Take Stock.

Chaptstick Stockpile

Ever see the show “Doomsday Preppers” on the National Geographic Channel?  These people are cray cray.  We once watched a lady hollow out her bedroom door to hide fruit roll-ups and Lipton soups in there for when the apocolypse hits and she needs food.  But her husband doesn’t like her ‘prepping’ so she has to hide her items in inconspicuous places (like her bedroom door, duh) while he’s gone during the day.  Highly recommend checking out an episode or two.  It’s fascinating.

Well recently I decided I might have a little Doomsday in me, and I can’t decide how I feel about it.  Exhibit 1: picture above of my chapstick stockpile.  I am obsessed with this one kind of chapstick (The Body Shop’s Vitamin E Lip Care Stick – it’s non-scented and the absolute perfect mix of being thick enough to actually do something and have staying power, but thin enough that you don’t really notice that it’s there), and have been using it for 11 years.  That’s not a joke.  I know this because I can recall the first time I used it, and it was during college winter break in 2001 when I was visiting my best friend L at her grandparent’s house in Florida and her mom was using it (also a chapstick connoissuer) and I had to borrow it because I had sunburnt lips.  It used to be 2 sticks for $3.  I’m not even going to tell you what I pay for it now because it’s crazytown and embarrassing.  But I HAVE to have my chapstick with me.  I’m one of those people.  You should have heard me a few weeks ago at AC’s wedding, I had forgotten my chapstick and was freaking out.  MKY even snapped at me to chill out once (maybe twice) which doesn’t usually happen unless I’m being particularly annoying.

Why am I telling you this?  Good question.  I recently ran out of the stash B got me for Christmas (5 sticks didn’t get me that far!), and decided that rather than running out at lunch and buying the usual 2 to hold me over for a month or so, I was going to seriously stock up.  I’d never bought them online but I thought I’d give it a try – well, jackpot find on my part.  The Body Shop has all these discounts only available online!  Like a buy one get one half off, a three for price of two AND free shipping over $50 (I told you, it’s embarrassing how much I pay for these chapsticks).  I started adding some to my cart and doing the math on the side and discovered I could get 9 chapsticks for the price of 6 and get free shipping.  Score.  I didn’t have to even leave my seat AND I got them for less than what I would normally pay.  Success!

So the moral of this story is that stockpiling sometimes has it’s advantages.  And just because you have 9 chapsticks in your nightstand drawer (which you may have noticed in the shot above is still nicely organized with my DIY drawer dividers) doesn’t mean you’re in the same category with the Doomsers (although B will probably disagree).  So General Rule of Thumb: if it saves you time and/or money to buy in bulk and stock up AND you have the space for the items, go ahead and take stock.  If your loot is going to clutter your home or completely take over your drawers/closets/rooms, then it may not be worth it.  Always think before you stock.

PS – you can catch a glimpse of our new duvet cover in the shot above.  Still not sure how I feel about it.  It’s close to the one I was coveting here, but a little darker and busier.  I’m thinking of ways to chill it out a bit.  I’ll let you know what I come up with.

PPS – those squishy blue things in the shot above are ear plugs.  B snores like he’s sawing logs.


The Sandwiches!

California Powerhouse via Stately Sandwiches

There are probably only 6 other people who will chuckle at the title of this post: B, his 2 brothers, their parents, and my sister in law.  The boys affectionately imitate, nudge, tease, and harass their mother relentlessly.  They’re probably worse now at 30+ than they were at 10.  Apparently about ten years ago, they were all ready to leave for a long car ride down to South Carolina for vacation.  They pulled out of the driveway when their mom realized they forgot the food they had packed for the road and screamed, “the sandwiches!”.  See?  Not that funny right?  But they love it.  And that is how this famous phrase, along with countless others, has seeped into our family lexicon.

But recently I found a new reason to do some exclaiming over sandwiches: Stately Sandwiches.  Started by designer Kelly Pratt in Chicago, it’s a really cool project in which Kelly has set out to make sandwiches that represent each of our 50 states.  To accomplish this she is traveling across the country with friends to discover and create each sandwich recipe, and is blogging about it all along the way.  She shares her sandwich recipes on the blog, along with fun-to-read stories about making each one.  And her official sandwich board photos are fantastic.  I love how perfectly organized each one is!  And they look delicious too.  Many of you know that I am also a big fan of sandwiches.  The California Powerhouse and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) Cheesesteak are my favorites so far – typical that I go for the ones that are on completely opposite ends of the healthy-for-you spectrum – and I’m looking forward to following her journey and seeing what else she “cooks” up.

Check out her site.  If not for the recipes, for the eye candy that is her perfectly arranged sandwich boards.  Their organizational awesomeness is actually quite calming.  Much needed for me as I face a busy week coming up at work this week.  Bon Appetit!

Pack It Up, Pack It In.

Organized Suitcase via Good Housekeeping

Let me begin.  I came to win, battle me that’s a sin. (Cue the house party scene from Mrs. Doubtfire, an S & B favorite.  “I missth her sthtories” is a very frequently used random phrase in our house).

If you have ever traveled with me, you know I am serious about packing.  And it’s not just about sufficiency – it is efficiency that is king.  My pre-travel goal is to figure out exactly what I will be needing on my trip, and to pack it in as small a bag as I can (I usually ask oodles of questions of my fellow travelers or hosts to help accomplish this…many thanks to those who have, at times, found themselves on the other end of this seemingly endless torture quest for packing greatness).  It is just so satisfying to pack the perfect suitcase!

So in honor of today being the first official day of summer, the year’s busiest travel season, I thought I’d share some of my packing tips and tricks.

1. Plan ahead!  Try to get an idea of what you’ll be doing and what the weather will be.  Really think about what you’ll need and when in doubt, less is more.  I really mean it.  It’s so much easier to decide what to wear when you’ve got fewer options to work with.  Also reach out to your hotel/host to find out what sorts of things are provided (hair dryer, iron, towels, etc.) so you don’t waste space on things you don’t need.

2. List, list, list.  God I love lists.  After you’ve done some planning, make a list of what you will need.   This will help you to see where you may be over- or under-packing.  I like to group similar items on my lists because it helps me to remember things I might be leaving out.  As things go in my bag I cross them off.  The night before I’m traveling I like to have as many things packed as I can, with the remaining “need in the morning” items circled and starred on my list so I don’t forget them.

3. Choose Wisely.  I try to travel with neutral pieces of clothing that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.  This really maximizes the wardrobe you’re bringing.  This one is hard for some people though, so if you must have something, and you can fit it in, go for it.

4. Stage It.  Lay everything you plan to pack out on the bed so you can visualize what you have, and plan the best way to arrange it in your bag(s).  This is also a good time to try and pare down a bit more.

5. Toiletries To Go. I actually keep a complete set of TSA-sized toiletries already packed in a travel bag so all I need to do is toss it in my suitcase when packing.  I usually check it a week or so before to make sure I’m not low on anything.  And if you have prescriptions/contacts/vitamins that you don’t have duplicates of, don’t forget to add these in before you pack your bags.

6. Space Savers.  Try storing socks and small accessories/jewelry inside shoes or bags that you are packing.  Not only will this keep things safe, protected, and easier to find, but you are saving what would have been wasted space!  Major bonus points.

7. Roll it Up.  Rolling your clothes really does save you space and help to keep things wrinkle free.  I’ve heard people say they could almost double what they’ve brought just by doing this.  I’m usually OK on space so I don’t always do this one, but on the occasions I have I’ve definitely noticed it helps.

8. Order Counts!

-I recommend packing shoes first.  I line my suitcase with shoes, soles facing the edges of the bag which keeps the bottoms of my shoes from touching my clothing.  (Side note: at AS’ – er, AC‘s – AMAZING wedding this past weekend, the lovely MOH and sister of the bride gave me a great tip for packing shoes – slip them in shower caps!  Everyone’s got a few of those that they’ve taken from hotels over the years, great way to use them.).

-Heavier/thicker pants go next, then lighter items, tops, and dressier items.

-Tuck smaller items like underwear, bathing suits, belts, etc. in whatever spaces are still open around the clothes.

-My luggage has interior straps to fasten around your stuff (see picture at the bottom of this post so you know what I’m talking about).  At this point I will use these to keep everything snug and flatten things out a bit.  You can usually get about an inch more of space from doing this.

-Lastly, put your toiletries and hair dryer/curler/iron on top (although if you are checking luggage and prefer to carry these on this won’t apply to you)  I always travel with my flat iron.  It’s pretty small (1″ wide), and it works on the fly as a clothes iron (I always seem to need to touch up my cuffed pants/shorts), and it can be used for both straightening and curling  hair.  Although I only use it for straightening.  But knowing it multitasks is super.

It may seem a little daunting to go through these steps every time you travel, but for me they have just become second nature over time.  Give it a try.  See how sick of a suitcase you can pack on your next jaunt.  I’m telling you, it’s addictive.

Bon Voyage, & Bel été!

Suitcase Interior via Delsey

A Sign of Things to Bloom.

Thai Basil Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

A DIY Chalkboard Sign, to be exact, for my herb-an garden that I started last month on our patio.  I finished the signs a few weeks ago and was finally able to snap a few shots of them keeping my blooms nicely labeled and organized.  It was a really quick and easy project: it required only 3 materials, costing just under $14 all-in.  I ended up making just 5 signs but I have enough materials for 10 more and for many other chalkboard paint-related projects for years to come.  So that’s a pretty good investment, especially considering I’ve seen signs like these retailing for $25-$35 on various websites.  I really like the fun touch it adds to the potted plants, and the look goes well with our half brick, half stucco back patio wall.  I’d love to say this look was intentional (we’ve gotten so many comments over the years), but it’s not.  It’s just nature doing its thing to an old layer of stucco that was never well-adhered to the brick wall it tried to cover.

Here is a tutorial for making the signs, along with a cost breakdown.  I assure you it’s like the easiest outdoor project ever, even though it looks like lengthy steps.  I just like to talk.

What I used:

Wood for signs and/or stands. (I chose to use basic shims from our local hardware store as the base for my signs, but you could really use any scrap wood you had on hand.  Depending on the shape of wood you might need to make a stand for the sign, but extra BBQ/shish kabob skewers could probably solve that for you). Shims: $2.79 for 15.

Chalkboard paint. (I find spray paint to be easier for any quick painting project so I went with Rustoleum Chalkboard Spray Paint, also found at our local hardware store). Chalkboard Spray Paint: $9.99

Chalk. (Good old fashioned Crayola, found at the Rite Aid down the block from me). Box of Chalk: $1.03

Total Cost of Materials: $13.81; most are pictured below:

Materials for Chalkboard Herb Garden Signs

What I did:

Step 1: Spray paint shims.  I laid them out on extra newspaper first, and did this outside so I didn’t breathe in the fumes.  I did not bother with primer for this paint job.  Instead I sprayed several coats of paint, keeping the nozzle about a foot away and using long, level strokes.  This made for thin and even layers that dried well.  I did 3 coats on one side, aiming for about 20-30 minutes in between.  We were in and out of the house that day so I did my best to do a quick coat whenever I could.  I let them dry overnight (both days were dry and sunny) and did the same to the back.  I let them dry out another 2 days so they were nice and cured.  Here they are drying after their last coat.  Ignore the popsicle sticks that are also in this pic, I was experimenting using another base surface but didn’t like how they turned out.

Chalkboard Paint on Shims

Here are the signs after drying for about 2 days:

Finished Painted Herb Garden Signs

Step 2: “Condition” the signs.  This was actually one of the instructions on the back of the spray paint can and I’m not exactly sure of the purpose, but basically once the surface had time to for a few days I rubbed chalk all over and then wiped it off.  Here are the signs before I wiped the chalk off:

Rub Chalk on Chalkboard Paint to Set

Step 3: Use the signs!  I labeled them for my herbs, and placed them in the pots accordingly.  I had to move them around a bit so they wouldn’t be in the way when I watered the plants, otherwise the chalk would wash off.  I’m also contemplating buying one of these chalkboard markers to make more permanent signs.  But for now these work well and look great!

Here are the signs inside before I placed them in their more permanent potted homes: 

Labeled Chalkboard Signs for Herb Garden

 And here are glimpses of the final product.  See how much my Peppermint has grown?!  It smells great, and I’ve found it to be a very refreshing addition to tea and ice water.

Peppermint Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

And here is my Thai Basil.  It’s started to flower which makes it look pretty, and the shape of the pot allows for the chalkboard sign to be off to the side a bit and really stand out:

Thai Basil Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

Ignore the glass jars in the background cluttering up this shot.   (We’ve established that along with having a black thumb, I’m also a terrible photographer).    After my big outdoor furniture refinishing project is complete I’ll fill them up with fun flowers to give the patio some color.  I’m still chipping away at that project though.  It takes good weather and a full weekend of being home during A’s naps to work on it, and we’ve been traveling a lot recently.  So hopefully soon.

In the meantime I’ll be enjoying my new chalkboard signs, which were a great quick fix to spruce up the herb garden.  And I’m now completely addicted to chalkboard spray paint.  I’ve been daydreaming about the next thing I can turn into a chalkboard.  I’m thinking a menu board in the kitchen would be fun, or maybe a big framed family calendar/planner.  You know, because we have so many social engagements to attend to these days.  But there I go again creating another project for myself.  I really have to stop doing that.

Google Sesame!

ScreenshotSome of you may recall this post of yore when I talked about keeping your online Usernames and Passwords organized and safe.  For the past few years I’ve been keeping mine saved in a Word document on the hard drive of my work computer, since that is where I end up doing most of my banking and bill paying (during lunch breaks, of course).

Well guess who just entered the twenty-first century and is now saving her “Open Sesame” Password (PW) List on Google Docs?  Yep, this girl.  I know lots of people who take advantage of Google’s awesome sharing applications like Calendar and Docs, but I have yet to really get my feet wet with Docs.

For those that don’t know, Google Docs is basically a virtual repository where you can save word processing docs, spreadsheets, etc.  If you have a Google account it’s just one of the options on the menu at the top of the page (circled in the pic above).  When you click on Documents it will list everything you currently have saved in there, and there are additional features available like sharing certain documents with other people (great for family calendars, family expense trackers, etc.)

So now I have my PW list saved in my Google Docs (also circled in the pic above), and can access it wherever and whenever I access the internet.  And as I mentioned in my original PW List post, I do not store my actual usernames and passwords but rather I use hints like “name”, “email”, and “standardPW”, “standardPW+1” (when you need an extra character), etc.  Some usernames and/or account ID numbers are OK to save, but I would never save actual passwords, and do not recommend doing so.  I’ve used my new Google Sesame PW List a few times and so far it’s working out, but I’ll of course keep you posted if it fails me down the road, or if there is some gigantic flaw in this plan that I haven’t yet discovered.

And if you’re wondering what sparked this change, it really came down to the fact that I was tired of B asking me almost every other week what our “Xfinity” password was so he could stream movies and TV on his iPad.  We’ve been having a month-long issue with one of our cable boxes (I know, you’d think I’d be able to help with that considering I might have a small connection to the Cable Guy…) so he’s been entertaining himself online.  Hmm.  That sounded wrong.  He’s been getting his TV fix on his iPad.  Much better.  Anyway, he has no memory for things like usernames and passwords, and I have no tolerance for his selective memory, especially when it involves grabbing my work laptop, booting up for 17 mins, and opening my PW list for him.  But I didn’t want to put the list on my home computer because then I’d have two lists going and they’d be sure to get out of sync.  So Google Docs seemed like the perfect solution.

Anyone else have crafty ways to remember or save your passwords?  Or have husbands with selective memory??