Category: DIY

Acceptance In Marriage and Human Nature In Remodeling

Having a partner that is great around the house is amazing.

The one thing about my partner is he works best when he has a project manager. Usually (okay, always) that task falls to me. The problem we are having is that parties make me extremely anxious and when I am freaking out I become a really awful project manager and leave him to his own devices.

Which means we end up with a few issues in the product.

The party is Saturday. We are totally pretending right now that Mr. Brickie isn’t going to have to work on Saturday because having to deal with one more thing in between now and Saturday will find me giving up on life and you won’t find me unless you look under my bed, where you’ll see me in a fetal position sobbing gently.

Yes, I may be exaggerating just a bit. I would have to sweep and mop under my bed before crawling into that dust-bunny jungle.

June-2014-Bathroom-CollageLast night, I reminded Mr. Brickie I needed a toilet paper holder because keeping it on the back of a toilet was pretty much one step above just throwing a Sears Catalog at you before you trekked out to the outhouse in back. I didn’t like it and it just feels unsanitary, you know? I had these freestanding toilet paper holders for a long time but they’re not as practical as you might think. Also, with a four year old in the house, being able to reach the toilet paper easily is kind of mission critical from her perspective.

His first go at the toilet paper roll was with one we “happened to have in the garage” and it was an in-the-wall model. We both forgot that we removed this exact one ten years ago because it was awful and badly placed. We also forgot it was badly placed because of a 2×4 that lives in that wall for some reason that makes it important not to demolish it to make room for the new toilet paper holder.

I do not have pictures of the hot mess that project became but I gotta tell you … I snapped.

I’ve been forgiving of my husband not texting me from when he says goodbye at 5:30 am to when he lets me know he’s on his way home from the union meeting at 8:45pm. I was fine with him dumping off gross dishes he didn’t rinse off. I smiled when I realized he didn’t pick up the right ingredients for the dinner recipes we planned together. But when I saw the toilet paper holder in the wall surrounded by these ugly wooden boards screwed in with these big, ugly screws?

I snapped like a Lifetime Movie.

He got mad and left to go shopping for a better solution. He promised he would fix everything. (That’s what he does. It’s sweet.) When he came back from the store I just went to bed because I didn’t want to deal with the middle parts and figured if I had to deal with any more big surprises it would be best to confront those on a good night’s sleep.

The picture above are the product of last night’s finishing touches and fixes.

Overall, I’m super pleased. I mean sure, I have no idea why there is a towel holder not lined up with anything and have to wonder where the other one is because we bought two of those back when we originally purchased them. But it’s up and functional, so that’s cool. The toilet paper roll is nice and the huge hole above it is all drywalled back up and repainted so it’s not obvious it was there last night.

The spots all over the wall are waiting to be sanded and painted when he gets home from training tonight.

Of course, the underlying problem with all of these problems that had to be fixed was my refusal to be project manager on the job. I made him do it all himself. He didn’t have a team, no one to bounce ideas off of, no one cheering him on and giving suggestions. I was unhelpful.

So the fact that it looks passable and by the end of tonight will look good? It’s kind of amazing.

I know I’m not the only woman in the world who changes the way things are normally done in my relationship and then says, “But he should just be able to do this for me. I mean, it’s not that hard.” when, in reality, changing something like that for a guy who is a creature of habit really does make it that difficult. I not only wanted him to do everything from soup to nuts, I wanted him to do it without support. You know, so I would feel supported and taken care of.

Taking away support to feel supported is probably one of the dumbest ideas I have ever had.

The reason I love my marriage is that the teamwork we have works. Taking it away, watching him fail, and then blaming him? It’s a dick move.

One I will try not to make in the future.

On the bright side when the party happens everyone will be able to use the infinitely awesome toilet paper holder when they use the bathroom. They will have a towel to dry their hands on when the wash them (hopefully) after using the bathroom. They won’t see the polka dots all over my wall.

Best of all? They wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t provide those things. These are just nice touches I want for them because they are awesome. Self-created drama. So silly. But at least now my girls will have a better bathroom experience every day and that’s wonderful, too.

So, in closing, this is another post about how I need to step it up as a wife. I’m so trapped in my own head still, even though I’m not straight up depressed anymore (though I am worried because Mr. Brickie should be getting the address of his job site today so he can start tomorrow) there is still a few more steps before I’m in a comfortable place.

In the meantime, I’m slogging through this swamp the best I can.

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Superbowl Sunday! (Let’s Get Clean in 2014!)

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Depending on when you’re reading this I might be completely wasted in another state.

I like to keep you guessing.

Really, I’ve spent most of the morning researching ways to get a cleaning schedule together. Mr. Brickie got all excited about creating a chore chart which turned out to be the worst list of ten things I’ve ever seen and then I refined it and he promptly forgot he ever had the idea. It was a pretty cool system. We told the girls we would pay them in Decki Dollars and each Decki Dollar could be traded in for an actual dollar or a half-hour of extra TV, computer, or video game time during the week. If they earned five Decki Dollars they would get a bonus dollar for special parent time. The thought process kind of went like, “Oh, since you’re helping around the house there are less things I have to clean and I’d love to spend the time I didn’t spend cleaning with YOU!”

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The kids ate it up. They loved it.

We haven’t started it yet because I have to design and print the Dollars and the list needs to be completed and I really could use something that makes some kind of sense and starts a habit.

Without a habit it’s not parenting, it’s just housekeeping.

So I got super excited when I came across this Free Cleaning Checklist You Can Customize over on Simply Rebekah. One page has a year’s worth of chores on it. It’s a great “big picture” way to see what you want to take care of.

A quick sidenote about cleaning systems: I don’t “get” FlyLady. If I could just get emails in the morning telling me what I’m doing that day I would be all over it. The inspirational posts and the advertising posts and the everything else overwhelms me and the ten times I’ve signed up it takes about a month before I check out completely and finally unsubscribe again. I tried to take all the information and create my own sections and whatnot, but it never works. So, I’ll be trying this new system and see if that helps. Maybe I can use both in some way. All that just to say I have nothing against FlyLady and if you’re able to keep track of it all, more power to you. You are a rockstar!

You can see all the floors in my house (which is my gauge of how bad things are) except for a third of the office. But the office floor is covered because the walk in closet in the office is cleaned out completely. It’s like a domino effect.

Or the fourth and ten at the goal line. (I’m keeping with the Superbowl theme so you don’t think I was just teasing you!)

I just know that cleaning has to be a priority because if we do end up having to leave this house we are going to have to do it quickly. That means we are looking out for storage spaces for important bins (like our FIVE rubbermaid Christmas bins – that happens when you have two complete tree setups) and things that have no place but I am emotionally attached to (one bin). Then Mr. Brickie probably has ten bins of things he just can’t part with because he would be a hoarder if he wasn’t married to me. Seriously.

He even does that thing where he gets defensive and calls them collections sometimes. I’m like, “If you’re getting defensive and calling it a collection, you’re a hoarder.” I’m still working on grace and thankfulness and I am 100% sure mocking my husband and comparing him to people on a reality show is NOT the path to being a more loving human being.

I am a work in progress…aren’t we all?

So, um, let’s make it a touchdown this year and get our houses in order BEFORE it’s time for spring cleaning. Then we can all sit back and look down our noses as we see all the social media freak-outs that happen as soon as the snow melts and spring hits!

Who’s with me?! (Even if you’re not with me, I won’t really look down my nose at anyone. It’s not my style. Glass houses, throwing stones, and all that.)

Do you have a cleaning system that works for you? Are you using FlyLady and loving it?

Give me some feedback on what you’re doing, what you would like to do. Let’s talk about cleaning and organizing!

Easy 30-Second Homemade Shampoo with Great Lather

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If you’re into steeping herbs and being a rock star and taking your time, you want my full recipe for How to Easily Make Your Own Shampoo With Great Lather! If you don’t have time for that, this recipe is inexpensive and works beautifully.

I sometimes don’t find out one of my kids is out of shampoo until she’s hollering from the shower and when that happens, this is my go-to recipe.

Stuff You Need

  • 3 oz. Liquid Castle Soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Lavender)
  • 1 oz. Aloe Vera Juice (not gel – make sure it’s 100% pure)
  • 1/4 tsp. Jojoba oil
  • Essential oil (Optional: About 20 drops. I don’t use it because it makes my head itch.)
  • A cup of water

I’ve used a shot glass to measure the soap and aloe vera if I couldn’t find my little anchor “measure some ounces” thing that looks like a cup but isn’t. You can use a funnel and pour all ingredients directly into your shampoo bottle. (I’m still using an old Suave shampoo bottle.)

Tilt the shampoo bottle back and forth a few times to mix it all together and you’re DONE.

Enjoy your soapy, lathery, amazing homemade shampoo you made in 30 seconds for about $1.20 a bottle.

I don’t use a conditioner or even vinegar as a rinse anymore. I find it’s just not necessary since my hair has been shorter. If you have long hair, stick with a vinegar rinse.

Quick Note: Depending on the time of year I will use less or more of the Aloe Vera Juice. If you use the whole ounce, you’re going to have very soft hair. The less you use the more texture your hair will have. So you’re on this scale where you either have very soft, smooth hair or you have less soft and smooth hair but more volume! You make the call.

Chicken Nugget Recipe (or, Let’s All Try Not to Get Salmonella!)

IMG_3185We had some chicken thighs hanging out in the fridge for a while (my “as snotty as they sell at Walmart” brand) and even though a very lovely, dear, kind, almost nun-like lady is shipping me an extra meat grinder for my KitchenAid, my cooking instincts told me this meat wasn’t going to last that long.

I decided to suck it up and just this one time use my super-amazing 2 cup chopper attachment that my KitchenAid immersion blender came with to process the chicken thighs into mush.

IMG_3186“Why would you be putting raw chicken into your immersion blender attachment?” I can hear someone ask. Not you, someone else. Someone far less cool than you. “Because I want to smear raw chicken on as many surfaces as possible, of course!”

I mean, life just isn’t fun without an element of danger. Right?

Oh. You probably want to know why I would be making my meat into mush in the first place. Well I was on Pinterest (I know, right?) and there was this recipe and it looked really good. You can find her Better Than Fast Food Chicken Nugget recipe here. She’s really good with a camera, too, so enjoy those glamour shots. You’re not getting that here. I use pictures to illustrate a point and so I use my iPhone camera. They’re not going to have writing on them but really, they get the point across.

After you stick the chicken thighs into the chopper they look like this:

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I put some chopped onions from the freezer and some minced garlic from the fridge into each round of chicken-whirring to try and kind of, I don’t know, enmesh the flavors into the raw chicken. Also, it made it smell less like raw chicken and that’s kind of a bonus right there.

The next part is the part that all you “I hate touching raw chicken” people are going to cringe about. It’s okay. I used to be one of those people, too, until I bought non-latex kitchen gloves and now I can touch whatever I want and look like a cast member of CSI while I do.

You have to make your chicken-mush into nuggets by taking some and smooshing it into a vaguely nuggety shaped glob.

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After that, you plop the little buggers into a bowl of lightly whisked egg-yolk. I do the separating of the whites and the yolks by hand, which I find super easy (especially with my magic golves of not-grodiness.) Immediately put them into a plate or bowl with a mixture of bread crumbs and parsley. (My breadcrumbs are Walmart generic and my pretty darn good parsley flakes are the Aldi brand.) If you check that link above to the original recipe she uses homemade breadcrumbs.

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I don’t live in a world of homemade breadcrumbs. I bet she does crafts. I will probably construct a complete fantasy world where she lives being amazing. All because of homemade bread crumbs. Words have power.

Okay, quick interlude. I know how to make homemade breadcrumbs. It’s just the thought of even having bread that went stale or letting bread go stale. I mean, my family growing up only let bread go stale on Thanksgiving and eventually my great-grandmother was like, “I don’t have time to wait for this bread to go stale on its own, let’s put it in the oven at like one degree for a hundred hours because that will save time.” You know what saves time for me on Thanksgiving? Bags of breadcrumbs. That’s just who I am.

So now that we’ve gotten my confessional out of the way, let’s move on to the part where I slowly kill my children by feeding them fried foods in an attempt to make sure they are greasy and fat when they get older, thus making me less likely to become a grandmother too soon.

We use peanut oil. I don’t know why, it was Mr. Brickies idea. Something about a smoke point. He probably said more but after smoke point I started giggling and making “Dude, Where’s My Car jokes.”  I put about a half inch into the pan. Also note I’m killing my family by using a dented nonstick pan because carcinogens or chemicals or something.

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Here they are, fresh from the oil right before I pat them down to get the excess oil off. They were crunchy and sort of tasty. The salt/pepper/garlic/onion didn’t really season it enough for my liking. I thought they were mostly bland. Which makes them great for dipping, just like a real nugget. I think. I’m not sure if that’s actually the point.IMG_3192

Side dishes were broccoli and homemade creamed corn. It was actually leftover regular corn but I put a splash of half and half and some flour in it and no one realized they were leftovers. (I’m not kidding.) I guess maybe I’m not trying to kill my kids if I’m insisting on two vegetables every night.

Oh wait, I made them homemade honey mustard for dipping. Honey, Miracle Whip, and Dijon Mustard. (1/2C Miracle Whip, 1/2C Honey, and 1/4C Dijon Mustard). It was tasty.

Here’s a recipe rundown if you want it:

Stuff You Need

  • Chicken Thighs (I think I used 2lbs. Mr. Brickie ate leftovers from everyone else. I could have used 1lb. and been fine but he’s a growing boy or something I guess.
  • Onion or Onion Powder
  • Garlic or Garlic Powder
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Breadcrumbs (however you want to make that happen)
  • Egg yolks (I saved all the whites and am making them into scrambled half-eggs in the morning for the girls for breakfast. Waste not or you’re dumb. Or wasteful.
  • Frying Pan
  • Oil
  • Paper towels

Grind up the chicken, spice up the chicken, make patty, dip in egg yolk, flop around in breadcrumb/parsley mixture, fry it up.

Watch your kids look at you as if you were the most amazing human being in the world because you made chicken nuggets and that’s pretty much the height of human creation in the mind of the average 8 year old.

Don’t worry. This isn’t turning into a food blog. I’m just sharing what’s up while I try to formulate an update about the budget that doesn’t make me look like a giant tool and an even more giant failure. It’s coming. Soon.

Crock-Pot Ground Beef Stew Recipe Madness

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The past few nights have been rough.

I would watch the preschooler during the day while Mr. Brickie worked. Then, Mr. Brickie would come home and take care of the kids while I worked.

Needless to say, he hates this arrangement.

When we first got together he was all, “I’m so liberal when it comes to relationships. ehrmagherd I would never have a problem with you working or doing whatever you wanted to.”

If he was the deep, introspective, know-thyself type he would have said, “I really don’t want to have a problem with you working but I will always be naturally happier when I am the one working and allowing you and our children to have leisure time. Also, until I can afford to provide a maid for my precious and wonderful family, can you keep the house clean while you’re at it?”

So tonight I’m giving us both the evening off. I am not going to work and I already have dinner in the crock pot so I don’t have to cook and he doesn’t have to cook.

Tonight’s Dinner: Slow Cooker Ground Beef Stew (a variation)

First, you’ll need to get some stuff out and lay it all over your counter. Or not. I cook that way because I just want to have everything at the ready when the cooking starts. I put things away when I’m done using them, so there’s really no extra mess with this method. Feel free to substitute willy-nilly as long as you sniff your herbs first to make sure the flavors match up and won’t come out like crap.

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Stuff List

  • Marjoram
  • Sage (don’t really use this, I mixed up the bottles. I thought it was the…
  • Thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper (Mine is Great Value because I’m hoity toity like that!)
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • A pound of ground beef of whatever kind you want.
  • 4 peeled and diced potatoes.
  • Can of Cream of Mushroom soup (or you can use homemade)
  • Corn, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes, broth (I use fresh celery and garlic, process the onion with the cup attachment on my 2 cup immersion blender and get chopped garlic in a jar and my corn was from a can. My broth was a cup of water and a beef bullion cube. I used a can of diced tomatoes. You do you.)

Brown the ground beef in a pan. I know it seems stupid to use pans and cook so you can put some stuff all up in a slow cooker and then have to wait four hours after you already cooked in order to see the fruits (or stew) of your labor but you know what, I assume the original recipe calls for it that way because of some food-borne disease. I don’t mess with red meat.

While the meat is browning shake some spices on it. All the ones you took out (hopefully no sage but if you made the same mistake as I did just go with it). Remember, marjoram is powerful, powerful stuff so use a light hand for shaking. Keep sniffing the pan. When it smells awesome you can be done. Keep going until the meat is brown.

At this point, I take the beef out with a spoon and plop it right over into the Crock-Pot insert thingy. I leave the grease in because it’s flavor and really, there’s just not that much. I put the garlic, pulverized onion, carrot slices, pulverized celery (I threw that stalk in with the onions. I was SO over chopping after that carrot) and garlic in the grease in the pan and let it kind of sweat/cook/marinade/hang out for five or so minutes until the flavor is all over them and then I dump that whole mess into the Crock-Pot.

Next you dump your can of corn, can of tomato paste, diced potatoes, cup of water, and bullion cube in the crock. It looks something like this.

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Gross, right?

Three hours later it looks like this:

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Still not looking like the belle of the ball, but a lot more like stew than that first picture would lead you to believe.

The finished stew looks like this:

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It smells divine, and it’s like potpourri for three rooms of my house right now. Also, it’s making me really hungry. We are going to serve it with biscuits and call it a day.

Prep time on this was around a half hour and cook time is going to be six hours on low. Everything is safe to consume once it’s in the crock pot (because you already browned the beef) and I’m pretty sure the entire six hours is just to cook the diced potatoes.

So when my husband gets home I get to be all, “Oh, hey babe, guess what I did. I scheduled zero writing jobs for tonight and started dinner at, like, eleven this morning. Feel loved yet?”

He will. I promise you he will. He will tell you it’s because he was cold all day (he works outside most of the time) and is really looking forward to stew. You and I know better. It’s because I accidentally married someone who wants to be all traditional and junk.

There are far worse problems to have.