Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Sale

I am having a Black Friday sale on my handmade items. They would make great and inexpensive incidental Christmas gifts! (teachers, coworkers, classmates, acquaintances, etc.)

* Chain necklaces and non-sterling earrings $6 if purchased through Etsy, or $5.59 if purchased directly through me
* Sterling silver earrings $8 if purchased through Etsy, $7 if purchased directly through me
* Quilted fabric bookmarks, $3

Many items can be seen in this post:

There are also a few in my Etsy shop:

I am planning to list more on Etsy throughout the day, and have many items not pictured; so if you are looking for a certain item, contact me and I will send you a photo of all my matching items.

Happy Black Friday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 22

Whatever day you decide to do the final assignment for this week is fine.

Clean your light fixtures inside and out. Replace any burnt bulbs. Be careful!! It is worth it to take a little extra time to be safe (safe things to stand on, turning off breakers, and handling glass carefully).

If you have extra time, work on cleaning mirrors and windows.

A Home for the Holidays: Day 21

Thanksgiving is near whether Day 21 falls on Tuesday or Wednesday for you, so let's spend today doing basic cleaning and maintenance and not dive into anything we might not be able to finish. ;)

We only will have one more assignment this week. What day you decide to do it is up to you. I will post it tomorrow for the early birds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 20

It's been a while since we made our Christmas lists. Let's pull them out and see how things are going.

What do you still need to buy? If you are making things, do you have all your supplies? Are your time estimates reasonable, or do you need to simplify (remember, you need to account for time ripping seams, picking up dropped stitches, etc.)?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 19

Thanksgiving is this week!

Take today to work on whatever preparations you need to get ready for the big day! This might include cleaning, shopping, meal planning, or packing your bags!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 18

Today, spend your hour revisiting the areas you've worked on so far. It's impossible to keep things 100% pristine after you finish cleaning because we're all living life. Take today as a chance to do a little maintenance on the areas you've already improved. For me at least, it seems almost harder to keep my house clean than it is to clean it in the first place.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 17

I'm sure you feel like I do that you are always doing laundry, but today we are going to do a little catch-up in that department. Do you have anything sitting on the sidelines that needs:

* Ironing
* Mending or altering
* Special stain treatment/ bleaching
* Starching (I admit, I have never done this!)
* Bluing (Okay, I've done this once.)
* Dry cleaning
* Quarterly, semi-annual or annual cleaning (sleeping bags, duvet covers)
* Lint removal

Let's spend our hour or so today getting really caught up on laundry.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 16

Today we are going to do some re-stocking and maintenance. We are going to spend our hour on the following types of things:

* Changing the furnace filter
* Changing the water filter if you have a filtration system
* Replenishing toilet paper and hand soap in the bathroom (other toiletries if needed)
* Filling containers for napkins, paper towels, baby wipes, etc.
* Taking out the trash
* Making a shopping list of things that need to be re-stocked (trash bags, etc.)
* Emptying and cleaning out the vacuum cleaner
* Filling containers for spices, salt, and pepper
* Refilling air freshening or scenting devices
* Checking fluid levels and tire pressure in cars

It will be a while until you have to spend time trying to hunt one of these items down! Don't you feel more on-top-of things? If there's anything that should be in this list that I missed, please post a comment!

If you run out of things to do and still have time, why don't you do some dusting and vacuuming? Now during the winter (for those in the north part of the world), running the furnace really gets things dusty quickly. It also would be a good idea to sweep and mop hard floors.

Also, this is the last call for entries for the de-cluttering contest. Remember, you are supposed to submit photos, or at least a list of items you got rid of on Day 5. To be fair, please don't include items that you culled before or after the day you did the assignment for Day 5. I will accept entries through Thursday at midnight. Post a comment on the blog or pictures in the Flickr pool to enter.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 15

You've been working hard! Today is a day where you get to do the fun things on your to-do list, even though they're not the most important. I'm talking about things like:

* Shopping for Christmas gifts
* Taking care of yourself
* Working on your hobby
* Writing thank-you cards, or something else you'd like to do to add some niceness to your life
* Doing some cooking or baking
* Decorating
* Copying pictures onto your computer from your memory card
* Reconstructing/upcycling/altering clothes

What did you do today? Tell us in the comments!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Home for the Holidays Directory

Here is a directory for all the daily posts for the A Home for the Holidays challenge:

What this is all about & Pre-assignment 1

Pre-assignment 2
Pre-assignment 3
Pre-assignment 4

Grab our button
Add your blog to our roll
Flickr Pool

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5

Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10

Feel free to start at the beginning or jump right in on the current day!

A Home for the Holidays is all about doing what you can. Don't be discouraged if the lists seem a little ambitious - the idea is to work on them, not finish them. A good rule of thumb is that if you average about an hour on average on the daily assignment, you have completed the challenge for the day. More is always welcome, but be proud if you spend even 15-20 minutes on the daily assignment. This is more about consistently doing a little extra than going gung-ho. At the end, you will have completed the challenge if you stick with us even if you completely miss daily assignments here and there. If your house is a nicer place to be, you've won!

Don't worry! You still have:

A Home for the Holidays: Day 14

Do you have a craft or hobby area or a workbench or garden shed? Spend an hour organizing and cleaning.

If you don't or you want to spend more time today, go down the things on this list:

* Work on your bedroom more, or spruce it up if you completed it
* Do the same for your bathrooms
* Do the same for other bedrooms in your house

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 13

Spend an hour de-junking, throwing away trash, and cleaning the interior of your car.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 12

Thanks for all your feedback!

It sounds like most of us can use some more work in the kitchen. Go back to the Day 1 list, and if you finish that, you can clean the oven, microwave, baseboards, walls, and windows or go through the cupboards.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 11

We're getting far enough along in the challenge that it's hard to do something specific that applies to everyone. Today, pick one or two of the following areas and spend an hour cleaning, organizing, and decluttering:

* Kids' room(s)
* Outdoors/garage/carport/shed/porch
* Home office/computer area
* Entertainment area
* Laundry room/laundry piles
* Linens
* Pantry
* Pet areas
* Hobby areas
* Coat closet
* Game cupboard

Also, why don't you post a comment and let everyone know how you're coming? Do you have any suggestions for future assignments? I'd like to get some feedback so I know what people are done with and what they need to work on more. Any days you would like to repeat or work further on?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 10

Day 10:

Where do you receive visitors to your home? Most likely a living room or family room. Let's spend an hour sprucing this up. I'd like you to:

* declutter
* dust
* vacuum
* reconsider decorations and maybe rearrange things for a fresh feel
* polish wood/clean glass, other maintenance

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 9

Day 9:

Plan your Thanksgiving meal if you are having one. Create a meal plan and a shopping list. Make sure all invitations are made and DELEGATE side dishes and desserts to attendees! Think of decorations.

If you have time left or are not hosting a Thanksgiving meal, work on one of the areas we've already started (kitchen, bedroom, bathroom).

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 8

Today, we are going to give some extra attention to the financial aspect of our lives. I know it's probably not something you like to think about, but clearing some of the clutter (both tangible and intangible) can definitely make it less stressful.

Here is a list of suggestions to spend your hour or so on:

* Pay any outstanding or upcoming bills
* Gather all paper piles around the house, sort, purge, and file. Purge your files, too.
* Set financial goals, create or evaluate your budget (you should have some Christmas help from Day 3 ;) ) One of your financial goals might be a plan of attack if you are bad at impulse buying like me - something like "I must consult my husband for purchasing items over $25" or "I have to wait a week to see if I still want to buy it" or "I can have it, but I have to wait until I have enough money in my personal spending account"
* Gather up loose change and cash and take it to your bank so you can earn interest and it won't take up space in your house. You could even use this money to pay toward the principal of your highest-interest debt.
* Set up online bill pay or automatic withdrawls to reduce your monthly bill-paying time (if you know you are good at keeping money in the account to avoid overdrafts. Or, see if your bank or credit union or another you can join offers overdraft protection.)

Any other ideas? Post them in the comments!

A Home for the Holidays: Day 7

For those of you who don't take Sunday off, I'm sorry I missed posting this! I was still down with the flu today, but I think tomorrow I will be back to normal. I am finally feeling better now (Sunday evening).

Here is the Day 7 assignment. If you want, you can put 1/2 of your Monday time toward this assignment and 1/2 toward the Day 8 assignment. Since I've been down for several days, I'm going to start on Day 7 and work backward if I have extra time. It's fine to mix up the days, jump in anywhere, or skip days. The point is to make a difference beyond your usual cleaning routine (and to work toward establishing one if you're bad at being consistent like me). We started out kind of fast and furious, but since most people don't have 50+ rooms, expect to spend several days on each one until it is up to par. We will come back before Christmas arrives.

Go through the cupboards/shelves in your bathroom. Throw away all old toiletries or things that you don't use/want (including stuff that didn't work as advertised). Wipe down the shelves and put everything back in an organized manner. If you have extra time, wipe down and disinfect bathroom surfaces, then deep clean toilet and bath/shower.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 6

There will not be an assignment for Day 6; I have come down with the flu. Sorry!

EDIT: This is Kathy's sister, Audrey, filling in for today.

If you feel the need for an assignment today, you are welcome to dust the blinds. You know they need it. I have only lived in my house for four months and they need it!

Also, think of other places that don't get dusted very often: the top of the fridge, your dresser, bookcases, shelves, etc. See how many you can get to in an hour. If you don't have anything you need to dust, work on some of the other assignments for the week.

Have a great weekend! Kathy hopes to be back in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 5

Day 5:

Only one work day left this week!

Today we are going to do a decluttering binge. The best declutterer will be getting a prize (that takes up very little space), mailed to you by yours truly! (It also comes with absolution of guilt if you decide to re-gift it or get rid of it at any point.)

So, here is what I want you to do:
* Get rid of at least 30 donatable items and get them out of your house! It is best if you can drive it to your favorite charity, but at least get it out of your house and into your car.
* Throw out any trash you find
* Find at least one item you think would be worth your time to sell and list it online or take it to a consignment shop (or at least in the car ready to go to the shop). Resolve to donate it if you are unable to sell it.

When you are done for the day (and before you take the stuff away!), take a picture and post it to the Flickr group. Please only include stuff you marked for "deletion" today - stuff already in your to-donate pile doesn't count. If you can't take a picture, post a list in the comments. I'll pick who did the best job (based on both volume and quality - i.e. getting rid of a room full of styrofoam won't necessarily be an automatic win), and if there's not a clear winner, I will enlist some judges or award multiple prizes.

The decluttering contest will accept entries through November 13th.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 4

How have you all been doing? I'd love to hear about it in a post or see your pictures in the Flickr pool.

Take a deep breath and breathe out. Today we're going to have another low-key assignment. There are three parts to today's assignment:

Do something to take care of yourself. We've been working so hard on our houses, let's do a little self-maintenance. Take 20 minutes or so (don't set a timer on this one unless you pick something that is a time warp!), turn off your phone, close IM/email/Facebook and do something that will help you feel more relaxed in your own skin. THIS STEP IS REQUIRED, NO SKIPPING! We still have 42 assignment days until Christmas, the rest will get done. Here are some ideas:

* Take a warm bath
* Do some eyebrow maintenance
* Shave your legs
* Shower (this one is for you, new moms!)
* Smooth your heel calluses and put some nice lotion and socks on
* Give yourself a manicure or pedicure
* Give yourself a facial
* Read a book
* Play a video game
* Watch an episode of your favorite show on
* Take a nap

Are you feeling more refreshed? I bet you'll like the next step!

What is that one thing you would LOVE to get done, but it is never the most important thing on your list? Give yourself a "get out of guilt free" pass and take 20 minutes or so and work on it! You can set a timer if you like, but if you're having a good time, feel free to run with it!

I'm talking about something like:
* Organizing photos
* Your hobby - knitting, scrapbooking, sewing, beading, taxidermy, whatever!
* Cleaning your hobby space so working on it isn't stressful
* Writing a card for somebody
* Making a gift for somebody
* Doing some fun research - i.e. what camera model is best for your needs
* Calling someone you love to check on them/get in touch
* Creative writing
* Home decorating
* Practicing a musical instrument
* Taking some time to play with your kids and give them 100% of your attention
* Sorting your books, magazines, or something else you have fun looking at (for me it would be craft supplies). Something that energizes you and makes you feel creative.

To round out this day's assignment (we're shooting for spending around an hour), get your timer and set it for 20 minutes. We are going to do a maintenance blitz where we do as much of the following list as we can:

* Thwart any pending disasters (i.e. pot of spaghetti sauce in baby's reach)
* Clean any spills or messes that could get worse soon (another one that mostly applies to parents)
* Clear out one side of the kitchen sink (disposal side if you have one)
* Pick up any trash that might be laying around
* Take out any trash that is filling its can
* Clear any pathways that are strewn with items
* Gather up dirty laundry and take it to the laundry room (or get it ready to go to the laundromat)
* Replenish toilet paper, soap, diapers, wipes, paper towels as needed
* Change out towels and washcloths/dishcloths as needed (kitchen, hand towels, bath towels)
* Wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters and kitchen table if needed (Don't work on any clutter piles during this blitz, just do what you can get to. The idea is to get the best visual/spatial returns for your time. My kitchen table is still condemned.).

If you want to do more, or you didn't need to do anything in the blitz list, spend 20-30 minutes at a time on the following things (any less than 20 minutes and it seems like too much time is spent switching gears, but you may prefer a different interval. I think 30 minutes is best for me.). Set your timer and change rooms when it goes off.

* Vacuum
* Put away clean laundry
* Start laundry loads/start dryer loads
* Put away clean dishes/wash dirty dishes or load dishwasher
* Sweep and mop hard floors
* Clean bathroom fixtures
* Wash windows
* Dust

We are doing basic home maintenance for phase 3, not decluttering. If you can't get to anything because of clutter (I've been there!), focus on decluttering your kitchen sink and countertops and your bathroom sink and countertops, and then hallways and main walkways. On the other hand, if you are pretty on top of maintenance and none of these things need to be done, work on the lists from Day 1 and Day 2 or spend more time on Phase 2 from today.

Do you feel a little lighter?

A Home for the Holidays Flickr Pool

We have a Flickr pool!

Please post pictures of your accomplishments (and before shots too, if you dare)! Flickr is free to join and you don't even have to sign up if you already have a Yahoo account.

A Home for the Holidays: Read this Post

My friend and aHftH participant Juliana has written a wonderful piece about the emotional aspect of undertaking our challenge. I suggest you read it - it is beautifully written and probably echoes some of the things you've been feeling since starting:

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 3

We've had a couple of really intense days - good for you! Today we're going to have a little change of pace.

First, sit down with a notebook or at your computer, and start thinking of Christmas gift and greeting cards (if you do them - you don't need to start just for this; we're all about simplifying).

I hate it when stores pull out the Christmas stuff before Halloween too, but we're not going to do any decorating. We're just planning ahead so we have some smooth sailing the next month.

Write down names of people you'd like to get gifts for and some ideas you might have. Try to set a price range so you don't blow your budget on gifts. Starting early, you'll be able to have time to find good prices and gifts that fit the recipient and your relationship to them well.

It is also early enough that you could organize a name drawing system for your family or group or get started on handmade gifts (or you could combine them like we are doing in my family this year!). I think this year especially, people will appreciate both the simplicity of buying only one gift and the loving nature of handmade items. Staying within your means will add an extra dimension of restfulness to your holiday season.

Once you have your holiday plan down, you can either pat yourself on the back for completing this day's objectives or work some more on the lists from Day 1 and Day 2. Working ahead in other areas of your house is wonderful, too! This challenge is all about getting your house the way you want it.

A Home for the Holidays: We Have a Button!

Thanks to my fabulously talented sister, Audrey, we have a button and header for the A Home for the Holidays challenge! Grab the code here and put it on your blog to show you're participating!

Copy and paste this code:
<center><a href=""><img src="" /></a></center>

If you like her design style, you should check out her shop!

A Home for the Holidays Blogroll

I will be putting a blogroll in my sidebar for those who are participating and would like a link to their blog. Put your URL in a comment on this post and I will add it! If you don't want a link to a blog, but want to be on the roll, comment with the name you would like to be known by. I also am working on getting a Flickr pool together.

A Home for the Holidays: Day 2

(Please note, the assignments for Day 1 and Day 2 are especially ambitious. You are not intended to finish them in one day, but work for an hour or two toward the list. Then, when there is a daily assignment that you've recently done or one that doesn't apply to you, you can come back and work on these lists.)

Get a box and some trash bags (donate, out of season, too big/too small, needs washing, needs mending, etc.) and head into your bedroom. If you are going to be working hard getting your house into shape, you're going to need a haven to relax off to sleep in.

Before you open your closet or dresser, I want you to close your eyes for a few minutes and think through the following types of questions:

How many dresses do I need? Sweaters? Pairs of jeans? T-Shirts? Consider writing down a number for how many of each item you think would be good to have. For instance, 7 pairs of jeans would last you a week if you wore them every day and didn't wear any other kind of pants or skirt. Most people could make them last at least 2 weeks before laundry had to be done. Do you need more than 7 pairs of jeans?

Put everything that does not belong in your bedroom in the box. Put it in the hallway, or somewhere out of your way.

Now, if there is anything else out besides clothes, put it away. Your floor should be clear.

Dust anything that's easy to get to (i.e. if your dresser is covered with jewelry or perfume or something, leave that for later).

Vacuum the floor.

If you know you'll have some time to devote to this, take all of your clothes and shoes out of your dresser, closet, etc. and put it on the bed or on the floor. Be careful with your hangables so you don't wrinkle them. Sometimes I get an old shower rod and hang it in the hall when I'm doing this, but I have both a narrow hallway and a spare shower rod at hand. A chair can be used to drape across, but it is easy to just lay hangables nicely on your bed without wrinkling them.

If you aren't sure you'll have too much time, try your best to just weed through things as they stay in your drawers/closet. You can set a timer and just quit after an hour or two. We don't want to burn out by going too gung-ho on our first few days, but it does feel good to knuckle down and get some things done!

Do a quick wipedown of any shelves or drawers that might be dusty. Vacuum the bottom of your closet.

Now, think back to the quantities you pondered during the beginning of the list while you put your most favorite clothes back. Put in-season, well-fitting clothes back into your closet and dresser until they are half full. Now it's time to be ruthless. If your closet or dresser is more than 75% of maximum capacity, it's going to be really hard to find things and move things around. You might be liable to leave the drawers stuffed full and not touch them (yes I know this from experience). Be very selective about adding additional clothes to your clothes spaces.

Now, look at what is left. Is there anything you really don't have a hard time parting with? Put it in one bag designated for donation. If you still have clothes left over, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide:

First, set a time limit for how old things can be and not get the axe (you can spare special clothing like heirlooms or wedding dresses, etc., but don't get too carried away with that dress you wore on a date with your ex.) Anything more than (for example) 5 years old gets automatically donated.

Am I saving this because I hope to fit into it one day? If so, will it still be in style? If I AM able to lose that weight, would I be able to afford to treat myself to a few NEW clothes? (remember, clothes retailers often mark things below thrift store prices!)

Am I afraid I might weigh more than I do now, so I am saving this item that is TOO BIG for me? Can I really emotionally afford to be this pessimistic?

Am I saving this because I paid good money for it and only wore it once or twice? If so, try to realize that the space left behind by that item is quite valuable and someone needy can benefit from your donation - nicer items are especially helpful; consider donating to Dress for Success for nice businesswear. Also image how much time you will have to spend treating stains, laundering, drying, and ironing the item if you do decide to keep it.

Am I saving it because it's a nice brand name and I think I could sell it secondhand? If so, give yourself a month to do so - there are consignment stores and also Craiglist/eBay Put these items in a bag and find them a temporary home NOT in your room.

Do you have room to store out of season items? Remember, you can only have as many as will fit nicely (no more than 75% full) in your drawers and closet. You can get bins and bed risers pretty inexpensively if you don't have a similar solution - this way you don't have to dig through your out-of-season clothes every time you are looking for an outfit.

This might take a little courage, but ask your significant other or a close friend if there is anything in the remaining pile that doesn't look good on you. Lots of clothes are cute on the hanger, or even cute before a couple of washes, but then they fade and stretch out and the cut is no longer flattering.

If you still have clothes beyond your capacity (some closets are REALLY small!), there are a few things you can do to help you decide or get the courage to get rid of them:

* Give the clothes to someone you know and like and think will enjoy them.
* Do the backwards-hanger trick in your closet (Turn every hanger around so the end of the hook is facing the door, then when you wear it, put it back regularly. At the end of the time period (3 months?), anything still backwards goes.
* Invite a friend over to help you decide. Offer to do the same for them.
* Put all the remaining clothes in a bag and put it away somewhere not in your room. If you one day decide you'd like to wear something in the bag, go get it, wear it, then put it away in your room. If you can't even remember what is in the bag after a month or so, chances are that you don't really love it.
* Consider starting a clothes-swapping group with similarly-sized friends. You have to give something good if you expect something good, so trade a bag of clothes for another. Since you got the bag basically free, it should be easy to pick the things you love out and pass the rest on. Easy come, easy go! (I always find it easiest to donate things given to me or things I bought inexpensively. I guess I still am battling the tenacity of hyper-thriftiness.)

Now that your clothes are all in order (hooray!), resolve to begin a static inventory system. Whenever you get one new item of clothing, one old item must go! If there is anything that was out in the laundry while you were organizing your clothes, you must get rid of it or swap something else out because your closet and dresser are already at maximum functional capacity! (75% full)

Consider using this same routine for your coats, scarves, hats, gloves, handbags, etc. if you keep them in a hall closet. How many coats can a person really wear in one winter?

Are your clothes beautifully organized? Are you already excited to wear a forgotten favorite you found tomorrow?

Remember the box? Put away everything that has a home. If it doesn't have a home, or you can't get to it's home because of clutter, try to find a staging spot in the room it belongs in (maybe a small cardboard box in each room for the duration of our organizing binge?)

If you still have time, change your bedsheets and do something to freshen the air in your bedroom (air spray, candle, potpourri, etc) and find a good book for your nightstand or pillow. Turn down the covers so when it's time for bed you can just pop in and relax.

(If you already were so on-top of your wardrobe, either work some more on the kitchen (we didn't get to cleaning out the microwave and oven yet), deal with family laundry, or do 3-6 20-minute rotations in different rooms of your house sprucing things up - it'll be easier to dive in deep when we get to other rooms in your house.)

I know you probably didn't finish the kitchen and the bedroom (I think these are the rooms that take the most time), but take a picture of your progress. I bet it already looks lots better than it did before!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 1

Day 1 Assignment (if you are taking Sunday off, do this on Monday):

(Please note, the assignments for Day 1 and Day 2 are especially ambitious. You are not intended to finish them in one day, but work for an hour or two toward the list. Then, when there is a daily assignment that you've recently done or one that doesn't apply to you, you can come back and work on these lists.)

Go through the following list until you are done or have spent an hour, whichever comes first (of course if you are on a roll, there's nothing stopping you from doing more).

* Put away any out-of-season decorations (for most of you, this will be Halloween, for me it is Easter :O

Then, since Thanksgiving is the next holiday, let's start in the kitchen:

* Go through the fridge and throw away anything expired/questionable or unwanted
* Go though your pantry and make a meal plan for the week using many of the older items you find (think of the stuff you left in your fridge as well). Throw away anything expired/questionable or unwanted. Don't forget the spice rack and on top of the fridge!
* Throw away all expired or unwanted medications/supplements (even if they are not in your kitchen)
* Look through all your cupboards. Do you have more cooking gadgets than you really need? Several pitchers or pizza cutters? How many do you really use/need? Keep only the best ones.
* Go through your cleaning chemicals. If it's nasty or old or ineffective, it goes.
* Clear off the kitchen table. If it's not used during dinnertime (or is a centerpiece or something else that really belongs there), it's got to go somewhere else.
* Wipe down the blinds/ windowsills
* Clean the windows, at least on the inside
I really don't expect people to get this far in one hour, but here are some more ideas:
* Wipe down the faces of your cupboards unless you've done this recently
* Sweep, mop, clean the baseboards
* Clear off the countertops and put everything in a box that doesn't belong in the kitchen. Put the items away after the countertops are clean.
* You could, you know, do the dishes

We are going for a clean sweep here, so don't feel guilty if you throw away things you spent good money on. Let's just move on and learn our lessons:
* Not to buy particular products again that look tastier on the box than they are
* Not to buy things in bulk that we only use half before it goes stale
* Not to buy more ingredients than we reasonably will use (even if we have grand culinary dreams ;)

(I'm only writing these because these are lessons that I desperately need to learn!)

Imagine your kitchen stocked with only high quality, fresh, tasty, and mostly healthy items. There is enough room in the cupboards and pantry that you can move things around without having to re-pack all the sardines and it is easy to see what you have. Now imagine how it would be to cook Thanksgiving dinner for your family in a clean, functional kitchen. Worth throwing out those 6 boxes of Jello pudding you got on sale and decided you didn't like that much? Remember you can donate unexpired items that you don't want to the food pantry; it might help you let go if doing so will benefit others.

You can consider taking a picture of everything you got rid of or write a summary in your journal. Doesn't it feel good? Do you feel like you have a little more breathing room?

If there is something you don't think you'll buy again, but you'd like a chance to use rather than throwing it away, get out a Sharpie and put your own kill date on it. Then, you won't feel like mean old me came through and told you to get rid of it and you never had a chance to try to use it. Put a date on it a month or two from now and you'll have that time to use it. Throw things away when they reach their kill date (even if it's before the expiration date - and consider donating in this case). This way, if you have something gourmet that you don't usually use it can still be part of an overall system for keeping your pantry uncluttered.

Post your progress! I don't expect you to get very far on this list in an hour (maybe not even past the first item!). Depending on how people do, we'll probably re-visit it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Ghost of Tom

My amazing brother Tom recorded this version of "The Ghost of Tom" which is a song my daughter learned for her preschool program. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

The Ghost of Tom.mp3

A Home for the Holidays: Pre-Assignment #4

I know today is very busy for most everyone! Here is a quick and uplifting pre-assignment if you'd like to squeeze it in:

Get rid of 30 items in your house. Throw away or donate as appropriate. If you are having trouble finding 30 things, check your fridge and medicine cabinet for expired items or get rid of magazines and books. The great thing about media is that if you get rid of it and regret it, you can most likely find a replacement online for cheap. My mom just bought several years' worth of her favorite magazine from the '80s on eBay and libraries are great resources, too. You can also count it for an item if you consolidate two things into one container and throw away the empty one (i.e. shampoo, lotion).

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Pre-Assignment #3

Get a notebook (best option - find one you already have!) to be your journal during this challenge. You can also keep an online journal, but I'm planning to gift it to my husband at Christmas if I'm successful. This is your journal, so you can write whatever amount of detail if you like, and include thoughts and feelings or not. I'm also thinking of using a timer and keeping a time card so I can see how much I put into it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Pre-Assignment #2

Here is the second (optional) pre-assignment:

Take pictures of every room in your house in the BEFORE state. You don't ever have to share them and you don't need to document every detail, but paint for yourself a picture of the current state of things so at the end you can see how far you've come.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Home for the Holidays

Would you like to have a beautifully clean and organized home during the winter holiday season? Let's start now! Join me in completing daily assignments (6 a week) and together we'll make it fun and get it DONE! I'm as guilty as any clutterer and this is a guilt-free zone!

Will you join me? Please post below!

Grab our button on the sidebar and feel free to add it to your own blog or site. Or, post a link to this post on your Facebook and choose the button as your thumbnail. Add my feed to your aggregator so you don't forget the daily assignments!

We started November 1st, but if you'd like to warm up before you dive in, here is Pre-Assignment #1
(if you'd like to see a directory of all the assignments so far, click here):

Visualize your home perfectly cozy on Christmas (or your chosen holiday). What does it look like? What are the differences between your current state and your ideal? What things will you have to plan ahead to get ready in time? How about Thanksgiving?

Write down a few of your thoughts (it doesn't have to be long). You can keep it private or share. Also, brainstorm some possible specific goals you'd like to have in mind because some assignments will focus on these.

Here is my horribly embarrassing writeup (See, I told you I was guiltiest of all! At least it's not as embarrassing as having to have Clean House over for an episode):

I won't go into the details right here, but the bottom line is that my house is a pigsty and I'm just pining for it to be a pleasant place to be. I think having some social interaction and making it a game will really help keep me motivated and rise above the guilt that comes either way (either the house is a mess or I ignore the kids to clean) so I can make positive, lasting changes.

I'd like my house to be less cluttered overall, both from getting rid of things and finding better homes for things.

Living Room: everything is dusted, tabletops are clear, toys and books put away. No more Easter decorations on top of the china cabinet! (how embarrasing!) Carpet is clean.

Kitchen: Countertops and table clean, cabinets and fridge are not busting at the seams so it is easy to find things even if they aren't right at the front. Floor clean without a film over it. Little nooks and crannies are dust-free and clean, wooden fixtures cleaned and oiled. Window blind is fixed and top of the fridge is clean. Would like pre-built cabinets installed above stove and fridge.

Bathroom: Older toiletries tossed, remainder fits in the cupboard well and is organized by type. Everything clean - need a new toothbrush solution. Maybe some wall mount fixtures to free up counter space. Also something with ribbons hanging off to put hair clips on.

Kids' room - carpet is cleaned, scuff marks on wall magic-erased, closet only contains kids' clothes that are current size or bigger. Windowsills and baseboards are dusted. Carpet cleaned.

Bedroom - clothes and jewelry sorted through and organized - only fitting, in-season clothes are in room. Floors are clear and nothing in room that doesn't relate to getting dressed or sleeping. Replace burnt-out bulb and hang extra pictures. Would like to paint a nice color. Maybe also make a space for electronics to charge.

Family room/office - Figure out what to do with old computer parts, clear off desk and go through it and make it a good workspace. Figure out a better configuration of furniture. Pare down the toys - DVDs all in the right cases. Papers filed. Pantry organized.

Storage room - Go through box-by-box and get rid of stuff I don't need. Clearly label the remaining boxes.

Craft room/laundry room - make top laundry shelf usable. Pull out washer/dryer and clean behind them. Make craft room a workroom instead of a storage room.

Downstairs bathroom and bedroom are full of my husband's stuff, so I give myself leave of them until I get the rest of the house under control!

Outside - front porch clear and clean, sweep leaves out of carport. Organize shed.

That makes it sound kind of tame, but I have got a lot of work ahead of me!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Winner time!

We have a winner! picked the winning number as 5, so the winner is my sister, Audrey!

Doesn't that sound rigged or unfair? Never fear! I am picking a second winner because as much as I love my sister, I don't think it's very nice to invite friends over to play and then not treat them right.

The next number by was 39, so the second winner is Kat C.! Audrey and Kat C., please contact me and let me know which pair you would like! (I will be contacting them to let them know in case they don't keep up with my blog.

Thank you all so much for playing and for your valuable input!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My First Big Craft Show & a Giveaway!

My sister and I have reserved a craft booth for the annual Peach Days celebration in our hometown. I have been busy making things and am also offering them online for sale, but because of the focus on Peach Days, I am not taking the time to make listings on Etsy. The bulk of my products for Peach Days will be quilted bookmarks and sterling silver earrings with a variety of stone, crystal, glass, and ceramic beads. Here are some photos of the things I've made so far!

Quilted bookmarks

The backs are patchwork, too!

Crystal and sterling silver

Glass and crystal (all metal is sterling silver, as usual)

Crystal, glass, and sterling

Ceramic and sterling

Ceramic and sterling

Pearl, jade, citrine, jasper, carnelian and sterling

Aquamarine, amethyst, peridot, citrine, labradorite, crystal, pink jade, olive jade, coral, and sterling

Pearl, crystal, carnelian, robin's egg stone,
purple jade and sterling

Peridot, citrine, aquamarine, amethyst, malachite, labradorite, navy quartz, carnelian, Swarovski Austrian crystal, sterling

Non-sterling pairs with crystal

Non-sterling (sterling plate) with purple crystal and other non-sterling pair with red crystal

In order to prepare for Peach Days, I need your help! I need to know which of my earrings people like the most so I can make more of those kinds. Anyone who posts a comment with their top three earring choices will be entered to win a free pair (international entrants welcome)! I will send the winning pair by mail. Be sure that you have a blog I can access to let you know if you've won or else leave me your email address in the comment. The giveaway will run for one week - until midnight (MST) on August 25th.

Bonus entry opportunities:
* Post a link to the giveaway on your blog (3 entries)
* Become my fan on Facebook (1 entry)
* Become a follower of my blog (1 entry)
* Posting on Twitter (1 entry) - be sure to put @azurerocket in the tweet so I can find it!

Leave a comment for each entry you make. I will be checking up to keep things fair!

For example, someone who made every possible entry would leave 7 comments, something like this:

"My favorite earrings are the ladybugs, the purple jade and pearl, and the labradorite trio."

"Link on my blog! x 1"

"Link on my blog! x 2"

"Link on my blog! x 3"

"I am your fan on Facebook!"

"I am following you!"


If there is a huge response to my giveaway, I will be giving away additional pairs of earrings.

Also, if anyone is interested in purchasing something, email me at Bookmarks are $4/each or $3.50 each if purchasing two or more. Sterling silver earrings (all but the three pairs mentioned above are 100% solid sterling silver except for the obvious non-metal parts) are $8/pair or $7.50 if purchasing two or more. The three non-sterling pairs are $6.50/pair. Shipping is $1/flat for the U.S. no matter how many things you buy. Contact me for international shipping prices. You can check my Etsy profile to see my positive feedback as a handmade vendor.

Let the games begin! Thanks for playing!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Something Funny on the Way to the Pool

Today, Lauren and I were taking the kids to the pool. We were stopped at a light near some trees and a squirrel ran out and hopped up into someone's Land Rover! Well, not into the interior, but up inside the body near the rear axle. We were staring at the Land Rover and the driver gave us a funny look; maybe he was feeling guilty for not pulling over for an ambulance and thought we were giving him the evil eye. Anyhow, I didn't see any evidence of the squirrel not making it and hope he survived his little ride.

Monday, June 22, 2009

This Twilight Garden

It's not every day that two completely separate hobbies of mine team up, but it happened recently. I spotted this set of clear silicone stamps by Inkadinkado called "Twilight Garden" and knew they looked familiar:

The title helped give them away. This Twilight Garden is the B-side of a single from the album Wish by The Cure. However, the lettering on the stamp set is actually stolen from inspired by the cover art of the prior album - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. I couldn't find anyone else mentioning the link though a Google search, so perhaps I'm the only papercrafting Cure fan so far to stumble across this and think it was blogworthy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Linocut Tutorial

Hello readers!

My sister Audrey has posted a sweet linocut tutorial over at our collaborative blog. Read it here: Linocut Tutorial

Life has been throwing me a lot of curveballs, but I hope to be posting new things of my own soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Audzipan Design

I don't like to clutter my blog with lots of advertisements, but my sister has added a lot of wonderful, reasonably-priced items to her Etsy shop recently. She is currently offering free domestic shipping ($1 international) and a free gift with purchase throuh today.

Next: back to regularly unscheduled craft posts

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hello Friends

I am still alive. I had several more March of the Tools posts I wanted to do, but I suppose that will have to wait until next year.

I do have a couple of blog posts in my head (one about my ghost hole - ooooh), but I'm also having my neverending problem of not being able to keep things together.

See you next time I come up for air, hopefully for a bit longer.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March of the Tools: Coolgear USB to IDE/SATA Adapter

For years, my husband tore his hair out over me taking over his desktop computer and plugging my hard drives into his motherboard, leaving the side off the case and the hard drives strung out on their IDE cables and sitting on empty CD spindles. When my desktop finally bit the dust, I couldn't access my SATA drive because his motherboard was to old to support it, so he let me buy this:
It's been great because I can hook any of my old drives up for quick access. My brother even gave me an old 80GB drive I use for video editing that I essentially use as an external hard drive. I also used this little baby to send everything on the old drives over to my 1TB network-attached storage. If you are in the market for a large external drive and don't mind a certain about of the cyberpunk look, you can save money by getting this if the difference between internal and external drives exceeds $24 + shipping. Just don't let your two-year-old throw drives on the floor unless they are solid-state.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Online Quilt Shop?

Can anyone recommend a good online quilt shop? With two young children, I have a hard time making it to local stores (when I do, I have the shop owners tearing their hair out with my daughter running around, even though she doesn't touch the merchandise). The one I've used so far has really disappointed me on each of my last three orders, so I'd like to try somewhere new.

I'm interested in trying Connecting Threads because I've really been pleased with Knit Picks and they're owned by the same company, but I'd also like some recommendations for shops that carry fabric from major design houses. Good prices on fabric and shipping would be great, but I'd really love somewhere that doesn't put me on backorder for months on end with no notifications or updates and send me kits with different fabrics than the ones pictured with no apologies.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March of the Tools: Knit Picks Options Needle Set

Don't worry! I'm still planning to finish my Gocco post! I've just had a couple crazy nights with the kids and haven't been able to photograph the finished product in decent light. Anyhow, here is a new post for March of the Tools!

Last autumn, when I was getting ready to knit this sweater for my daughter, I found that I would need yet more sets of circular needles. The ones in my stash were either the wrong size or the wrong length, or both. Plus, they were all cheap aluminum sets from big box stores like Walmart and Joann and were quite a nuisance while knitting. The cables had too much memory and got tangled up in themselves while the needles were too scratchy and split yarn easily. While knitting, the stitches got caught on the join between cable and needles and it was just an all-around mess.

I decided I needed a pair of interchangeable needles (my center of the brain that justifies craft purchases was working overtime - just think of all the needles I would eventually end up buying at $6+ a pop!) and hit Ravelry to try to find out what set to get. People complained that the Boye set was just too much like the cheap static circs I was trying to get away from. The Denise set had something else wrong - I think maybe it was too sticky for tight knitters like me. The Knit Picks set sometimes had problems with the cables coming out of the metal ends, but Knit Picks was good about replacing them for free. This was before the Addi Click set came out, but no regrets, they are to pricey for a non-socialite like me. So, I took the plunge and purchased the Knit Picks Options nickel-plated set:
Boy, howdy, did these come in handy! Not only were the needles glossy smooth and the joins nearly undetectable, but the spare cables handily served as stitch holders as well. I love the way the cables flex. I ended up using all of the cables that came with the set on the Tulip sweater - the two smaller sets as holders for the armholes, one larger one to hold the stitches at the bottom hem, and the other large one as a working cable throughout the whole project. I did actually have one of the cables pull free of its metal end cap, but like the Ravelers said, Knit Picks quickly shipped me a replacement free of additional charge. They actually sent a replacement cable set, so now I have three 24" cables and a spare tightening pin and pair of end caps (seeing how I'm always losing small objects, this is a wonderful thing). I also ordered a set of the longest cables available -60"- just to increase the versatility of my set. You know, it was only $4 and I was already paying to have yarn shipped. You never know when you're going to have a spare year to knit a beautiful circular shawl. If only Knit Picks would make a little piece to join to cables end-to-end, I'd be set for life. After I buy the rest of the needle sizes too extreme for the kit, of course. And some matching DPNs.
I did end up using the set once again on this sweater I knitted for my beautiful baby niece (daughter of Audrey), so just a few more projects and the cost is practically justified! (If anyone wonders, my craft-supply-purchasing brain center and my I'm-in-charge-of-the-family-finances brain center aren't friends. Not at all.)

Audrey Joins CraziBeautiful

My sister Audrey has recently joined the staff of CraziBeautiful as a handmade expert.
Way to go, Auds!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chichen Itza

A year ago today I visited Chichen Itza.
I have uploaded a slideshow here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March of the Tools: Print Gocco

I've been putting off this post because it is photo intensive, but I will procrastinate no more and dive right in! Here is how I used my Print Gocco machine to make baby announcements for my son:

For my birthday last year (in June!), I got a Print Gocco machine (model PG-10 Super, which I am told is the same as PG-11). Print Gocco is a fabulous little all-in-one device for screenprinting, usually on paper, although you can print on cloth with the right supplies. Here is my Gocco machine (this image is partway through the process I'm going to try to illustrate):
The first thing I did was draft an image in pencil of the announcement on special gridded paper that is the perfect size for Gocco.
Then, I colored it in with the Riso carbon pen. (Riso is the Japanese brand that manufactures Gocco. Or at least used to. You can still buy Gocco printers and supplies on eBay, though.)
I held it up to my window and colored in the places I wanted to have a second color fill. I would have used my lightbox, but it was buried and I was excited to get going.
The finished masters with the carbon pen.
I printed the blue ink first (I'll show the whole process of printing with the black ink).
Just place a paper on the sticky pad...
And close the machine. After a few prints, I had the right idea of how much pressure to apply.
Lift up, and the new print is stuck to the screen. Just peel it off.
The finished blue prints:
Once dry, I stacked them. You can see the marblizing I was going for by squirting a little white ink on the blue.
So, here is the whole process of printing as I did with the black ink. First, I placed the carbon master on the sticky pad.
Then, I loaded the mesh Gocco screen (it is preloaded with thermal emulsifier). I cleaned the contacts of the bulbs on a piece of scrap paper and loaded them into the reflective housing.
I closed the unit and made sure the master was centered pretty well on the screen.
Then, I attached the lamp housing and pressed down on the unit to complete the electrical circuit and flash the bulbs.
After flashing, I let the spent bulbs cool. The image is now burned.
You can see that the master is stuck to the screen. I left it on for inking so the ink wouldn't come through the mesh and make a mess.
The master plus burned screen ready to be inked.
There is an attached plastic sheet to contain the ink. This really helps keep the mess to a minimum.
I squirted the black ink into a plastic ink cone made by Riso. This enables you to have a finer stream of ink than just using the tube because you can cut as small a hole in the corner as you want. After I run out of ink cones, I'm just going to use Ziploc baggies and cut off the corner. They should work even better because the top can be sealed.
The ink cone all ready to go:
I used this foam ink blocking to keep the ink contained as well. (The black round object is just my lens cap and the long black object is a neat drying rack Riso makes - well, used to make.)
Here is the screen with the ink blocking applied.
The screen after inking. I wanted to have some additional cards without the center writing for coordinating "thank you" cards, so I printed these first.
The inked screen inserted back into the Print Gocco machine. The master is still stuck to the obverse side.
Here is the transparent registration plate. Since I am doing a two-color process, I need to line up the black prints with the blue ones. My first print will be on this removable plate.
I peeled off the master...
... and ka-jink! I printed on the registration plate.
You can see that the black ink on the registration plate is not lined up with the blue print.
But, never fear! I adjusted the printing pad and they lined up.
See the little knobs on the bottom of this photo? They allowed me to re-adjust the printing plate and lock it back down into its new place.
On this photo, you can see that in the upper left corner there is a paper guide to ensure each paper is in the exact same place. I used 4x6 inch index cards for this, so they were all precut to the right side (sadly, not acid free, but that's all I could get late at night). This paper guide is spring loaded and can be tucked down if you want to do one-color printing on larger paper.
I removed the registration plate and printed right on the paper. Success!
After I printed enough cards with a blank center, I inked the lettering on the master screen.
Check back on this same post soon for the exciting conclusion!