home life

Homemade Pillows

When I worked at the public library, I held a teen program for making no-sew pillows. We used the iron-on hem tape, an iron, and scraps of material you can buy bundled together. We stuffed them from a big bag of fluff. Some teens ironed their pillows together as-is, some tried to fold in the raw edges and hide them, and some (ok, one, ha!) forgot to flip their material so the bright side would show once it was stuffed. It was a fun program and it inspired me to go back to the store and buy more supplies to make my own pillows. I picked single scraps of material though, matching together complimentary patterns and colors.

Let’s let a year go by…

Here we are in the present, with me cleaning my house and trying to wrap up loose ends. I find this material, hem tape, and stuffing. When I mention the pillows to my mom, she mentions that she would be happy to sew them while using her machine for other stuff anyway, and she also has some pillow forms she doesn’t need. Cue me finding t-shirts I don’t wear anymore and won’t fit into my t-shirt quilt (more on THAT later), but that I still want to keep.

We ended up making 9 pillows. And when I say we, I mean most definitely my talented mother. She can do way more than sew in a straight line, but that skill was very necessary for this project and that skill is one I do not possess (insert vague reference about the t-shirt quilt because ME TRYING TO SEW is why that quilt isn’t a thing yet).

My favorite is from a shirt that was super tight on me and made from really thin material. So while I loved the message, I wasn’t a fan of wearing the shirt. But it makes the perfect pillow for my reading corner!

pillow2

Continue reading “Homemade Pillows”

food, fun, holidays, home life, natural living

4th of July

Happy 4th of July, American friends! How are you celebrating this holiday?

I love having a cookout on the 4th, or going to one. This is such a social holiday to me; Thanksgiving and Christmas of course naturally mean a lot of family is getting together, but it always feels a little more formal – even though my family is pretty casual! I love the 4th because it’s all about eating and being together and waiting for darkness so you can have fun with sparklers and fireworks!

Do you use disposable plates and utensils for the 4th of July?

plates

It’s logical since you’re eating outside and don’t want to risk your regular dishes breaking – or being too heavy if you’re balancing it on your lap. I have hosted a few “dinner parties” with friends eating inside, and then I always use my own dishes and cups because it’s more formal. But outside events are more casual so you want to accommodate your guests while still being conscious of the environment.

Using disposables is so easy because you can throw away all the napkins and recycle the cups, plates, and utensils – depending on your city’s recycling policy. But I still feel like it’s creating so much waste – and a lot of plates can’t be recycled, if they’re coated with that weird filmy plastic.

There are companies that sell biodegradable party supplies, which is something to look into. I don’t often host anymore, usually just attend others. But I could still stock up on these supplies and offer to bring the plates and utensils as my contribution to the party!

This tableware collection in particular looks great to have on hand for parties – I love the idea of just being able to toss the “trash” on your compost pile! Have you ever tried biodegradable products? What do you use when you host parties?

home life

Crafting by Upcycling

A few years ago I had some special cards made for a library conference. I was a teen services librarian at a branch here, but didn’t have professional cards yet. I also was (and still am) the volunteer manager of YALSAblog, and I wanted to include that on my cards so I could reach out to people who might want to write for us.

I ordered from Moo.com, my favorite place to splurge when I want fun, unique, yet high quality professional cards. I used pictures from my How I Feel About Books instagram account for the front, because I like a lot of the book photos I take and share there. You can get like 25 unique card fronts per pack, so I didn’t have to narrow it down too much! The back had information about my library position, my volunteer position, and my personal site and instagram.

Fast forward to when I’m not working at that library anymore, and the cards aren’t much use to me. I guess that job title isn’t a huge deal since I’m still the manager of YALSAblog, and they are unique and eye-catching and worth handing out at conferences, but not too helpful in my daily networking. But I love those pictures! I decided I would mount them on a canvas to hang in the house.

When I was hanging work from my photography exhibit around the house a few weeks ago, I moved some stuff around – stuff I didn’t like much anymore, or was hung “just because”, whatever I could do to hang more of my own work without putting a lot of extra nail holes in the walls. One things I took down was this stained glass-looking print that had been hanging in the bedroom for almost 5 years. I think I found it at a thrift store – maybe I was going to do something to it? Maybe I thought it looked cool at the time? Anyway, I took it down and was going to put it on the pile to donate, when it hit me. I could mount my old business cards on this instead of buying a canvas to put them on!

original
I didn’t think to take a picture in time to get the whole original, but you get the idea.

I used 20 different business cards to make this – I still have plenty left, but it’s nice to see some of them put to good use. Another bonus – I used up the last little bit of both of my super glues! It might sound stupid but it was really satisfying to throw away those things that had been sitting in the junk drawer forever.

I might gloss over it with Mod Podge, but I might just let it go and see if it all stays intact. The front of the original art was glossy, so I don’t know if the glue will stick to it as well as it would canvas, but it is super glue.

hanging

Since all the cards are book- and library-related images, I hung it in the back room with all my bookshelves – on a nail that was already there! Talk about low-key, easy art. I think it looks just right.

donating, home life, reading

Little by Little

I wish I had a before picture to show you, or a factual number, or anything. And I do have before pictures I’ll have to find, hidden on my external hard drive from years ago. Pictures of the backpack I lived out of for six months, pictures of my 450 sq ft apartment, pictures of the vast emptiness of my two bedroom house when I first moved in. Pictures of all the clutter when my husband moved his storage shed from Oklahoma into our back room (even though I would hate to see those – talk about anxiety!). Pictures of moving in another kid and struggling to keep the house clean while hating my day job.

I am working on the house little by little, but I get on these kicks. I can donate half of my wardrobe in twenty minutes on a good day. Doesn’t fit? Gone. Hate that color now? Gone. Doesn’t feel comfy? Gone. Thankfully, my clothes are mostly from thrift stores anyway (don’t buy new!) so it’s never a huge loss, trying to argue that I spent so much on it, I at least have to keep it and try to wear it again.

Truthfully, I can sever ties to my belongings in a snap. I’m honestly not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s there. And when I get in the mood, I want to get rid of everything.

I have been re-reading some of the books on my shelves lately. There are some hardcore favorites I want to keep copies of. But some I remember fondly but hazily, and those are the ones I’m re-reading. Do I really want to keep them? So far, we’re 3 for 3 – donations are winning! They were nice to re-read and I will still remember them fondly, but they don’t pack a punch or blow me away. They’re just… nice, so I don’t feel the need to keep them.

This is a pretty big shift in how I used to think about books. I wanted to own all the books. I would buy dozens at used book sales and keep them, whether I had read them or not! I figured I’d get to them someday. Now I just use my Goodreads “Want To Read” list and keep my shelves a little more sparse.

It helps me to think of that sometimes – how my attitude in owning books has changed. Because I’ve never been stylish or into clothes, so getting rid of those is no problem. But books are special to me, and if I can be strict with what I keep in that aspect, I know the rest of my house and life will come together, too. Little by little.

holidays, home life, money

Happy Birthday!

My son is old enough to understand birthdays and be excited, but young enough to not really care about having a big to-do. (Or maybe he’s growing up to be just as anti-social as Mommy!)

Every time he wants something, he says he wants it for his birthday: new train track pieces; a new Thomas “roller coaster” track for those strange, pointless, tiny little trains; a trampoline. He doesn’t want everything he sees, but when he wants something, he remembers it. He will get a few things for his birthday – usually one gift per person, and only close family comes to the party – but I’m sure he will remember to ask for a trampoline for his next birthday, until I remind him that Christmas will come around before his next birthday. Then he will start the Christmas list.

When he gets gifts, he is very thankful for them. He thanks the giver (usually with prompting) and plays with the toys for a long time. Most of the toys he has work together, like the wooden train pieces that build together, and wooden trains to drive on them. Or the pointless tiny Thomas trains that link together for a parade, or zoom around on tracks that take batteries. Or cars and trucks… so many different cars and trucks! They fill one of his toy bins, but he seriously plays with ALL of them, so… they stay.

The birthday party itself is never a huge deal. He has friends at school but we don’t really do playdates or anything yet. We invite grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins, and our parties usually top out at 12 people – mostly adults. It’s always in the afternoon, post-nap, with snacks and cupcakes for the guests. I hate stressing over hosting major dinners and parties, so I like keeping them minimal. Napkins for the snacks, candy, and cupcakes, cups for punch, and that’s about it. Two hours of togetherness is perfect for kids the ages we have (about-to-be-4, 5, and 8) and they can play outside if it’s not rainy.

His party is right around the corner, and now that’s he’s older I’m eager to see how he will open the gifts on his own (he still had trouble last year) and thank the givers without prompting.

home life, money, school, working

Montessori School

I have a lot of thoughts on the public school system, from my memories as a student (skewed, I know), to being a teacher, to being a prospective parent. I’ll try to not get too… opinionated here, because I know every school system is different and the more specific I get to my district, the less helpful my insights will be to others.

I worked in an elementary school in a middle class area; the school had high ratings and incredibly high enrollment – there were over 860 kids there when I was there. We were understaffed, even if no one would admit it or no one could fix it. Classrooms pushed 30 kids, and that was way too much. I worked as a librarian so I saw all of these kids on a rotating schedule, and I always dreaded the 30-kid classes. It’s too much.

My son went to an inclusive preschool three days a week, mostly for socialization. They learn a lot there, but the pace is different since there are so many kids with different abilities. He used to go to a different school 5 days a week, full days, when I worked full time. He fit in there and learned a lot, including Spanish. But it seemed like he was on the road to behavior problems, because he always acted out with one friend. Those behaviors disappeared once he was in a classroom with kids ranging from 3-6, and with drastically different abilities. I loved this preschool because he saw so many differently-abled kids and worked with them on their levels. He has told me about some of his friends and it makes me happy that he has this understanding and compassion from a young age.

Now he is going to a Montessori school. Well, right now it is the school’s summer camp. I got a dream job at the school so I am prepping my classroom this summer while he attends camp. I think Montessori is perfect for him because he loves to learn, and has specific interests, and wants to be able to learn at his pace and on his level. Again, he will be in a class with 3-5/6 year olds. I think this is great because he will see older kids as role models, and can strive to be a good role model for those younger than him.

I was so anxious about putting him in public school. I detest our system as it is, and while I know he would adapt and socialize and fit in, I didn’t want that. I don’t want him to become a cookie cutter kid when he is so smart and curious. I want him to move around and pick his tasks and learn practical life skills from school, instead of being pushed to read and write and do worksheets in kindergarten.

I really wanted to homeschool him, but couldn’t find a way to make it work. When I was working from home, I was working 15 hours a week while he was in childcare. If needed, I worked some at night after he was asleep. And I loved working from home, and wanted to continue to do it for the flexible schedule. But now, I will be working in the same place as him. I will know what he’s learning and how. I’m still learning about the Montessori method, but I know some from a previous job at a learning center and really agree with the approach. I think this is the best compromise to homeschooling – being near enough him (no worries with drop off and pick up times at school coinciding with my work schedule!) and knowing he is learning in a method that will encourage his growth and individuality. Plus, as I said it’s a dream job for me, and teaching there means a discount on tuition. I was looking forward to public school being free, but if that’s the only perk to an education, it’s not a perk at all!

I’m eager to keep learning about Montessori as it applies to me as a teacher and parent, and I’m eager to see how he reacts to it. I’ll definitely be sharing more as I build my classroom and curriculum.

 

home life, money

Living Without A/C: Part 2

I left off with everyone wondering: Did she turn on the air conditioning? Did she turn on the A/C?

I heard you.

And yes, I’ve turned it on by now. Remember I was suffering at 78 degrees on May 2nd, at 10pm? I thought nights were supposed to be cooler, but… that doesn’t happen so much around here. Keeping my bedroom window open worked for 2 nights, but I just couldn’t cool down.

One night in early May I was in bed, staring up at my ceiling, willing myself to cool down… and I spotted that switch on my ceiling fan. I remember learning that you could flip the switch to use fans in winter to keep the warm air circulating, but I didn’t remember doing it.

Google to the rescue! Ceiling fans should turn counter-clockwise to cool the room, and clockwise to keep it warm. I had to stop my bedroom fan and start it again to see which way the blades were spinning.

Clockwise!

I turned it off again, waited until it stopped spinning (crucial step), and flipped the switch. Once the dust started flying off the blades (shame my housekeeping skills!), I vaguely remembered switching it for winter – because dust flew off then, too.

I tiptoed into my sleeping son’s warm oven of a room, staring up at his ceiling fan. Counter-clockwise, but it was so warm I stopped it, flipped the switch, and gave it a shot. Not much difference, but I put it back the way it was. I’m pretty sure it was on the cool setting.

My two new ceiling fans were off since the house was hunkered down for sleep, but I started them up – one was going counter-clockwise, but the other had to be changed.

The fan in the back room is the heartiest I’ve ever seen – it keeps that room as cool as the inside of a refrigerator. I knew it was spinning correctly.

The house got a lot cooler after that. It was too warm to keep windows open, but the fans alone kept the house at 76 or 77 degrees every day. Sometimes, in the mornings, it was downright cool. Not too shabby.

On May 7th, my son and I visited my parents’ house. As we approached, I could tell the windows were shut tight. I knew what that meant – their A/C was on!

Sure enough, they had turned it on before the extra-warm weekend hit. I mistakenly thought their goal had always (since my childhood) been to make it until June 1st, but Mom told me it was May 1st, with the crazy heat we get. Both parents seemed impressed we hadn’t turned our air on yet.

As soon as we got home, I turned on the fans. It was pretty warm. I glanced at the thermostat. 78. Did I want to live like this? Nahhh. Besides, I had beat out my parents, and they acknowledged my sacrifice (shhh – let me have this!). So I turned on the air on the evening of May 7th. Quite far from my original (misguided) June 1st deadline, but the house sure is comfortable now.

My new heating and cooling system is efficient and cut down my utility bills. Plus the ceiling fans still help – they keep the house cool enough that I don’t need the A/C on very high. Right now it’s at 77 and I’m at my desk with a fan swirling above me, and the breeze is a little cool!

I haven’t looked into how much it costs to run a ceiling fan (or multiple ceiling fans), or how much it costs compared to running the A/C. So we’ll check out that utility bill at the end of the month and report back.