Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Restoring Old Flower Boxes

Hello, it's me. The girl who loves saving every penny she can.

Most people who own old flower pots/boxes are more than happy to invest in new ones every few years. We have owned our faithful planter boxes for six (6) years, which is probably too long, but when you consider how cheap I am it really does make sense.

These guys have seen quite a bit of dust, snow, rain, and sun in the last six years, and it is quite apparent. I think I paid about $15-$20 each for them back in the day, and I have been casually pricing new ones for this summer. The best price I could find was $30 each for similar color and quality. I found some cheaper, smaller, greener ones at WalMart, and these were more in my price range at $12 each.

However, I love the texture of the planters I have, and the classic terra cotta color matches our patio vibe. Also, I am getting older, which means I feel more and more uncomfortable with change as every year passes. My old pots are still structurally sound, so why not go the cheaper, comfortable, non-change route and restore what we already have to its old glory? Yeah, I will do that instead.

Materials needed:
  • Old flower pots or planter boxes.
  • Spray paint that is capable of binding to plastic. I used Rust-oleum.
  • Safety equipment (because I'm overly cautious when it comes to chemical things).
  • A cat companion.

1. First, wash the old boxes - inside and out - using a gentle, environmentally friendly soap.

2. Next, let the pots air dry (maybe while doing some weeding/reading).

3. Apply safety gloves, goggles, and a face mask to minimize exposure to paint fumes.

4. Stuff inside of the pots with newspaper to minimize the exposure of paint to the plants which will soon reside in the cozy old pots.

5. Shake the spray paint well and apply according to the directions on the can. Make sure to do multiple light coats, rather than one thick coat, to avoid dripping and uneven coverage.

6. Allow the paint to dry, and make sure you let it bind to the surface thoroughly - it can take up to a week for the spray paint to bind to plastic surfaces.

7. After the paint has dried (I waited a week), plant your flowers and enjoy!

Compared to the picture from last summer (below) you can really see the difference in color. And of course the old image only reflects the best side of the 3 pots, because the internet is only for pretty things and I felt self conscious showing the other angles of the pots.  I cannot wait to share more pictures of the updated project when the geraniums decide to emerge. Until then, the above photo is good enough.

When it was all said and done, I only spent about $4 on this project, which was the cost of the spray paint from Ace. This saved us roughly $86. Winning!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Spring Cleaning Checklist

Staycation 2015 is officially over, and it proved to be a resounding success. Not only did I make huge strides in the garden, but I got our spring cleaning done for the year.

Spring and fall are the best times to deep clean a house. We turn the outdoor water spigots on when the frost finally decides to leave us. This presents a great opportunity to throw open the windows and air out the stuffy house, which has been closed off during the chilly winter months. We are finally able to air dry laundry outside, and the hose makes cleaning certain things (such as garbage cans and a shedding dog) much easier.

When the weather starts to turn cold again, I repeat my cleaning to-do list to remove the dust and grime that accumulated while the windows were open all summer. It is then time to turn the water off again, cozy up with a good book (read: watch The Vampire Diaries), and start drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

But that talk is for later. In the present moment, late spring is a glorious time of year. It is also the time of year to take out my favorite cleaning solutions and get to work on the inside of the house.

CLICK HERE to view my Spring/Fall Cleaning Checklist PDF.

This list tends to grow every year, much to Jeff's dismay. Being a homeowner is a lot of work, but at least there is cake and wine when it is all said and done.

My little cleaning helper found my work goggles, which I used for a fun and easy outdoor project I will soon share!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Staycation 2015

It's my favorite week of the year: Emily's Annual Staycation Week. It has been a tradition of mine to take the week after Mother's Day off to get my life back in order after the crazy spring months at work. I have been keeping myself busy deep cleaning, gardening, and running errands all over town.

Everett was originally supposed to go to our nanny share to give me some extra time for chores, but the other family has a pinkeye/shingles/flu/cold situation happening right now. Since I'm over being sick, I decided to keep the little guy with me at home. And I am so happy to have him here. He has been an absolute joy to have around.

Yesterday, we spent the morning baking a rhubarb pie using fresh rhubarb from the garden. This was an awesome activity for a toddler, and a great way for him to experience firsthand how things go from the ground to his belly.

My pies are never very pretty, but it's the taste that matters.

After the oven was free, I made a delicious chuck roast with root vegetables for the family (this was during nap time - I did not let him handle raw meat). I love family-friendly "set it and forget it" recipes for days I'm at home. While it was cooking, I was able to do some spring cleaning and gardening. And the best part of all? My picky toddler ate every bite of food on his plate, then asked for more salad. The stars must be in alignment.

By the way, the Le Creuset Dutch Oven was one of my better life purchases. They are worth every penny.

Today is a rainy day here in Spokane, so no yard work for me. However, we are going to put on some rain boots and venture into the world anyway. The little guy has been asking for Grandpa for days.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Telecommuting (2)

May is here! This means I am officially telecommuting on Thursdays again! Woohoo! Look at all those exclamation marks! My brother would kill me if he knew I was using so many of them!

Here's a look at my telecommuting day in pictures:

Everett had his first dentist appointment yesterday. It seems kind of silly to take a child this young to the dentist, but I am paying for the insurance, so I figure I might as well. They basically brushed his teeth and put fluoride in his mouth, then gave him a new toothbrush.

Afterwards, I rewarded him with a little trip to Starbucks for a treat. (BTW the S'Mores Frappuccino is the best thing in the world. I highly recommend it.) Little man was conked out after all this. When we got home, I let him sleep in the car and grabbed the iPad to do some work until he woke up.

The trip to the dentist went pretty well, mostly because we talked it up for the couple days prior to his appointment. This was how we prepared him to sit in a stroller for 3+ hours for Bloomsday, too. You can make anything sound exciting to a toddler...After he woke up we went to Costco. This was my impulse buy of the week:

I have a little obsession with Julia Child. And it's embarrassing. The Costco cashier asked if I was trying to learn to cook like Julia and I awkwardly responded by saying, "Gaah...aahhhh..ummm NO! It's for my...friend..." Do you think he believed me?

Next, Everett played outside while I did some work in the sunshine. Seriously, telecommuting is the best.

Everett then helped me make dinner: pesto pasta with heirloom tomatoes. If you haven't tried Costco's pesto you are missing out. It is very delicious and the price is right. Everett's job for dinner was to rinse the tomatoes (he couldn't be convinced that they were not potatoes). This was what happened when I threw them in the pan to roast:

Poor kid really liked looking at those. It was a sad and sweet meltdown. Also, please ignore all those dishes, which also got done on my telecommuting day.

For all you full time workers of the world, I highly recommend that you propose a work-from-home day to your boss. Of course, teachers might have a hard time with this, but you guys get shafted in everything else, so what more could you expect...also you get summers.

A couple years ago, I was really struggling with working full time and being a new mom. My lack of sanity was getting to the point where I was seriously considering quitting my job. Then as a last resort, I went on a suicide mission to my bosses and asked for a more flexible schedule. My proposal worked.

Here's how I did it:

For a couple weeks, I kept very close track of what I was doing every 10 minutes of the day. I counted time I was on the phone, writing emails, reading emails, in meetings, taking breaks, being interrupted by coworkers, shooting the breeze with people in the halls, pumping, etc. Literally every minute of my day was accounted for.  

At the end, I was able to show that the majority of my "job" is done on the computer, either running processes, composing letters to be sent to large populations, or reading and responding to emails. I only had an average of 6 phone calls and face-to-face meetings a day, and all of these people could have left a message and been happy with a response 24 hours later. In addition, a huge portion of my time was swallowed up by external distractions - people coming into my office to chat, me walking down the hall for a quick break, not to mention my pumping for over an hour a day. Almost all of my real job could be done at home. In my pajamas.

In my proposal, I chose Thursdays as my day at home. This is because Thursdays and Fridays tend to be the quietest days in our office. I did not want to ask for Fridays, as this would make it appear that I always had 3-day weekends, and this did not seem fair to the rest of my colleagues.

I also went to my bosses with a list of my everyday job duties. Having a long list of responsibilities makes a supervisor see that you are more than a replaceable commodity. The alternative of you quitting over their flexibility will seem like a very big deal when they have to consider training and shuffling job responsibilities.

Most importantly, tell them how much you will appreciate their willingness to be flexible. A happy employee is less likely to constantly be looking for other employment opportunities. And if they say yes, never take advantage of their generosity, and show appreciation by always being a good employee. No one likes to work with someone who is given flexibility, but does not do their job well. This will only create animosity.

If being out of the office for a day seems like a stretch, you could try and find a coworker with similar job duties who is willing to cover for you while you are out. This usually works well when you have two people in your office proposing a flex schedule. You must both be willing to take on more responsibilities when the other person is not physically there, but you should be happy to do so because it means you have more flexibility in your job, and no duties get left undone! Winning!

Finally, be prepared to hear "No." Most leaders/managers these days know that job flexibility is key for employee satisfaction, but many are hesitant to change (Baby Boomers are the worst when it comes to change in the workplace). However, know that if I had proposed this new schedule even a year before I did, the outcome would have been different. You asking in the first place opens up the dialogue for change and flexibility. Give it time and do not be afraid to try again. Also, do not threaten to leave your job unless you are serious. No one likes an empty threat, and this will only foster distrust.

Good luck! And hopefully this advice doesn't get you fired.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring Awakening

We are lucky to live in a world of springs. This is one of my favorite times of year. The trees, which appeared dead for months, are coming back to life. I am always filled with wonder when this happens, and I am thankful when the moment arrives.

I have felt ill for many weeks, but hopefully the round of antibiotics I just got from the doctor will soon bring wellness. In the meantime, I am doing my best to enjoy this time of year - even if this means simply opening the window and listening to the birds while resting on the couch.

Beautiful peonies from Trader Joe's to brighten the house and welcome the spring.

The in-laws came this past weekend for the annual Bloomsday tradition. Everett finished his 3rd Bloomsday race with Grandma, and he was a total champ for sitting in the stroller that long. I am so proud of him! My race finish time was not what I wanted, but I have been feeling so crummy that I am simply grateful my body took me to the finish.

The month of May in our house will feature balance, wellness, gardening, spring cleaning, and celebrations.

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