Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Would you like to see our garden?

One of the things I've learned from living in a place where we truly experience four true seasons is that by the end of winter, I'm desperate for color.  After the gray days of winter, I long for bright colors.  As soon as we have our last frost, I'm planting annuals and prepping for my perennials to come up.  Then, we wait...

By July, we have those bright colors we've been waiting for...

My day lily fence...
We have daylilies acting as a little fence between our yard and the neighbor's yard.

Self-seeded petunias...
We have a profusion of petunias...interestingly I planted only a few...these babies self-seeded from last year.
Aren't these beautiful?
We have gorgeous Asiatic lilies.

We have seven of these...
Look at our hanging planters...aren't they pretty?

Butterfly approved...the ultimate garden seal.
One of our two apple trees.  We didn't know they were apple trees until our third year here.  Improved irrigation did the trick.

And the view off our deck is still fabulous.  We keep hearing that they're going to build something horrible like retail there, but for now, we're oh so grateful that they haven't.

The view off our deck...geraniums are a nice pop of color, aren't they?
We get a lot of birds at the bird feeders, too.  The cats love that!
We have lots more going on, but these pictures give you a good idea of how busy our yard is keeping us.  Definitely some serious productivity going on here!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Automotive Repair? Me?

You know that moment when your turn your turn signal on and it blinks at a double the normal pace?  You know what that means, right?  It means one of your blinker bulbs has died.   Ugh!  What an annoyance.  I know it is not a big deal, but I've never done replaced a blinker bulb...front or rear...on any car I've ever owned.  Seriously...I've always had a dad, a boyfriend, or a husband to take care of these little nuisances for me.  (I know, very disgrace to women everywhere...I'll deal with the shame.)

This is the tail end of my car...not exciting, I know.
 Still, I mentioned to Superman that I had a blinker bulb out and he suggested I could take it to our local mechanic and have him change it out for $20 or so.  $20!  to change a lightbulb?  Seriously.  I had to be able to do it myself...how hard could it be?  I'm smart, I'm capable, I do know how to change a lightbulb.  And I certainly don't want to pay $20 for someone to change a lightbulb for me.

I determined that it was the rear blinker bulb that was dead.  Then I went to my local Napa Auto Parts and had them look up what kind of bulb I needed.  (There is a book for that...did you know?)

This is what lurks behind the colored lense.  Three little lightbulbs.
After that, all I needed to do was actually change the bulb...still, I didn't really know how to do that.  So, I did what every modern person does these days when they want to know how to do anything...I searched YouTube for instructions:  How to change the bulb on a Suburban Tail Light...  And, of course, I found a video.

See how the socket is blackened?  It has gone bad...had a short
or something...the bulb didn't light up.

Easy, peasy, right?  Wrong.  The new lightbulb didn't light up.  Turned out that my tail light socket had actually burned out and I needed to replace the socket.  Another quick trip to Napa (I love those guys...they are all guys who worked on cars as kids) and I had a new socket. 

There you have it...the burned out socket.

It was simple work to switch out the socket, I had already disconnected everything that needed to be disconnected.  After that, it was short work to unhook the connector and switch out the sockets.

New sockets...the package came with both driver's side and passenger
side sockets for $3 more than just one.  You never know...
Back home again, I switched out the socket, put in all the bulbs, and tested my turn signal.  Ta da!  It worked!

Let there be light!!  Woot!  I did it correctly and my lightbulb lit up!
There you have it...my foray into the world of automotive repair.  Have I mentioned I'm ready for Superman to come home?

Best part?  I got it all back together correctly.  Looks just
like a normal, unremarkable tail light.  Success!
I'll be this would have cost even more than $20 if I'd paid someone to do it.  I am pretty darned proud of myself.  Have you ever changed a tail light?  Is this one of those things that everyone has done and I just never knew it?

Still, I'd say this counts as productive, wouldn't you?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Personalizing Camp Chairs and a Cooler (another Silhouette project)

When we were helping out for an all day event last weekend, I brought our camp chairs and a cooler, as I knew we'd be there for the long haul.  I personalized our cooler with vinyl before we left, but it wasn't until we got to the park that I realized I could personalize the camp chairs with heat-transfer vinyl.

Personalized camp chairs...
Here is the cooler.

The vinyl makes it easy to see our cooler from across the park.
I just wanted a way to pick out our oh-so-unique Playmate cooler from all the other Playmate coolers.  Adding our name was quick and easy and quite visible. I used "outdoor" vinyl (Oracle 651) to make the vinyl more permanent.

Pretty clear who these chairs belong to, isn't it?

The camp chairs are backpack-type chairs, so they have these nifty (and easily accessible flaps) that lent themselves to iron-on vinyl.  I was worried that the man-made fabric would melt, but it was just fine.  I think they turned out so well, I'm quite pleased.  I wonder if I can personalize our other camp chairs?  Hmmm...

Finally, to make you smile, I thought I'd show you how Beans beats the heat:

Looked over one day last week and saw that Beans had planted
herself right in front of the air conditioner vent.  Smart kitty!
Pretty smart kitty, isn't she?

More yard work and some back-to-school shopping...it was a productive day in the neighborhood!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Trip to the Dump and some Broccoli Beef

My Valiant has been desperately trying to share a cold/flu with me since Sunday.  I'm doing my level best to graciously decline his generosity.   So far, so good, but it has been touch and go for these past few days.  No Crossfit workouts, that is for sure.  Still, I haven't been idle. 

Monday, I signed Buttercup up for gymnastics...the studio makes you sign up in July for classes that begin after Labor Day.  Weird, isn't it?  Valiant felt cruddy enough that he actually spent the day in bed...that is pretty sick, for a 16-year old! 

Tuesday, I headed out with Buttercup (again!) to have our third consultation with orthodontists, trying to make our final pick for her braces.  We didn't go with the one we met with that morning, but it did cement our decision.  She's thrilled to be moving forward and getting her braces on August 6.  She's been waiting and waiting.  (Completely different than my boys were, that's for certain.)

Today?  Today I finally decided to tackle a pile of yard and garage debris that needed to get taken to the dump.  Unlike our home in California, the trash service here doesn't pick up whatever you've left at the curb.  Until I moved here, I'd never been to the dump.  I wonder if that is unusual?  Have you been to the dump?  So, anyway, here you don't just put out whatever you want and have it taken away on trash day.  No...you either have to have your trash neatly bagged up (how do you do that with scrap wood?) or take it yourself.  So, I procrastinated...I procrastinated so long that we had 440 pounds of stuff loaded up in the back of my Suburban...$22 worth.  I must say, it felt good to get all that stuff out of the yard!  What?!  You thought I'd take pictures?  Seriously? of the dump?  Um, trust me, you don't want pictures of the dump.  Still, you can read about it here...we have a waste-to-energy plant, which I think is kind of cool.

After I got back, I did more yard clean-up and made Broccoli Beef for dinner.  Seriously, if you like Broccoli Beef at your favorite Chinese food restaurant, you need to try this recipe.  It is so easy!

Broccoli Beef
from "Quick & Easy Enjoy Chinese Cuisine"

1/2 pound flank steak, sliced thin, against the grain
2 teaspoons corn starch (can subsitute arrowroot powder for paleo cooking)
2 teaspoons soy sauce (can substitute coconut aminos for paleo cooking)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (can omit for paleo cooking)
1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets
2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of soup broth (I used beef)
Some cornstarch for thickening (can substitute arrowroot powder for paleo cooking)

1.  Place thin-sliced flank steak in bowl with 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.  Toss and set aside for a few minutes.

2.  Heat oil in pan, add meat mixture and cook until done.  Remove from pan and set aside.

3.  In hot pan, add broccoli, salt, and soup broth.  Cover and bring to a boil, cooking for 2-3 minutes.

4.  Add meat back into pan and toss.  Add cornstarch to thicken if desired.  Serve over rice or eat as is.

That is it!  Isn't that easy?  This cookbook is amazing because it is so simple.  If you are at all interested in cooking Chinese food, this book is so simple and the results are so fabulous, I encourage you to try it.

Yet another productive day as we work our way closer to Superman's return home!  97 days and counting!!  Did you know that we're five week from Labor Day (already!)?  Time sure flies.   I feel good about getting things done...how are you doing with your goals?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Litter control!

When you have cats, one of the unfortunate realities is that you deal with cat litter.   When you have four cats, it can become a seriously pressing issue.  Honestly, it is a challenge to keep the litter confined to the litterbox area.  I saw this post from "Practically Functional" a few days ago and thought it was pure genius.  Seriously.  The next morning, I headed to my own Home Depot and bought this anti-fatigue mat and cut it down to size (simply using a box knife, I cut one row off...originally 3 x 3, I cut it down to 2 x 3) and put it into place. 

Anti-fatigue mat solves cat litter dilemma!
When the cats hit the mat, any litter that might be on their paws falls into the holes of the mat rather than coming with them into the laundry room and beyond.  (Oh, what?  You don't see the litter box?   That would be because the litterbox is in the bathtub with a row of the mat under it...yes, we have actually given up the use of a bathtub in our house to keep our litterbox out of the way.)

Best solution ever!
Anyway, this was a genius solution and I am so glad that Jessi at Practically Functional shared her simple solution so I could copy it!

Day 98 - Dealing with cat litter is definitely productive!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Smelly Clothes? This is the BEST STUFF EVER!

Smelly?  Stinky?  If you spend any time working out, or if you have kids who do sports, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  With today's man-made fibers, I have found it more and more difficult to actually get the smell out of our workout clothes.  Buttercup's Five Fingers seem to get stinky pretty quickly, too.  So, whether they end up smelling like a locker room, like musty towels, or stinky feet, it is so frustrating to realize that my favorite workout clothes aren't coming out of the laundry clean-smelling.    Honestly, when it comes to the kids' t-shirts, I've been giving up and tossing them after a while, but really, we can't afford to do that very often and certainly not with anything that cost more than the "4 for $10" t-shirts from Walgreens.

Little did I know my solution would come in the form a sweet woman who worked at REI.  One day a few months ago, I was browsing through the store with my daughter and chatting with one of the ladies who works there when we started talking about how stinky workout clothes can be and how frustrating it is to try to resolve the situation.  The saleslady promised that she had the solution...Penguin Sports-Wash Laundry Detergent

The best stuff ever for stinky, smelly clothes.
...I'll admit to being skeptical, but I was desperate and willing to give it a try and I am so glad I did because this stuff really works!  It is "high-efficiency", so it even works well in our front load washer.  I have actually used a bucket for pre-soaking in the case of the super stinky stuff and for shoes.  Once you get the stink out of the items, using the detergent in your regular load does the trick.

So, whether you're dealing with workout bras, football jerseys, or your daughter's oh-so-cool Five Finger shoes, this stuff is the BEST EVER!  I'm just sayin'

Day 99 - Solving your laundry dilemmas is definitely productive!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Camping Fun!

As is always the case, summer is a time that challenges my blogging schedule.  We've just got so much going on and I'm so busy having fun and being, well, busy, that I just can't seem to gather my thoughts to put them to "paper".  Still, things ebb and flow and I find myself in a relatively slow period following two really hectic weeks.  I thought I'd take the time to update you all.

Two weeks ago, we headed on our first much-anticipated camping trip of the season.  I confess that I forgot what a hassle it is to schedule around a working teenager's work schedule, but still, we made it happen!

Our travelling home away from home.
A few days before, Buttercup and I were quite productive and got the trailer ready to go:  Sheets on the beds, the refrigerator loaded up, and all the supplies made ready. 

Buttercup's bed...
Buttercup took the time to make sure that her new hamster cage would fit, as well.  What?  You don't take your hamster camping?  Seriously?  That is strange.

Froyo is ready for her first camping trip!
Finally, the big day came.  We tried to get a picture of the giraffe for Superman, but it really didn't work out well.  We did end up getting a bad one on the way back home. 

See the giraffe...our summer friend!
Before that, though, we had fun in the sun.  In the water...

Valiant and Buttercup playing on the buoys that outline the swimming area.
And out of the water...just hanging out.

Hiding her face from the sun with a big hat!
Reading good books.

Bunny enjoying the view from our campsite.
Enjoying beautiful scenery.

The bunny and the hamster, just hanging out...
After five years of camping, my "camping slippers" finally gave up the ghost.  This was their last hurrah...they served me well, but their time had come.

Last camping trip for my "camping slippers"...
 All too soon, it was time to head out again.

Bunny is noticing that we're not moving quickly enough.
 "Bunny" has been on so many trips with our family, he supervised our closing up camp.  He's actually pretty good...quite the motivator!

Chop, chop, Buttercup!  Move faster!!
Let's go...get those sway bars in place!

Finally, we're ready to head home!

We made it home just in time to get showered and have me head off to a Ladies' Luncheon and for Valiant to head off to work.  Cut it a little close, actually!  Still, it all worked out...

Those were definitely some productive days...and if you're counting along with us, today is day 100...I've added a counter to my blog page.  (Not that we're excited or anything!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A little bit of creative productivity in between prepping for fun!

My family is headed out for a camping trip this week.  I'm beginning to realize that scheduling camping trips gets more and more difficult as the kids get older...with jobs and other commitments getting in the way.  Still, we got it to work and I'm so excited.

Fresh bloom!
In between getting the trailer loaded up, I took the time to spruce up some garden ornaments and I'm so pleased with how they turned out, I just have to share them with you.
Five years outside haven't helped these faded flowers.
These were colorful resin flowers when we got them...they were NOT all the same color, despite what you might think when you look at them.

Look how faded they are...the painted one pops, while the others
fade into the tarp.  So sad and neglected!
A few coats of "for plastic" spray paint later and they looked like this.
Painted the front and the back...so much brighter!
A little bit of craftiness by hand and some clear coat had them ready for their close-ups!

Look at how creative we got!  Don't they look happier now?

Valianted wanted us to embrace this flower's tropical heritage.  I did my best.

I love how bright they are on "their" fence.  Quick, easy, and so worthwhile!  It is really amazing what a little spray paint can do, don't you think?

Quite an improvement, wouldn't you say?
So, Days 115 and 114 were productive and now we're driving off to be productive in our campsite...reading some good books, playing games together, splashing around in the river...all very productive!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Phase 1 of our "Big" Kennel Project is completed...Day 116 of our Productivty Project

A few days ago, I left Superman a hair raising status update on FB detailing how I'd spent the afternoon and evening in the garage playing with just about every power tool we own, plus paint.  I think he nearly had a heart attack, especially after I wouldn't tell him what I'd been working on.
Phase 1 - Finished!
I've finally done the last of the painting, so I can say we've finished Phase 1 of the Big Kennel Project and I'm ready to share the pictures of our progress to date.

This is where we began:

Dog kennel:  Unfinished dry wall, exposed insulation (thanks to Lucy!)
Unfinished fence boards to protect the drywall from the chewer (aka Lucy).
Basically, it was a terrible eyesore.

Honestly, the dog have never complained, but it was certainly an eyesore.  I've been promising Buttercup that I'd do something about it for more than a year and my productivity project seemed to have been the perfect motivation.  Still, we had the self-imposed constraint of using stuff we already had laying around to manage our transformation.  This had to be a completely free project.

Step 1 - Buttercup was itching to get painting, so I handed her the "mango madness" left from our formerly "Macaroni & Cheese" basement and set her free.

Buttercup makes quick work of the painting.
She made quick work of it, even with it needing two coats.  (We didn't primer first.)  After that, I got to work with the "construction" part of the project.

This wall needed to be insulated, so I used a box
cutter and a knife and cut a piece of rigid insulation to fit.
Since my plan was to use the leftover wainscoting from our bathroom project, I added 1x1 for structure.  The nails needed somewhere to go, right?

After that, I pieced together the wainscoting and installed it all.   The fiberglass insulation was fine, it just needed to get tucked.

It was hotter than heck in that get-up, but those are my "grungies", so that
is how I geared up for this project.  (Plus, I used my nifty work gloves my
sister sent me...they really project your hands, but your exposed fingertips
make working in them a breeze!

This is how the wainscoting part of the project turned out.  Doesn't it look fabulous?

Finished wainscoting and trim board...
After that, I added some trim boards and moulding, painted the fence boards, and added a decal for fun.
A few coats of paint did wonders for these boards!
 Phase 1 finished and we did it all with scrap materials we had in the garage.  It was a great way to get more familiar with all of our power tools.  Phase 2 will be astroturf, a new food dish holder, and a new dog bed.  Oh, as I'm looking at the picture, I'm thinking ceiling paint should be added to the list, too!

Phase 1 is Finished, but Phase 2 is bouncing around in my mind.

116 Days and counting til Superman comes home.  I'd say we get to count this one as productive, too, wouldn't you?