Wednesday, January 2, 2013

30 Before 30

While hashing out my long list of resolutions for this year, creating a 30 Before 30 list was one of them.  I have just about 2 years and 5 months and here's my list of things I'd like to do before then:

  1. Kip 
  2. Run a mile easily
  3. Participate in a 5k
  4. Shoot a gun
  5. Learn to use power tools
  6. Refinish/update a piece of furniture
  7. Grow plants and herbs
  8. Visit New York
  9. See a Broadway musical
  10. Write a book
  11. Read the whole Bible
  12. Read top 10 novels of all time
  13. Take a hip hop dance class
  14. Complete a scrapbook
  15. Fill a sketchbook
  16. Learn fluent sign language
  17. Go to a Packer game
  18. Visit Liz in Oregon, see her family's neighborhood farm
  19. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  20. Volunteer
  21. Watch top 100 movies
  22. Learn to juggle
  23. Go through a corn maze
  24. Participate in a flash mob
  25. Anonymously pay it forward to at least one person
  26. Go sledding or play in the snow
  27. Productively manage my time
  28. Successfully make money working from home
  29. Obtain a passport
  30. Visit another country

Friday, December 28, 2012

CatGenie Review

We adopted two kittens over the summer, bringing our cat total up to three.  The kittens were pooping and peeing machines.  I scooped both litter boxes at least once a day.  My husband noticed how straining it was on my back.  Prior to even knowing that the CatGenie 120 existed, my husband thought it would be a good idea to have a litter box that washed and flushed the litter.  He Google searched for something and found the CatGenie.  It was expensive and I didn't want to spend the money to get it.

In September, we went on a two week vacation and hired a pet sitter to look after our three cats while we were gone.  All the cats hid from her whenever she came over so I'm thinking she didn't come as often as I paid her to.  When we returned, the stench of cat urine could be smelled from outside our apartment door.  She scooped the poop but failed to dig deep enough to get the urine.  There was cat litter all over the floor.  I slaved over scooping out two weeks worth of heavy, urine-soaked litter.  Then proceeded to wash out both boxes.  My back was hurting.  My husband mentioned I wouldn't have had to do that if we had the CatGenie, how we might save money by not having to buy litter.  When he is out to sea I would only be able to buy the small boxes of litter from the store because I can't carry more than 15-20lbs.  I would be spending about $8 a week on litter, or about $350 a year.  The CatGenie was $329 and, on impulse, we bought the damn thing.  The CatGenie uses washable granules in place of litter.  We thought we would never have to buy granules again and would only need to purchase the cleaning cartridges.  We wouldn't be saving much money in the first year, but years beyond that we would.

We've had the CatGenie set up for just over two months.  My older cat is still very reluctant to use it.  She will only use it about every two days and she's always very wary about entering.  The kittens took to it really quick.  And after about two months, we're ready to call it quits and revert back to traditional litter.

The washable granules get everywhere.  They stick to the kitty paws, they stick to the bottom of our feet.  They get tracked everywhere.  A lot of the granules get flushed.  You have to always be replenishing the granules.  After the initial box to fill up the CatGenie, a box will last 1-3 months.  So much for saving money on litter/granules.  For the first month and a half I was bending over, straining my back, sweeping up every little granule trying to save.  It's not worth it.

The cleaning cartridges are supposed to last one to six months.  The fresh scent cartridge is way too perfumey.  We switched to the non-scented kind and it was better.  We're on our third in just over two months.  The first month we had the CatGenie set up so that it would only run when I started it.  For the second month we had it set to the cat activation mode.  This mode uses less of the cleaning solution and is supposed to last up to six months.  My cats go in the CatGenie but don't always use it.  The CatGenie will run an extra 3-5 unnecessary times a day, rewashing already cleaned granules.  Many times it's immediately after it finishes a drying cycle that the cats will go in to feel the warm granules.

The worst thing about the CatGenie is baked poop.  It would happen about once a week when I was manually starting it.  Ever since switching to the cat activation mode, it happens at least once a day...usually ends up being 2 to 4 times a day.  The scoop either squashes the poop or it misses it completely.  Then it gets washed and dried on high heat.  It's in the drying cycle that you will smell the stench of baked poop.  It's horrendous.  I'm actually smelling it right now.  You have to keep an eye on the scooping cycles and make sure it gets all the poop before the water fills the bowl.  Or just scoop the poop yourself with an extra scoop.

Yesterday one of the cats had the runs and that was the worst bit of poop soup turned baked poop ever.  We'll be moving in less than a month and I'm officially done with the CatGenie.  The only way I would ever use it again is if we had a second bathroom we could designate only for the CatGenie or an enclosed laundry room with a ventilation fan.  Just shut the door while it runs and that would help with the baked poop smell.

Maybe in a couple years they'll develop the CatGenie with a sensor that can remember where the cat pooped so the scoop doesn't squash or miss.  Also if they developed some way to separate the granules that get scooped so they are reused and not just flushed.

Unless you have a second bathroom or enclosed laundry room, I don't recommend it.  It's too late for us to return it.  My husband might try to play with the mechanism or maybe we'll just sell it...but I'd be sure to warn people about the baked poop!

Monday, December 24, 2012

DIY Mini Gift Bags

As promised, here's the tutorial for these DIY mini gift bags.

The main things you'll need for this are card stock, ribbon, a hole puncher and scissors.  
If you want to make fancier bags then you'll need to find those pins in the photo (I have no idea what they're called), glue or tape, a ruler, cutting mat, an x-acto knife and other things to decorate the bags with (thank you's/for you's).

Click for Larger View
Step 1:  If your paper has one side white, place the white face up.  This will be the inside of the bag (pink on the outside).

Step 2:  Fold the edges towards the center.  This fold determines the length of the bottom of the bag.  If you want a longer bag, do not let the edges meet in the middle.

Step 3:  Open the fold.

Step 4:  Fold the bottom up 1.5 to 2 inches from the top.  This fold determines the width of the bottom of your bag.  If you want a wider bag, then don't fold it so close to the top.

Step 5:  Open the fold and rotate the paper 180 degrees, so the fold you just made is towards the bottom.

Step 6:  Fold the bottom up, repeating step 4, make sure the fold is the same size as in step 4.

Step 7:  Open the folds.  The rectangle in the middle is the center of your bag.  Fold one side of fold you made in Step 2.

Step 8:  This step is tricky.  Study the photo because this is hard to explain.  Grab the fold at the bottom fold line (from the fold made in Step 6).

Step 9:  You want to bring the edge of this fold to the edge of the paper.  Again, refer to the picture.

Step 10:  Repeat this fold on the other side of the paper.

Step 11:  Flip the paper around and repeat this fold on the two other sides.

Step 12:  This is what your paper should look like after you make these folds.

Step 13:  Bring the top and bottom together and you can see the bag!  You may have to slightly bend the smaller sides into the bag.

After this, it's up to you how you want to make the handles or decorate the bag.  In the finished examples in my tutorial I used some heavy duty scrapbooking paper.  I made those bags in less than 5 minutes each.  If you have time and want to make these look really good, make sure you crease the folds flat.  Also, this paper had some shiny surfaces and I used double-sided tape to try to keep some of the inner edges cleaner looking...but the tape just wouldn't stick to those shiny surfaces.  Glue would have worked better.  I tied the handles in two different ways because the white ribbon was too thin for the paper punch holes.  Both ended up working just fine and I like how cute the white ribbon handles look.  I love these bags.  Quick and easy.  They don't have to be perfect.  They were used at a co-ed baby shower so I imagine most of them got thrown out once the guys got home.  Would be great for party favors at any party.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Baby Shower

I was co-host to my best friend's baby shower.  I was in charge of the decorations and prizes/gifts plus this awesome drawing we used for pin the sperm on the uterus game!  Gotta give credit to the co-host's 7 or 8 year old daughter for helping me color it!

For decorations, we decided on tissue paper pom-poms and this decorative ribbon cake stand/hangy thing.  Those didn't turn out so well.  I went to a local fabric store to find seam binding and all they had were dull fabrics in bright colors, nothing close to the greyish/green theme we were going for.  I ended up getting ribbon instead.  What I should have done is left the fabric store!  Instead, I bought ribbon by the yards...and it was expensive!  Silly me!  I could have gotten a whole spool of it, like 18 yards for a fraction of the cost...and we wouldn't have run out of ribbon!  We had to space out the ribbon on the cake stand and chandelier.  Didn't look as pretty as it could have but I bet most people at the co-ed shower didn't care about the decorations.

As for the pom-poms, I tried one and was just going from memory on the directions.  I tried pulling the individual pieces of tissue paper apart and it seemed impossible without tearing.  Then the co-host came up and just separated them with, it kind of worked but it was still in more of a bow shape than a circle.  We ended up tossing it on top of the litter box for decoration, lol.
I wanted to try it out without wasting so much tissue paper, so I cut some in half and tried to make a little one.  I was surprised that the first half of what I separated turned out to look nice, and I probably should have just stopped at the half.  Or maybe tried both sides at once because the other half ended up not opening as much.  It definitely wasn't the round shape it's supposed to be.
I also made a diaper bouquet.  Sadly, I have no proof of how it turned out as I forgot to take pictures.  It was pretty simple and turned out nicely for a first try, didn't take long at all either.  I found a vase and put some diapers on the bottom to fill it up because the foam ball I got was too fat to fit all the way down.  I stuffed a onesie, baby socks and washcloths all around the vase to hide the foam ball.  Then I wrapped diapers around wooden skewers secured with rubber bands (didn't find clear ones) and stuck those in the foam ball.  The diapers I got were Sesame Street ones (didn't do that on purpose) so the color on them added a nice touch (take my word for it).  Instead of tulle, I used tissue paper (because I got a crapload of it trying to find the right color).

I saw this pin for DIY foldy mini gift bags and wanted to give it a try for the gifts and favors.  Since the pin didn't give directions, I had to play around with folding the card stock and surprisingly got it to work pretty decently on my first shot.  I got fancy card stock for the baby shower bags and this stuff was way too hard to bend, but it still worked.  It gets pretty simple after you get it down.  One bag ended up taking about 5 minutes or less.  I didn't have any glue to keep the corners from sort of getting in the way (not needed so much in the one pictured as I did the ribbon/handles different for this one) and I loaded those babies up with double sided tape...which only lasted 5 minutes on the plasticy, thick card stock.  I didn't do any of the fancy trim or get those knobs for the handles.  A little ribbon did the trick.

I will definitely be creating another entry with directions on how to make these neat little gift bags!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bug Juice?

When I went to Wisconsin in July to visit my family, I tried out my dad's juicer.  He asked me if I wanted one.  Hell yeah!  It arrived about two weeks ago and sat in the box for a week.  My husband was going on a run for his energy drinks so I asked him to pick up a few things that were on my list, which included "fruits and veggies."  He came back with oranges, apples and bananas.  He kind of missed the veggies.  The oranges didn't look good so I figured I'd try making some fresh orange juice.  The pitcher filled is about 10 large oranges (they had color added, that's why it's pink).  It tasted good fresh-squeezed but sadly the next morning it was clear the oranges were no good or perhaps one should not make so much at once?  Maybe fresh-juiced OJ goes bad quickly?

I should also mention the Bug-a-salt arrived last month!  We haven't had flies lately so we haven't had the chance to test it out.  It's hard for me to cock the gun, takes all my might, so I'll have to practice for fly season next year!

*Update 11/30/12:  I shot my first fly yesterday!  I got it on my very first shot too!  No maggots, yay!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Macaroni and Fail

I had saved this pin/recipe for microwaveable easy mac for a time when I felt lazy and didn't want to cook.  I have to be honest and say this happens a lot and I'd rather just grab something and eat right away then prepare or cook anything.  So the recipe calls for 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.  I had block cheese and shredded it myself.  I think that was my mistake.

I can honestly say it didn't turn out.  The cheese just chunked up. I tried adding more milk and more microwave time, but it just didn't get creamy.  Does shredded block cheese not melt?  Would I have had the same results with store bought shredded cheese?

I had a bowl of it and the texture was just too weird.  I ended up tossing the leftovers.  I might try this again some day with actual shredded cheese.  Or I might as well just find a stove top recipe since I have to cook the noodles anyway!

I saw a pin for fruit pizza a while back and have been wanting to make it.  I had some at my cousin's birthday party in July but I wanted one with the kinds of fruit I like.  I finally got around to buying all the ingredients for an easy recipe (I didn't do the jelly topping) and remembered the hell I had beating the softened cream cheese the last time, so I smoothed it out with the back of a large spoon.  That seemed to do the trick.  I even had to add sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and it mixed quite well with the back of the spoon.  Hooray!  It's pretty delicious.  The one thing I hate about making food is that my husband never eats it and half of it ends up going to waste because I can't eat that much.

September Wedding

I had the honor of being in my best friend's wedding as her only actual bridesmaid.  She had three other men stand with her.  What do you call them?  Bridesmen?

I had seen a pin for a bow necklace prior to her wedding and thought how cute it would be to try to create it to fit in with all the men wearing bow ties at the wedding.  I went to Michael's for the supplies and didn't find the shiny kind of leather.  It ended up being more felty-like.  With practice, I could have probably got the bow shape to work better but I (of course) did this last minute.  First image is me with big hair all ready to go and then the finished bow necklace (never mind the kitty claw holes in my table top).

The view from my friend's suite.  Hello Baltimore!

The wedding was beautiful and I'm so happy for my friend and her spouse!  I didn't dance enough because I wasn't sore the day after!  This was the first time I had the honor of being in a wedding.  I was in mine of course, but we just got married at the courthouse.  I was supposed to be in another best friends' wedding several years ago but could not afford plane tickets as she was to be married on New Years.  How many weddings have you been in?