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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Critters for Coryn

I'm devoting this blog post to promoting my crochet business, found here on Facebook and here on Etsy. I like to brag that if you can imagine it, I can figure out a way to make it. Which is good, because I've had some strange requests. For a long time I was making animals. I started off with a mouse pattern I found online. Then I made some turtles and snakes and fish. . .and then people wanted dinosaurs. . .I have albums devoted too all my different critters on my Critters for Coryn Facebook page, but really, not mater what you want, hat or toy, I can probably come up with it. 

Recently I've been focusing on head bands because they don't take a lot of material to make and I'm separated from my yarn stash while our move progresses.

In the past people have requested hats to look like favorite cartoon characters. This one is Pikachu. 

Sometimes I just make a hat to please my own tastes. This is a beret that falls under that category.

Dinosaur hats are cool.

Other times I just make a hat because I happen to want to use up a specific color of yarn (black and white makes a panda). 

A lot of my patterns I make up as I go, like this money bag I'm using to hold spare change currently. 

Sometimes my ideas don't really work out. This is "supposed" to be a sheep. 

In Iwakuni I became the crochet lady and random people would message me asking for projects. I'm figuring it will be harder to drum up word of mouth business here, so I'm hoping to expand on my Etsy business. .  .so far I have only sold one special order on Etsy. There's a lot of competition out there for random crochet stuff. It's not really that hard. I think my main advantage is my flexibility. Like I said, I can make just about anything. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Entertaining in an Empty House

Okay, so first off, I'm not hosting dinner parties or anything, but I am, to the best of my ability, keeping myself and my girls busy in what is basically an empty house. Of course we have a card table, a couple of folding chairs, mattresses to sleep on, and a baby swing. . . but if we didn't bring it in our suitcases or purchase it since we got here, we won't have it until our household shipment arrives in about two weeks. The joys of an international move.

So I'm cooking out of two sauce pans and a skillet we picked up at a thrift store. . .where we also got a very sweet children's bench (picture included) for $15. That's been interesting. Oh and Coryn only has a handful of picture books, two stuffed animals, one Melissa and Doug Dress Up Doll, and four Barbies. . .which would probably be enough if she also had some friends, but all her friends were left behind, a point she has brought up a few times. I'm sure we'll make new friends soon enough, but it isn't like Iwakuni where we could hang out at a play park next to our building and eventually someone would show up. I haven't even seen a play park, I guess because people here have yards or something.

Matt put an offer in on this house with a condition that we be allowed to move in before closing and the process was relatively quick after that. I only saw pictures online, so I had to take his word on how nice this place was. . .and it is crazy huge, as far as I'm concerned way more than a starter home. The price was actually lower than three bedroom homes we'd looked at, but still, five bedrooms and three baths is a lot. Matt thinks its because it was an older home with a few quirks, but the previous owners had done a recent kitchen and bathroom remodel and while it needs little fixes and changes here and there, it's nothing but weekend projects  . . . unless Matt has his way. He wants to expand the master bath which is small for a master bath. He's probably right in that it would increase our property value and make the place easier to resale when the military inevitably moves us again, but it's not a project I'm looking forward to undertaking, and I'm going to subtly encourage him to put it on the back burner.

So, since there isn't a ton to do in our empty house, I'm relying a little bit on Nick Jr's website to entertain Coryn and the ceiling fans to entertain Claire. Claire loves ceiling fans, and pretty much every room here has one. I just pick a room, lay her in the middle of it, and turn the fan on and she'll lie there, gaping and cooing at the spinning blades. I do have an anxious Mommy image in the back of my head of a fan falling on her, but I know that's just stupid. .. it is stupid, right? As for me, I'm doing little projects around the house, sweeping the floors every day (no vacuum but the living room is hardwood and the kitchen tile), wasting time on the interwebs watching TV shows (caught up on Mythbusters this morning. . .I really want to try living on a deserted isle with only duct tape now), and cooking things that I can with my limited materials.

Last night I made a chicken cacciatore which turned out well but I hadn't thought of how difficult it would be to eat off of disposable plates and with plastic flatware. We managed, but tonight I'm doing tortilla wraps. Less messy. I also had forgotten that I didn't have a can opener. Matt managed to open a can of chicken broth and one of diced tomatoes using a pair of pliers. Yay, Matt! Oh, and I'm finally composting! One of the first things I did was get a plastic garbage can, poke some holes in it for ventilation, and voila! Compost bin! That's been fun (dang, I just called composting fun. . . I'm so weird).

I also got creative with french toast for lunch today. I didn't have anything to measure with so I eyeballed milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon (plus an egg, measuring wasn't an issue with that) for the coating. . . but then I couldn't get the syrup I'd bought just for this meal open (considered asking the repair man who was doing our termite inspection outside at the time to open it for me, but that felt awkward), so I used honey and a dollop (I don't get to use that word very often, dollop, dollop, dollop) of honey flavored Greek yogurt because I'm addicted to Greek yogurt. I generally chop up an apple or some other fruit and use it to eat it with instead of a spoon and have like three servings a day if I can find it on sale. Coryn declined the Greek yogurt when offered. Yum, yum, creamy. Probably not that bad for me, either considering it wasn't a lot of sugar and I used yogurt instead of butter. . . at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Anyway, Florida is nice, but if it is this hot in April, I'm kind of worried about the summer months. We actually went to the beach last weekend. I didn't have any beach clothes (no shorts or swimming suit) so I put on a knee length sundress and only waded a bit. Coryn, however, had insisted on me packing her swimsuit when we were leaving Japan and I indulged her (at the time our destination was Oregon in March, not exactly swimsuit territory). . .and that paid off. She went crazy for the water. I went crazy for the dolphins I caught sight of when we were driving over a bridge on our way to the beach (real dolphins!). I thought one was a shark at first because all I saw was the dorsal but I didn't say anything because I thought Matt wouldn't believe me and I didn't want to be the girl who called shark, but then a few seconds later, the "shark" jumped and I was like, "Oooh! Dolphin! Dolphin!"

Matt said, "It's probably a manatee," but I know dolphins. That was a dolphin, in the wild! A real dolphin! Did I mention a dolphin?

One more jumped a moment later and then we were off the bridge. I didn't see any at the beach, however, which is too bad because Coryn never got a look at them. I'm sure we'll get a chance to again if they are really here that close to shore and everything, but I really wanted to watch them for longer (the bridge wasn't exactly friendly towards pulling over and watching or else I would've suggested stopping there for a few minutes).

At the beach, Coryn played like crazy. Claire stayed in her car seat covered up for most of it, and Matt went for a run. It was a little windy and unlike in Oregon where beaches consist primarily of rocks, Pensacola beaches have really fine sand that sand blasts you when the wind picks up. I know they are proud of their white sand beaches, but come on! Okay. I'll give them that they have a better climate for their beaches and the water is more wading friendly but I will defend the Oregon beaches for beach walks. Much more scenic and interesting. That said, it's going to be fun being able to go swimming pretty much whenever we want to this summer.

Coryn and myself in my Old Navy dress I bought just for the occasion (Okay, I bought it because I had a coupon. . .but it worked out).

Claire chills out under cover. 

Coryn goes all in. 
I told you my husband was in good shape. . .;)

So that's all I can think of to say so far. I could mention the trip from Oregon to Florida, but it was pretty uneventful. Coryn actually slept most of the first flight and Claire whined a bit but got over it. There was one incident in Atlanta (where we had a connecting flight) where I got a bit frazzled trying to figure out what to do with Claire while I went to the bathroom where Coryn looked at me and said, "Are you sad, Mommy?" (I cry easily and tear up at the slightest provocation). I said, "No, kitten, just aggravated." She nodded and said, "You're just a little upset." She can be so empathetic for a four-year-old. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Let's All Exercise!

For a long time now I've been meaning to compose a blog about exercising. I had several different ideas for how to approach this blog: exercising during pregnancy; how to set up a exercise "group" with other moms; my favorite sources for free workout videos online. . .and just a general rant about how much I hate exercise.

But after a few attempts at writing on any or all of the above topics I realized the only one I had any particular expertise at was the rant, and really, who needs to read another one of those?

But while composing the rant, I realize, I exercise anyway, so my blog is about how to exercise when you really really don't want to.

A major theme in exercise circles these days seems to be that you are doing it for yourself. Get the body you want. Keep yourself healthy. You'll feel better. This doesn't work for me. The body I want is is the body I have, which is usually content in a sedentary position with a cup of tea and something to read, write, or crochet. Healthy is also not a huge motivator. I have good genes. They aren't genes that will keep me bikini ready without effort (unless pregnancy stretch marks are the new sexy, I'm never wearing a bikini, ever, anyway), but it would take a lot of effort to get me to the point of obesity and my family history is mostly clear of heart disease and diabetes. I'm small boned. When I do gain weight, I actually gain a cup size, and that's hard to give up even if it means my stomach is tighter. You can get "control top" just about anything now, after all. This isn't for me.

But my husband . . . that's another story. Now, before you go off on my husband for being a shallow pig who only cares about outward appearances, in all fairness, my husband is ridiculously fit. He's 6'5'' and when he joined the Marine Corp he was a skinny gamer geek who probably weighed about 160lbs, if that. He quickly gained a determination never to be that guy again. He eats ridiculously healthy (pretty much lives on brown rice and chicken. . .which makes it a little easier for me to eat healthy too, which is a big struggle for someone who wants to live on pasta and cheese). Works out obsessively, and he's really super hot. . .well, super hot if you go for the tall, dark, and grim type, which I do. He holds himself to a high standard and holds me to a slightly lower standard. His favorite guilt trip is that I'm going to die from not exercising and eating too much sugar and pizza and miss our daughters' high school graduations.

Matt isn't one of those husbands who lies if asked if "do you think I need to lose some weight." He is one of those husbands who will give you a list of all the things you can do (apparently the ideal workout for me is 30 minutes of cardio and 30 of weight training. . . and my problem is I'm not eating enough and if I ate healthy food then exercising making me hungry wouldn't be a problem. . .) and who generally gives constructive rather than hurtful criticism (though I would argue the thing about dying at 45 really isn't that constructive). So I'm unashamedly doing this to impress my husband and if I happen to get some "quality time" out of this, that's the motivation I need.

Anyway, so don't believe the lie that you need to use you as motivation. You may very well want to eat pizza and watch Psych re-runs. So, if you don't have a motivational husband and like me really don't care how you look in a bikini or need to work out in order to stave off debilitating diseases, you might need to look to something else. Shame works. Tell someone you run into regularly that you are going to start working out. Not necessarily someone who will try to be your personal motivator (those people are annoying to do it yourselfers like myself), but someone who you can at least imagine asking you how the workouts have been going. That way when you see them at the store you can have a choice between admitting that you aren't following through or just diving behind a display of watermelons and hoping they don't notice you. Try to make it someone you actually like talking to so this isn't just another excuse to avoid someone who already annoys you. Post it on facebook if you want a lot of people to know about it.

Another motivator is to buy something. I'm not talking $1000 equipment. I am a cheapskate and so when I spend $30 on a pair of running shoes or yoga pants or an exercise DVD, heck yeah, I better be planning to use it. I'm not spending money on something that I won't use!

A third motivator is an exercise group. An exercise group can keep you accountable for several reasons:
1. There is always one member of the group who is way too motivated and will call you out. This person should not be encouraged by any means (if given too much power these people will eventually be like, "What? Your kid has pneumonia? What kind of an excuse is that? You hop out here on that broken leg, drop down, and give me 20!" It's your own fault for letting them think that you want them to push you.) but if they aren't directly discouraged, you can usually harness their powers for good.
2. It gives you a time set aside for just that. When left to my own devices, I'll keep pushing the workout further and further back in my day until it is five minutes until bed time and I'm like, "AHH! I meant to exercise today!" I mean, some people have the will power to say, "I have to do this at 8am every morning," but honestly, if no one else is depending on me to show up and do jumping jacks with me, I just won't.
3. Depending on your group make up and the location you've chosen, this can take away the "but who will watch my kids" excuse. When I was involved with an exercise group, we just brought our kids (ranging from 1-5) to a fenced in play park and let them go at it. Occasionally one or two people would have to stop to resolve a conflict or comfort someone who tripped, but the rest of us just learned to keep going and let that person catch up. Of course, we were on a military base in Japan. I'm not sure I'd do this at a public play park, fenced in or not, because you can't really keep your eyes on your kids while doing lunges and running laps around the play equipment. However, if you have a living room big enough to fit two or three people doing stand in one place style aerobics or a back yard or any other secure location where you don't feel you need to have eyes on your kids at all times, consider starting up your own group to take advantage. Another option would be to rotate child watching responsibility so that one mom watches while the others work out and everyone takes a turn.

Another tip is not to be ashamed to work out in public. If you are standing there watching your kid clamber up and down the slide, might as well do some squats. . . or jumping jacks if you are lucky enough to have escaped stress incontinence (I'm hoping that eventually goes away).

There are also a ton of good options for free workouts online. Here are some of my favorite:

Advantages: A fun, professionally made workout video (professionally made means you can hear everything the instructor is saying which can be a problem with amateur videos)
Disadvantages: Every five minutes there is a 30 second ad spot.
Hulu has several different workouts available, ranging from 5 minute quick instructions to 50 minute full on work outs. This one is just my personal favorite because it is kind of fun and different.

There are a lot of different pilates videos. This is my favorite instructor so far. She has her own blog here. She sales these "Muffin Tops Are For Muffins Only" shirts that are really fun and I wish I could wear one without having to pretend I'm wearing it ironically.
Advantages: They are short workouts; you can chose the body part you want to work on and just focus on that; no ads and they aren't "boring."
Disadvantages: Pilates is a form of exercise you can really hurt yourself with if you progress too quickly or use improper form.

Just Google It!
If you want something new just google work out at home. Look around pinterest where people are always pinning workout plans and links to fitness blogs. Just make sure you don't use your entire workout time web surfing. Here is my personal exercise pinboard. You can make your own if you are into pinterest or just use your bookmarks feature on your web-browser (Google Chrome's seems to be the easiest to use, just giving it a plug there) to save workouts so when you have time you can just pull them up on your laptop and go for it.

I hope some of these links are handy for you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Follow Me on Pinterest

So everyone seems to be addicted to pinterest these days unless they are either actively avoiding it because they know they will become addicted to it once they dip their toes in the virtual ocean of creative sharing. . .or they are still waiting to be approved/invited. I'm not going to extol the virtues for very long . . . or the dangers for that matter (how many hours have slipped by while pinning? I don't know), but I thought I'd just mention how I personally choose to use this virtual bulletin board.

There are two basic ways to use pinterest. The more time consuming one is to troll it for ideas. There are tons of good ideas on pinterest. I've found so many different crochet patterns, recipes, and craft ideas. Sometimes things are just there because they are beautiful or funny. I try to avoid aimless searching on pinterest simply because like many other things on the internet (watching cat videos on youtube, looking at funny cat pictures on icanhazcheezburger, sharing funny cat stories, or watching Debbie the Eharmony Cat-lady again. . .) you can start it just intending to kill a few minutes while you wait for your tea to boil and several hours later you are realizing you should've gone to bed hours ago or wondering where your afternoon went. . . if you have a particular goal in mind (an exciting recipe to try, a crochet pattern you want, etc), though, there are a lot of ideas on pinterest just waiting to be snatched up.

The second way is to use it like a book mark organizer. As someone who tends to abuse the bookmarks bar on her google chrome, it is a relief to have pinterest to organize the links to recipes that I intend to cook someday or crafts I really want to do but haven't had the time for yet. If my google search for "what's for dinner" yields multiple options, I can save some effortlessly on my "cooking" pin board. If I see a good idea that I don't want to do now but don't want to risk forgetting, I "put a pin in it" and there it stays.

I'm also an internet show off. I like to believe that I am influencing people. I like to believe people care about my ideas. I like to believe that I'm helping people out by sharing useful pins that I find. Sure, it is cool to repin someone else's pin, but nothing, and I mean nothing, beats discovering something on the internet, pinning it, and getting dozens of "repin" notices telling you that because of you dozens of strangers out there on the interwebs now know how to prepare their own baby food, crochet their own market bags, and sing the Eharmony Cat Lady song (Yeah, the Eharmony Cat Lady is big around here right now. . . ). Maybe it is all an illusion of importance, but I really want to believe that I have somehow caused people to benefit from my obsessive sharing. Pathological? Maybe. But we crazy cat ladies have to get our kicks somehow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

More about Claire

So where to start about baby Claire. . .

Claire is the most expressive baby I've ever met, mostly for better but sometimes (like late at night when inconsolable and tired) for worse. Her coos are already conversational and if you get down to eye level with her, her eyes widen, her whole body shakes, and her mouth works every which way as she tries with all her might to communicate.

I'm not exactly sure when she first smiled. Within the first week I thought I caught a glimpse of a grin but dismissed it as too early . . .but it kept happening, so after awhile I had to admit that she was smiling. Once I walked in on her laughing, not audibly but definitely visibly, and as mentioned if she is unhappy (usually because she is exhausted and not a good self-soother) she will wail and weep like a melodramatic banshee.

Oh and her eyes, born wide open and baby blue; from the beginning she was looking at everything, especially people. Her hair has been the envy of everyone she's ever met, dark, abundant, and feather soft. She has a Tintin style cowlick and some fuzz on her lower back for good measure. Her nose is slightly more turned up than Coryn's and her face a little rounder, but other than that her baby pictures are about identical to her older sister's. Her temperament, not so much. Coryn was a calmer, sleepier, and generally less fussy baby.

I wouldn't got as far as calling Claire "colicky," but if she gets herself upset she screams until she is sweaty and hoarse.

Claire took full advantage of having her daddy around from the start, a privilege Coryn missed out on due to Matt being deployed until she was about the age Claire is now (2 months and some weeks). It took a couple of days (my squeamish husband didn't want to hold her, even swaddled, until she'd been completely bathed), but Claire wrapped him around her tiny fingers and turned my big, tough Marine into a 6'5'' baby whisperer. She would calm down for him during the middle of her fussiest fits. He is now in Florida while we are in Oregon (hopefully just for a few more weeks, then we'll join him) and I really miss him during Claire's meltdowns.

I'm sure Claire will provide me with plenty more stories. I could brag forever about random strangers approaching me to tell me how beautiful my baby is or how amazing her hair is. . .It's pretty dang amazing. Like Shawn Spencer amazing. (I try to provide links when I make a reference like that. . .click on them if you are confused.) For now, though, I will leave you with a couple of cute baby photos.