Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday Lovin': King County Pet Licensing

The title sounds thoroughly boring, doesn't it?  But yesterday, the brilliant flash of happy in my day came from my interaction with King County Pet Licensing.

Peanut, last week

We were late getting Peanut's license renewed.  We had gotten to the threatening pink postcard level (I think that's 3rd in line after initial notice, then a yellow warning letter).  Somehow we had managed to register the pups independently - TJ registered Peanut when we moved to Seattle and I registered Spike when we got him in 2003.  So they're on completely separate schedules and we each have to take care of one.

I renewed Spike's license in 5 minutes online - I love their system.  You enter the license # (conveniently provided on the notice they send) and your phone #, get a chance to update your contact info, and then pay for the license via credit card.  A week or so later, they send you the new collar tag.

This is my ideal world - I can take care of it online at any hour, don't need to talk to anyone on the phone, or fill out a form, find a stamp and mail something in.  When it works, it's stupendous.  Amazing!  Awesome.

Until it doesn't.  TJ asked me if I could take care of Peanut's renewal, having ignored the first couple of letters.  So we were late, and they were threatening late fees. 

That's the other thing I luurve about King County Pet Licensing - they threaten late fees, but never seem to *actually* enforce them.  Once you pay the fee, they're perfectly happy to waive any late charges, regardless of how late you are.  One year we renewed the pups several months late, and it was like they were so happy that we bothered at all, that they waived the $60+ late fees on the spot.  LUUURVE.

Aaanyway, so I'm trying to access Peanut's record online and it just.won't. log me in.  I tried every phone number I could remember.  No luck.  Sigh.  I got on the phone and called the support number, bracing myself for multi-leveled touchtone menus and a recording that finally would tell me the entire office was at lunch.

But amazingly, after two rings, a dude answered the phone.  A real dude, not Automated "Press One Now" Guy!   He asked me for some basic info and told me the phone number it was listed under (our home phone from 9 years ago!).  He offered to change it on the spot to our current number (he goes above and beyond!).  I was batting a thousand at that point, so I figured I'd ask if he could combine Peanut & Spike's records into one.  And surprisingly, the answer was Yes, and he took care of that in another minute.  Dang.  I had no idea an interaction with a public agency could be that pleasant.  And seamless. 

It's kind of sad that I don't expect that kind of interaction with agencies/companies I deal with, but it's such a rarity.  The human was nice, the system worked to do what I needed it to do, and it did not take a ton of my time and energy.  That *never* happens.

So hooray for you guys, King County Pet Licensing.  We promise to always license our pets!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Holiday Card Mini Album - Experiment 9

Every January, I suffer tremendous guilt when throwing away the cute photo cards we received from friends and family in December.  The thing is, I'm not really sentimental, and I'm not a "saver".  So I usually recycle what I can and throw the rest out.

A few years ago, I noticed my friend Jenn add the photos into her scrapbook pages.  Brilliant, but I couldn't figure out what I would do since I'm not (yet) a scrapbooker.

This year, I saw a link to this cute idea to stick them on standard binder rings from an office supply store.  Hooray!  But I wanted to do more.

For Christmas, I bought myself the Zutter Bind-It-All tool (thank you TJ!).  It allows you to create little mini albums or notebooks.  The tool punches the holes for the binding, you thread the pages onto metal wires made for this purpose, and the tool squishes the wires closed, giving you a cute little bound book.  You don't have to make just standard little notebooks or albums with pages all the same size.  You can literally bind *anything*, as long as it's not too thick/heavy for the machine to punch.

THAT is what I wanted to use for saving my Christmas 2011 photo cards.  I wanted to create cute little covers and make an album out of it.  I toyed with the idea of making an actual Christmas mini-album and interspersing the cards with our own pictures and text, but knew I'd never actually finish it, so I decided to stick with binding just the cards.

Here it is (click to see a larger version):

It took me a little while to figure out the binding tool, but thanks to Zutter's instructional videos on YouTube, it was a lot easier than the manual made it seem. 

This was a surprisingly easy project.  It even has an eco-friendly angle, because the cardboard I used for the covers was the backing that USPS sends me for their "Stamps by Mail" shipments.  Every sheet of stamps has its own huge piece of cardboard and is then shrink-wrapped.  Great if you're a collector, I guess, but it just seems really wasteful.  So I'm happy I could reuse some of that cardboard.

My Xyron XRN900 was perfect for covering the cardboard with cute cardstock.  It covers paper with a really strong adhesive all the way to the ends, so for applications where you need some durability and don't want edges lifting, it's really great. I scored mine for $20 on Craigslist and it has been *awesome*.

After making the front and back cover - cute patterned paper on the front and a nice acid green cardstock inside - I punched holes in all of the cards.  Since they were different sizes, it was a more difficult project than I probably should have started with, but I like a challenge.  Well, I mostly like it when it's done and I've kicked its butt, but I digress.

Then I threaded the covers and pages onto the O-wires.  I found that I needed to punch some additional holes in some of the cards to get them to fit well.  Squinching the O-wire (my technical term) was more difficult than I expected.  The first one got mangled and the pages wouldn't turn.  I tried again, after watching some more YouTube, and got a better (though not perfectly round) result the second time.  I need practice, especially for longer projects that are wider than the tool itself.

I tied some little scrap bits of red ribbon to the binding to make it look more festive.  At first I thought it just looked messy, but it's growing on me.  Especially if I line up all the little ribbon bits in a row.  Yeah, I'm weird like that.  I added a quick "2011" title on the front with some stickers and scrap cardstock, and wrote a little note on the inside front cover about what was inside.

Once I get better at using the Zutter tool, I think I could complete this in under an hour.  So easy! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How to buy eyeglasses online, really.

When I first heard about ordering glasses online, I was fascinated.  Even more so when I found out the prices were MUCH cheaper than my local optician. I know I should support local businesses, but got frustrated when I could NEVER find a pair of decent glasses whose cost was covered by my insurance allowance (which is not stingy!).

My first foray into ordering glasses online was in 2008 and it ended poorly.  I saw a gorgeous pair of frames online, ordered them, and when they showed up they were all wrong.  I couldn't see well, and they wouldn't stay on.  They sat around, inciting wasted-money guilt every time I saw them.  I finally took them to an optician to see if they could adjust them, and was told that they were completely the wrong size for my face.  She wasn't exactly nice about it, but I can understand that.  I had to donate them to charity and felt really crappy about wasting the money.

But I was determined to make it work.  Thousands of people do it and the price is right.  Last year I  ordered contact lenses with my insurance allowance so I couldn't get new glasses.  Since I wear disposable contacts regularly, there's pretty much *never* a year where I'd rather order glasses than get more contacts.

This past fall, I did some research first, to see if I could be more successful online.  I found the info on 39dollarglasses.com very helpful (and no, they're not paying me to write this!).  Here's what I learned:

1.  Get prescription.  Go to your eye doctor and get an eye exam.  Don't use a prescription that's more than a year old.  You also need a different prescription for glasses than you have for contact lenses, so ask for both at your eye exam and get a copy for yourself.

2.  Get measurements.  Ask your eye doctor to measure your PD, or pupillary distance.  Mine wouldn't do it because he doesn't believe in ordering glasses online, but others are more obliging. Optician's offices can also measure this (though if you're not buying anything there they may decline.)  You can do it yourself, but you'll need a second person to hold the ruler and read the measurement.  Do it 3 times and take an average, to be sure you're getting the best reading.

Another set of measurements that's really important is your frame size (in mm).  Find an old pair of glasses that fits you well.  Sometimes they have the measurements printed on them inside the glasses, which makes it easy. 

I had to measure mine directly with a tape measure. You'll need:  temple arm length (end to end), lens width, lens height, and the distance between the lenses (bridge).  You'll also want the frame width, end to end (this was my mistake last time!).  Here's the photo that helped me:

from 39dollarglasses.com

This seems like a huge hassle, but I promise it'll be worth it.  Write down all the measurements, and keep your prescription handy as well.

3.  Search frames.  This is the fun part. But don't do what I did and just pick the first cute pair you see.  You actually need to make sure the new frames will fit.  Since you can't try on in person, you'll have to go by the measurements.  Compare each frame's listed measurements with what you wrote down.  If they're significantly off, it's probably not a good candidate, but there's a buffer of a few mm here and there. 

For me, the most important were the frame width and temple length.  Apparently I have a narrow head that's not very bulbous, so my frame choice was limited.  Some sites didn't even have frames for me that were the width I needed, though I suppose some of the larger kids' frames might have fit.  If you have a more "average" head size, you'll have better choices.

4.  Select options.  Once you've selected your frames, you'll need to enter your prescription, PD measurement, and choose lens options.  This is where most of the places online will try to upsell you, so keep a close eye on total cost.  On a few sites, the super-cheap $7 frames were offset by extra charges for stronger prescriptions, plastic lenses instead of glass,  high shipping costs, etc.  Spend some time and comparison shop here, if you want a good deal.  Check the return policy of each place before you commit - some have a strict no-return policy and others will happily take them back minus shipping.  Since you're buying these sight unseen and they have to work, you need a flexible return policy.

One of the options was the anti-reflective coating, which I didn't get on my first pair.  (It was a significant cost for a $40 pair of glasses.)  I regret it now, though, because in photos, and when working on the computer or driving, the glare is distracting.  But I skipped the scratch-resistant coating and other fancy lens options, despite having a pretty strong prescription.  On my second pair I wised up and paid for the anti-glare coating and I'm glad to have it.

5. Use coupon codes.  Your last step before checkout is to scour the Internet for coupon codes to buy your glasses.  I found a $15 off coupon (EYE15) for 39dollarglasses.com so my first pair was only $29!  You can find coupon codes on retailmenot.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

After you order, the hardest part is waiting for them to show up.  I ended up ordering all three of my pairs (the poorly fitting ones and 2 good ones) at 39dollarglasses.com because their website is easy to navigate and they had cute colorful styles. 

A close contender was Warby Parker, a new company that has its own hip designs, and an innovative program where you can choose 5 frames to try on at home.  They ship the trial pairs super-fast and it was really nice to be able to see them in person before I ordered.  They also donate a pair of eyeglasses for every one they sell. But they were nearly twice as expensive for my strong prescription, so I tried the cheaper site first.

Here are the two pairs I ended up with:

I love bold, square-ish glasses and am thrilled that I finally figured out how to order them online.  Since BabyT now wears glasses, I wear mine more often as a show of solidarity.  So I'm glad to have a couple of options.  (Also, please note that Sanford the Fox has his own blue plastic glasses, which Mr Potatohead kindly let him borrow.)

What do you think?  Have you ordered eyeglasses online?  Any tips and tricks to share?

Friday, January 27, 2012

What I eat really does matter

For about six months, I haven't been eating much in the way of empty carbs:  bread, pasta, cereal, refined sugar.  Mind you, I haven't been anywhere close to perfect - I've gone off the rails in a spectacular ball of fire from time to time, but for whatever reason, this "way of eating" has stuck with me.  I've been refining it a bit, going from Atkins to Whole30 to a more sustainable Paleo gig.  I still have work to do to make it automatic - planning meals, cooking for the week, the usual things I complain about.

Last night, I learned a valuable lesson.  What I eat affects EVERYTHING.  I suspected as much during the past few months, but I'd chalk it up to "experimentation" and order dessert, raid the bread basket, or eat more cheese than could be considered "garnish" (we gave up dairy too).  I wanted to feel like I could "splurge" or "celebrate", or "cheat".  Any small joy I experienced by eating something "unapproved" was completely obliterated a few hours later, when I felt tired, sluggish, or had icky stomach-related symptoms.

This was painfully clear yesterday.  I met a former coworker for Happy Hour at my FAVORITE 21+ bar/restaurant in town.  I ate ancho-chile chicken wings there (not super healthy but not horribly bad either).  I also had a taco, with its tiny bit of cheese and the flour tortilla.  I had a margarita, which I haven't had in AGES.  And believe me, this place does it RIGHT.  Not Paleo-approved, but not ridiculously horrible, or so I thought.

After that, I drove over to the wonderful restaurant Tilth in Seattle, which I've been wanting to try for ages, to meet up with Shalini.  I had a snooty salad, with a bit of cheese. I couldn't resist the (very small) Theo chocolate cake for dessert.  It was tiny, so I figured no harm, right?  It delighted me.  It was rich, and soft and not too sweet, just the way I like it.  I was satisfied with a few bites, so I left some behind.  I inhaled the delicate whipped cream topping and also a bite of S's divine blood orange/pistachio ice cream thing. 

I went home, went to bed, and slept VERY poorly.  My stomach was NOT HAPPY - I woke up feeling like I had a tight rubber band around my midsection.  The diet Cokes I had at Happy Hour made it hard for me to fall asleep.  I KNOW that I can't have caffeine after 2pm or so, but I tend to ignore that when I really want a diet Crack.  Sigh.  I tossed and turned, and even though BabyT obligingly slept until 8am (unheard of in these parts), I felt like garbage when I woke up.

But it wasn't just physical. 

This morning I was in a BAD mood.  That one stinkin' margarita made me wake up feeling gross and dry, despite the umpteen glasses of water I drank through dinner.  I was still tired.  I was ridiculously craving carbs - all I could think about was thick, fresh baked white bread, or hot cereal.  Or even crappy white sandwich bread. It was a demon awakened inside me.  My patience was short, and let me tell you, with a 2 year old, it's already stretched on a GOOD day.

Of course it didn't help that I didn't have time to eat breakfast before running off to Little Gym with BabyT.  I scarfed two hardboiled eggs when I got home and about 15 minutes later, started feeling normal again. 

Egg Surfin'
egg surfin' by wickamoo on Flickr
But all day, those carb cravings plagued me.  Nothing we had in the fridge sounded good.  I ate one of T's granola bars (sigh) under the pretense of "sharing" it with her.  (I ate 98% of it.)  I couldn't stop thinking about a huge plate of pasta, or mac n cheese, or ... you get the idea.  I was tired and sluggish and cranky.  I napped while she napped.  I lounged on the couch all afternoon while she played nearby.  Not a good mama-day, that's for sure.

I am absolutely sure now that what I eat DIRECTLY affects my mood as well as my body.  The physical aspect is pretty clear - eating dessert now makes me nauseous about an hour later, exactly like it had when I was taking metformin for baby-making reasons.  (It regulates insulin response and made me really sick if I ate a bunch of sugar or drank wine.)

And eating those empty carbs and sugar just makes me want more of them, and makes me completely uninterested in the stuff I'm "supposed" to eat which starts this vicious spiral of bad food -> feeling crappy->more bad food -> more feeling crappy.

I know a lot of people will think that the way I'm "supposed to eat" is unsustainable.  That we need grains and sugar and pasta, for crying out loud.  But honestly, it's not.  Eating Paleo and keeping it up has been surprisingly easy for me, IF I AM CONSISTENT.  My mood is unbelievably good, I'm never hungry, I eat vegetables and I like it.  As soon as I go too far off the rails, it becomes HARD.  I don't want to do it.  I get back into that resistant, depressed, apathetic mindset.

I've been in that place for half my life - the place where "eating right" is some kind of punishment, where I ignore my hunger and eat rice cakes that taste like cardboard, where I feel like I'm weak-willed and if I could just get it together, I'd lose those 40 extra lbs I've been carrying since I was a teenager. I don't want to be in that place.

I've seen the land of sunshine and fuzzy puppies, where I can eat real food, not be hungry, and feel strong, awake, and energized.  Where nothing seems impossible, I don't crave an afternoon nap, and I feel rested after 7-8 hours of sleep.  Where it's not something I "have to follow", it's just how I eat, and it makes me feel good, both physically and emotionally.  I'm also a lot less fixated on "the number" as a measure of my success, and it's more about how I feel.  Yeah, I feel THAT good when I'm doing it right.  So strange.

I'm ready to go there now.  Again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Project Life: Week 3

Hey - I'm getting better at posting these earlier in the week!  It's only Wednesday and I've got last week's Project Life pages ready. Sweet!

This was another week I was afraid I hadn't taken enough photos, but when I reviewed what I had, there were more than I needed.  A nice surprise - I must be getting better at remembering to capture random moments.  (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

I finally remembered this week to include a verbatim quote from BabyT, as well as a piece of her artwork.  She was making handprints with finger paint (totally unprompted) so I thought that was a perfect way to capture how small she still is!  She seemed pleased that it was going into the scrapbook.  I'm still loving my white paint pen to write on the dark insert cards, too.

I'm getting quicker at putting the pages together each week.  One of my strategies is to choose the style of page protector for the second page before I send photos to be printed.  I look at whether I have a lot of vertical vs. horizontal ones, or if I have enough to fill a page with a lot of slots.  On average I've been printing about 10-12 photos per week, which means I have a few left over at the end.  This gives me some freedom to make choices, especially if the print doesn't look as good as the electronic version, or if I have other ideas for the slots.  And it's still fun, which is important!  I definitely love the weekly format - I'd feel a lot of pressure if I followed a photo-a-day/365 format.

It's really challenging to get non-glare photos of the plastic page protectors.    I'm using Macro mode to get good sharp close-ups, but glare and/or shadows are ruining the photos.  Photography tips are much appreciated!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Lovin': Mascara

Am I a weirdo because I compose blog posts and topics in my head when I'm nowhere near the computer?  I finally have a nice tab in OneNote where I can capture this stuff before it floats away into the ether. 

Anyway, one of the ideas is a series of things I love.  I know, no one really cares, but that's what personal blogging's all about, right?  hehe.  I tried to come up with some witty phrase, like "Wordless Wednesday", except I'm all about the words and there's nothing that comes to mind for Tuesday.

But everyone's Tuesday could use a little happy, right?  It's the second day of the work week, the long days stretching ahead, and nothing fun is ever scheduled on this day.  Perfect for a little shot of awesome.  This idea started with Cloud, who posted about things her family is into right now.

One of the things I've discovered recently is mascara.  I know, it's nothing new or exciting, but I've never worn it regularly until now.  I'm lucky to have black eyelashes, so there was never a need to make my lashes more visible, like my friends with light hair had to do.

The woman who did my wedding makeup told me I should always wear it to make my eyes "pop", whatever that means, but it seemed like a lot of work.  And mascara is one of those things you really need to toss after a few months - it gets gooey and clumpy, harbors bacteria, and c'mon people, you're putting it on your EYE.

So the pattern was:  I'd buy a really expensive tube of MAC or Lancome mascara, wear it a few times, and then throw it away a year later, horrified that I still had it.

I recently flipped through How Not to Look Old because apparently at 36 I'm supposed to start caring about that. I don't really, but the author is way into wearing mascara.  So I figured I'd give it a try (again).

This time I wised up. I bought a $7 tube of Cover Girl water-resistant mascara at Target. And OMG, I love it. I love it more than the expensive ones. It's crazy how it makes my lashes look LONGER and doesn't get weird clumpy bits. I can skip both eye shadow and liner with it, and still look good.  It doesn't bother my eyes when I'm wearing contacts or get streaky when my eyes water. I finally GET what people mean about eye-popping.

I *LOVE* it when the cheap product is BETTER than more expensive ones. I'm totally hooked now.  I even took it with me to Mama Weekend Away.

Really cool mascara art by catchydesign on Flickr

Are you pro- or anti-mascara?  Do you have a brand that you swear by?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mama Weekend Away in 10 Steps or Less

view from my hotel
Yesterday at 4:30pm Mama Weekend Away came to an end.  It was earlier than I had planned - I was originally intending to stay until 7pm, and was considering extending it to Monday morning since the snow last week made a mess of my Friday plans.

But as it turned out, 2 days was just enough.  My hotel offered me late checkout for free until 2pm but if I wanted to stay later, it was going to cost half the night's rate.  At that point, I was fully relaxed, and ready to go back to my sweet peeps at home.   So at 4:30, TJ and BabyT came to pick me up, and I was radiantly happy to see them.

So what did I do with 2 whole days to myself?  I soaked in the giant tub. I blogged. I set up a personal OneNote notebook to organize stuff I had randomly written down in various notebooks, stuffed in my wallet, or in the Drafts folder of my email accounts. I set up my phone the way I liked it (more on that in a later post too).  I ate and slept on my schedule, which meant staying up until 2am one night, and sleeping till 11 the next day.  I walked a couple of miles in downtown Seattle just for the heck of it.  I read the newspaper for the first time in ages. I organized the photos for this week's Project Life pages.  I got a haircut and color (badly needed!) and a completely unnecessary 90 minute massage and swanky pedicure at the hotel's spa. I did some introspection on how I could fit exercise into my busy schedule, what my "perfect day" looked like, and thought about some habits I need to change.

As I've mentioned before, I'm an introvert so this weekend was all about me getting quiet time to myself.  I didn't make plans to meet friends.  I wanted to play it by ear, and see what *I* felt like doing as the days unfolded.  I didn't really talk to anyone, except during the basic transactions for eating, spa-ing, and hoteling.

It was FANTASTIC.  Last week's Snowmageddon, stuck in the house with cabin crazy toddler and dogs, made me seriously grumpy.  This weekend away was refreshing, soothing, and inspiring.  Totally selfish, but totally worth it.

Here's how I made it happen, and how you can too.

1.  Asked kickass husband if he was ok with the idea.  Yes, I did ask for permission, because after all, he was an integral part of the plan.  Someone had to feed, clothe and entertain BabyT and the dogs all weekend!

2. Looked for local hotel deals on Hotwire and Expedia, just a few weeks in advance.  I wanted to stay somewhere pretty swanky, but it's not a requirement.  I just like swanky hotels.  I decided that it needed to be downtown Seattle, because downtown Bellevue or Kirkland just weren't "away" enough.  If I were feeling even more adventurous, I would have considered a 3ish hour drive to Portland or Vancouver, but I just didn't want to spend that many precious hours in the car.

3. Chose a hotel carefully.  Some hotels have free wifi, and some don't (charging as much as $15/day!).  Some of the older hotels don't have any wifi at all, so if it's important to you, make sure you check ahead of time.  Parking is a similar story - some include it in the rate, and others will charge you as much as $50/day (no joke!!!).  I wanted somewhere that had decent restaurants and a spa within walking distance.  Other people might be interested in good shopping - I just wasn't in the mood for it.  Check reviews and make sure there isn't anything bad that jumps out at you.  I wasn't searching solely on price, but I couldn't stomach the rate at the (lovely) Four Seasons - $259/night.  Maybe next time :)

4. Secured child care.  Not only did I need my husband to agree to be "All Daddy, All the Time" this weekend, we had to figure something out for Friday (a day when BabyT would normally be home with me).  Fortunately, her daycare had an open spot so she went there for an extra day this week.  If they didn't, I would have checked with our awesome college-student babysitter or my parents, if they were in town.  Since I didn't have a particular date in mind, childcare availability drove my choice of weekend.

5.  Planned a high level agenda.  That sounds horrifying for a relaxing weekend away, I know.  But I didn't want to sit around in the hotel wondering what I should do.  So I made a high level list of what I might like to do (no commitment), and loaded up my electronics/packed accordingly.  I'm a high tech kind of girl, so I brought my Kindle, my phone and my laptop, and chargers for everything.  I copied files from our home server to my laptop for things I thought I might work on.  The key here was not to commit to doing anything, just to have a variety of things available, so if I felt like doing a bit of something, I'd have what I needed.  Note that this DID NOT include work from my job :).  Most of it was personal organization stuff I never get to at home.  I ended up not bringing anything crafty, which worked out just fine.

6.  Made appointments for pampering (optional).  This depends on how attached you are to the idea of a spa day, mani/pedi or haircut.  If it's a must-do, then get an appointment beforehand.  You may not be able to waltz in and get services on the spot, and you don't want to be disappointed that you didn't get to something you REALLY wanted to do.  I was kind of "meh" before I left about pampering, so I left it up to chance and called the spa and hair salon when I got to the hotel.  I was lucky and they had appointments open, likely due to our wretched weather.  Also, it's not wedding season yet - on summer weekends in Seattle it's nearly impossible to get services without appointments booked a few weeks ahead of time.

7.  Figured out transportation.  My original plan was to drive myself, hence my search for a rate that included secure parking.  The best laid plans were disrupted with our Snowpocalypse, so TJ had to drive me instead.  He was willing (awesomest husband ever!) and it worked out just fine.  I could have taken a bus home if I was coming back after T's bedtime but decided against that.  Again, depending on how adventurous your weekend is, you may need to book plane or train tickets, or figure out bus schedules.

8. Held the dates sacred on my calendar.  I had a few potential requests on my time at work and some social engagements.  I declined them.  T was getting a cold, but I knew TJ could handle it.  This was MY time.  It's tempting to reschedule because "it's just me" and I could do it anytime, but I knew I wouldn't.  I had to do a lot of legwork to make this happen so I wasn't willing to compromise or move it.  Be strong!

9. Was kind to myself.  Obviously, just having this weekend away was a sort of kindness to my self, but I also didn't want it to be jam-packed full of expectations and tasks.  I didn't want to run through a list and have it complete at the end.  Manicure, check! 10 minutes of reviewing goals, check! Relaxing bath, check!  Um, no.  I let myself "float" through the weekend.  For once, I really thought about what I wanted to do that moment.  Sometimes it was just veg out with my Kindle, even though that OneNote project was beckoning.  I completely ignored the task of getting the last 3 months of 2011 photos sorted and edited. I just wasn't feeling it, and that was OK.

10.  Went home when I was ready.  Before I left that I wanted this weekend to be as LONG as possible. I was stressed out and needed time to decompress and focus on my larger goals.  But on Sunday, I was ready to rejoin my "real life" again.  I missed TJ, BabyT and the pups.  (Though not Spike's barking.)  So I slept in (till 11!!), packed up slowly, grabbed some lunch, then went home.   As a bonus, this gave TJ a break to go watch some important football, and T & I went to get Thai food, on her request.  It was a LOVELY evening.

So that's it.  Not rocket science of course.  I think it's something I'd like to do twice a year.  And of course, TJ can take a weekend off as well.  We both like the idea of getting a weekend off at home alone, so we might try to take BabyT on a short road trip somewhere, now that she's a bit older.

So, thoughts?  Would you take a Mama Weekend Away?  Or a Daddy Weekend Away?  What would you do?  Where would you go?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Project Life: Week Two, Easy-Peasy

I'm still a whole week behind on posting Project Life, but in *real* life, I'm actually caught up with the pages, which is no small feat.  Tonight I've got to go through the week's photos and see if there are any decent enough to print. 

Last week's Snowmageddon confined us to home and made me stir-crazy so I didn't get a whole lot of pictures.  You'd think it was the perfect time to get cute kid and dog snow pics, but T declined our invitations to go out and play in the snow about a million times before she finally relented once, and stayed outside with TJ for a whole 10 min.  I can't say I blame her, since the snow on our deck was about a foot deep, and we don't have real snow boots for her, so we substituted her "froggy boots" instead.  Plus, snow = cold and wet.  Yeah, she's definitely my kid.

The good thing about house arrest was that I had plenty of time to work on my Project Life pages.  So here they are, for week 2.  If you click on the image, you can see a bigger version.

The second week of January was all about getting T's glasses, and the first time she played in the snow. I had more pictures than I had space for, so I had to choose carefully, and ended up squeezing 2 2x3 photos in the bottom left 6x6 spot on page 1.

I have a weakness for those "daily steals" websites, especially ones selling papercrafting supplies. Last year I bought 3 Sassafras Lass 6x6 paper pads with super-cute, bright colored designs. I never use them because I forget I have them - they live in a separate bin with my 8x8 paper, apart from my 12x12 paper and my scraps.

But they're perfect for the 6x6 slots here, so I predict I'll use a bunch this year. The colors coordinate nicely (mostly) with the PL kit I have, too - I'm trying not to be *too* overly matchy. One thing I learned from another PL blog is that on 6x6 paper, the designs are actually scaled down from what you see in the same line's larger sizes. It's obvious for designs where the paper itself is a "frame", but I didn't realize they also did that when it's an all-over pattern. Cool, right?

My funky cool "art project" for this week is the brightly colored 2x3 insert on page 2. I started with white cardstock and made a quick little sticker collage from some K&Co stickers in my stash. Easy, coordinates with the page colors, and fun. And didn't derail me from the "just get it done" philosophy.

I'm starting to realize for future weeks I need to make more of an effort to get photos of TJ and me, or things *I'm* doing. After all, it is our Project Life, not Project BabyT!  If you're doing PL, share yours in the comments please!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Battle in Seattle: The Winner is Cold and Sweet

Almost exactly a month ago, I wrote about my dilemma.  Should I stick with my HTC HD7 running Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" or switch to the shiny new Galaxy Nexus TJ gave me, which runs Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich"?
Did I mention the views expressed are my own and not my employer's?  Oh look, I just did. The "right" thing to do would be to keep my old phone, and stay loyal. Maybe it's a sign that Mango is Paleo-compliant, while ICS is most definitely not.

But I find it hard to do the right thing when shiny new electronics are waved in front of me.  Four weeks later, I still really, really miss the simple beauty of the Windows "Metro" user interface.   I lament the loss of the friendly little text message icon who was so emotive about his lot in life. I continue to be baffled by Android's lack of a simple icon to display the number of unread messages in an email account.

But the Galaxy Nexus hardware has won me over.  The camera is far better, though I still need a lot of practice with it.  The phone itself, though longer, is lighter.  It still fits in my supercute handmade case from HouseofJAM on Etsy.  I've downloaded a TON of apps, because the selection is so much better for Android than Windows Phone.  There are a lot of kid-friendly apps we can use to entertain BabyT for a few minutes while we're waiting somewhere.  Integration with Google services is *awesome*, as expected.  It seems to run a bit faster, as well.  I remember a lot of waiting for apps to load on my HD7 but it's much shorter on the new phone.  I've used some of the phone pictures in the Project Life weekly scrapbook I'm working on, so it's very convenient.

TJ was anxious for me to make a decision so we could figure out to do with the extra phone.  We tossed around the idea of keeping one around for BabyT to use (limited and supervised, of course) but thought that was a little extravagant for a toddler and goes against my One Little Word for 2012, "reduce". 

So I posted my HD7 for sale on Craigslist and at work.  A helpful colleague pointed out that it's easy to ask T-Mobile to unlock a phone, so I did.  It was free.  I called them up, gave them the IMEI code from the phone and had to leave the T-Mobile SIM card in for 24 hours while they processed the request.  They emailed me the code a day later, I entered it, and voila! it was unlocked and worked perfectly with TJ's AT&T SIM card.  I had to use the HD7 that day, and it just underscored how well-designed that user interface is.  Sigh. 

Some very nice colleague bought my phone, in cash, for her dad.  I got exactly the price I wanted for it.  All's well that ends well.

home sweet home
Life is good, even with Snowpocalypse 2012.  This weekend is my Mama Weekend Away, a sort of personal retreat I'm taking to think about the year ahead, get some good sleep, good eats, and spa pampering.  A lot of people would use that kind of weekend off to visit friends and Go Out and Do Things, but I just need the solitude, and quiet.  To be alone with my thoughts (and my laptop!).

The funny thing is that when TJ and BabyT dropped me off at my swanky Seattle hotel today, I had a pang of loneliness.  I missed them almost immediately.  But I need this alone time, too.  Did I already mention that life is treating me very well? 

So, tell me, did I pick the right phone?  What would you have chosen?  More importantly, why?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

6 Tips for Convenience Parenting Without Being an Eco-terrorist

I live in the great metropolis of Seattle, where recycling and compost are sacred.  Seriously.  Once I threw away a diet Coke can in the trash because there was no nearby recycle bin.  A stranger accosted me, fished out the can and took it home to recycle.  I just stood there, dumbfounded that someone would go to that kind of trouble.  Crazy.

So I've just outed my deep dark secret.  I live for convenience.  Sure, I'll choose the environmentally friendly option when it's there and just as easy.  But it's just not a priority for me to be eco-friendly if it makes things harder on myself.  (*ducks to avoid composting fruit scraps*)

So, when it came to the inevitable cloth vs. disposable debate before BabyT was born, I chose disposable without a second thought.  I did not want to wash poopy diapers.  I did not want to store a bag of poopy diapers somewhere in our (storage-challenged) house waiting for the diaper service to pick them up.  I knew I'd have to buy disposables for backup, for nighttime, and for daycare, so it was just easier to choose disposable overall.  I'm not here to argue, I'm just saying it was easier for our lifestyle.

But, it turns out, we're not the total eco-terrorists I thought we were.  We do a handful of things that could actually be considered green, or at least, not totally awful.  So I thought I'd share those with you, because they're also easy and convenient.  

1.  Burp cloths are multi-purpose!

Before T was born, I didn't really get the idea of burp cloths.  A close friend whose baby was a few weeks older than T clued us in, and generously bought us a pack of those really thin "cloth diapers" from Target, which are just great for absorbing spit-up.  We're long past the spit-up stage, but we still use those cloths *all the time*.  T uses them as "blankets" for her dolls.  We use them to wipe her constantly runny nose (thanks, daycare!).  One of them is the "eraser" for T's chalkboard easel.  They're handy for cleaning up spilled soymilk when T leaves her sippy cup on its side.  I've even used one to dry off a damp beagle.  They're even great for the icky stuff, like vomit, or as a makeshift changing pad cover.

Eco-bonus:  We're not using a crapload of paper towels, Kleenex or heavy bath towels (that would then need to be washed) for little jobs. We just toss them into the washer and they get clean and dry easily.

2.  WTH do I do with these washcloths?

My pre-baby shopping included one memorable IKEA run where I bought every cute thing in their baby section because "it's so cheap! of course I'll find a use for it!".  So we ended up with a couple of nice-sized but totally non-absorbent burp cloths, which have now been put into use as changing pad covers. 

But the other *score* that I regretted buying at first, was a 10 pack of small washcloths (KRAMA, if you must know).  We didn't use washcloths for T's bath, so they sat around for months.  Until she started eating solid food.  Or just mashing it all over her face.  These washcloths were ideal for cleaning up her face and hands after a particularly satisfying meal, because I could wet them with warm water, and scrub her as needed.

Eco-bonus:  We don't use a crapload of baby wipes or wet paper towels to clean her up after a meal.  Now, of course, she can climb into her Baby Tower and wash her own hands, but it's still easier to use the washcloth if she's super-messy.

3.  You might be Indian if...

One of those Internet memes told me that using plastic grocery bags to line small trash cans was *totally* an Indian thing.  Apparently we Indians are a frugal people (!) so we balk at buying small trash bags.  No idea if this is true, but I think it was something I learned from my mom, and seemed like a reasonable thing to do.  All of our bathroom trash cans are lined with plastic grocery bags.  We have so many, it seems like a shame not to re-use them.

The baby angle?  Well, any of you with a kid over 6 months knows the unpleasantness of changing a dirty diaper when the kid starts eating real food.  Our diaper trashcan was not doing a good job of controlling the smell, so we switched to a new system.  Dirty diapers go in a plastic bag and directly outside to the trash.  This works *so* much better, and then we don't need to change the diaper trash bag as often, either.  *And* our plastic bag stash is finally down to a manageable level.  In fact, we're actually perilously close to running out.  (Time for another Target run!)

Eco-bonus: We re-use those plastic grocery bags, instead of throwing them away and buying new plastic bags for trash.  Granted this is a stretch, because of the number of disposable diapers we're sending to the landfill, and the fact that there isn't really a good reason to get plastic bags anymore, but at least we are using the ones we have, right?

4.  We don't need no stinkin' boxes

This one is not rocket science.  We bought 2 boxes of baby wipes to get the fancy plastic box for each changing station, then just bought refill packs by the case to fill those boxes.   Cheaper, and we don't have to figure out what to do with all those empty boxes.  For the diaper bag, I got a cute personalized wipes case on Etsy, and I just grab a stack of wipes from one of the boxes.  It's smaller and I don't have to buy special travel-sized packs just for the diaper bag.

Eco-bonus: No dubiously recyclable plastic wipes boxes to get rid of.  Again, we're talking about convenience here.  Yes, I could make myself reusable wipes out of washcloths, etc.  But I don't have that kind of time or desire.

5.  No special kid foods

One of the crunchy parenting decisions we made was to introduce BabyT to solids via baby-led weaning.  The quick summary - you give the baby slices or pieces of food that they can easily pick up.  No purees, no tedious spoon-feeding.  I liked the idea, and frankly, it seemed a heck of a lot easier than making my own pureed baby food, or trying to spoonfeed anything into a suspicious baby.  If she picked up something and ate it, great.  If not, that was fine too.  It helped set the stage for us to be able to deal with toddler pickiness without getting terribly upset about what she's not eating.

So we were able to skip the whole baby-food jar stage completely.  With T's dairy allergy, a lot of the packaged "toddler foods" were out too: most Puffs, yogurt drops, etc had dairy ingredients in them.  But even the "safe" ones seemed junky and ridiculously expensive for what you got.  So I didn't buy any of those cute containers with individually packaged snacks.  If we needed dry snacks on the run, I bought Kix, Cheerios, freeze dried fruit or pretzels and put them in a little container. 

Eco-bonus: No precious individual packaging to throw away.  We bought normal sized containers of snacks and put them into reusable covered bowls for travel.  We didn't give in to the food industry's idea of specialized (unnecessary) baby and toddler foods.  Sticking it to The Man, I say!

6.  Used stuff is ok.  (Really!)

My mom will laugh at this, because I was *not* into thrifting or wearing clothes from discount stores, etc. when I was growing up.  And I won't make BabyT do it if she doesn't want to once she is old enough to have an opinion.  But for now, we gladly welcome hand-me-downs.  We sometimes cruise our local (swanky) Goodwill to find babyGap and miniBoden clothes I'd never pay full price for.  T also thinks it's great that her clothes came from "big girls" like our friends C or Z.  

I like buying nice toys used, especially the large plastic contraptions babies seem to require (swing, bouncer, etc.).  I am super picky about brands and condition, but can almost always find exactly what I'm looking for on Craigslist or our internal mailing list at work.  Or, even better, from my mama friends with older kids.  I scored a huge Plan Toys wooden dollhouse on Craigslist for $70 that retails for $150 or more, new.  T's not that into it yet, so it's just as well.

About 75% of T's clothes and toys are pre-owned. Our friends are pretty much on the same wavelengths about "good" toys and appropriate clothes, so nearly everything I get from them works for us.  So easy!

Eco-bonus:  Reuse, baby!  Not buying new large plastic things that will only be useful for a few months.  Not having to throw away perfectly good clothes or toys with lots of life still in them.

Shirt courtesy of Z, and pants from C
Pretty easy, right?  Committed environmentalists will scoff at this list while they cloth diaper with their reusable wipes, grow their own food, and compost and recycle every last bit of waste they generate.  Props to them.

Of course there's more I could do, if I had the time or inclination.  I'm getting used to bringing my own reusable bags to the grocery, and I even remembered to do it at Target a few times.  But for now, I'm happy to do just a little bit while still keeping life manageable.

So, tell me.  What easy eco-friendly thing does your household do?  I'm up for suggestions!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Doing Taxes for my Teeny, Tiny Handcrafted Business

Choo Choo

I'm totally cheating by recycling a post I wrote for my now-defunct 1000 Markets blog.  I have a vision of consolidating all my blog posts here, so I'll slowly add in the ones from my short-lived work blog as well.  Some I'll just import into the date I wrote them, and others I'll actually update/repost as "new to you".  :)  So if your feed reader gives you deja vu, that's why.  Sorry for the confusion!

When you're an official business in the great state of Washington, business taxes are due on Jan 31, if you're small.  If you make more money, you need to pay monthly or quarterly.  I don't envy those people!

And of course, every year I wait until the last minute to do this truly unpleasant task and swear I'll start earlier next time.  Here it is, Jan 17 and I haven't even started yet.  And Mama Weekend Away is coming up, and lord knows I DO NOT want to do taxes then.

The first time I did this 3 years ago, I sat down with the forms and realized the process was totally incomprehensible.  That made me angry. I have a Master's Degree in Molecular Biology, so I like to think I'm reasonably intelligent.  And I couldn't parse that stupid form.  I can't even imagine what folks do when English is not their main language.  Sigh.

So I broke down and set up an appointment with a CPA so he could walk me through the form.  I still wanted to complete it myself, but he helped me understand what the state was asking for.  And he also gave me the cheerful news that I have to keep better track of my cost of goods and inventory info for my federal taxes - oh joy.

With his help, I realized that the state tax form for retailers is actually pretty simple.  That, and my reports from Paypal and Amazon Payments helped me fill everything out in about an hour.  Which isn't too bad.  Totally worth the $50 I paid him.

After doing it for a few years, I have an Excel spreadsheet that handles most of the calculations. There's a ton of manual work to download the data from PayPal, add in receipts manually, and pull out non-business related transactions. Setting up a separate PayPal account for my personal stuff is something I've been meaning to do every year, but it's such a hassle that I just suck it up and deal with the manual work at tax time instead.

The outcome of the January tax party is that I figure out how much I owe the state in sales tax. Fortunately most of my Etsy customers are out of state, so it ends up being a pretty small check I have to write.  And over the years, I've gotten better at collecting the tax, thanks to Etsy and Paypal doing the work for me.  So the difference in what I've collected and what I owe out of pocket gets smaller each year.

The other cool result is finding out how much I spent on tools and supplies (!), what my total sales were, and how much profit I made.  I've been lucky to be (minimally) profitable every year.  2011 will be the first year I'm not, and that was by design, both for our tax situation *and*  just because I was so busy I didn't take many custom orders on Etsy all year.

This is by far my least favorite thing about turning my hobbies into a real business.  But I think it forces me to use parts of my brain I don't normally use, and gives me more confidence each time.  TJ normally does all the tax and finance-related stuff in our house because he likes it better.  I don't like doing my business taxes, but it's good for me.

What about you, my fabulous readers?  Are you the one that does taxes in your house?  Do you have a business to account for as well?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Project Life: One Week Since You Looked At Me

Did I mention already that I'm *not* a scrapbooker? I'm really excited about Project Life because it's a much easier way to document the little fun stuff we do.  And I get to be crafty which pseudo-justifies the ridiculous amount of papercrafting supplies I have.

I'm not sure I can commit to blogging every week's pages, but I am ready to show off my title page and week 1.  Actually, I was ready last week but didn't quite get around to posting it since I had so many other things I wanted to write about. Better late than never, right?

Let me start by saying that I'm a newbie Project Lifer.  I'll mostly use the kit, with a few bits and pieces from my own stash, rather than break new ground and painstakingly embellish every last slot. 

I started with the Turquoise Kit, but switched to the Cobalt Kit.  Thanks to my friend S for making it possible (she wanted the Turquoise Kit because it was decidedly NOT girly). 

Here's the title page (someday I'll figure out a better way to get non-glare photos of the page protectors!): 

One of the PL blogs gave me the idea to split up a 4x6 photo into two slots, which worked nicely for our house photo.  Since all the pre-printed cards in the kit have rounded corners, I figured it would make sense to round the corners of the photos as well.   The black '2012' is actually a series of clear round letter stickers overlapping each other, which looks neat up close.  I'm glad I get to break into my sticker stash for this project!

Week 1:

Having the "filler" cards with just graphics or words is really helpful for the pages with tons of 3x4 slots.  For the 6x6 slots on the second page, I used paper from my vast collection in coordinating colors.  I'm going for a more eclectic, fun look than a serious matchy-matchy one. 

And again, the rounded corners.  I've moved the corner rounder out of the drawer and onto the rail right next to my desk since I'm using it so much now.  What a neat little tool! 

I think this project is going to help me keep up with sorting through all the photos I take.  I dumped all the photos from my camera and phone, and went through everything for the week.  I selected what I wanted for the pages, and used Target online to print photos for local pickup.  It can take photos directly from Smugmug, which we use for our online albums.  So not only am I up to date on processing photos, they're also going to be uploaded online regularly!  (Says the woman who is still only up to March 2010 online...)

I also figured out a little trick to get photos the right size for the 3x4 slots.  I create a "page" in Photoscape or a "canvas" in Photoshop Elements, that's the size of a 4x6 photo and then divide it into 2 3x4 slots.  I drop the photos I want into those slots and then Target will print the photos together.  I just cut them apart and they fit perfectly into the little slots.  No more strategic (or tragic, depending on how it goes) cropping of 4x6 prints, and it saves me some money as well! 

The other thing I learned from doing the first couple of pages is to just GET IT DONE. I could fuss with it for hours, making incremental changes, but really, the point is to make scrapbooking easier and have fun doing it.  I tell myself I can go back later and embellish, tweak, etc.  I probably won't, but this way I can minimize the time I spend, which maximizes the probability that I'll actually be able to keep this up for a whole year.  (I know there's some sort of nifty formula I could write for that, but I'll spare you.)

And now I must go, for week 2 is calling...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The ironic guest blog post

I've got another guest blog post up at the Women in Tech blog.  Betsy retitled it, controversially, to "Do Women in Tech Deserve Special Treatment?".  It could use a little comment love, so please go on over there and join the discussion.  It's a rewrite of my post here, with some additional info from the insightful comments you guys left me on Facebook and here.

Ironically, Betsy decided to publish that post on the same day I started my 'Learning Circle' training, through our Women's Leadership Council at work.  Heh.  I was wondering if my classmates would think I was some kind of traitor, but no one said anything.

The format of the class is interesting.  It's 2 all-day workshops and monthly 2 hour peer group sessions.  The whole thing lasts 6 months.  It's way more about personal development, though you can address work-related concerns.  The idea is to built a small tight-knit community of women to support each other.  Sort of like informal group therapy.  I was pretty weirded out by it at first, but by the end of the day, I was more relaxed.  I'm an introvert, and not super-comfortable with all the personal sharing a class like this entails (funny, isn't it?) so I knew this would be a stretch for me.

The facilitators are dynamic and likeable.  They had us do a self-assessment of things that are going well, things that are ok, and what needs work in our lives.  Then we had to choose one thing that needed work and really analyze it - why are we in that state, what's keeping us from resolving it, what choices we might make differently to help.   We had to do this in pairs, with a "coach" who was one of the other participants.  Yikes.

In going through the exercise, I found some surprising things lurking in my brain.  My partner had some good insight and offered some help as well.  It was nice to meet new colleagues and learn more about *them*.  On most days I feel like I work with a bunch of robots, because we never talk about anything personal.

sad face (19/365 dps)
 photo by selasasore on Flickr

I can't honestly say I *liked* it yet, though.  It was not uplifting and inspiring like the Mondo Beyondo class.  Right now it feels like I'm wallowing in my biggest issue (not surprisingly, it's weight-related).  And, even worse than that, hearing about things the other participants are struggling with made me feel like a big complainer, because I'm lucky to be in a place where things are going really well for me overall.  I guess the "community" part of it is already working, because the weight of their sorrows is really bringing me down too.

I'm bummed.  I can see it's a great program for building self-awareness and helping us solve some of our pressing issues while building a peer group of women in our division.  But I walked in there at 9am feeling happy, on top of the world, and excited to have been chosen for this program.  I left at 5pm, exhausted and sad, lower than I've felt in ages.  I went home and slept from 6pm to 7:30am.

Of course I'll go back, and hope it gets better as we all get to know each other and start vanquishing our demons.  But for now, I'm a little disappointed.  :(

Thursday, January 12, 2012

It's so clear now

I have a TON of topics I'm anxious to blog about, which is crazy.  That never happens.  So I've started keeping a list.  Incidentally, I need to switch to a consistent note-taking application, preferably electronic and cloud-based.  Right now I'm just creating "draft" emails in GMail so it's ridiculously messy and unsatisfying. 

It's a trick I learned from my friend N, who I worked with ages ago - she'd email herself to-do lists each day, and since we live in our email at work, it was a good place for the lists to be front and center.  But it becomes unwieldy.

I love Microsoft OneNote.  Love, love, love.  But I use 3 different computers regularly, *and* my (now Android) smartphone.  And I didn't know how that would work with OneNote since the notebooks were usually saved locally.  But in OneNote 2010 there's a really easy, built-in way to sync with Windows Live SkyDrive, so you can access your notebooks anywhere.  That's EXACTLY what I need.  Except that I haven't made time to sit down and set up a personal notebook.

Things I want in that notebook: 
  • A place to stash URLs to projects or crafty resources with some notes.  I could keep chucking them in my Favorites/Bookmarks etc but I can't make notes there to remind myself of why I saved it, or what I want to do with it.
  • My daily, weekly and monthly task lists.  I need to get a little more structured about chores, especially the maintenance stuff like doctor checkups, swapping disposable contacts, giving the dogs their flea protection, downloading/processing photos from cameras, etc etc.  I may chuck these all into a Google Calendar specifically for that purpose since it might be better to actually schedule time/days for these things.

  • Vacation notes.  We have SO MUCH to do before our Ireland trip.  I also want to make a short list of the things we want to see there so we can plan our day trips.  I'd also like a compact place to keep things like the address and phone number of our house rental, our local cell numbers, flight info, etc.

  • Personal projects and to-dos that aren't urgent.  Potential blog posts.  Unfinished craft projects that I'd like to get done eventually.  Expiration dates for unused Groupons (also need to put them on the calendar).

  • Ideas for activities to do with T.  I have a ton of books with age-appropriate home activities for learning and fun.  We never do them because I rarely remember to plan ahead.  Maybe a sort of "lesson plan" for more fun things to do at home once a week or so.

  • A living Mondo Beyondo list that I can refer to often and update.  There are things I can check off the list I posted on the blog, and new things begging to be added.

  • Some way to store passwords and links to the accounts I use regularly.  This one freaks me out so I need to figure out the right solution for it that's secure but also can be accessed from anywhere.

  • Meal planning.  A list of what we should *always* have in our fridge/pantry.  A stash of easy, standard meal ideas. Why this is so hard, I don't know.  But I haven't yet gotten it together and I swear THIS will be the year.

This is on my to-do list for the weekend of Jan 20-22.  Why then, you ask?  Because I am taking my Mama Weekend Away.  It's one of the items on my Mondo Beyondo list.  The magic just keeps happening.  I finally *asked* TJ for the time, and he agreed, and I've actually scheduled it.  Before Mondo Beyondo, it was an amorphous "someday maybe" idea.  Now it's happening.  Next week.    Me, a fancy hotel room, big plushy bed, no alarm clock, free wifi, and a spa.  Heaven!

borrowed from www.panpacific.com

It's a little retreat to get my thoughts together and plan the upcoming year.  I obviously have the big things laid out already but I need some time and space to really get down to business and plan and organize the details. 

So.  If you had a weekend like that, how would you spend it?  If you were putting together a notebook for yourself, what would you include?  What am I missing?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I've always wanted a penguin

BabyT's new thing is penguins.  She likes to tell me she's a penguin.  She likes to draw "penguins" on her chalkboard easel.  I love the randomness that is 2 years old.

So far 2012 has been ridiculously awesome for me.  Back on the Paleo wagon with no insane carb cravings or  resentment.  The aforementioned Bead Trends thing.  Sick days reset so I don't have to take vacation when I'm sick.   A handful of orders from friends to work on One Little Word pendants.  Discovered that I can send photos from Smugmug to be printed at Target, which makes Project Life easier.   People are reading my blog (thank you!!).

Today was one bright shining Star of Awesomeness.  It was the perfect Mama Day.  T woke up later than usual, which means I got to sleep till 7:45.  She got a bath and we ate breakfast and got ready.  We dropped off some unwanted stuff at Goodwill.  (Reduce, remember??) 

We went to The Little Gym, where T was more active than I've ever seen her.  She walked across the balance beam herself, unprompted.  She climbed on EVERYTHING.  She hung from the big bars BY HERSELF for several seconds.  We usually have to cajole her into doing stuff there, but today, she was ALL OVER IT.

And while she napped, one of my lifelong dreams came true.  OK, that's a bit overly dramatic.  But I am so freakin' excited to say I booked us tickets to Ireland!!!  Actual, honest to God plane tickets, with our names and real dates. If that weren't amazing enough, I got all three tickets for $425 total, by using our Chase credit card points which we've been hoarding for years.  To the airport we want, on a good airline with a decent schedule. I can't believe it.  It's actually going to happen.

Why the dream about Ireland?  I think it's because I started reading Maeve Binchy books when I was 10, and plowed through nearly everything she's written.  I still love them.  Somehow Ireland became this "thing" for me.  I have to see it. 

And not only will I see it, but we'll do it the way WE want to.  We're renting a house in one spot the whole time.  We'll take day trips to the Big City and wherever else we want to go.  Maybe a couple of overnights if we go far.  But no pressure to SEE EVERYTHING.  No crazy agenda to see all of the UK/British Isles/whatever that area is correctly called.  Just hanging out with my peeps, experiencing local culture, and having some true downtime. 

Just that would have been enough to make today AWESOME.  Then I got a call from the optician saying T's glasses were ready.  So when she got up from her nap, we went to pick them up.  I talked them up a lot, said we had to take lots of pictures, and she insisted on bringing Man, the guy who came with her Duplos.  Yes, that's his name.  Man. 

T was wiggly with excitement over the idea of getting her glasses.  The optician remembered us from Saturday's visit to pick them out.  T grabbed them, put them on, and said "I look pretty!"  Why yes, baby doll, you do.

I love that the optician talked directly to T about caring for her glasses.  T listened to her very seriously and repeated back the part about "if your glasses aren't on your face, they should be in the case".   We took lots of pictures to celebrate, and then went over to Agave for a girls-only dinner, where she proceeded to eat an entire bowl of salsa, all the while chattering about her new glasses, penguins, cacti, and pinatas.

She happily kept those glasses on until she went to bed.  This could not have been a better day.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Versatile Blogger Thingy and Random Things

In 5+ years of blogging, I've never been awarded one of those blingy little badges you see littering a lot of mommyblogs.  I can't say I'm terribly upset about it, but anyway, it was nice to be tagged by Cloud for this one: 
Here are the conditions of the award:
1) Nominate 15 fellow bloggers
2) Inform the Bloggers of their nomination
3) Share 7 random things about yourself
4) Thank the blogger who nominated you
5) Post the award badge.
I think "versatile" is code for "can't pick one subject and stick to it", but I'm cool with that.  Thanks Cloud for the nomination!  A fun fact - I started reading Cloud's blog after coming across her insightful comments on Ask Moxie posts.  I'd been reading it for months, when I came across a post that made me think we might have crossed paths in real life.  I emailed her, and it turns out we did!  Since she likes to be anonymous, I won't say where, but I think it's kind of neat that we've met.  Small world, and all that.

I think 15 bloggers is a bit overkill for a chain letter/meme so I'll pick five instead.  I'm ornery like that.

Jenn's Doings - Jenn is a real-life crafty friend of mine who is responsible for my papercrafting supply addiction.  My wallet still hasn't forgiven her.

Laura's Mommy Journal - LauraC has been mentioned often here.  She is awesome in many ways and takes AMAZING photos.

Di's Kitchen Notebook - Di is a friend from college who bakes yumolicious things and posts them on her blog.  Go over there and droooool.

Reading and Chickens - Shalini is hilarious, Indian, and from Seattle.  Someday we will meet up but we have been thwarted by deadly viruses so far.

And Then There Were 6 of Us - Shannon and Carl live in Iowa.  They used to live in Seattle.  We miss them.  Since they have four kids under 6, we'll give them a pass if they choose not to do this :)

And now for the 7 random things.  I'm totally stealing this from a Facebook post I wrote ages ago.

  • I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and contrary to popular belief, it actually is a nice city. I appreciate it more now that I don't live there :)
  • I met my husband when I was 16, but we didn't start dating until I was 24.
  • I'm nervous about parties or other outings where I don't know anyone else. It usually ends up being fine.
  • I never imagined I would move back to Seattle, because when I left in 1999, I was done with it. Now I *love* living here, despite the craptastic weather.
  • My favorite food of all time is Macaroni and Cheese, from a box, with the powdered cheese.
  • I inherited a love of musical theater from my mom, who had a subscription to the Civic Light Opera touring series in Pittsburgh. I've seen tons of musicals over the years.
  • My all-time-favorite musical is Jesus Christ Superstar. I don't know why since I am definitely *not* religious (maybe that's why). I've seen it 4 times.
So yeah.  If I tagged you and you do this post, leave me a link here!  If you don't, watch out for the locusts.  Kidding.  Nothing bad will happen.  I won't even be sad.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Hot pink makes everything better

Today my baby girl picked out her first pair of glasses. 

With a little help from us and the extremely knowledgable folks at Woodlawn Optical in Redmond, she picked a pair that are hot pink on the outside, and bright orange inside. I wish they made them in my size.

We took her to the eye doctor last month because I had noticed one of her eyes crossing inward occasionally.  I wasn't sure if I was making it up, or if eyes were supposed to do that, because really, how often do you look that close at someone's eyes?   But the doc confirmed what he saw at her exam a year ago - her eyes are farsighted, with one significantly worse than the other.

She could read the letters and numbers on the standard eye chart to the 20/30 line so she's not having trouble seeing, but the good eye is REALLY overcompensating for the other one.  So in order to train the muscles in the weaker one, the doc recommended glasses. 

My heart sank.  My gorgeous girl, in glasses at age 2?  I've had horrible vision since I was 9 so I'm no stranger to glasses.  But I wasn't ready to hear that my baby needed them already. 

Not because I thought her toddler friends would make fun of her.  They don't talk much, yet.  At least not to each other.

I just don't want her to become "the little girl with the glasses".  I don't want her to have to worry about wearing them when she's running, jumping, climbing or throwing balls around.  I'm not looking forward to that first couple of weeks when she doesn't want to wear them and we can't make her understand *why* she has to keep them on all the time.

It's not that different from managing her dairy allergy, but it's so much more visible.  I don't want people making assumptions about her - that she must be very careful, that she shouldn't get dirty, that she is quiet and studious, that they need to talk loudly and slowly, or any number of other things that adults think when they see a tiny girl with glasses.

For me, this is one of the harder parts of being a parent. Making your child do something she doesn't like, because you know it's the best thing for her long-term. Pretending to be excited about it, in the hope that she will get excited too.  Feeling like I can't protect her from people who are going to say stupid or hurtful things.

Maybe I'm overthinking this.  I hope that when the world sees her rockin' her supercute hot pink frames, they see my smart, funny, serious BabyT.  Not as I see her, because I've got my mama-goggles on.  But as an interesting little person just like any other 2 year old.  

Thursday, January 05, 2012

But if you try sometimes

I got some really exciting news this week. Bead Trends Magazine (published by the same folks who run CARDS) wants to publish a necklace I made. (woohoo!) I submitted something on a whim last week. It's one of my favorites, but had been languishing unsold in my Etsy shop for months.

I guess there's a small chance that it won't make the cut when they get all the pieces in person, but I have my fingers crossed, and I'm sending it to them tomorrow. After I posted this on Facebook, a friend of mine bought it (thanks B!) ;) I'll post a photo once the magazine is out (June 2012 - so far away!) since they asked me to remove pictures of it online.

I thought about *why* I've got this desire to get my crafts published. Part of it is just to see my name in print - there's definitely something cool about that. But I also want to prove to myself that I can be good at more than one thing.

Somewhere along the way, I started thinking it was only possible to be special or excellent in one dimension - for example, if you were great at math, then you couldn't excel at writing. Or worse, if you were a good scientist then you couldn't also be pretty. Or people who are good at their corporate jobs couldn't also be successful artists.   Ridiculous, I know, but I was stuck in that mindset.

I figured the few people who were known for being good at multiple things were just freaks of nature, like Vienna Teng with her Stanford CS degree *and* her amazing musical talent, or the NFL player who finished college in 3 years at age *19* with a 4.0 in a non-trivial major. Bonus points if you can tell me what that guy's name is - I Googled, Binged and still came up empty-handed.

Anyway, it's very limiting, right? There's no way I want to pass that along to my brilliant girl, who could in fact be a firefighter and a ballerina at the same time, if she wants to.  I'm definitely fixing my broken thinking, and every little bit of recognition I'm getting for my craftiness is helping that.   I also noticed something interesting - a LOT of my fellow Caltech grads are seriously into something non-techie, like photography or music, even pursuing those professionally.  It's really cool to see all these different sides of people, and I thank Facebook for that, since it's so easy to "see" what other people are doing.

Given my desire to REDUCE and simplify, I think I'm probably going to combine my papercraftlab blog with this one so I don't have to worry about maintaining 2 blogs.  I know some of you will be annoyed by that, because you don't care about crafts, but hopefully it's not bad enough to make you flounce off into the Interwebz, never to return.  Right?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Project Life 2012: Getting Started! Yay!

I am NOT a scrapbooker.  You might be surprised to know that given the sheer volume of scrapbooking STUFF that lives in my craft room.  I love the supplies.  But put a blank 12x12, or even 6x6 sheet in front of me and I freeze.  I just don't know where to start.  There are too many possibilities.

In high school, I had a couple of photo albums where I diligently saved memorabilia and photos and captioned everything.  I still have them, though they're a mess, and they were done on those sticky-page albums that are probably eating away at everything inside.  But I was almost kind of obsessive about putting stuff in it.  I'm thankful for that, because when I look through them, I find events I don't even remember, or memories I thought I had forgotten.

So maybe I have the mind of a scrapbooker, but the "art" side of it intimidates me.  That's why I started small by making cards. 

When I read about Project Life, a kit by Becky Higgins, I knew immediately I had to have it.  Not just for the big box of super cute patterned cards and stickers, though that was definitely attractive.  But because I could document our lives in a sort of "fill in the blank" way, and still have it look nice, unlike my crazy high school albums.

cultivate a good life by Becky Higgins
It's basically a binder full of clear sheet protectors divided into rectangles. You fill those different-sized rectangles with photos, captions, memorabilia, etc. The kit itself comes with cute patterned "filler cards" to make the pages look pulled together and artsy, without the pressure of creating a whole scrapbook page. More adventurous folks can create their own little art pieces to put in those squares - basically anything flat, and the right size, will work.

The geeky side of me appreciates the orderly, regular look of the pages, kind of like a grid or mosaic. But I also appreciate that it is fairly easy, if you keep yourself organized, to spend just a little time each week reviewing it and dropping things into the little slots.

I bought the Turquoise kit, because the design and color scheme appealed to me - it's not too "girly" and it's got lots of circles, words and letters as design elements.  I also bought the matching cardstock in case I wanted to get crafty with some of the pages, a box of assorted divided page protectors, monthly dividers, and a large 12x12 binder to hold the project.  Not exactly a small outlay of cash, but for a 1 year crafty project, I'm willing to commit.

Trying to find links to these items on Amazon now, and failing, because they're all sold out, makes me glad I bought these back in October!

I was apprehensive (and also sick!) so I put off setting up the binder and pages. And then I realized it was already January 2 and I needed to be photographing and capturing the stuff we were already doing in the New Year. So a few nights ago, I opened everything up and got started.

Rather that doing a traditional 365 (or 366, in the case of 2012!) project, where I'd have the pressure of getting a decent photo every day, I decided to do this weekly, so each 2-page spread would cover a week in our lives. If we have a particular exciting event, the whole spread could just cover that. Otherwise, I'll have bits and pieces from what we do that week, even the mundane stuff like taking baths or eating jellybeans. (Both on deck for Week 1!)

There are several established scrapbookers who do Project Life and share tips, and one of them was using post-its to label what goes in the squares (brilliantly simple!). So I did that for the title page, and for the first half of the Week 1 page.

Here's what I've got so far:

not pretty yet, but at least I started it!

I picked out some filler cards, but the nice thing is that since none of this is *stuck* on paper, I can swap things out if I get a better idea.  But it forces me to put *something* there.

I'm still working out how to print the photos for each week.  My home printer isn't good enough for something I hope we'll keep for a long time.  There's an option to print from an online gallery to a local Target or Walgreens, so I'll probably look into that.  I'd like to stay "caught" up so I'm not working on more than 2 weeks at a time.

I'm really excited about this, because I think it'll be really fun to work on as the year progress, and because it'll be so awesome to look through it when it's done.  And the heavy page protectors mean that T can look at it as well!

If you're doing this too, let me know!  I'd love to see what you've got, and share tips on how to make this easy and fun.

sharing is nice

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