Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cloth Napkins

I feel like I've been working on this project forevah!  I finally finished a set of cloth napkins! 

This was not at all a difficult project and the sewing portion of it didn't take long at all, but the cutting took a bit of time and then I spent what felt like decades pressing the seams!  I actually had to split it up into three sittings. 

Also, I learned that starch is your bestie when doing something like this.  I'm still feeling my way around sewing and being such a beginner I don't realize some things that apparently everyone else just KNOWS like the fact that if you don't starch a seam like this during pressing it's going to take twice as long AND once you discover starch, you're going to have to go back and redo all the pitiful seams you did originally. 


Don't forget it.  You'll thank me later.

So anyway, yes, the pressing took a long time, but obviously this is yet another learning experience for me and I'm quite happy with how things turned out!  I've been wanting to make some cloth napkins for quite a while.  We use cloth paper towels (that's an oxymoron, but you know what I mean), or the more trendy name: "unpaper towels", and are so happy with them, but we've been continuing to throw money away on paper napkins because I knew that I wanted to DIY a set for us and hadn't made time for it before now. 


Because look at these babies!  Aren't they the cutest cloth napkins you've ever seen?! 

I even chose a fabric that matched our kitchen. 

And another reason that it took so long is that I made FIFTEEN of them.  That's a lot of napkins.  But I wanted to be sure that we had enough and you have to think, some days we eat 3 meals as a family, so we could easily go through 6-9 napkins right there and I don't want to have to wash them everyday. 

I even did some very fancy schmancy (to me, at least!) mitered corners on these.  Definitely a learning experience, this project. 

I highly, highly recommend whipping up a set of these.  Cloth is where it's at.  They're not at all difficult and you'll end up with something very useful, cute, and inexpensive that will save you money!

This whole project cost under $5.  I never would have been able to purchase 15 napkins for that price.  I bought 2 yards of 100% cotton fabric (Originally $4.98, on sale for 50% off) and I had all the rest of the supplies including coordinating thread (look at me building my sewing stash!).  I used Skip to My Lou's tutorial.  I cut my fabric into 12" x 12" squares, which left me with a finished size of  11" x 11".  I'm finding it to be a good size, and it maximizes the number of napkins you can get out of a yard (or two) of fabric.

Here's what they look like opened up from the back:

And my fancy mitered corners:

And in their new home ready to go:

Oh, and another tip if you're planning to do this project, don't forget to pre-wash your fabric!  That way you don't end up with any unexpected shrinkage or wonky seams or anything.  I discovered that tip in time for my last project :D

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SAHM turned WAHM

Woo-whee!  It's been a busy few weeks.  If you've noticed, I've been a little absent around these parts and it's because... I'm working again.

Not that I wasn't working before, because trust me, chasing a toddler and tending a house IS work, but I'm talking about the paid type of work.  The kind of work where you perform a task and someone else pays you... in money.  It's a nice setup. 

The work I'm doing is super, SUPER part-time and 100% from home so basically, perfect for me and my situation and I'm doing the same work I was doing P.B. (pre-baby) as a hearing representative.  Although it's not at all a big time commitment (probably 1-3 hours per week depending on how many hearings I'm doing) I'm still trying to adjust to working something else into a day which already leaves me tired by the time evening rolls around.

Actually, this whole opportunity really just fell into my lap so I couldn't really refuse it because of how perfect it is for me.  A friend that I used to work with (not at the company that I worked at P.B., but the place BEFORE that.  Same industry though.) contacted me to let me know he had heard through the grapevine that a company was looking for someone to contract with to do just a couple of hearings here and there so he thought of me and gave them my name.  He put me in touch with the proper person and when we spoke, they loved me (naturally ;)  ) and so I'm working for them.  With them?  I guess I'm kind of working for myself as an Independent Contractor, yes?  Anyway, they're paying me and that's all that really matters, right?

I've been doing this for about 3 weeks now and I've been doing 1-2 hearings per week.  The way this process works is I set up a pre-hearing conference call to prepare the witnesses for the hearing (I usually try to schedule this the day before) and then we do the hearing (it's an administrative hearing conducted by telephone) at the scheduled hearing time.

The pre-hearing conference call can be scheduled whenever is convenient for all parties and so far, I've been able to get all of those completed during Jack's naptime (perfect!).  The only drawback is the hearings are scheduled anywhere from 8am-8pm.  Although a large portion of that time is either when Jack is sleeping or Mark is home from work to distract Jack while I'm busy, there is a portion of time where I may be on a very important call with a very persistent, and sometimes needy toddler nearby.

The good thing is that Jack's usually pretty happy playing on his own for spurts of time at this point.  The bad thing is, he's still a toddler who doesn't understand that the world (or at least my world) isn't always able to revolve around him.  I've done two hearings while he's been awake and the first hearing was a little trying because he couldn't quite figure out why I was out of the room for so long.  The second hearing went considerably better, so I'm hoping as we go along he'll just kind of catch on and allow me to be in another room for a bit.  Hearings are scheduled for 45 minutes typically.  So it's a decent stretch of time, however, he does play on his own for that much time anyway, but it's a little different being TOTALLY unavailable unless there's a REAL need for me, vs. I'm in the adjacent room and working on something as time allows, you know?  I'm hoping all will continue to go well and improve.

So far I'm actually pretty pleased with this whole situation.  Despite at times having to juggle a bit it's not a huge time commitment at all (let's face it,1-3 hours a week is pretty much nothing, but it is hard to HAVE to do something mid-day rather than just fitting things in around the house when I have a free moment) and it's fairly flexible.  Even though I wasn't looking for anything it's pretty perfect for me and it's nice being able to flex my brain a little bit again.  Going into this work again I felt like I remembered nothing, but thankfully it's all coming back very quickly!  It doesn't hurt that it's pretty easy money and they're paying me quite well.  We'll see how it goes, but I'm planning to stick with it at least for the time being.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 18th

Sunday:  Burgers on the grill with Cheesy Potatoes

Monday:  Burritos

Tuesday:  Cheesy Beef & Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

Wednesday:  Chicken Gyros with Soft Wrap Bread and Greek Salad

Thursday:  Steak Fajitas

Friday:  Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

Saturday:  OUT

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

18 Months!

Jack is 18 months old!

18-month check up stats: 25lbs 5oz (50th percentile), 33 inches (75th percentile)

I'm finding that he's full of sugar and spice right now.  Although there are some AWESOME things going on at this age, like his expanding vocabulary and the way you can just tell that his little brain is a sponge by how quickly he catches on to things, I am finding that this is quite a difficult age!  He's sure keeping me on my toes.

I honestly think that a lot of the problems that we're experiencing right now are attributable to the language gap we're in.  He understands A LOT, but he doesn't understand everything and he certainly hasn't caught on to cause and effect and although he now realizes that he can sometimes communicate with us, he doesn't yet have the language skills to express everything to us that he wants to.  I think that in another few weeks a lot of our problems will start to become easier as we get better at communicating.  Communication is definitely our main issue right now.  Well... that and the fact that he certainly has an opinion now.  A STRONG opinion ;)

But all of this is normal, I'm sure, and I guess it's part of the joy of parenting a toddler.

Jack is definitely enjoying himself right now.  I recently saw a few diagrams of an experiment that was done with toddlers.  A playroom was set up and then kids were let into the room and observed and their average movements were diagrammed.  The picture of the path of an 18-month-old was all. over. the. place. and with no rhyme or reason.  This is Jack completely!  And then at the age of 2 the path is a little less crazy and at the age of 2 1/2 the path is much more defined and much less areas are visited.  At the age of 3, only like 2 areas were visited in the whole room.

As you may have guessed Jack is definitely inquisitive these days and is into everything.  Luckily for him, he's taller now and can reach even more new cool stuff.  The only problem is he doesn't quite understand why Momma and Daddy like to spoil his fun.  To him, plugging and unplugging an electrical outlet seems like an awesome game and we just don't want him to have fun.  See where the misunderstandings come into play? :D

A huge milestone we've reached this month is eating with utensils!  He's doing really well and I'm liking it too because although it does take a little longer for him to eat, he's getting better at it everyday and he seems more likely to try things and enjoy them if he's feeding himself with a fork/spoon because he thinks it's really fun.  He's definitely showing signs of entering the stage where he wants to do everything on his own.

Here he is enjoying some yogurt:

And this is a very rare example of him wearing a bib.  I think it stayed on for about 3 minutes total.  He will. not. wear a bib.  He's not too messy of an eater, thankfully, but with this whole learning to use utensils phase mealtimes have become considerably messier.  He still won't wear a bib :-/

Jack has added a few new words to his repertoire of MaMa, DaDa, and BehBeh (Belle, our dog) - Car (which he says like Kah... really a strange word for his first deviation from immediate family members, I think), and very recently Nana (my mom), Papa (my dad), TaTa (my brother), and KyKy (his cousin).  We're trying to teach him his name but so far if you ask him if he can say it he shakes his head no.  Silly boy!

He recently started saying their names when, brace yourselves, he had his first overnight visit with them!  Yes, this was a HUGE step for me us.  Mark and I attended a wedding last weekend and we dropped him off for the afternoon and evening with the instructions (to my mother who has been wanting him to stay the night since he was oh... 3 days old) to go ahead and try to put him to bed if he was tired before we were able to leave the wedding.  That happened so he ended up staying the night.  It was also the first time he had napped at their house.  And of course, the little stinker that he is, he was on his BEST behavior, no crying, no tantrums, slept like an angel, yada yada.  Essentially, he totally played the game and is obviously looking for an invitation to stay again.

Speaking of sleep we've hit yet another sleep regression, which by the way, why does no one tell you about sleep regressions?  I totally thought that once he started sleeping through the night as an infant (which he did REALLY early on) we'd be gold.  Ha.ha.ha.  Sometimes babies have sleep regressions and it sucks.  Jack has been right on schedule for all the others, but I had no idea they also happen this late in the game.  Let me tell you, they do.  This sleep regression hit the week leading up to him staying with my parents, which had me really nervous, but again, he was on his best behavior there.

For several days to a week he was having trouble going to bed at night.  We've had no issues with this for a VERY long time.  He actually seems to really like his bed and any time we've had sleep troubles in the past they've always manifested in wake ups overnight.  The trouble we had with putting him to bed was not fun at all for anyone concerned.  Thankfully after a few nights it seems to have passed.  However, he's waking up early again like he was doing a handful of months ago and that's no fun for anyone either.  This has been going on for about 2 or 3 weeks now so I guess we'll just have to ride out the next few weeks and then hopefully he'll get back on track.  That's what happened every other time at least.

We've been having lots of fun.  He loves to watch Sesame Street and especially Elmo.  I don't know why Elmo is such a draw for toddlers, but he really is.  Jack loves Elmo.  It's scary how quickly kids become attached to a certain show/character.  He still loves to read and his favorites this month have been Trucks which just has pictures of all sorts of big trucks.  Not as enjoyable to read for me as it appears to be for him!  And he also really likes Harry the Dirty Dog right now.  He's also starting to take an interest in doing some puzzles, which is something new and fun.  Usually he just wants us to put the pieces in for him, but lately he's been doing it himself and doing a really good job!

His favorite toy right now by far is this little truck and trailer that his grandpa and uncle brought him back from a trip.  He carries these things around all day, every day.  They're never far.  And although he knows how to hook up the trailer by himself he really likes for me to do it a hundred times a day.

Here's Jack playing hide-and-seek with the front door.

He loves to play hide-and-seek, or maybe it's closer to peek-a-boo really, but either way.  He hides his head with a blanket and if you say, "Where's Jack?  I don't see him!" he will stand super still and start giggling like you can't actually see him.  Then he pulls the blanket off his head and laughs.

He thought having a monkey hanging from his neck was really funny!

And some pics from a recent trip to COSI.  Dada took the day off work and was able to come with us for the first time!

He loves to play with the wheelbarrow.

Uh oh, may have splashed himself in the face...

LOVES the water area, of course.

And this is what Jack likes to do while I'm making the bed, although he doesn't usually hold so still.  I think he was being a little shy since I had the camera.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 11th

Sunday:  Grilled Beer Brats with German Potato Salad

Monday:  Chicken Fajitas - carried over from last week.  It ended up raining for most of the week so we didn't end up grilling

Tuesday:  Sweet Potato Black Bean Burritos

Wednesday:  Leftovers

Thursday:  Homemade Tomato Soup with Gruyere and Caramelized Onion Panini

Friday:  Burgers on the grill with cheesy potatoes

Saturday:  OUT

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Monday, September 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of September 4th

Sunday:  We had a late lunch so I didn't make dinner.

Monday:  Labor Day!  Mushroom Swiss Burgers with Bacon Ranch Potato Salad and Baked Beans

Tuesday:  Veggie Enchiladas with Chips and Salsa - carried over form last week

Wednesday:  Corn Chowder with Beer Bread - taking advantage of the cooler weather to usher in Soup Season while the local sweet corn is still available!

Thursday:  Chicken Fajitas with 'Refried' Beans (from the freezer)

Friday:  Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Saturday:  OUT

I'm linked at Menu Plan Monday hosted by