Five Faves >Blogging Tools<

I’m back with five more favorites and I’m still going to ride the blogging train with them.  In case you missed it, last time I wrote about my five favorite DIY web design blogs.  Well these, my friends, are the five (all free!) things I can’t do without as a blogger.  They’re like a hammer is to a handy man.  Check ‘um:

1.  Windows Live Writer
I use WLW to write all my posts.  I can’t say enough about it.  It’s so much better than using blogger to write because it lets you size your pictures to whatever size you want, edit them (add borders, crop, brighten, add a watermark, etc…), and what you see on your screen is what your post will look like after published.  So many times with darn blogger I’d type up a post and once I posted it, all my spacing would be off and look completely different than what I had just typed in a draft two seconds before.  Not gonna fly with a perfectionist.  Anyway, if you haven’t tried it you should.  You can download it for free from Microsoft here.

2.  Pixlr
We don’t own Photoshop or any fancy photo-editing software because we simply don’t have money to shove their way.  But that’s okay because I stumbled upon Pixlr a couple of years ago and it does almost everything that Photoshop can for your pictures and images.  Every graphic design image on this here blog – our header, our widget titles, our nav bar – was created using Pixlr.  The best part is you don’t have to download anything to use it.  Simply go to, create, save, and done!

3.  PicMonkey
I recently found about about PicMonkey and it’s ability to make creating photo collages a cinch.  Up until a few weeks ago, every collage I’ve made was constructed with a lot of tedious cutting and pasting…a huge time commitment.  I haven’t tried out their photo-editing because I’m so smitten with Pixlr but I’m sure it’s pretty good as well.  Once again, no downloading, just go to and get busy!

4.  Canon T2i
We saved for months and months before the twins were born for this camera…and then we found out our 2011 taxes owed (boo!) were the same amount as our coveted camera so we paid them and started allllll over.  But, we got there and we love this camera!  We’re big on researching big purchases before we buy, and Canon is an all-time fave with Consumer Reports so we knew we wanted a Canon.  We got great deal on this one - $600 with a free five-foot tripod and camera bag – and we have no complaints about it.  Love, love, love.  I use it for all house shots, projects shots, and we haven’t paid a pro-photographer yet to snap the girls; not that we’re outstanding photographers because we so aren’t, but we love that we could stage a photo shoot at home for free if we wanted like this one we did when they were wee babes:

5.  Gold-Striped Planner
desk 028
I had a rough time coming up with a fifth favorite.  I’d include the computer I blog with but it’s going to be celebrating it’s 10 year birthday soon, it’s missing two keys (G & B, in case you were wondering…they still work though), dented in few places, and slower than slow…it’s a wonder I blog at all with it because it literally takes ten clicks of the Chrome icon before it’ll  let me get online and thrice as long to get a post out than if we had a recent model.  But, it works and hopefully Santa will hear my plea for a new one this year. 
So back to #5 – a planner.  Not any planner though.  You know I love stripes, right?  Well, I found this one circa April at Target on clearance for $2.50 and I love it.  I’m picky with planners – they have to have a full page monthly calendar followed by pages of each week separating the days with lines so I can write down monthly things and skip over to write down daily stuff…picky, I told you.  I jot down random ideas, to-do lists…anything pertaining to the blog in it.  It keeps me organized.  Love it.

.           .           .

And that’s it!  I’m linking up again with Hallie at Moxie Wife!  Go on over and read about a lot more favorites there! 

If you’re a blogger by day (or night), what are some of your favorite blogging tools?  Photo-editing tools?  Apps?  Share the goods!  :)

Saving on Fabric Softener

Hey all!  I’m just popping in on this manic Monday (yes it’s 10:12 and so far I’ve made two trips to the diaper sprayer, haven’t eaten breakfast, haven’t brushed my teeth, and am still in my night clothes) with a little tip I stumbled upon months ago involving fabric softener.  Do you use fabric softener?  I do and love it.  My mom used it on our laundry while I grew up and so it’s just become a staple in the laundry room for us.  However, if you’re like me and love the soft, aromatic goodness it breathes into your wardrobe and towels, you might be using more than you need.  I was and here’s how I found out on accident.

One day last spring I was doing laundry and realized I was down to just a couple of loads worth of softener.  I wasn’t about to pick up the twins and go out to grab some so I diluted what I had with water – 1 part water to 1 part softener – and used the same amount for each load as I normally did (the minimum fill line on our washing machine or about 3/4 cap full in case you’re curious).  Guess what?  Our laundry came out smelling just as good and was just as soft had I used the regular, non-diluted potion!  So now whenever I buy fabric softener, I refill an old softener bottle with half the new softener and half water.  So basically I get double the amount of softener. 

A few months after my discovery, I scored some of my favorite softener – Snuggle in the yellow bottle – on clearance at Wal-Mart so I scooped up four bottles.  So technically I got eight bottles considering I dilute them.  How awesome is that?!  I’ve had them for about six months now and am only on the the first half of bottle #2.

fs 003 
So, if you’re a die-hard fabric softener fan like me, try diluting yours and saving some moolah!  I’ve only tried it with Snuggle so I can’t speak for other brands but if you use something else and try it, let me know how it works!

.           .           .

P.S.  I might also mention that I’ve also tried vinegar as a fabric softener since I’ve heard lots of “green” talk about how it works but I found it lacking.  You not only lose the good smell but I didn’t think it softened our clothes much at all.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we have hard water but either way, not a fan of vinegar substituting the store-bought stuff.

P.P.S.  Also, we use fabric softener over dryer sheets.  I’ve heard that dryer sheets leave a film on your dryer filter over time, causing a fire hazard, and so you need to clean your filter every so often.  I’m not aware of any bad effects fabric softener has on a washer… 

And That’s A Wrap!

Let’s talk about the art of washing hands, in particular, the dispensing that makes way for the washing.  Way back when we did our little bathroom remod, I went hunting around for some new soap dispensers to complete it’s new look.  Well, I didn’t find any in my price range (the usual handful of change) so I just filled and re-filled a couple of Bath & Body Works bottles because I kinda liked the geometric structure they provided.  I always thought maybe someday I’d give those babies a little upgrade with some spray paint or studs or somethin’ but that day never came because a few weeks ago, I spied these two just chillin’ on a Target clearance end rack:   soapdisp 001

They had nice curvature and with their $3 price tag, I couldn’t resist but take them home where I spiced them up a little more.  Here’s how:
 soapdisp 011words
[A sneak peek and graphic all-in-one…fancy that.]

First, I hunted around a few stores for the perfect color of twine…tougher than it sounds.  Not all twine is equal.  I didn’t want something too brown because then it’d blend in with the walls but I didn’t want anything too light either because then it’d blend with the countertop.  In the end, I settled for something a little lighter than I wanted but I’m happy with it and can always stain it down the road. 

So, supplies for this quick project:
soapdisp 002
Soap dispenser (or two)
Glue (I used Aleene’s non-washable fabric and craft glue)

I found this twine at Wal-Mart and got a little surprise upon taking the packaging off.  When looking at it from the top with the wrapping still on, it looked like it was a lot thicker than it actually was.  See what I mean?
 soapdisp 004
At first I was really bummed but then I just decided to work with it anyway since it was now non-returnable.  Lucky for me, it turned out perfect.

After gathering my supplies, I grabbed the loose end of twine and cut a fresh end.  Then I put a little dab of glue at the bottom edge of my dispenser and stuck the twine end to it.  Ellen did a great job cheering me on, flashing me those pearly whites every time I glanced her way.  I waited until this dried before continuing to make sure the end would stay put as I wrapped. soapdisp 005

After the end was nice and stuck on, I began wrapping my twine up and around the bottle like so: soapdisp 006
It was as simple as making a zigzag line of glue around the area I was gluing and wrapping the twine tightly over it, layer after layer.  It was a little monotonous at first but once I got my groove, it took me no time at all.

When I had wrapped all I wanted, I made sure to end right above where I started so that that side of the bottle would be considered the “backside” and faced away from any perfectionist eyes like mine.  I also wiped off any excess glue. soapdisp 007

My initial intent was actually to wrap twine up the entire bottle but once I got almost half-way up the bottle, I really liked the color-blocking/dipped/whatever-you-want-to-call-it look and it was just the right amount of texture, so I called it quits and cut the string.

We’ve got double sinks in our master bath so matching dispensers we had to have and matching they are.  Two cheers for matching and OCD!
 soapdisp 013
And speaking of OCD, it’s clear soap only to maintain the frosted glass look…very importante.  I know, you think I’m crazy.  If the shoe fits…ohp, it does.

Much better than the Bath & Body Works bottles, don’t cha think? soapdispensers

Cost breakdown:
Soap dispensers:  $6 ($3 each…thank you Target clearance)
Twine:  $3 (Wal-Mart)
Glue:  already had (Got it at JoAnn’s once upon a clock)
Total spent:  $9

I think I’m going to spray paint the nozzle gold or silver…I’m leaning towards gold…to upgrade them even more.  What do you think?  Silver or gold or just leave them white?  Speaking of, has anybody ever spray painted a nozzle like this before?  I’m a teeny bit worried the tube will scratch as it’s pumped even though I’ve given it a once-over a hundred times already and I’m pretty sure the tube and top dispenser don’t actually touch…if that makes any sense.  Either way, you know I’ll let in on that whole story once it happens.  Until then, you’ll find me smiling every time I pump to wash.  :)

Have a great rest of the weekend!

A Day in the Life

Well, I don’t know guys.  I’m going to write up my day, hour by measly hour, but I’m lying to myself and you if I tell you it’s happenin’ over here.  My life is a little on the crazy, busy, exhausting side with twins but it’s really not that fun to read about.  They’re not walking yet and we’ve child-proofed so there’s only so much complaining I can do about them getting into things because they don’t that much…yet.  They pee, poop…we cloth diaper so I spray all “solids” into the toilet with a handy-dandy nozzle.  That’s pretty notexciting.  I’ll spare you those details.  If you really wanna know what life is like with one or more children set free in one’s home, you’d find much better reading over at Grace’s blog, or Lauren’s, or Rosie’s, or Ana’s, or Maureen’s.

But alas, I’ll pound it out anyway.  Feel free to skip this one by.  It’s sure to be boring and oh-so-familiar for you moms (and dads) and possibly traumatizing to you who have yet to produce heirs…just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
photo (13)  

They’re usually pleasant.  Usually.  I’m not the mom who wakes up before my kids to get things done.  Ohhhh no.  Not me.  They wake me up.  Seraphia always, always, always wakes up smiling, giggling, and plays in her crib and sometimes Cecilia will follow suit however she typically starts the whine to get o-u-t.  You better believe that when they’re both chipper and happy playing in their side-by-side cages, I/we stay sleeping. 
Anthony is home a good amount of mornings to help me get their five ounces of cow goodness ready and change from overnight disposables into daytime cloth diapers.  (I willing hand over diaper changing duties as often as I can when he’s home and he’s very receptive…good man that guy.)
photo (1)
There might be a trip (or two) to the silver toilet sprayer, there might not.  As you moms and dads know, you can either tell with your nose if there’s something besides liquid in that diaper or you get a nice little surprise after the velcro sounds…always welcomed in the morning hours to overpower the nice aroma of coffee you’ve got going.
photo (12) 
And then of course it’s off to the “tandem” bottle feeding sesh after which there’s always an “I want more!” whilst sucking the air and life out of the bottle but we daren’t ruin their breakfast, dare we?  If I’m lucky, my other set of hands is still home to help me, otherwise it looks a bit like this:
photo (11) 
[Except this pic was taken during an evening feeding sesh…I am never ever dressed before 10 unless there’s somewhere to be.]

So then the BFFs play with each other which I take full advantage of while picking up around the house (because no we don’t go to bed with a clean house, are you crazy?), figure out what project I want to get done, respond to (the few)comments or emails that might be awaiting me, or log in some blog reading for the day besides the important things like brush the night off my teeth and changing from pajamas into fancier pieces of comfy cotton lest the UPS man come or something.  Sometimes I even just sit on the couch and play that damned game Candy Crush…blast you people for inviting me to play it.  A hundred invites makes a curious cat even curiouser.  It’s addicting, don’t download it ever, ever, ever…photo (9) 
[Teepee from etsy shop, B.E. Little You and Me!  We (because all of us fit in it) LOVE it!]

A half hour or so later and this mom lays her work aside her  to make breakfast for the tots.  It’s usually some sort of combo of oatmeal and fruit, maybe a few Cheerios for good measure, maybe eggs, maybe french toast if I’m feeling particularly adventurous.  Then we all sit in a little triangle and I feed them, bite by bite by bite by bite, this one then that one then this one then that one… 
photo (3)
I’m not crazy enough yet to let them loose with their own bowls and utensils.  It’s enough cleaning up the mess one makes, two would top my cleaning limits for the day.
photo (5)
One more diaper change (x2 of course) and it’s nap time for them, play time for me (so for all you people that ask me “how do you do all you do with twins running crawling around?!”…naptime people, naptime.  There’s a good solid three hours of that that goes on around here every single day.)
photo (6) 

More of the same.  They wake up, they play/use me as a human obstacle course/, I feed them lunch whilst eating my own, they play some more, dot dot dot
photo (16)
[Bothering Visiting Daddy-o at work is always thrilling.]

If we leave the house to do something funnish (browse Target clearance racks or hit up a play date), it’s usually sometime during the afternoon – after their morning nap before lunch or after lunch before the afternoon milking and nap.  Afternoon naps start around the 2 to 3 area, depending on what we’ve been doing.  They’re another fun time for mwah.  I usually work on whatever project is on my plate at the moment or, if I’m feeling especially lacking in the sleep dept., I take a nap too.
photo (8)

The highlight of the afternoon (and whole day usually) is when babys’ daddy comes home.  The girls go all out and perk up at the sound of his voice coming through the side door and proceed to get their fastest crawl/push-toy walk on until they reach him.  It’s really so cute and they’ve totally got me beat in my “Hi Honey!” welcome home.  Chopped liver?  Right here (points to self).

For dinner, I usually let Baby Einstein via YouTube babysit whilst I cook something up)…something easy usually – wraps, leftovers from Daddy’s cooking the night before, chicken fingers, pasta (canned Bertolli sauce is zee best ever), whatever my limited imagination can come up with.  I tell ya, I’m pretty creative when it comes to paint and crafts but food, we’re running low on that tank o’ variety. 
photo (7) 

However, if the man of the house is home, we feast.  He’s a culinary genius.  Single ladies, if you don’t get along with the stove/oven combo, marry a man who does. 

photo (15)
For some reason, the girls mistake the eve hours for the party hours.  I could sit on the living room floor and watch them for hours.  They chase each other around the house, alternating who’s chasing who, they play hide-and-seek with whatever piece of cloth they can find, they dance to whatever music is playing (did I mention we ALWAYS have music playing…thank you Pandora + the blue ray player), you know, crazy stuff every kid does.
photo (14)  
[Onesie snapping is SO overrated.]

Eventually bedtime rolls around so we whip out the 6 oz. bottles, they chug, and they get parked in their cribs until they decide to sleep.  That’s also when I have my daily bowl of cold vanilla with chocolate syrup, Anthony inhales his second dinner, and we either sit at our computers – he studying, me fiddling around – or hit up Amazon Prime for a movie.  Sometimes I’ll go paint or glue or construct something or finish cleaning the “room of the day” (a whole post on my cleaning schedule later).  Adult bedtime rolls around and the hay we hit…until…

Ohhhh nightime.  You didn’t think I’d skip this part of the day, did you?  When you have kids, “nighttime” becomes an actual part of your daily routine, am I right moms and dads everywhere?  It’s the most exciting and frustrating time all rolled into one little ball of no sleep.  Okay.  Maybe no sleep is stretching it but unless you have twins or two offspring so close in age that their teething coincides, than you have no idea what hell is like.  And maybe that’s a stretch too but, either way, no bueno.  It usually goes something like dis.  Somebody cries.  I hear.  I stay in bed hoping, praying, begging she’ll stop and silence will resume.  She keeps crying.  Crying gets louder, and louder, and louder.  So loud she’ll probably wake up #2 if I don’t get my sorry butt out of bed.  I pry off the sheets, fumble around on my nightstand for my specs, and my feet hit the floor and pad 15 steps to the girls room.  I figure out who’s the offender, find her pacifier she just can’t sleep without.  Great.  It’s under her crib.  Not just under, way under.  I get my body down and do a drop and semi-roll, reaching my long arm as far as I can to reach that dang mouth device.  Got it.  Give it back.  Stand up and latch on to the railing lest the light-headedness I just got from that maneuver knock me under.  Hand the girl the teething ring she needs to hold onto to sleep.  Hit the sound machine button.  Pad 15 steps back into my bed.  Glasses back on the nightstand.  Head against the pillow.  I’m out.  And then half an hour later it’s the same thing.  All over again.  Different child.  Somewhere in there there’s some Tylenol administering and maybe a ride in the rocking chair but man, nights are killer.

Evening came and morning followed.  The next day.

.           .           .

That’s how it rolls these days.  Had I written this post the months after they were born it’d go something like this:
We (all of us) wake up for the 40th time and last time because it’s 5:00 and allllmost morning.
I nurse the girls, one-at-a-time or together.
I change two diapers.
One occupies a bouncy seat, one my arms.
Catnap time.
I feed them…I nurse them…I hold one…They sleep…I feed them…I nurse them…I change them…I hold one…One cries…The other cries…We all cry.  Daddy comes home.  I feed them…I nurse them…Daddy changes them…We each hold one…They sleep………….  No redundancy at all.  I loved those days but I would never go back.  I have pictures for that.  My head was in a constant fog and I sat in a dazed stupor staring at two screaming babies at least once a day, wondering who the heck to comfort.  Those days were crazy.

.           .           .

So anyway, now you know a little about what life is like with twins.  It’s a little crazy but I’m not running around with my head chopped off all the time trying to keep up with them and there won’t be any reality tv crews knocking on our door anytime soon because it’s not all that entertaining.  But, it’s an absolute blast as I see it.  For real.  I wouldn’t trade these two for the world.  Not them, not the time, not the energy (I don’t have), not anything.  And three?  Well, I’m sure he’ll add a good amount of good chaos to the mix.  You’ll be able to tell by either my blogging frequency or the quality of my english exactly how much chaos.  Cheers to then!   

photo (10)

Your Bum Will Thank You

I’m baaack!  Fevers are gone (for now) but we’re heading to the doc anyway because Seraphia broke out into a rash (I think it’s a fever rash – roseola)…it’s never ending with kids I guess.  But, this cheers me up:dandc 016light
The desk and chair I’ve been working on for the past two weeks are DONE!  If you missed it, you can read all about the desk here.  For the chair, keep reading.  :)

The previous owner of our home left this old chair in the backyard shed.  It’s upholstered cushion was all nasty-nast and so, needing a chair for the desk in our guestroom, we dusted off the chair, took off the cushion, and sat it with the desk sans cushion thinking we’d put a new one on any day.  Well, that any day turned into almost four years.  I’ve literally had to tell every guest we’ve had, “Oh, and don’t sit on the desk chair.  There’s no seat.”  That’s because I was smart and put a pillow over the empty space to make it look like there was seat…perfect prank chair, not so perfect if you want happy, healthy, injury-free guests.  So anyway, free chair, moral of the story. 

It’s looking a ton different than the day we drug it out of the shed because we painted it and paired it with a brand new, upholstered seat.  If you’re looking to revive a chair yourself, read and learn.

First things first, prep.  If you’re planning on painting a chair but it has a slick coat of poly or any sort of sheen to it, you’ll probably have to sand it down first.  Depending on how glossy that baby is, you’ll have to sand less or more until all the shine is gone and you’ve got a good matte base to paint over.  Our little chair just had the slightest sheen to it, so I gave it a quick, light sanding with some medium-grit sandpaper (I used an electric sander because I was feeling especially impatient but a piece of sandpaper coupled with your hands would work just as well).  Then I primed it with white, Rustoleum spray primer (cheapest at Wal-Mart).  I used white primer because I was going to paint it white.  If you’re going for a darker color, it’d be better to use a darker primer like gray.

chair prep

After the primer was dry, I gave the chair a few thin and even coats of white spray paint (satin sheen, Valspar from Lowe’s).  After running out of spray paint and having to back burn this chair for a few days until I got more, I finally finished.  Moral here:  Always make sure you have enough spray paint for the project and even if you think you do, double check people!

Next up, the seat.  If your chair has no seat, like ours, you’ll have to cut one out.  If it does, like our dining room chairs, well, lucky you.  To make a new one, you’ll have to cut a piece of wood to size.  It’s as simple as making a quick template out of some printer paper and using that as a guide or doing like we did and tracing the outline of the old seat onto a piece of new wood.  Always set the new seat on your chair just to make sure it fits before you go to town on it.  You don’t want to go through all the work of upholstering only to find out it’s a tad big or too small…that’s kickyourself worthy.

 dandc 001

I made one little alteration in the name of character to our chair seat since the seat back sank back further than the sides - I had Anthony cut notches in the back of the seat so all sides of the upholstered seat touched all sides of the chair.  The arrows in the picture below show what the heck I’m talking about:
  dandc 002

The old seat cushion just went straight across from side to side, leaving a half-inch gap between the back sides of the seat and the upright part of the seat back.  With the notches cut in, the seat looks a lot more tailored.  See?
dandc 024
I’m pretty sure the notches are my fave part.  I love the perfect fit.  :)

So, let’s back up.  After you’ve cut the wood for your seat, you’ll have to cut a piece of foam for cushioning.  I use the white, dense stuff…???…can’t think of what it’s real name is but I got mine at Hobby Lobby and I bought a three inch thick piece.  I use it instead of the light yellow or green foam because I think it’s cushier and my bum likes cushy.  :)

To cut the foam, trace your seat onto it…
dandc 004

like so…
 dandc 005

and then cut it out.  The cushioning I use is really hard to cut and you can’t take your scissors to the whole thickness at once (for the three inch thick stuff anyway), so you’ll have to cut it in layers.  Just stick your open scissors into it and clamp down over and over and over… dandc 006
This is probably the worst part of the whole process.  Your hand will get dented and tired and little pieces of fuzz will be everywhere but it’s worth it, I promise.

Next, round off your corners and edges just by going along and cutting diagonally along them.  (In case you’re wondering, the sharpied “T” stands for top.  With the chair seat not being perfectly square and the notches, I wanted to make sure the foam matched up with the seat the way it was dry fit to.) dandc 008

This picture might explain what I mean by rounding the corners and edges a little better:
 dandc 007
See how the top corners are rounded?

Now grab your staple gun and the fabric you’re planning on using to cover your new cushion.  Smack your cushion and wood seat together on top of the fabric, which you’ve made sure is laying under your cushion STRAIGHT – so important!!!!  It’s not as big of a deal with a solid fabric or even a random patterned fabric but with geometric like mine, so, so important!  Starting with the middle of the sides and making sure your fabric is super tight (I knelt on the seat while stapling), start stapling towards the corners. dandc 009

I didn’t get a lot of pictures of this process, sorry.  Anthony was helping me (it’s a little easier with two people – one pulling fabric and one stapling/taking pictures) but the needlets stole him from me and I had to finish on my own…

So anyway, staple until you get to the corners and just pull the corners until they’re snug, twisting and tugging (but be careful not to pull too hard over the corner edge or you’ll rip them!).  Check to see what they look like from the top of the cushion and staple when you’re happy.  Don’t worry if the fabric looks like a total wreck underneath, it won’t be seen.  :)

Here’s a closer look at my finished corners:
dandc 014

And here’s what the underside of my seat looked like after I was done pelting it: dandc 011

You may or may not want to cut off any excess fabric.  I did.  Here’s how it looked after that: dandc 012

Last, attach your seat to your chair.  Most chairs will have pre-drilled holes so it’s as simple as replacing the screws you took out to remove the old cushion (if there was one).  Ours didn’t.  Anthony attached it using a couple of L-brackets and that was that.

All done.  Have a seat and re{freaking}lax.

 dandc 018

 dandc 019

 dandc 028

And my favorite part about the whole shebang:
dandc 023 
The matching seat and drawer liners!  So cool, right? 

Now for the saddest part of the entire thing ---> We’re selling this set.  :(  We recently purchased a new desk because of a little scuffle with a Rugs USA groupon and so this one no longer has a place in this casa.  But, on top of that, I’m starting a new little furniture rehab endeavor to add a few drops to the account a la bank and this is the first of hopefully many pieces I’ll be sad to see go. 

But, I’ll get over it…eventually.

.           .           .

Any seat cushion making going on out there?  What about chair painting?  Painting?  Cleaning?…that’s what I should be doing…or stopping S from chewing on the lamp electric plug (unplugged obviously)…priorities…

P.S.  It’s party time and it’s been awhile since I’ve linked up to one so I’m ending the drought and linking up with Not Just A Housewife, Ginger Snap Crafts, and Watch Out, Martha!