Monday, July 16, 2012

Hey Look a Craft

Aka my job has been taking over my life! I have spent so much time working lately due to various problems and issues at work that I haven't had much of any time for crafting in the last three months. My life has revolved around working, sleeping and maybe just maybe grabbing some food in between. It's coming to an end however and I can finally work on having a real work/life balance for awhile. Or at least until the next problem rolls around, as it undoubtedly will. But all the work has definitely been worth it, both in overtime pay which has helped us save for a house faster and in experience at my job. I've now worked through some of the most challenging situations we're likely to see, and now I will be much better prepared if heaven help us they happen again in the future. I've also gotten a chance to do some networking with managers from other mills as they have come in to help us from time to time.

Now that I've gotten off track talking about work, it's time to focus on the fun weekend activities instead! Ages ago I saw a cute door decoration on pinterest courtesy of Marsh madness and I knew that it would eventually make a great front door decoration. Our last front door decoration which we put up just before Christmas only lasted until about February until Steve declared that it was clearly a winter wreath and couldn't stay up any longer. We ended up going nearly five months without anything pretty on the front door because I just didn't have time to devote to crafting or even buying anything.

With work settling down, I took a trip last weekend to Joann's to see what kind of fun goodies I could find. I ended up with several cute storage boxes to use in our linen closet, tissue paper for another craft (coming soon!), a cute wooden letter and a roll of decorative packing tape just because I thought it looked pretty. I also found a cheap certificate frame at Home Goods that was just what I wanted for this project. Originally I thought I was going to paint the wooden letter, but then I realized how fun it would look with the packing tape wrapped around it!

The frame and partially taped letter. See how well they go together! I never would have guessed that this combination would be exactly what I wanted. I used a razor blade to cut lines in the packing tape so that it would go around the curves smoothly. There were a few places where i should have cut smaller pieces for a better fit around the curves, but it still looks so pretty. I didn't cover the entire back of the letter because it won't really be seen and the packing tape was $7 a roll!

I used some of my free ribbon from Steve's grandmother from my awesome ribbon rack to wrap around the letter and the frame so that I could hang it. It does clatter a bit when we open and close the door, so I might have to find a better way to secure it if the noise ends up bothering me, but if it doesn't then all the better!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

House hunting

It's taken us quite a bit of time to get to the point where we feel comfortable buying a house, but I'm so glad we got there. We started thinking about buying a house back in late winter but didn't feel we were really ready for it. So we decided to boost our savings so that when we did finally feel ready, the money would be right there waiting for us.

Fast forward a couple months and we decided it didn't hurt to start to see what was out on the market ourselves. We started looking at houses that were much closer to my job, sine I currently drive about 35 minutes to get to work. After driving by some available houses and through some neighborhoods we decided that being that much closer to my job wasn't going to work for us. We wanted to be in a nicer neighborhood and have good quality schools nearby for when there are school age little ones.

Feeling a bit defeated by this realization, we moved back into the "renting is better" camp. Last month we decided we were ready to actually commit to buying a house, which meant we needed to figure out what to do next! We put in applications to get prequalified because the internet told us that was the right thing to do. After getting prequalified from our credit union we needed to find a realtor. Steve asked around at work and got a recommendation from a colleague for a realtor that was especially good with first time home buyers.

Right about this time work got incredibly crazy for me, so Steve took all of the burden of contacting her and setting up an initial meeting. He thought she would be a good realtor, so I trusted his judgement even though I didn't meet her until we started viewing homes.

Steve and I decided we want 3 bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms, and a kitchen that isn't too updated. I'm picky about what I want in a kitchen and have tons of good ideas on pinterest so I definitely don't want a house that has a kitchen that was recently updated.

Our first tour of homes was several weekends ago. We looked at 6 different homes with various floor plans. Our main goal for that first outing was to narrow down any floor plans we especially did or didn't like. Turns out that I don't care for quad level houses (too many stairs) and we both really loved the layout of ranches. There was one house we both particularly loved. It was beautifully updated and had a lot of character which we both want in a house, but it was clear that it wouldn't take long for us to grow out of the house. The couple selling it clearly had 3 small kids and they were out of room.

Cutest kitchen! Almost exactly how I would decorate it!

But it was pretty small.

 This house had a cool first floor layout, but the location was terrible.

The following weekend, we looked at 4 more houses and one of them, a ranch, caught out eye as being a fantastic house. It was quite reasonably priced and didn't need any work prior to moving in. In fact it likely wouldn't have needed work for quite some time as all of the big ticket items were pretty new. We did a lot of thinking and decided to go back for another showing last Monday. After looking it over one more time we decided to put in an offer as it really was just too good to pass up. Sadly, someone else put in a cash offer, which for the sellers is obviously more attractive.

Beautiful living room in offer #1 house

Naturally we were bummed that we didn't get the house, but we're getting right back out there and looking for something else that we will love. I had to work all weekend, so Steve went out on Saturday with the realtor to look at a few more potential houses. He liked one, again a ranch, enough for us to go back and take a second look at it. Steve thinks it will need some of the bigger items relatively soon (furnace, windows, and air conditioning) but its priced well to accommodate those requirements. We liked it enough to put an offer in today, but I'm keeping my expectations low as there have been a lot of showings on this house. Earliest we would hear back is Friday, so now we sit tight and wait some more!

Family room/formal dining room in offer #2 house

Fireplace in the living room.

The workshop in the garage (Steve's favorite)

View of the house from the back of the property line! Tons of land, which is quite uncommon for the area.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Once a Week Cooking

Ever since I started my new job back in January, my free time has been increasingly limited and I've been quite exhausted after work. For the first few weeks it was tortuous to come home and have to get something together for dinner and more often than I care to admit I just gave up and we either ate out or dinner consisted of milk and cereal. One week got so bad that cereal was even my go to lunch option. Not healthy. Not at all.

To do something about this I decided to try cooking a weeks worth of lunches and dinners over the weekend when I had much more free time and energy. I started slow only doing 2 recipes at a time on Sunday but now I can easily make 4-5 meals plus a tasty treat.

In all I spend about 4-5 hours cooking but it has varied based on what I'm cooking. There are really easy ways to shorten that time too like having one recipe use the crock pot and having another be a stove top only recipe.

Another benefit is that all of the prep work is consolidated. Instead of getting everything ready to chop vegetables each day, I just get it out once chop everything and then I only wash it once too.
A few tips I've picked up on as I've done this the last few weeks:

  • Read all of your recipes before starting and get a feel for what order to work in.
  • Start by getting out all of your dry ingredients so you don't keep going back to the same cabinets half a dozen times.
  • Rinse off utensils and cookware after using so food doesn't dry on
  • Have some fun music or a podcast going!
Food for the week.

Here's a brief example of what and how I cooked a few weekends ago.  I made 4 dishes: egg salad, And Noodles, Stuffed Shells, and Tacos.

I started by cooking pasta and quick soaking beans. While that was on the stove I mixed up the sauce for And Noodles and preheated the oven. After the noodles were done they went into the sauce and then into the oven.

Using the same pasta pot I started cooking the shells. I also started the eggs to hard boil. Then I got the cheese filling ready for the shells. By the time the shells were stuffed and ready to go in the oven, it was time to take out the And Noodles so I only had to preheat the oven once instead of twice. I chopped up the vegetables for the tacos and egg salad while the beans finished cooking and then used the pot from boiling eggs to make some brown rice for the tacos.

At this point all that was left was letting the food cool before I packed it into individually sized portions in tupperware. Since I'd ben rinsing dishes off as I went and the dishwasher was empty all I had to do was load it and the kitchen was clean.

It's gotten a lot easier for me over the last few weeks as I've perfected my routines and it also helps if you do all of the grocery shopping a day or two prior since Sundays at the grocery store are always crowded.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Weekend of First Robotics

Whew it seems like I've been away for far too long. I we'll say that I gave up blogging and snark for lent.  One of those worked much better than the other.  I was ready to come back last week, but then life exploded in a really terrible way.  Now life has settled a bit and that Easter is almost here it's time to get back on the blog train.  And now that work has seemed to settle down over the last few weeks and I'm sleeping better there is finally time for us to catch up on life.

There's so much to share too, but I won't overwhelm you too much today. Over the last several months Steve has been working with a local high school as a mentor for their FIRST robotics team and two weekends ago we got to go to one of their competitions. It was especially exciting because it was hosted by the team Steve's been working with and it was at his old high school. Steve's dad was also the head referee at the competition so we got some high level insight into some interesting fouls and replay situations.

The gym was packed.  It only got more and more challenging to find good seats as the day went on.

Steve's team in the stands watching and supporting their robot.

What is a high school event without awkward group dance moves?

Many of the teams had team number signs as another sign of support and recognition.

I was skeptical at first but after watching a few of the matches I became a huge fan. The game this year is called rebound rumble and focuses on shooting baskets and balancing the robots on teeter-totter type boards. It was really cool to see all the different designs and shooting mechanisms.

The teams had 4 baskets they could use to score.  The white border is a special reflective coating that most teams used to help line up the robots for shooting.

Steve's team had an extendable arm that allowed them to get much closer to the top basket, which was worth more points than the lower baskets. 

Another shot of team 548 in the process of shooting.

Team 703 did a great job playing defense in the final matches, although I'm not sure this was a totally legal move.

Every so often, 548 would struggle to make it over the center line, which had a bit of bump to get over.  In this case, getting stuck was not a concern.

 The qualification matches actually started on Friday but we only went to the Saturday matches. We got to watch Steve's team play 2 of their qualification matches. The team ended up in third place after qualification and they got picked by the first rated team to form an alliance for the elimination matches. During the lunch break we had to rush home so I could change into my glasses because I'd managed to rip a contact and didn't have any spares since I've been wearing my glasses so much lately. We ended up missing the first elimination match because we got back late but all of the other ones were really great. The third team on the alliance was from Dexter where they had tornadoes come through recently. Their group became known for spinning like tornadoes when introduced.

The teams have student drivers that use gaming joysticks or controllers to move the robots.  They also have cute, little netbooks to run some of the software like the camera on the robot.

In the elimination round, balancing three robots on a single board was worth 40 points and in the finals our alliance managed to pull it off several times including both final matches.

Steve's team balancing with two other teams in one of the final matches.  The coveted triple balance isn't always possible because of the varying sizes of the robots.

Balancing on the middle board was only important during the qualification rounds and you had to balance with the opposing team.  Team 67 had a good mechanism to help stay on the board.

Balancing on the boards is tricky and sometimes robots ended up toppling over.  Most robots are stuck then and out for the rest of the match.

I managed to find my way to the top of the bleachers a few times to try and get some photos without blocking other people. Overall I was impressed by the lighting in the gym. Even though I had my ISO up pretty high to compensate it was definitely one of the better lit gyms I've been in.

After the matches were over, and Steve's team came in first I got to take a closer look at their robot.

Most teams used a long board to mount their netbook and controllers; 548 used a briefcase instead.   It was one of my favorite details of the day.

They even made an ethernet connection through the wall so they could hardwire the computer to the robot.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A trip to NAIAS

Finally some pictures from the north america international auto show, which was only oh a month ago.

My parents and Allie came up for the weekend to go with us.

Allie took a bunch of pictures too, so check hers out on her blog.  I tried to pick some different pictures to show than she did.

My mom in a porsche.

Both of them in a porsche now.

A part from the UofM solar car.

One of the few concept cars at the auto show.  It's basically a tiny two seater with the base being segway type wheels.

the electricity tank!

Trunk in the front.

Two extra seats in the trunk.  This Tesla car was battery powered and the battery formed the flat base of the car.  It was pretty freaking sweet.

My facebook updates have been more than a bit wonky lately, so if you missed them, here are my last couple of posts: