Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thanks for the welcome Whanganui, it's been fun.

This is not a typical post of mine but since this is my blog and it's only read by my Mum and sometimes my husband, I can write whatever I want here. Today I realized that I have become a grumpy old lady. Or at least have the mindset of one. Something happened today that has stuck in my mind and I'm having a hard time letting go of it.

We are visiting family in New Zealand and are having the most wonderful, relaxing, slow holiday. It has been a trip of healing and perspective (more on that some other time). Today we took a trip into Whanganui. If you go to the official website for the city you find this description:

"Whanganui is a place steeped in history, art and culture. Big enough to draw crowds and small enough to be intimate. There is something here for everyone. We are surrounded by mountains, Mount Taranaki, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro, a beautiful natural landscape, dramatic west coast beaches and unspoilt native bush for tramping and wilderness trips. Our vibrant community prides itself on its parks and reserves, cycle and walk ways and an abundance of creativity. Don’t be surprised to find an immediate sense of connection, an unexpected little slice of heaven, and real New Zealand authenticity. Enjoy our manaakitanga – our legendary hospitality. We look forward to welcoming you to our part of the world."
And you see the beautiful picture:

And it really is that lovely. There are hanging baskets on every lamppost, well manicured lawns, outdoor cafe seating, street performers busking on the corners - it's beautiful and relaxing and we were having a wonderful time browsing the numerous gift stores along the avenue.

However, the day was quickly overshadowed. We stopped to use the public restrooms and upon coming out we were greeted to the sight of two gang members facing off to have it out in the middle of the street, blocking our exit. My mother and I hurriedly pulled back Miss 5 and Miss 2 and hid them in a corner but not before they got to witness one grown man pick up a store sign and hurl it at another grown man and then proceed to pummel and choke him to the ground.

Next to us a young girl whipped out her cellphone and began filming the fight, laughing as if it were some form of entertainment. I told her to call the police and she told me I should do it. I told her I didn't have a phone or I would and she just said, "I don't want to get involved, it's not my problem."

At first I was scared for my children. Who knows what kind of weapons they may or may not have had. But then I was just angry. Angry that it was acceptable for two grown adults to fight out their differences in the middle of the street in the middle of the day. Angry that these two idiots who apparently don't like the way the other did their make-up that morning, decided to pound each other in front of my children. I have no problem with these two morons beating each other silly and removing themselves from the gene pool but please, do not do it in front of my children. Throw your childish temper tantrums elsewhere.

But what kind of society is it in which we live when two grown adults think it is ok to act like animals in the middle of the street in the middle of the day?!? What kind of society is it in which we live when a young woman thinks it is a big joke and makes home movies out of it?!?

Since this incident we have heard about the bad men a lot. My 2 year old clung to my mother because she was "scared of the bad men." "Why were they fighting?" "Why did they want to hurt each other?" Well sweet children, it's because they belong to a super special club and one club doesn't like the other club so if one of them looks at the other the wrong way then they fight. No, it's not very mature but grown-ups can be real morons sometimes.

Oh and you two idiots who think you're so big and bad, tonight my five year old prayed that the police would find you and help you to make better choices. Have a good life.


(PS: I know that gang issues are really complicated and the issue of whether or not people should get involved is even more complicated but that is another topic for another day. Tonight I am just a frustrated and mad mum who needed a good vent. Peace.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Used Stroller Buying Guide

There are just some things that you in general should not buy used - carseat, underwear, yeah, no. But when it comes to getting what you want on a budget, the used stroller is the way to go. Higher end strollers are often feature-packed, durable, great quality, and let's face it they're just plain pretty! However they are often out of reach for us "common folk." By buying used the unattainable can become very affordable. If you are smart, patient and know where to look, you can get the stroller of your dreams (if you don't know what this phrase means then this post is probably not for you) for a fraction of the MRSP.

I've found that many owners of expensive, fancy-smancy strollers tend to take very good care of their strollers. Often they are bought and then only used once or twice (think jogging stroller, think bassinet) and this translate into a great opportunity for you. Now there are some negatives to buying used, the big one being that most companies will not stand behind the warranty on a used stroller. So keep this in mind when making your short list of strollers you're stalking. Look for strollers that have an excellent reputation for durability or for companies that have excellent customer service (Britax! They're awesome!).

Having bought and sold the odd stroller here and there I have learnt a few things that I am going to pass on to you.

1. Make a List (and check it twice)
Make a short list of what it is you want. Are you looking for an All Terrain stroller? Want to Jog? Need something to travel with? Identify your needs then narrow it down to a few specific options. To help you with your list ask yourself these questions:

- Who are/is my rider(s)? Double? Single? Triple (gulp!)?

- How long will they be riding? Example, if you have a 2 year old and don't plan for more then a bassinet is not a feature you really need (trust me, you do not want to be the crazy pram lady pushing her dollies around...)

- Where do I plan to use this stroller? (Mall? Everest? Sahara?)

- How will it be transported ? This is an important question! Buying a Bob Duallie and trying to fit it into a Mini Cooper? It kind of looks like this...
Not happening! So make sure your car and you stroller are compatible.

- Now write down the three most important features it MUST have. You only get three because no stroller can do EVERYTHING (though some come petty close) hence the "need" for multiple. ;) Don't know what you need? Here are a few options..
  • Basket (Big, small, don't care?)
  • Tires (foam, plastic or air?)
  • Push (Want to push it with one finger or do you expect to get a workout pushing it?)
  • Size (Is compactness important or do you want something so big crowds will part when you're working the sale at the outlets?)
  • Customization (Do you want accessories, the ability to make the stroller match your outfit?)
  • Do you want it to make you a latte? (I lie, none can do this yet but there are some that will fold all on its own AND can charge you phone as you walk. True dat.)
Ok, list, done.

2. Start Stalking 
You cannot get the stroller of your dreams the day you dream of it. It takes time and patience while you wait for the gods of the stroller universe to send it to you (if you must, go and make you an Oprah dream board). There a few places you need to keep your eye on. 
  • Your Local Craigslist (and the one your Mother In-Law lives in!)
    • The best way to keep an eye out of deals it to set up a Craigslist alert. Go HERE. By having an alert set up you can avoid having to check it 3000 times a day because when it comes to scoring a major deal on CL you have to move fast.
  • Ebay
    • Make sure you ask lots of questions and get lots of pictures before closing on an Ebay deal. Also check ratings and feedback. 
  • Stroller Buy Sell and Trade Groups on Facebook
    • Yup, there are Facebook Groups dedicated to buying and selling strollers. This is one of my favorite ways to buy and sell. The ones I belong to have members who love and care for their strollers like children (no, seriously) and take exceptional care of them. These people are the best people to score a deal from. They love to enable help you fulfill your every stroller fantasy.
3. Make sure you're getting a deal.
Having a fancy, smancy brand name on it (Bug-a-who?) does not always make it a good deal.  If you live in an area of the country like I do, stroller deals do not come by often so don't get caught up in the excitement of spotting a potential deal. When you find the potential newest member of your stroller family there are a few things to check:
  • Price. Look on Ebay, check other Craiglist listings, ask on Facebook stroller forums. Know what a good price is. Know what a great price it. Don't get so excited in finding something pretty and shiny that you end up over paying for it.
  • Condition. There are some things you can fix when it comes to strollers and some things that are just a no-go. Things you can fix/overlook if the deal is good enough are:
    • Fading of the fabrics (maybe you can replace them)
    • Scratches to the frame (you'd be surprised what a Magic Eraser can do)
    • Basic cosmetic flaws
    • Dirt. You'd be amazed at what a hose and dish soap can do. 
         Things that CANNOT be overlooked are (in my book):

    • Deep rust to the frame 
    • Widespread Mold
    • Bent frame
    • Non-working brakes
4. Check it, then double check it.
If you're buying locally make sure you check it out thoroughly.
    • Check online for recalls. Make sure those have been repaired or that you can still get a repair kit for them.
    • Open the stroller (does it stay open?)
    • Push it (does it roll smoothly? Straight?)
    • Check the harness works (put a child in it if you can)
    • Set the brake (does it work?)
    • Close the stroller (does it fit in your car?)
    • Open the canopy (check for mold in the folds, seams, etc) 
    • Operate the foot rest
    • Recline it (if it reclines)
    • Check the fabric for tears, wearing, etc. 
    • Examine the frame. Make sure there is no bending, warping or deep rust.
5. Negotiate
If you're buying from someone who loves their strollers then don't insult them by low-balling them. Those people generally know what their stroller is worth and you're probably already getting a good deal or a great stroller. However, buying from your local Craigslist will probably allow you the most wiggle room in negotiating. Any flaws or problems you find that are not disclosed on the ad can be used as negotiating points. At the end of the day, know what price you're wanting to pay and it you can't close the deal, walk away. There will be other deals to have. 

So there you have it! Happy Stroller Hunting!

PS: Have you scored a fabulous deal on a stroller? Brag about it in the comments section!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Easy DIY Mermaid Top

One of Big Princess's best little friends is turning 5 next week and today was her birthday party. When BP learnt that it was a mermaid themed party her first thought was to wear her "go-to mermaid party dress" (What? You don't have one of those?) that I made her last year. This lead to a conversation about some parties are not costume parties and sometimes just the birthday girl gets to be special and dress up. Eventually I just bought her compliance by promising to make her a mermaid shirt. Sucker, I know. Unfortunately, I was reminded of this promise at 9pm on Friday night. The party was the next day. I sent the husband on a mission to Wal-mart (don't hate me - we sometimes use the 'W' word around here) and sat down to worship at the alter of Pinterest. I am such a faithful follower and I am feeling particularly disloyal right now. I may be losing the faith. A quick search lead to pictures of grown women in mermaid outfits that they apparently can actually swim in. Who in the hello does that?!? I mean seriously! If I showed up at the local pool dressed like this...well, it wouldn't be pretty!

Apparently this is set to be the big thing in swimsuit fashion next year. I am not making this up! Quick, someone write a crochet pattern so you can DIY one for yourself and sell it on Etsy. You're set to make a killing! NOT!

Anywho...the promised shirt which finally got started at 10:30pm (why on earth do I do this to myself?). As I was thinking and googling I remembered the mermaid printables I used for the Birthday Bash this year. The sweet and amazing creative mind over at Living Well Spending Less offers (FOR FREE YO!) these adorable mermaid printables. For my mermaid shirt we used THIS ONE. Cute huh?

And here is the finished shirt...(oh and that's not fuzz on "Ariel's" hair, it's got a little sparkle to it)

And modeled :)

Wanna make one?

Here's what you need:
1. Felt
- 1 Piece for the hair
- 1 Piece for the skin
- 1 Piece for the tail
- 1 Piece for the top

2. Heat N Bond Lite (get the one you can sew on or else you're stuck hand stitching it. Yowch!

3. A shirt

4. Sewing Crap (Scissors, thread, music to jam to)

Print THREE copies of your mermaid picture

Cut out your mermaid pieces. You'll need hair, a tail, a body, and a top. You'll notice my top is a little different. We don't do belly buttons around here ;)  Here are your pieces cut out (the top piece is upside down - opps!).

Now, I want you to pretend for the next three pictures that there is Fuse N Bond already attached to the pieces of felt. I always forget to attach the Fuse N Bond before I trace and cut - grrr! So attach your Fuse N Bond according to pattern directions and trace your pieces RIGHT SIDE DOWN onto the Fuse N Bond side of your felt.

Don't forget on your hair piece to cut out the bangs so you can slide your head up into it.

There's not a picture of the top piece but you get the idea. :)

Now let's assemble and iron your mermaid down. Slide your head up into the bangs of the hair and place the hair and body piece on the shirt where you want it. Place another piece of plain cotton fabric over the felt pieces and iron into place according to Fuse N Bond directions. Next add the tail and the top (in any order). Sew a plain straight stitch around the pieces to make sure that mermaid isn't going to swim off the shirt in the next was and you're done! Easy ay? ;)

Now for your viewing pleasure...

 Photo bombed by a penguin!

Side bar, BP told everyone and anyone who would listen (as well as those who didn't!) that her mummy made her shirt. I've decided to bask in the glow of praise coming from my 5 year old. The day might come before I am ready when I will instead hear, "I cannot believe she is making me wear that!"


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween Costumes for 2013

It's a week until Halloween. And just to freak you out, here's a Christmas Countdown for kicks and giggles...

Have you stopped hyperventilating yet? Good, now onto the fun stuff.

BP told me she wanted to be Pocahontas for Halloween and I was down with that. Easy. LP was nominated to be the raccoon - lucky. That was the original plan. Then we saw that the local theater company was going to be putting on "Beauty and The Beast." Upon hearing that we had tickets BP raised her hand, placed one on her hip and informed me she needed a gown. Yes, a gown. So this year we are Belle. Yes, I said we.

The kids at Encore Theater did an amazing job with this years production. Actually both years we've gone I've been very impressed.

I don't think the princesses blinked once during the entire performance. They loved it!

They even got their pictures made with Belle and the Beast!

So, you want to make one. Don't. Unless you are nuts. But then we're all a little nuts right and what little girl wouldn't want something this yellow and shiney and bouncy and well, fabulous! Check out this face!

Here is the tutorial I used...HERE...don't say I didn't warn you...

The only tip I have is that you don't need the length of fabric she recommends. Yes, it would be nice and have at it if you want but it can make the dress a little pricey. I used 10 yards total at $1.50 per yard (on sale with a coupon at Joanns). The total length of skirt for BP's dress was 150" long. It was the length of my living room.

The dress...ah-hem, gown wasn't all that hard to make, actually it was really simple. It was just tedious. I gathered, and I gathered and just when I thought I was done, I gathered some more. But the results, totally worth it ;) The girls were stoked, I was more than just a little proud (though I did run away when the woman at the production asked for me phone number and if I sewed for other - I'm pretty sure she wasn't trying to ask me out).

This dress does come with a bit of a warning for you. In it your BP will look very grown up and it will make you heart just a little bit sad.

Happy Halloween!


DIY Fire Pit (Of Sorts)

I've decided that Maoris are the Kiwi-fied version of a redneck. I say this proudly. My dad was Maori, my husband is from West Virginia - we're a match made in Hick-Heaven (I don't even know what that means!)! I do think that my Maori/Kiwi-ness explains my desire to do everything myself and do a bit of a knock up job of it. As for the husband, he's got none of that. His mother must have raised him wrong ;)

So, I decided I wanted a fire pit. The husband was out of town on a man-trip with the boys and when he's away...well, you know what they say about cats and mice. The days were getting shorter, the air was cooler, the leaves were falling and suddenly I got a "hankering" (that's a WV inspired word) for Smores and the smell of a wood fire.

I Googled and Pinterest-ed fire pits and saw some awesome ideas but I was looking for cheap, as in well, free. After extensive research (ie. about 5 minutes but it was a really intense 5 minutes!) I decided I needed something large and metal. I looked in my garage and our eyes (well, I'm the only one with eyes) met. It was fate. I spotted this baby...

Well, actually it looked more like this...(Not my actual dryer but you get the picture)

A screwdriver and some of my own natural brute strength and the dryer drum popped right out. It's metal. It's used to high heat. It's perfect.

First I had to remove any plastic bits...because no one wants Fisher Price flavored marshmallows...

Now my original plan was to pop that baby in the grass and call it good. Ta-da, instant fire pit. But I wanted something a little more "classy" so I started to wander around Lowes in search of a little red-neck sophistication. I found a pile of odds and ends they were packing up to sell as lots in some kind of secret squirrel auction. Believe me, I tried to get the skinny but my feminine wiles did not work on the pre-pubescent sales boy, but I did manage to weasel him out of the fire pit top that had lost its legs. I plopped it on top and this is the result...

 The rocks? I scrounged them from a neighbors yard, don't worry, she knew I was taking them!

We love our fire pit. I love that it is off the ground and a perfect height for little people roasting their own marshmallows. I also store extra pine cones and wood down inside the barrel of the dryer drum.And at the end of the day, if we hate it we can remove it really easily. I can't see that happening though as BP asks for a "camp fire" almost every night.

The car as a makeshift table - maybe the husband is a redneck after all!

The Husband and his "not to be trusted-disloyal companion".

Is there anything better than a Smore?

Happy Fall from My Redneck-Maori Family to yours!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Super Trio - Personalized Super Hero Capes

One night I suddenly realized that I had a birthday party to go to and I had forgotten to get a present. A quick scramble on the internet and I made my first "Super Hero Cape." Ever since then you wouldn't believe the number of little boy birthday parties we have been invited to ;) Good thing because the Princesses love to party!

I ran into a friend back in June and she asked me to make her a set of capes for her kids. Well, almost 5 months later (Sorry about that J) I finally got round to doing them. This is the reason I could never sew for a living. One, I can usually only make one, two at the most of something before my sewing ADHD kicks in and I am distracted by the next project. And two, I do not function well on a deadline. If someone asks me to do something, I am more than happy to do it but the request spins me into procrastination mode and I come up with a million reason to putting things off.

But I finally whipped my own behind into gear and here they are...

Seriously, what kid wouldn't want one of these?!? And who says they need to be "Superman" colors? My friend's little girl loves pink and purple. I think I'm going to have to hide that one from BP & LP.

Here is the tutorial I use for the capes I make... SUPERCAPES

In my opinion it is the easiest to follow of all the ones I've looked at. The only difference is that she uses one yard per side (2 sides total). I found I can get two capes out of two yards. To do this fold your fabric LONG sides together and make the width of your cape not quite as wide as the one on the tutorial. Try it, it fits. Then follow the tutorial as usual.

To do the letters I Google, "Superman Letter (fill in blank with letter)" then search Google Images. When you found the one you want, right click on it and select "copy". Open Word or somewhere you can paste the image into and select "paste." Now resize the image to the size you want. I find that stretching it to the size of a regular sized piece of paper (in landscape mode) is the perfect size.

Print the image out. Cut around the OUTER shape. Lay this over your yellow felt and cut around it. Now take your paper letter and cut out the parts that DO NOT make the letter. For example, cut out all the places that the arrows point to:
Next place your paper over your red felt UPSIDE DOWN and trace around it (or you could pin and cut but trust me, tracing is easier). Cut it out. Position your yellow felt on the cape then place the red on top and pin into position. Now sew around all the edges and secure it to your cape. And ta-da!

This is a really easy project and kids love it and you know, Halloween is next week so whip one of these up slap a pair of undies over their jeans and call it good. And you totally get extra points for it being "homemade." All in a days work my friends...


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Swoooon! Blue Jar Love!

I know you're going to read this post and think "what is wrong with you!!" Let me start at the beginning. I seriously love turquoise (if you hadn't noticed). I once painted a whole room turquoise. Before we put the house on the market. Because I'm awesome like that. Ok, so maybe it wasn't my finest "design" decision. It was promptly painted over by our renters. Beige. Blah.

So yeah, turquoise is my thing. Well, I also have some serious love for mason jars. There's just something about their simplicity and usefulness. You can dress them up, dress them down. It's the country version of the little black dress - except they're glass, and not black. Ok, so they're nothing like that. I just like 'em. But what do you get when you mix your favorite color and a glass "little black dress"? 


Wait, before you say "big whoop, my grandma had these, they're nothing new." These are new! They're Ball Heritage Collection Limited Edition Blue Pint Canning Jars. Yup, limited edition folks. Yup, they cost less for a set of six than the ONE you will buy at the local flea market. These run less than $10 and have been sighted in the wild at such places as Kroger and even Amazon carries them. I spotted them at Sam's Club and they were around $14 for a dozen (I think). 

But here's the kicker. Thanks to stupid Dave Ramsey (financial guru I love to hate) I didn't buy any. I'd already spent my blow money for the week. Boo. So husband, if you are reading this blog, you wife wants about 3 dozen for Christmas. I promise to love you forever.