Friday, June 28, 2013

Ready, set, jump...

I quit Deloitte today.  Not forever, but for now.  It is a bit scary - in lots of ways.  But it is also super exciting.  I will be taking care of my sweet babies while being a housewife, a homemaker, and a frugal lady full-time.

This change feels like a leap of faith.  Our single income does not cover our living expenses completely.  However, we have some savings and we think if we stretch, we can make it.

I know that taking care of my girls is not an easy job (in fact, I think it is more physically exhausting than working in an office).  But even so, I am looking forward to simplifying.  I hope that by wearing one less hat, I will be able to do a little bit better in each of my roles and to enjoy life a little more at a much less frenetic pace.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Useful knitting - Handmade Dishcloths rock!

I retaught myself to knit with the help of the internet shortly after Audrey was born.  Luckily my Grandma Cecilia taught me when I was younger, so it was pretty easy to relearn it.  I was(am) intimidated by sweaters.  But dishcloths, they were just the thing to learn on.

"Fresh off the sticks"- two new dishcloths  in a tried and true basic pattern sized perfectly for my hands.

Why dishcloths rock:
  • No dishes or crumbs care if my stitches are even or if I missed a stitch or added in an extra.  
  • Cotton is cheap - I love knitting with natural fibers, and dishcloths made from cotton are great.  My budget was (is) more in lines with the price of cotton rather than wool.  
  • Dishcloths are quick - I can now knit the better part of a dishcloth on the ride to the in-laws - no problem. As a beginner, they are a quick win. 
  • Portable, one little ball of yarn and a couple of sticks are super easy to stash just about anywhere (socks are also super portable and I love that about them).
  • Easy to customize to fit your decor.  I have all kinds of shapes, stars, hexagons, pentagons, squares, and hearts in my dishcloths. I have holiday dishcloths and seasonal dishcloths.
  • Great way to practice new stitch patterns.  I have dishcloths with cables and bobbles in them.  
  • Practical - no matter how many I have, I use them all.  I think every member of my family (including Meredith) uses a new dishcloth *every* time they need to wipe something up.  We store them in the bottom drawer and Meredith plays with them.
  • Frugal - I have not purchased a sponge for so long, I don't even remember how much they cost to give a good comparison.
  • Sanitary - I wash them in hot water every time and if they seem a little off, I throw them in the dryer (but that is rarely necessary).
My system - I grab a new one each morning and I use it throughout the day to wipe the counters and to clean the dishes.  Each time I use it, I rinse it, wring it, and lay it over the edge of the sink ready to be used again.  At the end of the day, I hang it over the drawer handle of my oven to dry out.  When it is dry I toss it into the dirty clothes pile to be washed in hot water with the rest of the kitchen/bath laundry.  If I use it to wipe up something on the floor, I will hang it to dry over my bottom oven drawer handle after I rinse it, and grab a new dishcloth for the counters and dishes.  If I need to wipe up a person, I grab a clean dishcloth. 

I know that everyone has their own systems and favorite tools for keeping their homes clean, so I try not to impose my way on everyone else.  But I think most family members and even a few friends have a few dishcloths from me and if you don't but would like one or seven, just let me know (along with your favorite colors).  I have a big stash of cotton yarn and I love to give them to people who actually want to use them. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ginger beer

Last Saturday the neighborhood all went to the outdoor movies at the Wegman's shopping center to watch the old-school version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We set our chairs up right outside of PF Chang's.  Which made me think of the delicious house-made ginger beer that they serve.  I have been jonesing for some ever since.  I have tried making my own ginger beer before, but it did not work.  I did not get some sort of weird concoction, I just got nothing.

However, now that I make all my own kombucha, and have successfully for months, I am feeling a little more confident with home fermentation.  Plus, last time I tried to make ginger beer it was winter and I am hoping that the balmy warm weather (which is otherwise quite icky) will help my ginger beer.

My drink counter - Coffee mug, Ginger Beer Starter, and a new batch of decaf iced-tea
The method I am using could not be easier.  I grabbed a clean mason jar and poured 1 1/2 cups (ish) of filtered room temperature water.  Then I added a spoonful of ground ginger and organic sugar.  I give a good swirl to try to aerate the concoction and then I leave it alone on my counter.  I will add it another spoonful of ginger and sugar every day for seven days.

After a week of fermenting, I will strain out the ginger gooey goodness and add some sugar, water, and lemon juice to the liquid and then bottle it up to ferment a bit more.  I am hoping this non-alcoholic goodness will turn out like the yummy stuff at PF Chang's or perhaps even better.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bike love

One of the things that I have been most excited about with working from my house was the fact that I could stop commuting and instead pick up bicycling.  So far, both the loss of the commute and more bike mobility have been awesome.

Last week, I got to pick Audrey up from school (only 1.5 miles away, but over a couple good hills) a couple of times on my bike.  Unfortunately for her, she has to ride a scooter back because I have to bring her method of transit with me on my bike.  Today, I picked her up from her last day of school on the bike.  I was trying to beat the rain, but I did not succeed.  She and I were drenched by the time we got back.  What a memorable way to start the summer!

When I lived in Japan everyone rode bikes everywhere.  That was my primary form of transportation and even now I am totally comfortable carrying all kinds of crazy things on a bike.  I had no problem jimmy rigging Audrey's scooter, helmet, a water bottle, and snack into Meredith's baby seat up front and securing it with plastic bags.  Even so, I do plan to get a bike rack, and bungee cords.  I got some strange looks and I had to lean back at an awkward angle when I turned so I didn't whack myself with the scooter.

Another thing I love about bikes is that I can do all the maintenance and fixing.  Bikes are simple and pretty straight forward.  I put my bike together and I have fiddled with the brakes a couple of times to get them right.  Really it is ideal for the tinkerer in me.  I need to put together a bike kit with a couple of spare tire tubes and tire replacement tools, perhaps a bit of bike grease, and a better pump.  The bike I bought from Costco included all the tools I needed to put it together (#ilovecostco), so I feel pretty good about my basic adjustment tools already.

The only real downside to bikes is that bike helmets and sun hats are not as compatible as I would like.  I am working on that though. :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Field Day

Yesterday I volunteered at Audrey's school for field day. 

Being the sun phobe that I am I signed up for an indoor station - the rock climbing wall. It looked like so much fun I was tempted to try it myself. :)

Audrey and her friend Kelsey and many of the other girls her age are into clapping slapping rhythms. Here they are showing me one of their latest. 

I can't believe Audrey will be in third grade in just two days. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Garden update

The blueberry bush has been a delightful surprise.  I have been able to pick a handful of berries most days this week.  And they are delicious. :)

The beans are in and growing - we need to get some sort of climbing framework in this weekend. Also pictured free piece of flying trash - mother nature has a sense of humor because the only days that are ever windy are Monday and Thursday - trash days.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Hand me downs

As the oldest kid, I rarely got hand-me-downs.  Every once in a while my Aunt Rachel would send a box of clothes to me and those clothes always became the best clothes that I wore.

So, imagine my delight when a coworker asked if I wanted some of her clothes when she was doing a closet clean out.  I was super excited, though I tried to play it cool.  She brought me a big bag of clothes earlier this week.  Sure enough, these new clothes are already some the best clothes I own.  Hand-me-downs are better than regular clothes because you know they are decent quality, or they wouldn't have made it all the way to a second person.  Plus, they often come with matching pieces - like cute capris with a matching tank top.  Awesome!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Work and Laundry updates

My Afghanistan assessment project just ended and now I need  to find a new project at work.  At Deloitte, that happens through networking. So I have been talking to people in my network and they have been introducing me to people in their networks, and so on. It is always nice to meet interesting new people and talk about what they do and the things they enjoy about their projects.

In the meantime, I have been assigned to work on an internal project for expense compliance.  It is as uninteresting as it sounds.  However, I get to do this project remotely.  Hooray!  No commute (except for other Deloitte project and networking efforts).  And just with the drop of the commute and the idea that I have that extra time to myself - I have started new ideas to make my house run better.

My first idea was to tackle Mt Washmore. I have started doing a load of washing everyday - ala Flylady.  Since I am able to do that in the morning, I now get to hang that load to dry on a rack out on the deck (our HOA does not allow us to have a clothesline).  I love hanging clothes "on the line". It is strange, but certain household chores are just relaxing.  And for me hanging laundry is relaxing in a contemplative way.  I love the shake and snap of wet clothes before I hang them and I love how crisp they are when they are dry.  It makes me feel connected to women through the ages and around the world when I do this simple task - because keeping the family in clean clothes most often falls to the women of the world.  And the methods are pretty much the same, regardless of the type of clothes or the era of time or the geographic location.  It is kind of like a secret handshake among homemakers around the world.

I especially like the idea of hanging clothes in the summer.  Really is there anything more energy efficient than a solar and wind power clothes dryer.  It makes me a little crazy to pay money (between $0.50-1.00 per load (depending on the cost of gas, electricity, and the length of time the dryer runs)) to heat my clothes and by extension part of my house and then turn around and pay additional money to cool it back down with the air conditioner.  While Ryan agrees with the basic math behind my logic, let's just say that the dryer is not completely out of service.  He is not a fan of "crisp" towels.  I believe he used the word "sandpaper" to describe them and he wasn't buying my "free exfoliation" pitch. So I air dry them, then throw them in the dryer for a few minutes to tumble the crispness out. :)