Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Superstorm Sandy: How Prepared for an Emergency Are You?

Superstom Sandy just blasted through the eastern seaboard with a vengeance. I am extraordinarily blessed that all of my family in New York and New Jersey  weathered the storm, minus electricity, but still intact and safe. I am also thankful for the numerous friends and family in the east who were bypassed by the worst of the storm and did not see the destruction that they saw following Hurricane Irene.

This storm made me realize something: my family and I are woefully ill-prepared for an emergency situation. We live in Southern California, where we don't have hurricanes or tornadoes or blizzards like other parts of the US. And we sort of rest on our weather laurels as a result, forgetting that there is always a chance that we will have "the big one." An earthquake could easily knock out power and water for days.

And we would be screwed.

For example, FEMA recommends a 3 day supply of water for each person in the household at the tune of 1 gallon a person. That is 12 gallons of water for my family (15 gallons if we include the dog). Right now, I have one 16 oz bottle of water in our entire house.  That is right folks, 16 ounces of water. Screwed.

Because of this realization,  I went looking for some sites to help us prepare our emergency supplies. One I particularly liked is on Org Junkie. It not only talks about what to have in your home, but in your car and for your pets. Very smart. 

I also liked this article from Parents Magazine's website, because it includes things like creating an emergency communication plan for your family and writing your kids a letter for in an emergency when they are at school (and if the author's letter to her child doesn't make you get a little choked up, I am now worried that you have no soul-- or no kids, but even then... ).

When I told Diesel about our need to prepare, he said "I've been watching Revolution. What we need is guns. Lots of guns." So, I guess there is that too... But, firearms aside, he is definitely on board with us getting our act together. Funny thing is, we have a lot of the "stuff" we need, but just not in one place. In some ways, it is just a matter of us being more organized.

So, my challenge for my family, and yours if you aren't already prepared, is that by December 31st we will have amassed enough food and water for us and the dog for 3 days, created an emergency plan, and have gathered up items such as clothing, blankets, flashlights and batteries, and put them all together in our garage.

My question for you today is, are you prepared? Or will you be joining me on this challenge? What would you add to your emergency supplies that isn't on either of these lists?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Homemade Magic Shell

When I was in college, every now and then the people who ran our tiny little cafeteria would surprise us by putting a couple bottles of Magic Shell next to the sporadically working soft serve ice cream machine. Nothing works a few hundred undergrads into a feeding frenzy like a bottle of Magic Shell.(Seriously, we're talking about chairs being knocked over, people falling down, tearing of hair, rending of garments...)

Frankly, I LOVE Magic Shell. Magic Shell is DELICIOUS.

But Magic Shell is also expensive, costing more than $2 for a bottle of sauce. Also, there are a lot of mystery ingredients in Magic Shell and I'm trying to avoid consuming mystery ingredients. Boo on both accounts.

One day I was having a bowl of Diesel's famous homemade ice cream (yeah, he makes ice cream too, I totally scored by marrying him) and thought "this needs Magic Shell." Alas there was none to be found. So I started tinkering with ingredients until I found just the right combination. And then I thought my life was complete--until I realized I needed to figure out how to make peanut butter Magic Shell... THEN my life was complete.

So today I am going to share this little nugget of wisdom with you. And it is SO easy.

Get a small glass bowl. I like to use my little Pyrex prep dishes.

Add a handful of chocolate chips. Then add about 1/2 Tb of coconut oil and microwave for 20 seconds at a time. (Because it is hot here, I keep my coconut oil in the fridge during the summer/fall, so it is really hard and I have to just shave bits off. Hence my rough guesstimate of the amount of coconut oil in the Magic Shell)

Mix between each microwaving until you have a good melted chocolate consistency with no lumps (photo is after first 20 seconds).

It should be a nice melty consistency!

Then scoop/pour onto the ice cream and voila! In a matter of minutes you will have a nice hardened chocolate shell!

For peanut butter Magic Shell, substitute peanut butter for the coconut oil. Peanut butter Magic Shell is actually my favorite.

Now enjoy your complete life!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Urban Homestead: A Book Review

This past week I had a few minutes to myself and finally got to finish reading The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  I was really excited to read it because the authors live in Los Angeles, which is somewhat near to where I live. Oftentimes I read books on homesteading or gardening and they are either set in a rural location or in a city where public transportation is much easier to utilize, and the like, thus rendering the books inspirational, but not applicable. With Coyne and Knutzen practically my neighbors, I felt more of a "hey, maybe I can do this in Southern California" sense than with a lot of other books on the subject.

Overall, I quite enjoyed The Urban Homestead, largely because of the friendly and honest tone with which the authors approach their audience.They manage to strike a tone that very rarely wanders into the self-aggrandizing one that other notable homesteading authors use. I never felt preached to, or that if I didn't do EVERYTHING the way they did it, I was an abject failure and a blight on the planet.

To me, the tone is casual and friendly-- almost as though I was sitting down with some urban homesteading friends over coffee. My favorite part was in the chapter on transportation where Coyne speaks about her reluctance to convert to bicycling as her primary source of transportation out of fear of the drivers around her. I think that kind of honesty helps lend credibility to them. It isn't all going to be sunshine and roses and not everything is going to work for everyone.

One of the best parts of this book was that Coyne and Knutzen focused on making changes as you are able. It largely features achievable tasks and really emphasizes taking steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle, rather than presenting it as if one day you can just wake up and *poof* you're an urban homesteader with chickens and goats in the backyard and a wheat field in the front. 

That being said, there were a couple of things that I did not like about this book.  I felt that while it is a great starter guide for what is required to become an urban homesteader, it lacked a lot of in-depth information. I realize that had The Urban Homestead covered everything in-depth, it could easily have become an 800 page tome, but a bit more information in some areas would be helpful. On that same note, however, I did like that they often included the links to where to find more information on many of the topics discussed.

The other issue I had with this book was that the chapter on transportation talks about biking, but never mentions how one might go about switching to bike as primary transportation in an urban/suburban area when you have children. Yes, yes, I know I can get a trailer, but a lot of the coverage on safety talks about single riders, not rider with trailer of precious cargo. Also, the logistics change when you are trying to get around with kids and no car. A little more information on that would've been nice.

Overall, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Urban Homestead if you are at all interested in becoming more self-sufficient. I think Coyne and Knutsen have done a nice job of outlining a fair amount of information for those who are just starting out (or even just starting to toy with the idea) on a journey to becoming an urban homesteader. I know I walked away from reading the book with a giant list of ideas for around the house (including a solar heater for the bedrooms!).

You can check out more about Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutsen and their homesteading/self-sufficiency projects over at Root Simple.

**This is a 100% unpaid and unsponsored review of this book, in case you were wondering. In fact, I don't even own the book, but instead I checked it out of the library, thus proving I am in no way, shape, or form, in cahoots with the authors (but this information does prove that I'm frugal and awesome for supporting the local library system). If I was in cahoots with the authors, I'd be all "woo hoo... I got a free book from the authors and it is awesome!" (though I'd still give it a fair assessment anyways, so it would be more like "woo hoo... I got a free book from the authors and it just so happens that this book is MOSTLY awesome!"<-- Please read that last part as though I was Billy Crystal as Miracle Max in The Princess Bride)**

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quick Clean Checklist, Part 2: The Verdict

Well hello there!

You've been waiting on pins and needles to hear the follow up to Do Quick Cleaning Checklists Really Work?, I'm sure.

So here I am, 7 days later with a verdict. My verdict is yes and no. Yes, they CAN work. And yes, if you do this faithfully every day of the week, it shouldn't take more than 45 minutes to do. 

But what happens when, as happened to me this week, one night you forget that you have Bible study at 7pm and you somehow missed that you had no oil or gallon zipper bags to make the chicken nuggets you PROMISED your son for dinner, and you have to wait for your spouse to bring the needed items home before you can cook and you are literally cooking until you have to run out the door and you don't get home until 9 pm, so you (and your spouse) just do a so-so job? Or you get utterly derailed by a borderline migraine one night and just say "screw it" and leave the cleaning for the next day, so you have TWICE the work to do so it takes twice as long. Or your kids keep interrupting you and it takes almost 30 minutes just to unload effing dishwasher (kitchen cleaning is supposed to take 15 minutes, tops).

In other words, life...

Then the quick cleaning checklist can be a drag because it takes much, MUCH longer than you anticipated to finish. And you feel just a bit frustrated with yourself for not keeping up with it and for not being able to get done "on time."

My other issue is with the quick clean checklist that it doesn't incorporate deeper cleaning, which, lets face it, has to happen on a regular basis. Floors have to be mopped. Toilets have to be scrubbed. Laundry-- which isn't even ON the list-- needs to get done. What then? You're still stuck doing these things on the weekends, when you are supposed to be enjoying all your free time.

All that being said, using my quick cleaning checklist really DOES help. I loved waking up to my "fake immaculate house" every day. On the nights when all went well, I loved that it took about 45 minutes to get to the "relaxing" part of the night, rather than HOURS of my precious weekend time, so I plan to keep using the quick clean checklist. I think once I have this list a little more perfected, I'm going to try to incorporate a deeper cleaning activity into each day, so that stuff also gets done.  I'll get back to you on that.

Questions? Comments? (and for those of you who asked me about seeing a clearer copy of my checklist, I am working on trying to figure out how to post a .pdf on here. As soon as I figure it out, I'll let you know. If you really want it, e-mail me and I'll send you a copy).

Friday, October 19, 2012

Easy Office Organization

As many of us have discovered, sometimes the chaos of home trickles into our workplace and disrupts our ability to work effectively. Sometimes our inability to organize at home translates to an inability to organize at the office. And sometimes, that lack of organization at the office can become so overwhelming that we don't even know where to start to tackle it.
I once got so overwhelmed by the clutter and paper and files on my desk that I literally swept everything off my desk and onto the floor-- where I couldn't see it-- and there it sat for quite a while until one day I realized I was sick of pawing through a pile of paper on the floor every time I needed to find something, missing deadlines because I misplaced important paperwork, and having many of my colleagues react in horror at the avalanche-esque pile of desk flotsam and jetsam that was sprawled next to my desk.

I'm sure a lot of you have felt like that a time or two, like it would just be easier to sweep  everything off your desk and pretend like the piles of paper didn't exist at all.

Ignoring piles never works long term. Trust me, I'm an expert.
The other day I was helping a good, albeit organizationally challenged, friend get her workspace in order (see photo above). The following are the tips I gave her, and I hope that these tips will also help you to create a more tranquil and organized office/workspace (and since it is Friday, you can organize your desk today before you leave the office for the weekend and have a fresh start Monday morning).
1) Assess the papers and files that have on your desk and separate them into two (temporary) piles: one pile for items you need on a regular basis and one for items you use less frequently.
2) Assess the other objects you have on your desk. Look at each object and run them through the workplace version of "Is it useful? Is it beautiful?" Do you use those items in your day to day work? Do they contribute to your productivity? Do they make you happy? If the answer is no, you need to find somewhere else for them to go.
(Sidebar: If you have one of those sets of stacking trays, move it somewhere else unless you absolutely need it and use it effectively. Most people I know--myself included-- just shove papers in there willy-nilly. In my humble opinion, the stacky trays gotta go!! If you can't get rid of your stackable tray, perhaps move it to another location in your office where it isn't likely to become cluttered with papers).
3) Get your files straight! I highly recommend a vertical, tiered, file sorter (like this) for on top of your desk. If you have one, great, if you don't, find a place where you can easily access you files without piling them (perhaps a desk drawer). Now assess the files you have in that sorter. Do they work for you? Are they all files you need easy access to on a regular basis? Do any folders need to be renamed?
After that, create file folders for items you need regular access to and set the irregular access folders in your irregular access file. Create a "for tomorrow" folder (we'll come back to this a little later).  Well labelled and easy to access files are key to office organization.
Take a few minutes to do a quick assessment of your filing cabinet, file drawers and/or credenza. Run those files through the same test you ran on your desktop files (literally, not computerally). Are there files in a filing cabinet that you should have in your desk drawer? Ones on the desk that should be in the filing cabinet? Quickly take a moment to rearrange and situate your files so that you have the best access to whatever you may need when you need it.
4) Now go through your piles and file items you use regularly into their desktop files and your irregular access pile and file them away into your file cabinet.
Ahhh... look at how lovely and organized your office is. Isn't organizing your office fun and refreshing?!?!
But wait, there is more!!!
At this point you may be thinking "Okay, this is all well and good, Cluttered Mama, but how do I keep my desk organized?"
Here are two things that I implemented in my work day which helped me stay focused and keep my office neat and organized.
First, block out the first 10 or so minutes of your workday for you to sit quietly and assess what you need to do during the work day. Go over the list you made the day before (see below) and pull out any projects you need to work on that day.
It is also important to also use that first 10 minutes to take a deep breath, say a prayer (or whatever your spiritual/centering activity is) for focus and productivity, and to switch your brain into "work" mode. Oftentimes, we arrive at our workplace harried from the act of just getting there, so it helps to take a few quiet moments to get your head in the game and get focused on shifting into work/office mode. 
Now, on the flip side, it is equally important to block out the last 15 minutes of your day. If you are anything like me, you are probably working until the very last second of your day, then looking up at the clock, realizing the time  and hurriedly closing up shop and running out the door (late), leaving your mess behind.
The way I found to combat this was to actually put this time on my Outlook calendar with a reminder that would pop up at 15 til. If you don't use outlook, put it in your google calendar or your phone or some other device that you can set to remind you that you need to start shutting down for the day. No matter what you are doing (unless it is like brain surgery or something of that nature), you need to stop what you are doing and use the last 15 minutes as such: 
5-7 minutes cleaning off your desk. That means putting away all the papers that are on your desk. Put projects that you need to work on the next day in your "for tomorrow" file. File all papers into their appropriate locations. Recycle or trash materials you no longer need.

5-7 minutes making a short to do list for the next workday. I love making lists; however, sometimes my lists would get away from me and I'd end up with an overwhelming to do list the length of a legal pad. So I started using the Pocket Docket printable from Simple Mom. I liked it because it gave me only so much space in which to write my list, it provided a space for meetings and appointments, and it allowed me a place to highlight my MITs (most important tasks). When you make your list, whether you use the Pocket Docket or not, highlight 2-3 MITs for the next day.

Now you are done and ready to go home and relax, knowing that you will be returning to an organized office in the morning. As long as you stick to this, even the messiest and most disorganized person (me) can have a neat and organized office!

Did I miss anything? What tips or tricks would you like to add?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fast, Easy, &...

I present you with a new series I'm calling "Fast, Easy &..." Tips. These tips will be little things you can easily do with little to no extra effort, but will save you time, money and/or frustration. The ellipse will be filled in with whatever adjective best fits.

Today is "Fast, Easy & Frugal"-- and by easy, I mean head-slappingly "holy crap! I should've thought of it ages ago" easy.

My boys LOVE mac & cheese. LOOOOVE it. I have yet to find a recipe for homemade, without Velveeta, mac & cheese that doesn't turn out gritty and "off" tasting, so until I do, boxed mac & cheese it is.

Don't judge me, Judgy. It is Annie's Organic Deluxe Mac & Cheese. The organic deluxe part proves I'm a mom who cares. It is ORGANIC. It is DELUXE. It shows I only want the best for my bambinos. (Don't you dare tell me "organic crap is still crap!" I will not have it!).

I digress.

The deluxe style mac & cheese comes with that sauce pouch, so you don't have to waste time mixing milk and butter into electric orange "cheese" powder, but the sauce to noodle ratio always seemed to be off. Too much cheese, too little mac. We have solved this problem, and made one pricey box of organic deluxe mac & cheese stretch by adding more plain noodles-- today it was an entire 10 oz box of whole grain animal shaped pasta. By adding more noodles, we get about twice the amount of mac & cheese per box, but don't sacrifice on taste. There is more than enough cheese coverage. And the added noodles mean the mac & cheese lasts for at least a week of little boy lunches.

And that, my friends, is my Fast, Easy & Frugal tip for the day. Enjoy!

This post is featured on The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do Quick Cleaning Checklists Work?

So I have a board on Pinterest called "Getting my S#!t Together." On this board, I collect ideas for how to better streamline my life. Specifically, I collect lists that promise me that by following them, in 30 min or less a day, I will have a sparkling clean house.

The one that I particularly liked was this one from Organizing Made Fun. I mean, how could I pass up something called "How to Have a Fake Immaculate House" ?!?! I also really liked this daily quick cleaning list from Real Simple, so I took the two, smashed them together and made my own little baby quick cleaning list.
Aww... a cute little baby list

According to my list, my nightly cleaning should only take me about 40 minutes. Tonight, after a few weeks off from using it, I decided to take my little quick cleaning checklist for a timed test drive.  Our house was a MESS. Not its normal state of kinda messy, but because cleaning had taken a backseat to other DIY projects over the weekend, it basically looked like we were living in a backpacker's hovel. For example, our kitchen looked like this:
I promise we don't live foul. That is just a few dishes sitting
on top of a giant bowl in the right-hand sink and the Crockpot
crock on the left. The stuff on the counter to the right of the sink
are clean dishes. I swear.
The rest of the house wasn't AS messy, but it rather looked like a bomb had gone off in it.

So how did my quick clean shake out?

Downstairs Bathroom
Projected: 5 minutes
Actual: 9 minutes, 35 seconds

Upstairs Bathroom
Projected: 5 minutes
Actual: 5 minutes, 8 seconds

Master Bedroom
Projected: 5 minutes
Actual: 5 minutes, 30 seconds

Living Room (including hall and stairs)
Projected: 10 minutes
Actual: 15 minutes, 27 seconds

Projected: 15 minutes
Actual: 58 minutes and 40 seconds

Grand Total
Projected: 40 minutes
Actual (rounded up): 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Holy crap! Who has time for that every day?!?!?! I put my kids to bed at 7:30... If I started cleaning right after they went to sleep, I wouldn't be done until 9pm! (true story). When would I get any of that down time that this quick cleaning process is supposed to provide me with?

My guess is that IF I were to keep this up on a daily basis, it actually WOULD take me 40 minutes or less. I say this because the rooms that weren't that messy (upstairs bathroom and master bedroom) took almost exactly the projected amount of time. I am okay with being done by a little after 8pm.

I am going to commit to trying this for a week and getting back to you, dear readers, to see if this "quick cleaning" is really as glorious as all the Pinterest people say it is. Is this the answer to keeping a house that you wouldn't be ashamed to have someone just drop in and see while providing you with ample down time?  Tune in next week when I tell you how it worked out!

Oh and my kitchen?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pros and Cons of Line Drying

It's like rai-ee-ain on your laundry day!
I have started line drying. While this is somewhat out of necessity (we have an electric dryer and the house has a gas hook-up), it isn't a stretch to say that line drying is something I had always wanted to do at the old house, but couldn't because of a tiny, shady patio and HOA restrictions! Now that I have been line drying for a few months, I want to share what I've found to be some of the pros and cons of the whole process:

  • My laundry is now subject to the weather. Last week it rained on laundry day. (see above photo).
  • It takes longer to hang the clothes on the line than than it does to throw clothes in the dryer
  • It takes longer for clothes to dry unless it is HOT outside-- then it is actually quicker.
  • I actually have to plan ahead in terms of my wardrobe. There is no more "quickly" washing an outfit an hour or so before needing it (see above).
  • Lint and dog hair doesn't magically disappear like it does in a dryer, so if one's husband leaves receipts in his pockets and they disintegrate in the wash, there are still bits of laundered paper and fibers all over the dry clothes. Same goes for dog hair from the world's most sheddingest dog. (yeah, yeah, lint rollers are cheaper than power for the dryer)
  • Crunchy towels. If you like rubbing yourself down with sandpaper post-shower, then line-dried towels are for you. I do not, so it is a MAJOR con. One that has me seriously thinking about asking my neighbor if I can dry our towels in her dryer.

  • It totally ups my crunchy street cred. Sure, I'm not cloth diapering right now, but this offsets adding my Seventh Gen. diapers to the local landfill, right? Right????
  • The laundry smells GREAT. Before you say "well, yeah, my laundry smells good too," let me share that we use a scent-free eco-friendly detergent because Little Man is allergic to most commercial detergents. So, instead of getting its clean, fresh scent from mystery "fragrances," our laundry smells like sunshine, fresh air, rainbows and unicorns. (P.S.-- stay tuned for my adventures in DIY laundry detergent).
  • We're saving money on dryer sheets and electricity, so that is a bonus.
  • I can pair up socks as I hang them and that saves precious minutes when it comes to folding time.
  • I get some alone time to reflect on life as I hang the laundry. It has become my quiet zen time.
  • I can use hanging the laundry as an excuse to ignore the fighting and crying that often floats out the back door and assails my ears... "No, Mommy can't come and deal with playroom tragedy #155 right now, she's hanging laundry."
Overall, I am happy with our decision to line dry and would encourage others to give it a whirl.

Anyone line drying and have the solution to my towels as 100 grit sandpaper issue? Any of you hoping to make the leap into line drying and have questions? Let me know! I'm planning a future Q&A post with one of my cousins who is a line drying pro and who I think is totally rad.

This post is featured on The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Giving Myself a Break

Some nights are like last night where I have to give myself a break. It took over an hour and a half to put the baby to bed. Normally bedtime is a breeze and I can come downstairs around 7:45 and get my quicky chores and dishes done by 8:15 and can sit and watch The Voice (with enough time on the TiVo to allow for fast forwarding).

Last night, when I collapsed onto the couch at 9:15, the last thing I wanted to do was the dishes. So I didn't.

Yes, that made more work for me today, but sometimes, you just need to let yourself off the hook! When was the last time you let yourself off the hook?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Mashed Potatoes of Cleaning

My favorite room of the house to clean is the playroom.

Don't get me wrong here. I don't like cleaning the playroom. Heck, I don't like cleaning anything,  but a grownup's got to do what a grownup's got to do. So for me, in my daily litany of cleaning, the playroom is my favity fave.

Of course, I do make the kids help clean up, because I'm trying to raise quality adult men who know how to take care of their stuff, but when your kids are 1 and 4 years old, let's face it, you are still doing the majority of the grunt work!

Anyhoo... the playroom is my favorite room to clean and I often save it for last the way I used to save my mashed potatoes for last as a kid. In my estimation, you save the very best part for last. So I power through the boiled spinach parts of cleaning (dishes and toilets) until I get to my glorious mashed potatoes!

Why is the playroom my favorite? Because it is literally the only room in the house where EVERYTHING has a place-- and a neatly labelled one at that.

Because of the labels and the homes for everything, in about 5 minutes, I can make the playroom go from this:

Playroom before shelving went in. It still gets this messy.
to this:

Playroom today following our pre-nap cleaning

There is no other room in the house that I can say that about. And THAT is why the playroom is my mashed potatoes of cleaning.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I'm Calling B.S.

Yeah, you heard me. I'm calling B.S. on all those blogger mamas who claim to get these adorable crafts done while their kids are at home and never ONCE mention the myriad interruptions by their darling cherubs.

To them I say "liar, liar, pants on fire."

Why? Because it took me darn near 12 hours to scrape and paint a tiny bench.

Let me give you some back story to today's tale. We moved into the NEW Cluttered House (NCH) at the end of June. On the 4th of July, Diesel and I were kidless for the day-- we had spent the majority of the day sanding floors whilst the kids were with my in-laws-- and before heading out to the fireworks, we had the opportunity to sit down over a couple of margaritas and figure out when we wanted to do our housewarming party/open house thingamajig. We decided on October 6. Our rationale was it was three whole months away. Surely we would have the house put together and lovely by then. Fast forward to the last 2 weeks and we have been scrambling to get the house in some semblance of "together."

On Wednesday, 3 days pre-housewarming, I still had no curtains put up or photos on the walls, so I put out the SOS to my sister-in-law (who has a much better eye for style and design than I) and she  came over post haste to rescue my sad, undecorated living room. Under her advisement, we rearranged the shoe shelves and mail sorter and created a "mudroom" of sorts in my living room-- complete with a "vignette" of photos on the wall (her words, 'cuz she knows to say stuff like that). Yet the "mudroom" was missing something. There was a glaringly blank space under the front window. Still high from creating a vignette of photos and incorporating "wall chotchkes" into it, I looked at my dear SIL and enthusiastically exclaimed, "OH!!! I know what we can do!!! You know that bench that we used to have on the patio at the condo? I could TOTALLY paint it white and put this cute green pillow I saw at Costco on it! That would totally tie the look together (I only say stuff like "tie the look together" when I am conversing with the stylish people in my life) and it would be SO easy to do."

Famous last words.

A little info about my friend the bench. It was purchased for $5 at a flea market in 2005. I had fully intended to do some cute paint treatment to it, but I never got around to it. When we were fixing up the Original Cluttered House (OCH), I used it as a step stool while painting, so it got a lot of paint splatters on it. Then it was relegated to the front patio, where it lived for the duration of our tenure at the OCH, doing time as the occasional plant stand, but generally just sitting there unused and dusty.
After moving to the NCH, it was treated to the further indignity of being left on the back patio/yard where I allowed the children to paint it with whatever paint was left on our paint rollers after various interior painting projects.  

But all that was about to change. Benchy was going to get a "quick" and "easy" overhaul.

Thursday morning laid a tarp out on the patio, got the paint scraper out and began scraping. Little Man walked outside and, in a voice filled with dismay, asked WHAT I was doing to HIS painty bench. I told him I was fixing the bench up to go inside and after a few minutes of reassurance, he decided he was okay with the new turn of events and allowed me to proceed. Then it was time to take Little Man to school.

When I got back to the house, I put Duckie down for a nap and got back to scraping. Of course, this would be the day that he decides he only needs a 45 minute nap, instead of the usual 2 hours. So now I have a clingy, undernapped toddler that I am dealing with. By the time I got him all sorted, it was time to go get Little Man from school. Then it was lunchtime. While the kids were eating I got out the paint and rollers and started painting. I think I stopped no less than 2 dozen times to refill drinks, shoo the dog away from the kids' food, give more food, answer questions, etc.

Then the kids came out to play. First they were playing nicely in the play area and I only had to stop and shout things like "Stop doing that to your brother!" "Give that back to him!" "We don't hit" and "We don't put mud on our baby junk," a few hundred times. All in all, a good play day. Then Little Man decided he wanted to "help." We're big on letting our kids try to help when they can, so I gave him a roller and let him have at it.

He was doing a good job & I was praising him and taking photos when I realized I had lost sight of Duckie. I turned around to look for him and to my horror, I saw that he had dipped his foot in my paint tray and was walking across the newly laid paver patio. AWESOME.

All in all, my "quick" painting project took me about 12 hours to complete. I could've blogged it as a "cute, quick" project for you guys to try, but I thought I'd give you a dose of my reality instead! I think you deserve the honesty!

In the end, the finished product looks good (if you don't look TOO closely) and my patio has tiny baby footprints on it, that I'm sure I'll cherish someday!