If we ever get to move to England for a significant amount of time again, first thing I'll do is motor right on over to Costco or Argos and pick up a REAL VACUUM CLEANER.
I bought me some basic pencils today. Bog standard pencils. Classic yellow #2 pencil with pink eraser. I got a pack of 10 from the grocery store and I love them so far. USA GOLD - "Proudly made in Tennessee."
Harper is in first grade and we are drowning in pencils. They are given as party favors and valentine favors and rewards at school and come flying out of piñatas. And most of them are CRAP. You can sharpen them over and over, but they break so easily and so often. With all the "oooh look! We can print pencils with anything cool on it!" enthusiasm, they forgot the basics about ACTUALLY USING A PENCIL.
I know I know, kids today barely use writing instruments of any kind (past a certain age).
But I recall pencils not only being used for writing, but for PENCIL FIGHTS! Raise your hand 🙋if you had pencil fights during recess or on the school bus! I certainly did. Armed with my trusty Berol Mirado #2 or the Eagle, I would challenge my friends. (All this in between Chinese jump rope and marbles and milk caps.)
I never grew out of my love for writing instrument. You might know I'm obsessed with office supplies in general, writing instruments in particular. So much so that I once did a Writing Instrument Census in our house. (Gosh that was in 2010 - I have two years to prep for the next one.)
PENCILS!! Get yourself some. You know you want to (affiliate links in this blog post):
I love to cook. I try new recipes, I buy cookbooks, I subscribe to emails for recipes. The food comes out well, I think, at least 9 times out of 10.
One thing I'm not great at is improv cooking - looking into the cupboards or fridge to see what's there and then whip something up. Following rules is something I'm better at. And one of my current goals is to be better at improv cooking!
Last night I took the leftover squash (butternut and zucchini) in the fridge and decided I could make a veggie lasagna. In my cupboard were boxes of whole wheat lasagna sheets (no boil style) I'd bought a while back but hadn't used. (I just looked at my amazon history and see that I bought the lasagna noodles in, ahem, 2015! Luckily the expiration is Dec. 2018. Guess who is going to be eating LOTS of lasagna before the end of the year??!)
Glancing at a few basic veggie lasagna recipes, I made a bechamel sauce (I did look at a recipe for that!) and built a decent lasagna. There was also mozzarella and parmesan in my fridge.
These days, with a shift in life and work priorities, I'm working harder than ever to save money and not just buy whatever I need the moment I think of something. Therefore, the improv cooking. Or better to call it the "USE WHAT YOU HAVE!!" method of cooking. In our pasta/rice drawer, there is a lot of both that need to be used. (Hint: Rice casseroles coming soon!)
The pasta sheets I bought were whole wheat and organic. (See images below to click on the affiliate link and try some for yourself.) Nobody really seems to notice the difference between regular and whole wheat these days, so I usually opt for whole wheat.
As for the finished product? Not bad! I had sauteed the butternut and zucchini but the butternut squash went weirdly dark brown after the baking. Tasted fine, just looked, um, odd. Also, I think there needed to be more filling. It all went very flat. I'm still pleased with myself and I'll do it again.
I used my trusty pyrex baking dish. I swear I used to have two of these, but can only find one....hmmmm. Maybe in a frenzy of "clean out all the crap!" I did away with one. Or maybe it lives at someone else's house now because I made something and took it for a potluck. Maybe I need to put this on my Christmas wish list. I like the glass better than a metal pan. I like seeing the layers cooking.
I will continue to practice my Improv Cooking skills. Stay tuned for my next adventure, probably rice related!
P.S. Many of my links (and/or images below) connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that sale.
Click the image for Pryex dishes:
Click the image for Whole Wheat Lasagna (set of 6):
I was cleaning up my computer desktop and found this image:
It's from October and represents a Perfect Hilarious Family Sunday. All of us on the bed playing Hot Wheels. As you do. Hopefully Kurt will not try to recreate this scene with the new slot car track he Harper got for Christmas.
I love this picture. Pure relaxed fun.
When we moved out to remodel the house, things that had been jammed into the tiny old kitchen ended up at the new rental. I cleaned some stuff out, donated them to charity, etc but some stuff stayed. Like these bibs which were on a magnet on the fridge.
When we moved back to our house, these got donated. Harper hadn't really used a bib in ages, but somehow they stayed. They are one of the last baby things to go from the house. The other is the monitor which I'm weaning Harper off of. If I'm honest, I'm weaning myself off of it. It's really been a year or two too long to still have a monitor. Harper is adjusting to not just calling my name at night. I'm the one who jumps when she opens her door when we are watching TV after she's gone to bed to say, "Mama, I want to read a book." For some reason she needs me to come in and watch while she picks books to "read" then get back into bed with them. It's sweet and why I ever tell her no to reading?
At the doctor for Harper's Five year check up, the nurse asked her to put on a paper gown! OMG it was really Big Girl time. Additional cuteness was when the doc when to check her ears, on her own, Harper held her hair away from her ears for him. Adorable.
Next year is a new year with some travel and then kindergarten to look forward to. Yowza.
The kitchen. Oh boy the kitchen! I'll let the pictures tell it.
AFTER: (From same spot)
The inspiration for the style of Kitchen (found online somewhere):
Our actual Kitchen:
Our remodel is almost complete. Still some odds and ends going on, but most of it is done and we've moved back in!
Here is the main bathroom Before and after pics. Not sure why I took so few before pics! Also we are still in the process of putting up towel racks and artwork. For now, please enjoy the pics!
(Not sure why I didn't take a wider shot...)
Have I mentioned I'm a bit obsessed with subscription boxes? I LOVE them! Okay, I don't have a lot of experience. I subscribe to three currently, two of which are new new new:
StichFix - A personal stylist! The box comes when I want one and I've bought three great dresses, two cute blouses and a jacket. While the styles don't always mesh (though they fall within the parameters I laid out) 98% of it has fit great. Always a great thing!
Try The World - a food box delivery with each box coming from a different country. We get one every other month and so far we received on from Argentina. We scarfed down all but one item so far. YUM! Can't wait for this month's box to come, apparently it will be from Japan.
PopSugar - a new one I saw and ordered because I'm a mom with a 3 1/2 year old and I want to feel young and cute and hip again, so I have to have "young" and "cute" and "hip" delivered. Also, I want something that is just mine. Mine alone! Which is why I'm not opening the FIRST box of my subscription today until after the said child is asleep tonight!
Also today I received my long awaited MemoBottle that I had supported on Kickstarter. I thought it was a genius idea all around - a book size water bottle that slips easily in your bag or briefcase.
Hooray for deliveries!!
We are fortunate enough to hire a woman to clean our house on Fridays. And every Friday I love to see how she's tidied up the toys that live on/around Harper's bed and chair. It's never radically different but it always makes me so happy to see the toys all together and at attention. Here is a sampling from the last month or so.
I love that Tigger is wearing Woody's hat. Suits him.
It's always a happy moment to see them all together before Harper comes home from preschool. I sometimes get other funny surprises in unexpected spots. Like the kitchen drawer that usually has a pile of clothespins. One day I opened it to see this:
Ahhhhhh, so tidy!
We have a wonderful cleaning woman. I love to see how she leaves Harper's room. This was particularly fun.
Also on Friday we got our chimney swept for the first time in about five or six years. We don't do many fires but on rainy cold nights it's really nice.
In the fall of 1996, a friend's alley cat had kittens and since I already had Bunny and was working a million hours at Sony, I thought a new cat would be good for Bunny, so I adopted Mouse. She got her name from the fact that when she was just days old I saw her for the first time and she was grey all over and looked like a little mouse.
It was purely coincidence that I named both cats after other animals.
Mouse was an odd cat. She never slept in your lap or curled up and slept next to you. She liked attention but always seemed riled up and a bit frantic when asking for it. She sort of liked to be petted, but not in the usual cat ways. In her old age she would ask for attention, you would pet her and then she would bite you. That got a little tiresome, I'll be honest.
Bunny died about six weeks after Harper was born and poor Mouse grieved heavily for the loss and massive changes in the house. Every night for almost a year she would yowl in the wee small hours of the morning. The first few times I thought something was horribly wrong with her and would leap up and come and see but she would just be sitting in the living room (not unlike that photo above).
She seemed comfortable this last year, though clearly getting quite old. Rather quickly, her heart gave out during the day on the 30th and we made the quick call not to resuscitate. Her time really had come and with average life span of cats at 10-15 years, she had a lot of time on this planet.
We tried to explain to Harper, very directly and honestly, that Mouse had died. Harper didn't seem too interested, just wanted to watch Curious George. But a couple of days later she and I were having breakfast and she told Willoughby not to play with a cat toy. I told Harper it was okay for Willoughby to play with it. Harper said, "It's Mouse's toy." And I said, "But Mouse isn't here any more." She said, "Mouse is in the hospital." And I said, "Well, I took her to the hospital, but Mouse was very old and she was sick and she died." Harper thought about it for a minute then she said, "Can she get a new battery?" That just warmed my heart. I said, "No sweetie, only toys can get new batteries when they die. Animals and people only get one battery." She then moved on to another topic.
Good bye Mouse, thanks for being part of our lives, sorry you only had one battery.
Another milestone is that January marks 17 years that I've lived in this house. I'm amazed it's been this long already! I'm also amazed that we've made it work all this time with very little change. I'm proud of myself for buying it all those years ago (when houses were affordable!) instead of blowing my down payment on a car. But in those days (like it was 50 years ago) this would have been considered a "starter home" and five years later I would have upgraded to a larger one. But five years later we were already two years married and both freelance, so we made the space work.
Now that there are three of us, the house does seem to be getting smaller and smaller! I have to remind myself to put on my "perspectacles" because we own a house with heating and plumbing and modern appliances in a great school district. Okay okay, but I'd like at least another bathroom soon (now that all three of us are potty trained) and modern sized counters in the kitchen (they are still original to 1938).
The house is cozy and has a working fireplace and sweet period details. I am so glad I found it and bought way back when. Happy anniversary little house!