Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Grand Plan

I had it all planned out ahead of time. The weekend before Thanksgiving, my husband and son were to get all of the Christmas decorations down from the attic.  For once, my house was going to be that house where it was completely decorated and ready for the holidays by the time people were arguing over who gets to eat the turkey drumstick on Thanksgiving day.

Christmas, holidays, decorations, handcrafted, plan, new year, resolutions

In my mind I could see the beautiful Christmas tree in my front window, bright lights hung on the eaves of the house, and our Santa Claus yard sculpture lit up with a spotlight in the yard.  This year I even bought extra twinkle lights to string along the top of our fence.

Oh yes, my intentions were good and my hopes ran high.  Two weeks before Thanksgiving I sat my family down and explained the game plan. I wanted all  of the Christmas decorations brought down from the attic and for "Project Stun Santa" to commence.

"This year, we are going to be the house that's celebrating Thanksmas.  We aren't going to be the house where the boxes of Christmas decorations sit untouched in the living room until New Year's Day, when they are hauled back up into the attic.

No one will be complaining about stubbed toes from boxes sitting around helter-skelter or stockings not hung by the chimney with care.  For once, Santa isn't going to slide down the chimney, think we are moving and leave us packing paper and bubble wrap in our stockings.

No sir!  This year, Santa is going to be dazzled by our Christmas spirit and the amazing handcrafted decorations we replicate from "pins" we saw on Pinterest."

Oh what a grand plan!  And then........ life happened.  My husband got hurt and required surgery.  One kid came down with the flu, then another kid dropped to a tummy bug.  Then I came down with the flu.

decorations, crafts, family, kids

The grand plan fell by the wayside and became the yearly pile of unopened plastic tubs full of Christmas decorations.  I think Santa finally figured out we aren't moving because this year he didn't leave packing paper and bubble wrap in our stockings........... he left Clorox sanitizing wipes and disinfecting spray.

Now, as I sit here with the new year staring me in the face, and new year's resolution ideas whirling around in my head, I have decided to make a New Year's Grand Plan.  I think I'll start with putting all of the Christmas decorations back in the attic......... it shouldn't take long since the only thing decorated is the tree.

Written by Christie Bielss

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Blast from the Past

I grew up in a time of bell-bottom pants, the peasant blouse, and the super-short hot pants. Wedge heels and gaucho pants were all the rage for the ladies. Men tottered around in platform shoes while wearing double knit polyester leisure suits. Yes, I grew up in the groovy 70s.

Photo courtesy of memecrunch.com

If a person wanted to look really hip and cool, he/she would carry a boombox on his/her shoulder while he/she strutted down the street to the beat of music from artists like The Village People, The Bee Gees, or Donna Summer.

Little did I know that shopping for a cell phone would take me back to those formative years.  Over the course of the past six months or so, the battery life on my cell phone has continued a downward spiral headed toward self-destruction.

In addition, my phone had been cutting out in the middle of conversations or other tasks that I was trying to perform (like playing on social media).  I didn't have enough storage space left to update to the newest operating system, which also started to cause major issues running apps on the phone.

Cutting a redhead off mid-sentence or crashing and losing everything in the middle of writing a blog post is dangerous to both man and machine.  The likelihood of this machine being smashed to bits with a hammer or run over by my car was becoming a very real possibility.

Even though the problems with my cell phone were driving me to the brink of insanity, I dreaded the idea of changing phones.  Even worse than the change of phones is the idea of having to go shopping for new technology.  Shopping for a cell phone ranks just below scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush on my list of enjoyable activities.  

But, the situation with my phone had become dire, so with an open mind and a pocketful of chocolate, I hit the stores.  I did decide to take my daughter with me so she could explain the latest technology at my level..... which is somewhere between the IBM Selectric typewriter and pencil/paper.

I told the salesman I would like a phone I could read without having to wear glasses.  Before I had time to blink, the salesman held up a Samsung Galaxy Note.  I smiled at him and told him it was very easy to read and it looked pretty, but I was really looking for a cell phone, not a tablet computer.

He looked at me as though I were daft and explained it is a cell phone "and so much more".  I pondered, apparently out loud, whether it would even fit in my handbag or if I'd have to switch to using a piece of rolling luggage just to carry it around.  The salesman rolled his eyes at this crazy middle-aged, unhip woman who was obviously over exaggerating.

Just as the salesman put the metal slab of a phone up to his ear, my daughter started to get a little wiggle as the store's intercom music started playing "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer .  With that 70's inspired ghetto blaster of a phone pressed to the salesman's ear, the only thing missing in this scene was John Travolta dressed in a white double-knit polyester leisure suit striking a pose.  Whoop-whoop!

I tried but fell far short of containing my snort of laughter.  Smiling, he said "I'm guessing you prefer something a little smaller."

"Why yes, I do believe something smaller would be nice.", I said. "Something I don't have to wear hip-huggers and a halter top with would be marvelous.  I don't really want to be the next viral social media meme captioned 'Granny's got groove'....."

Written by Christie Bielss

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Redheaded Perspective to the 30 Days of Thanksgiving

I am betting most of you have had at least one person in your social media group participate in the 30 days of Thanksgiving.  Last year I participated in the challenge but, by about day 15, I started having a hard time remembering to post, which was likely aided by having to think outside the box to find things to be thankful for when the easy stuff ran out.  That's not to say I'm not thankful for everything and everyone around me, it just became difficult to find things to post that didn't make me sound like I was giving it a half-hearted effort.

Thanksgiving, holidays, thankfulness, joy, celebrate

This year, instead of posting once a day for 30 days on my Facebook account, I have decided to post all of the small things for which I am thankful for and I am doing it all in one post.  I've always been told that you can't appreciate the big things in life if you don't stop to be thankful for all of the little things first. So this year, it's all about the little things.

1)  I am thankful for my children no longer feeling the need to issue a "brace yourself" warning to each other when we approach the car launch ramp, I mean exit, to our subdivision during rush hour.  My children have learned to make sure they have secured their belongings, tightened their seatbelts, and have a firm grip on one of the vehicle's grab bars.

2)  I am thankful our dog now recognizes the need to brace herself upon seeing us make our final approach to the car launch ramp.  After nearly 2 years of unsuccessfully using her claws to try to stay upright while looking out the car window as our vehicle moves quickly into an open space in the rush hour traffic, she now jumps down and lays on the floorboard of the car.  My children have decided she would rather not see what's happening and is bracing for impact.

3)  I am thankful for well-timed green lights.  There is nothing more beautiful than driving down a stretch of highway and have the signal lights all change to green as you approach.

4)  Milk Chocolate.  No further explanation necessary.

5)  Puffs Plus.  What is more gratifying than to be able to catch your child's sneeze and not have the tissue disintegrate in your hand upon impact.

6)  The scroll wheel on the mouse.  It is quite satisfying to be able to scroll up or down a computer screen faster than the speed of light.  I do think it would be neat if computer gurus could install a sonic boom noise which would automatically sound when you surpass a certain scrolling speed.

7)  Refrigerator magnets.  Those magnets hold special pieces of artwork, doctor's appointment reminders, and important school information, and they always take a backseat to everyone being thankful for toilet paper.

8)  Dark chocolate.  It's the healthy chocolate and therefore equates to eating a vegetable.

9)  Television and its accompanying electronic components.  "Barney's Super-Singing Circus" VHS tape played every 2-4 hours in my house for my son's first 4 years of life as he underwent nebulizer treatments for asthma.  That tape, while it caused the loss of a great many of my brain cells, was the only thing my son would sit still to watch while allowing a mask to be placed over his nose and mouth to receive the medication.  "Boom, boom, ain't it great to be crazy?!......"

10)  Window blinds and coverings.  I'm sure my neighbors appreciate our judicious use of our blinds and I know I appreciate theirs.

11)  Sunglasses.  While I'm out on sunny or bright days I get to feel like Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly.

12)  Semi-sweet chocolate.  3 words:  Toll House Cookies......

13)  Shopping carts.  Because having to lug a pack mule to the grocery store to carry my items would be even more difficult to load into my SUV than remembering to bring my reusable tote bags.

14)  String.  It can hold a Christmas tree onto the roof of a car, or prevent a car's bumper from dragging the ground.  It can also be in the form of yarn which can be knitted into a cap, socks, or that ugly Christmas sweater Aunt Marge knits for you every.single.year..

15)  Dish scrubbers.  Whether it be a brush, scrubbing sponge, or SOS pad, they just make life easier and, because they are disposable, usually get forgotten on these kinds of lists.

16)  Special dark chocolate.  In case you did not know, it goes well with wine.  You're welcome.

17)  The words "please" and "thank you", as well as "yes/no ma'am" and "yes/no sir".  Whether from an adult or a child, nothing is quite as pleasant as giving and receiving respect through our choice of words in both big and small acts of kindness.

18)  Ranch dressing.  Without this one small food product added to my children's vegetables when they were younger, they would have been carnivores.

19)  A lawn blower/vac.  This one crucial piece of lawn equipment has saved me from sweeping up the sidewalk for months on end, not to mention the reduction in the need to rake leaves in the fall since it vacuums them up directly into a bag.

20)  White chocolate.  It decorates strawberries beautifully when interwoven with milk chocolate.

21)  Potty-trained children and pets.  After having to change a diaper or clean up a pet accident on a rug, no further explanation is necessary.

22)  Staples, paper clips, and binder clips.  Without these essentials, we would all look like hoarders.

23)  Label makers.  Now when I cram things in storage containers, I actually know what is in there.  It has been a budget saver as well since I don't buy 15 of the exact same thing only to lose it somewhere in my house.

24)  Bittersweet chocolate.  Think chocolate raspberry cake with a dark truffle icing.  Every chocolate has a place among mankind.

25)  Toenail clippers with the under-the-nail gunk scraper. Really, whoever came up with the idea of this essential grooming tool was a genius.

26)  Vehicle turn signals...... especially when drivers actually use them.

27)  Erasers and correction tape.  I wish life mistakes could be removed as easily.

28)  Cocoa.  A cold winter's night, a fire in the fireplace, and a cup of hot cocoa.  Cocoa, another life necessity.

29)  Pooper scoopers.  The several feet of clean air space the long-handled scooper affords makes life much sweeter......... smelling.

30)  All of my family, friends, and readers who encourage and support me....... probably against their better judgement. 

Enjoy the crazy relatives and the guess-what-food-that-is-casserole at your family get-togethers.  Wishing you all a safe, joyous, and very happy Thanksgiving!

Written by Christie Bielss

Friday, November 21, 2014

When The Sucker Sucks

A few weeks ago while my kids were playing a video game together, I was doing a last minute vacuum of my kitchen floor in preparation to mop.  As I moved toward my kids and out of the kitchen, I suddenly smelled something burning.  My alertness peaked and I immediately started sniffing around like a bloodhound trying to catch on to a scent.

vacuum cleaner, Shark, Eureka
Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away

Within seconds I realized it was something electrical which was about to catch fire.  I hollered for the kids to unplug their new game from the television, thinking it must be defective.  They moved quickly to comply in hopes of saving their new toy.

Even with the video turned off and unplugged, the burning smell not only lingered, but grew stronger.  It was at that moment when I looked down and realized it wasn't their game, it was my vacuum cleaner.

I moved quickly to unplug this firetrap of a device as the thought of researching and having to pick out the right vacuum cleaner made me break out in a cold sweat.  After all, we stay-at-home moms are judged on the depth of carpet pile pulled up and the straightness of our vacuum cleaner lines in our carpet.

Off to the land of Google search I went.  Several hours later with descriptions of vacuum cleaner attachments and allergen output bouncing around in my head like a ping-pong ball, I decided on a vacuum.

Wouldn't you know that it was sold out of every single store in a 20 mile radius.  I had to order it online and wait 5 days for it to be shipped to my house.  I went through Walmart.com and was thrilled with how quickly they shipped the order out.  I even ended up getting it a day earlier than the scheduled delivery date.

I pulled what felt like 20 pieces of vacuum cleaner parts out of the box and slowly assembled the Eureka SuctionSeal Bagless Upright.  With the word "SuctionSeal" in the name, I was loaded with great expectations of this vacuum being able to suck up a basketball from 100 yards away.

Eager to see how this new vacuum would perform, I immediately plugged it in and began to vacuum.  After finishing the family room, I immediately moved to the living room and vacuumed it.  When I was done and before I switched it "off", I looked down at the see through bagless collection canister.  There was a decent amount of dirt and pet hair rolling around inside of the collection bucket.

While leaning over watching the yucky gick dance around, I pushed the handle upright.  This particular motion caused the hose to let go from the collection bucket and spray the contents all over me and the room.  "Seriously?! What the heck?!" I yelled.  I looked down at myself and realized I looked like a monster that crawled out of a Sci-Fi movie.

I got out the directions and reassembled the hose piece, turned the vacuum back on and vacuumed myself off, along with the carpet.  I pushed the arm of the vacuum back up and like a skit from "I Love Lucy", the contents of the collection bucket blew all over me again!  "Sassafrassing-mumble-grumble, good thing I'm not Catholic or I'd be saying Hail Mary's for the next 10 years mumbles.........."

It was at that precise moment my husband walked in the door from work.  He stopped in his tracks, looking at me with a stunned expression on his face, as a large ball of dog hair and dirt sat on my shoulder like a parrot. 

"Don't.Even.Ask..........", I said.  He put his head down, quickly walked past me and headed to our bedroom.  He didn't quite make it past me before the chuckles and laughter could no longer be contained.

I dusted myself off and back to Google I went........ with a new technical design requirement for any vacuum I chose.  After many more hours of searching Google and looking at photos, I selected a couple of vacuums to go try out in-person this time.

Off to our local Sears store I went (they let you actually use them there), with my husband in-tow to help give technical guidance.  At the store, I was able to see and touch the vacuums I had chosen and immediately nixed every single one of them from the list.

I was frustrated and ready to throw in the towel when a sales woman came over and asked what I was looking for.  I listed out my requirements.  She knew her vacuum cleaners and expertly guided me to the 2 vacuums which met my needs.

It was a tough call because the vacuum I really liked was double what we had budgeted to spend.  But, as my husband kindly reminded me, a good vacuum is worth the extra expense since it is used a LOT in our home.  And by hitting the sale and using coupons we received, it wasn't that much more than the other vacuums I'd been looking at.

So, I did it.  I bought the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away vacuum and brought it home.  Assembly took less than 5 minutes. 

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I was vacuuming.  This vacuum has so much suction, it's almost self-propelled!  Oh, how my heart went pitter-pat.

The attachments are a housewife's dream as they extend and change out at the touch of a button.  The amount of pet hair and dirt this vacuum got out of my carpet and off my hard floors was absolutely beyond belief.

My mother told me that at some point in my married life, something like this would happen.  I didn't want to believe her.  I figured that what she told me had to have been out of the dark ages, and I'm a mom of the 21st Century.  

But today it happened.  Today I can say she was right.  Today, I fell in L.O.V.E. ...........with a corded appliance.  I am now filling out my warranty card.  It feels much like a marriage license and as soon as I complete it, I know me and my Shark will be connected ...... until death do us part.

Written by Christie Bielss

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Daily Dinosaur

I just subscribed to our local newspaper.  For the first time in 5 years and in the early morning hours, I am getting a newspaper delivered to my door for my reading pleasure.  Every morning and afternoon this past week, I have plopped myself at the kitchen table and read the paper with great interest.

newspaper, news, online, digital, dinosaur

I've scoffed at some of the articles, laughed at others, and even tried to work the crossword puzzle, of which I'm clearly out of practice.  Even though the newsprint makes my eyes itch and causes me to sneeze, I have enjoyed reading that paper every single day section-by-section and cover-to-cover.

In this digital age, I have been getting my news by going directly to each large news organization's web page, instead of through that old archaic method known as the daily paper.  Most people have been predicting the newspaper is going the way of the dinosaur and will soon be extinct, but after my return to the paper platform, I hope their predictions are wrong.

The newspaper, for me, is enjoyable.  I've tried reading it online and the enjoyment gets lost as I try to navigate the pages while not smearing breakfast on the screen of my phone or getting breakfast crumbs on my keyboard.

With the cutbacks at many of the major newspapers, a lot of the characters and personalities of the past have been removed from the paper.  With the loss of Erma Bombeck and the retirement of Dave Barry, the Lifestyle section of the paper has lost some of its humor.  

While these 2 great personalities can never be duplicated, I greatly looked forward to reading their form of dry wit and humor in the paper a couple of days a week.  As a matter of fact, I memorized which days their columns appeared and would go directly to their columns on those days.  I miss that.

My husband loved the sports columnists.  Whether he agreed with them or vehemently disagreed with them was a subject of great debate in our house.  The newspaper was our conversation starter and it was something we could read at the same time without breathing down each other's necks or fighting over who gets the computer first.

Recently while sitting in the customer lounge at the car dealership, I perched myself in a corner spot where I could observe the behavior of the other 12 waiting customers (yes, I counted).  In this lounge, there is free Wi-Fi for those who want to play on social media, a bank of computer docking stations for those who need to work, a soundproof playroom for kids (my eardrums thank the dealership every time I'm there), 3 different wide screen televisions which were set to 3 different television stations, as well as a coffee table filled with multiple copies of different newspapers, and a number of magazines covering a wide range of interests.

For all of our focus on being connected every second of every day to our digital devices, 8 of the people in the waiting room were reading the newspaper, another was thumbing through a magazine, 2 were watching ESPN and discussing sports stats, and the last person was talking loudly on their cell phone about an impending child support court date.

It was surprising to see two-thirds of the people reading the newspaper, even though their cell phones, iPads, or laptops were also available.  How can the newspaper business be going extinct if 2/3rds of the people chose paper over digital?

The memories I have as a kid of trying to beat my brothers to the paper so I could be the first to read the Sunday comics are priceless.  The newspaper has also been a source of comedy for our family for years as we remember back to the day when one of my brothers was reading the comics on the living room floor, only to have our new puppy walk over and piddle on The Wizard of Id.

I know you can get the very latest update online and the newspaper's stories will always be a little bit behind due to printing deadlines, but, in a world filled with a need for convenience, what is more convenient than having everything laid out nicely right in front of you.  Oh, how I hope the newspaper industry doesn't go the way of the dinosaur and die off. 

Written by Christie Bielss

Friday, October 24, 2014

Frozen Food Aisle Capers

Before I was married, the frozen dinner aisle at my local grocery store was a pretty happening place to hang out.  I know many people find the produce section of the grocery store to be a much bigger draw, but I found the selection of fruits and vegetables to be a bit........ awkward.....when socializing.  In the frozen food aisle, single women stood in solidarity as we discussed whether a particular meal met our calorie limitations and was (hopefully) filling and tasted like something other than glue. 

grocery, shopping, food

Standing there among the hungry single women, I'd make a good show of trying to decide between the Weight Watcher's grilled chicken with vegetables and the Lean Cuisine chicken piccata, while secretly eyeballing the mouthwatering photos on the boxes of Marie Callender's fried chicken or Stouffer's lasagna with meat sauce.  As we all stood before the freezers' insulated glass doors, many hours were spent discussing the merits of fewer calories versus flavor, while we cast longing, surreptitious glances at the "full flavor" (aka meals with 1,000 calories and 40 grams of fat) meals.

I would chat and wait patiently as everyone made their meal selections and slowly departed the frozen food aisle.  Looking up and down the aisle to make sure the coast was clear, I would quickly pounce on my favorite meal.  With speed reminiscent of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, I'd sprint to those luscious looking fat and calorie-laden frozen meals and quickly stuff one in my cart.

After leaving the aisle, I took great care to make sure the contraband was hidden under something large enough that no part of it was visible.  Knowing that when I reached the cash register to check out, there would inevitably be another female in line who would scrutinize my purchases.

Having been questioned by the cart police on a previous calorie-laden purchase, I made sure to hide my meal well.  Being subjected to the raised eyebrow of shame from the cart police once was enough to make most females never step foot near that part of the freezer section again.

Oh, but not this redhead.  Whether I ate the divine ooey-gooeyness of a chicken pot pie, or let it sit in my freezer so long it built up a frost so thick it could have been mistaken for the iceberg that sunk the Titanic, it did not matter.  It became a challenge to see whether I could make it all the way through the store and through the check-out lane without getting caught.

I started going through the same cashier's line every week after she saw the meal's location on the conveyor belt (hidden between the toilet paper and the multi-pack of facial tissues) and, with a sly grin, distracted shoppers in her lane.  She quickly scanned the meal and shoved it to the bottom of the grocery bag before anyone was the wiser.

She wasn't a redhead, but she was feisty enough that I'm pretty sure it must have been in her bloodline.  Together, we foiled the calorie-counting cart police for a good year before I met my husband and we started dating and got married. 

With having a significant other, I was no longer subjected to the cart police's scrutiny.............. until I had children.........

Written by Christie Bielss

Friday, October 3, 2014

Directionally Challenged

My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this week.  It does feels like quite an accomplishment that we are still together after so many years.  It's not that we aren't compatible or don't get along, in fact, we make a pretty good team.  We complement each other's idiosyncrasies quite well.

compass, road trip, travel
"Misty Way" photo courtesy of Hornpipe
One of us likes to spend money, the other is a saver.  One of us has what some people would classify as a fiery temper (ahem, I think that may be a bit of an exaggeration on their part), the other stays calm, cool, and collected.

He doesn't like cake icing and I do, so he gives me all of his.   He doesn't like chocolate either, and gives me all of that as well.  That last act alone qualifies him for sainthood.  

I like to shop around for the best price on things we need.  He likes for me to shop around for the best bargain.  Once I find the bargain, he goes and purchases said item.  It's like having Amazon Prime living in my own house.

Even with all of the many wonderful ways we work together, there is still one area we struggle with:  navigation.  My husband seems to have been born without an internal compass, and he can't follow a mechanical one either.

When I tell him to head east, he'll head west, or south, or any direction except east.  If I tell him to take the 3rd street on the right, he'll turn at the 5th street on the left.

Even when he uses the map feature on his phone, he gets north/south/east/west all mixed up.  He argues with the turn-by-turn navigation on our GPS as it calls out which way to go or what lane to be in.

If he goes the wrong way from what the GPS is coordinated for, he'll yell at the GPS to hush up.  The GPS will then give elaborate directions on where to make a U-turn to get back on the correct path.

My husband has no appreciation for this feature and tells it to recalculate because he doesn't make U-turns.  After a couple of miles, you can almost hear the GPS sigh in frustration as it says "recalculating..........".

Just recently I was heading south on a highway and my husband was giving me directions.  He was absolutely sure we were headed north.  Thankfully I was born with an internal compass and knew that we were headed south.

Had I not of known where we were going, we might have driven all the way to the Texas-Mexico border.  Should that have happened, I would almost bet money he would have asked why Mexico was where Canada is supposed to be.

Even with this strange quirk, he has always been able to find his way home every single day.  After 25 years together, I guess there are worse quirks to have........

Written by Christie Bielss

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kimmie the Krusher!

Recently while shopping for a new wallet at a department store, I overheard a conversation two women were having regarding their philosophy on child-rearing.  The women were quite obviously not on the same page and I became transfixed by their exchange of facial expressions and defiant body language.

Parenting, kids, children, tips,

"There's so much negativity in the world, we decided to avoid the use of negative words with our children.", the shorter woman said to the taller.  The look of utter disbelief on the taller friend's face almost made me burst out laughing.  Having always been the kind of person who likes to people-watch, and this was obviously going to be an entertaining exchange, I decided to see what transpired between these two women.

"I'm sorry, what?" was the taller woman's reply to the other woman's child-rearing philosophy.

"We only want to encourage good feelings, so we never use any language which creates a negative environment." the shorter woman said.

There was a slight pause as the two women stepped out of the way of an elderly woman who was looking at handbags.

As the elderly woman moved on, the taller woman asked "Soooooo, if Kimmie grabs the butcher knife from you while you are slicing food, you don't tell her to stop because it's dangerous and she could hurt herself?".

"Oh heavens no!  There are much better ways of instructing her than using negative words and emotions.", she said.

The two women continued their conversation as I picked up a wallet every now and again so I at least appeared to be shopping instead of eavesdropping.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the child, Kimmie, who was the center of their conversation.

Little Kimmie caught my glance and a mischievous grin came across her face.  Having children myself, I recognized that look and knew that nothing good could come from it and I braced myself for what was bound to come next.

I overheard the taller woman ask "How exactly is she supposed to learn how to handle being told "no" in school, or even the real world, if she's not introduced to it at home first?".

The shorter woman replied "We don't tell her no, we just redirect her to something she can play with.  We figure Kimmie can figure out how to deal with the ugliness of the world later on in life when that time comes.  We think children should be allowed to be care-free and not bound by society's rules............".

As Kimmie's mother spoke, little Kimmie spun on her heel and ran like a linebacker at a bank of tall rounders full of jewelry.  

The crashing noise of the destruction she wrought upon those plastic and wood rounders was deafening. Earrings flew everywhere.  Necklaces were a tangled mess on the floor and looked very much like a commercial fishing net.  Bracelets rolled across the highly glossed marble floors, causing store personnel to dodge them as they came at a run to see who might have been injured in the "accident".

As store personnel quickly arrived, they saw Kimmie tossing jewelry everywhere.  A manager quickly got past their shock and asked loudly who the child's parent or guardian was.  I saw the taller woman quickly back away from her acquaintance while pointing to the woman stating "That's her mother".

Store security quickly helped Kimmie to her feet from where she was trying to swim in the pile of jewelry.  They started assessing the damage and directing the department personnel to add up the cost of all the damaged items.  The taller woman said to Kimmie's mother "Hmmm, I do believe your daughter is about to get a lesson in the real world's version of the word "no".  I hope you've got deep pockets.".

I'm pretty sure that despite the destruction Kimmie wrought on the store that day, she still has a bright future in front of her.  She should do great as either an MMA fighter or maybe even with the Roller Derby.  Heck, she has already created a great stage name for herself:  Kimmie the Krusher.

Written by Christie Bielss

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We Blinked........

My kids have started back to school for the 2014-2015 school year.  I'm not sure how it happened, or when it happened, but my kids are no longer "children", they are pre-teens.  Wasn't it just yesterday I was on the floor with them reading "Pat the Bunny", "Goodnight Moon", or one of the many wonderful books by Sandra Boynton for hours at a time?  Our parents told us to enjoy every minute with our babies because in the blink of an eye, they'd be in middle school, high school, and then college.  In another blink, they'd be getting married and having babies of their own.

back to school, growing up, teens, preteens, toddlers

When my husband and I got married, my mother requested a special song be played at our ceremony.  The song was from "Fiddler on the Roof" and is titled "Sunrise, Sunset".  The lyrics express perfectly how I'm feeling.

"Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?

I don't remember growing older
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?

Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze."

I still instinctively look at my shoulder before I leave my house to see if I have baby food or drool which needs to be wiped off.  When I take both kids shopping for clothes, I have to remind myself to go to the teen/preteen area and not the children's department.

My daughter used to lock her tiny little arms around my thigh whenever we went anywhere because she was so shy and scared.  Now she runs with carefree abandon with her friends and throws back a "See ya later, Mom!" along with a smile.  When did her wings of independence begin to spread?

My son loved to hold my index finger.  Even as a toddler he was so outgoing and energetic.  There were many times when I thought he'd dislocate my finger in his excitement to reach whatever it was he had his sites aimed for.  These days I get a wave of his hand and a "Later! Love ya!" as he hops out of the car in the school drop-off line.

As I think back, the time elapsed from when they were just born to now feels like a few short weeks.  What happened which caused this quick jump in age?  As much as I would like to believe it was time travel, or even a time warp, I know that isn't the culprit.  I think what happened was exactly what our parents told us would happen.  We blinked.

Written by Christie Bielss

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Ugliest Kitchen.......

With the guest room project done, I have been reinvigorated to start getting more of the half-finished projects in our home completed.  Everywhere I look, there's something that was started and then stopped because something else reared its ugly head and needed immediate attention.  Usually by the time we had remediated whatever calamity had occurred, we were tired and were in need of a break.  Since we've now been in our home 3 years this past July, and our house is still full of half-finished projects, we may have taken a wee bit too many breaks.

So, the best way to get a hard-headed redhead motivated is for there to be a deadline........... with photographic evidence that a mission has been accomplished.  Cue the theme to "Mission Impossible"............ no wait!  Let's cue the theme to "Rocky" because once you see the before pictures of our kitchen, you're going to understand why I may go 12 rounds with this renovation.

In case you're wondering: 
1) No.  I have no idea whatsoever the previous homeowner's theme was.  Every cabinet door you open in the kitchen and living areas of the house have (had) the slaughterhouse red paint, including any plumbing fixtures or pipes which may be in the cabinet.

2) Yes, only select cabinet drawer/door hardware was taken when the previous homeowner left.  I guess she only took the pieces from her most favorite drawers/doors?

3) No, we can't just paint over the poopy-diaper brown color because:
a) they didn't use a quality paint and as a result, the brown paint peels off;
b) they painted with carefree abandon...... i.e. lots of weird paint brush swirls in the paint........ not to mention pieces of the paint brushes themselves.

4) Yes, we are having to strip every cabinet door and cabinet base and then sand.  Sadly, they had painted the cabinets the slaughterhouse red color first and did not prime prior to painting the original beautiful maple cabinets.  As a result, the red paint permanently soaked into the wood and cannot be removed, so painting the cabinets is our only option.

5) Yes, a store obviously had a fantastic sale on brick.  And no, I'm not keeping the brick countertops.  They were laid incorrectly and the only way to clean them with the depth and width of the grout line is to vacuum them.  Not exactly sanitary........

So, without further ado, here are the "before" pictures of our kitchen.  You may want to prepare yourself..........

The house in its original "foreclosed" condition

Yeah, that red jumps out and grabs you

You can see the pantry (behind the open utility room door) which is a set of 6 cabinet doors.
It has nowhere near the amount of storage space that it looks like here.  It's tiny.

If you touch it, it will peel........ and you can see the lovely
swirl pattern in the paint here too! 

EEK!  This will wake you up in the morning.  Are you
impressed I found a bucket to match???

Nearly every hinge has been stripped.
Sassafrassing, grumble, snarl......

Now that you've seen the degree of ugly we are tackling...... let the renovation begin!  What's your best guess on how long it'll take us?  I'm figuring 2 months because I have to pick out a new sink and there's so many to choose from it's boggling my mind.  Any tips or hints you can share??

And as a PS:  A very big THANK YOU! to all of you who have prayed for my dad and my family this past month.  My dad's health has returned, albeit he still is regaining energy.  And if the health emergency wasn't enough, some thieves acquired his banking account information and stole a lot of money from them.  We are very pleased with the response from Bank of America and their fraud department.  They are hot on their trail, along with the corporations who were also defrauded of money through this theft, and we hope they are soon brought to justice so no other families have to experience this situation.  Your well-wishes, thoughts and prayers have meant a lot to me during this time and I greatly appreciate it!  May God bless you all!

Christie Bielss

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Big Reveal.....Well, Sort Of.......

It's here!  The BIG reveal...... well, sort of.  I had it all planned out right down to the last detail .......and then a few obstacles jumped in my path.  With any project, I know there are going to be obstacles.  I expect them and even try to plan for them.  But this time, I obviously didn't plan well enough.  The obstacles ate up every bit of the extra time I had built into the renovation project timeline.  Much like those DIY'ers on the show "Renovation Realities", I guess I should have built in extra time for those things I had not thought of.  I did, however, succeed in buying the furniture items for the room at great prices either on Craigslist or at garage sales.  The total amount spent will be revealed at the end.

The original piece that spurred this whole renovation was my desk.  My desk for years has been a computer armoire.  It served a great purpose for the occasional computer user, but because I am now spending many an hour in front of the computer, it was making me claustrophobic.

Not only did I have no view, but little view I did have felt like a cave, and the armoire had little to no storage.  I constantly had papers scattered everywhere, making my brain feel somewhat scattered.  I also had no flat surface area to even write anything down.

It became obvious that I had outgrown the part-time usability of the armoire.  I decided I needed something which would allow me to spread out, have some storage space, and even give me the ability to place the desk where I'd have a view out of a window so I wouldn't feel so hemmed in.

Day after day I searched online for the look I wanted.  I spent hours scouring Houzz, Pinterest, Better Homes and Gardens,  and tons of other websites.  I thumbed through magazine after magazine in search of the perfect office/guest room combination.

After an exhaustive search, I finally found the look I wanted with a desk that I had to have............ until I saw the price.  $1,500-$1,800....... before tax and shipping.  ugh.  I was totally deflated.  My husband liked the look I'd decided on though and encouraged me to search Craigslist in the hopes of finding something similar at a more reasonable price.

It took about 2 weeks of non-stop shopping.  One day I clicked on a brand new listing and my jaw dropped.  It was the exact desk I'd fallen in love with.  There it was before me, and for a price that made me wonder if it came with legs and drawers.  I quickly sent an email and the seller responded immediately that it was available and it did indeed have 4 legs and all of the drawers.  I bought it right then and there.  Oh, I was happy, happy, happy!

With that super-win under my belt, I then started shopping for a daybed.  Months passed with no luck.  I was completely frustrated and with hopes dashed, I gave up on renovating the room.  Then a friend emailed and asked if we'd host a couple while they were in town training.

A spark was lit within me again and my energy was renewed.  As I showed renewed interest in completing the project, I shared my budget with my mother.  She scoffed at the price I I had budgeted to for a daybed ....... even at Craigslist prices.  Challenge this redhead and you'll be amazed at how dedicated I can become.  Not only did I find a daybed that mimics the curves of my desk, but I bought it for a pittance of what she thought I'd have to pay.

Another victory was now in the books and was lighting the fire under my feet to get this room finished......... not to mention the rapidly approaching arrival of guests who needed a place to stay. 

With the major pieces for the room purchased, I started by painting the ceiling.  That was much more of a job than I had planned.  I made the B-I-G mistake of picking up paint at a different paint store than I usually use, simply because it was convenient.  The ceiling required 3 coats of paint.  The cheap paint I'd bought was not covering the ceiling and at the rate I was going, it would take 5 coats of paint to cover it evenly.  I finally gave up and went and bought paint at my regular paint store.  Not only had this eaten up 2 additional work days but it also ate up more of my budget than I'd planned for since I had to buy the better paint. 

I learned my lesson and did succeed in a couple of areas with paint:
1)  I bought the better paint for the walls the first time and even spent a lot of time picking out just the right shade.  The result: I absolutely love the wall color.  Could not be happier than I am with that.
2) I somehow was able to get paint between my toes......... with my shoes on.  I still haven't figured that one out since I pretty much lived in my shoes from the moment I got out of bed until I took a shower in the evening.  I'm thinking my dog may have played a prank on me to get even for me not allowing her to romp through the paint trays and decorate the floors of my house with paw prints.

I did run into another unexpected issue: I couldn't find a comforter locally.  Who knew daybed comforters were so hard to find?  I ended up having to order one online and when it arrived (the day before our guests were scheduled to arrive), I discovered the lovely soft shade of blue I was expecting to see, was actually gun-metal gray. Talk about a reality check. Had the comforter been for a bed shaped like one of the US Navy's battleships, it would've been perfect.  Since it was for my woman-cave, it didn't work out so well.

I quickly went through all of the old comforters I had stored away and discovered a white down puffy comforter.  It's not perfect, but it works for now.  And it's soft and cushy to sit on when I want to sneak away and read a book.

I tried really hard not to get too frustrated or panicked with each set back, but the closer to "Reveal Day" I got, the more stressed out I became.  In a house full of half-finished projects, all I wanted was to be able to finally say one room was finished.  For it to be my room was just icing on the cake.

While I don't have the room completely finished at this time, it's close enough that I've decided to show the bits and pieces.  So, without further ado, here are the before, during, and after photos of my newly renovated guest room/office.

The final dollar amount I spent on furnishing the room?
Desk:  $200

Wrought iron daybed:  $85
Bookcase:  $5
Bedside table:  $5
Lamps:  $40
Amount spent on paint and other things:
Ceiling paint: $75
Wall paint: $58
Spray paint (for the bed and bookcase): $32
Acrylic paint for bathroom mirror:  $3.50
Kleenex tissue holder:  $10
Bathroom jewelry tray: $12
Toothbrush holder: $5

Now it's time to decide whether to start on the guest bathroom, since I painted the concreted mosaic mirror frame, or finish the other half of the kitchen.  hmmmm......  Which would you do?

By Christie Bielss

The dark and ugly ceiling color.  This photo makes it look much
brighter than it was.

The ceiling after we scraped the popcorn texture off.
Not sure why it became this golden color, but that was the
true color after scraping.

The ceiling after 2 coats of paint and
the lovely poopy-diaper colored walls.
3 coats of paint later, the ceiling is done.

Priming the walls and you can see a small portion of the junk in this room

My BEAUTIFUL desk!  I LOVE it!

It has a hand-tooled leather top

Yes, I really can be organized and I do like my label maker!

Bought this bed and painted it a metallic brown

Bookcase my wonderful husband painted
Ok, now I know this bathroom mirror isn't in the room, but
it is the guest room bath and I couldn't take the mosaic tile color any more.

With a tube of silver acrylic paint I covered that ugly mosaic.