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I’ve been wanting to hang some sort of colorful art in a particular spot in the laundry room for a couple of months now. I was waiting for inspiration to strike and when I had these tissue paper circles leftover from Jack’s birthday party I had an idea.

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I got out a piece of white construction paper (though in retrospect I could’ve used regular printer paper or cardstock–I wasn’t sure how or whether I’d frame it at first so bigger seemed better) and started at the bottom layering tissue paper circles in rows.

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My technique was basically to paint a thin layer of mod podge (you could also use watered down glue), lay down a row of circles, repeat. I didn’t stress about perfection.

diy tissue paper art

It took me less than an hour to complete and was actually a really relaxing thing for me to do while Jack was napping. Notice how I made the circles overlap the edges of the paper. I figured I’d just fold them over or trim them with scissors.

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I went over a couple ideas for mounting it to the wall, including just sticking it up there with some tape, and in the end I decided to frame it. I trimmed it down to 8.5×11 to fit in this Ikea frame but it just didn’t look right.

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So Jack, Pawpaw, and I headed out to Michael’s to pick up this $7 frame. I laid the paper on top of the mat for a more casual look.

easy tissue paper art

I. Love. It. I was hoping for it to look like scallops and it doesn’t, but it does kind of look like bubbles and that’s cool too. I still need to find a pretty pot or basket for that hanging plant.

nook

If you wanted something more subtle you could paint over it with a single color so the texture would still come through but the colors wouldn’t. I really like the hit of color on the white wall though.

pretty and functional utility room

I would’ve taken down the baby gate for a prettier picture, but Jack was there ready and waiting to make a beeline for the dog’s bowls given any opportunity. Oddly enough he doesn’t seem to mind the gate.

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The other day I mentioned that I finally figured out how to let Juliet come and go from the laundry room while keeping Jack out. See how I just mount the gate about six inches off the ground? A dachshund can crawl under but a baby can’t. I can’t believe it took me so long to think of it!

pets can crawl under but babies can't

It felt good to get back into the crafting groove after a few weeks of not doing much of anything creative! Now I’ve got plans for a few more little projects around the house, but I’m still putting the bulk of my time towards family right now (and studying for my LCSW exam, which it looks like I may FINALLY be taking soon!). I’m off to work today–hope you each have a lovely Tuesday!

Recycling is one of those things that I think most people want to do. It can be hard to get started, though, especially if you just aren’t very familiar with the logistics of it. I don’t think my parents even get recycling pickup on their street so it definitely wasn’t something I grew up with, but when I moved out of my college apartment into my first rental house I wanted to give it a try. We’re lucky to have single-stream recycling here in Baton Rouge. That means we don’t have to sort! We just throw all of our recyclables into the big container provided and it gets picked up from the curb once a week. Despite the ease of this system it still took us a long time to get into the habit of recycling. One thing that really helped was to get two identical trashcans and place them next to each other–one for trash, one for recycling.

Nick still struggled to remember what was recyclable and I was constantly harping on him for throwing aluminum cans in the trash. After consulting our parish’s recycling website for the specifics of what can and cannot be recycled I used chalkboard paint to label the cans accordingly. This has been a big help! It basically boils down to paper, cardboard, aluminum, and glass. Paper or cardboard with a waxy coating, plastic bags, and aluminum foil are a no-no. I don’t understand why, but I try to accept it. And I actually probably need to re-write the descriptions on top of the containers pictured above to be more specific. Containers used to hold food, household cleaners, etc. should be emptied and rinsed. Also, even though we use a bag to line the container, since plastic bags are not recyclable (???) we just dump the contents of the bag into the big bin outside instead of tying it up like we do with our trash.

I think every community’s rules for recycling are different, and the best thing you can do is to use your friend google to find your city, parish, or county’s website for curbside recycling. If pickup isn’t offered at your home but you really want to do Mother Earth a favor, maybe you could save up your recyclables to bring to a friend or family’s house where recycling is available. Or find a recycling center that accepts materials directly. Maybe you could even get some money back for all those cans! And if your community doesn’t offer single-stream recycling (aka you have to sort) you can find lots of tips on how to streamline that process via the internet–here are some links to get you started: Better Homes & Gardens: 16 Ways to Organize Your Recycling, Curbly: 8 Clever DIY Ways to Organize Your Recycling, Huffington Post: Organize your Recycling. I hope this helps those of  you who’ve been feeling guilty for not recycling, and maybe even if you’ve been recycling for years you’ve picked up an idea or two on how to make it simpler. I sure do sleep well at night knowing we’re doing our best to keep those landfills from overflowing.

I am not what you’d call a fastidious housekeeper. I do alright keeping the place generally tidy, but when it comes to wiping, dusting, mopping, and scrubbing I sort of suck. Over the years, though, thanks to the help of Flylady and my own sense of efficiency, I’ve developed a method of getting the whole place reasonably clean in and hour or two.

How to Clean Your Entire House (the good enough method)

I tend to think of housekeeping in a hierarchy. Dishes and laundry are the most crucial elements of survival, and I prefer to at least get the dishes done before I start any more intensive cleaning. Having the sink clear makes it easier to move through some of the later tasks. Laundry, however, is easy enough to just stuff in a closet until I’ve got time to deal with it. I approach most of housekeeping like this–moving from one layer of cleanliness to the next so that if I don’t have time to do everything I want at least I knocked out the most important things first. So here’s my list:

  1. Wash the dishes. Wipe out the sink while you’re at it.
  2. Put things away. I go around the whole house and put away anything that is out of place. This gets me ready for the next step.
  3. Dust everywhere. Whether you prefer to use a cloth or a dusting wand or whatever, your goal is to knock as much dirt as possible to the floor where it can be picked up by the vacuum. I even dust the counters and toilets.
  4. Wipe down surfaces. I use a spray bottle of vinegar, a magic eraser, and a cotton cloth or paper towels to wipe everything down. Kitchen counters, light switches, stair railings, glass tables and mirrors, and lastly the bathroom counter and toilet.
  5. Quick-clean the bathrooms. Having just wiped things down in the bathroom, I squirt some soap into the toilet (usually just whatever’s handy–hand soap or old shampoo or body wash) and swish it around. If the tub needs attention I’ll give it a quick rinse, then come back and scrub the toilet a little more.
  6. Vacuum everywhere. I have all wood and tile floors but I still use a vacuum. I just find it so much easier than sweeping or swiffering! You can read more about my love for my vacuum here. I vacuum all the floors, shaking out small rugs as I go and using the upholstery attachment to hit any spots that are particularly laden with pet hair. And here’s a tip–put a few drops of your favorite perfume, fragrance, or essential oil onto a cotton ball and suck it up with your vacuum. It will scent your whole house as you clean!
  7. Spot clean the floors. I rarely make it this far, but if I have time I use a swiffer-like contraption with a regular washcloth attached to it to clean high-traffic areas. For the wood, I spray vinegar down and then wipe wipe wipe. For tile, I mix warm water and a few drops of dish soap in a big cup and pour it onto the floor a little bit at a time as I scrub. I use such little soap that there’s no need to rinse.

Like I said, I’m by no means an expert. This is just what works for me and my laziness. This routine takes me 1-2 hours and my goal is to do it every Friday afternoon to get the house clean for the weekend, but in reality the littlest thing can throw me off and I will often go two weeks or more without cleaning. But as long as I keep on top of the basic things in the meantime–washing dishes, picking up after myself, and doing at least enough laundry to keep us in clean underwear–then it’s easy for me to get the house back to company-ready condition while Jack takes a long nap.

Please note that while I said “company-ready,” that is not actually the goal of this routine. I don’t do it on Monday to get ready for weekday playdates, I do it on Friday to get ready for family time spent hanging out at home. The people who live here are the most important people in my world and I want the house to be clean for us, not for anybody else. It’s so nice to be able to spend Saturday and Sunday cooking breakfast and snuggling on the sofa without worrying about a messy house. If a friend comes over on a Thursday and sees my house at its worst, well then I hope she loves me enough to not care.

Thanks for reading, y’all! I’ll be cleaning house this afternoon to get ready for an exciting weekend. See you Monday!

image from here

Last Saturday was Jack’s first birthday. It was kind of a big deal for us, obviously. First birthdays are definitely as much about the parents as they are the babies. That first year is so intense and emotional and demanding–marking the end of it is part sigh of relief, part mourning the tiny newborn that grew so fast, part celebration of the toddler your baby has become.

Anyway, we wanted to have a small party at our house with friends and family. We kept it simple with a cold lunch, cupcakes, and easy decorations (not pictured below: the cheese plate I forgot to pull out of the fridge until later). I used mostly white ceramic dishware I already had and scattered a bunch of tissue paper confetti around the table. I made things easy on myself with disposable plates and forks, but at least I opted for the recycled content plates for a few cents more.

simple first birthday

I covered the table with a canvas painter’s dropcloth (the same one that I keep folded up on the back of the couch in the playroom/office), and just tossed a tea towel over a cardboard box to make a little stand for the cupcakes. My sister cut off part of a foil muffin pan to make a little pedestal for the birthday boy’s cupcake to sit slightly above the rest.

easy cupcake stand

The only other decoration was this fun photo garland. I forgot to take a picture of it before the party but it was still up the next morning. I got a bunch of pictures printed at CVS and hung them up in chronological order with some clothespins and string. I actually printed 64 pictures total but only 24 went up on the garland. After the party I put them all into an album–I didn’t keep a baby book but this is almost as good. The album I bought* has enough space that I can do this for the next two years and by Jack’s third birthday I’ll have an album of his baby/toddler years from beginning to end (that’s the album sitting on the ledge there).

birthday photo timeline

Jack seemed to have a really good time visiting with all his baby friends, not to mention the doting grandparents. I think he knew it was his party.

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My sister made the cupcakes–pineapple carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting (and all of it sweetened with agave instead of sugar). I printed out the “1″ circle from here and glued it onto a bamboo skewer to make Jack’s cupcake a little extra special.

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I’d say he was a fan! I was too. Those cupcakes were delicious for something so healthy. I’ll link to the recipe below.

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Friends with older babies tipped us off that opening presents usually does not go well with a room full of toddlers, so we waited until there were just a few family members and close friends lingering and helping clean up before tearing into the gifts. By then the birthday boy had been stripped out of his cake-covered outfit and he and his two baby BFF’s had fun playing with his new toys. I made sure to jot down who gave us what so I could send a thank you note to all the folks who weren’t there to see us open their gifts.

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My mom’s side of the family always gets together for the Fourth of July so we held off to celebrate with them on the holiday instead of asking them to drive over an hour for the party at our house. It was kind of up in the air yesterday what we were going to do because my grandpa was in the hospital, but my parents ended up hosting everyone at their house and we had so much fun. We took some time out from celebrating America to pull out an angel food cake with whipped cream and fruit and sing Jack happy birthday. I think he is really liking this birthday business–he gets to eat cake! He got some more cool toys and cute clothes and was spoiled with hugs and kisses and cuddles all around.

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In case you’ve got a kids’ party of your own coming up and are at a loss for what to serve, here’s our menu:

  • Finger sandwiches (turkey, ham, roast beef, and egg salad on white and wheat bread). An electric knife borrowed from my sister made these easy to make ourselves and the egg salad (cheaper than lunch meat) helped stretch our budget while also providing an option for our friends who don’t eat meat.
  • Potato salad made by Nick’s mom
  • Guacamole with tortilla chips
  • Hummus with cut veggies (carrots, cucumber, celery, snap peas, and broccoli) and pita bread
  • Cubed cheddar, monterey jack, and pepper jack cheese
  • Fruit kabobs–chopped kiwi, strawberries, cantaloupe, and blueberries on bamboo skewers that I arranged in a glass cylinder vase
  • Carrot and pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese icing
  • Tea punch, soft drinks, beer, and ice water to drink

Altogether we spent about $150. Not bad, I think! Everything was going smoothly until half of the guests fell violently ill the next day. Apparently I was carrying some sort of stomach virus that I passed onto almost everybody through the food I’d lovingly prepared. At least one person from each family got sick on Sunday, and the rest of them caught it from each other in the following days. I felt so terrible! Next time I cook for a crowd I’ll be scrubbing my arms up to my elbows like a surgeon for fear of getting everyone sick again.

*affiliate link