due to my mobility issues, I needed my plugs a bit more accessible than being on the floor in a plug extender or behind a piece of furniture.

This was my solution: Putting a 1x4 on the back to extend the depth of the top shelf, while leaving a gap behind the remainder of the unit. The shelf doesn't need to hold anything heavy; my lamp is rather light and could stay toward the front anyway, and the rest is pill bottles in a light basket, my phone, and whatever else gets shoved up there that stays for a few days before being cleaned up again.

I also screwed in a couple screws to hang a plug extender right next to my head. Ok it's actually about a foot away from my head, especially the way I sleep, but it's not on the floor and that's what's important. (That I actually did in our last apartment, and then we spent three weeks finding the exact extender plug that matched the holes because we didn't label it. It's labeled now, and will also not be removed from the unit again.)

It is properly level, it curving up a bit is an optical illusion. I used "mending brackets" on it because my original plan of L-brackets wouldn't work; the back is attached by being inset a bit like a puzzle, as are the sides, so there wasn't a solid spot to screw into except on the top there. It's not ideal, I would have preferred a smooth top, but it is effective and it was a fast solution. If possible, I still recommend L-brackets underneath instead.

You can see the two screws for the extender plug there, pre-unearthing it from a box. And the Goodwill sticker at the unit's front left corner (top, here). CLEARLY it needs some love in the form of a good sand-down and painting job. But in the meantime, it's FUNCTIONAL and that's what's most important to me. Besides, it's usually covered by baskets and a lamp anyway.

Speaking of the lamp, due to the trim at the floor on the far side, there is a 1/4 inch gap between the unit and the wall. Perfect for running the lamp cord down to the outlet behind, so that I can focus my extender plug on things like my computer, phone cord, and whatever else I may need to plug in but not leave there or have maximum slack for sitting in bed.

Now, does anyone want to come over and paint it?

What DIY projects are you working on right now?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Latest Dirt: Gardening 2014

Saturday I wanted nothing more than to dig in some dirt. After all the snow, wind, rain, and grey of winter, I just needed some sunshine and dirt time. So I spent a little time (only 20 minutes or so) prepping my containers for planting. Surprise surprise, I didn't get any "before" pictures of the cluttered balcony. This is a failing I'm certain we're all going to have to learn to accept. 

This is the set-up we're hoping to use for our garden, though the cascading effect of the ones on the left means they may get less sun than if I cascade them out. Unfortunately it also means that would make the herbs less accessible for fast snipping while cooking. I might try working on a shelving mechanism to get maximum light and access. 
Once I'd pulled out all the clover, and turned the dirt a bit, some delightful plants came into view. Like these darlings! To the left and right bottom corners you can see tiny springs of oregano that popped in for some reason. This big thing... Well, it's in the dill pot, but it was growing outside the area where I'd planted the dill and it doesn't SMELL like dill. I transplanted it toward the center until I decided what to do with it. Any input identifying it is welcome. 

My poor lavender. I didn't harvest it properly last fall, and I think it froze and dried out over the winter. Everything pretty well just fell off when I went to trim it back, all the stems were cracked and dried, nothing green inside. I left the stalk to see if it can be encouraged to grow. If I don't have anything green within a couple weeks here, I'll splurge on another plant to replace it. I loved having lavender around too much to go without it. I will say that the dried lavender leaves made the compost smell much nicer than dead onions!

Thyme! I had two plants in here, a lemon and an english thyme. The English one you can see here, growing happily. The lemon I thought had died off completely, but once I got the dead stems out of the way there was new growth underneath.

But there is also this huge overgrowth of moss underneath. None of my other planters have this moss issue, and I'm wondering if they're beneficial to each other. Thyme grows wild in the mountains, or so the song goes (you're welcome for the ear worm) and so does moss, so they're either natural besties or competing for nutrients. Not sure which theory to go with but for now I'm going with friends. What do you think?

Sunday I took a bit of time to pull out the seed packets and get the seeds soaking in warm water. It's a trick I learned for using seeds intended for previous growing seasons, and one my grandmother used to revive seeds from as early as 1969 with about an 80% germination rate. I've had some rough germinations from my seeds the last couple attempts, so I thought I'd try this version. Directions varied from soaking them for an hour to overnight/a full 24 hours. I'm going the overnight route due to scheduling, so I have Mr. Moon to help me move the heavy planters around.

All in all, a lovely couple of days digging in dirt. Mostly herbs again this year, though I did get some lettuce and kale started for greens. I might also pick up a few more planters, if I can work out a shelving mechanism to have room for them, because I'd really like to have a couple more versions of greens and maybe some tomatoes out there.

What are you planting in YOUR garden this year? 

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