The best way to store Christmas lights

WP_001096I love Christmas decorations!  So the first week of January is always sad for me – it’s when I have to take down the tree and the Christmas decorations. This year, I discovered an infinitely easier way to store Christmas lights.

Every year, we all have this same issue – all the Christmas lights are in a big tangled mess. It takes forever to untangle. And you know some don’t work, but you have to get them untangled to figure out which string is having the issues. Well, there is an easier way – and it’s cheap!

 

WP_001098WP_001099First, take a cardboard poster tube. It should be relatively stiff cardboard – a paper towel roll might work, but may also be too flimsy. A one and a half to two inch diameter poster tube is perfect. Note: for a 100-light string, you will need about a one-foot length of tube. Cut a 2-inch slice into each end of the tube. Slide the female end of the string (the side with the outlet holes) into the sliced opening. Tuck the end into the tube.

Start wrapping the light string around the tube. Keep the light bulbs sticking out away from the tube, rather than tucking them under the string. Continue wrapping around the tube, keeping the string pretty tight together.

When you’re done, tuck the female end of the string into the slice you cut on the other end of the tube. Repeat with all your lights. These tubes are easy to stick into a storage box and store until next year. And, even better, when you pull them out of storage next year, all you need to do is pull the plug out from the tube and plug it in to the wall to see if the lights are all still working. No untangling needed!

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I Hate New Years Resolutions!

So, I suppose this year I’ll make a few. Every year I avoid making resolutions or goals. I hate the idea that just because it’s the new year, I have to come up with some big plans to improve myself. Unfortunately, this year, I have a lot of ideas of things I need to do. So, this year I’ll be different and I’ll make a few goals. The ‘experts’ will tell you that you need to not only make goals, but also a plan to achieve them. To help with that, I’m going to divide mine into smaller chunks… divide and conquer? Here goes (you can also find on my Pinterest board!)

Daily Goals

  • Be open to new people and new experiences. Too often, I stay home rather than take advantage of that offer to attend a party with people I may  not know too well. But maybe those people could become great new friends – I won’t know unless I try. And new experiences – if I have the opportunity to take a class or try something I’ve never tried, I will do it!
  • Floss my teeth. Dollar Tree has these awesome disposable flossers. Only a dollar! I can do that.
  • Use moisturizer – at least on my face. Elbows if I remember.
  • Exercise at least 4 times a week. Gotta aim for daily, even if it’s just a few crunches.

Monthly Goals

  • January: Don’t spend any money on anything frivolous or unnecessary until I’ve lost 10 lbs.
  • Try one new vegetable a month. In November, I tried brussel sprouts. And those were good. Thankfully, my friend Stefeny is an awesome cook – she’ll have to help. If I don’t like the veggies when she makes them, I won’t ever like them.
  • Clean out one area of the house – Computer room, closet, cupboard, etc. Pick one a month and clean it out.
  • Delete anything in my DVR that is over 6 months

View to the oceanYearly Goals

Travel somewhere I’ve never been before. I’d love to go so many places – Alaska, Norway, Florida Keys… I guess even if it’s boring old Walla Walla, WA, I need to see somewhere new.

Get my PM certification. I’d like to do an actual course for this, but even if I just study online for it, I’m gonna get it this year!

So, what about you? What are your goals for the year?

Handmade cake plate

IMG_3409One of my favorite sites put out this great book with so many DIY projects. One of my favorite projects is a DIY cake plate. This is an easy project that allows for so much personalization. And the primary pieces required can be found inexpensively at your local thrift store!

Supplies needed:

Plates – dinner plate size is best, or fancy china
Glass candlesticks
Clear epoxy
Goo Gone

 

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My Kitchen Renovation–First Weekend

DSCF0284bSince the day I moved into my house 3 1/2 years ago, I’ve been dying to update the kitchen. I hate the laminate counters, with the fake wood look. I hate having a stovetop taking up a massive amount of counter space, with the tiniest oven known to man in the cabinet across the kitchen. While I like the solid oak cabinets, the color is dated and the hardware is dreadful.

After debating a few configurations, I settled on the least destructive. But, before I could do anything, I needed to find a 24” range oven. Standard size is 30”, but I have a small kitchen, and in order to keep the drawers I definitely wanted to keep, I settled for 24”. Anything’s larger than the old one anyway! Once I found one, hardly used, for $300 on Craig’s List, it was ready to start the kitchen renovation!

Here are my tasks (at a high level):

  1. Cut out the existing cabinet and remove the cooktop
  2. Wire up a new outlet.
  3. Insert the 24” Range in it’s place
  4. Build up the piece on the left side, against the wall, to support a thin countertop
  5. Refinish the cabinets with white paint 
  6. Put on fabulous new hardware
  7. Get new countertops installed
  8. Paint the walls a cheery yellow
  9. Install a tile backsplash – subway tile with green accent
  10. Build new cabinets or open shelving above the new range, to include the range hood

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Be a grateful guest when staying overnight

In my last entry, I shared tips on how to be a gracious hostess when having overnight guests. Now it is time to turn the tables and share how you can make sure you are not a burden to your hosts. The principles are the same – communication is key!

1. Prepare your host appropriately for your arrival.

  • Be accurate with your arrival/departure plans. Showing up early can cause problems – they want to be sure they are ready for you. And showing up late is just rude. You don’t want them to spend hours waiting for you.
  • Notify your host ahead of time of any special needs. It seems like a given, but make sure that it is ok before you bring pets, or children. If you have any allergies, make sure that your host is able to accommodate your needs. If you have any disability or any physical needs, or if you need more privacy that they will need to accommodate, make arrangements beforehand.
  • Also, if your host offers you their own bed, you should decline. Of course, if you have a disability or injury, are an elderly person, or have children that need a confined space, this is a definite exception. But, as much as your host may love having you live with them, it is still a sacrifice to provide for you. You should make it as pain-free as possible.

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How to be a gracious hostess to overnight guests

Last fall, I shared tips on how to be a fabulous hostess for dinner parties. With summer upon us, you may find yourself hosting overnight guests. Whether it’s friends or family, hosting overnight guests can be tricky. Follow these recommendations, and hopefully your visit will go off smoothly. (Quick disclosure, I did find these fabulous posts from Simple Mom and Classy and Fabulous).

1. Prepare your guest for their living situation. If at all possible, provide a private area for your guest. If you have a guest room, this is easy. However, you may not. If that is the case, be sure to set that expectation with your guest so they are prepared – ear plugs, more modest sleeping attire, etc. Keep in mind your guest’s personal situation. If they are older, have an injury or disability or kids that need to be contained, you should absolutely offer to let your guest use your room. A gracious hostess will always offer her room to any guest staying in your home – however, a good guest will decline (unless one of the above factors is in play). Also, if you have any house rules (No shoes? Lights out at 11?) be sure to communicate these ahead of time. Having these conversations ahead of time will allow your guests to feel at home when they arrive.

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Summer BBQs–Festive decorations for your parties!

IMG_3802Summer is finally upon us! Which means it is time for summer BBQs with friends! In Seattle, summer doesn’t really begin until the 4th of July, which is truly a perfect excuse for a party! Here are some fun, easy, and INEXPENSIVE ways to create festive decorations for your holiday party table.

One day, while home sick from work, I was watching the Nate Berkus show and was inspired by an episode on thrifting. He had a segment with a fantastic blogger, Mr. Kate, who created a beautiful holiday table with all thrift store finds. With a little bargain hunting and couple cans of spray paint, you can do the same.

Do a little shopping

Mr. Kate went into the thrift store imagining beyond just what she was seeing. Sure, that ceramic eagle figurine w/ the muted pastel colors and the weird eyes looks pretty creepy now, but spray painted white, it’s a great accent for a 4th of July table. Those slightly rusty metal bowls have great lines, and with a couple coats of navy blue and a cloth napkin liner, they could be the perfect bowl for your buns. And, at 30 cents a piece, you can spray paint the handles of thrift store silverware for a fun look. Whatever you can’t find at the thrift store, you can supplement at the dollar store. I found plates and napkins at the Dollar Tree – they fit in perfectly!

Here are my finds: Continue reading

About owning a gun

In my previous post, I talked about the different ways that I’ve found to feel safer in my home and community. One of those ways was purchasing a gun. This is, of course, a very personal decision. It is not a decision you should rush into. The first, and most important question to ask yourself is, “If someone is coming after you, or someone you love, would you really be able to shoot, and kill them? Really?” If the answer is yes, then you should consider it. If not, just don’t. I would highly recommend a book called The Cornered Cat. This book is from a woman’s perspective of owning a gun, and many considerations you should make.

If you’ve decided that you would like to purchase a gun, you need to do some research. Learn the local laws on owning a gun. Some states require registration, some do not. You may need a license. There may be restrictions on when and where you can have the gun. Be sure to research the laws before you purchase.

Beyond just researching the laws, you also want to determine what type of gun you are most comfortable with. Grab a friend and head to a gun range. Try different guns – .22, 9m, .45, etc. Try different sizes, different calibers, different grips, and see what you feel comfortable with. My first gun I really liked, but the grip was too large and I just couldn’t hold it as well as I needed to. Be sure the gun you end up with fits your hand and is comfortable to you.

Once you’ve done the research and purchased your gun, you need to keep it accessible and safe in your home. Here are some tips on keeping a gun in your home:

Basic Gun Handling & Safety

If you own a gun, you need to know the basics of firearms safety. There are many variations of firearms safety rules they can be summarized into four basic easy-to-remember rules. These rules build upon each other and are almost bulletproof (pardon the pun).

1. All guns are always loaded

Treat all guns as if they’re loaded, even if someone told you it’s empty or you know that the gun was empty before. Check it again. It is always a good practice to check the gun to see if it’s really empty every time you pick it up. Ammunition has a strange way of finding itself in the gun. Check the gun, by first removing the magazine, then pulling the slide back and looking into the chamber for any ammunition.

2. Never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy

Imagine a laser beam coming out of the muzzle and don’t sweep or point it at anything you don’t wish to destroy. By following this rule, if you fail to follow one or more of the other rules and the gun goes off, the bullet will not hit anything important.

A good, safe way to hold the gun is with your muzzle pointing down, not up like Charlie’s Angels (which is an insanely bad way of carrying a gun). If the gun goes off pointing up, it’ll go through the roof and kill someone nearby when it comes back down.

IMG_37583. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target

With all the modern safeties in guns these days, guns cannot go off on their own. It’s physically impossible for a gun to go off if you did not pull the trigger. So, make sure that when you handle the gun, your trigger finger is straight along the side of the gun, until you have the sights on target and you’re sure that you’re ready to shoot.

IMG_37614. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Be sure of what you are shooting and what is beyond. If it’s dark, as it most likely will be in a violent encounter, you need to be sure the person you’re shooting is not someone you know. That’s why a light is important to identify your opponent. Also, bullets go through almost everything in the home, especially dry-wall. Make sure you know what’s behind your target as well. You don’t want to accidentally send a round through your opponent, the wall behind, and your friend or loved one in the other room.

IMG_3763Gun storage

Finding a place to store your gun is important. You want to be sure that it is kept in a safe, dry place. Safe away from prying eyes/hands and yet, it should be easy for you to retrieve it when the need arises. I keep my Colt 1911 in a gun case, locked and loaded, under my bed. I don’t have kids and friends rarely come into my bedroom anyway. It’s there so I can get to it when something happens at home. My ammunition is kept in ammo boxes that you can buy at most Surplus stores for $10-15 each. These are sturdy metal boxes that are waterproof. I also keep my cleaning equipment in them.

Gun Use

Owning a gun is not enough, you need to be comfortable with it. Shoot it often. Find a gun range that has ladies night where you get to shoot for free. Drag some of your co-workers or friends along and practice shooting your gun. It’ll keep your skills up, get you comfortable handling a gun and ensure that you gun is always operational.

Maintaining a gun

Once you’ve shot it, clean it. As with every other hardware you own, like your house or car, cleanliness is important. Some people might tell you that you don’t need to clean certain guns, but doing it will ensure dirt and grime won’t build up and run the risk of causing a malfunction. Also a clean gun is a mark of respect for it. By knowing how to take apart your gun and clean it, you’ll build confidence in handling it.

What to do when friends are around?

Are you just hosting a party? Or are you having house guests staying with you? As for a party, leaving your gun under the bed is a safe place to store it as no-one will usually be in your bedroom during the party. If you’re having a house guest, have an open conversation about it and find out what they are comfortable. If you trust them, leave the gun where you normally do. If not, be sure to hide and lock it away during their stay.

When travelling

If you own a gun, it is your responsibility to ensure that the gun will never fall into someone else’s hands, or worse, used in a crime. The best thing to do here is to invest in a safe, not only to store a gun, but your other valuables as well. Have the safe kept in a safe place and bolted to the ground. If you don’t have a safe, and know that you’ll be travelling for a while, then perhaps the best way would be to ask a friend to keep it for you. Make sure your friend is comfortable with keeping/caring for your gun and that he/she is trustworthy.
There is plenty more I could cover, but honestly, I don’t want to start a gun blog. Please, do your research. Use some common sense. And do all you can to ensure your own safety.

Feeling safe in your own home

I truly love living alone. But, I have to admit that I continually have a heightened sense of awareness. Even after a year, I still am always conscious of my own safety. And I think that’s not a bad thing. A single girl, or any girl really, should be cautious and have a plan to protect herself. Here’s what I have done to make myself feel more safe in my home, and in my neighborhood.

Be aware of your home and neighborhood

IMG_3741The neighborhood I live in is not the safest. My area is cute and family-oriented, but just a few blocks away is a high-crime area. My car has been broken into twice, and my outbuilding and fence has been tagged with graffiti. The one thing I have in my favor is that I’m on a corner lot, with a street light nearby. But, I’ve done a few things to make it safer:

Lighting. I installed motion-sensor flood lights on my outbuilding, and along the alley that lines it. Hooking it up is not too tough, and even the neighbors have thanked me for it. My back door has a motion-sensor light also, as the back door is hidden from the street. I don’t have a motion light on my front door, but the light is always on. And I’ve added solar lights on the path leading up to my front door. Having a well-lit outside makes an intruder think twice.

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My chair is finally done!

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About a year ago, I found an ugly, waterlogged chair on the side of the road. It was pouring down rain, and the chair was gross. But, I loved the structure of it, so I took it home with me, determined to refinish it. Finally, a year later, it is done! And I am so happy with it!

The deconstruction of the chair took me nearly as long as putting it back together. After letting it dry out, I tore off all the fabric. Under that was layers of old batting and a sort of nylon/plastic netting. I’m sure it has a formal name, but I don’t know what it is. Then came the staples. Hundreds and hundreds of staples to pull out. I didn’t get all of them, but I pulled out as many as I could.

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