Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Celebrate the little victories.

Another post from the Drafts folder.  This one is from July 13, 2013.

It's funny -- most of the Drafts are unfinished, some with a few words and some with a few paragraphs.  But after reading this one, it feels finished, which makes me wonder what was missing when I wrote it almost 2 years ago.  One thing is for sure, it all rings true!

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"Three boys!  You must be busy.  Are they triplets?" asks the young Target cashier.

I smile.  I get this question almost weekly.  "No, big brother is 22 months older than the twins."

"Wow.  Really, you must be so busy!"

Sometimes statements like this bug me, but we aren't exactly a calm bunch in the Target checkout lane (or ever, really), so the comment doesn't bother me.

Then the lady behind me pipes in with an "I remember those days."

She's probably in her 80s.  Her smile is warm, but her statement was missing the wistful tone that usually accompanies statements like that from most women over 50.

I smiled and gave my usual reply.  "It's a very busy life, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

Her reply?  "I had 7 in 6 years."

::blink::blink::

I stumbled over my words and think I said something to the effect of "Oh wow.  You must have had some multiples then?"

"Three sets.  A set of twins, then triplets, then twins again.  Obviously they run in our family.  I have 19 grandkids and 20 great grandkids.  There are a few sets of twins and a set of triplets among them."

I still wasn't sure what to say other than "Wow.  I guess you know exactly what I'm going through then ... except way more.  You know, the risk of having another set of twins is why my husband isn't too keen on the idea of trying for one more."

She laughed and shook her head with wide eyes.  "Well, that's what we did.  Twice.  It was hectic.  My biggest piece of advice to my kids and grandkids who had multiples was to just get through it and enjoy it while you can.  But don't stress yourself out over enjoying every second.  Motherhood is hard and what we have is even harder.  Just enjoy the parts you feel like enjoying and get through everything else.  And focus on the small victories when you're having a hard time."

I smiled back as slid my Target card, tried to make sure that the Brothers stayed in the cart, and told Brennan for the 463 time to put the mini Nerf blaster back on the shelf.

I thanked her for the kind words and she wished me luck as I headed out the door with my crew.

The interaction left me thinking for a few days.  Do I celebrate the small victories enough?  Or do I dwell on the stressful parts?

I celebrate the big victories plenty.  Took the boys to Chick-Fil-A by myself (with no stroller) and had a relatively stress free meal.  Huge win.  HUGE.

I goal for the next few weeks is to focus more on the small stuff.  Have a smooth bedtime?  Sweet.  Successfully execute a fun learning activity?  Excellent.  Get everyone to not only survive, but enjoy a walk around the block?  Fan-freakin-tastic.  Celebrate it.  Because it's the little things that make motherhood what it really is.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sometimes {What a difference a year makes}.

I sat down recently to go through my draft folder and maybe finish up a post or 2.  I found quite a few half-written, yet emotion-filled posts that were so enlightening to read through.  My last few years have been a whirlwind of emotion - both joyful and deeply sad.  Revisiting these emotions are so therapeutic for me, which is probably why I have always been a journal writer - drawn to spilling my emotions into written words, learning and growing the whole way.  So I thought I'd resurrect a post or 2 for a nice trip down memory lane!  Here's one from exactly one year ago - March 21, 2014...

In life and in photography!  hehehehe

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Sometimes your husband works eleventy billion hours per week and you're left doing everything yourself.

Sometimes you have 3 dogs and no fenced in backyard and you have to walk them around the yard 3 times a day while leaving your 3 kids in the house to avoid bringing them out into the freezing temps.

Sometimes your kids decide that their superheroes should go swimming in their milk-filled cereal bowls while you're out walking the dogs around the yard.

Sometimes 2 of those 3 dogs don't like to pee or poop while on a leash, so they use your brand new carpet instead.

Sometimes your car makes a really obnoxious high-pitched squealing sound, but your husband is in the middle of his eleventy billion hours at work and can't take the time to pick you up from the repair shop, so you just sit at home with a broken car.

Sometimes it takes you two hours to sit down and write an email to your grad school adviser to assure him that you will, in fact, finish your Masters courses this summer ... while you wonder how that will be humanly possible when it has taken eight times longer than it should have to simply write your email.

Sometimes you just need to take a shower, so you throw your 2 year olds in your (empty) bathtub with some bathtub crayons and you have to get out of the shower with soapy hair in order to break up a fight over who gets to use the blue crayon.

Sometimes your life feels like life will never slow down.  Like it will always be a constant circle of chaos.  Like the work will never slow down and life will be a constant stream of pseudo-single parenting.

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And that's where it ended - inevitably interrupted by the very thing that I was lamenting about at the moment.  

I have to admit, I'm glad those days are over.  Brian is in a "slower" period at work, which means that he's only at the office 50ish hours per week, and working from home another 15 or so.  Yes.  I know.  That doesn't sound slow.  But it is, and for that, I am grateful.  

The boys are a year older, and oh, what a difference a year makes!  Don't get me wrong, threenagers are total a-holes.  BUT, it's more attitude than anything.  Two-year olds are mischievous.  Three year olds can be trusted to a certain degree.  Gone are the days of superheros swimming in cereal bowls (mostly).  Now, they'll ask me if they can do it and yell at me when I say no.  But at least they won't do it.  That, my friends, I can handle.  

And the dogs?  Now we have a fence and laminate floors and little to no peeing and pooping in the house.  

Life is still chaos, but it's better.  It's the kind of chaos that I can handle. 

And maybe even thrive on.  


Friday, March 20, 2015

Green Onion & Cherry Chicken Salad.


Do you have one dish that you make that everyone seems to ask you for the recipe?  I have a few of them, but one of the most popular is my chicken salad.  I must admit, it's pretty flippin' good.  

If you're one of those people that like nuts and apples and celery and grapes and all kinds of crunchy things in your chicken salad, this might not be for you.  I detest crunchy things in chicken salad, so this is crunch free, but it's still packed full of flavor!


OK, first things first, you need shredded chicken.  A bunch of it.  I usually throw a bunch of chicken breasts in the crock pot with some water and spices and let it cook on low for 8 hours or so.  When it's cooked, I shred it up with a few forks and stick it in the fridge til it's cold. 

When the chicken is cold, gather up the gang ... 2 bunches of green onions, a bag of dried cherries, mayo, ranch dressing, a ranch packet, garlic powder, salt (I use Lawry's), and pepper.  I didn't decide to document this whole process til after I chopped my onions, so that's where our photo journey begins!  


I usually use 2 bunches of onions, but if you want the flavor to be a little less punchy, you can you just one.  Then throw in a few handfuls of dried cherries.  I use the whole bag, but you can use less if you'd like.  One of my favorite things about this dish is just how pretty it is.  The green onions and the dark red cherries are so pretty!  


Then it's time for some seasonings.  OK friends, here's the deal -- I'm a really big "little of this, little of that" kinda cook.  I make all of my food "to taste".  So when people ask for recipes, I do my very very best to measure things.  I really do.  But I'm just going to stress to you that you have to taste it and add more spices as necessary!  

So here's what you want to dump into the chicken mix:  the whole ranch packet, 2 tsp garlic powder (yes, it's going to be garlicky, because that's how I like it!), 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Then mix it all up!


Now for the mushy part.  Plop in some mayo.  Depending on how much chicken you used (I used about 4 pounds for this batch), you'll want to use about 1-2 cups of mayo.  I used 1.5 cups for this one.  Start on the small side - you can always add more.  Mix it up!  


Next, add some ranch dressing - about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.  Then mix, mix, mix.  Add more mayo or ranch, depending on whether you like your chicken salad on the dry side or on the mushy side.  I'm in the middle of the road on this one.  


And then, ohhhhhhh!!  I forgot the parm!!!  I like to add some parmesan cheese.  Because I love cheese.  It adds nice flavor.  It can also rescue you a bit if you put too much mayo or ranch in and the texture is too goopy for you.  Honestly, just sprinkle dump some in.  


Mix it up, and then most importantly, TASTE IT!  This is when you'll add more seasonings, mayo, ranch, etc.  When you're happy with the flavor, stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours.  


When it's nice and chilly, it's time to eat!  This chicken salad is so darn versatile.  You can make a sandwich, make a lettuce wrap, put it on a cracker (Triscuits are my fave), or just eat it plain out of a bowl.  Seriously, so delish.  


This is one of my go-to party dishes.  It's super easy to mix up a batch and pair with some croissants.  But it's also a family fave.  I frequently make a batch for lunches during the week.  And when we lived in Florida, I liked to make this for my Mom when she visited because she LOVES it.  Seriously, give it a try folks.  You won't be disappointed!!




The 36th Avenue


By Stephanie Lynn


 handmadehangoutparty

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring has sprung! {Mary & Martha Spring line!}

The Mary & Martha Spring Line is out and we have some really, really pretty stuff in the mix!  

First up, Melamine!!  Besides the obvious fact that they're beautiful, they're also practical.  Lightweight, yet sturdy, and perfect for those summer BBQs.  And dishwasher safe!  In this photo the plates are shown in the Gather Together Kitchen Caddy


This is the Table Salad Plate - Set of 2 - $28
This is the Table Dessert Plate - Set of 4 - $30
Gather Together Kitchen Caddy - $38

The melamine pairs well with the Grace & Gratitude dishes too!  


Grace & Gratitude Collection - Heirloom White Dinner Plate - $26
(Grace & Gratitude Collection - One Place Setting - Dinner Plate, Salad Plate, Bowl - $56)
This is the Table Salad Plate - Set of 2 - $28
This is the Table Dessert Plate - Set of 4 - $30

I love love love how the colors of the melamine look so pretty with the beautiful colors of summer food.  Picnics, BBQs, or just breakfast!


This is the Table Serving Platter - $34
This is the Table Nested Bowls - Set of 3 (smallest pictured) - $68
This is the Table Bowl - Set of 2 - $29
This is the Table Yellow Dinner Plate - Set of 2 - $36
This is the Table Dessert Plate - Set of 4 - $30
Honey Pot -  $34

The Watercolor Collection is my very favorite of the Spring Line.  The colors are so vibrant and the words are so meaningful.  These tea towels make a great addition to any kitchen, or frame them for a beautiful piece of art!


Roses Watercolor Tea Towel - 30"x20" - $24
Sunflower Watercolor Tea Towel - 30"x20" - $24

The Think on These Things plate collection would be absolutely beautiful hanging on the wall, or serving lunch to a small group of friends.  In the background, the large glass lantern creates a sweet, cozy atmosphere.  


Large Glass Lantern - $149
Think on These Things Plates - Set of 4 - $48
Think on These Things Lovely Mugs - Set of 2 - $26

Paper bakeware isn't just for baking!  It makes such a cute and easy way to serve lunch.  No washing dishes!  The Tiered Server is a great way to serve when you're short on counter space.  And that Pizza Tray is just nice eye candy.  I suppose it's a nice serving tray too!  ;)  


Grateful Hearts Square Cup - 12 count - Pick 3 for $22
Grateful Hearts Small Cup - 24 count - Pick 3 for $22
Adjustable Tiered Stand with Baskets and Wooden Plates - $154

Speaking of picnics ... isn't this the greatest idea??  The Grateful Hearts Food Trays are happening this summer at our house!


Grateful Hearts Food Trays - Set of 6 - Pick 2 for $20
Grateful Hearts Small Cup - 24 count - Pick 3 for $22
Give Us This Day Bread Board - $52

My boys go through a TON of fruit every week.  The Adjustable Tiered Stand with Baskets is perfect for storing produce and clearing a bit of counter space.  Do you see the Grace & Gratitude Salt & Pepper shakers tucked into the top basket there?  


Adjustable Tiered Stand with Baskets - $132
Gather Together Kitchen Caddy - $38
Honey Pot -  $34

The Glass Lanterns are beautiful -- as a candle-holder, a vase, or just as-is!


Small Glass Lantern - $54
Medium Glass Lantern - $97
Large Glass Lantern - $149

So there's a sneak peak at some of the goodies that Mary & Martha has to offer this spring.  If you want to stay up-to-date on specials, head over to my M&M facebook page and click "Like" and shoot me an email to kelli.gase at gmail dot com to subscribe to the monthly newsletter!  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Where the wild things play.

I realized the other day that while I've shared photos of several parts of our home, but not many of the basement, which is undoubtedly the most transformed space in the house!  

When we bought our home, transforming the basement into a playroom for the boys was at the top of the priority list.  It was very much an unfinished basement, and we wanted to make it into a bright, warm, and cozy place to play without messing with drywall or carpet.  


The first thing we decided to tackle was the "bright" part, which started at top and worked it's way down.  After weighing a bunch of options, we decided to paint the ceiling.  I like the "industrial" look of a painted ceiling, but most that I've seen are painted black.  That look was just too dark for my taste.  Instead, we settled on painting the ceiling with a very light gray primer; primer because we were hoping it would stick to all of the different surfaces in the ceiling, which it did beautifully!  We invested in a paint sprayer for the job - the Graco Truecoat Plus - which we love.  The light gray brightened up the room so well, and Brian added a few more lights down there to help even more.  


Next job was to get the insulation secured and the walls framed in.  At this point we still weren't sure what kind of walls we were going to put up, but we knew it was going to be something, so Brian busted this job out really quickly.  


Next, the floor.  I really didn't want to put any kind of actual flooring down, so I started to research painting the concrete.  It was cheap, easy, and durable, which is all I was after at the time!  The prep includes sanding.  Lots of sanding.  Then cleaning.  Then?  Painting.  If you've never painted a floor, you're missing out.  Seriously.  It's.SO.MUCH.FUN.  You literally just dump some paint on the floor and push it around with the roller on a pole.  Floor painting is the best kind of painting ever!!  We decided to use the same light gray primer as we did for the ceiling.  Don't do this.  Use porch and floor paint.  Ours is already chipping :(  It's only chipping in spots that had some standing water after the Raining in the Basement debacle of 2014, so maybe it would have chipped even if we had used porch and floor paint, but I've heard that that stuff is pretty durable.  Who knows!


So while the primer was drying, I was brainstorming designs.  I knew I wanted to paint the floor a light color, but I wanted it to be kinda fun.  So while browsing Pinterest I landed on this pin (which apparently leads to some weird link now and Pinterest is blocking it, but you can still see the photo).  Sold.  I knew the boys would love "driving" their cars on it and I chose to paint over the gray with white paint to further brighten the space.  The taping process took a reallllllllllllllllly long time.  But it's worth it cuz it's super freakin' cool.  When the paint was dry, I sealed it with this wet look concrete sealer from Sherwin-Williams.  


After the floor was done, we moved onto the walls.  We both loved the idea of a pallet wall, so Brian split some pallets and assembled this gorgeous wall.  Keeping with a rustic-industrial look, and avoid the pain-in-the-bum of drywall, we decided to try a faux-brick wall like the lovely Katie did over on Bower Power.  


Once the faux brick panels were up, I got to work white-washing them.  I did mine a bit differently than Katie did her wall, but the basics were the same.  Mix paint with some water (I did roughly a 1:1 ratio), paint it on the brick, let it set for a minute or 2, and then wipe it off.  Repeat as needed until you get the finish you're aiming for. 



Eventually, we caulked the seams in the brick, but they're fairly conspicuous.  And the white-wash finish furthers the "bright", the "warm", and the "cozy" that I was aiming for.  Since this was going to be the boys' play space, we also needed toy storage.  Industrial pipe shelving is very popular in blogland lately, my 2 favorites being the pantry shelves over at DIY Showoff and the boys' room shelves over at Beneath My Heart.  To keep costs down, we used pvc pipe that we spray painted withe some ORB spray paint.  For the shelves, Brian ripped a few sheets of plywood and stained it a pretty, dark brown.  



So for approximately 20 minutes we had a beautiful basement.  And then, the toys moved in.  We didn't organize the toys right away, instead focusing on the rest of the house. For a little less than a year, it has just been a pit of scattered toys, occasionally getting picked up, only to be trashed again.  Finally, a few weeks ago, I decided that I'd had enough and started the organization process.   


If you're waiting for beautiful photos of a perfectly organized space, don't hold your breath :)  My kids are insanely spoiled (not by their parents!) and have about a million toys.  The organization process is happening, but it's happening slowly.  My goal is to have it all finished by next week and have beautiful photos to show you!



Monday, March 2, 2015

Apparently I have a lot of hangups.

I am in the middle of too many projects.  Really.  Waaaaaaay too many projects.  I hate unfinished projects, and yet I can't seem to get them done.  I mostly blame the weather and the subsequent winter blues.  I just have a hard time focusing on one thing when I'm in a mood.  But I'm hoping to buckle down and just get them all accomplished during the month of March, before warmer weather hits and I have the urge to start something new!


The Project:  First up, a lamp.  When Brian's Grandma moved out of her home, I snatched a wall lamp that was up for grabs.  It's painted and the shade is updated, but I'm still not loving it.
The Hangup:  I'm just not sure what I want to do with it.  So for now it's hanging on the wall and I'm waiting for inspiration to come to me.


The Project:  I grabbed these 2 chairs off of Craigslist for $10.  They've been painted and reupholstered, but there's a funky part in the back that I need to do something with.  I'm thinking piping along the edges or something like that.  
The Hangup:  Piping/cording will require getting out my sewing machine.  Why is this a hangup?  I have no idea.  


The Project:  The boys' bathroom.  The walls are painted, the vanity and counter is painted, new faucet is installed, and few pictures are on the walls.  Brian replaced a light, but needs to add a few more because it's a very, very dark room.  The vanity needs a few paint touch-ups,  The walls need a bit more art and I have an idea for some cute shelves.  
The Hangup:  Brian needs time to do the electrical stuff, and he doesn't have a whole lot of time these days.  Art and touch-ups require paint.  Why is this a hangup?  Again, I have no idea.  


The Project:  These nesting tables were one of my favorite projects from the summer.  But they're chipping.  Boo.  Judging from the cardboard in the photo, I don't think I primed them, so I'm going to have to go back and fix them a bit.  Priming is a super important step here people.  Learn from my mistakes!
The Hangup:  I need the weather to be warm in order  to do any of this, and the temp is currently in the single digits.  Finally, a legitimate hangup!  


The Project:  The fireplace revamp is actually pretty well underway.  It just needs a little more tweaking and some touch-ups.  See the white paint on the top of the black part of the fireplace?  I thought that this was covered by the front of the fireplace.  Guess what?  I was wrong.  I'm also playing with a decorative finish on the white.  
The Hangup:  The black, high-heat paint that I bought was spray paint, so I need to buy some that I can paint on instead.  It runs $14ish for a can, and our budget for home stuff like this is currently $0.  So that part is on hold til we sell our other house.  The decorative finish requires getting out the paint.  Again with not knowing why this is a hangup.   


The Project:  This one.  This one is pretty huge.  Since we moved in, the office has been a big, giant dumping ground.  Anything that didn't have a "home"  landed in there.  On the ground.  It was looking like something off of an episode of Hoarders and I couldn't handle it for one more second.  The floor is clear, but I still have a long way to go to get it organized and find everything a home.  
The Hangup:  3 little munchkins.  There's something about this room that makes my kids come running when I enter.  I usually only get 20 minutes or so to work at a time, so it's a very very very slow process.  I feel good about what we've done so far though!  


The Project:  Suuuuuuper old picture, but see those big, beautiful windows in there?  They're still screamin' for some curtains.  Hardware is sitting in the basement and fabric is sitting in the office.  I just need to sew the curtains.

The Hangup:  I honestly have no idea why the concept of getting out my sewing machine is such an issue for me.  I'm obviously a big fat weirdo.


The other hangup?  This.  There's always laundry, vacuuming, and dishes to be done!  My goal is to have all of these projects done by the end of March.  Who wants to put money on it????













Thursday, February 26, 2015

New stuff underfoot!

While mopping the floor yesterday, I realized that I never posted about our new floors!  Our home was a foreclosure, and before putting it on the market, the bank painted the entire house a lovely peachy beige and installed new beige carpet throughout the whole house.  Sadly, our dogs completely trashed the carpet in a matter of months.  Whether it was the adjustment to a new space, the scent of the previous owners' dogs coming from the sub-floor, or the fact that our 8 year old dogs are just un-potty-trained assholes, the peed on the carpet.  A lot.  And you can only clean giant puddles of dog pee out of the carpet so many times before it's just ... done.  


I'd been researching flooring options for quite some time and trying to decide how to get several hundred square feet of flooring for practically pennies.  We considered painting or staining the sub-floor, and did quite a bit of experimenting with ideas.  Ultimately, we needed to find out what kind of shape the floor was in before we made any decisions.  And one day I decided that I couldn't live one more day with the nasty carpet and we ripped that crap outta there.  Turns out, the sub-floor was in just so-so shape.  Not terrible, but not great.  


I pondered a little more and one day stumbled upon a really great sale at Lumber Liquidators.  A 6mm laminate flooring called Donar Oak for $0.29 per square foot. It was a really pretty, albeit cheap, laminate flooring.   I tried to place an order, but they were all sold out.  Womp Womp.  I called the store on the off chance that they had some in stock and the awesome store manager told me that they run sales like fairly often and let me know when to check the website for another sale.  

(via)

A few weeks later, I found an even better sale than the first one -- $0.19 per square foot for a 6mm laminate called Black Forest Oak.  It wasn't as pretty as the Donar Oak, but it was CHEAP.  So I ordered enough for the family room and living/dining room and then waited for awhile -- a few weeks, to be exact. The people at Lumber Liquidators were wonderful and kept me updated throughout my waiting period.  Eventually, I got a call from my local Lumber Liquidators store manager informing me that they were still waiting for half of my order to arrive (it looks like they are out of the Black Forest Oak still/again), but that they had enough stock of the Donar Oak (my original choice) to fill my whole order.  Ummmm, OK!!  


We picked it up from the store that day and also picked up some Blue Hawk underlayment from Lowe's.  We didn't want to go with anything super expensive because BUDGET or anything super cheap because KIDS and DOGS and NOISE.  Brian and his friend got it all installed in a weekend.  It was very easy and would have been possible to get done in a day had they not had 3 little helpers!  Those helpers are super cute though, so they rolled with it.  (I didn't document their process because there are a million tutorials out there for laminate flooring installation.  Shanty 2 Chic did a pretty good one that you can find here.)


We are loving, loving, LOVING the floor.  It's beautiful, cleans easily, and hides dust and dirt very well between vacuum sessions.  And it was cheap!  With 3 little boys and 3 dogs, I'd rather something cheap get ruined than something expensive.  We won't always have 3 dogs and eventually those little boys will grow into big boys and if the floors are shot, I'll consider it money well spent.  The underlayment we chose has been lovely so far and we're happy with the choice.  It's not echo-ey or hollow sounding or anything.  


In case you're wondering about the budget breakdown...

9 Boxes (approx 600 sq ft) Donar Oak Laminate Flooring - $120.71
6 Rolls Underlayment - $284.94
Grand Total - $405.65 


That's roughly $0.68 per square foot!  Not half bad, if you ask me, especially since it barely took 8 hours worth of work.  I think that prepping and painting/staining both rooms would have taken well over double that amount of time, and most likely for not much cheaper.  So I'm pretty happy with our results!  


We haven't installed new baseboards yet, but I'm leaning toward a nice, simply, high baseboard like in the photo above.  I like to chew on things for awhile before I pull the trigger, so this piece is sitting in the family room so I can decide if I like the feel of it.  In the mean time, we're lovin' the floors!

**For the record, Lumber Liquidators and Lowe's have no idea who I am.  Just passing along info on products I'm diggin'.