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Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

iced coffee

This weekend I discovered the beauty of cold brewed coffee.  Oh my.

I am a coffee addict…with standards.  I love coffee, but I’m picky about how I like it.  I usually have a cup in the morning and, around 2:00 in the afternoon, I hit a slump and usually go for another cup then.  But, when the warm weather strikes, I tend to crave iced coffee in the afternoon, so I sometimes hit a drive-thru…lots of cream, no sugar (and then I add my own stevia to add just a touch of sweetness).

Now that we are living on one income, I’ve gotta curb my drive-thru habits.  I’ve tried making iced coffee at home and it usually sucks. In a pinch, I have brewed a cup of coffee, let it cool a bit and then just added ice, cream, and sometimes a sweetener.  I always regret it when I make it like this.  I end up with mostly melted ice, floating on the top of a watered-down, completely unsatisfying beverage.

Ok, so you would think that to solve this problem, you could just brew a pot of coffee and chill it in the fridge.  I’m afraid it ain’t so.  It’s just not the same.  The depth of flavor just isn’t there.  You need a brew that can compete with all the cream and ice that make an iced coffee so awesome.

So, I decided to experiment.  We have a discount store around here where I can pick up coffee for about $2-$3 a pound.  Last time we went, Michael accidentally grabbed an espresso, so it’s just been sitting in the closet because we didn’t really like it brewed in the traditional way and I rarely break out my espresso maker.

The method is simple.  Dump coffee into a pitcher or other container.  Add cold water.  Stir.  Allow to sit overnight or for about 8 hours.  Strain off the coffee grounds.  Refrigerate and enjoy!

I can’t believe I had this amazingness at my fingertips all this time and didn’t even realize it!  And it’s mine, all mine!  (Michael doesn’t like iced coffee…and he’s a crazy person, did I mention that?)

Let me guess…you’d like me to be a little more specific with my instructions.  I can do that.

  • I used a 1 gallon pitcher
  • I used approximately 1/2 of the bag of coffee (maybe a bit less)
  • To strain it, I poured the brewed coffee and grounds through a fine mesh strainer, lined with a paper towel (no fancy-schmancy cheesecloth over here).
  • That’s it.  Really.

If you haven’t tried this yet, what are you waiting for?  Don’t look at me, ’cause I’m not sharing any of mine.

why I don’t work out

Treadmills

It’s not really a big secret that I hate exercise.  Working out would probably top the list as one of my least favorite things to do.  Seriously, the thought of running in place on a treadmill (or even out and about) is enough to make me want to hide.  I always joke that you will never catch me running unless someone (or something) is chasing me (and even then I’d probably just lay down and die).  I picture a rat on a wheel, mindlessly running with nowhere to go.  I guess it’s not the exercise itself that bothers me.  I like the feeling of sore muscles and knowing that I did something good for my body.  I like the idea of flopping down at the end of the day from physical fatigue rather than mental exhaustion.   What bugs me is the idea that we flock in droves to gyms and spend money on home equipment to achieve something that we could do quite naturally without all the bells and whistles.  Exercise for the sake of exercise.  Ugh…it just feels so obligatory.  I suppose that’s one of my many personality flaws.  As soon as I am made to feel like I HAVE to do something, I don’t want to do it.

Maybe it’s just the words ‘exercise’ and ‘working out’ that really bothers me.  I have visions of my childhood days when my mom used to workout to Jane Fonda on VHS.  All those leotards…all that spandex. *Shudder*  I really don’t want someone with her ankles wrapped around her head telling me to “feel the burn” with a smile on her face.  It could also be that I am extremely uncoordinated.  Step aerobics in high school gym class was an embarrassing form of torture for me.  “Wait, you want me to move my arms and legs…at the same time?!”

Movement is good.  Activity is good.  But I don’t want it to feel like a job, and I don’t plan to ever make it a priority over time with my family.  As a working mom, the time I was able to spend with my daughter was already so limited, so there was no way I was going to take away another hour with her so that I can hit the gym.  I am also a firm believer that the majority of our health (or unhealth) can be attributed to what we eat and not how much or how little we exercise.  At the same time, I know it’s not healthy to be completely sedentary.  Sitting all day is horrible for health!

Unfortunately, my job has kept me mostly at a desk, in a chair, completely inactive.  By the time I got home, got dinner together and cleaned up, I just wanted to sit down and do nothing.  And I know that’s not healthy.  Now that I am at home, one of my goals is to be more active, but you won’t catch me buying a gym membership or any equipment.  I’m not planning a new exercise regimen.  I want to ride my bike.  I want to go swimming with my daughter and take her for walks.  I’ll be outside, weeding the garden and trimming hedges and maybe even mowing the grass.  The only structured activity I plan to incorporate is some stretching and yoga to help with my sciatic back pain…and I’ll have Evelyn on the floor doing that with me.  Fun!

I know that being at a desk all day has taken a toll on my body.  My back kills me, my posture suffers, my circulation is poor.  I am really looking forward to being more active and moving more, but I’ll never be an exercise junkie.  And I was so stoked to read a recent post on Mark’s Daily Apple and gain a little insight into why I feel this way.  I am not alone!  And I really question the sanity of people who say they love to workout.  For me, movement has to be about the activity I am doing (and it has to be fun!) and not some lofty, unattainable goal that I am pushing myself to accomplish and hating every minute of it.

So, do you torture yourself with ‘exercise’ or do you move for the fun of it?  What do you do to stay active and healthy?

Quote

the last day

Life takes you to unexpected places; love always brings you home.

Yesterday was my last day at work.  I will go back for a few days in July, just to touch base and help out if I am needed, but for all intents and purposes, I’m done.  The quote above is from a wall hanging that some colleagues got for me as a goodbye gift.  A new chapter begins….

I’ve never really talked about my job in this forum.  I’ve mentioned the type of work I do, but never any specifics.  It seems unfair to walk away without paying tribute to the work that I’ve done that has shaped who I am and has taught me about the kind of parent I want to be.  I am proud to say that I work(ed) for a Head Start program.  What is Head Start?  A lot of people have no idea.  Most of the time when I tell people where I work, they look at me like I have two heads.  Head Start is a federally funded program that promotes school readiness in low-income families.  It began in the summer of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty….and has served more than 30 million children since 1965, growing from an eight-week demonstration project to include full-day/full-year services and many program options.

Head Start is a high-quality preschool education program that serves children and their families from prenatal to kindergarten.  I’ve always wanted to do work that is meaningful, that helps others, and I have been fortunate to be able to do that for the past 6 years.  Prior to that, I worked in child care for about 4 years, so my dedication to educating young children has been long-standing.

Probably the most important thing that Head Start has taught me is that parents are the key to success for young children.  It is why the program strives to engage parents in their education and recognizes them as a child’s first and most important teacher.  It is also why I ultimately decided that being at home with my daughter would be one of the best things I could do for her and because of this philosophy, my decision has been met with affirmation and support from my colleagues.  They get it.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many parents are not able to stay at home and have to seek out child care or other preschool programs for their children.  Other parents want to give their children the opportunity to socialize with other children and seek out programs for that reason.  Whatever the reason, it is so important to recognize high quality in early childhood education programs, because they are not all created equal!  I’m actually working on a piece about that now (stay tuned!)

Because Head Start is federally funded, it is subject to strict regulation and high expectations, so its programs are very high quality.  Unfortunately, they are also subject to budget cuts on an annual basis and sometimes that means fewer children and families will receive the benefits of quality education.

Even though I am leaving this work for now (they keep telling me I’ll be back), the philosophies and values of Head Start will stay near and dear to my heart.  Our program director retired a few months ago and when she did, she shared this video.  I get a little misty-eyed every time I watch it.  It definitely tugs at the heartstrings.  This is what it’s all about…

things I want to remember: Evelyn at 30 months

dandelion

I’m really not one of those moms who calculates her child’s age in months until she’s off to college, but 30 months has some significance for me.  I work for an infant/toddler education program and when children turn 30 months, we begin to prepare them for the transition to preschool.  Preschool.  I can’t believe my girl will soon be reaching preschool age.  Heck, I still refer to her as “the baby” most of the time.  Where did the time go?

I also have been a very bad mom when it comes to recording milestones.  I have taken enough photos to wallpaper my whole house, but I’ve really slacked on any other kind of record keeping.  But certainly, I want to remember her as she is right now.

Dear Evelyn,

You are only 2 and a half, but you know so much.  You are wise beyond your years.  People have always said you seem like an “old soul” and I agree (you take after your mom).  One of the things that surprises me most about you at this age is your grasp on the spiritual realm.  I wouldn’t have believed that a child your age could have any kind of comprehension of that, but you do.  A few weeks ago as we were driving by the coffee shop (which also happens to be our church), you pointed it out, “There’s our church!”  I agreed, “Yep, that’s our church.”  You started in on me.  “That’s not your church, Mommy.  That’s not Daddy’s church.”  I said, “No, it’s God’s church.”  Your eyes widened and you whispered, “YES! God loves me and my family and He says Pray to Me…”  Whenever it’s time for books at bedtime, you always pick out the Bible stories or books about God and I love watching you fold your hands and close your eyes as you sing “grace” at meal times.

strawberries

You love to talk and sing.  You know so many songs, I can’t even keep up and you make up new words to the tunes of songs you already know.  You are always singing…and reading.  You love books too.  Lately, when I put you to bed at night you manage to get books into your bed and I always find you with at least one book tucked under your head or arms when I come into check on you before I go to bed.  There are times when you ask me to read to you, but then end up reading another book on your own and not really listening to me anyway, and then there are times when you will curl up on my lap and listen to every word.

You’re a mommy’s girl right now.  Most of the time you protest if your Daddy tries to do things for you, but soon I will be leaving my job to stay at home with you and I think that will quickly change as you will probably get bored with your dear, old mom.  You’ve started calling me “mom” in the past few days.  It’s weird to hear the shift from “mommy” to “mom.”  It makes you seem like such a big girl when you say it.  You’re growing by leaps and bounds every day.

You love to play with our neighbor, Kole, and ask for him every day.  You also love your friends at church, Piper, Maria, Grove, and now Baby Harrison.  You just love babies.  The teachers at your daycare sometimes let you play in the baby room if you don’t nap while you’re there.  You also love to play with older kids, especially your cousins.  Recently, your cousins came to stay with us for a few days and when they left, you cried, “But I miss them!!”

SeeSaw

You’ve never been much of a risk-taker and you are so serious when you are trying something new.  Recently, we took you to a carnival and you wanted to ride all the rides, but I had to tell you, “Smile, Evelyn, you’re having fun!”  You smiled then, but it took some work on my part.  I think you just forget to smile…you are too busy studying and analyzing everything.

You are a very sensitive kid and I am trying to come to terms with that and see the positive in it.  It is a positive thing.  You cry easily and are easily offended if someone corrects or scolds you.  Your breath holding spells have decreased, but you still have them and it’s still hard to watch you struggle through them, even if I have become accustomed to it.  Somehow, this extra sensitivity will work to your advantage. It’s a part of who you are.  Tonight I watched you rock and sing to your baby doll, then read her a book, and lie down next to her to put her to sleep.  So sweet.

tea party

There is so much I am looking forward to doing with you in the months ahead as I make the transition from work to home.  I pray that I am doing the right thing by leaving my job to stay at home with you and I hope that it will be a learning a growing experience for both of us.

Today at the grocery store, the cashier asked you how old you are.  You held up two fingers and said, “I’m two,” very matter-of-factly.  Then you added, “and I’m three,” and added another finger.  Not yet, little one.  Don’t rush it.  You’re already growing up too quickly.

 

share your wisdom (and link up!)

 

stay at home advice

So, I am counting down the days until I officially become a stay at home mom (17 work days!) and I am starting to feel excited and anxious about the transition.  I’ve received tons of positive feedback from those I have told about my plans, but many people have also told me that it takes some time to adjust and I have even read many blog articles written by women who say they regret being a stay at home mom for so long.  That got me wondering…

  • Will we be able to make it financially?
  • Will I kill any chance of resuming my career?
  • Do some people have a difficult time adjusting to being at home because they typically stay at home after the birth of a child?  Is it hard to adjust to being at home or just hard adjusting to a newborn?  Or maybe a little bit of both?
  • Are there interesting ways to earn some extra money at home without taking surveys online all day?
  • Will my daughter miss her friends at school and be bored at home?
  • I have tons of ideas in my mind about what I’d like to do while I’m at home.  How can I organize my time and not become overwhelmed?
  • How will I address the dreaded question, “What do you do?”

Here’s where I need your input!  If you are a seasoned stay-at-home mom (or were one in the past) I’d love to hear from you.  You can leave comments here or on my facebook page (don’t forget to ‘like’ my page while you’re at it!) or if you are a blogger and have written some great insight or tips, please feel free to share your link by clicking below.


traveling with a twosie

traveling with a toddler

This week we set out for a 12 hour car ride from Pennsylvania to Georgia (and back again a few days later) with our 2-year-old.  I was dreading it for several weeks and seriously considered backing out and sending my husband on his own.  I just hated the idea of having her stuck in her car seat all day long.  It’s hard enough for me to travel and, for the most part, I have control of my own destiny.  I knew it would be that much harder for her, so I did my best to plan ahead.  Fortunately for us, the trip went really well.  We managed to keep Evelyn entertained and she fussed very little during the hours on the road.

Are you thinking about a long trip with your toddler?  Here are some things you can do to make it as painless as possible for everyone.

Overlap travel time with sleep time.  For our departure trip, we left home around 3:30am.  I am not the type of person who can leave at 8pm and drive all through the night.  I would be dozing off behind the wheel.  But, if I can get a few good hours of sleep first, I’m fine.  We went to bed early and packed the car before bed.  Then we only had to fill our travel mugs with some strong coffee and transfer our cherub to her car seat.  We managed to get about 4 hours under our belt before she woke up.  She also napped later in the day for about 2 hours, so that cut off a considerable amount of travel time for her.

Take frequent breaks.  I think you have to enter into a long trip like this with a laid-back attitude.  Of course we wanted to make good time on our trip, but we stopped frequently to eat, use the restroom, and just walk around.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to arrive by a specific time.  Stop when you (or your child) need a break.  If you have a very active child, that might mean more frequent breaks.  Many rest stops have large, grassy areas where your child could run off some energy and everyone can just stretch their legs.

Pack plenty of snacks.  A hungry kid is a cranky kid.  Normally, I would be a bit nervous about allowing Evelyn to eat in the car.  I always worry about choking, especially if it’s just the two of us and I am driving.  But, since one of us could sit in the back seat with her and monitor her, it wasn’t a problem.

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Ok, I didn’t take this pic on the road, but it was too cute not to post. :)

Pack an activity bag.  I packed a bag with books, crayons, paper, stickers, and playdough.  I purchased an inexpensive clipboard that she could use as a work surface.  I also packed a few of her favorite games that could be easily manipulated on the road.

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Embrace technology.  I’m not gonna lie.  I’d love to tell you that we didn’t rely on our devices to entertain Evelyn, but we did use the iPad to show her some downloaded movies when we had exhausted the other activities.  I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching Frozen and Brave with her.  I offered her my phone to play some memory and matching games that she likes, but she wasn’t interested at the time.  What kind of kid is this anyway?

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Involve the kids in the conversation.  It’s easy for the adults in the front seats to get caught up in conversation and ignore the little ones in the back.  The few times that Evelyn whined during our trip were when Michael and I were busy chatting away and she wanted to get in on the conversation.  Involve them!  Point out trucks, buses, or interesting vehicles on the road.  Ask them to tell you what they see out the window.  Talk about where you are going and what to expect there.  Listen to music and sing songs.  Make them a part of things.

Be patient with them.  It’s really hard for kids this age to sit still for long periods of time.  There are bound to be some tough moments.  Acknowledge how hard it is to sit, offer suggestions, and change things up if necessary.

Since Evelyn is an only, I can’t speak on traveling with multiple children.  What works for your family?

 

 

can we really have it all?

have it all

Like many women today, I grew up with a working mom.  Though my mom stayed home with me during my preschool years, my parents divorced when I was 5 and she had to enter the ranks of working, single moms.  I grew up thinking that the idea of a stay-at-home-mom was a relic of yesteryear.  Nobody did that anymore.  Women are strong and self-sufficient and take care of themselves and their families.  The media and pop culture burned the image of the woman who could “have it all” into my brain.  The career, the family, the picket fence, and all the trappings…the new American dream.

It wasn’t until I had my daughter and returned to work that I started to realize that maybe this idea was crap.  Whose brilliant idea was this anyway, that women should have it all?  Don’t get me wrong, I think that women should be able to have whatever they want, so long as they are willing to put forth the effort to earn and maintain it.  But all of the things…all at the same time?!  Can I see a show of hands of working moms who are not stretched to their outermost limits?

I felt guilty, guilty, guilty all the time.  Guilty about being away from my daughter, guilty that I couldn’t concentrate at work, guilty when I couldn’t contribute as much to the housework as my husband, who was staying at home at that time.  I felt like I was spread too thin and I couldn’t give enough energy and focus to any one thing.  I still feel that way most of the time.  On the surface, it seems like I “have it all”, but most of the time I feel like I feel like I’m only barely keeping my head above water.

So, when does the camel’s back break?  When does “having it all”  turn into just existing, going through the motions, and not really enjoying any of it?  When Michael started a new job in September the weight of it all really came down on me.  He had to be out of town for 2 months for training and I was left to drag a crying child to daycare,  work all day, drag a crying child home again and then the house work started.  Dinner, bath, books, bed.  Then wake up and do it all over again.  and again.  Weekends didn’t even provide a break because I would spend them cleaning, cooking, and preparing for the week ahead.  I know, many of you do this every day, with multiple children, extracurricular activities, etc.  Whether you do it out of necessity or choice,  you struggle just as I do.

At the risk of sounding a little dramatic, I have to say that being in this situation really made me think about the meaning of it all.  I started wondering what was the point of stressing myself out, stressing Evelyn out, so that I could work to afford to send her away to have someone else take care of her all day.  I prayed so long for this child and I wanted to be with her all the time.  Before she was born, I never even considered being a stay at home mom.  It was never a possibility that crossed my mind.  We would never afford it.  I wouldn’t feel like an equal partner if I couldn’t contribute financially to our family.  But when Michael unexpectedly became a stay at home parent when Evelyn was only 2 months old, I started to think about it being me instead.  I wanted what he had.

I began to plan it in my mind.  I had no idea if it would ever happen, but but I daydreamed about it.  We talked about it and hoped that when Michael finished his Master’s studies, he would find a job that would allow me to stay at home.  Since this was something I had never considered before, we had not planned for it, but we started to take little steps to make it happen.  We used our tax return to pay off my car.  We switched our phone service.  We ditched cable.  We factored in the hundreds we will save on child care, gas, and wear and tear on my car.  At first, I wanted to wait until we had another baby.  I figured I would go on maternity leave and not return to work.  But, after almost a year of trying to conceive and two chemical pregnancies, it occurred to me that I could wait for another baby that might never arrive, and miss this time with Evelyn….or I could just pick a date and go for it.

So, I am happy/terrified to announce that I resigned my position at work and will be a full-time, stay at home mom, starting in July.  I have no illusions about the fact that it is going to be hard, but I feel it’s what’s right for this season of my life, for my child, and for my family.  I’ve had time to be young and crazy, travel, get an education, work, build connections in my community, and now it’s time for something new.  I think it’s nearly impossible to have everything all at once and really be able to appreciate it, but maybe, over a lifetime, we really can have it all.

answering the call

the call

I’ve always struggled with trying to figure out what God wants me to do in certain situations.  I’m not talking about the little stuff.  I can usually discern right from wrong and do the right thing (or do the wrong thing and know I am messing up).  But it’s the big stuff that trips me up…the major, life-changing decisions. I pray and I ponder and I ask for signs, but I almost never feel certain that I am making the right moves when it comes to the really big stuff.  I usually get lazy and just resign to thinking, Well, if God wants ___________ to happen in my life, it will be so.

There is something I have felt called to do for some time now, for many years, in fact.  I’ve always been wishy-washy about it, going back and forth about whether or not it’s something I would actually consider outside of the dreamy, idealistic corners of my brain.

Until recently, I never answered the call.

A few weeks ago, I was presented with an opportunity to do so.  Someone approached me with a possibility and it felt like a “God moment.”  You know that feeling when you just KNOW this is what you’re supposed to do?  I do have those occasionally.

I brought the idea home to my husband, expecting him to shoot it down.  Instead, he said yes, let’s do it almost instantly.  He, too, felt like God was calling us to move forward.  I spent that evening thinking and worrying about the impact this call would have on our lives, but by the next morning, I was completely at peace with our decision.

I answered the call.  I said yes. YES!

Then, nothing happened.  The opportunity was gone.  I had said yes and God said, nevermind.  I allowed myself to feel disappointed for a few moments and then I let it go.  God had spoken and He knows what He’s doing.

I wondered for a bit, why in the world would He call me (and I would be SO sure about it) and then change His mind?  For a  minute, I was starting to think I might be getting better at figuring out His plans for my life…but maybe not.  And then I started to think, maybe He was just looking for the YES.  Maybe He’s preparing my heart for what’s to come…

I don’t think that He’s done with me yet.  The call feels almost stronger now…and closer.

How do you know when God is calling you to something?  Is it easy to say yes?

Staining a Bathroom Cabinet

***This post contains affiliate links, which means that I can earn a small commission if you click a link and purchase the item.  Using these links for your purchase does not impact the price of the item.***

Phase one of my bathroom makeover is complete!  I finally finished staining the vanity cabinet, which has gone from this dated honey oak….

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…to this much more tolerable espresso finish.

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I’m still having a hard time believing that I actually did this and that it turned out so nice.  It was so easy…just a little bit time consuming since I had to put on so many coats and then wait for them to dry.  So, how did I do it?  I’m glad you asked.

First, I gathered the following items:

  •  Java Gel Stain by General Finishes I bought the 1/2 pint and that would work even for a much bigger cabinet.  A little goes a long way!
  • A few tube socks
  • Rubber or latex gloves
  • Some painter’s pyramids
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Screwdriver
  • 1/2 pint of polyurethane
  • A foam brush

You will want to start by prepping the cabinet.  I put painter’s tape on the walls to protect them from stain and I didn’t worry about protecting the carpet because I am going to rip it out anyway.  I removed the hardware from the door and drawers and removed them from the rest of the cabinet.  Then, I lightly sanded every surface.  You don’t have to go crazy here, you just want to scuff up the surface a bit so that the stain can adhere to the wood.  Once everything is sanded, wipe it down with a damp rag to remove any dust, dirt, or grime on the surface.

Now, you’re ready for the stain.  I got the idea to do this from another blog called Monica Wants It and you can find it by clicking here.  I found her tutorial on Pinterest and she recommends using tube socks instead of a brush to apply the stain.  We always have a few stray socks around here that are missing a mate, so I didn’t have to look far to find some.  I put a glove on my right hand (to protect it from the stain) and then covered it with a sock.  Then I just dipped the sock into the stain and started applying it to the cabinet.  Once you start applying, you will begin to see how much you need.  Start out with a very small dab and then smear it around to see how much coverage you will get.  That will help you gauge how much to use.  Be careful to smooth out any globs.  I used the painter’s pyramids here to prop up the door and drawers after I applied the first coat.  The first coat looked a bit streaky and weird, but in my opinion, it was already a huge improvement from where I started.

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First coat

So, I let the first coat dry for about 24 hours and applied the second coat the next evening.

Second coat

Second coat

I think you could probably apply the third coat in another 24 hours, but I didn’t have the opportunity to work on it again until the weekend, so it dried for about 4 days before I applied the final coat.

Once I had the third coat on, I probably could have added another coat to make it really nice and dark like many of the other photos I have seen online, but I kind of liked the subtle variations in color and being able to still see the wood grain a bit.

Once you have achieved the color you want, let the stain dry for several days before you seal it with the polyurethane.  Life got a little busy around here, so I didn’t have an opportunity to work on it for a few weeks.  I finally was able to apply a few coats of polyurethane.  The tutorial I followed suggested that you can continue to use a sock to apply the polyurethane, but I decided to use a foam brush.  This seemed to work fine and I didn’t have any trouble.  Again, just be careful to smooth out any drippy spots.

Finally, once the polyurethane dried (about 24 hours), I was able to add some new hardware and reattach the door and drawers.  So, here’s the official before and after.  What do you think?

Cabinet Makeover  I love the update!  Michael likes it so much that he wants me to do the same in our downstairs bathroom.  I’m not sure I’m that ambitious.  One project at a time please.

6 basic tools for getting pregnant

getting pregnant

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If you’re starting to think about trying to get pregnant or you’ve been trying for a few months, there are some things you can do to help the process and to learn more in general about your body and how it works.  Unfortunately, for many people, getting pregnant isn’t as simple as just “doing it.”  When you think about the odds and what has to happen in order for conception to occur, it’s a miracle any of us were even born.  But, you can increase your chances and maybe even help things along with a few simple tools.

When I first started trying to conceive (TTC) back in 2005, I enlisted the help of an online forum and learned a lot from the ladies there.  Here’s a list of some of the items I used most and that are commonly used by women who are TTC.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility
I’m just gonna start this list off with a bold statement.  Every woman should own this book.  Every single one.  Buy this book and then save it for your future daughter.  Whether you are trying to get pregnant or not, it’s full of information about how the female body works.  It teaches you how recognize signs of ovulation using 3 key indicators.  This is also great if you are trying to prevent pregnancy without the use of hormonal contraceptives.  It’s also just pretty cool to realize what’s going on in your body…or maybe I’m just a total nerd.  Also, you’ll learn in depth how to use the rest of the items on this list.  Are you getting the point?  Buy this book.

Basal Digital Thermometer
By taking your temperature every day at the same time, as soon as you wake, and before getting out of bed, you can track your body’s shift in temperature after ovulation.  A basal thermometer differs from a regular thermometer in that it can detect more subtle fluctuations in temperature, but I suppose a regular digital thermometer could work just as well, as long as you stick with the same thermometer throughout your cycle.  Unfortunately, you can’t really predict your ovulation day with the temperatures, but you can tell when you’ve ovulated after the fact and over the course of a few months, you will be able to detect patterns in your cycles (unless you’re wildly irregular like me).

Ovulation Predictor Kit
I only tried to use OPKs for a brief period of time, but they are pretty popular with many women who are TTC.  These look like a pregnancy test, but they detect leuteinizing hormone in you urine.  This hormone surges about 24 hours before ovulation, so by peeing on a stick every day starting around day 10 of your cycle, you can see the surge and know when to do the deed.

Fertility Friend
I love this site.  I started using it way back when I started TTC in 2005 and it’s like an old friend (no pun intended).  I briefly tried other sites and apps, but quickly went back to Fertility Friend.  I have years worth of data saved there.  It’s a free service that offers paid premium options.  They will occasionally treat your to a few days of premium service so you can try it out.  The software helps you to keep track of your cycles, daily temps, OPKS and other fertility signs.  It estimates your ovulation date, based on the information you enter and helps you to predict your next ovulation day.  It’s also a great resource for learning how to temp, chart, and use OPKs.

HPTs
When you are TTC, you will probably want to have some home pregnancy tests on hand.  Just a word of warning here…testing too early can be problematic and having easy access to pregnancy tests can be stressful.  After many months of trying and testing with no positive results, I decided it would be better to just wait for Aunt Flo to show up.  Having tests on hand was too tempting and seeing the blank white space staring back at me was too disappointing month after month.

Patience
Try not to panic if it doesn’t happen right away.  TTC can quickly get the best of otherwise sane and rational people (like me).  Be kind to yourself and your partner and read this.  Give it some time before seeking medical intervention…about a year if you’re healthy and under 35 and about 6 months if you are over 35.

Trying to get pregnant can be an emotional ride and it’s not always as easy as it seems like it should be.  It took me 6 years to get pregnant with my first and we’ve been trying for #2 for about 10 months now.  I go through phases of hardcore “trying” and other phases of just letting it go and hoping for the best.  After 2 chemical pregnancies, I am trying to just relax right now.

How long have you been TTC?  What tools do you use to help things along?