Thursday, April 23, 2015

10 Things NOT to Donate

I spent the day helping set up for a garage sale to benefit my church's mission projects. For the most part, the items donated by church members were great. They were clean, in working order, and from this decade (mostly). However, there was another stack. This stack came from one county over where a school had attempted a similar sale only to have it rained out. They generously offered to let us have everything. It is while going through these things that I realized even though you should not look a gift horse in the mouth, if said horse has colic and a really bad limp, I think it is fair to question the motives of the giver.
With that I give you 10 things that you really should never donate

10. Home decor from a different century. I promise that no one is sitting around wishing they could find blue and mauve country kitchen valances. 
9. The free flip flops they give you when you have a pedicure
8. Well loved stuffed animals. As cute as they may have been new, at some point they become gross and creepy and need to go away
7. Clothes with holes. If you would throw it out, so would we
6. Clothes with stains, unintended paint splotches, and especially something that looks like your grandmother might have been buried in it. Please refer back to the second part of number 7.
5. Anything with duct tape holding it together. I kid you not, there was a hedge trimmer duct taped to a painter's poll. Your red neck inventions, no matter how genius, do not need to be donated.
4. A poorly framed picture of a dead cat (RIP Fluffers 1985-2005 you had a good run)
3. Anything and everything that might be considered a ladies unmentionable. 
2. Used men's underwear. This goes along with the last one, but I felt it needed it's own line to reinforce that nothing that has touched your bare behind needs to go to charity. EVER.     

The number 1 thing you should never ever under any circumstances put into a bag you are donating to charity is....

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go shower and possible get my shots updated. 

PS: If you live in my town, come see the sale tomorrow. We threw out all the scary things and ended up with a lot of cool things. 8 to 3 Friday and Saturday at 1220 Laurelwood Trail, 30041
All of it goes to help our mission churches.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

You're a Wizard JD

It's not everyday that your young man turns eleven. That day came last month. Thanks to pinterest and a stash of parchment paper, I planned to make JD a Hogwarts acceptance letter for his birthday. It turned out pretty sweet. I applied the same basic style to make party invitations. For favors I made these easy snitches from this tutorial on Epbot.

Next, I wanted to make wands. I stumbled onto these bamboo chopsticks and decided that with a little bit of clay and paint could turn them into wands. The ones I found were much like these on Amazon.
This turned out to be so easy and awesome that I had to share a DIY post.
Cut off a chunk of clay and roll it into a ball warming it up with your hands to make it easier to shape into a handle.

Instead of wraping it around the chopstick, push the ball down on top shaping it downward. This will prevent fussing with smoothing a seam.

Now have fun with it. I twisted some, added subtle lines, a bold swirl, I even pressed tulle into one to form a snake like pattern. Use your imagination and any random thing you think might look good. You can redo it as many times as you want until you bake it.
I had a set of metal letter stamps, and used them to put JD's name on his to make it extra special. I couldn't resist making one  for myself as well.

Per the clay instructions, I baked them for a half hour at 275. When they cooled, I used a chocolatey brown to paint the whole thing. It took two coats to cover. At that stage they looked much like tootise rolls (or poop, depending on who you asked).
After the brown dried, I applied a layer of black paint, and then used a papertowel to wipe most of it off before the paint dried. The black paint settles into all those texture marks you made before and really brings out the details to make them look more like carved wood.
I used a short flower vase with marbles in the bottom as an easy place to let them dry. Plus, it looked cool. 

For an extra magical touch I used a little of this copper paste stuff that I had on hand. I used a paper towel to buff on just a tad, and only on the handle, to give it an slight shimmer.
The last step is to use a clear satin sealer to help the layers of paint all stay intact. 
The only hard part about all this was waiting on coats to dry. 

If you are feeling adventurous, Epbot has an expanded version of this, only her wands light up.
Extra tips:
Thin irregular lines that are not deep give the handle a more realistic wood look. 
Before you put it in the oven, grip the handle for a second. Careful not to do it too tight or you'll leave finger prints. You want it just enough to make it fit in your hand. Slight dimples where your thumb or forefinger might rest. It gives it an added feeling of it fitting to you.

Monday, February 16, 2015

I'm Back!

It has been a while since I've posted. Life in general has been exhausting. In spite of our trying to keep the family from becoming over scheduled, we managed to do just that for the past couple of months. There have been basketball games, concerts, and so, so much homework. The long weekend and end of the basketball season has given us all a chance to catch our breath. Then makes it possible for me to post my annual Valentine's recap.
We no longer try to celebrate the holiday. There is just no point to it. Our anniversary is next month, and that is really much more special. So, aside from putting together a little thing for JD to hand out in school. I ignored all things Valentine related. It was kind of nice. It was certainly cheaper and less frustrating.
We woke up Saturday morning with Rocky on day 3 of a migraine, the kind that makes you feel sick all over. Nix had sinus problems and had lost her voice. As our record goes, it was shaping up to be a good one. We had a pajama day, watched movies, and generally did nothing. I made dinner, and was starting to feel smug about missing out on the usual tragedy. Then it happened. My stomach turned on me. There was gastrointestinal distress that I will not paint a full picture of. Rocky was still trying to get over the headache, and needed sleep. As is our tradition, we slept in separate rooms so he could sleep and I could watch tv until I felt better.
The next day came. We both had jobs to do at church that morning, so we went to get ready. Thankfully, Rocky was feeling better. I, on the other hand, .... well, I wasn't able to leave the house. Nix was also feeling yucky still, so we had a Marvel marathon laying in bed for a good bit of the day. I only keep the church nursery twice a year (bi-annual baby fix), and I missed it. It was a light week, and they were covered, but now I"m going to have to find another way to get baby snuggles, and the cat is not being as helpful with this as I would like.
Later that night, a friend had a similar streak of bad luck that ended with her husband needing stitches. Someone accused me of sharing the curse, and as I was typing that we hadn't had any bloodshed this year, Rocky sliced open the back of a couple of fingers. There was blood. Lots of blood. One cut landed on the folds of a knuckle on his right hand. It took a good chunk of skin. It was gross. Because of the location and nature of the wound, it didn't want to stop bleeding and he couldn't patch it. When I put fresh bandages on it this morning it still looked new. It will not be healing quickly.
Rocky and the kids both have today off. The weather was suppose to be snow but it is just really depressing icy rain. Because of accidentally not taking enough vacation days last year, Rocky has tomorrow off too. We had planned on a really fun day out with just the two of us. Now we wait on the school board to decide if the ice to rain ratio is worth cancelling school over.
The good part about all of this is that we have all laughed a lot. Even when we weren't feeling well, we would declare things such as "It's not Valentine's until somebody bleeds!" I am warping my children. I apologize to their future spouses.
Schools are out and so is our power. This is shaping up to be a much more serious ice storm than we thought. The kids are camping out in the den by the fire. If not for the concern of all the trees creaking and transformers blowing, this would be kind of fun. 
Funny bit: the smoke detector beeps when the power is out. If you take the battery out, it beeps louder. Rocky is now in a fit of desperation trying to figure out how to disconnect it from whatever demon is powering the beep. It is now beeping faster and I am laughing harder. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Potion Master Box

I needed to put together a quick birthday present for one of Nix's friends this week. Being that she is a friend of my kid, this isn't your typical Sweet 16, so I got to have fun. A few years ago we made an epic zombie themed box of candy. I'm still kicking myself for not making more detailed pictures. I wrapped it in brown paper with cation tape and painted my hand red to leave"bloody" hand prints on it.

The crossover between that party and this one are low, so I recycled the idea but with a Harry Potter twist to suit the birthday girl.
I started with a simple wooden box from Hobby Lobby (cheap thanks to coupons). I could get all fancy and paint the box, but if it were me, I'd want the box raw so I could paint it myself. This girl comes from an artistic family (as did the last one), so raw it is.

For the contents I wandered around Target for candy that spoke to me, and followed it up with a trip to the English food section of our Publix. Here is what I ended up with and how I labeled them.

The two small glass jars were also from Hobby Lobby and also very inexpensive. I have just over $15 invested in this. 
If you look closely, you might notice a couple of non-Harry items in there. I thought a couple of nods to other British fantasy/ sci-fi would be fun. 

Here is a close up of the tea and the turkish delight.

The finished box inside.

And after wrapping. I googled a still shot of the book in the movie and did a fair recreation of the inscription to give it that added touch that no one but me will notice.

This was fun, and quick, but took a bit of creative thinking. There are a lot of themes this could get adapted to fit, and isn't really gender or age specific. The only catch is that you need to check for allergies before you buy the candy. 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Struggling to be Thankful

For the last three years I have taken November to be what I've called randomly thankful. Each day I post on Facebook a totally random, somewhat ordinary thing that I am thankful for. Last year's highlights included ziploc bags and gas station microwaves. This year I wanted to throw in a little something different, but it is so different that I fear it must be done in small doses. I want to be thankful for things that I am not naturally thankful for. In short, the things I complain about. Being a somewhat sarcastic person, I've been worried that it would come off as snide. This is where a blog post to explains things comes in. I'm going to start with once a week and see how it goes.
I wanted to go about this with as pure of intentions as possible. That lead me to read up on what the Bible says about being thankful. Spoiler alert: It is pro-thanking God for everything He has given us even if the rest of life is kind of not going well. Job comes to mind, but for the record, I am not trying to sign up for a month of Job.
Something in Ephesians 5 caught my attention. In addition to being openly thankful there are things I also need to not do in order for this to really work. I need to not use obscenities (not too hard for me), no coarse joking (okay, a little harder but totally doable), and no foolish talk (I'm in trouble). Foolish talk is my go to. I tried changing what version I was reading, but they all seem to agree that being silly was a block to being really thankful to God. I even tried The Message, which was foolish and set me back to square one.
My main point of this post is to warn you. I have not thought out what each post will be. I have no idea what will be impressed upon me each day. What I do know and trust is that the Lord is going to hit me with something I need to be more thankful for and that some of those things will not be fun. This idea has been weighing on me since September, so I have had time to settle in on the idea. I hesitate to invite others to join me because I have no idea what I am in for. Honestly, I am a little nervous. This is a big trust exercise for me. So, if you want to take the risk with me, great, but if not I hope to see you all continuing to be randomly thankful this month because it is fun, enlightening, and points more of our lives towards God.
Thank you for your support and understanding in this. Now for my first one.
Today I am thankful for the awareness my stomach problems have brought me. It sits me down more often than I'd like and my dietary requirements kind of stink, but I have to eat healthy, I am so much more understanding of others' who have invisible health problems, and it makes me appreciate the time I feel good as well as the things I can do when I feel bad. I wouldn't choose it, or wish it on anyone else, but right now, for today, I am truly thankful for the blessings God has given me through it.
Wow, that was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I wish I could convey through words the emotions that spilled out of me typing that. There is no way I could ever say that out loud.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Our Unfiltered Healthcare Numbers

We received our annual healthcare renewal letter today. I don't typically share details about our finances, but this is kind of a big deal. There are a lot of exaggerations and bending of facts to suit personal opinions. This isn't about my personal opinion. This is about the choices my family, and many others, will be making in the coming days.
First, I should explain that my husband works for a very small company that isn't large enough to have any sort of group rate policy. We pay for 100% of our insurance. Because of that, we have a very high deductible and try very hard not to need a doctor.
I made a picture of the price and benefit changes that were sent to us today.

There are a couple of things I'd like to point out. We were told that our premiums might increase some, but so would our benefits. As you can see here our deductible will decrease by $3,000. However it is still $7,000, which is a good bit more than what we spend on average on family healthcare costs. 

You'll also notice in the picture that we will now have prescription coverage. Yeah! But wait, there is that sneaky add on that it doesn't kick in until we meet our new $7,000 deductible. Boo! So, it really might as well still be no coverage at all.
The next upgrade is that I will now be covered for "Essential Health Benefits". These vary from state to state, but I am having a lot of trouble finding out what they are specifically above what we normally have. I know it covers mental health coverage (a total joke if you look at what is actually covered), maternity (no one in my house needs that), breast reconstruction, and then "others" that no one can seem to promise specifics on. 

Now we get to the math. For these new add-ons that we probably will never get to use and certainly didn't ask for, we are paying a pretty large price. To be exact, it is $526.18 per month more. That adds up to $6314.16 per year more. The total we are out of pocket for this is $9,413.28. Before we get real use out of it we must first meet the deductible. That puts us at $16,413.28 per year out of our pocket. 
We are not wealthy people, but we end up with too much income to receive any break or credit, but not enough that we would want to add an extra $500 a month payment for anything. I think most people probably arrange their budget so that even if they are well off they don't have $500 extra that they are willing to throw at something that has no added benefit. 
We are now looking at our options. We will talk to an agent, we will investigate every avenue we can find, but tonight the numbers just don't add up. There is a very good chance we will end up uninsured. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Creeper Pumpkin

Last year's Minecraft Pumpkin was a huge hit. I had trick-or-treaters make their picture with it. Never have I had a carved pumpkin get that kind of attention. This encouraged me to do something similar this year, which logically can mean only one thing - CREEPER HEAD!

My process was similar to last year. This time I got a 14 inch square box (last year was 12), the paint grid was a much more merciful 8x8 formation, and it required a minimum of 7 colors. I say minimum because I could have done more, but I decided not to go completely crazy. Also unlike last year's, each side had a different pattern to it, so I ended up mapping out 5 different grids.
Here is the rundown
1. Find a pattern. I used this head for a papercraft on fps-x-games

2. Pick your paint. I went with 5 greens and 2 grays from Apple Barrel for the very important reason of that is what Walmart had, which saved me a trip across town to a craft store. I numbered them light to dark. I think the color names will give you a pretty good idea.
       1. Pale Green     2. Crisp Green    3. Palm Leaf    4. Kelly Green    5. English Ivy
          6. Granite Gray    7. Pewter Grey  (yup, they spelled it 2 different ways and yes it bugged me)

3. Plot it out. I'm going to post these small for space purposes, but you can click on each image to see it in detail. I raised the face up by one line so that the mouth wouldn't be at the very bottom.


4. Decided what side your face goes on. Pay attention to the way you fold the top. Then draw out the grid.

5. Cut the face out

6. Paint and paint and paint and then paint. But seriously, because of the bigger squares, this one was MUCH faster than the pumpkin one from last year.

7. Glue your top and bottom closed.

Remember not to use a real candle in these (cardboard tends to react badly to fire) I'm thinking of trying green glowsticks this year.
Our cat really likes them. The eye holes on the creeper are just the right height for her to stick her head in it.