Thursday Thirteen: I Am Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving – a time to spend with family and reflect on the good and wonderful things in our lives. So, in that vein, here’s a list of things I’m thankful for this year.

1. My Family As always, this is number one. My husband, my children, my extended family. All of these people are central to my life and I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without them. I love them all so very much.

2. Employment I am so grateful that Scot has a job but I am even more grateful that it is one he enjoys. Shifting from technical writing to systems administration has been so, so good for him. His work environment is so much better for him, too.  He’s found a great boss, a good group of people to work with, and his job satisfaction has taken a big upswing.

3. Zoloft Because, DUH. If there is one single thing I did for myself this year that made my life better, it was admitting I needed help, seeing a doctor, and going on Zoloft. I feel WORLDS better than I did beforehand. It’s sort of hard to describe just how profoundly it has changed my life. Better living through chemistry, man. All hail modern medicine.

4. Social Media I love living in the future. The ability to connect with my far flung family of friends is something I truly cherish. It means I get to keep up with some of my oldest and dearest friends (Hi Dan and Trista!) but also easily connect with new ones. It is a stay-at-home-parent’s life line to a world not dominated by children.

5.  Friends And of course, following straight behind social media, I am thankful for my friends. Old and new, local and distant – every one of you have made me laugh, supported me through rough waters, and enriched my life is ways immeasurable. I can only hope that I’ve returned the favor.

6. My Treadmill Yes, I am thankful for an inanimate object. Why? Because it allows me to exercise regularly while still being able to provide a parental presence. I can show my kids by example the importance of exercise as part of a healthy life. Also? Running makes me feel great, lessens the severity of my depression, and did I mention it makes me feel great?

7. School I’m really glad to be back in school, working toward a goal, and preparing to re-enter the world of employment. I didn’t realize I’d missed it until I got back into it. The early years of motherhood sort of shut down that part of my brain. Now it’s waking back up and it’s rather fantastic.

8. Older Kids Yes, I am thankful my kids aren’t babies/toddlers anymore. The fact that they don’t need me for every tiny thing anymore means I am able to do other things – go back to school, exercise regularly, have a life outside of them. I am really glad I’ve been able to be home with them for so long doing a job I consider to be the most important one I’ll ever do but their independence means I’m doing my job right.

9. Pittsburgh I love this city. I have since the first time I visited while dating Scot. There is so much about living here that is good. The people, the access to all kinds of big city things, the low cost of living. I love living here and I love raising my family here.

10. My Dogs Man, those buggers are cute! They’re fluffy and cuddly and snuggle up to keep me warm in cold weather. After we lost Maggie, I didn’t think I’d want another dog so soon. We only went ahead with getting Ellie because the boys missed having a dog so much. I am so glad we did it. Then we brought Molly home and now it’s like she’s always been here. Those furballs are so worth the aggravation they sometimes inspire.

11. Teachers Liam’s teacher this year is just amazing. I love her so much and I can only wish that every teacher he has is so fantastic. Jamie’s teachers just love him and they have really nurtured his desire to learn. I have no doubt he’ll be ready for Kindergarten in the fall thanks to their hard work.

12. My Grandmother’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe I love pumpkin pie in all its glorious forms. I’ve never met a pumpkin pie I didn’t like. But there is nothing like Mormor’s pie, dark with brown sugar and lots of spice. Mormor died 13 years ago but thanks to my mother bequeathing the family pie lore, Mormor is with me whenever I make that pie.

13. Simple Pleasures A glass of wine after a long day. The delicious smell of a dinner I worked hard to make. A quiet and happy day with family. My morning coffee. Date night with Scot. My kids’ artwork. Nail polish to fancy up my nails. Books. Music. The satisfaction of a job (whatever job!) well done.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope your day is as wonderful as I know mine will be.

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Catching Fire

Last night my friend, Dawn, and I went to go see Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games movie. And holy crap, it was good.

I re-read the book before we saw the movie so I was able to spot the differences between the book and the film. Honestly, there weren’t that many and those that were there were mostly for the purpose of compressing and streamlining the story a bit which is always necessary in a screen adaptation of a book. Otherwise, it was faithful to the book with large passages of dialogue taken directly from the book.  It was one of the best book adaptations I’ve ever seen.

They ditched the ‘shaky cam’ filming technique that was used in the first film (thank you, new director!) and the movie really benefited. It gave the actors the ability to play subtle but intense emotions without having to over-emote to overcome the shaky filming or have the audience lose the subtlety of their performance because shakiness made it difficult to watch. Josh Hutcherson turned in a masterful performance as Peeta. Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss was note perfect – a bit more mature and confident but scared to her core by President Snow. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch was, again, perfect. Just the right amount of sarcasm and caring. Philip Seymour Hoffman played Plutarch Heavensbee, the head Gamemaker, and man did he give that character layers. Subtle, but deep performance.

But, I have to tell you, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket was INCREDIBLE. She embodied all of Effie’s officiousness and Capital sensibilities while imbuing Effie with real affection for Katniss and Peeta. She was so, so amazing and I’m sad to know that we will see almost none of her in Mockingjay.

The rest of the supporting cast all made their characters come to life. Wiress and Beetee. Finnick and Mags. Johanna. Cinna. Caesar Flickerman. President Snow. Prim. Gale. They were all just as they needed to be to make the characters leap from the pages of a book onto the big screen.

I really, really enjoyed the first Hunger Games film. I thought it was very well done, especially for books that spend so much time in Katniss’ head. Catching Fire was even better. If I had the time, I’d go see it again. (I don’t have the time so it’ll have to wait for DVD release.)

So, my review in a hurry? Go see it. Very much worth the price of admission.

Dinosaurs At Phipps

Today Jamie and I had a date at Phipps. He asked me earlier in the week if we could go out somewhere and I told him that I’d have time to do that with him today. We talked about where he’d want to go and we settled on Phipps. We haven’t been in awhile.

They’re currently setting up for the winter flower show which doesn’t officially open until Thanksgiving weekend. But things were about halfway set up and it looks like it’s going to be a nice show this year. As usual the South Conservatory room was taken up with a huge train display.

And it was full of dinosaurs. Jamie was in heaven.

It was really cleverly done (which is only what I would expect from Phipps) with little details to discover in all corners of the display. There were buttons to activate a volcano (!) and a ka-boom in a mine (!!). There were dinosaurs riding trains and chasing cars and causing mayhem. It was a lot of fun. I wish I’d brought my long lens. I may go back by myself at some point.

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Oh nothing. Just a carnivore in a field of cows.

Oh nothing. Just a carnivore in a field of cows.

T-Rex! Run for your lives!

T-Rex! Run for your lives!

Anyone want a pet ankylosaurus?

Anyone want a pet ankylosaurus?

Dippy!!! (The Diplodocus, for the non-Pittsburghers)

Dippy!!! (The Diplodocus, for the non-Pittsburghers)

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Pteranadon nest on the side of the volcano.

Pteranodon nest on the side of the volcano.

Mad dino ripping up train tracks.

Mad dino ripping up train tracks.

Muncha Muncha Muncha

Muncha Muncha Muncha

Hanging out at the water's edge.

Hanging out at the water’s edge.

The only picture Jamie would let me take of him.

The only picture Jamie would let me take of him.

And I just now noticed that Jamie wore quite the appropriate shirt.

It was a good morning and we both enjoyed spending the time one on one. We even went to lunch together after we were done at Phipps. I need to make an effort to do some more of these types of outings with him before he starts school next year.

 

 

 

Basket Labels For The Closet Re-do

I got around to making labels for the closet baskets today and I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. I had been thinking about hitting up a craft store to buy some foam core that I could use to mount card stock on for labels and then attaching them with zip ties. Then, I was at the Dollar Store today buying Holiday Shop gifts for preschool (don’t ask; what a pain) and I found almost everything I needed there. I was able to get a square of half-inch thick styrofoam that was maybe 12 x 12 in size. I thought, “Ok, cover this with a coordinating fabric then glue the card stock to that and you’re golden.”

So I ran over to the dishtowels and grabbed a couple in (what I thought was) a coordinating blue figuring I could cut those up.

Well. When I got home it was TOTALLY the wrong blue. So, I started ransacking the house for suitable fabric. An old baby blanket. Maybe scraps from another project. Nope. It all had too much purple in the blue and not enough green. Then, I found a cotton jersey camisole that I hadn’t worn in ages that just HAPPENED to match the paint almost exactly. Well, that was that. I cut it up for the project.

So! To the pictures! First, I cut up the styrofoam into the size I wanted. I used a knife to score it and then just bent it until it broke on the line. Then I cut up the fabric so that I had a large enough piece to cover the styrofoam.

styrofoam rectangle; slightly larger piece of fabric.

styrofoam rectangle; slightly larger piece of fabric.

Add a bead of craft glue to one long edge.

Add a bead of craft glue to one long edge.

Fold up the fabric evenly and make sure it sticks to the glue. Repeat on the other long edge.

Fold up the fabric evenly and make sure it sticks to the glue. Repeat on the other long edge.

On the short edge, run a bead of glue then begin folding the edges in neatly.

On the short edge, run a bead of glue then begin folding the edges in neatly.

Then fold up and stick the fabric to the glue.

Then fold up and stick the fabric to the glue.

Repeat on the other corner. Then repeat on the other short edge.

Repeat on the other corner. Then repeat on the other short edge.

Ta-da! Complete label base.

Ta-da! Complete label base.

I repeated the whole process on the other three pieces of styrofoam and then I was ready to head upstairs and dig around in my cardmaking supplies for what I needed to complete them. I chose a textured watercolor cardstock that is thick and heavy enough to stand up to abuse. It’s not quite bright white but it’s white enough to go with the rest of the closet. I measured out the size I wanted then used pattern scissors to cut them out so that the edges looked as though I’d torn them instead of cutting them. Last, I sketched in the letters with pencil.

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I used a dark brown fine tip marker to draw in the letters as I wanted them to look and then erased any extraneous pencil lines. Once that was done, I glued them to the fabric covered styrofoam rectangles.

(I forgot to photograph the Hats and Gloves one)

(I forgot to photograph the Hats and Gloves one)

The very last thing was attaching them to the baskets. I got some zip ties at the Dollar Store so I poked holes thought the fabric and styrofoam at the top and bottom of each label. I threaded a zip tie through the holes and then snuck it through the weave in the basket. I zipped the ties up and clipped off the excess. Voila! Labels!

Up close

Up close

All four

All four

Because I used the styrofoam, they labels are rather nicely 3-D and I like how it looks on the baskets. They’re sturdy but lightweight. The most time consuming part was hand lettering them. With the labels done, the whole project is finished and we can enjoy an organized foyer space.

 

 

DIY Closet Renovation

It all started earlier in the week when I stumbled across this on the internet.

Now, let me just tell you that this is waaaaay elaborate and far more DIY than I am capable of or even want to contemplate being. However, I started musing about how I might do something like it to our front closet which is almost always in a state of utter disarray. The bifold doors get left open. The kids drop their backpacks on the floor, kick their shoes off and leave them laying around (instead of ON THE SHOE RACK) and leave their coats laying wherever they happen to fall. Never mind that years ago I installed low-set hooks for them to hang up their coats. They never got used.

The shelf above the coat rail was always a mess of things, no matter how I tried to organize it and when I’d reach up to get something half the items on the shelf would fall off on top of me. It was ridiculous. The coat rail itself was full and had enough long coats that I couldn’t even SEE the closet floor and its mess half the time.

A typical before shot (minus the baskets – those were new and I forgot to take a shot before I organized that part). And this is actually better than it’s been in the past.

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The plan was to remove the bifold doors, remove the hanging rail, paint the interior of the closet, cover the shelf with something less ugly, hang hooks on the back wall of the closet, and put a bench with storage in. Initially, I was planning to build a very simple bench and make a cushion for it myself. However, this would have entailed actually purchasing tools like, oh, A SAW. Then I found a bench at Target that was a good solution and cost less than building it myself would have.  Also, I was planning to carry the wall color from the hallway into the closet but unfortunately, the paint that the previous owners left us had turned into something solid and unusable so that was out.

So, I purchased four of these baskets from Amazon (which were Prime when I purchased and somehow are not now) as well as a polka dot motif contact paper to cover the shelf with.  Once I had the contact paper in hand, I went to Lowe’s and purchased a quart of paint in a coordinating color and the hooks I needed for the back wall.

Taped and ready for paint.

Taped and ready for paint.

The rail you see is where the shelf sits.

The rail you see is where the shelf sits.

You’ll noticed that once I got the doors off I found out that the previous owners painted juuuuuust enough into the closet to make it look good from the exterior with the doors closed and then quit. There was nothing resembling a straight line. In light of that and the fact that this tan color runs all over half my house, I made an executive decision to tape a straight line from top to bottom and just deal with the abrupt (if at least STRAIGHT) transition.

After coat number two (still drying)

After coat number two (still drying)

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Pro tip: If you don’t have a liner for your roller pan, use Glad Press and Seal. I forgot to buy a liner so that’s what I did. Clean up was a snap!

Then, I covered the shelf so that it went from ugly to stylish.

Before/After

Before/After

It’s a little bit bubbly because the ugly contact paper underneath was also bubbly. As you can see, the paint I chose is pretty close to the darker of the two blue dots.

Once the paint was completely dry and I peeled the tape off (my favorite part of any home project!), I measured (and remeasured and remeasured and remeasured – math is not my strong suit) for placement of the hooks. Luckily, I had this lovely piece of wood already there to hang the hooks on so I used that to give me a strong backing for holding heavy coats. Then I pre-drilled the screw holes and hung eight fighting octopi.

Put up your dukes!

Put up your dukes!

I also bought some Command hooks at Target (the ones that just stick to the wall) and hung two on either side of the closet for the kids; one for coat, one for backpack at a lower height so they can reach on their own.

Jamie is already getting his stuff organized!

Jamie is already getting his stuff organized!

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Baskets, newly covered shelf, hooks hung.

The very last thing I was waiting on was the bench to be delivered. It came last night and I got it put together this morning. I also sorted through the coats and only hung the ones we really use; the rest will go into a storage bin. The bench we bought is this one and as you can see, it has two integrated bins for storage so one bin has kid shoes and one bin has adult shoes.

Here is the completed “mud room!”

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Ta-Da!

I’m really, really pleased with how it all came out. It’s not nearly as fancy as the one that inspired me but it works for our space and I was able to do the entire thing all on my own. It makes the space a) much more usable and organized as well as b) bigger and more open. Between this and the new front door, our foyer is a much easier place to navigate. The only thing I want to do now is figure a way to label the baskets and then it will be perfect.

Today Rocked

Two posts in one day?! Unheard of, I know, but I had to. So often I post about how crazy things are, what shitty thing happened this week, or some terribly tragedy that befell us. I can be a real Debbie Downer sometimes. I don’t mean to be but our family struggles have really dragged me down at times in the past.

All of which means I really, really like being able to say that today was a GREAT day and I am so happy to have enjoyed it. It wasn’t full of special occasions or big happy news. It was just an ordinary day that went smoothly and I cherish those.

We woke up this morning to an inch or so of snow on the ground – the first snow of the season. Jamie was absolutely entranced. Every other word out of his mouth for most of the day was about how Christmas is coming and what we’ll do on Christmas and how he and Liam will play in the snow at Christmas. The kid has PLANS.

I got Liam to school and then Jamie and I went grocery shopping – our regular Tuesday morning chore. We came home, unloaded the groceries, and Jamie asked to go outside to play in the snow. So, I suited him up and sent him out to have fun. There wasn’t much he could do because there just isn’t a ton of snow out there but he had fun tromping around for 45 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, I posted an offhand tweet about making pie this week and it ending up turning into Twitter friends (and me!) meeting for dinner this week. Impromptu fun with other adults! I think Dawn summed it up well here.

When Jamie came inside he watched some TV and I got some chores done. Then he came downstairs with me while I sweated it out on the treadmill. I had a GREAT workout. I ran more than I walked and felt amazing when I was done.  There is nothing like that rush.

When I had cooled down and showered, Jamie and I snuggled up on the couch with Ellie to watch some TV until it was time to pick up Liam. It was bliss. Happy kiddo, puppy sleeping on me, lazing away an hour until heading to the bus stop.

Liam came home, did his homework, and then played with his brother until dinner. I did not have to break up a single argument during that time. Amazing. I managed to do a couple of more chores and make dinner without screaming like a fishwife at my children.

Dinner was uneventful. No begging the children to please, JUST EAT YOUR DINNER. No shrieky Jamie yelling at me that he doesn’t WANT THAT but he still wants dessert. When we were finished Liam came up to me and gave me a big hug. I said “I love you, sweetie” and he said “I love you a whole lot more.” Me: puddle of goo on the floor. Mission: accomplished, kiddo.

Then he kept hanging on to me so I dragged him around while I finished putting away a couple of clean dishes. My next chore was to wash the hand washable dishes so I said to Liam “You want to do the dishes?” I figured he’d say no and go running, thus freeing my arms to take care of it. Instead he said “Yeah!”

And so he did.

Is there anything more beautiful than this? I think not.

Is there anything more beautiful than this? I think not.

So proud of himself.

So proud of himself.

Once the dishes were done (and Jamie watched the whole process while sitting on the counter. He was fascinated), Jamie and Liam set off to build themselves a fort in the library.  They’ve been playing in there together – without fighting! – for the last 45 minutes. Soon it will be time to start baths and get kids headed toward bed.

The only drawback to today is that Scot spent it flat on his back in bed, sick as a dog. Other than that, today was a fantastic day and I would take a hundred more like them in a heartbeat.