Sunday, June 26, 2011

Casa: the one where I talk about tiling

Oh dear.

This story begins with a lovely carpeted living room.

Oh, my lush carpet with a souped up carpet pad that we paid extra for. You make the room cozy and you're only 4 years old. My husband John doesn't like you because you collect dust and stains and pet hair.  So you must go.

I was never 100% on board with the removal of the carpet and replacing it with tile. But I obliged and, to save money, suggested we do the install ourselves. I looked over some articles and watched some youtube videos, it didn't look like rocket science. John wasn't confident in our abilities but I just kept saying it would be okay.

John and I took Thursday and Friday off to do the install of a basically square 16' by 16' room. Surely it wouldn't take longer than that. The weekend before we had gathered our supplies as well as ripped the carpet up and prepped the slab.

Evan was off to the sitter's. We were set.


 Carpet removed:

After coffee we dove in. Since we were just adding on to existing tile, we started in a corner against the existing tile. We worked our way clock-wise around the room, planning, so that we didn't trap ourselves. We each tried our hand at being the tile-setter and the mortar-layer. I ended up being more skilled at the mortar while John was better at the tile setting. So, I laid 256 square feet of mortar WITHOUT knee pads. Savage. It was pretty easy on day 1. Once you get going it goes pretty fast.

I was being extremely frugal so no knee pads, no mortar stirrer....I used a paint stirrer and old and cheap kitchen mixer....yeah. Anyways, lay some mortar down, use your notched trowel to level it, slap a tile down, use your level to make sure it's flat and adjust the tile as needed. Easy peasy.

John caved and bought knee pads
Day 2: A different story. We were very sore from the day before. My mortar laying went more slowly because my hands hurt. Our knees hurt. We didn't finish by the end of day 2, it continued into the weekend.

In the end, it was worth it. I had fun listening to music and chatting with my husband and getting my hands dirty. Saving $700 on labor was awesome, too. Of course, we aren't pros, there are blemishes and areas with issues but I'm sure no one would notice unless we pointed it out.

To date, the tile has been nice, easy to care for, pet messes and people spills are easy to clean up. Yet, I do miss my plush carpet now that Evan is more active and cruising.

Nitty Gritty
  • notched trowel
  • mini notched trowel for tight spots
  • bucket for water to rinse rags 
  • bucket for mixing mortar
  • bucket for mixing grout
  • sponge
  • rags
  • gloves
  • level
  • 15 boxes of 18"x18" tile from Daltile, Village Bend in mushroom 
  • grout in bone
  • borrowed wet saw
  • patience
  • time

So, there you have it. And we all lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the answer to my wardrobe prayers

It's early in the morning and I'm staring at my sparse clothing choices in the closet. I stare and stare hoping something will jump out at me so I can get dressed for work.

Those pants are too tight. That shirt shrunk and it's too short now. Darn, my black pants are at the dry cleaners. What goes with these gray pants? Ugh, the gray pants need to be ironed.

This happens to me more than I'd like. I'm not the best at putting outfits together, especially at 5:15 a.m. 

I've found the solution! Why didn't I think of this before? It's so obvious. 

Dresses. Dresses!

Cute, flowy, versatile, easy to care for dresses. I can just pick a dress, throw it on, put some shoes on and I'm done. Problem solved, total time to get dressed is now 20 minutes and not 30 minutes!

Now, I'm not typically a dress type person. I grew up a tom-boy. Jeans, shirts, sneakers. I gave my parents a hard time about wearing a dress for school pictures, weddings, church, anything. I hated them. They were too girly for my taste. If they managed to get me in one, I would wear shorts underneath. At 9 years old, I told them I was going to wear pants at prom and my wedding. Dresses, yuck.

A co-worker, who is a working single mom and always looks stylish and put together, inspired me. I always wondered how she was able to care for her 3 daughters, keep her house running, work and still look fabulous. I noticed that she wears dresses more often than not. Of course! 

She says it's easy, fast, you don't have to think about matching things together. She also pointed me toward the stores that have the cute, inexpensive easy to care for variety.  JC Penny's, Ross and Marshall's. I was excited to begin building my dress stash, so I set out for JCP (after googling for coupons: $10 off a $50 purchase, score!). 

I've already added 3 dresses to my wardrobe and it has been so easy to get dressed in the morning. I feel pretty and I've been getting compliments! I just make sure the dresses are machine washable or hand washable (if I really like it) and that I am truly comfortable with the fit. I prefer A-line because it masks my larger hips and back side while giving me a flattering shape. It also helps when the material is easy to wipe when Evan gets food on me or spits up on me. 

The cost is also much better than what I was spending on outfits with pants. I would buy these $75 pants  because they were the only ones that fit well then I would get them hemmed. Add a shirt for $50ish and I've spent $135 on one outfit. Outrageous. Plus these pants need to be dry cleaned! I bought 3 dresses for under that!

So, if you're a mama and you need to streamline your morning routine, get some dresses. Go ahead. Go. You'll love me for this. I like gerber daisies by the way. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

making the most of days off

Days off from work are a treasured time for me. Extra time with my son, extra time to get something done. I think about them for weeks, plan, day dream and prepare to-do lists for the special day. Even before I had my son I would have high expectations and then be disappointed at the end of the day because I did not accomplish all that I wanted to. I still have unreasonable expectations for days off. I've just recently learned the secret to making the most of my days off. Planning is helpful, to-do lists are helpful, but the real secret is:

lower your expectations

Then, at the end of the day you will either be happy that you accomplished your goals or be really really happy that you exceeded your goals. Setting one or two goals that you are more likely to reach will leave you feeling refreshed and successful. Focusing on a limited number of tasks helps me start and finish them rather than starting a bunch and finishing few.

Earlier this year, when this concept had not yet crossed my mind, I would draft a long to-do list that included things that needed to be done, would be nice if they got done and some leisurely activities. Everything from baby time to errands, chores, organizational projects, home improvement projects, cooking, exercising....clearly unreasonable....all with a baby on my hip. Surely I could tackle these in 8 hours! At the end of the day when one or even none of my goals were met, I would feel like I squandered my time. I would feel exhausted because I had been running around doing bits and pieces of tasks but had nothing to show for it.

One day I told myself I'm going to get this one thing done. That's it. When I completed the task AND played with my son without the nagging to-do list haunting me, I felt....great. refreshed. like I had a nice balance of productivity mixed with quality mommy-son time.

I make the most of my days off by having low to medium expectations and finding a comfortable balance of to-do's, relaxation and family time. Days off don't have to be about getting ahead or wearing yourself out. Here are some ideas on finding that balance:

  1. Set one or two attainable goals. Write them down in a visible place.
  2. Break up the day. Maybe in the morning you work really hard on your task, then, in the afternoon you relax.
  3. Force yourself to stop after the tasks have been completed. You'll be glad you did.
  4. Stretch the balance between days off. Have one day off be all work and the next day off be all play. 
  5. Resist the urge to get ahead. 

How do you make the most of your days off?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Experiment: The Cleaners

Never in a million years would I consider paying people to clean my house. That's for rich people. I am perfectly capable of cleaning up after my family. Or so I thought.

I don't like to admit when I can't do something or when I'm overwhelmed and need help. I'll typically forge ahead no matter how painful it is for me. It's totally against my mission of simplyfying and saving money. How could I possible agree to this frivolous service?

John and I have both reached our limit. We need help. Something's gotta give.

So...we hired a cleaning company to clean our house on a biweekly schedule. It's affordable and reasonable.

They came for the first time on Friday 2 weeks ago. I walk into the house after a long day at work, baby on hip, shoulder full of bags. I just stop and look around with my mouth wide open. My house had never been clean all at once. Half the house is typically clean while the other half is in a shambles. Just as you un-shamble one half , the other half starts to fall apart. A completely clean home was a feeling I hadn't experienced in a very long time. I walk from room to room and for a while it didn't seem like my house, it felt eerie. I open the microwave and it was spotless. I look at the faucet and it's shining. I walk across the floor and there are no crumbs.

John is definitely the one who is most concerned about the state of our home. I could probably live in disarray and be fine with it. I always tell him I'm so glad we met in high school because if we would have met later in life and I invited him to my apartment, it would be a pile of clothes, shoes, papers and food and he would take a look and run away. It's not that I don't care about cleanliness, I do. There's just other stuff I'd rather be doing...but I'm growing up now and my kid can't live in a trash can. Still, my focus is more on spending time with Evan than worrying about dishes in the sink. Does that make sense?

We were impressed with the results and we got to spend more time with little man without the worry of "I've gotta mop the floor," etc. I was also amazed at how having the house clean made me feel less stressed, like it took a little bit of weight off my shoulders. Plus it's kind of luxurious to come home to the t.p folded like that. Ahhh, like a hotel. It doesn't stay that way for long. I eventually have to use the bathroom. BUT it's fun to come home to.

It's not forever, just for a bit. Of course, if I were home I'd clean my own house but until then...I need help. 

In what ways do you get help at home?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

a day in my shoes

I thought it would be fun to share how a typical weekday goes down for us:

5:00 Wake up and get ready for work (I may or may not be a 3x snooze button hitter)

5:45 Get Evan's bag ready for the sitter's, eat a quick breakfast

6:00 Make Evan's bottle, gather my lunch

6:05 Get Evan up if he isn't already (he wakes up anywhere between 5:45 and 6:15), change diaper and clothes, feed him his bottle

6:20 If time allows and if he's interested, let E munch on some cheerios, bananas or other breakfast food

6:30 Load up the car and get on the road

7:00 Drop E off and start missing him :(

7:12 Arrive at work and start my day of staring at E's picture on my desk and wishing I were with him

11:00 I might run an errand during lunch or read a blog

3:36 Leave work and pick up my boy!

4:00 Run an errand

5:00 Arrive home, handle dogs, unload car, feed E a snack and play, throw in a load of laundry

5:20  If time allows, take Evan out for a walk around the neighborhood

5:45 Attempt to start dinner or just warm up baby boy's food (he's usually pretty fussy at this time so it makes making dinner a difficult task at times)

6:00 Play!

6:45 Bath, book, bottle

7:45 Bed time for baby

7:30 to 10:30 Depending on the day, goals for the week, and predetermined schedule, I use this time to get stuff done. It could include cleaning up, laundry, making Evan's food, exercising, date night, bill paying, blogging, reading or going to bed early

10:30 Shower, get clothes ready for the next day

11:00 Bed time

Phew! Each weekday is non-stop and action packed. By the end I crash into bed and immediately fall asleep. Since I'm an accountant, I like to see the numbers. Seeing how much of my day is spent doing certain things helps bring it into perspective. I threw together this little pie chart to show, generally, how I spend my day. Ideally I'd like the "Baby" piece of the pie to much larger than it is....I'm working on it.

As Evan gets older, our routines change and adjust depending on what stage we're in. Just when we get settled into a routine, E throws us a curve ball to keep us on our toes. We use our weekends and holidays to catch up around the house and soak up all the time we can with Evan. We make it work.

Is your schedule jam packed, too? Which piece of your pie would you want to be larger?

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