21 Days: Giving purpose to my paranoia.

So, this week I’m stocking up on Purell, and Clorox wipes, and Lysol.  No no!  Not because of Ebola!!!  No no.  Just cold and flu season.  And maybe enterovirus.  Because I’m rational.  Right?  I would never let my own irrational fears dictate my behaviors.  Right?  Right.  Just COLDS and FLUS… #maybeopposite

I know, I know.  You’re already sick of hearing/talking about it.  We’ve especially got Ebola fatigue in northeast Ohio after this week’s news.  I just got a call from my kids’ school, reassuring all parents that we are at no risk of Ebola, but to make sure and disclose all our children’s sick day symptoms — just in case.

With pretty much every news flash, yesterday, I HAD to find some hand sanitizer and use it.  I know.  My family is not really at risk.  I know.  But even though my beautiful, brilliant noggin has processed all that information, the pesky butterflies in my stomach tend to settle if I ceremoniously pump a bit of sanitizer gel.  My husband summed it up pretty well–it’s like the fear some people have of air travel.  You KNOW the stats that you’re way more likely to crash in a car, but if you DO happen to crash in a plane you’re pretty much toast.  Yeah.


First of all, let me point out that I have the prettiest hand sanitizer in the world, thanks to my harvest themed nose blowing station in the picture.  (Note: Another one of my grapevine wreaths, and I hope to tell you more about this easy hand sanitizer cozy in the near future. #teachergifts)

But also, I just want to think about the response I actually do want to take to Ebola.  The message from our leaders has been “Don’t panic,” which is really reassuring when it’s followed by, “This hospital/CDC/humans weren’t cautious enough…”  But average Jill Shmills like you and me can’t do much beyond asking, “How can we help?”

I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that ebola would not have taken this hold were it not for profound poverty crippling efforts to contain it.  Yes, in America the perceived threat is much greater than the actual threat, but West Africa will suffer from this outbreak for generations as the ramifications to their familial, economic, and healthcare structures unfold.  Ramifications that do, in one way or another, tend to impact surrounding areas and the world at large.  Maybe I’m naive, but wouldn’t it make sense to rally around Ebola in the same way we rally around natural disasters and ice buckets?

So, while I’m no philanthropist, I’m giving myself a very small challenge for the next 21 days:  For every dollar I spend on my OCD comforts (e.g. hand sanitizer, bleach, anti-viral snake oil), to match with a dollar donated toward fighting Ebola in West Africa.

$10 on Purell –> $10 to World Vision’s Ebola efforts.  (Basically helping them distribute gloves, masks, and other hygiene items to clinics in affected areas.)

Of course Ebola, while it makes a sensational news story, maybe shouldn’t draw funds away from other charities we choose to support, so for me, this small challenge is just a short term adjustment we’ll hardly even notice in the grocery budget, but it will sooth my conscience to put something toward families that can’t just run to Walgreens for Lysol and hand soap.

Pretty simple, probably not all that significant, but these little baby steps are ways we slowly change the world, or at very least, our hearts.  Right?


P.S. Tell me in the comments if you decide to take this challenge, too!  Also feel free to link up other trustworthy charitable organizations that are on top of this!

P.P.S.  Here’s a great podcast on the history and science of Ebola.

My First Wreath Decorating Attempt



As much as I love Pinterest, and DIY, and crafting, I have to admit, anything near to the realm of floral arrangement intimidates me.  It seems like no matter how beautiful the bouquet, as soon as I remove the tissue paper and put it in a vase, I totally ruin it.  Does anybody else have this problem?  I’ve been learning a little more here and there, but still.  Intimidating.

But, now that I have all these handmade grapevine wreaths from our garden, it was time to try working with foliage again.  I had a few harvesty “permanent florals” stowed away in my basement, so I just worked with them, as well as cutting up a few fabric scraps for a little variety.  The wreath above hangs in my kitchen, and the one below is the very first harvest wreath to grace my front door.


Oh, look! There I am!


I obviously have a lot to learn, but I really like the earthy style.  I always feel a bit conflicted about using fake flowers in decorating, but I think it’s not too obvious here.  And also, just, come on.  My little scrap fabric bows!  I don’t have a lot of shabby-chic/rustic/country themed stuff going on in my home, but those little bows almost make me want to convert.  ;-)



And now that I have these pretty harvest wreaths up, I feel like these guys are trying to get my attention.  What have you been doing to welcome fall into your home?


Playing with Plasti-Dip

So, I have a confession.  Do you remember the unsightly floor register from last week?photo 1-1

You probably assumed the chipping red paint was a leftover eyesore from previous residents.  Confession time:  That was me.  That floor register was our first experiment with spray on plasti-dip.  Did you know many car enthusiasts use it specifically for its ability to easily peel away from metal when needed?  Yeah.  I’m not sure why we thought plasti-dipping a floor vent next to a dining chair would be a good idea.

But, the truth is, something happens on a deeply psychological level when someone gives you a can of sprayable plastic.


This is me on the outside.


This is me on the inside.


So now, I’m trying again, this time on a smaller scale with the pulls on my (severely dated) ceiling fan.  As you can see, I had already given them some sloppy swipes of blue when I painted the walls.  They came with the house, and were originally painted with country/Christmas looking stuff, kind of like this.



I’m thinking on wood, it will be a lot more durable.  It’s actually been about a week, and while I think the color has definitely deepened and dulled a little, the plasti-dip itself seems to be a lot more durable than my last attempt.  The drippy parts are still visible, so if I were to try this again I’d be a little more careful.  All in all, it does add a fun little punch of color to what was once one of the drabber details of my kitchen.  But, truth be told, I probably just need to give in and replace that awful fan.  Eventually.  But for now, a happy little red house and… salt shaker?



Half a tart, twice as smart!

I tend to think of home fragrance as a sort of a splurge.  Martha Stewart says that a clean home should smell like nothing, and who am I to argue with Martha?!

But at the same time, there’s something so festive about a wonderful home fragrance, especially this time of year.  I’ve started to notice that some wax tarts are a bit too strong for our space, at least during that first day you melt them.  So my solution?


Get out that butter knife and chop them in half!  Just the right amount of scent, and now I can use it twice as long!  I’ve even started chopping some of them in fourths and combining different scents!



It’s not the sort of savings that will pay for the kids’ college or anything, but it does make me feel resourceful!  It’s the little victories, right?  I think I’ll put in a new fragrance right now!


P.S. Oh, yeah!  Look!  I have an actual tart warmer now, thanks to my sweet sister-in-law!  Anybody remember when I set a cup on pilot light on my stove and called it a tart warmer? #foreveracheapskate

Done is better than perfect.

At least that’s what they say at Facebook headquarters.  Maybe I’m no Zuckerberg, but in my quest to makeover my kitchen on the cheap, I have so many financial and time goals to get to before I spend the resources required to get my dream kitchen.  So, I’m not aiming for a dream kitchen.  I’m aiming for two goals:

  1. Neutralize eyesores.
  2. Replace the personal touches of the last residents with a bit of our own personality.

This five minute project was about the first goal.

I can tolerate a lot of things, but I cannot endure this country blue paper towel holder, or  the nasty chipping paint on the floor vent.

photo 1-1


I could have bought a new paper towel holder for like a dollar, and the floor vent will probably be replaced eventually, too, but why even mess with that when I had five minutes and a perfectly good can of black spray paint in the basement?

photo 2-1



Done and done.  If it’s free and it works, why not?  Amiright?


P.S.  It’s October?! Yowza!

The Happy Homester’s Hierarchy of Homemaking


A few weeks ago I happened upon this podcast about understanding complex concepts through doodling.  Hm, I thought, if I had to somehow map out “homemaking”, what would that look like?  I ended up with something that reminded me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  I set my scribbly piece of paper on my kitchen counter, but somehow felt compelled to cycle through it every time I start to feel overwhelmed or lost about housework.  It’s kind of becoming a compass in our often chaotic home.  I’ve been refining it a little here and there, and it’s really helping me keep our home a lot more organized!

Tour the pyramid with me, won’t you?


Let’s start at the bottom:

What’s on the calendar?

I put this at the bottom of my pyramid.  When I cycle through, I start here.  If I do everything else, but forget an appointment or an important birthday, it doesn’t matter how tidy the house is–I’m not going to feel at peace.

Next, how are we doing on our budget?

Basically, I’m taking a peek at our bank account online, and updating our budget spreadsheet with any necessary changes.  (Both these things can be quickly done from my phone.)  If we’re coming close to the next payday, I might double check our grocery cash envelope to make sure I know how much we have to work with.  I chose to put this next, because if we end up over-drafting, or if we end up taking money out of the emergency fund for non-emergencies, I don’t have peace, no matter how shiny my sinks are.  This may or may not be applicable to you if you aren’t the primary budgetier of your home, but even if you’re just the one that shops for groceries, it’s good to take a quick glance at where you stand.

What’s for breakfast/lunch/supper?

I don’t need to have the meal cooked, I just need to have decided what I’ll feed the family over the next 24 hours.  That’s long enough to pull something out of the freezer to thaw if necessary, or if I know I need to hit the grocery store soon, this is where I make a list and do a little long term planning.  If I’ve tackled two weeks worth of laundry, but it’s 6:30 and I don’t know how I’m going to pull together supper… That’s not a peaceful household!

Are the dishes clean?

The wonderfully FlyLady has been teaching us to keep a shiny sink for years!  It’s awfully hard to cook when the kitchen’s a wreck.  And no meal is quite as appetizing when it’s served on tupperware lids because the plates are all dirty.  (Come on!  I know some of you have pulled that trick, too!)  There’s nothing more depressing then when you’re feeling a little worn, and your kitchen counters greet you with armloads of dirty dishes.  Let’s nip that mess in the bud!

Laundry time!

You know what’s on the calendar, you’ve got a handle on the budget.  You know what you’re having for lunch, and supper, and breakfast.  The kitchen is ready for cooking.  But you’ve got time before dinner.  Cycle that laundry!  I don’t feel like I have to have everything done, but when I’m concentrating on housework, I like to know that all our laundry is ready to keep cycling. That means dirty laundry is sorted, clean laundry is folded, and both machines are running every day.  I do have a confession, here.  I have three laundry baskets, and I wait until all three are filled with clean loads before I bring them up from the basement for folding.  This is simply because it takes less time for me to fold and put away in larger batches.  Your system might be different.

And finally, tidy up!

With all the other items in place, NOW I can put the toys back in the toy room, make sure my craft stuff is stowed the way it should be, fluff the sofa pillows, maybe even make a bed or two.  This stuff is a breeze, because the dishes are done, the laundry is done, and I know what’s for dinner.  This is where I get to break out a home fragrance, put on some relaxing music, and just enjoy straightening up our little home.

Obviously, my little pyramid doesn’t encompass everything.  What about parenting responsibilities, or detail cleaning, or sorting coupons, or whatever else…  But it covers essential housework pretty well, and it’s really helped me out!  Let me know in the comments if you end up trying out my little map, or share a link if you end up doodling one of your own!  And if you think I’m totally crazy for having to doodle a whole chart about housework…  you’re probably born organized, and I envy you!  LOL


Tea Time Confessions


Alright, I’ll just come out with it:  I found some weird herb growing out by the side of our garage, and I’ve been brewing it and drinking it to help me get to sleep at night.  It also might be giving me these really vivid dreams…


Lemon balm tea, friends.  It’s totally a thing.  Unless it isn’t.

IMG_7017  IMG_7015

I was first introduced to the herb this spring when I noticed it growing up out of a sidewalk crack behind my house.  Is that spearmint?  I plucked it for further examination, but it didn’t have a minty smell.  I crushed some leaves and it smelled like lemons!  What?!  It was kind of growing invasively, but I delighted in the fragrance of fresh lemon that filled the air when I hit it with the weed whip.  It wasn’t until browsing gardening boards on Pinterest that I saw its beautiful leaves springing from a lovely pot labeled “Lemon Balm”!  Hooray!  I had an abundance of a useful herb!  But just how useful?


This member of the mint family is known as a powerful antiviral that’s used to aid sleep, calm ADHD, heal cold sores, relieve stress, heal dementia, repel mosquitos, attract bees, and make you hear colors.  Maybe I was kidding about that last one.  But you shouldn’t use too much of it or maybe any of it if you have certain health conditions, and some of the studies on it are way more conclusive than others.  So, just don’t be a weirdo hippie about it, like I am.  Do your research.

You can use it in salads, cook with it, bake with it, or do what I do!  Let’s make really yummy tea!


You can use a generous handful of fresh leaves, or a heaping teaspoon per cup of crushed dried leaves.  (You can buy it on Amazon.  Told you this is totally a thing.)  Boil some water, poor it over, and let it steep for five minutes.

I have this fancy tea maker, but I know Alton Brown just makes his loose tea in a french press.

I have this fancy tea maker, but I know Alton Brown just makes his loose tea in a French press.



Mmmm.  My new favorite beverage!  Sweeten with honey, and you’ve got a soothing, but fresh cup.  How does it taste?  Even my husband says, “Not bad!”  It smells like lemons but it’s not sour tasting at all.  Just maybe a bit minty I guess?!  You’ll just have to try it.  I really love it.