Nine Times A Day: A Priorities Story

About 4 years ago, Brian came home a little later than to be expected from work. The kids who hadn’t seen their Dad all day were thrilled as he walked in the door. They ran to him in their footie jammies with their damp hair from being just newly bathed and hugged and kissed him.

Meanwhile, I was cleaning the kitchen after having made the fifth meal of the day, a supper of chicken, rice, and a vegetable. I had a warm plate in the oven for my dear husband. Brian watched me sweeping rice up from the floor. For any of you who have had little kids and had to sweep up rice from the floor, it is the worst. THE WORST.

My husband said to my oldest who was just 4 at the time, “Is Mama ok?”

He asked because as I was sweeping that sticky uncooperative rice from my kitchen floor, I was tearing up. Of course, he was the only one who noticed my silent welling of tears, because when you have three kids who are 4, 3, and 2, they don’t notice such things when Dad walks in the door. He sent the kids upstairs and told them to read books until we came up, and sort of tip toed toward me and said, “Sooooo, how was your day?”

I replied curtly, “Well, this is the 9th time today I’ve swept the floor.”

He responded still unsure of my current mood, “Ummm, and this is bad right?”

“YES! This is bad! I cannot keep up with anything!”

He said, “Keep up with what’s important, Erin. How about, tomorrow, just sweep once at the end of the day. Or how about not at all. It really doesn’t matter, just feed the kids from the floor. That is where it all ends up.”

His comments at the time made me laugh, and made me feel a lot better. Thank goodness for Brian making me laugh. When he said, “Keep up with what’s important.” I didn’t really know what that meant at the time.

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I was very much caught up with life with three kids so close together, who were all home with me. Let me tell you, it was utter chaos for so long.

Every day for many years was like sweeping the floor Nine Times times a day.

Sweep up a mess. Someone drops cheerios. Sweep up that mess. Someone drops blueberries. Sweep up that mess. Someone drops noodles.

You get the picture.

It was hard to keep up with these babies and toddlers.

As soon as I would think I was done with a stage, or with a pile of laundry, or cooking a homemade pureed baby food meal (how stupid I was), or a size of clothes from Rubbermaid tub, or bottles, I would be delivering another baby, or potty training someone else, or pulling another tub of hand me downs out from the basement, doing laundry or cooking or cleaning or SWEEPING THE FLOOR FOR THE 9th TIME THAT DAY!

At the time, I thought I was keeping up with what was important.

Last week it happened. My youngest started full day Kindergarten.

I’m home alone, you guys.

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And I’ve kind of noticed a trend. I have a bit more time in the day to myself, but…

Today as I write this, I look around and I have a To Do List a mile long. There are dishes on my counter. I have laundry piled up (clean to be folded and unclean to be washed). I have soccer uniforms that need ordering. A doctor’s appointment to make. Not to mention, now the kids get older there is a whole host of issues and homework and stages and fun(?) that I need to keep up with. Also, we’ve added my full time career to the mix. Not to mention, I probably still should sweep the floor, but I haven’t touched it yet today.

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There were days when I had three little ones crawling/scooting/toddling around and I would be sweeping that floor for the 9th Time That Day and I dreamed of the light at the end of the tunnel. The day all three of my kids were in school all day and I would have all this time to get things done and focus on our home. I would say things like, “I cannot wait until the kids are in school all day and I can clean all day and make our home lovely for them.” or “I cannot wait until the kids go to school so I can focus on making the perfect snacks and when they get home we can blissfully play board games and read stories around the fire place like a magazine.” or “I will never have to sweep the floor 9 Times A Day again.”

I’ve learned a little bit over these last few years. The dishes and the laundry and the Legos and sweeping the floor 9 times a day really doesn’t matter. I have the rest of my life to clean. I wish I could go back and say to myself 4 years ago crying silently as I swept that sticky rice from the floor, “Erin, put down the broom and smell your kids baby shampoo scented heads and snuggle their footie jammied pudgey bodies.”

I’ve lived a little and learned a lot.

This is what I know now:

The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t that the mess is gone. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a pretty house. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a perfectly laid out snack after school. The light at the end of the tunnel is being ok with the messy kitchen floor. It is not caring about the trivial. Brian was right those years ago, I needed to keep up with what’s important. (That’s right, Brian, you were right.)

I literally have seen the light. I know what’s important. Sweeping the floor 9 Times A Day is not Important.

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So, tonight when the kids get home (from soccer and various other things) we will gather around the dining room table (after moving aside my laptop and take home folders) I will put together a dinner (from the slow cooker) and we will eat and talk and clean up together and maybe play a game of cards. Brian and I will do some laundry after the kids go to bed (the bare necessities), then we will quickly order soccer uniforms (before heading to bed ourselves) and perhaps I can sweep the floor one time (tomorrow)… if there’s time after I snuggle my kids.

As Mother’s Day Approaches, Momvice from One Mom to Another

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NurseryMusts #CollectiveBias

I have written a few parenting posts with suggestions for new parents. Some of these posts included sleep tactics, cloth diapering, registry suggestions, and even ideas for making your own baby food. However, now that my three kids are a bit older and I am further removed from the baby phase, I have some different perspective on parenting babies than I did all those years ago.

 I have combined the three best pieces of advice I can gift all my expectant Mom friends into a little gift.

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1.) Trust your mother’s intuition (and your nose).

Whether it be through adoption or birth, being a new Mom is tough work. Everyone is trying “to help” with various suggestions and advice. From trusted friends to the stranger waiting in line at the supermarket telling you she didn’t need all these new fangled appliances like teething rings for her babies.

Moms have a sense of intuition when it comes to their children. Sometimes it is there right away, sometimes it develops over time. A mom can usually tell when their baby is overtired, needs to be fed, is bored, or needs a change (that one is pretty obvious). However, you should trust YOUR intuition FIRST! Then, if you need advice ask for it. 

Then, when do you change that diaper you don’t want to smell it again. Trust me on this one. 

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At Target, I found the NEW Diaper Genie Complete with The Ultimate Odor Lock system.

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This Diaper Genie features a 7-layer refill bag with double Air-Tite® CLAMP, built in carbon filter which can help absorb those nasty odors, and can hold up to 270 blow outs! In addition to lots of Target runs, there will be blow outs in your future. So after you trust your nose, trust your instincts.

2.) Follow your baby’s lead (each baby is different). 

All three of my kids are as different as they come. They were born in a span of 33 months, I attempted many of the same parenting techniques, but I can tell you that some of them worked, and some didn’t. My oldest switched back and forth between nursing and bottles pretty easily but was a premie and was kind of a gassy baby and the first bottle we tried wasn’t the best for him, my middle guy preferred nursing and I had a hard time finding a bottle that simulated nursing for him, my youngest preferred a bottle over nursing after awhile. Even now, I can tell you I parent them each a little differently because they are three different individuals who have different needs and require a little bit different care.

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Babies after all are little humans, all with different temperaments, likes, dislikes, DNA, and habits. Let’s face it, what works for one little cutie, isn’t going to work for another. Which is why, I say if you try something a few times and it isn’t working, move on to plan B, C, D… there is a whole alphabet after all. 

This is why I always give a couple different options when it comes to bottles and Playtex has lots of options.

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First, The Playtex Nurser with Drop-Ins Liners is closer to natural breastfeeding and can simulate the same suck, small, and breathing patters as breastfeeding. This would have been a great fit for my middle son who would have, I am sure, appreciated a smoother transition from nursing to bottle feeding. Also, with a Like Mom® NaturaLatch® Nipple it can help with a natural latch.

Second, The Playtex VentAire has a unique anti-colic bottom vent which helps to create fewer air bubbles. This would have been perfect for my oldest. And when baby is happy, Mom is happy. Also, this bottle has the added bonus of having an angled design which helps prevent ear infections because you can then feed baby in a semi-upright position. This bottle also features the Like Mom® NaturaLatch® Nipple for easy switching from nursing to bottle feeding.

3.) Be kind to yourself (with a Target run).

Finally, as a new Mom you need to be kind to yourself. Be gentle and forgiving. It’s ok that you don’t know how to fold down the stroller completely and just put it in the back of the car completely open (me). It is ok if you go to Mom and Me Music Class with your shirt on inside out and backwards (also me). All of us Moms are with you in solidarity.

We see you. I see you.

So, lastly, in my Mom Advice Gift, I put a Target Gift Card.

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This is just for you. For that rainy day when you cannot walk to the park, but you cannot stand another day in the house. You can wander around with your baby in the stroller sound asleep (don’t stop walking the baby will wake up) and buy yourself some caffeine and a shirt that doesn’t have a stain on it. Because you deserve it!

For more information about Playtex products, follow Playtex on FacebookYouTube or Twitter @PlaytexBaby.

What advice would you give to a new Mom? What kind of gifts would you include for some #NurseryMusts? Would it be an assortment of Playtex bottles? Share in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Building Built In Storage: Part Two

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have been done with the built ins for about two weeks. However, writing about them took longer. 

 

I will probably keep rearranging these forever. #DIY #honedecorprobs

A photo posted by Erin Skibinski (@eskibs) on

I’m not going to lie, this was the more difficult part of the building as there was more measuring and cutting and painting involved. Hence, the longer gap in between posts. I am thrilled with how this project turned out, and happy to say it was worth the wait.

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We left off PART 1 at the installation of the countertop on top of the cabinets and painting the wood that was going to be the upper shelving.

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I felt that it was easier to paint as much of wood first and then touch up things later because A) I could paint on a flat surface and my arms wouldn’t get sore B) I’m not stinking up the house with paint C) I wouldn’t have to tape up the blue wall I just painted or counter top I had just stained.

For the upper shelving we used 1″ x 12″ common board. and cut a 10′ foot header and 5 -5′ vertical supports. 

Then after we had determined the height of each of our shelves (three not including the counter shelf), we marked on 3 of the vertical supports where those shelves would be and clamped them together. Pro Tip: If you know you will be making the same cuts at the same points on same pieces of wood. Try to clamp them together and do it at the same time to save time, and ensure accuracy.

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Next, using a multi-tool, Brian notched out a 1″ deep by 2″ width piece into the three center vertical supports. Notching this piece of wood on the back of each of these vertical supports at each of the heights of the shelves served several purposes. 1) It allowed us to screw 3 1″ x  2″ x 10′ rails into the back of the shelves for extra sturdiness. 2) These rails were flush against the vertical supports allowing the shelving unit to be flush against the wall. 3) It gave us another place to secure the shelving unit other than the ceiling for extra support. 4) Having rails that run the length of the back of later installed shelves will help to prevent bowing in the future.

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Once the vertical supports, header, and rails were ready to go, we brought everything in the house to put together. We screwed the vertical supports from the top of the header at equal intervals allowing us to have 30″ wide shelves.

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Then we attached the rails.

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Then we lifted it up on top of the counter. Perfect fit (thank goodness)! Brian screwed the this shelving unit into the ceiling wherever there were studs. and again into the side wall by the window. He also secured a few screws into the rails we had just constructed where ever there was a stud. This baby isn’t going anywhere.

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In the ceiling of the unit, instead of painting and trying to find cover the heavier duty screws we used to attach the header. With the help of our handy friend, Scott, we cut some pre-finished bead-board to size, and nail gunned that into the the unit.

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Next, we took the same pieces of 1″ x 2″ and cut them into approximately 11″ pieces to make the side rails for the shelves. Brian then used a nail gun to attach these rails.

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Using the same 1″ x 12″ common board we cut the shelves to size, slid them into place, and we nailed those in too.

Then, it was crown moulding time. We used pre-finshed moulding to save us another step, because this was where we needed the most instruction. We had no idea what we were doing. We called in reinforcements with the help of our handy friend, Scott and a ASK This Old House Video. We figured out how to cut the moulding for an outside corner using our chop saw. After a few test pieces, we got the hang of it, and using the nail gun, we got it up there. Pro Tip: We did have a slight gap, however white painters caulk can fill any gaps, or nail holes in your finished product.

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I touched up any paint that needed to be done.

Wiped everything down. 

It took a few days, but I think I have them styled how I want them. 

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For now.

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Work Hard, Play Hard: Why Data is More Useful

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #DataAndAMovie   #CollectiveBias

You’d think that Brian and I are in the stage of our lives when we don’t require elaborate data plans with awesome coverage. After all, our kids are little and we have awhile before we cross the bridge into getting them their first handheld or smart device.

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However, in addition to Brian having a full time career, he also works part time offering consulting from home. Also, with me working and writing and blogging and social media-ing. We need data, and we need coverage. We do have WiFi in our home, but as anyone who works from home will tell you, sometimes you aren’t always at home when you get a call to do work. Sometimes, responding to an email while waiting at the bus stop is is necessary. Other times it requires researching information for a post or a client while walking through the store. Other times, it might mean setting up an office after putting the kids to bed after a day of exploring and swimming at a hotel who’s WiFi went down for the week (true story).

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Working hard from home does not always mean we are in the physical space of home. Which is why, we are so grateful now for Walmart Family Mobile PLUS. We scored an amazing deal. The Walmart Family Mobile PLUS deal includes Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data with 10GB of 4G LTE data plus a FREE movie on VUDU for only $49.88 per month for our small enterprises. Brian and I are not only able to get our work done, but we are infinitely more productive and don’t spend our time looking for coffee shops with WiFi. There is no more running out data on our personal lines! Also, with a free movie every month on VUDU we can kick back and relax with the kids and watch free movie. 

Work hard, play hard.

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When we found out about the Walmart Family Mobile PLUS plan, I headed to Walmart to see what phone options we had. We didn’t need anything to fancy, just something that would be able to help us email, have access to a few apps, and be able to serve as a wireless hot spot. I decided on the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime for a steal at $79.92 this phone is currently on Rollback from $99.92. It was a breeze to set up, and before I knew it, I felt like a blog boss. 

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All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to or your local Walmart for current pricing.

Here are all the ways I cannot wait to use my knew Samsung Galaxy and Walmart Family Mobile PLUS

  • Creating and emergency Wireless Hot Spot 
  • Reading articles, blogs, news, to keep up to date anytime anywhere
  • Listening to my favorite social media, writing, and blog podcasts while I’m working or walking on the trail.
  • Responding to emails right away.
  • Watching movies with my family.
  • Streaming music while we work.
  • Not searching for WiFi everywhere I go.

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Even if you’re not an aspiring blogger loss, check out Walmart Family Mobile PLUS at Walmart! Tell me in the comments all the reasons more data would be helpful to you.

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For more information, CLICK HERE! I guarantee you’ll be more productive, and have way more fun. Work hard, play hard. 

 

 

Building Built In Storage: Part One

This project started out as me reorganizing the cabinets in my dining room to create some more space.

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To Brian saying, “Sweetie, you need more storage. Let’s not buy anything, let’s build something. That way it is exactly what we need.”

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I went from a simple reorganizing project to prepping the dining room for built-ins. As Ron Burgundy would say.

As we sat together at the kitchen table scrolling through blogs for inspiration like Thrify Decor Chick’s gorgeous built ins and Addicted to Decorating awesome built in entertainment center.  We knew we wanted some open and closed storage. We also knew that to maximize storage, we should probably try and use the entire length of the wall in the dining room. Finally, we wanted to add some cool style elements to the bookshelf to kind of mimc some other elements in the house like stain the countertop the same color as the dining room table we built and maybe paint the wall behind the shelves a different color like when I put  fabric in the cabinets before to help make the dishes pop.

This is as far as we have gotten in the last 10 days. 

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Considering it took me an entire day to carefully empty and move the cabinets that were sitting there, I will take that as a win.

 

 

I think it is safe to say, things have gotten out of hand. #diyproblems

A photo posted by Erin Skibinski (@eskibs) on

Also, life is still going on which means school, soccer, ballet, tap, school functions, homework, library volunteering, library board, work meetings, and a sinus infection. 

The first step was to decide how big we wanted to create the built in unit. We knew we were going to use stock UPPER cabinets as our base. Stock cabinets come in only a few standard sizes, so we just had to figure out the correct combination of cabinets that would fit into the dining room and look good. We used painter’s tape as a guide. For us, we decided ten linear feet of cabinets (two 36″ cabinets and two 24″ cabinets). This was just short of the opposite wall in the dining room, and we figured just short was better than two feet too long.

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Then, we drew out a plan. Twice. Actually, three times.

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Using Addicted to Decorating and Thrifty Decor Chick as a template we drew out how to create our built ins. We did this a few times measuring a few times, and getting out our calculators just to be sure everything would be right. Pro Tip: Remember when following directions from another site, Pinterest, or blog, make sure to keep in mind that YOUR house is different. Measure your space a few times. Things to consider: What is the height of your ceiling? What kind of trim do you have, how big is it? What kind of flooring do you have carpet, wood, tile? Are there walls on each side of the built ins for support? Where are the studs? Are you going to be covering one or multiple outlets and do you need to call an electrician to move them before you get started? Are you insane to try something like this on your own?

Then, we made our supply list of everything we needed. To do this, we literally talked through every step a few times together out loud down to the finishing nails. This helped us make a good an thorough list. Pro Tip: You might want to check online or give a call to your hardware store just to make sure they have everything you need ahead of time. (We had to go to two Home Depots BLERG).

Next, I painted. This step is not necessary, but if you want to make your life a little easier and you also want to have a pop of color behind your built ins this is the time to do it. I measured out where the bookshelves were going to be, and I rolled on a dark blue I already had on hand (and luckily compliments my existing scheme). My sister, Beth, had given me a whole gallon to me when she had it mixed up for her dining room and it didn’t work out. I tried a swatch and love it. It is Valspar’s Victory Blue.

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Then, Brian measured (you see a theme here, right?) the trim and shoe along the wall and marked where the new built ins would be, and cut that portion of the trim out. This way, the built in cabinets and shelves would be right next to the wall without any gaps, would be more easily affixed to the wall, and we wouldn’t have to cut into the cabinets.

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Next, Brian built a base for the cabinets to sit on. The reason for the base was that we used UPPER stock cabinets the closed bottom storage for our built ins. This was because, uppers are only 12 inches deep, and don’t have built in drawers. This way they would take up less space in our already narrow dining room. If we would have set the uppers right on the floor, the cabinet doors would have dragged right along the floor, and also they would have have been has sturdy. To create the base, Brian used 1″ x  4″ common board and created a 10′ x 1′ rectangle that fit perfectly along the wall into the gap created by the cut out trim. Then he reinforced the base by screwing in 1 foot boards to line up where edges of the cabinets would sit. Finally, we affixed the base to the wall.

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Then, made a teeny mistake. We have an outlet on the wall that we don’t entirely want to cover up because we I think it might be cute to have a lamp sit on the open shelves. So, Brian had to cut a hole in the back of one of the cabinets, in order to have access to the outlet. We messed up a little with our measurements, and ended up cutting a much bigger hole than necessary. Hey, at least we knew to keep access to the outlet.

Next, we set the cabinets on the base. Starting with the outside edge (not against the corner wall because it is not plum or level in our 1975 settled house) we set each cabinet in place.

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Then, we clamped the cabinets together. and predrilled holes in the base of the cabinets and screwed the cabinets together.

Then, using a level, and many many shims. We made sure all the cabinets were perfectly level. We screwed the cabinets to the wall using shims for support, and making sure that we were screwing the cabinets into studs. Pro Tip: If you are unsure where studs are, you can use a stud finder. To double check, using a measuring tape and a pencil, from the corner of a room or an outlet (outlets and switches are often affixed to studs) and measure every 16 inches (or the red numbers in house on your tape measure) and mark the wall with a pencil. When you drill and the screw pulls tight and doesn’t keep spinning you have hit a stud. 

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After the cabinets were in securely in the wall, it was time to put together the “counter”.  Rather than buy a piece of butcher block, we wanted the counter to mimic the dining table Brian had built a few year ago, but on a smaller scale. Using four 1″ x 3 1/2″ pieces of pine, we created a similar look. Since, we could only buy these boards in 12′ pieces, we ended up cutting them to the length we needed, and made a countertop for the top of the cabinets.

Next, as a recommendation from the handy helpers at Home Depot, using Liquid Nails and clamps.  Pro Tip: It never hurts to tell the people at Home Depot or your hardware store what you’re up to. Often times, they have lots of tips and tricks to help you with your project and are willing to help.

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We glued the boards together lengthwise, and used clamps to hold them together. We let the boards dry longer than the recommended time. Pro Tip: Make sure to wipe any excess Liquid Nails that oozes out between seams with a wet cloth right away. It is easier to remove when wet than dry, and will help with a smooth finish.

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After it dried, we removed the clamps. Then, I sanded, stained (three coats just like the table), and poly-ed it.

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Which brings us to today. 

Exhausted, and looking forward to/prepping for Phase 2, the upper open shelves. 

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Did you ever have a project that got out of hand quickly? Share in the comments.

 

 

Movie Inspired: An Uncle Buck Giant Fluffy Pancake

Growing up in a family of movie buffs meant we were watching a lot of movies. I can remember staying up late to watch James Bond marathons, Cary Grant marathons, Bill Murray marathons, or trying to pack in the whole Star Wars trilogy in one night.

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One of my older siblings, Kevin, & I ready to watch movies.

Some things have changed since I was a kid. These were the days before Streaming and OnDemand, so if there was a good movie on TV you’d stop whatever you were doing pop in a tape in the Betamax and record. Also, we didn’t have a microwave, so I can remember my mom air popping popcorn and smelling butter melting in a pan on the stove while gathering cold drinks.

One thing has remained pretty constant is sometimes I would be watching an old movie like Sabrina (the original with Audrey Hepburn) or Moonstruck or Singing in the Rain or The Quiet Man and the actors would be eating something and I would think, “that looks pretty good.” (pauses TV and makes something similar).

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Which brings us to this GIANT PANCAKE. A few weeks ago, I started a John Hughes movie escapade that started with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and when Maureen O’Hara (one of my favorites) passed away ended with Only the Lonely. Somewhere in the middle, I watched Uncle Buck, and saw this scene. 

 

So, of course, after watching this, I wanted Brinner (breakfast for dinner) and I thought some sort of Giant Pancake would be in order. The thing is, I don’t have a big griddle, and I wasn’t sure how to do this.

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I found a recipe on my Kitchen Stories app (if you don’t have it GET IT it is FREE), for something called a Kaiserschmarrn. This is a traditional fluffy, Austrian pancake usually made with raisins. I adapted a version that pleased everyone, and I think would have made John Hughes, John Candy, and even a young McCauley Culkin proud.

Giant Uncle Buck Pancake (adapted from Kitchen Stories Kaiserschmarrn)

4 eggs separated saving both the whites and the yolks

1/2 cup of sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

1 tbsp butter

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1 cup fresh berries

Maple syrup optional

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Using a chilled bowl, and a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat egg whites and 1/4 of a cup of the granulated sugar until stiff peaks white, glossy, and stiff peaks are formed. 

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Transfer this mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.

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Then, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, mix together egg yolks and remaining sugar until light in color and well combined. Next, add vanilla and milk. Finally, slowly add flour and salt until just combined. Do not over mix this portion of the batter.

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Next, using a spatula very carefully fold in egg whites being extremely careful not to deflate the fluffy consistency you created. Fold until combined. Pro Tip: When folding, it is ok if you can still see some white egg whites streaked through the batter.

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Next, in a large oven safe skillet with deep sides spray throughly with cooking spray. Then, put over medium high heat and melt butter. When the butter is melted add the batter. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over top. Let the batter cook on the stove for about 3 -4 minutes or until the sides begin to set up.

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Transfer the pancake to the oven to finish cooking through. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the pancake is fluffy.

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Cut into servings and serve immediately with berries and maple syrup.

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What have you been inspired to cook from a movie?

 

Thirsty Thursday: Build Your Own Chai Tea Lattes

I’m cold. I’m not complaining, I’m just stating a fact. I’m cold. The weather in the Midwest is chilly. There’s snow. There’s ice. I have been driving to the bus stop less than a quarter a mile away because I’d rather get my exercise indoors this time of year. While, I know January is the month of healthy smoothies and getting fit, I also know that a drink filled with unseasonably expensive fruit and ice is not going to warm me up. Also, January 2016 is known as National Hot Tea month. 

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My regular readers know, I’m a regular tea drinker and I make all kinds of fun drinks with it both hot and cold (like here, here, and here). However, I have never attempted making Chai Tea. I thought it was time I start.

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Anytime I have ever had a Chai Tea Latte it always tastes like it has a little too much anise or not enough cinnamon or something seems missing. To be fair, I am kind of picky with spices. So, I did some research on Chai, and found all of the possible spices that could be in a Chai Tea Latte, added one that is not typically found in Chai but I think is perfect, and made my own version of a Chai Latte that can be made easily at home.

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All of these spices could be played around with adjusted or eliminated to your tastes. The old standbys for Chai Tea are cardamom, ginger, anise (or fennel), peppercorn, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. I added vanilla powder. I thought this would be mild but highlight any sweetener you might add to the drink (I used powder rather than extract so I could let it steep with the rest of the spices and it is also cheaper than always having to buy vanilla beans every time I want to make this drink). Also, I tried to keep everything as coarsely ground or in its original state for steeping. This helps keep the straining process a  bit easier and makes it a lot easier to not have chunks of spice in your drink (yuck!)

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Also, the best part of making something like this at home is you can use your favorite caffeinated or decaffeinated tea or your favorite kind of milk (skim, whole, 2%, soy milk, almond milk) or even your favorite sweetener (sugar, agave, stevia, brown sugar) if you wanted to get really fancy.

I used 2% cow’s milk and brown sugar.

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Build Your Own Chai Tea Lattes (makes two)

2 cups water

2 inches fresh ginger room cut into circles

1 or 2 pieces star anise

1/2 tsp coarsely ground white pepper or  a few white peppercorns

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (grate a whole nutmeg with a microplane)

2 whole cloves

1 whole cinnamon stick

1 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract added to the warmed milk)

1/4 tsp whole cardamom seeds

2 black tea bags

3/4 milk of your choice (I used 2% milk)

sweetener of your choice to taste (I added 2 tbsp of brown sugar)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add water and all the spices.

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Bring to a low boil and cook for about 2 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

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Strain spice mixture into a heat save container (if concerned about spices in water, strain twice).

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Steep tea in spice mixture according to package instructions. I steeped tea for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heat safe container or in another sauce pan. Heat milk until just warm. This should take anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. Pro Tip: If using vanilla extract, add vanilla extract now.

Remove tea bags from spice mixture. 

Finally, whisk together tea, milk, and sweetener.

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Pour into mugs and serve immediately.

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How will you make your Chai Tea Latte? Do you like more cinnamon? Will you leave out the vanilla? What kind of sweetener will you use? 

Buffalo Check is my New Obsession: Or How I Made No Sew Cafe Curtains (Again)

After adding the new kitchen countertops and installing a subway tile backsplash, I decided that I liked the neutrality of our kitchen. I liked that everything was starting to look more clean and fresh and could kind of be tweaked with some flowers or dish towels to match the seasons.

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Rather than add a pop of color with a rug or curtains, I decided to go with a black/white/gray motif. So, I found a few black and white fabrics that I liked, and went with it.

Kitchen Curtains Black and White Fabrics COLLAGE

Ok, fine what really happened was that I saw this buffalo check fabric at IKEA, fell in love with it (and the price) and had to have it!

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I thought of the “neutral theme” idea later when I realized that everything goes with black and white buffalo check.

If you remember, my old cafe curtains were made from cloth napkins. Which is still an awesome idea and for a non-sewer (or someone who cannot make up her mind) and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to have a quick, easy, and cheap window cover solution.

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That buffalo check fabric though.

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So, I pulled up my big girl pants, and got out the sewing machine iron and extra strength hem tape. I made the curtains similarly to when I made them for Coco’s room a few years back. However, I also got super fancy and made a valence too!

Using my previous cloth napkins curtains as a template, I measured.

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I ironed while watching Brooklyn 99 (Captain Holt, am I right?)

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I hung them up.

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Again, this is one of those projects I waited awhile to post as kind of a “time will tell” experiment. While I have made hem tape curtains in the past, they were decorative curtains that weren’t really open and closed very often and used more as a way to frame a window. These curtains, however, are actual real utility curtains. The kitchen is a high traffic area and the window over the sink is one that is open and closed a lot, which means these curtains would be pulled open and closed a lot. Also, over the sink means water splashing, steam from pasta water being drained, and other cooking shenanigans that happen near the sink. I wanted to make sure that these curtains would hold up to a wash, water, and heat, and some traffic before I posted a tutorial. 

Here they were the first week.

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Here is picture of them yesterday (over three months of cooking, baking, washing dishes, splashing, and one run through the gentle cycle of the washing machine and hung to dry).

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Also, because I don’t know if I mentioned earlier, but I really like this fabric from IKEA, I overbought, so I also had enough fabric to sew iron tie backs, and another valence for the patio door. 

Do you have any easy, quick, and foolproof DIY methods that lasted longer than you thought?

 

How To Install a Tile Backsplash Without Thinset or Mastic

If you read Home Everyday on any regular basis, you know that the kitchen is where I can be found most of the time. I am usually cooking or baking, or crafting at the kitchen table, helping someone with homework at the kitchen table, or cleaning up a ginormous mess I just made. Since updating our kitchen with new countertops, you may have also noticed that we have updated our backsplash too. I love our kitchen even more because the space has become more practical (no more cracked countertops),  but also because of a few more useful and beautiful additions we have made to my most used room: a deeper more functional sink, an extra cabinet, a new microwave (that works correctly), some new curtains, a little paint, and a few new pieces of hardware, and most of all: a gorgeous wipeable subway tile backsplash. 

Ta Da!

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When the old countertops were removed, with them came a small backsplash that was made of the same material. When the countertops were removed, this was left behind.

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We could have had a small granite backsplash cut and attached to the wall, but there’s a few reasons we didn’t do this. 

  1. I don’t think they are practical for cleaning. Why only cover part of a space that is going to get splashed on. Then I have to tile it anyway? No.
  2. Mo granite means mo money.
  3. I think that tiling all the way to the countertop would create a modern cleaner line.

So, we decided to tile.

Ourselves.

With a method that requires no mastic or thinset.

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Before this project, I had never tiled anything before. However because I like to watch HGTV, and Ask This Old House like it’s my job, lay in bed and look at Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts of DIY bloggers, take free classes for projects that might happen some day at Home Depot, and talk with anyone I can about DIY, I felt that I could handle tiling a backsplash. Ok, I also asked our awesome friend Scott who has remodeled two houses of his own from top to bottom to lend a hand. 

For this project, we were able to do the entire backsplash including grout in one day! I know what you’re thinking. Whoa, whoa, whoa, Erin. You cannot tile anything in one day. You have to wait for the thinset to dry. Nope. We used SimpleMat. It is like double sided tape for tile that is perfect for basksplashes or other tiling projects that won’t get super wet (think a decorative table, countertop, or behind a wet bar or decorative wall). If you follow this easy tutorial, you can have a gorgeous backsplash, in a day too! (I was not paid or perked in anyway, I just adored this product).

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And if you’re worried, I waited three months before sharing this tutorial to make sure we didn’t have any problems. Even through a busy cooking season of Christmas where I wiped down the backsplash almost daily. So far, so good!

Supplies

SimpleMat

Tile

Tile Cutter or Wet Saw (You should talk to a pro about what you’ll need to rent or purchase depending on what kind of tile you’re using and what you think you’ll be using in the future.)

Scissors (good strong utility scissors, don’t skimp, you’ll thank me)

Simple Grout (This is a premixed grout with a sealer already built into the grout. I used this to cut out the steps of having to mix my own grout and to have to seal it later)

Tile Spacers

Float

Sponges

Buckets

Lots and lots of Paper Towel

Drop Clothes

Waterproof caulk

Getting Started

  1. The first thing I did was decide on a tile and a grout color. I chose white ceramic subway tile and a gray grout. I chose this combo for many reasons.
  • I liked how it looked with our new countertops. It was fresh and clean, and with grey grout would be divine.
  • Gray grout would not yellow over time and look new for years to come.
  • Gray grout would also help show off the brick pattern I wanted to do with the subway tile.
  • I knew it this look would stand the test of time. There’s a reason you still see subway tile in houses built forever ago. It never goes out of style.
  • It is easy to work with for a beginner tiler. It is light for those not using thinnest (us), easy to cut with a simple tile cutter or nippers (us).
  • It was cheap and in stock. There was no ordering required in case I miscalculated how much I needed, and everyone has ceramic subway tile. EVERYONE!
  • Did I mention how adorable it looked with our countertops?

 

 

Decisions are being made. #HomeEveryday #SkibsSummer

A photo posted by Erin Skibinski (@eskibs) on

2.  I measured, and then I measured again (then again). I wanted to make sure I had enough SimpleMat, tile, grout, and anything else I may need to complete the project. There’s nothing worse that running to Home Depot again in the middle of a project.

3. Buy what you need and a little more. It is recommended that you purchase about 10% more tile than you will actually need for a project to make up for any cuts made, broken tiles, or any mishaps. We did a little more than that. Just in case. Pro Tip: Make sure you factor extra tile, supplies, and any equipment purchase or rentals into your budget for a project. 

3. I turned off the power to the area, and then removed all the all outlet covers, and unscrewed the outlets from the wall. Pro Tip: You want to be able to get tiles as close to the outlets cut outs as possible for a cleaner more professional look, but to also make sure there’s no gaps when doing replacing outlet covers.

4. I also then prepped the surface by  gently sanding the backsplash area with a low grit sandpaper. Then, I wiped the surface down with a wet cloth and let it dry. This helped the SimpleMat adhere better.

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5. We laid out the tile in a dry run on the countertop. ProTip: I know you want to get started, but don’t skip this step. Make sure to use your spacers just as you would on the wall. This will help you predict where cuts will be, how your pattern will work, and how to end the tile in each row. There is nothing worse than a teeny tiny piece of tile at the end of a row, which is a terrible hard cut to make and looks silly, when you could have lined everything up a little bit different and get a whole tile instead. Also, this helps you decide where you want to stop and start your tile. I put tile wherever there was countertop, meaning a had to tile into a corner (I did this for practicality and easy cleaning but love the look too). 

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Tiling

  1. Since I had lots of people helping me, I knew we would be able to get this project done quickly, and we had laid out the tile ahead of time, we cut all of the SimpleMat and adhered it to the wall in one giant step. Pro Tip: We made sure to use the float to press the SimpleMat to the wall to get good adhesion. Also, we made sure to cover every area with Simple Mat where there would be tile.

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2. Next, we peeled back the paper on the other side. Pro Tip: It should be noted that after you remove the paper, you should start adhering tiles immediately for the best possible security.

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3. Time to tile! Scott would keep laying out tile and show Brian where cuts would need to be made. I would stick the tile to the wall, using tile spacers lay another tile.  Pro Tip: After adhering a few tiles, I would press with a float to make sure the tile was secure.

We had an awesome system going.

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4. For around the outlets, we would use outlet covers and the previous row as a guide to measuring where to cut the tile to keep the brick pattern going. For corner cuts, we made sure to leave a bit of room in the corner for grout.

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Grouting

ProTip: Before you start remember these three things about grout. Work fast but careful. Wetter is better. Paper Towels are your friend. Now, you may begin. (Also, cameras and grouting do not mix, so sorry for so few pictures.)

1. Once every tile was in place, we removed all the spacers, and made sure that all the surfaces were covered with drop clothes.

2. Next, we filled two buckets with warm water and a sponge. One bucket is your yucky bucket, the other bucket is your not so yucky bucket (technical terms, be careful). 

3. Then, in very small sections, using a float we added grout into all the spaces of the tiles. Make sure that you press the grout into the crevices. Pro Tip: Many people like to use a diagonal stroke with the float to fill the spaces with grout. I found using a rainbow like pattern worked best. Using small strokes from the bottom left, working up and around and back down to the bottom right in a small semi-circle pattern seemed to fill the most spaces with grout.

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4. Even though we only did small sections of grout at a time, we would wash the float between each section, and close the grout container. Remember, grout is easier to work with when it is wet. Then, we would take a sponge from the yucky bucket, wring it out, and wipe the the section we had just grouted with a VERY light touch. Careful not to removed any grout from the crevices or spaces. Do this step again.

5. Then, wringing a sponge from the not so yucky bucket, we lightly wiped the tiles again. You’ll probably notice drips of cloudy water falling on the tiles, this is fine as long as you notice the water get “cleaner” with every pass. Pro Tip: Keep switching the water in the buckets to help keep haze at bay.

6. Finally, using a bunch of paper tiles, again with a light touch we would wipe the section again a few times until we noticed the tiles were starting to shine up, but also not so hard that the grout was starting to be removed from the crevices. Again, this is a very light touch. You may even want to wipe each individual tile. Pro Tip: While you may feel like you are using a lot of paper towel, this may save time and money later from having to use a tile haze remover. 

7. Repeat these steps until everything is grouted.

Finish it up

  1. Each grout has different rules about dry times. I didn’t wipe or do really anything in the kitchen for about 48-72 hours after we finished tiling and grouting, which I realize may be overkill, but oh well.

2. Once everything was dry, we put the outlet covers back on. 

3. Then we caulked the edges for a finished look.

 

Here are the after photos again. 

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I would say for the beginner DIYer this project this project is definitely doable especially if you have the right tools and perhaps you practice grouting at a tile class first. While I realize not everyone has a friend like Scott with all kinds of experience, I would recommend asking  someone who has a little bit of experience using a tile cutter to help out with the first few tile cuts. Even if that means asking the rental facility or someone at your local Home Depot.

Backsplash without Thinset Pinterest Collage

 

 

 

 

 

Thirsty Thursday: Avocado Milkshakes

We are barely a week into the 2016! How are everyone’s workout and weight loss goals coming? Losing weight is a huge challenge, but for some gaining weight is a predicament too. I know it seems like a good problem to have. When I know someone who needs to gain a few pounds (like my middle guy after the worst stomach bug of all time), the answer is usually a few milkshakes. However, there’s only so many chocolate milkshakes one can drink, and it is sometimes more wholesome and gratifying to put in something healthy.

My sister in law, Kate, from Southern California who has a deeper love for avocados than I do for Harry Potter had just the solution for me. She told me about Avocado Milkshakes. I thanked her profusely, and did a little research. There are several ways to make them, and countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and even the U.S. have their own varieties.

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I whipped up one with a little vanilla extract for my vanilla loving son, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it too. This has become a great after school treat!

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Avocado Milkshake (makes 1 huge shake with three straws or three small)

1 large ripe Haas avocado, peeled and seeded

1/3 of a cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup milk (I used whole milk for my kids)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

lots of ice

Avocado Shakes 1

In a blender, add ingredients.

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Blend until desired consistency. Pro Tip: For smoother consistency add a bit more milk. For sweeter flavor add a bit more condensed milk.

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Enjoy immediately!

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What is your favorite flavor milkshake? Chocolate? Vanilla? Would you consider adding avocado?