Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First Impressions of the Lone Star State

First of all, it really is hot in Texas. But I think I like it. It's hot like walking around in a blanket just taken out of the dryer that's still a little damp, and I sort of like that feeling. But I missed most of summer (I got here last Tuesday) so I don't think I can really comment on how hot it can be.

I love the way people talk. I love hearing the drawls and especially the How y'all doin's and the You take care now dahlin's. It's just so friendly. And oh my goodness, do people ever use y'all here. We went to an open house at the local volunteer fire station and there were some bossy, albeit adorable, kids telling all the other kids what to do with loud pronouncements of, "Y'all need to get over here!" and "Y'all ain't allowed to do that!" Love. It. Though while listening to the radio this morning the talk show hosts called someone a ho and advertised buying guns for Christmas and were generally unpleasant.While I think it was just another raunchy morning radio talk show, I am out of P.C. California for sure.

It is really beautiful here. There are trees everywhere- big, beautiful, deep green trees dripping with moss that look like they are just reveling in the moisture in the air. And the cloud cover is gorgeous! It seems every sunset is full of golden beams shooting through billowy clouds that move quickly to the north, with the scene changing and bending and melding into a new, perfect picture every minute. It is stunning.

I still haven't tried barbecue here, which is a huge problem. Seriously. I'm in the South! Not the deep South, but it's still Texas, and no ribs or brisket has passed my lips yet. It's a shame. Hopefully that will change this weekend. And thankfully there is fresh, in-house made sushi in every grocery store I've been to so far. Thank goodness!

The kids and I are going a little stir-crazy in our hotel room while waiting to move into our house. But...

We close on our house on Friday! Woo!

We are really excited about it. I'll take you on a little virtual house tour once everything is settled, but no pictures until we've got the keys in our hands. I don't want to jinx anything!

It has been so wonderful being back together. Spending so much time with family before we left was fantastic, but it is so nice just to be in the same room again! Just being able to hold hands sends a contented little flutter to my heart. I am so glad to be here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Texas

After a lot of prayer and soul-searching, Stephen and I have decided to move to Texas! We are so excited!


Stephen was offered a position with Boeing and he will be working on "space stuff" (my words, not his) in the Houston area near the NASA center. It is a great opportunity- I am so excited for him!

Things are happening very quickly. We move out of our apartment on Saturday (!!!!) and Stephen leaves for Texas on Sunday morning. The kids and I will be hopping back and forth between grandparents' houses until October. Stephen reports Wednesday and his first day of work is Friday. He will start house hunting on Tuesday with our realtor in Texas.

Yes, you read that right. Stephen is choosing our house! Without me! I'm actually really excited about it. We've talked a lot about what we're looking for in a house together and I trust him completely. I think it will be really exciting to see what he decides. Besides, I think he's more picky than I am. ;)

Ben was pretty disappointed at first ("I don't want to move far, far away to Texas!") but then we showed him some pictures of where we might live. His eyes got big and round and he said, "Ben will play in his backyard?" We said that he would. Then he babbled about his new backyard for the next 10 minutes. I think he will be happy there.

We are really sad to be leaving our families. Both sets of grandparents are here, along with aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles, cousins... it is really depressing to think about. Not to mention all the friends we've made in Upland and my best girl friend who I've known since I was 10. I don't want to have to make new friends! It's hard to find people you gel with sometimes, and I had that here. I'm a bit of an odd duck. Even though maybe people don't notice it. So that's worrisome- what if people don't "get" me? Or- what if they don't like me because my home state pride rivals theirs? Something to think about with Texans!

Regardless of any worries, we are really excited to be heading out on this adventure. It's a long way from home, but we are happy and looking forward to being in a new place in life.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Baby Shower Baprons

I've been looking for a simple but awesome pattern for baby shower gifts, and I think I've found it! It's called the Bapron- the Baby Apron. You can find the tutorial and free pattern HERE.

This is a full coverage bib that fits over the shoulder and sweeps under the arm- I love the fit!



It was a relatively easy sewing project- the most difficult part was sewing evenly on the bias tape and making sure to catch it all as I went.

For materials, I used leftover single-fold bias tape (just ironed it over), a too-small flannel receiving blanket, and I was given some leftover gender neutral baby print (not sure what it is, but it's some sort of polyester) by my mother-in-law from some of her old projects.  Unfortunately I ironed out a little bit of the texture on the elephants/giraffes print, but I think it still looks cute.


It fit Sophie perfectly- even on her almost-2-year-old frame, the length is great. I think this should fit even a young baby first starting solids, but I don't have anyone to experiment on. ;)




It didn't take too long- maybe two hours to do both? And that was because I am ridiculously meticulous. Now that I've sewn these up, the next time should be quicker unless I plan on making my own bias tape. ;)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Patriotic Wreath

 So, I might be totally in love with Pinterest. I use it to plan weddings, decorate my house, and I dream of painting or refinishing pretty much every piece of furniture in my house.  Well, I saw a tutorial HERE for a patriotic wreath and had to copy it! I'm a wreath person- I always have a wreath on the door, preferably seasonal or holiday themed, and this was perfect.


The inspiration wreath was made from felt, but I decided to make mine from t-shirts because they were on sale and I had a spare white t-shirt floating around my house. I purchased a foam wreath form from my local Dollar Tree and got the stars from a foam sticker sheet at Michael's.


 I love the detail of twirling some wire to secure the stars, it gives it an extra bling-y look.

I decided to hang it from a ribbon instead of trying to fasten a hidden ribbon because, well, the foam was cheap and with all the holes from the pins I wanted to avoid putting stress on the wreath. Overall, I'm really pleased with how it turned out!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Meal Planning- Why I Changed to a Monthly Budget

Budgeting, and especially meal planning, is something of a challenge that I long to master. I have changed the way I budget my groceries, so here's the breakdown of how I currently run our kitchen. I've been eager to share it with you! We've been doing really well on it and I actually feel freer and less restrained when it comes to planning our meals.

As I told you about previously, I aimed to spend about $40 a week for my little family of four. That was a year ago, and a lot has changed! For one, Sophie was 10 months old and still primarily getting nutrition from breastfeeding, but BOY does she have an appetite now!

 
She will frequently out-eat Ben! We are working with a lot more food these days. I also found that spending weekly didn't leave me very much freedom to make bulk purchases. Occasionally I would need to buy olive oil (about $20 for 2 liters) or vitamins ($12 a bottle) or bacon ($12 for 5 pounds) and my planning for the week would go out the window. I also found that I couldn't take advantage of loss-leaders (the really fantastic front page ads) like I wished I could.

Another problem I had with weekly grocery shopping was that I found myself going to 3 stores every single week, usually all in the same day. I was starting to feel exhausted and burnt out. All of these factors made it very clear that something needed to change with my routine. Weekly grocery budgeting just wasn't working for us anymore.

I read about Once a Month Shopping on Quick, Easy, Cheap and Healthy and it sounded a little crazy at first, but what really sold me on it was the way I could take advantage of bulk purchasing at Costco, Honeyville, loss-leader sales, or even ordering something online at Amazon or Azure Standard.  I could spend the money on these larger purchases without compromising the food plan or having to resort to food storage for the week.  The way Once a month shopping works is that the majority of your food is purchased the first week, then the rest (like produce and dairy) is purchased throughout the month in smaller weekly trips. This way I can purchase what I need with the flexibility of having our whole month's budget at my fingertips. I also only go to 3-4 stores in the first week, then one store for each of the following weeks. Here's the breakdown of how I do it:

1. The last week of the month, I do an inventory each time I am in the kitchen focusing especially on bulk items (flour, oil, butter, oats, sugar, the ingredients for granola, etc.) and write down what is needed on a white board on my fridge.

2. I begin to browse the circulars for the following month and take note of the loss-leaders I plan to buy. Using what is on sale, I try to make a meal plan for the next 2-4 weeks and write what items I will need for the rest of the month's meals, excluding some produce, dairy or protein I will purchase later.

3. I go out and make my monthly purchases, leaving money remaining for restocking milk, eggs, produce, and any other loss leaders I may want to take advantage of. I spend about 2/3 of my budget in the first shopping trip.

4. Each week, I restock produce and/or dairy. I try to only go to one store and almost always succeed. I will usually go to Sprouts the second week, Costco the third week for fresh dairy, then usually Sprouts again in the fourth week.

So, really it's more like one big stocking up shopping trip and one tiny shopping trip each week. But most of the work is done in the first week and my other shopping trips throughout the month are a breeze!

I have also increased my budget due to little Miss Sophie's appetite. We now spend $240 each month- up from $160 a year ago (which we often went over).  I came to that number by adding $40 for the little miss' portion of food and $40 for bulk items. It's working out quite well- this month we were 100% on budget! Yeehaw! I did it by using a cash system, but that's a discussion for another day.

I will be taking my first shopping trip for the month of June tomorrow and will let you know how I do!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Meal Plan for May

Yes, I know there's less than a week left in May, but I have a plan!

I've changed the way I do my grocery budget and plan to share that with you later this week. But for now- the plan for the last week of May:

Tuesday Pork Chops, mashed potatoes, artichokes

Wednesday Chinese Chicken Salad, pot stickers and fried rice

Thursday Ground Beef Tacos

Friday Pizza and salad

This weekend was busy and wonderful, but I'm looking forward to a (slightly) less busy week. I am beginning work on Stephen's cousin's wedding and things are coming together beautifully. I've got to get everything done in the next two weeks, but that is definitely doable. Here's a sneak peak of the bride's bouquet:


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Moving Forward

Hello again! Sorry I've been away so long, but the year so far has been filled with lots of exciting and some not so exciting events (some of which I may share, but maybe not. I haven't decided yet).

You'll be pleased to know that I've been keeping up with many of my goals, though unfortunately meal planning has fallen to the wayside. I'm picking that back up and the blog really helps me with meal planning accountability, so you'll be seeing more posts on that.

Looking back at the archives, I noticed that I've hardly posted anything about the flowers I love to make for people. I do weddings, didn't you know? ;)  I'm no expert, I've done 6 weddings total- but it's something I love to do. I love to make beautiful things with my hands and flowers are one of those projects that produce immediate rewards. They're so beautiful already, I just help put the beauty into a pretty package.

Here's a preview of the maid of honor's bouquet from the wedding of Rachel, Stephen's sister (apologies for the amateur photographs):


You're excited already, aren't you?

I'm starting to look forward to writing here; I was dreading it for a while. But things are looking up, and I usually only write when things are good. It really skews what you see of me here, but I'm trying to overcome that so what is here is more balanced.

Ultimately my purpose in keeping up this blog is to have it be my journal, and if I don't write about the bad then what does it accomplish? The bad needs to be archived along with the good. It makes the good so much sweeter.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Slacker

Blah, blah, I'm a slacker.  I know.  Sorry.

Anyway, Christmas was fantastic for us- it was so fun with the kids!  I loved watching them open all the useful (read- not so fun) gifts we got them.  Don't worry, though.  Grandparents spoiled them plenty.

I've been doing some deep cleaning lately and trying to purge like crazy.  Every once in a while I get the de-clutter bug where I want to throw EVERYTHING away and I have to take advantage of it before the feeling goes away.  I started in the kitchen today, I'm doing the books tonight and the kids' toys tomorrow.  I'm so excited about it!  Yep.

So, I tried to upload some pictures, but it's not working.  Sorry about that.

I will be a slacker no longer.  Don't you love when you decide to change everything and pretend that you won't succumb to habits that have had years to flourish?  I'm hoping I can institute a few changes and work on goals for the year.

Household
  • Continue meal planning.
  • Make freezer meals.
  • Purchase a food storage item once a month.
  • Do a budget once a month.
Children
  • Go on walks with the kids at least 3 times a week.
  • Have family home evening every week.
  • Play with and read to the kids- a LOT!
  • Do preschool activities with Ben M-F once a day.
Personal
  • Read the scriptures every day.
  • Blog once a week.
  • Go on a date with Stephen once a week, even if it's a "stay at home and watch a movie" date.
  • Complete visiting teaching assignments.
In general, I want to be more deliberate with the choices I make for our lives.  I have always been a very go-with-the-flow person, but I think some things require conscious decisions and awareness.  I'm just growing up, I guess!