Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Day 30 – January 30

If you have small children or pets, you’ve likely experienced pee on the floor, carpet, couch or mattress. The first two are relatively easy to clean up. A couch is a bit trickier, but still doable. Cleaning pee off of a mattress is a whole different story. For starters, mattresses can be big and unwieldy, so it’s not like you can stick them outside to get some sanitizing UV and to dry out. You can get a towel to soak up the mess, but you’ll likely be left with a stain and the stench. Gross! Today, I discovered a way to get rid of both the stain and stench, and it was so easy, I was shocked.

8oz hydrogen peroxide
3 T baking soda
a few drop of dish washing liquid (I used liquid castile soap)

Mix everything together in a spray bottle. Spray the mattress liberally, making sure to cover the entire stain. The stain should disappear within 20 minutes. You’ll probably be left with a bit of baking soda, just vacuum that up.

Pretty easy, right? A few notes: once you’ve mixed up the solution, you need to use it up within 20 minutes, that means no saving it for the next time. Also, I did find that my particular spray bottle had trouble getting the baking soda through the fine mist portion. This probably works best in a stream.

So next time your child or pet has a pee-pee accident, fret not!

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Day 29 – January 29

Photography was the name of today’s game. I spent the better part of the day fiddling around with lighting to get the best possible picture. I also was able to use a better camera today and I was amazed at the absolute difference! My mom’s camera is still a point and shoot, but it’s much nicer than mine (apparently) as it takes much better pictures, they are brighter.

I took a bunch of pictures with natural light and of course ended up racing against the sun. I did manage to get pretty decent shots of everything before the sun disappeared completely. Once the sun was down, I decided to try to get some good shots using indoor lights. This proved to be a MUCH trickier proposition.

My equipment list:
1 clamp light with 1 CFL flood light, soft, 120w equivalent
1 halogen work light with 1 250w halogen bulb
1 lamp that I took apart and added a reflector with 1 CFL, daylight, 100w equivalent
several sheets to function as diffusers

I started out with my usual background setup, and placed the clamp and halogen lights behind it. I was hoping for something like this . . .. clearly I did something wrong. I tried many other configurations, and was surprised at how vastly different the results were.

1. Here I was playing around with diffusing the pop-up flash. I had the two lights behind the backdrop, and a rectangular piece of cardstock in front of the pop-up flash. You can see the shape of the diffuser in the pic.
2. Two lights behind the backdrop, no flash
3. One backlight, the clamp light, no flash
4. The clamp light behind the backdrop, the halogen light to the left, about 3 feet away. Notice the giant shadow behind the chair.
5. No back light, halogen light to the left with a sheet in front to act as a diffuser. The shadow is still there, but much less harsh.

Once I’d fiddled around photographing the chair (I think I must’ve taken around 50 shots), I moved on to the pants. I learned from my chair photographing experience, and tried some other things with the pants.

1. Halogen light to the left, clamp light to the right, both diffused with white cloths.
2. Same as number one, plus the extra lamp with the daylight bulb to the left of the camera directed towards the pants. Notice how much more blue the color is. And also how the pants seem to be a different shade of blue.
3. Same as number two, with the extra lamp moved to directly behind and the camera. The whole picture is cooler with just a bit of the warmer color behind the mannekin.

And a quick shot of my setup.

Again, none of these pictures are stellar, but I consider a beginner, so I’m gonna go ahead and cut myself a giant amount of slack=)

Day 28 – January 28

Have you ever made frosting with flour? Sounds totally wrong, right? I found a recipe that calls for flour, I was intrigued, so I tried it. I needed something to put the frosting on, so I tried a new cake recipe and did this zebra technique with it.

I’m pretty sure that I let the milk/flour mixture get too thick. It looked okay when the heat was on, once it was cooled, it was a very thick congealed mass, not really what it’s supposed to look like. When I mixed it in with the butter/sugar combo, it was so thick and clumpy. I just kept adding a little bit of milk until the consistency was more frosting-like. I had to run the mixer for like 15 minutes in order to get rid of the grainy-ness from the sugar. The frosting was really pretty good, almost tasted like a cream cheese frosting. I’d like to experiment with different flavors to see how they turn out.

The cake was very plain, just your basic, white cake, nothing fancy. The zebra technique worked pretty well. I didn’t have any cocoa powder, so I just used food coloring for half of the batter. The whole ensemble (cake and frosting) was sort of a hassle to make, and the end result was over-the-moon amazing. It really just tasted like your basic white cake with good frosting. I’ll make the frosting again, but probably won’t use that particular white cake recipe again.

Day 27 – January 27

Today I learned that carseat manufacturers must have no interest in making it easy for parents to actually use their product correctly. Seriously! I’ve been using carseats for 4.5 years, and I still had to read and re-read the manual to figure out how to configure it correctly and how to get it properly installed.

All of this came up because we had to do a bit of a carseat shuffle today. DS1 was in a carseat that was SOOO hard to tighten . . . . because he’s so skinny and tall that even tightened all the way it was still too loose (i.e. I could pinch the straps about the chest clip.) I could’ve switched he and DD, but she’s even slimmer than he is, so that wouldn’t have solved anything. Plus, DS2 is now tall enough that he’s just about outgrown his infant bucket seat. (No, I’m not a fan of bucket seats, but it was THE ONLY seat that would keep him in an upright and safe position as a teeny newborn!) Anyway, so DS2 went in DS1’s old carseat (Safety 1st something or other), DD stayed in hers (Graco Nautilus) and I bought another Nautilus for DS1.

It took about 30-45 minutes to get the new carseat set up. (This was partly due to the overwhelming amount of “help” I was getting from the babes.) Then it took about an hour to install the three carseats. Yep, you read that right, ONE HOUR! I really shouldn’t have taken that long. Before installing, I read the manuals and checked my favorite carseat website: for tips. Armed with that info, I took the Nautilus seats out. They barely fit next to each other, but they fit. Getting them tightened down was a mega PITB! It’s quite possible that I’m just a wimp, but I was pulling up on those straps HARD and wasn’t getting any tightening, yet it wasn’t tight enough because the seat moved around wayy too much.

Then came the Safety 1st, which I installed rear-facing since DS2 is still under two years of age. (Children really should be kept rear facing at least until two, and it’s even better if they stay rear facing until they outgrow the seat for rear-facing. For some that will be until age 3 or 4.) That seat about did me in. First of all, I had to adjust the angle, and then I had to try and tighten it. Using the info gleaned from the tips page, I stood behind the seat and tried to lean on it with my stomach. Hahahahaha! My stomach is just not that high up, so I could barely reach. The next problem was that there was no way to tighten the latch straps once they were hooked in. You could tighten them maybe half an inch, and then it just would. not. budge. So I had to tighten the latch strap, trying to guess how tight it would need to be, then perch my stomach on the back of the seat to push it towards the back of the truck, all the while trying desperately to get the latch strap tethered to the latch anchor. Seriously, I shouldn’t have to do acrobatics just to install my childs’ carseat. If it wouldn’t have been so cold outside, I’m pretty sure I would have been in a sweat by the end!

So what did I learn? Installing carseats, correction, correctly installing carseats is a PITB. Choosing a good, quality carseat that won’t break the bank is a PITB. In general, they are a PITB, a necessary evil. Because I love my children immensely, I’ll continue to suffer through. But man, I sure wish the manufacturers would A) be consistent with the installation methods and B) make the straps easier to tighten up. GRRRR!

Day 26 – January 26

We are renters. Having previously been home owners, it’s not an easy transition to make. You get used to doing what you want and making any changes and fixing things in a timely fashion. Sadly, such is not the case when you live in a rental, at least not this particular rental. But on the plus side, we’ve pretty much been living here for free for the past 5 months. Yep, the land lady has not cashed any checks since August! I got to thinking “Wait, isn’t there some time limit on cashing checks?” So I had DH contact the owner to gently nudge her towards the bank.

That was 10 days ago.

The checks still aren’t cashed.

I decided to call my bank and find out what really happens when you try to cash an old check. At first I was told that it would likely be cashed, and sometimes they are good up to two years. After further consultation with the head teller, I was told that it was actually 6 months. So my particular bank will not cash checks that are more than 180 days old, and it’s quite likely that most other banks will do the same. If another bank does decide to cash the check and sends it over to my bank, my bank will reject it as a bounced check. So really, there’s no penalty to me, but the landlady might get slapped with some bounced check fees.

I also learned that if I want to avoid this foolishness in the future, I can just send cashier’s checks. In that case, the money is removed from my account as soon as the cashier’s check is written. If the payee never cashes the check, well that money is just floating around un-used, but it’s no longer in my account. I’m thinking of possibly sending the rest of the rent for this lease term in the form of a cashier’s check. Then again, that would be a giant chunk of change, so maybe that won’t work so well.

Anyway, if you have some old checks sitting around that you haven’t cashed, get yourself to the bank and deposit them. If they are more than 180 days old, give them back to the payer and ask if they’ll write you a new check.

Day 25 – January 25

I’m very late in getting my post up today . . busy, busy day. So, I’ll cut to the chase. I learned how to make little covers for milk crates. I found some at an estate sale for 75 cents, so I picked up a few. They were an ugly brown and dirty-looking. Now, I won’t say that my sewing studio is super clean, but there’s enough brown in all in the sewing cabinets, I wanted to be able to a) cover up the ugliness of the crates and b) brighten things up in the studio. There are lots of tutes online, but I decided to go with this one, by Laura over at Paint in my hair.

The tute was really very easy to follow and this was a quick project. I made four covers in about 1.5 hours, which included figuring out the pattern for my dimensions, choosing fabric, ripping and sewing.

The one thing I will say about the directions . . . the boxing corners formula was not right, at least not for my measurements. The box was too small, so I had to add a 1/4″ to the amount I chopped out. It still wasn’t perfect, but it worked pretty well. Also, I decided to put the crate inside the bag and stuff the extra down into the crate rather than the other way around. I wanted the bottom to be covered on the outside since that is going to be exposed. The inside will be covered up with the piles of fabric waiting to be organized.

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. Oh, I forgot to mention that I used spray adhesive to attach the fabric to the inside of the crate. I’d never used that before, and was impressed with how well and how quickly things bonded. So there you go, TWO new things today: the milk crate covers and using spray adhesive!

Day 24 – January 24

Ingredient substitutions are seen quite frequently in my kitchen. I get partway through a recipe and realize that I’m missing some key ingredient. Sometimes substitutions are easy: cottage cheese for ricotta, or plain yogurt for ricotta or cottage cheese. Other times, I have no clue. So, I consult one of three handy substitution charts.

Today, I was making cream scones to go with the soup. Horrors .. . . no cream. (See what I mean about missing a key ingredient?) After checking my chart, I decided to go with evaporated milk. Yes, it IS weird that I had evaporated milk on hand and no cream. For some reason, I had about a cup left over in the fridge.

Generally, the substitutions work really well, and I don’t even notice the difference. For example, baked goods turn out the same whether I use real butter or the more healthy alternative. The taste and texture are pretty much the same. This time, the taste was pretty much the same. The texture, on the other hand was quite different with the evaporated milk. The scones were holey, for lack of a better term. Rather than being solid in the center, they had tons of tiny little holes. It kind of reminded me of that new aerated chocolate bar. It was weird. I’m thinking that next time, I’ll stick to using the full fat cream!

Day 23 – January 23

Have you ever wish you had an activity to keep your toddler or preschooler out of trouble, or keep them entertained long enough for you to get a few things done? If so, you are going to love my discovery . . . . busy bags. The basic premise is that you have a little bag with a small activity. It should be easy to put together, not expensive, and not require lots of setup or cleanup. I found out about this from my parents’ group. Someone scheduled a busy bag trade, so everyone is going to bring 15 bags of one activity. (I’m bringing this one.) Then, we’ll trade and each person will go away with 15 different busy bags. I have no idea why I never thought of this before. Just think of how much easier it could potentially be to go to a restaurant, or to the doctors office, or go grocery shopping? Really, this is fantastic.

To get you started, here are a few links with some busy bag ideas. If you are on pinterest, you’ll find tons of ideas there, or, you can just Google “busy bag”.

Day 22 – January 22

Today I had a parenting epiphany. Kids, at least mine, eat more at a restaurant when the food is cheaper.

Let’s me honest . .. eating out with small children is really a PITB and it can be expensive. Kids waste so much food, especially little kids, who are particular about what they eat, how they eat it, and what the surrounds need to be like in order for them to eat. I remember as a kid, my dad would get so frustrated at restaurants, “You kids waste so much food and money! It’s ridiculous!” I was maybe 7 or 8, and remember thinking it really wasn’t a big deal. Now that I’m older (and wiser), I get it. It’s supremely annoying to buy a meal for your child, and then have them eat like one bite. DH and I often wonder why we bother buying them food!

Several nights ago we went to an Asian restaurant. The kids menu prices were $7. Seriously!!!! SEVEN bucks for a kids meal? I get that it was a nice-ish restuarant, but as and adult, I could get an entree for less than the kids menu. Totally ridiculous if you ask me! Anyway, we decided to order one adult menu for the 3 little ones. The toddler threw half of his noodles on the floor proclaiming “Mess! Mess!”. The preschoolers ate some, but there was still a fair amount of food left over. Fast forward a few days, and we were eating at Bob Evans, where their kids menu items were $2.50 or less. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! I took a gamble and ordered one thing for each child. The gamble paid off. So when we ended up at Bob Evans again today, I went ahead and ordered something for each child. This time, both of the preschoolers ate ALL of their pancakes, plus their side dish AND a drink. The toddler didn’t eat as much, but in his defense, he had already nurse and had a large cup of chocolate milk. He was pretty much ready to float away, so he only ate one wedge of his sandwhich.

So the lesson gleaned from this experience: restaurants with more reasonably priced kids’ menus see less waste. Okay, so that’s a huge generalization. But, for my family, that seems to ring true.

Do you have small ids? What’s your experience been with eating out?

Day 21 – January 21

Sewing machines come with all sorts of specialty presser feet that are ostensibly for making your sewing life easier. Some are really easy to figure out: straight foot, zigzag foot, satin stitch foot, zipper foot. Others require a manual or at least someone to point you in the right direction: tucker foot, binding foot, ruffler, gathering foot. The gathering foot is one that seems like it should be easy to figure out. But, there is a fine line between success and total failure.

I’ve used a gathering foot before when I made ruffled streamers for DD’s birthday party. That was only 3 months ago. Clearly, I didn’t actually learn how to use the foot because when I used it today, it definitely didn’t work. The idea is that the foot is supposed to bunch the fabric up while you sew. The main problem with this foot is that you can’t really control the amount of gathering, it’s a bit of trial and error to find the correct settings. Getting the correct settings is where I went wrong yesterday. I had the tension set to loose and the stitch length was long. I ended up with a long stitch with horrible tension, and I ended up having to gather the fabric by hand. After a quick internet search, I discovered my mistake: the tension is supposed to be set to the highest possible. Whoops, got that totally wrong. But the good thing is now that I’ve made that mistake, I’m pretty sure that this little piece of info will be in my brain for a good, long time.

So to recap the proper use of a gathering foot:

1. Set your tension as tight as it will go. (You’ll need to experiment on scrap fabric to see how much tension is just right. Too tight and your thread will break.)
2. Set your stitch length as long as it will go. (Again, you’ll need to experiment. A longer stitch length will equal a more gathered fabric.
3. If neither or these methods yield the results you want, try keeping your finger behind the presser foot so that the fabric bunches up behind the foot. When you can’t hold any more fabric, let go and start over again.
4. Press your fabric when you are done. Likely, it will be all crooked and crazy looking. Pressing it into a straight line will help to tame those gathers.

Happy gathering!

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