17 March 2016

Favorite New Kitchen Tools: Rubber Scraper or Spatula

There comes a time in every kitchen where certain tools just need to be thrown out and you need to start fresh. That was the case with many of my rubber scrapers aka spatulas. Which do you call them, by the way? Do you say spatula or rubber scraper? Something else?

I found one of these beauties at Target a few weeks ago and on my next trip I bought four or five more. These are one of those kitchen items you just can't have enough of and I love always knowing there will be a couple of clean ones in the drawer. I really like the color, shape and the handle feels good in the hand. So I am in the process of slowing throwing out the ones I've been using for a few years that need to be replaced.

I wrote another post before about some other kitchen tools I like to have in multiples. Do you have tools you must have more than one of for convenience when cooking or baking? What are they?

14 March 2016

There Really Are Good People Everywhere

If I can attest to one thing I have experienced over the past nine weeks of life with a broken foot, being in a cast, parking in handicap stalls, being on crutches or a scooter and having a challenging time getting around it's this -- There are kind, good, helpful people - total strangers -- everywhere.

Today's post is my warm-hearted, big-embrace of a thank you to all the many, many kind people who have stopped along there way to ask if they could help me. I have truly had people from all walks of life stop and ask if they could help me in stores, getting into my car, in elevators, doorways and as I stood looking down or up at steps that impeded my way.

These kind souls have carried things for me, reached things on high and low shelves that I could not reach, emptied shopping baskets onto cash register counters for me -- and have just been like angels all around me throughout my day.

I have written several times on this blog about my challenges accepting help from others. I never want to bother anyone and I'm sure part of it is some misguided sense of feeling failure or weakness if I can't do everything myself. I have learned very clearly over the years that allowing others to help us blesses them and us! It's the most amazing way to build meaningful relationships with others in this life. Saying no robs them of the good feelings they could've had from serving you - and robs you of the results of their service and a sense of gratitude you could have enjoyed from their service.

Well guess what I have been cured of for good -- my inability to accept help from others! Gone. Done. I say yes every time I can and I offer big thank yous afterwards as well. Necessity is the mother of life lessons I guess. I am happy to just say yes and not fight getting help from other people anymore.

I'll share two quick stories. One night I was in Wal-Mart and in front of me was a young man that was VERY stoned. His eyes were watery and red and he was a mess. Then he turned to me as we were waiting in line and asked if he could unload my motorized scooter basket onto the belt for me. Melted my judgmental heart right then and there. Moments later, in the parking a lot, a car that looked like it had been left for lost on the side of a highway for years pulled in next to me. A rough looking young man got out and walked past, then turned and asked if he could help me return the motorized scooter to the store for me. Angel in disguise yet again. Heart humbled and melted.

 A coworker of mine is lucky enough to have her husband drop her off and pick her up each day from work. The first time he saw me getting my scooter into my car, he jumped out of his car to help. Such a good guy! Now anytime he is there picking her up and sees me he is standing next to my car offering help before I even see he's there. The other day I saw a man walk up to me out of the corner of my eye. My first instinct was "there's a man standing next to me...yikes." Then I looked up and saw if was Husband Wonderful and my heart said, "it's a good man!" And he nestled my scooter right into my little trunk for me again that day. Super grateful for his attentive, serving heart.

My coworkers at the office have been beyond kind helping me get in and out each day when they run into me and when we are moving around the building. Such good folks!

I hope God has blessed every soul who has served or even thought to serve me in the past three months in a great way. It has been beautiful to see people so inspired and attentive to even see my potential needs and stop to ask if they could help. From homeless people to the best dressed businessmen I have been surrounded by angels at every turn and for this I an eternally grateful. Thank you to everyone for your kindness. God bless!

*I guess I never gave a broken foot update after a big disappointment almost two weeks ago. My doctor had said that perhaps in late February I could start walking on my cast. I was very hopeful but when I went in for my appointment the doctors said they would like to see me go 5-6 MORE weeks non-weight-bearing. That's a total of 12-13 weeks -- this all started the first week of January!

After the doctor gave me the news and walked out of the room, tears started falling down my face. I was trying to breath and hold them in. I had to go back to work so I couldn't even call The Man and tell him because I knew I would burst out into tears and be a mess. So I texted him and I texted my mom in tears as I grabbed some lunch from a drive-thru. Silly girl.

Now I'm in my ninth full week of non-weight-bearing and have a little less than 4 weeks to go. In the next week I am hosting a birthday party, having a gospel study group at my house and have just taught a lesson at church standing up on my iWalk crutch. At some point I had to go back to a few more regular life duties, some unavoidably timed, but these events coming up make me a little nervous.

09 March 2016

Planning A Tween Birthday Party

We are smack dab in the middle of planning our first big friend birthday party and to make things even more interesting it is going to be a tween birthday party with 18 girls invited. This should be interesting, dramatic and energetic. Yikes.
We are inviting all the girls Bug's age from church and from her school class. I just didn't see a way to cut the numbers down but of course I am sure we can anticipate that there will be some who cannot attend so the number should be a little smaller.

The image above is a little nod to the invitations I designed for the party. I will post a blank version of the invitation in the next few days. Unfortunately my program crashed just as I was going to start doing that so I have to basically redesign the invite to share with you. Ergh.

Designing the invitation and getting envelopes addressed is really the only major creative endeavor I will do for the upcoming party. Getting the invitations printed was the hardest part. It seems that going to either of the two big box office supply stores to get a little job printed anymore is definitely not as easy as it once was. I went to one brand and they were having computer problems so I wasted 30 minutes standing there for nothing when they offered me the chance to pick them up the next day. They I went to the other brand and they couldn't do them before overnight as well. Super frustrating since I used to be able to pop in and have a quick job like that done in five to ten minutes. Not sure what's changed exactly as far as how they process jobs or whether they have less equipment what. Now it's an overnight project for them to print 12 sheets of paper in color on cardstock apparently. Ergh.

Because of my work schedule AND the fact that I'm now in my third month (!!!) of being in a cast and non-weight-bearing - on crutches, crutch or scooter I am trying to do as little labor for this party as possible. To further complicate this month I am teaching a lesson at church this coming Sunday, have a church activity at our house three days after the party and I have taken on a little side project opportunity that I would be insane to pass up due to its long-term potential benefits.

Everything else has been planned to be very simple. We are ordering pizza and salad and will get a store bought cake and ice cream. Even thought we're buying everything we're buying good quality stuff so we'll eat well and healthy. The great thing is that after doing the budget, I don't think it would be possible for me to make an equally good meal for less money - and this way I'm avoiding a lot of work. Just holding the party will be exhausting enough without taking on a mountain of set up, clean up and more.

We're staying on a tight budget because I have learned how quickly this kind of thing can balloon out of control costwise. There's always one more cute thing you can do, one more darling decoration you can't pass up. I'm doing everything I can to keep that under control.

I think I've come up with a cool craft we can do that will actually not cost anything. Love that. I think they will enjoy it and it's something they can take home with them and enjoy for a while too. The one challenge I am facing is that we don't currently have an outdoor table. Don't tell The Man this but I'm thinking about how I can easily and quickly DIY a table and benches that we can use. I know that sounds crazy but then we'd have something outside for the entire summer. Maybe I can do something like this for a table and benches along this style. Another table option would be something like this. Nothing too crazy. I've been studying up on waterproof sealers that would help a simple DIY table last a little longer I hope.

This weekend will be the time to get the back patio set up. We'll see how it goes. (Okay I just went down a rabbit hole on Pinterest looking at sawhorse tables....and need to get to bed!) I will share more of the party soon. But it's been fun to share the planning phase today. This is going to be a pretty big adventure.

Hope you are well and enjoying your happy, simple, stylish life!

07 March 2016

Heights House 11: Family Room Clean Up

On Saturday I was determined to get some clean up done in our family room, which for the past few months has really served as a storage unit. On one side is a gathering of things that will go into our Spring garage sale and on the other side were boxes and excess furniture that have not yet found a home.

Up against one side of the room is a wall of cupboards and a wet bar which over the winter has become the indoor work bench where all the tools and home organizing supplies have been temporarily stored. Down the middle of the room was a narrow walkway from the kitchen to the sliding glass door in the family room, which serves as the most used entryway to our driveway and front yard.

Needless to say, this room has been driving me crazy. So on Saturday we took about 90 minutes and did a quick and dirty clean up.

1. We gathered up all the used moving supplies that had been dumped in there, including emptied boxes, packing paper, large plastic protective bags, packing peanuts and bubble wrap. We organized it all into groups, a bag for each type of material and a bag that was filled with useless garbage.

2. I cut down all the boxes and stacked them neatly together. This was the easy job with major impact that allowed us to get more space in that room and really opened it up. It only took a few minutes to remedy that part of the mess.

3. We made plans to pass on the reusable packing supplies. I remembered that there are a couple of families at our church who are moving so I sent some messages asking if they'd like some of our boxes and packing papers. If they don't need them, I'll list them on the craigslist "free" site.

4. I reorganized the furniture. We will still be using this room as a bit of storage until we decide what we're doing with all the furniture. So I stacked everything neatly on shelves and moved all the larger pieces of furniture up against the far walls of the room. It's fun actually to go into that area and see the good pieces we have that we are not yet using and know we have a little "home store" to shop from as we continue to put the house together.

5. My last task was to sweep the floor. There was a lot of dust in that room after being largely ignored the past few months. Once that was done it was a major game changer to have that room mostly opened up and have things out of the way.

Since we were up early Saturday morning we had time to slowly get going, have a nice breakfast and do this project before 11:30 in the morning. We also went through a couple of boxes that were filled with small tchotchkes that were fun to find.

Now my office space has become covered with small things that now need to find a home somewhere in the house or in the garage sale boxes. Since I started working on that room it has gotten worse before it is going to get better. I've pulled everything out and am trying to reorganize the drawers and cupboards. I can't have a bookshelf in that space so I'm trying to figure out how to get some of my favorite books and craft supplies in the cupboards.

It is starting to look good but there are lots of stacks to go through. I realized that the corner desk is deep enough to accommodate both my 22" TV with DVD player and my laptop which is great. That freed up a lot of counter space and since all the electronic pieces are black they look cohesive and organized together. Now to keep that process moving.

So far no room is completely pulled together from top to bottom. The most pulled together room is probably the kitchen. The dining room, living room and bedrooms are mostly pulled together but need a little rethink on art and decor still. Things have definitely slowed down since the holidays and my breaking my foot right after that. But now that the weather is so nice and I'm pretty used to getting around on the broken foot, I am a little more energetic to get things done.

Hopefully I'll have the office/laundry room done very soon and then I can start working on The Man's office and the family room. The Man has been doing major work on the yard all winter. He has removed hundreds of pounds of menacing cactus, dead trees and other unfriendly plants. He has also added trees to improve the privacy of our yard. I can't tell you how often we have family members or the dog who need cactus first aid after going out in the property beyond the fenced in backyard. We call everything outside the fenced area "outside the rim". That is where all the wild thing happen and wild creatures appear.

I'm itching to have friends over and we need to get this place pulled together. Summer will be here in no time and I really want to spend my time enjoying it on the back patio and that is going to take some work as well. So the sooner I pull the inside together the sooner I can start working on the back patio. Still want to make a big, long table for outside dining! Still non-weight-bearing in the cast for another month. Not happy about that but just working around it the best I can. I could not live without my iWalk!

04 March 2016

Heights House 10: Kitchen Cabinets - Removing Contact Paper

This is a quick tip really but it's taken me a while to share it about how to remove old contact paper from cupboard shelves. Our relationship with our new kitchen is definitely one of those love/hate relationships. We love the layout, love the size, love the numbers of cupboards and pantry space. We adore the view from three windows over the sink.

But we have never been fans of (and this is putting it mildly) of the 2x2 inch tile countertops, both the size and the color. The cupboards look like nice wood on the outside but one you open them you realize they are plywood and not long for this world. Also don't love the awful, poorly attached backsplash.

But barring a $30,000 total kitchen update, we are going to make it work. Ideally I'd like to replace the countertops at least but it doesn't make sense to do that if the cupboards underneath are going to die in the next couple of years.

Because we had so many boxes of kitchen items this was one of the first areas I was determined to get organized. It seemed like a good way to cut down the numbers of boxes we had stacked in the family room and garage. Plus it meant it would be easier for us to eat and have a more normal life as we were at the house working to get it ready to move in.

We had a cleaning service come in and give the house a thorough cleaning, which was a godsend. Then I jumped in on the kitchen cupboards. I spent evenings for a solid week trying to gently nudge 30-year-old contact paper off the drawer and cupboard bottoms. It was tedious and frustrating. I had read online that a blow-dryer would great speed up the project but we didn't have a blow dryer at the new house, at least that I could find yet. I kept forgetting every day to stop and pick up the blow dryer I was using at the townhouse.

The cracking contact paper would sometimes pull off in almost complete pieces and sometimes it just shattered in bits and required large amounts of patience to chisel away. Finally one night I remembered to have my husband grab the blowdryer from the townhouse on his way over. Hello, life changer.

Oh my goodness, how I wish I'd started with the blowdryer. It made quick and easy work of the rest of the kitchen and I blew through it in a fraction of the time. Use a blowdryer to heat up and easily remove old contact paper.

02 March 2016

Saying Goodbye Too Soon

Today we are joining with many, many people from near and far to say goodbye to a dear friend who passed away last week from a very rare form of cancer. This is a tragic loss to we who admired and loved him.

This has been a painful journey for our little family to watch our dear friends suffer and to consider the possibility, for some months now, that he would pass away and leave behind three fantastic young sons and his beautiful wife.

I think it's humbled us and pushed us to be more focused on life, our family life and how we use the time we do have in this life. It's amazing how one day can change the entire course of one's life and how one day last summer changed the course of the lives of our dear friends forever. His wife and I had just been talking about visiting them after both families got settled in new homes. It seemed like at practically the same time, the cancer diagnosis came.

This sad experience has also forced us to think about how we feel about death. Watching our dear friends come to peace with death has pushed me to have a clearer focus on how I feel about death and to fine tune my faith in the process and what happens afterwards.

Because there was a pretty good support group created on Facebook, we would get regular updates on the situation and since our friend's passing it's been interesting to mourn as a community of people who know this family from dozens of different ways living all over the world. But all the words of comfort and every word they've used to describe our friend and his family have been beautiful, inspiring and could not be more true.

I hope at the end of my life, there will be similar tributes like to our friend Jeff. It has been the common thread I have heard that he always had a smile, was a wonderful husband and patient, loving and adventurous father. He was a cheerful friend and fun and supportive coworker. The thing I will remember most about Jeff is that he was a man that was always aspiring to do a little better. He was a wise teacher and humble student. He paused when he wasn't sure what to do or listened to wise counsel from others, one of those being his incredibly wise wife. I love that Jeff was always abounding in good works and trying to grow usually with a smile and a laugh.

This is a small tribute to a man of great stature in his community, be it the military, his church congregation or neighborhood. We miss you Jeff and will look forward to a reunion again someday. In the meantime we will be watching over your little flock here along with you. And we are open to any "services" you want to provide all our families in the way of guardian angel protection - especially when all our kids hit their teen years! Thank you Jeff for the amazing light you brought to this world. You will not be forgotten.

Here is a video of Jeff that aired on the news in Denver after he surprised his boys at school on his return from deployment. I envision this was but a small taste of the next great reunion this family will have.

*Have to share a little miracle that happened with our friends. Monday we were still trying to decide if we could get to the funeral in Colorado. Monday morning The Man told me he thought we should not go, because it would be difficult in some important ways that we needed to consider. I agreed and we decided to send flowers but not go. And yet we were both still feeling really torn about wanting to go. We just so desperately wanted our friends to know we love them and support them and how much Jeff meant to us.

That evening, I offered  to pick up The Bug from martial arts class, which her Dad usually does. I was about an hour early but thought rather than drive home and back I would just sit in the parking lot and get caught up on social media and relax. A friend from a nearby state was asking for doctor recommendations in her area. Why I started reading all the comments on that I have no explanation. Then I saw a woman with the same maiden name as Jeff's wife. It's a fairly common name but for some reason I thought, "Maybe this is her sister?!" So I clicked on her name and sure enough she was friends with Jeff, his wife, my friend in the neighboring state and even stranger, yet another friend in yet another state.

So I replied to her comment about the doctor recommendation and asked if she was Jeff's sister-in-law. She said yes! I asked her to please, please give her sister a giant hug from us and let her know how much we wanted to be there this week and how much we love them and are so sorry about Jeff's death. Then I got a beautiful reply back a few minutes later. "She is right next to me. I will give her a great big hug! <3 p="">
I fell apart and cried in the car for a good half-hour. Even if we had attended the funeral we would not have had the opportunity to give her a hug in such a quiet moment. I felt this was an amazing miracle to be able to give our darling friend a giant hug on Monday night and let her know we are standing with her and all the angels around her. It meant so much to The Man and The Bug too that they knew Jeff's family knew how much we love them and got a hug from us across all these miles. I am constantly amazed at the miracles God can make happen in our lives. If my friend has not asked about a doctor, if Jeff's sister-in-law had not taken the time to reply to that post and if I had not read the responses and reached out to her, our private moment with Jeff's wife never would've happened. Now I know that Jeff's family has felt our love I feel so much more peace.
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