Category Archives: home sweet home

Homemade Christmas Ornaments II

The finished product! Acrylic paint on a well baked salt dough is a great medium for your artistic visions. After painting my dog Emmett’s footprint, I touched it up with a Sharpie. Likewise with BB8 — I drew his details in with a permanent marker.

Then I coated both ornaments with five layers of  Modge Podge.

Salt dough is a perfect medium for dog prints, baby feet, adorable hand-made things, and even lover thumb prints you see on Etsy. Go nuts, and share in the comments!

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Homemade Christmas ornaments

I was determined to make a Christmas tree ornament of our dog Emmett’s paw print this year. I never did capture a paw print of my late Peanut, and that’s one thing I wish I had in some form.

Our ornaments growing up were all handmade salt dough — little works of art my mother crafted and hand painted that we hung with glee for many, many years. The dough mix is quick and simple, roughly as follows:

  • One part salt
  • Two parts flour
  • One part water (but start slow)

The dough rolls easily, is not sticky, and is easily transferred to a cookie sheet for baking. Emmie was so good with making her paw impression that I decided to use my leftover dough to try my hand at a raised ornament, too.

For the impression, I simply cut a circle in the flattened dough, bribed the dog with treats, and had her stand on the counter for a minute.

For the raised ornament, I simply used the spare circle of dough, rolled the rest by hand to make some spheres, and placed them on the background circle with drops of water.

After baking the ornaments in the convection oven, I used acrylic paint as a base layer and let them dry for 24 hours. When baking them, don’t worry about burning them or achieving an even color because you’ll paint them. Instead, bake them enough so there is no more moisture in the dough. Extreme over-baking will cause the dough to crumble, but as all things in life, moderation is key. Bake 10 minutes at a time until the ornament is hard.

Please stand by for photos of the finished ornaments!

 

The Great Clean-up of 2016 continues

Some efforts deserve to be documented! After a pretty successful massive purge of my clothes, I knew I’d continue the momentum. My home office became my target this week because my chiropractor suggested that a more ergonomic set up would help alleviate some chronic pain I’ve been having since 2006.

While I was addressing my desk situation with a trip to Ikea, my husband said that while I’m at it what I needed to do was get rid of the janky cabinet the printer is on.

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Here is the janky cabinet, complete with piles of junk on and around it because it was too unorganized and full to put anything else inside.

Here’s my BEFORE shot of the office:

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Here is the AFTER shot, which is much nicer because all the crap is now organized and in its place:

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Similar to my closet clean-up, I ended up with a huge pile of old papers to be recycled. I feel great! I’m not a tidy person, but because I work from home I’m afraid that I’m even less neat or organized! Having a nice office helps morale and reduces distractions. Thinking about how happy I am in this office makes me grateful that I’m not working at a crappy start-up in a tiny cubical. Home sweet home is office sweet office!

What will be next in my year of the purge? The kitchen and my bathroom are tentative options.

 

The butterfly effect of cleaning

My husband and I are looking forward to buying a house in the near-ish future. We talk about all the adulty things around such a purchase, like credit scores and budgets, as much as we discuss our dream house’s features. One thought took root in my mind and refused to wither away, which was: Are you really going to move again and haul all that crap in your closet with you?

So I googled “how to clean out your closet,” and came across a blog post on bemorewithless.com. Although I’m not quite ready to commit to owning only 33 items every three months, as is the gist of the site, I did take the advice of one post about how to go about purging my crap:

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I spent about six and a half hours going through all my clothes and shoes. I took the closet in three sections, and then tackled the dresser. The entire process yielded seven loads of laundry, several bags of trash, two over-filled bags of clean clothes and linens that I donated to a shelter, dozens of unmatched socks that got trashed or recycled, and one giant pile of hardly worn brand name items I’m going to sell on Swap.com.

Years ago, I got a deep desire to purge all the physical things I owned. I mentioned this to a friend, somewhat fearfully because saying it out loud (or rather via AIM) would commit me to letting go of things. She said that she had read a book weeks prior, which inspired her to purge closets, too. She said that the book warned that even when you don’t tell people what you’re doing, other people in your life will catch the cleaning-out bug, too.

I shared my purging process and the blog link on facebook, and since then two people have called me out for spreading the clean-out bug. And no, they were not grateful comments. One friend said to me, “I don’t know whether to love you or loathe you,” and the other simply said she blamed me for her purging project. (In my defense, both those ladies had a lot to purge.) Several other people have commented on our various posts about their plans to follow suit or the results of their clean-out.

This weekend my husband and I had a few friends and family members over to celebrate his birthday. He mentioned how my purging project really helped us clean the rest of the house to host people and lots of food. The things we needed out of the way were easily stashed in the closet for the day because there is now so much room in it! A deep clean really does have a butterfly effect!

And puppy makes three

I haven’t published much this year because my Very Important Deep Thoughts on Life* are mostly about being a newlywed and involve another person. That person — obviously, my husband — may or may not care to have his personal business posted on my blog for the seven or so people who read it.

We have a new member in our little family. Team AJ is now tEam AJ with the addition of R.E.B. “Emmie” Baylor, a rescue from Dallas Animal Services. Before I get into how this addition came to be, let me introduce The Emmie Dog!

When I met my husband, we had the talk about pets. I’m such an animal lover that I couldn’t wrap my mind around someone’s proclaimed indifference to pets, but I saw how he treated other pets with affection. He told me about how the loss of his own pets hurt him, and I understood. My Peanut was my best friend and most reliable companion for 15 years, and losing her was devastating. Taking a plunge into an emotional relationship that is guaranteed to be relatively short-lived is a tough commitment, and this time I needed to be sure enough for the both of us.

I didn’t take adopting a dog lightly and was happy to commit to all the responsibility and care of the right one. I knew that once I got out and about and started actively looking, the right pup would come along. I went to the shelter in Petsmart on the advice of a friend. I saw lots of dogs, but on the advice of a worker, gave extra consideration to a sweetheart they called Missy. I knew this dog was The One because she was so responsive, affectionate, sweet, and clearly sharp. Any fissure of doubt I had about adopting this dog evaporated when the staff asked us to pose for the 37,000th adoption picture, and Emmitt gave me a huge kiss as the shutter clicked.

Emmie has worked hard to win over my husband, and I’m touched to say the affection is mutual. Today one of his sisters said on Facebook that he would make a great father, and I have seen proof with my own eyes. I’m so blessed by my family! Emmie is a wonderful addition to our family. I love to hear her snores when she sleeps and happy yips every time Jeff comes home. I love to hear Jeff sing to Emmie. I’m so blessed, and I couldn’t be happier.

*These Seriously Important thoughts include such vital topics as why the quadruple roll of Charmin is so much nicer than the triple roll of Cotonelle, why TCU fans seem to be total douche weasels about football yet offer nary a mention of any other Big 12 sport, wondering what dogs and babies dream about, and pondering why my sleeping habits are pretty crappy. Also, Covet.

WHAT UP 2015!?!?

I’m doing it: 2014 retrospective! Sorry so sappy, but my blog is nothing but trying to reinforce lessons I’ve learned, process life, and sort my thoughts. Meanwhile, a bit of a show I’m re- re- re- re- re-watching on Netflix struck me as a great theme for the thoughts of last year and aspirations for next! From an episode of Gilmore Girls:

Lorelai: Wait, wait. Look around for a second. Notice?
Rory: Notice what?
Lorelai: It’s not so scary anymore.
Rory: No, it’s not.

Pretty much everything I’ve ever been anxious about worth being anxious about includes that moment of realization that “this isn’t so scary anymore.”

In chronological order of things to be scared of this year:

  • I left a great job for another great job. A few months later, I was laid off.
  • I got engaged!
  • I planned a wedding! Although it wasn’t perfect, it was a blast. I have family and friends who made everything happen, and I love those folks overwhelmingly.
  • I got married!
  • I have an exciting career opportunity!

I wrote a little bit about my wedding, but that was a combination of trying to edit my disappointment while emphasizing the most positive parts. Meanwhile, our experiences and memories were a little different.

I met some fantastic people this year. People who I’ve known and loved had gone above and beyond for me. My husband is a rock star, in more ways than one. 2014 was good for us, but I am convinced 2015 will be much better!

Unconventional newlyweds

A few weeks before my wedding, my mom asked me if Bible verses I memorized when I was young came back to me when I needed them. My answer is resoundingly, yes. Specifically, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Bible verses come to my mind all the time, and more when I need them. As my wedding day neared, that verse has stuck with me, and it has also come to mind during many times of major life changes.

I don’t know which came first — my need to treasure and ponder, or the Biblical justification that such a need exists. Either way, I tend to treasure and ponder. I haven’t been able to articulate how that tendency parlays into another ability I have, and I wish I could. I’ve been interviewing for new professional opportunities, and a side effect of all this professional soul searching is a renewed discovery in my innate skill to appreciate the big picture without losing my commitment to the smallest detail. Somehow, this ability and personal penchant are two sides of the same strength in my mind.

I got married almost two weeks ago. Wedding planning was another great way to blend my professional penchant for the process of executing a big picture. I love the big picture, but I love making it all happen. As time ticked down, I surrendered my responsibility to execute every little detail, and I’m so happy with the results. I did commit to the details that were crucial to me, and I had those experiences. Those are the important moments that I treasure and will forever ponder.

One moment I really wanted was with my dad and my sister. When Jeff and I got engaged I remember specific snapshots of my heart. I have those precious memories mentally frozen that made the event special. The first snapshot of my heart on my wedding day is first when my dad saw me in my dress. He’s a charmer! But just before my sister queued up to walk down the aisle, she tossed a look to me and dad over her shoulder and gave us a wink and a smile. That’s EXACTLY why I wanted my sister to be with me and Dad until we took our turn down the aisle.

I should probably verbalize to my sister how important she is to me, huh? I’ve heard of “Daddy’s girl” (yes, I am), and “Mama’s girl” (and I’m that, too), but I’m also a “sister’s girl.” My sister’s a bad ass.

For the record, I have sisters by another mother. They are bad ass, too. Getting married rocked my world way beyond the husband part. I love my husband, but I’m joyously overwhelmed by the other sister elements.

I have small, tiny regrets about our wedding day that I forgot or discarded for the sake of prioritization on the day. We forgot things that we never even missed, but the instances when a well paid vendor failed to deliver have plagued me. Those miscommunications have eaten away at me more than I anticipated. Some other troubles that I anticipated came to pass, and I wasn’t able to adequately articulate a solution during the day, and unfortunately that stressed other people who I didn’t want to stress.

Those minor regrets, which I take full responsibility for, have plagued me in the last few days. They began to outweigh the many precious moments from my wedding that I treasure and ponder. I’ve had dreams since the wedding in which I both did and didn’t confront the vendors. I’ve had dreams since the wedding in which guests confront me about these minor regrets. Because my husband left town for work two days after our wedding, I’ve had “Phantom Jeff” dreams that he was home and moving around or talking to me. Although my dreams are crazy with a side of nuts, I miss my mister more than I thought possible.

Acknowledging all that, my husband is home and my wedding was FABULOUS! Jeff woke up a few minutes ago and asked me how I was awake. I said goodnight, and that I’m awake because I’m writing. Once more for the record, my sister and brother-in-law are the best there are.

Socknado!

 

Laundry Armageddon 2014

Laundrageddon-turned-Socknado

Laundrageddon turned into Socknado! I unearthed about two dozen pairs of socks for donation or wear. The Socknado purge also led to another purge of nearby drawers. Goodbye ratty socks and things, hello neatly folded socks and clothes!

I took out a huge bag of trash last night, and 90 percent of the bag was full of the aforementioned purged ratty things. I have another metric ton of usable clothing to donate to Genesis Women’s Shelter.

Before I got ready for work this morning, I added even more clothes — professional-looking stuff that I’ll never wear again — to the donate bag. One question that came to mind was: Why did I move this stuff at all, knowing I didn’t want or need it?!

This evening while unpacking another box, I decided to keep something that I haven’t used in several years. It’s nice, I like it, and imagined myself wondering in the future where this particular item was. But I realize that this internal conversation is how I ended up keeping so much more stuff than I should have.

I hope Future Ashley is better at purging stuff. I also hope Future Jeff is as patient with said purging!

 

Cleanse and purge for a new year

Friday, work gave me a birthday cake so good I teared up. Next time you need a cake, allow me to suggest the red velvet from Nothing Bundt Cake, mine was the Center of Attention edition. Being the center of attention was a little nerve-wracking, but totally worth it for that cake!!

Such a decadent indulgence means I need to work it off, right?! I gave myself a day off from unpacking and organizing.

For my birthday, I gifted myself with a pedicure, lunch, solitude, and a few (ok, 12.5) units of botox. After a late lunch with family today, we came home to chip away at the unpacking and organization stuff. I unpacked another box, but more importantly, I launched Landrageddon.

Laundry Armageddon 2014

Oh, the socks!

Unintended consequences of unpacking, organizing, and Landrageddon: The socks! Oh, man, the socks! I knew I had some unmatched socks floating around, but after gutting my sock drawer and emptying one of two laundry baskets, these are the unmatched socks I’m facing!

And still, I have another laundry basket to wash…

This week in my Year of Life Changes

This week, I left a great job with people I really loved. I really meant to be cool, but I got emotional saying goodbye. People I really respect and admire made effort to compliment me or wish me well, and that overwhelmed me a little bit.

Then I started a new job! I’m so jazzed about this job, I literally can’t sleep for the buzz in my brain about it. I’d been having anxiety dreams about showing up to the new gig and them not knowing who I am. Luckily, I showed up and they said, “Hi, Ashley! We’re so happy you’re here!” I work with several very nice people, and I’m thrilled to be there. I am excited — out of my head excited — for this opportunity.

Packing for a move

Packing for a move

To round out my Year of Life Changes, I started packing today for my move in early March. My boyfriend took me to Sam’s Club so he could get gas and I could order new tires for my  car (even more changes!). He didn’t get gas, and we ended up not ordering tires from the store, but he ordered the  tires on his iPhone app. Not to waste a trip, I managed to find several things I couldn’t live without. I found moving boxes to get me started. Then I found a bunch of other stuff that I couldn’t live without. And a sweater.

Parenthetically, Sam’s Club offers a Soda Stream starter kit for $60 with two 2-liter containers. The same kit goes for $113 at Macy’s, which was on sale last weekend for $99. Should future Ashley still be in the market for a Soda Stream, go to Sam’s!

Packing. Ugh, I don’t love it. I’ve been covered in dust for hours, but I have cleared a good chunk of my bookshelves. I have a ton of breakables that I question moving or giving away. I have a ton of clothes and DVDs that need the same examination.

My mom offered to help pack, which would be awesome, but she isn’t supposed to lift more than five pounds or bend over. I worry about her pushing her boundaries if she’s packing my stuff all alone. Although, I have a lot of breakables, and if I had constructed boxes and packing material, perhaps she could wrap up the breakables. I could keep at the boxes and clothes, and maybe Mom could do the delicates!

Just today’s thoughts.

photo credit: Betsssssy via photopin cc