Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meg vs. Decor: Our new rug

As soon as we moved in John started saying that we needed to get a rug. Neither of us are used to hard floors, and as much as I like them, they don't feel very cozy. So I scoured the internet for who-knows-how-many hours, and ultimately determined that we couldn't afford to get anything I liked. So I headed over to The Home Depot and went straight to the cheap rugs. Most of the ones I had seen for less than $100 were kind of scratchy and unpleasant, and/or ugly. But what do you know? I found this lovely:

 Not as colorful as I was hoping for, but will do the job.

Look at all that fluffy loveliness! Perfectly cozy.

It's just a shame that the rest of our living room still looks like this:
Next up... furniture!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

John vs. The Backyard: 10-minute fire pit

My wonderful hubby brought his friend Eric over after school today to try to hook up our antenna. They took a trip to Home Depot for one cable and came back with 40 paving stones and a cooking rack. I had shown John a tutorial for building a fire pit on Pinterest, and he had been hooked on the idea ever since.

Step One: stack stones in a ring. John did 10 around, 4 high. We already had sand underneath, so we didn't need to clear room or put anything down. If you don't have sand, laying gravel would be another good alternative.

Step Two: start a fire.

Step Three: enjoy.

Some additional shopping tips from the hubs:

  • Don't pay more than $1 per stone. The cheaper ones are toward the back, often on the end cap.
  • Grab a big cart!
  • Instead of buying a fire pit rack, which will run upwards of $100, go to the barbecue section and get a grill rack from the accessory section. Find the widest one so it will reach all the way across the pit. They run $15-20.
  • Don't forget to grab some firewood! $5 for a bundle at Home Depot. One full bundle will burn down to a good amount for grilling.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Meg vs. Dessert: Super easy banana cake.

Today was our littlest guy's first birthday! For his cake I whipped up a new fan favorite around here: super easy banana cake! Here's the very extensive recipe:

1 box yellow cake mix
3 mashed bananas
1 tsp. baking powder

Mix. Bake according to box instructions, keeping a good eye on it.


1 small package instant banana pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 tub Cool Whip

Whisk pudding and milk together. Add in Cool Whip.

So easy, so delicious. The birthday boy was pleased.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meg vs. The Energy Bill

I am really starting to appreciate PG&E. I will assuredly be singing a different tune when the next bill comes around, but for now I will just be thankful. They sent someone out for free to check on all of our appliances, light pilot lights, and make sure they were safe. Then they sent out someone else for their Energy Savings Assistance program to evaluate what we might need to cut back our energy bill. I guess that is one of the perks of being poor-- you get help! A couple of fellows came yesterday and installed two new light fixtures, left a new torchiere lamp to replace an old one that the last owners had left in the garage (perfect for the dark corner of the playroom!), put new energy-efficient bulbs in all of the above, and checked out our appliances again. This time they noticed that the exhaust pipe from our water heater wasn't high enough, and they are going to send someone out to fix that, then come do some weather stripping and caulking to keep out the cold. It is nice to have someone check things off of my to-do list for free (well, technically not free; I guess I should say for no additional charge).

 Not the prettiest by far, but no uglier than our old fixtures, and much easier on the wallet!

All lit up.

Since I was in an energy-saving mood, I tried to switch out the bulbs in our very ancient chandelier to compact fluorescents.

Unfortunatly, this is on a dimmer switch, which requires special bulbs. So when I put in the regular ones the fixture and the wall switch started buzzing. Oops. So I'll throw that back on the to-do list. Also, cleaning the chandelier.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Meg vs. The Playroom: Nasty floor cleaned.

My goal yesterday was to clean the DISGUSTING floor in the sun room/playroom. I had wanted to do it before we moved in, but the house closed late and it just wasn't in the cards. It was caked with dirt. My boys would come in filthy after playing with their toys. Here's the before picture:

At this point, you are probably thinking, "Big deal! that is like a 1 hour job." And you are probably right, if you don't have little ones and/or you are not cleaning impaired like I am. There were meals to make, about 700 requests for snacks or screams for bottles, constant battles for attention, and a bit of dancing around the living room singing Jingle Bells. So it took me half the day just to clean one corner of the floor and then shove all the toys into that corner. Then there was sweeping and vacuuming the corners (and the walls and the ceilings--too many spiders and cobwebs!). When I got to mopping, I realized I was severely under-equipped. This is my trusty mop:
 It was great for our apartments that generally had one small patch of linoleum that didn't ever get too dirty. I love that you can detach the head and throw it in the washer, and the wringer is pretty good too. But this floor was a beast. I don't know how many trips I made up and down the steps to the kitchen sink to rinse what was essentially mud out of this mop. I nearly convinced myself to march to Costco and buy a Shark steam mop, but I'll hold out for Christmas at least. Every time the boys seemed to be entertaining themselves nicely I would sneak out to do one more patch of floor. After once mopping with water and twice with vinegar, and floor finally looked like this:

That's right--you really can't tell the difference at all, and it is still ugly as all getout. But it isn't caked in dirt. So at 12:30 am I called it a day. I'll battle the nasty paint job, unfinished edges, cracks and holes another day (hopefully tile and/or a play floor are in this room's near future); for now the dirt is under control at least.

Now to pick my battle for today...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meg vs. Breakfast: Oatmeal Waffles

Time to jump start a big day of cleaning! I have GOT to get this place is some kind of order, but EVERYTHING needs a scrub-down at least. So far I have done the kitchen cabinets and some of the baseboards. And we've been here 3 weeks now; not cutting it!

So we needed a power breakfast today. I love these waffles because they are hearty but not too heavy. My helpers seemed to approve.

Here's the recipe:

Oatmeal Waffles

1 1/2 cups flour (I use half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
1 cup quick oats (or regular oats pulsed in the blender for a few seconds)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
6 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Sift flour, and blend with oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, blend the eggs, milk, butter, and brown sugar. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Cook according to the instructions for your waffle maker (in my case, until the green light goes off!)

So far it seems to be working. I actually did the dishes as the boys were finishing up their breakfast instead of putting it off, and the boys and I are about to go tackle the sunroom, which now has a coating of both dirt and toys. Lovely =)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Meg vs. The Bathroom: How to stop a running toilet. Also, how toilets work.

This is not a tutorial for how to FIX a chronically running toilet. It IS a tutorial oh how to STOP a toilet from running once, and includes a brief explanation of how the toilet works. If your toilet is chronically running, one or more parts in the toilet will probably need to be replaced (don't worry, I just saw these at the hardware store, and they are pretty cheap). So there won't be a tutorial on that unless my toilet continues to run =).

First, take off the lid to the back of the toilet. I had never ventured into this territory until I was a missionary in a rural area in Guatemala. Since I preferred not to use the "toilets" most people had in their homes (aka hole in the ground somewhere out back), I lost any hesitation to do necessary maintenance to the toilet we were lucky enough to have in our place.

Okay, back to it. Welcome to the inside of the toilet:

Pardon the grody-ness. We just moved in and I can only do so many things at a time... So all the parts we come in contact with have been cleaned, but I haven't gotten to the tank.

Crash course on how toilets work:

When you pull on the flusher, that black lever goes up. It pulls on the chain, which pulls up the floating white/orange bob and the blue plug, which unstops the hole in the bottom of the tank, letting all the water flush down into the toilet bowl. The white/orange bob floats on the water, which keeps the plug from closing until the water level drops enough to flush the toilet.

That big black thing on the left controls the water that runs in to refill the tank after you flush. It floats, so when the water level drops, it slides down the pole it is mounted on, and that allows water to flow from your pipes into the tank to refill it. When the tank is full enough, it will float back up and stop the water from flowing into the tank.

Knowing that, a running toilet can really only be caused by a few things (knock on wood). The one I have seen most often in our places is that the plug gets caught on the lip of the hole and doesn't close all the way, so the water keeps going into the bowl and doesn't fill the tank. To fix this, either wiggle the chain to get the plug to fall, or stick your finger down and poke that thing back into place. Done.

Sometimes the chain gets twisted or tangled for some reason or another. Untangle that thing and forget about it!

Sometimes the flusher (on the outside of the tank) sticks down, which keeps the lever on the inside up, preventing the plug from closing. Pop that little fellow back up into place. Finito.

And sometimes that big black thing (I really should look up the proper name for it) doesn't slide all the way up to stop the water. This is more likely the case if the tank is all the way full and still running. Grab it and gently slide it up until the water stops. Golden. This is the one that happened to me today.

If the problem continues, look into repairing or replacing the culpable part.

And that, my friends, is how to stop a running toilet. [Insert joke about a toilet that is physically running here.]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Just a girl, three boys, and one brand new very old house.

My name is Meg. I have a hubby who is up to his ears in homework, two beautiful baby boys, a new-to-us house that needs a lot of work, a goal to do something daily to make that house into a home, and a habit of starting too many blogs.

Hopefully I can record what I do and share what I learn.

Time to get to work!