Tuesday, March 5, 2013

OMG It’s Snowing, in Chicago, in March!

That’s sarcasm in case you didn’t pick up on it.

Seems everyone is home with their kids today. Well, at least that is what Twitter is telling me. In MY day, schools didn’t close for 3 to 5 inches, to my dismay and probably my parent’s delight. I’m not being a curmudgeon, they didn’t.  Maybe it was a Catholic school thing, because I swear kids in public school got WAY more snow days than me.  Maybe the nuns thought it would be good for our constitution, hehe. I remember putting on my uniform, maybe tossing sweatpants over my knee socks so I didn’t get frostbite on my mostly bare legs, and trudging through snow several blocks to get to the bus pickup, and that was it.  No big deal…

Nowadays, seems the weather folks say “OMG stock up on provisions and close the schools we’re getting anywhere between 3 and 17 inches!!!!”. That’s about the spread I’ve heard for IL, because c’mon, they don’t actually know until it hits us, and even then they could get it wrong as to what it CURRENTLY doing depending on your zipcode. It’s Chicago! And then we get MAYBE 3-5 inches spread slowly across an entire day.  And because it’s CHICAGO and you know, we’ve all been here before, the snowplows go to it, everyone goes on with their day, they (hopefully) drive more cautiously and put on an extra layer. Except for the Snowpocalypse of 2011, I can’t even remember a snowfall that has truly impressed me in the last 9 years or so.  I say 9 years because that’s how long I’ve been in Oak Park, and we can get significantly different amounts of precipitation than where I used to live way out in the Western suburbs. So I reset my snow-OMG meter.

Nonetheless, I was working from home today, so I raised the blinds to watch the Winter Wonderland unfold, kept the front walk ways shoveled for pedestrians (including my neighbor’s sidewalk cause she has a small baby and I’m awesome like that).  I left the back yard alone so I could get a nice stream of pictures as the snow built up…might regret that later, LOL. There is a pergola but it’s not covered, so it might have a bit less snow on it than the ground, but it is close. I’ll update this later with more pics as the snow builds up.

This was at 9:30am. The chair seat is a good gage of depth:


At about 10:30am, finally starting to build:


Noon. I had some homemade chili, then shoveled the front walkways and stairs at this point.  Maybe 3 inches deep,  4 in a few places, so not too bad. But since the snow is wet and heavy I plan to shovel multiple times, I don’t need to mess up my back any more than it already is. Still leaving the back for later so I can get good pictures! My husband will love me for that, ha!

WP_20130305_012 .

And at 1:30pm. Not a snowpocalypse by any stretch yet.


And at 2:30pm, it started picking up a bit again. Roads are still clear as far as I can see, thankfully.


3:45pm – definitely a good 5 to 6 inches there now. And it’s a bit sheltered, so I’d say it’s maybe another inch deeper in front.


And lastly at 5PM, and it’s coming down pretty furiously now.


And this is what it looked like in the back yard after my 3rd sidewalk shoveling shift, around 6:30pm, and it has finally stopped snowing, for the meantime.


Not yet impressed, but I am furtively raising one eyebrow in case this keeps up all night.

Don’t get me wrong, people are completely entitled to bitch and moan about the weather. The weather that Chicago has for 4-6 months out of every year, and has for the history of everything ever. Lord knows my husband does, LOL. I just don’t get all the fuss. It’s not tornadoes, or tsunamis, we’ll all be back to normal by tomorrow night most likely.  If not, we’ll survive, as we did the blizzard of 2011. It’s mostly just inconvenient right now, and really beautiful. 

I live for heavy snows. And to me, if the worse thing that happens to me today is that I am forced to stay home from work (I can work from home which helps) and have a snow day with my family, well then I’m pretty lucky. Sadly, my husband is NOT working from home, so I have to frolick outside alone.  So go make a snowman, or stay in and enjoy a hot cocoa under a blanket, or both! I plan to.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cooking is a Craft Right? Fast & Easy Low Carb Breakfast Frittata!

It’s been a LONG time since I posted and I know, I owe my readers a lot of update posts on my craft attic, but those are going to be long and involved so I will continue to procrastinate, it’s what I do best. The urge struck me to blog tonight because I just made something that I couldn’t stop stealing bites of when it was done, it was so freaking good.  Here’s the story…

So my husband and I have been drastically reducing our carbs and breakfast was always a tough one. Who doesn’t love bagels, toast, pancakes, yum!  So we turned to eggs and veggies, and so long as I could get up super early, we always had time for a nice, healthy breakfast free of “bad carbs” in the morning.  To save time, I would sometimes scramble a LOT of eggs and fry up veggies on Sunday and we could reheat them throughout the week, but it was never really very tasty. The veggies always got mushy.  Then I scrambled the eggs and veggies together, much better.  Then I graduated to mini egg muffins.  I tried a lot of recipes I ran across on Pinterest and they were always kind of meh. Either rubbery, or fell apart when we tried to take them out of the pan, any 6 muffins only lasted a couple of days.  Then I discovered the frittata at my favorite local café and it was love at first bite <3

I started asking around and was referred to this great recipe on Food Network that looked a) easy, b) allows for substitutions/customizations, c) reheats well and is d) fast.  All requirements for me when I cook. I am not super creative and I don’t want to spend a lot of time if I don’t have to.  And I want things to be AMAZING! Typical right?  Well, this one fit the bill.  So feel free to follow the recipe as-is but here is what I did a bit differently, so it might give you some ideas as to how flexible it is…

First, I used different veggies, basically what I had on hand.  Instead of asparagus, I used:

  • 1/2 a small zucchini, cubed
  • 2 baby bella mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 orange pepper, cubed
  • 1/4 cub chopped onion
  • 1/2 cub chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup pearl tomatoes, sliced in halves

Next, I don’t have a 9.5 inch non-stick skillet that wouldn’t combust in the oven so I used my 12 inch cast iron skillet.  Since it was a bigger pan I increased my egg count to 8 eggs, and the equivalent of 3 egg whites (liquid kind).  Wasn’t sure how this would effect things at first, but managed to have it still turn out really well. I think I got lucky. and maybe I inherited some instincts from my mom when it comes to these kinds of things.

For the record, I totally just paused mid-blog and grabbed another little hunk and ate it, it is SO GOOD!

I also didn’t have heavy cream laying around, who does?  I substituted 2 tablespoons of sour cream and a tablespoon of soy creamer. What, soy creamer you say? I know it sounds gross.  It wasn’t flavored creamer, and was more or less the density that I needed. And it ended up working great :: SHRUGS::

So here is what the skillet looked like after sautéing the veggies as per instructions (so everything but tomatoes and mushrooms for the last 2 minutes)  and pouring the egg mixture over it in the pan. It had sit for 4 minutes on med-high and was just starting to set. The recipe says 3 minutes, but again, bigger pan and more eggs:


I waited for them to be mostly “set”, so firm on the sides, bubbling in the center but still runny on top.  For me this was right around 7 minutes later on medium.  Then I sprinkled it with a 3 cheese blend (which just happened to including fontina), and popped it in the oven. Looked like this:


You’ll have to excuse the photo quality, I was sending these to my husband to show off my culinary prowess, not planning to post them to a blog, so they’re not great.  My first screw-up was using the “Hi” setting on my broiler, it’s electric and old and apparently hi = nuclear. After 2.5 minutes it was browned to the point of almost being too dark and so I removed it. Behold:


It was still beautiful and looked utterly delicious, but I poked around and noted that it looked a wee bit undercooked. Well, even undercooked enough that reheating would barely make it done. I didn’t want to put it back in yet because it’s a cast iron skillet right? That thing stays HOT. Another part of the issue is I probably went overboard with the eggs, I think 8 total would have been enough, this frittata was a bit thick, adding to the undercookedness. What? That’s a word!

So I let it sit for 2 minutes, and tried running a spatula under it to free it from the pan. NOT HAPPENNING. Well, it finally started to give a little, but being undercooked didn’t help it.  I eventually got it loosened up, and had to do some fancy finagling to get it out of the pan. Things don’t easily slide out of cast iron with those deep sides. It broke apart a little getting onto the flat cookie sheet, so I rectified this by sprinkling some mozzarella on top. I then popped it back into the oven with the broiler on “lo” for 2 minutes.  That seemed to do the trick.  The cheese melted beautifully and the eggs firmed up.


You can see the little edge missing at about 2 o’clock there.  By now it more likely resembles PacMan, I can’t stop stealing bites!  With veggie chopping, cooking, finagling, more cooking, it was probably 25 minutes tops.  If not for the extra baking on the cookie sheet, it would have dirtied exactly 6 things: cutting board, knife, mixing bowl, whisk, spatula and skillet.

It is delicious, cheap to make, relatively quick & easy, and it will definitely last us the rest of the week!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Productivity Tip for OneNote Users – To Do Items are Magical!

So if you’ve not realized it yet, my blog posts are a bit, well, all over the place.  I am actually posting this to both my tech blog AND my “Crafty Diva” blog because it’s so universally handy – IMHO. Today I am talking about Office OneNote because I couldn’t do my job (or organize some of my personal life) effectively without it.

Are you still using Notepad (the app), or physical notepads, or emails, or 15 other tools to take meeting notes, manage lists, organize events? Stop it! Stop it right now!  Well, if you cannot afford Office then I get it, keep using what you’re using, but if you DO have Office already be sure to check out OneNote. There are some amazing features in there that I couldn’t live without, today I’ll be talking about just one of them. Here is a little preview of what mine looks like.


I have many Notebooks to separate the various things I need to keep track of, and many sections within those notebooks to further categorize all the things I need to keep track of. This may not seem like an impressive amount of Notebooks, but for client privacy’s sake, there are half a dozen notebooks and about 300 sections hidden in this view. I take a LOT of notes Smile  I generally end up with pages upon pages of notes like this per client that I work with, and most pages contain images of whiteboards (who needs a SmartBoard when you have a Smartphone), embedded power point presentations or Visio diagrams, links, email addresses, etc. And what is awesome is with a couple of clicks I can easily fire off the page or entire Notebook to someone else email or even have it automatically sync to a SharePoint site so I can access it from any PC as well as share it with others.

You might already know about this feature I am about to get all hot and bothered about, but I have been using OneNote for almost 10 years and I forget about it constantly – the “To Do” feature.  To Do is the focus of today because it is seriously one of my most beloved features in OneNote. You might notice that at the bottom of my page of notes above, I have a couple of To Dos for things I owe back to the customer. I often have HUGE lists of these, and if I have several meetings a day it can easily turn into a list spread across multiple sections and Notebooks! Before I followed the RTFM rule I used to preface those lists with “To Do” and then search for “To Do” to recall them to view and verify I had done it all.  If I had paid attention, I might have noticed a handy little button in the ribbon called “To Do” with a check box next to it.  How embarrassing for me.  Anytime you click that button it puts a clickable checkbox next to a To Do item that you can check in on later to verify it was done. Now you might be thinking, what good is that if I have to go back to all of my previous sections and LOOK to see if they are done? HA, me too once, and then I right-clicked a To Do item and noticed an interesting option. “Find tags”…brilliant! Sadly, when I first started using OneNote back in 2004 I totally knew about it, and just forgot at some point… I rediscovered it lately and head a ::face palm:: moment.



This brings up a VERY handy little toolbar that lists all of the To Do items in your OneNote file, filtered by scope, state, etc.  Check it out, all the way to the right I can now see all of the To Do tasks, and right now it is scoped to just this section and shows ALL tasks:


But wait…. there’s more! Check out what happens when I change the filter to the entire Notebook, and then group by section. I know, awesome right?


Notice the checkbox that can also filter out anything that has been checked, cause believe me, if I do this for my entire OneNote file there are thousands of To Do’s mostly checked. (I did work as an evangelist covering 3 stated for Microsoft for almost 6 years after all).

Here’s where I really blow your mind. Seriously, you might want to sit down. Wait you probably ARE sitting down. Whatever. What OneNote cannot do is remind you to DO those things. But Outlook can. But I am not a huge fan of having to do double entry. And then I noticed I didn’t have to. Again, just now noticed it, oy. If you are setup with Outlook, you can pretty easily get some nice integration there.  And by “nice” I mean AWESOME. Up in the ribbon bar you might notice this little cluster of goodness:


With a simple click you can also convert a OneNote To Do into an Outlook Task, and, AND you select when the task is due (today, tomorrow, next week, custom) as well as mark it complete when you are done!! 


And yes, it “just works” and updates Outlook immediately.  I checked, cause I was dubious, immediately syncs to Outlook. Mind = BLOWN.  The other two buttons are ones I use CONSTANTLY too. Email, you can guess what that does…  And the meeting button, I just noticed this TODAY. Good lord would this have been handy when I was at Microsoft sometimes having as many as 7 meetings a day.  It was there, I just didn’t see it. Hiding there, all secret up there in the toolbar. Pssht.  Anyway, this does what I have been doing manually for 5 years, like an idiot.  It imports the data about the meeting from your Outlook calendar and into the notes. No more “what were these notes for again?” BOOM!


One last thing.  Another things I just noticed today which is what prompted me to cross-post to my crafty blog. You can customize lists with specific icons and actions. Just look at this list, take into account the fact that you can create custom ones, and then go create some lists. To Do lists, book-to-read lists, movies-to-see lists, craft supply lists, lists of awesome RSS feeds to go follow, WHATEVER!


That is my lesson for today. Hope you got something out of it, and I plan to blog about a few other OneNote features that are incredibly handy, even if you don’t take notes for a living. Did I mention I do TFS implementations and software delivery process consulting for a living? I use to sling code too, it was handy then as well. And yes, I couldn’t live (happily and productively) without OneNote.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Part 2: The Plan

So, in case you skipped part 1, here is all you need to know about where your heroine left off in her quest for a great craft space to share with her friends – the previously semi-finished attic has been obliterated with the help of my wonderful husband and my good friend Dinah:


I haven’t worked out every detail of how it will be finished but we have a good starting point. We tore down the originally planned knee walls and remaining walls and ceilings from the “nanny suite” at the top of the stairs. To give credit where it is due, my husband recruited a few of his buddies to finish off that part of the dirty job.  Originally we were planning to keep that little room, mostly because it has gorgeous old hardwood floors and a great old door. We quickly realized how cool the room would look if we completely opened it up, and knew it had to go. Well, we kept the floors, and all the wood trim, but lost the walls and ceiling. I love how huge and bright the attic space looks when we opened up the other part of the attic! An old slanted chimney (don’t worry, that’s the design) that I plan to white wash divides the floor into 2 sections, one of which will be a home office and storage closet, the other side will be the awesome-cool-huge-bright craft space ::cue angelic music and heavenly light:: Also, it’s going to be roughly 20 x 24 so almost500 square feet, WOWZA. This is a VERY crude sketch, but might give a good overall idea of how it might be laid out:


I wish I could take credit for the plan, but my husband is awesome and brilliant and suggested a decent amount of it. Originally I figured on having lots of shelves and workspace down the sides of the attic, so really not too far from the original layout except a bit wider and eventually we would replace all the free-standing shelves with lots of custom built-ins. It occurred to me that a) I’d prefer to have my craft things closer at hand and I tend to work near the window in the center of the room. b) it might make sense to design the room to have multiple purposes and NOT restrict use of all the walls to storage. So, after some brainstorming and daydreaming on Pinterest and ThisOldHouse.com, I had it!

Imagine, if you will, floor to ceiling built-ins along the window wall. There will be a window bench in the center where someone could sit and read and take in some sunshine and fresh air. The bench would have drawers underneath custom sized for wrapping paper rolls, and all of my gift-wrap accoutrements. Around the nook and up to the peak there will be shelves, LOTS of shelves, ALL OF THE SHELVES. They would be large and open so that I could see all of my various craft supplies at a glance. Since there will be a super cool triangular shaped area over the nook that no one can reach, I’ll also have a library ladder that spans the shelves – THAT was David’s idea, I so love my husband. These 2 pictures are a decent approximation of the arrangement of shelves and how the bench seat will look (in place of the window in the first picture).



For now we are skipping the grandiose plans for a dormer and skylights, that will come in time. I think taking the walls out will help to scatter light and brighten it up without the extra windows. I’m also choosing light bamboo flooring and paint colors to open up the room.  And since we are trying to be as environmentally friendly as the design (and budget) allows, we figured re-using a lot of the old wood and choosing a sustainable alternative to traditional hardwood were good ways to do that.  We went with the lightest bamboo flooring we could find at Home Depot, and at $1.99 a square foot it wouldn’t break the bank either. It’s also something we can lay down ourselves, since it’s the self sticking “boards” with built-in subfloor.  It’s thin, almost like a linoleum flooring, which means it’s light enough that even us gals can schlep boxes of it up to the attic AND it can be trimmed with a simple utility knife too!  From what I could find it is also durable and easy to clean, BONUS!


For colors, I’ve been in love with this Martha Stewart color for over a year now, it’s called Haystack and I think is the perfect creamy yellow to inspire me to be creative Smile 


I noticed just the other day that they even have a suggested accent color on the back of the swatch. It is a nice creamy not-quite-white color as trim and shelving colors as well. With the bamboo flooring, I think the room will be significantly brighter than it was before.

Haven’t fully decided on furniture, but I don’t intend to buy a bunch of new fancy, stuff.  After all we are cutting, painting, glittering, etc. on it.  Then, as we were moving things around in the attic to make room for new flooring, I had a great idea! Well, one my husband had mentioned and I hadn’t seriously considered yet.  The gorgeous old door from the nanny suite area to the old craft room would make a GREAT work-station.  And it would be a darn shame to toss it in the basement and forget about it.  Since we no longer need it, I figure my husband can make a clear, craft-friendly top for it and mount it on legs as my new craft table.    Then the old folding tables can be added to the pool of open craft table space for any friends who want to drop by and work up there with me Smile Check out the door, it’s beautiful!


I also love how it will allow me to retain some of the attic’s original charm, without the horrible purple walls and cheap trim. Eventually I’m hoping my husband can also build me custom bases for my work table that have built in shelves for day-to-day craft supplies.  In the meantime, I think the Ikea saw-horse style legs will work great.

So that’s it for now.  There is certainly more to the plan than this, but I’ll share as we learn more. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Attic Rehab Part 1: The Gut

It didn’t start as a total gut rehab, but when does it? At some point in late September before this all started, the phrase “about 2 weeks” was bandied about. 2 weeks of mess and chaos is too many for me, but I figured I’d survive. I’m sure my husband doesn’t remember saying 2 weeks, perhaps I really did imagine it was supposed to be that quick, but for now it’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, even if it was 3 weeks, or 2 months, that was September and it’s oh, about 4 months later, and counting. Well, let’s back up a bit before I move on.

At some point in early September we had an energy audit company come out and look at the house. We had gotten tired of $400+ gas bills when our house was never over 70 degrees even in the dead of winter. Turns out, we had no insulation, anywhere, none, ZERO. Something like 82% of the heat in our house was escaping through the roof and walls. E-I-G-H-T-Y-T-W-O. It’s supposed to be something like 30% or less. Much of it went right through the roof, and up there was my favorite room in the house, my craft attic. So at that point I looked at my gorgeous (cough, cough) lavender walls, adhesive glow in the dark stars on the purple ceiling, cheap trim that hid bad drywall seams and awful, painted linoleum flooring and decided it was time for a change. If we had to tear out the walls to properly add insulation anyway, we might as well gut it and upgrade my craft space.  Here it is in all its glory in case you forgot, not too shabby!


It was a fairly large craft room at 14 x 24, but hey, figured I could tweak the floor plan and break 500 sq. ft. in my new and improved craft room! I don’t need anything too extravagant, but fresh paint and some new lights would be really nice. He he, what a fool I was for almost settling for that.

You’ve probably seen this post, the one where I showed off the before and after pictures of the initial gut job. Figured paying a friend to do it would be cheaper and less worrisome than paying strangers and it was. It was quite a mess, but we figured once the insulation was done, we could clear out the debris, put up new drywall and I’d be up and scrap-booking again in no time. We could slowly finish the craft room around me, and deal with new flooring, painting, etc. at a later date as we found time and money to do so. I just wanted back in there by Christmas so I could attempt to make some presents.

First major hurdle: Turns out 100 year old prairie houses require far more complicated insulation than we could do ourselves. The husband did some research and found a local company to handle some bids. The company we chose to do the insulation had been recommended, were less expensive than a few others we considered, and we had a budget to consider so we took a chance. This was before Thanksgiving. 6 weeks later they were still tap-dancing around getting us scheduled and now we were looking at early January, I was concerned. It was only a 2 day job, so there was that, but the week of January 9th was the soonest they could fit us in. ARRRGGGHH! I decided after Christmas to stop being upset about it since it wouldn't make it be finished any sooner.  I then postponed my craft-room-reconstruction-sabbatical for a bit so that it would coincide with it actually being ready for me to work on. I’ve tried to take the new approach of “it’s about the journey and not the destination” about a lot of things, and it has certainly been helping my outlook.

We bought the house knowing its age would complicate everything and OH BOY has it. Second hurdle: We needed a special, very expensive type of insulation, which needed deeper eaves so we had to bring in carpenters for that. Thankfully the management company we hired to watch over the insulation company was able to find used foam insulation boards that were still very much usable and much less expensive. Yay for something positive! It more than covered the additional cost of having the management company to begin with. Then the pour-in insulation density required was an issue. Third hurdle: Their trial-run blew out several sections of the plaster wall in one of the closets, and they had to stop and change to a lower density insulation.


No more blow-outs, but at this point I think we were at day 3 or 4 (of the 2 days project). Not to mention they didn’t bid wall repairs, so now we have to add some major plaster replacement to our repair list. GAH! At least it was fixed bid, so we got a seriously good price and every extra hour they had to work because of their miscalculations came out of THEIR pocket. The management company re-inspected things constantly to make sure it was done right, which made me feel better, but also meant some rework and extra time on the back-end. In total it was 8 working days spread over 4 weeks, and on Feb 1st it was finally done. Yeah, almost 4 months later.  We are much warmer, and hopefully my gas bill will be nice and low next month, but I still as yet had no craft room…  Instead I had this:


Now, once I embraced the idea of just going with the flow, I started making big plans to assuage my anxiety, BIG plans! I certainly had enough time while the room was getting done <insert mad cackling here>. It might not be completely finished until Summer (when you see my plans you will understand why), but it should be at least usable again by the end of February. No pics of the grand plans to share yet, as most of it is in a scrapbook with ideas torn out of magazines, but we decided to go with a VERY open floor plan. I’ll actually post again soon with more details on how we hope the attic will look when we are finished…

I started a 2 week, unpaid sabbatical Monday, the idea being that a LOT of the bigger jobs can get started and possibly finished when I have long, uninterrupted days to work on them.  When I go back to work on the 19th, I can knock out some of the small finishing stuff in small bites while during the day someone else works on it for me. You’ll soon learn why I love my friend Dinah so much.  My husband has been amazing throughout the process, doing all of the electrical himself as well as helping me along the way with advice, ideas, and a steady supply of tools. I have also hired a very good friend (Dinah) to help me, since a) I can’t do a lot of it without a second pair of hands, and b) she has more experience with stuff like mudding walls, painting, light construction, etc. I figure between the two of us, we can probably knock out clearing the attic, putting down the snap-together bamboo flooring, and patching the 70 holes left in every room of the house from the insulation job before I go back to work. Holes might not be doing the situation justice, here you go, feast your eyes on this and imagine them in EVERY ROOM OF YOUR HOUSE and keep in mind loose cotton fiber insulation is constantly seeping out of them and landing on every surface:


Serenity now!! 

Then hopefully by the time the flooring gets laid, my husband and I can get drywall up soon after that. This has already been an epic post, so I’ll leave the details of what we plan to do next to another one… but here is a preview of the progress we’ve made in the past 2 days alone:


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why you might not get a (homemade) Christmas gift from me this year…

Very different post today.  Not crafty, but it is related to my lack of craftiness of late, I guess.  Today I made a tough decision to scrap much of what is on my TODO list before Christmas and try to enjoy what I CAN do before then.  Well, it’s a first world problem at it’s best.  Some people make a tough decision to not eat so they can afford shoes for their kids.  I admit it, I have a rather charmed life and most of the stress and pressure I feel is completely self induced.  Anyway, I decided to stop giving myself stomach aches about stuff I just couldn’t get to before Christmas and let it go.  Start fresh at the next opportunity (after New Years) and see it as a chance to do things right moving forward.  I do this often, I SUCK at letting go, admitting defeat, and starting over.  I should see it as a lesson learned and not a failure to be perfect, which no one is or could ever be.  I’ll regularly beat myself up over something and lose sleep for 6 months, rather than just admit that no one but me really cares THAT much about the thing I am failing to do. I’ve let myself become too distracted by work, when it’s not what SHOULD be the major focus of my life right now.  Focus on the words “my” and “now”.  Not everyone has the same work-life balance equation, and mine has certainly changed a lot over the years. 


Notice I didn’t say “I’m too busy”.  That’s crap. I’ve stopped doing that, saying that, because it’s pretentious and implies that the things making my life crazy is more important than everything else’s activities.  Everyone is busy, EVERYONE IS BUSY, we just all choose to prioritize different things. Right or wrong, we consciously let things take over our life, sometimes it’s not the meaningful things.  For years I *chose* to travel, I *chose* to work ungodly numbers of hours, I *chose* to volunteer for extra-curricular activities related to work, I chose to over achieve and do more than expected to prove myself (whatever that really means) to everyone, work-work-work. And hey, for a while it was awesome, and I loved it!  I’ll never ding Microsoft for pushing me to exceed and be a super-star.  It’s the culture there and that’s OK.  Being at Microsoft has given me an incredible sense of confidence, has provided me with the best network a girl could ask for, and has opened up some amazing opportunities to me.  The craziness I’ve been living there, it’s what the job requires, it’s what they expect from their employees, and I agreed to it and thrived in it for years.  It’s been a fun, wild ride and I certainly do not regret it for a single second.  It’s definitely gotten more hectic and more demanding over the years, and I’ve also started realizing that 37 year old Angela needs something different than 31 year old Angela did.  Now, I want to be home more, to not travel, to not work nights and weekends, and to not feel immense pressure all the time to be the best in a company full of amazing people also trying to be the best.  Not that where I am going isn’t full of amazing people, it’s just a totally different world than life at Microsoft.  Once I’ve moved on at the end of the month, someone else will step into my role and do all the things I have now decided are just not my path anymore, and they will love it like I did.  And that’s OK.  I’m having a hard time shaking the feeling that I’m a big failure for walking away, letting down what few women are here to represent at Microsoft, which is dumb because I’d never think less of someone else for making a decision like this.  I’d call it brave, smart, etc.  And the well wishes, and widespread sadness at my leaving has reinforced that I made a difference there, that I was valued, and will be missed.   In a company that size, that’s saying something.  Anyway, I digress…


Back to my point. I haven’t been home to work on stuff, and when I am home I’m either frantically catching up on email or planning the next trip until I’m too beat down mentally, and unmotivated physically to do anything non-work related.  It’s all I could do to put up the tree this year, I’ve made no cards, I’ve made no presents, I’ve not even wrapped the ones I did manage to buy.  I’ve barely touched my craft stuff except for a few fun wedding projects I worked on with friends.  I use the excuse that my attic has been gutted for months now, and most of my craft supplies are not easily accessible, but again with the first world problems.  If I really wanted to I could get stuff down and work on it.  Well, in my defense this is what I am dealing with.  The first was taken just before we tore it apart near the end of December, the other is what the attic has looked like since the beginning of October:

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You gotta admit it’s enough to take the wind out of anyone’s sails…  I’m hoping I get my crafting spark back next year when the dust settles, after the craft attic is put back together, and I have a new routine that more closely suits the daily life I am hoping to get back to.  I’m going to give a lot of credit to this lovely blogger, who I discovered via Twitter about 8 months ago.  Great advice can be found there almost daily, regardless of what your path in life is.  Here was one of the ones that really woke me up: http://www.simpleproductivityblog.com/10-ways-over-productivity-can-affect-your-health/.  I’m trying to incorporate some of her advice into my daily routine to control the chaos.  It’s certainly been a big help and has lent me some much needed perspective. Hope you get some good tips out of it too. 


So, long story short, if you don’t get a homemade card or gift this year, it’s not because I don’t love you. It’s because I need to love me, and my life again first. Did that make you gag a little? Smile

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Halloween 2011 Was a Good One

You may recall from my last Halloween post that I LOVE Halloween! Once we moved into the new house I couldn’t wait to start building up my arsenal of spooky masks, skeletons, tombstones and more! I started hitting up sales, combing dollar stores for supplies and even crafting up a few of my own.  Well, this year I think I topped myself in the creepy scenery department and wanted to share a few fun before and after pics…

Before: Adorable front porch, complete with hanging ferns, lots of sun, and a comfy porch swing.


After: what an unfortunate accident. Muwahaha. $30 Walgreens skeleton and about 15 $1 creepy cloths layered around the porch frame, Dollar store tombstone and caution tape, and a few bits from another skeleton strewn about.  Added a bubble fogger and a strobe for some seriously cool effects!


And this little bonus scene using the rocking chair and another awesome $30 Walgreens skeleton. Added some body parts also acquired at the Dollar store, and re-used my giant web. Thanks to TheNextMartha for pointing me at that those skeletons, genius. Need a few more for next year!


My next before and after is the fireplace mantle.  Before, cute late summer collection of stuff. Way too bright and cute for Halloween.


After, CREEEEPY, much more appropriate scene.  I used LOTS of web here, anchored by strategically placed, clear command hooks.  The glass jar centerpiece was from a thrift store for $2 and is sitting on a candle base I found laying around. I added Spanish moss, some fake eyes, and a small foam skull and hand and voila! Creep-tastic on a budget. The most expensive piece up there is the creepy couple photo, $3.79 on sale. It’s safe to assume I paid full price for NOTHING except for the Dollar store items…


Most of the other items up there are dollar store or post-Halloween clearance from Michaels or Hobby Lobby last year. I gravitate towards skulls, body parts, tombstones and the rickets fence pieces since they mix and match nicely to make great scenes. Sprinkle in a few small pumpkins and ugly gourds from the farmers market for a little “color”.



You’re probably already tired of the build-up so I’ll just fire through some additional photos of other cool things we whipped up for the party. Who doesn’t want a murder bathroom? Webs, $1 creepy cloth, more dollar store props and those gel “blood spatter” clings. I use them every year, you can too if you are careful and store them properly on their cling background.

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Note the use again of glass jars (all from thrift stores or re-purposed from my own dining room hutch), Spanish moss and random bits and parts…


Dining room included quite a few nice little scenes, again most of it was from the dollar store, or some repurposed items I had laying around, a few from local thrift stores that were rehabbed with a little spray paint like this ole’ thing from my earlier post:


More creepy cloth, webbing, and some clearance light-up items from Walgreens and Target!



And who doesn’t like a nice cheese plate at a party? Guess what? Yeah, more dollar store items. You don’t have to spend a lot to have cool decorations! Cheese plate is my own, from Pottery Barn MANY many years ago, but normally used for fancy dinner parties and not normally filled with human organs Winking smile


Since one of my skeletons broke, I decided to let him hang out in the kitchen, who needs legs anyway… Added the toxic sign since this was propped up right over the food, hehe


Last minute impulse buy - Cemetery complete with light up trees and a strobe thanks to JoAnn pre-Halloween sale and a few deals at my local Walgreens:


And last but not least our new butler who greeted everyone at the door, thanks to mom for this great piece! Note the skeleton legs that detched from the one in the kitchen, figured I might as well use them…


Already have some AMAZING ideas for next year.  Need a few more skeletons and a bucket of fake blood, as a start Smile