Archived Ideas for ‘Uncategorized’

IDEA 68: STAY POSITIVE

Feb
2014

Chocolate_Butterfly_cake_top

We all have our coping mechanisms, and it’s a good thing we do. Here in Minnesota, winter brings a boat-load of snow and this year, record below zero temperatures to boot. That’s why I was so delighted to see this sweet extra-curricular project my daughter fashioned. Here, in the midst of snow days and the occasional power outage, she didn’t just bake a cake. She baked a pink-and-chocolate-and-white cake with a lacy chocolate butterfly on top.

The cake is tiny, only about four inches across. It’s white cake, covered in chocolate buttercream frosting, with rolled white chocolate over that. She piped a ring of frosting around the bottom into which she pressed alternating light and dark pink m&m candies. But the true genius is the butterfly. After melting the chocolate, she folded a piece of parchment paper and placed it, unfolded, onto an open book. The parchment paper took the shape of the curved pages underneath, as did the chocolate, drizzled in a butterfly shape. Once cooled (in the fridge), the resulting winged creature stands 3-D atop the cake as if it just alighted temporarily before moving on to the next posy.

I can’t decide which was the more gratifying winter escape: The beautiful butterfly, or gobbling it up! Yum!

Chocolate_Butterfly_Cake_side

IDEA 67: TEACH SAVING

Jan
2014

Ice_cream_Saving_2

Now that my kids are quite grown (are they ever ALL grown?), it occurs to me that when it came to teaching saving we did two things right.

The first I got from my own parents: Open a savings account for each child. Once the child is old enough to get the concept of money, tell her about her account and show her the balance. Then when your child receives money, tell them that whatever they put in their savings account, you will match. A child that receives $20.00, and is told that if they put 10 of it in the bank, you will put in 10 to make 20, will usually do it and be happy spending the other 10. We did this with all three kids. (The matching in our family continues until the child collects an actual paycheck). By that time the savings account has grown enough for them to want to keep and protect it. Not to mention they now have a long established habit of putting some of their money in the bank. When you think about it, it’s not unlike a 401K contribution that’s matched by your employer. Why not get them into the swing of things early?

My other saving tip didn’t start out about saving at all. It started out about fairness. When some tasty treat would come into the house (like a package of cookies or carton of ice cream), it became impossible for it to last more than a day. Why? Because each child figured he’d better get his before the other two devoured it. Treats disappeared at a frenzied pace because no one wanted to be the one left with an empty carton. So one day I brought home three identical packages of cookies. I put a child’s name on each one and put them in the cupboard. Then I told them they could do with them what they wanted but they were not to touch anyone else’s, and they would not get another package for two weeks. I was amazed how long those cookies lasted. Who knew those kids had so much restraint? But without the threat of poachers they were able to consume the treats at a normal pace. And, the little “lucky strike extra”? Another lesson in saving was born.

IDEA 66: GO FOR THE WIN-WIN

Nov
2013

Holiday_Dillybeans

Those of us with gardens are plagued by at least one fact: If we have enough of something, we more than likely have WAY too much of it.

Each year our family finds ourselves up to our eyeballs in SOMETHING. This year it was green beans. My husband planted a dandy crop of beans to climb his chicken-wire fence and form a natural shade wall to our patio. Once the beans appeared, it was lovely to snap off a few and munch while doing yard duty. But somewhere along the way, we realized we were LOUSY with green beans.

Greenbean_Haul

Keeping up with the harvest was no small feat. But worse was concocting ways to eat them all. I brought a few bag-loads to work and it was satisfying to watch them disappear. But the beans kept coming. And that’s how he (ingenious husband) came up with the idea to make Dilly Beans.

I can take absolutely no credit. He bought numerous flats of canning jars and we had everything but the vinegar. Using a few other things he either grew or got from the CSA, he put these together, lovely in their simple and organic manifestation of red and green. The recipe he used was from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. But if you don’t have the book, the recipe is very much like this one.

Dillybeans_2

The addition of red bell pepper slices to the lovely green prompted my declaration that they were now holiday gifts. And, of course, he made multiples of the recipe. Add some red or green grosgrain ribbon bows and if you’re feeling snappy, tie on a little card.

Dillybeans_ribbonDillybeans_red_ribbon

If you didn’t happen to grow green beans this year, you now have time to plan, plant, harvest and can for NEXT holiday season. But no need to wait. Just get your beans from the grocer. Then, spend one afternoon canning beans and you can wrap up a dozen of the same pretty packages. Just think. You could have your holiday shopping done in one weekend. Now that’s a BellaPamella idea if I’ve ever heard one!

Holidays can't happen

By the way, care to look stunning as you create your holiday gifts? How about buying yourself a gift of a BellaPamella apron here?!

IDEA 64: SHARE YOUR WISDOM

Jul
2013

Phil's-osophy_Book

If you have kids, one day they will be moving on from your nest. When this started happening at my house I found myself wondering if I had really covered all the topics. Had I sufficiently marinated them in my philosophy of life? And did any of it stick?

For this reason I had a bit of an epiphany while watching the episode of Modern Family called “Phil’s-osophy”. (By the way, if you are a parent, this show should be required viewing. I have often noticed that in the throes of raising a family, your first defense is a sense of humor). Anyway, in this episode, The family’s oldest daughter sets off for college. The dad, Phil, creates a book for her called Phil’s-osophy. (If you are Phil Dunphy, this title makes perfect sense). Since Phil is Phil, his words of wisdom are kind of hilarious. But, while it’s all loads of fun, that’s not my point. My point is this: Why not create your own book of philosophy to send along to college with your grad!

I just finished a small (5.75″ x 7.75″) 20 page book from My Publisher that cost only $12.99 and it was beautiful! Another very popular book making site is Snapfish. And I know there are many others. The idea is to put together a book of your own words of love and wisdom for your kids flying the coop.

Of course you don’t have to use an online publisher, although they are simple, inexpensive, and do a beautiful job with photos. You could consider making a handmade book. It all depends on your inclination, and artsy-crafty prowess.

So, in my haste to get this idea to you in time for school starting this fall, I’m writing this without my example to show you. In lieu of that, we’ll just have to take a look at a few of Phil’s pages:

Phil's-osophy_8

Phil's-osophy_3

Phil's-osophy_2

And a few more of my favorites:

The most amazing things that can happen to a human being will happen to you if you just lower your expectations.

Take a lesson from parakeets: If you’re ever feeling lonely, eat in a front of a mirror.

Watch a sunrise at least once a day.

If you’re ever in a jam, a crayon scrunched up under your nose makes a good pretend mustache.

Never be afraid to reach for the stars because even if you fall, you’ll always be wearing a Parentchute™.

IDEA 63: SUBSTITUTE TIME FOR MONEY

May
2013

Tile_1

My husband and I have been doing a bathroom remodel. Not the kind you see on HGTV that starts on Saturday and finishes on Sunday. Not even the kind that involves a contractor and subs that click along and finish in four weeks (only two later than intended). No, this bathroom remodel happens on weekends, and occasional weeknights after work, and around dinner and homework. THIS remodel is taking months. So far it has been about 3 1/2 months since we took the walls down to the studs and the floor down to the beams.

But here’s the thing. Everyone that knows me knows I have been working on this bathroom for YEARS. I’ve been clipping, then downloading, then Pintresting bathroom pictures for-freakin-ever. We just couldn’t afford to remodel the bathroom and frankly, although it didn’t go with the rest of the hundred-year-old house, (it had been remodeled fifty years ago) it was functioning, and we were busy. But it made me a little crazy and so I started preparing for my fantasy bathroom.

Not long after we moved into the house someone opened the bathroom door too hard and it swung in and cracked a corner off the toilet tank. I realized if there was a toilet with a tank just an inch or two narrower, the swinging door would miss the tank entirely. A search revealed the perfect toilet that not only fit the bill size-wise, but was the most awesome toilet ever, and cute as a bug and fit perfectly into my fantasy of what a bathroom in a 1912 house should look like. So we bought and installed the Worlds Cutest Toilet (Kohler Revival). This became the first piece of my new bathroom.

zaa59914

At some point, our sink died and we were still nowhere near ready to do the Big Remodel. My husband was going to put in a temporary sink, the smallest, cheapest thing available at Home Depot. But I talked him into going with me to a salvage place to see if there was a sink that would be fitting for our old house. We completely lucked into a vintage wall sink with a single, centered, porcelain leg. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was pricing out reproduction sinks of this look and the price tags were astronomical. But here was this beauty, and since it was authentic, it was a little smaller than the ones they are making for people’s now-a-days palatial bathrooms. We used that sink for the past year, and it will go back into this remodel.

Vintage_sink

About five years ago I found towels on sale that would fit perfectly into my fantasy bathroom. I bought them and stowed them in a plastic bin in the attic. To this bin I added towel bars, ring hooks and TP holder and toilet seat. I kept my eye out for the perfect medicine cabinet, tub and lights. With the sink, I discovered a chrome plater in our town. The old pieces came back gleaming, and so I decided to do the same with the door hardware. Here’s the before hardware, which will gleam when I get it back.

Old_Chrome

So far we (meaning my husband) have removed a radiator, soldered plumbing pipes, strung all new wiring, installed a heated floor, insulated walls, built two niches in the walls, built a bump-out for the sink to be mounted to, sheet-rocked, backer-boarded, poured many bags of leveling cement and removed the old window and installed a new one. After all these months if you glance in the door it looks very much like a project that’s just starting. I have no idea how the home improvement shows do it. There is no way this would make very entertaining TV.

Current_bathroom_project

But I have been busily stockpiling all the fun stuff in my sewing room/office. Currently, I keep company with: Our toilet and sink, some boxes of hexagonal floor tile, boxes of honed marble, several chrome pieces including the wall hardware, faucets, and hooks, and many life-size printouts of various lights I was using to try to decide which one.

Stash

Our family has definitely had to demonstrate a bit of patience. The five of us have been traipsing down to the basement to shower and dividing teeth brushing between the basement and the main floor powder-room.

It may not be everyone’s ideal, to go this long without the family bathroom, but here’s the cool part. Doing it this way, there was no need to take out a loan. No need even to save up for it. The cost of this remodel has spread over all this long time, and we pay as we go. And that’s a perfect example of one of my guiding principles: If you don’t have the time, throw money at the problem. And if you don’t have the money, throw time at it. Life isn’t always perfect. But at least it’s not without options.

And yes. If we ever get this sucker done, I’ll post pictures of it!

IDEA 60: BREAK IT DOWN

Feb
2013

One_Extra_Gloves

Sometimes a good idea in one part of your life applies perfectly to another. I was inspired by Kathy Hanson’s little “Backpocket” video about “chunking”, taking a big task and breaking it into manageable chunks. (Watch Kathy here). She was applying it to business. But I realized I have been doing just that to stay on top of keeping my house clean.

I fully admit I am NOT a natural master of house cleaning. But I do something that helps me tremendously. Once a week, I take 15 minutes or a half hour at the most to do one extra cleaning thing. This thing has to be the kind of thing that you normally never get around to.

One_Extra_Brush

For example, at the back edge of our bathroom sink where it meets the tile wall there is a stripe of caught-up gunk. It just gets there over time because it is a crevice. Who knows what-all settles there, and regular sink cleaning just doesn’t reach it. So my task this week will be to take the grout brush that I bought at Target and some cleaner with bleach and scrub that line. And that’s it. If it takes less than 15 minutes (which it will, except the part where I have to remember where I put that brush) that’s OK. I’ve fulfilled my “one extra” this week.

Another really cool thing you can buy for your One Extra are these “Magic Erasers”.

One_Extra_Eraser

If you haven’t tried these you HAVE to get some. Just DO NOT let your little kids use them as they are deceptively strong and can hurt tender baby skin. They clean walls and things like white woodwork and cupboard surfaces. And they are addicting, I’m not kidding. Get some, and clean the dirty areas around the light switches of just one room for your One Extra. (BTW I’m not organized enough to be plugging this product for compensation. This is a complete freebie).

You will be amazed at how these little One Extras add up. Last week I took the grout brush to the shower tiles. The week before, I just cleaned the greasy layer form the pot rack. I might even clean a window sometime–one window will suffice for my One Extra. We don’t want to go overboard.

I first thought of this idea when I started having babies. Honestly, it was all I could do to get one thing done, so that’s just what I did. If I wrote a thank you note one day, I would look for a stamp the next. And I didn’t worry that I couldn’t do more. Nowadays, I’m not as time-stressed, but there is still always something more enticing than cleaning to distract me.

So, I do my best to get things clean enough, and do One Extra. Try it, and see what you think.

One_Extra_RedLeaf

IDEA 58: GINGERBREAD THERAPY

Dec
2012

Gingerbread_Animals_CU

Sometimes, during the holiday season, it’s all we can do to get the dang tree into the house. As the Big Day draws near, we start eliminating things from our To-Do list, aware of the fact that we just can’t get it all done. Then, other years, we look around and realize we’re pretty much ready, with days to spare. And somehow in our emotionally-charged state we can feel let down, wondering, what’s everyone else up to?

Gingerbread_Camel

It’s times like this we need to take charge. We need to buy some molasses (because that’s usually the only ingredient we don’t already have) and make some gingerbread cookie dough. Why? Because we can.

Gingerbread_Tiger

If you don’t have a bucket full of various cookie cutters, it’s time to start collecting!

Gingerbread_Donkey

I love to bring out the animals, as well as my perennial favorite, the pear.

Pear-shaped_Gingerbread_cookies

Cooking the cookies will fill the house with an awesome aroma. And decorating can be done very simply: with white icing (1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 4 or 5 teaspoons milk) and the occasional cinnamon red candy. Snip off the corner of a plastic bag and squeeze the icing out in a thin line or dots.

Gingerbread_Rhino

If you have a kid around they may come up with something more complicated, like this incredible, tiny gingerbread house made by my daughter.

Gingerbread_House_1Gingerbread_House

No matter what you do you should feel creative, and practical, since you can eat all mistakes and be amazed that they taste just as good as the masterpieces.

Gingerbread_Plate

Have a lovely, simple, happy, wonderful-smelling holiday this year!

IDEA 55: COMMUNICATE

Sep
2012

Birthday_invite

Birthday parties with small children in the house can be amazing events. Kid parties are, at best, a fulfilling creative outlet, and at the very least a heartfelt celebration of life. If you have children, you are probably compelled to do something special for each and every birthday.

And then one day you look around and see that all those kids have grown up. And they have different ideas of how one should celebrate a birthday. In a busy family, it’s easy to find that you’ve allowed life to drift away from some of your old traditions. Kids that once had a hard time falling asleep the night before a holiday now may seem not to really care too much about it. And as a mom you do your best to morph, to go with the flow. And that’s really just fine and no one should spend a single second worrying about it.

But even if you don’t feel like the ringleader you once were, guess what. You still are one. And you may be surprised that although a few of the rules have changed, these people are still your family and they really do respect your wises to make things happen.

This was evidenced to me when my middle son was turning 19. Our dinner table, once used to hosting our family of five almost every evening of the week, is now lucky to see three. With the kids’ jobs, school, activities and friends, most nights we are missing one or two. My son turning 19 was not going to be home for dinner on his birthday and I was resigned to lose this last vestige of childhood birthdays, the family birthday dinner. I was busy, and maybe a little bit of me was afraid if I pushed it, I would be disappointed to realize no one really cared. By letting the busy-ness be the culprit, I’d be able to avoid feeling silly, or let down.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how bad letting it go would make me feel. And in poignant contrast to all the emphasis I put on communicating, I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up to my family.

So, I surreptitiously asked around to find a night when everyone would be available. And when I found one, I decided not to leave it up to chance. I created a sign inviting everyone to the birthday dinner on that night, and posted it where I was sure everyone would see it.

Then I made a cake. My daughter made a cake. My other son and his girlfriend made two pies. And we had our party. It wasn’t such a big deal, (although we did have enough desserts for a week). But it was just exactly right.

And here’s the best part. That 19 year old really had a great time. We opened cards and small gifts and stayed at the table long into the night. And I see now that I wouldn’t have been the only one who would have felt a loss if we had decided we had simply outgrown the family birthday dinner.

Birthday_boy

IDEA 53: HOUSE RULES

May
2012

House_Rules

I have had teens for a few years now, and if you have small children, I will tell you, things really don’t slow down one bit. In fact I think they speed up. And it really does seem like five minutes ago these giants were toddlers. One day, you look around and realize there are all kinds of things that somehow you forgot to tell them.

The good news is, it is never too late to talk to your kids. And a great way to do it is to post some House Rules. Now, these rules will vary widely depending on the ages of your kids, and what’s going on at the moment. So it’s not a bad idea to see this as an ongoing thing. Maybe renew the rules each year at the same time, like school’s end.

I came across this idea when we were having what I felt was an uncomfortable dialog at the dinner table one night. Sometimes we buy different snacks for each kid to take in their lunches. One kid’s bag of chips was raided by another kid’s friend who was over. And Kid #1 was grousing about it to kid #2. I knew the discussion was making me uncomfortable but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Then it occurred to me. Our house is supposed to be one of grace and cordiality. I would not expect a kid to tell their friend they can’t snack on something any more than I would be rude to one of my guests. And my feeling was fundamental enough that I felt I should declare it in writing. These kids were almost old enough to fly the coop–how could they not have picked up this oh-so-basic doctrine? Instead of ruminating on that one, I just posted the rules.

When I began addressing the first issue, I thought of others that bared recognizing at this juncture. But I felt the need to keep it short. Four rules. As it turns out, we have not had to renew or revise the rules yet. But if and when we do, they will be amended.

Here are our House Rules, that I printed out and taped to the kitchen cupboard. Yours will probably be different. But I will say that I’m glad I spoke up. And every one of my family members, including my husband, thanked me for doing so.

HOUSE RULES:

1. We treat guests like guests.
Any guest in this house has first priority when it comes to sharing. No one is obligated to tell a guest they can’t help themselves to something. At the same time, guest or not, we do not tolerate anything illegal, hurtful, or damaging to the house or things in it.

Example: Someone is drinking a liquid near the piano. Please say: My mom will kill me if we have liquids near the piano, drink it over here.

Example #2: Guest is munching on a snack that you realize belongs to someone’s lunch. Rather than actually taking it out of guest’s hand, apologize (LATER) to sibling. Note: In future, mark all lunch stuff as such so any dummy can see that it’s off limits. And stow it somewhere that’s not right out there in the open. Do not force your family mates to be the food cop around their guest. It is totally not cool.

Example #3: Guest thinks it would be a good idea to find and drink alcohol in the house. Tell guest that is SO not happening.

2. Respect others and yourself.
Think for a half second before you say or do something. How would that sound or feel to you?

Example: The kitchen is clean. You create a new mess. Clean up after yourself.

Example #2: The kitchen is kind of a mess. You add a little to the mess. Now, before you leave the scene, clean up not just your mess, but some or all of the previous mess. Others have done it for you plenty of times. Just a little hint of what it’s like being a grown-up.

3. Always call for a ride. If you are in any kind of trouble, call us. If you think there may be trouble, walk away and call us. Do not ever drive drunk. Do not ever get in the car with a friend who thinks (s)he can drive drunk. Don’t buy into your friends saying you’re better off not going home. You are always better off coming home. And we will vow to keep that promise.

4. Act, live and speak with love in your heart. It shows.

xo,
Mom


IDEA 52: HONOR THE ROAD TRIP

Apr
2012

Souvenir

For many spring breaks our family of five has hit the road for the annual Road Trip.

Once my oldest began college, he had a different spring break week. So, we just hadn’t gone in what seemed like a very long time. But this year, we decided to go with what’s left of our dwindling family.

My middle son is 18. And I’m sure it’s no surprise that a few days before we were to leave he began making his case to stay home. And no one I complained to, (husband, office-mates) gave me the satisfaction of even humoring me, let alone agreeing that I was right, that he should feel excited, or at the very least obligated to go.

But here’s the thing. I really wanted my son to go with us. Not because I didn’t trust leaving him for a week (with his older brother and our dog), but because I just wanted very much to be with him. And somehow, miraculously, he saw the light and came along.

Not surprisingly, the road trips, whose photos fill to overflowing my many photo albums, really are some of the most dear memories we have. He’ll never admit it to me, but I think this son, in the very back of his mind, cherishes those memories too.

So, we headed off to Texas because we hadn’t done that trip, and it was somewhere we could drive to and back in a week (which is, of course, the first requirement of a Road Trip).

Several hours speeding along America’s highways gives one ample time to ruminate, and I began thinking about how different a road trip with grown children is than one with little kids. I remember one trick that worked so well when they were little. I actually wrapped six small “gifts”, two for each kid. The point was, just when things would get out of hand I would distract them, one child getting to open something. It would be something the whole lot could play with, like a deck of cards, or colored pens and paper. They were things I would have brought along anyway, plopped in a bag, but the fact that they were wrapped like presents put a whole different spin on things. It got their attention and made their trip much more exciting. Now, with teenagers, I brought a different kind of trail mix for each, (Target has an awesome variety) and marked big bottles of water with their initial. It’s not wrapped prizes, but the kids still respond to the love.

Water_bottles

I’ll be the first to admit there was a bit of nostalgia to planning this trip. So I tucked in a binder we’ve been adding to for years. The binder is filled with drawing paper. And there’s room for a zip-lock bag of pencils, erasers and colored pencils. A big rubber-band keeps it all together. And it’s usually packed with a few clipboards. This book of drawings spans many years of car trips and it’s priceless. I was happy to see the attraction of making drawings is still there, as my daughter sketched a lovely rendition of her shoe.

Car_Art

This same smart daughter also came up with what I thought was a dandy car activity. She took a close-up (well, as close as you can get while speeding along the highway) photo of every different color car we passed. The object being to make a rainbow of all the car pictures at the end of the trip.

We’ve gotten smarter about car food, as we kept the snacks generally healthy, and stopped for the most photogenic smoothies, one strawberry, one Very Berry and one mango–all with different color straws.

Smoothies

And even though we’re all so “mature”, there’s something about a car trip that just brings out the family in you. We all marvel at the amazing things you can see as you roll along. We saw a hot-rod called “Godzlla” being hauled in a trailer. We realized we were in windmill territory when we saw three semis each carrying one blade of a windmill, hitting home just how gigantic those things really are.

Windmill_Truck

And we saw some cattle standing and walking along in what must have been a large, very shallow body of water. As the animals moved in the late afternoon light, it looked as if they were walking on water.

Honor the road trip tradition. You won’t be sorry you did.