Sunday, September 11, 2016

I Faced Down the Dirty Thirty + A Gift Guide

I did it, y'all. Exactly one month ago today I turned 30. Conceptually I understand that 30 isn't that old. That being said, this is the oldest I've ever been so I certainly feel a lot older! Deputy Dad and I had the kids on my birthday, and Meet the Teacher day at school happened to be the same day this year. So we spent the first half of my birthday at school meeting D's second grade teacher and J's kindergarten teacher. After that, we went to Columbia and had pizza for dinner and spent the evening chasing Pokemon around the city. It was actually a wonderful birthday, and I was thrilled to have been able to spend it with family.

Our plan was to have a birthday party for yours truly on the Saturday immediately following my birthday, which fell on a Thursday this year. I called it my "I Don't Wanna Grow Up Playset + Pool Party". However, the two boys and I both got a pretty nasty case of food poisoning from the pizza place and we ended up having to cancel the whole thing. It ended up turning into a pretty serious health issue for me, and I missed the entire next week of work. Not the most exciting way to spend a post-birthday week, but at least I got to celebrate my actual birthday!

Because of the illness, Deputy Dad and I pushed back the exchanging of my birthday gift since my paycheck was significantly reduced for the time period. Also, I've yet to decide what I want to commemorate this milestone birthday. So, I decided to compile this little gift guide with some ideas for the newly-30-year-olds out there!

one :: two :: three :: four :: five

One :: One of the things I've been really getting in to lately is improving my photography skills. Now that I finally got back around to upgrading my camera again, I want I've been having fun tinkering around with project shots and progress shots, but I hate that I'm so reliant on natural light to get that amazing shot I want. Especially now that summer is drawing to a close and our days are getting shorter (boo! But hooray for cooler temps and hot chocolate!!) I've really wanted to start investing in some lighting options so I can actually take some decent pictures of the things I've been doing around here. Deputy Dad and I actually built the Bulk Bin Toy Storage unit from Ana White, assembled a swing set, and made a few modifications to the kitchen, but they were all post-bedtime projects so I have *no* progress pictures so show you because I'm a bad blogger! I figure I can start with these relatively inexpensive umbrella lights from Amazon and grow from there.

Two :: Basically, see above. One of my favorite photo types is the sharply defined front object with the beautifully blurred background.  Yes, I know it's called bokeh. Thanks to an introductory DSLR class I took with my mom back when I got us both Canon T3's for Christmas one year, I even know how to achieve it. Unfortunately, I am not always the steadiest of hand. Enter this handy tripod. I actually had this same one, but I think I must have left it in Wisconsin when I moved. This tripod plus a remote shutter release (probably this one) should hopefully make life a little easier.

Three :: Ahh, Apple. You make my heart flutter. When the Apple Watch was released, I thought it was the stupidest thing ever. Seriously. Could not understand people spending $300 on a tiny little phone for your wrist when you carry a $600+ slightly larger phone in your pocket. Fast forward several months, and I now work back in a call center where cell phones are banned on the call floor. With Deputy Dad's job and the kids back in school, I'm always paranoid that someone is going to need to get in touch with me for some reason, but I'll be at work and won't get the message for 3 hours. Enter the beauty of the Apple Watch. If I see Dispatch or School calling, I can simply excuse myself for a personal break, call back, and have my mind put at ease.  Or take off out of the parking lot like a bat out of hell. You know, whichever the situation may call for. Plus, rose gold. Which gives me all of the heart eyes these days, so I have to have it.

Four ::  Remember earlier how I mentioned that I'm not the steadiest of individuals? Imagine the torture that my poor phone goes through. I drop that thing on a weekly basis. At least. I should buy stock in some screen protector company, because I order at least one a month. The night I met Deputy Dad, I shattered the screen of my phone when I dropped it off of the back of a pickup truck. Face first. On to concrete. It was a rough moment. Long story short, I *always* have a screen protector and a protective case on my phone. But how cute is a customizable case from Casetify? I love that this one allows me to customize the photo and text, and it's still durable for my klutzy moments.

Five :: I've always been interested in skincare, but now that I've hit 30 I realize how important it really is. I'm "blessed" because I have oily skin, which means that I actually don't have to worry about wrinkles for awhile yet. That being said, I'm 30 and still have to deal with acne, texture, enlarged pores, and hyper pigmentation. I keep seeing try-it videos of bubble masks on YouTube, and I'm fairly intrigued by the whole idea. This one from Sephora helps with luminosity and helps eliminate impurities, which I definitely wouldn't turn down. The other thing I'm working really hard to remember is to never leave the house without putting on some sort of sun protectant. I'm really bad about that. I'll always put sunscreen on the kids and on the husband, but somehow always forget myself in the shuffle. We're a pale family over here, and I suffered multiple extreme sunburns as a kid, so my risk for skin cancer is pretty high. I'd like to make sure I'm doing everything I can to prevent that!

So, there it is.  Five ideas if you want to offer your condolences...errrrr...congratulate a friend on a big milestone birthday. 

As for me, I think I'm accepting turning 30. I still have so much left to do!!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cleaning Your Car's Headlights

Have you seen that tip online that recommends cleaning your car's headlights with toothpaste?  The one that looks like this?

Or this one?

Or possibly even this one?


I mean, I think you get my point. There's a lot of pins that suggest trying this trick if you have the dreaded headlight haze. Deputy Dad and I are a three-car household. The car I think of as mine is our 2013 Kia Sorento. It's our kid hauler. It's got all sorts of fun bells and whistles, it's got 3rd row seating, plenty of room to haul three kids and three dogs, and no headlight haze to speak of. The car I think of as Deputy Dad's is his Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. This is his marked patrol car that we are lucky enough (or unlucky enough, sometimes) that he has as a take-home vehicle. I actually have a key for this car on my keychain, but only because there's a small chance he may have locked himself out of this car. On more than one occasion. Maybe. Hypothetically speaking. This car isn't that old, and doesn't have too much headlight haze. Then there's the third car. The dreaded third car.

When I went back to work, we needed to have the kid hauler left at home for whichever parent was home that day. So, I guess technically, the third car is really my car. My back-and-forth to work car. We bought it in desperation because we were in a time crunch and a budget crunch. We really didn't want to have payments and had a $2,500 budget to work with. So, we ended up with a 2002 VW Cabrio that a former co-worker of mine was selling. We talked ourselves in to it because we thought it would be a cute little fun car to tool around town in. And this car has the dreaded headlight haze (along with a whole host of other issues, but we won't focus on those right now).

Deputy Dad took on this project one day while I was inside doing dishes, so bear with me and my not-so-amazing iPhone pictures here, okay? Pretty please? Basically, you take some toothpaste and rub it on the headlight.

Then your blogger wife realizes what you're doing and runs outside to take action photos of you rubbing the headlights.  See that nasty haze on there?

Here's what the rag looked like mid-rub partway through the first headlight. These rags were just some shop rags from Home Depot that we bought in a big bulk pack when we first moved in to our house. They've been amazing. We seriously use them for pretty much everything.

This was the other headlight, post rubbing. I was pretty disappointed at this point and tempted to call this Pin a solid fail because there was still a serious haze left behind. We got distracted playing a game with the kids and came back 15-20 minutes later to a small miracle.

I know it's hard to tell the full impact because I didn't get a good before photo, but just glance back at the first photo where you can get a good look at the yellowish fog on the headlights. Don't they look so much better?! I ended up giving this a solid 7/10. Definitely not the miracle some of the pins made it look like, but a serious improvement over what it was. Some of the pins I saw later recommended adding baking soda to the toothpaste, so maybe we'll give that a try on the patrol car and see how that works.

Also, please note, our house is not a house divided. Our house is solidly in the Gamecock camp, with some strong cheering for the Big 10 Badgers as well. This plate was left on by the former owners :) GO GAMECOCKS!!!  GO BADGERS!!!

And that's how a car I hate became a car I hate a tiny little bit less. Deputy Dad just fixed the spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor cap, and the ignitor, so all that's left is the brake light switch and the radio and hopefully I won't hate it quite so much anymore. 

I know, I'm a diva. I'm sorry. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Quick and Easy Hardware + Fastener Organization

You know those sections of your home that seem to be doomed to being chaotic and disorganized until the end of time? For me, it's the section of my house to the right of the front door. 

I kid. A little bit. Okay. Not really. The kids' room, despite my best efforts, is a mess of toys, and the third bedroom is a disaster. I don't even want to open the door. However, the other day Deputy Dad and I went to my local Big Orange and bought the supplies we needed to build this amazing bulk bin toy box. I didn't have self-tapping screws, but I had about a million-jillion screws at home and didn't want to buy more, so I was confident I could figure something out. I was super proud, because I did figure out how to make the bulk bins using pocket holes. I was not so proud when I pulled out our box of screws and saw what a cluster the storage of such a basic item had become.

Seriously, check this out.

How in the world is a girl supposed to find her 1.25" fine Kreg screws in this mess? This box at one point in time had a lid, too. The lid was annihilated during the move from our apartment in Rock Hill to this house. RIP, box lid. I've had these boxes since my first marriage. I got them from Jo-Ann's to go on the bottom shelf of some leaning bookcases to go in my brown and green living room. They literally held nothing and just filled a shelf. They went from the easy life to a life of constant abuse. I say they because there was two of them. I don't even know what happened to the second one. Poor boxes. 

Deputy Dad is one of those people who can fall asleep within five minutes of his head hitting the pillow. Lucky man. I, on the other hand, like to fall asleep while falling down the rabbit hole of the blogosphere. The point of this random side story is that one night while falling down said rabbit hole, I found the blog of my savior. My savior posted about using the Creative Options Large Rack System to organize all of her Kreg screws. Please remember, I was falling asleep while reading this, so I was not smart. I did not pin this idea, or bookmark this idea. I have no idea who my savior was, but if you know, please tell me, because I need to build a shrine to her and name my firstborn child after her.

I went to Jo-Ann's to check out the Large Rack System, but in the end, it was just way too big for me. (That's what she said.) But when I went on Amazon hoping to find similar products, I discovered that Creative Options had the exact same product in a Medium Rack System. And it came in a pretty blue color, too!! I snapped it up, and with the magic of Amazon Prime only had to wait 48 hours.

So I sat down with the box of gloom. See that empty clamshell container up on top? That should be an almost full container of drywall anchors. It opened and dumped everywhere. That upside down black cardboard box was also about 1/4 full of wood screws that also emptied all over the box of doom. 

My first task was to sort out everything that was in the box. The tools in the upper left weren't even supposed to be in this box; they're supposed to be in the tool bin. Same with the bits and the drill bits, we have a different home for those, too. I put all the drywall anchors and their screws back in their container, and put all the wood screws back in their box.

All of this stuff was put back where it belongs. Except for that black funnel-looking thing. I have no idea what that is. Anyone else know?

Then I got to start playing with my pretty new organizer. I love that the top has this big open area for oversized items.

Then the body of the unit has these three divided organizers. The best part about this section is that these organizers are set up like drawers. There are little plastic "runners" under each section, so you can take out the middle or the bottom organizer without everything else coming down. It's amazing. I'm so in love!

I put random fasteners, along with staples, brad nails, and our bit extenders (two of which are currently MIA) in the top organization tray.

The second organization tray is dedication to my Kreg supplies. From left to right there is 1" screws, 1.25" screws, and 2.5" screws. The bottom has the miscellaneous sized screws you get when you buy the Kreg Jr kit, and the pocket hole plugs. I love that I still have room to grow in this organizer!

The bottom tray has the 1.25" wood screws and the drywall anchors, now all nice and contained. Below that are 2" and 3" toggle bolts. I keep saying that the walls in our house are like pasteboard, and I'm only partially kidding. They are definitely a lot thinner than standard drywall, so for pieces like our Hemnes shoe cabinet, it's really important to us that they are securely attached to the wall. We don't mess around, especially since J and L have been known to hang off of the bottom "drawer" and almost pulled it out of the wall. For that reason, the shoe cabinet got moved in to our bedroom, but we still have it toggle bolted in to the wall. Safety first! Below that is some other miscellaneous hardware including some hinges, latches, and some long bolts because I still want to make the kids these folding lap desks - maybe for Christmas?

In the big open section on the top, I put our Kreg Jr. R3 along with the Kreg clamp. One day when we have a workshop outside I'll upgrade to the K4 or the K5, but for now, this works. We also keep a tape measure and some painter's tape up here, just because in this house we always seem to need one of these two things and we can never find them. We have two packets of brackets up here that didn't fit down below.

Look at all of the trash I was able to get rid of! Seriously, best idea ever. I wish I could remember whose blog I read this on, because I feel like I need to go back in her archives and read everything she's ever written. 

The only thing I have left to do to completely finish this project is to label each section. I want to have everything labeled for two reasons. Ones, labels make my heart go all pitter-patter. Two, it will be a lot easter to remember which screws are the 1" and which are the 1.25" six months down the road from now when I have everything labeled. I just want to live with this organizing solution for a little while before I decide on a label type. I have so many choices! Vinyl with the Silhouette? Label maker? Washi tape? The possibilities are endless!!

Friday, September 2, 2016

First Friday Favorites + Fails

Welcome to September, y'all! There's so many people out there that are so excited that Starbucks has brought back Pumpkin Spice. I might be kicked out of the blogger network for saying this, but I'm not about the pumpkin spice life. I don't even like coffee. However, I LOVE salted caramel hot chocolate from Starbucks, so I'm excited to be able to leave for work a little early tomorrow and pick up a vent on my way in for my shift tomorrow.

It's officially the first Friday of September today, which means it's time for my monthly roundup of favorites. I also have two fails for this month. Coincidentally, they're both phone cases. Actually, it's not that coincidental. I lasted about a month with my Android phone before going back to my iPhone, but in that month I somehow managed to lose my Otterbox case. I thought I'd use that opportunity to try out some new cases, but the first two I tried just did not do it for me!

Anyway, on to the favorites!!

one :: two :: three :: four :: five :: fail one :: fail two

ONE :: Re-introducing the random, off-the-wall favorites, I'm addicted to the scent of these Fresh scented Downy Unstopables. They really do keep my clothes smelling fresh forever, and you don't need to add a ton. I like that they're also okay to use in my HE washer. The kids are weirdly in love with the way they smell, too. I took a load of laundry out of the dryer the other day and tossed it on the couch to fold. I turned around to make lunch, and when I turned back Baby Girl had her face smashed in the laundry because it "smelled so yummy". Hey, who am I to judge?

TWO ::  I hit the big three-oh back on the 11th of August - post coming on that soon! - and part of that milestone was a revamping of my skincare regimen, or lack thereof. One of the things I struggle with most is excessive hyper-pigmentation. I get dark red spots left behind from the awesome adult acne I (still) have, and this Beyond Belief Vita C+ Night Moisturizer is really helping. It's fading the dark spots, and making sure I'm using a moisturizer regularly really is decreasing some of the excess oil production that I also struggle with! So woo-hoo for a win-win!!
THREE :: I got Deputy Dad and I a set of RTIC tumblers back around Father's Day. He got the 30 ounce tumbler, and I got myself the 20 ounce tumbler with the spill-proof lid. Yeti cups are super popular in our region of the country, but I just couldn't bring myself to spend $40 on a cup. I did a ton of research, and the RTIC cups perform just as well for less than 1/2 the price. Since Deputy Dad spends 12 hours a day driving around in a hot car, the idea of him having a cup that keeps ice all day was an amazing concept. Spoiler alert: they really do work. I love my cup. We have an entire cabinet shelf full of water bottles that never get used anymore, since all we use now are our RTIC tumblers.      Two thumbs up. Fine holiday fun. Anyone who can tell me what movie that last part comes from is automatically my new best friend.

FOUR :: During the summer, I live in flip-flops. For the past five or so years, I've basically bought about a dozen pairs of inexpensive SO® flip-flops from Kohl's. But then I had that knee injury in April. That was the third time in my life I've dislocated that knee, but that time it stayed out of place for over an hour. It was the most excruciating pain I've ever felt in my life, and I'm doing everything I can to make sure I never have to deal with it again. My orthopedist said that cheap foam shoes that offered no structure and support weren't going to make things any better - can you believe it?!?! I wasn't ready to commit to a full-time life living in orthopedic shoes, so I invested in these Nike flip-flops. I got this grey and hot pink version, and if I had to do it all over again I would get all black because my pink section is basically black now, but other than that I'm in love. These shoes are so comfortable and the extra support makes being on my feet for long periods a lot more tolerable without having to constantly wear tennis shoes in 90+ degree heat. I'll probably get the all-black design next year!

FIVE ::  This Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is basically my favorite lens of life. The wide aperture allows me to get tons of light, and also allows for that awesome blurred background bokeh effect that I love. This lens is commonly referred to as the "nifty fifty". How can you not love something that's called nifty?!? Plus, it's lightweight. It's inexpensive, which means it's a great lens to add to a starter kit. It is a fixed focal length lens, which means that you have to manually zoom in and out on objects. Don't know how to manually zoom in and out? It means you have to move your feet!! ;) But it's seriously an amazing lens. If you have an option to get this lens over the kit lens that comes with most DSLR cameras (the 18-55mm zoom lens) I would recommend the 50mm instead any day. I just feel like you can do so much more with it, and there are so many more ways for you to be creative and really explore the camera settings.

And now...the fails

I'm kind of sad that I have fails this month. And a disclaimer with these fails. It doesn't mean that you won't like them - just that I didn't!!!!


Fail One :: I wanted to love this case. Really, really wanted to love it. I mean, look how pretty it is! The top is an iridescent white, and the bottom is a metallic rose gold. My phone is rose gold, but since I have it in a case at all times, I rarely get to show that part off, so I thought the rose gold would be an exceptionally nice touch. Way back in 2010 or so, my first touch screen smart phone was a Samsung Mesmerize i500, and I got a hot pink Incipio slider case like this to go on it. That case was a dream. Super sturdy, with a flocked inner lining for additional cushion to keep the phone protected. I couldn't have asked for a better case. A lot has changed in 6 years. This case was a piece of junk. It is super cheap, flimsy plastic with no additional inner lining like my old one had. It seriously offered no additional protection for the phone. I never dropped my phone while it was in this case, and I was looking at it one day and there was a huge chunk of plastic missing out of the side. The metallic section also scratched really easily. Then, my phone fell the 18" or so off of my bed and the case cracked in 4 places. Right now this is selling for about $22 on Amazon. I wouldn't even pay $3 for it. I should have read the reviews closer. Absolutely wouldn't recommend.


Fail Two :: Also a phone case, also from Incipio, although not nearly as much of a fail as the first case is. This case is definitely much sturdier and much more protective than the other case is. In fact, Deputy Dad and I were walking down Main Street in Columbia two days ago enjoying the weather and I dropped my phone face-first on the sidewalk. Do you know what happened to my phone? Not a thing. There's a small scuff on the corner of the case, and that's it. The reason I just can't love this case is because of what happens where the light pink and the dark pink plastics meet right there on the bottom of the case. On both the left and right sides, it is incredibly sharp where the "soft" neoprene-like material stops and the "hard" plastic starts. The way I hold my phone, I naturally rest my pinkie finger at the bottom of my phone right there to help support some of the weight of the phone. I've got the 6S Plus, and the weight of the phone plus the weight of a larger protective case adds up. The case literally scratches my finger. I know it's a dumb thing to complain about, but there are times where it hurts! Of the two, I definitely prefer this one to the one above, but I'm still on the lookout for a different case.

And there we have it. This months winners and losers! Is everyone excited for fall? We still have a month or two before the weather really starts to cool off here and I can start wearing cute fall outfits, but I'm still excited that it's coming. Oh, and Hurricane Hermine is coming, so there's that, too! Time to batten down the hatches!!